In June 2000, a WFMU
listener in Canada, Brian Linds, submitted a CDR of 16
various artists (see photo below) for the Incorrect Music
Hour, which I hosted
with Michelle Boulé. Brian included "Space Oddity,"
credited to the "Lochiel and
South Carvolth Schools Glenwood Region Music Group." I flipped
unique, haunting arrangement and gave it immediate airing. It
was one of the
strangest "school" recordings I'd ever heard -- and
I've heard hundreds. The
slightly sinister -- and obviously very young -- choral ensemble
charming instrumentation had a compelling quality. I recognized
this as more
than just a cute, sloppy school band relic. Listener and staff
the airing were electric, which didn't surprise me.
I asked Brian
to send any other recordings by this school band. He burned a
CDR of nine songs, which he sent with a xeroxed reduction of
the b&w LP
cover. The album had no title, and just listed the three schools;
photos of students, and a few sketchy credits. Brian knew nothing
recordings; he'd found the LP in a thrift shop. I listened, and
by the passionate renditions of "Band On The Run,"
"Rhiannon," "You're So
Good To Me," and "Saturday Night." There was a
consistent identity in these
recordings, and an irresistible magic. By now, I was convinced
this LP had
to be made commercially available -- but I only had 30 minutes
of music, and
didn't know the source.
individual names on the LP's back cover (squinting to read a
grainy reduced xerox), as well as the school names, I embarked
internet sleuthing. In short order, I had phone numbers of several
administrators in what I learned was the Langley school district
Lochiel, South Carvolth and Glenwood). I called and asked each
official about the record. Nobody had any idea what I was talking
they knew nothing about any such recording, or about anyone named
Fenger" (listed as the "music supervisor"). Finally,
recognized the name "Pat Bickerton" (the LP was dedicated
to him), and told
me that Pat had died in the 1970s, but that his son, Mike, was
a teacher in
the district and would know about the LP. Sure enough, Mike recalled
vividly, provided some background, and helped me contact Hans
had left the district around 1979 and was teaching in Vancouver.
I called Hans,
conveyed my enthusiasm, and told him of my wish to release
this record commercially. He was very sweet and appreciated my
one had brought up the record in decades; it was ancient history
to him. I
grew intrigued when he offhandedly told me about a second album
recorded a year later with a different school (Wix-Brown) in
district. He cautioned that the second album was "not as
the first, because he'd been attempting to be more careful (i.e.,
controlled) with the arrangements. He sent me a DAT, and much
surprise, the second album was -- BETTER! Well, "as good"
would be more
accurate, but it had a wider range of material and arrangements
several solo vocals (the first album contained only group voicings).
albums used a large children's chorus, chiming Orff xylophones
familiar with these; Hans explained what they were), and minimal
2000, I was obsessed with releasing these recordings on any
label that would indulge my fanatical fixation. I discussed a
licensing/royalty sharing arrangement with the Langley district
Fenger, and hunted about for a willing label. I convinced my
colleagues at Basta Audio-Visuals, in the Netherlands, that these
were worth putting out. They were at first a bit skeptical, but
astute music lovers, and eventually their resident A&R guru
(and my longtime
friend) Gert-Jan Blom convinced them that I wasn't crazy, and
they agreed to
do it. By then, I had devised the name, The Langley Schools Music
to encompass the sessions of students from four schools. The
"Innocence and Despair," was first uttered by Hans
to describe nine-year-old
Sheila Behman's captivating solo rendition of "Desperado."
When it became
apparent (to me) that Basta's US distributor would not fully
understand the nature of this release, I decided (with Basta's
to search for a US label to cover the North American market.
project was rejected by ten labels (Artemis, Palm Pictures, Luaka
Nonesuch, Paradise, Rhino, Astralwerks, Emperor Norton, Tommy
Matador; in all fairness, Matador was extremely interested, but
when they couldn't fit the release into their short-term schedule).
consensus reaction from these companies indicated they didn't
recordings seriously; several referred to them as "novelties,"
that "no one would want to listen to this stuff a second
time." I was
frustrated, but not discouraged.
and with time running out for a Fall 2001 release, I turned
to my friend Glenn Morrow at Bar/None (in my hometown of Hoboken).
worked very successfully with Bar/None on two Esquivel packages
(in 1994 and
1995), but had not collaborated with the label since. Coincidentally,
Bar/None was looking for an October release to round out their
schedule. In less than 24 hours, Glenn and his partner Mark Lipsitz
sold on the idea. It was the music that did the selling.