In the fall of 1966, after bumming around Europe for a year-and-a-half, mostly with my old college roommate, Tony Riggs, I felt it was time for another sniff of the ‘States, so I returned to New York and rented a little flat on Sullivan Street in the West Village.
These days, with the cost of real-estate in Manhattan being what it is, that building is probably inhabited almost exclusively by Wall Street bond traders and the sons and daughters of Arab Oil Sheikhs.
Back then, it was packed with young, single people, all equally as poor as I was, and all equally engaged in the youthful pursuits of the time. (If no one else knows what I’m talking about, I’m dead certain that Tim Hallinan does. So, if you’re clueless, write and ask him.)
Lots of folks erroneously think of the sixties in New York as marked by youth obsessed with sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll.
This is mostly due to misinformation generated by Hair, a musical now largely forgotten, but responsible, at the time, for giving all of us a bad rap.
In actuality, the sixties in New York was a time when we, in the West Village, used to spend a lot of our time sitting around discussing Schopenhauer, Spengler’s Decline of the West and the writings of Marcel Proust.
Barring the occasional and obligatory protest, of course.
Ask Hallinan. He’ll tell you.
But I digress.
I was far more sociable in those days than I am now, and as soon as I’d bought a bed (which for some weeks was to be my only piece of furniture) I set about looking-up old friends.
One of them was a fellow by the name of Mike Marcus. And, although I could be mistaken on this, I think he was the guy who introduced me to Paula Unger.
Paula, I soon learned, owned a guitar and often lugged it around with her. This, fact, initially caused me some concern, because there was another fellow I knew who did the same thing. But he couldn’t really play the damned thing, couldn’t sing worth a damn and never wrote a piece of music in his life. And, although no one ever asked him to play, he always did it anyway.
Paula, I was relieved to discover, was different. She actually had a gift. And I loved listening to her.
But then, the wanderlust hit me again, and I left New York, never to return. Europe led to South America, South America to Australia.
Years went by.
Flash forward to 2012.
I was visiting Mike in his home on the West Coast of Florida, and he showed me a copy of a demo that Paula had cut, after I’d left the ‘States, in the hope of selling a few of her songs.
It was vinyl, an LP, he had nothing he could play it on, and it was in a pretty dreadful state.
But Tony, the aforementioned old roommate is possessed of a good deal of audio equipment and he knows how to use it. So I borrowed the disk and sent it to his home in Maryland.
He cleaned it up as best he could, transferred it to digital, spent a lot of time editing out the pops and clicks, and sent the files to me via the internet.
And thus it was that I got a chance to hear Paula Unger’s youthful voice again after an interval of more than four decades.
Paula lives in San Francisco now and, as I write this, has no idea that I've put two of those songs up on the internet.
This is one of them: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FGyJyTDFwdQ&feature=youtu.be
This is the other: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=osNIapZUcPw&feature=youtu.be
And this post is her Wakeup Call.
Good on ya, Paula!
Leighton - Monday