October 30, 2014

RANKED: Classic Doctor Who on Netflix

Eighteen classic Doctor Who stories from the 60's, 70's and 80's are available for instant streaming on Netflix. If you only know the 'new' (i.e. 2005 and up) series, want to investigate the old series but feel daunted by its half-century legacy and don't know where to start, here's our completely subjective ranking of the Netflix stories.

Before we begin:
- The stories of the classic series (1963-89) were broadcast in individual episodes (usually four, sometimes six, other times as little as two and as many as twelve ), usually 25 minutes in length, so a typical story runs the length of a feature film.
- In the black and white days (1963-69), the show was recorded virtually live to tape, and re-takes were very rare, so minor line fluffs and technical glitches were common.
- In typical BBC fashion, through the 80's, interior shots were on video and exterior shots were on film, so the transition between the two could be jarring. Complicated FX were also frequently done on film.
- We can't talk about early Doctor Who without talking about special effects. Before Star Wars, audiences were a lot more forgiving about hand-puppet dinosaurs, wobbly sets, latex alien suits, flying saucers on strings, etc. The BBC allotted Doctor Who about the same budget as a regular drama series, and the effects, such as they were, still were the most technically advanced television effects of the time.
- There are no Colin Baker (Doctor #6) stories on Netflix, except for his appearance at the end of "Caves of Androzani." Trust us, that's for the best.
- This list does not necessarily reflect how *I* personally feel about these stories, but more my estimate of how fans of the New Series might embrace these stories. I would, for example, rank the two B/W stories much higher.

OK, now for the list, starting from the top:

1. City of Death (1979, 4 episodes)
Doctor: Tom Baker
Companion: Romana II
Writers: Douglas Adams, David Fisher and Graham Williams under the pen-name David Agnew
This is my go-to story to initiate newbies. The plot is too complex to effectively summarize, but the Doctor and Romana are enjoying a holiday in Paris when they become embroiled in a time-traveling plot involving selling multiple copies of the Mona Lisa (all original!) on the black market to finance the scientific research of a debonair art thief who's actually an ancient alien war lord attempting to return to a pivotal moment in history. Baker and Lalla Ward have sparkling chemistry (they would later marry, albeit briefly), Adams' script is just the right balance of scientific gobbledygook, wit, and goofy humor, and the Paris location filming is great.
Watch For: a hysterical cameo appearance in Episode Four (I won't spoil the surprise)

2. The Caves of Androzani (1984, 4 episodes)
Doctor: Peter Davison
Companion: Peri
Writer: Robert Holmes
Apart from the really stupid-looking Magma Beast, this is near-perfection. The Doctor and Peri wander into a web of political and economic intrigue centered around a precious mineral known as Spectrox. The character of Peri pretty much existed to be drooled over by campy villains, and Sharaz Jek, in his Phantom of the Opera slash BDSM mask, is the absolute pinnacle. Robert Holmes had been writing for the series since the late 60's, and his best tropes and anti-capitalist sentiments are on display. Ratcheting up the tension is the fact that the Doctor and Peri are slowly dying thanks to a casual mishap five minutes in, ultimately resulting in Davison's Doctor regenerating into Colin Baker. Davison calls this his favorite story, so much so that if there were more scripts like this, he'd've stayed in the role.

3. Carnival of Monsters (1973, 4 episodes)
Doctor: Jon Pertwee
Companion: Jo Grant
Writer: Robert Holmes
For the previous three seasons, the Doctor has been exiled to Earth by the Time Lords (though the definition of this exile was a bit malleable), but after the previous story (The Three Doctors, more on that later), he is once again free to roam time and space. And where does he land? In the cargo hold of a ship in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Or so we think. And what does it have to do with the Amazing Vorg and his lovely assistant Shirna as he peddles his Miniscope to the gray, drab, bureaucratic denizens of planet Inter Minor? One of Robert Holmes' best scripts.
Look For: Ian Marter plays a dashing young sailor, and would later return as companion Harry Sullivan when Tom Baker took over as Doctor. Also Michael Wisher and Peter Halliday, two of Doctor Who's most memorable guest actors.

4. The Ark In Space (1975, 4 episodes)
Doctor: Tom Baker
Companions: Sarah Jane Smith, Harry Sullivan
Writer: Robert Holmes (sensing a theme here?)
The Doctor, Sarah and Harry land on a space ark, thousands of years in the future, where the last surviving humans sit in suspended animation after the Earth is rendered uninhabitable from solar flares, but as these things usually go, they've overslept, there's been vandalism, and an alien menace lurks in the ventilation shaft. This is Doctor Who's version of Alien, but four years earlier and with no budget (and on television, so everything is brightly lit) but they still manage to make green bubble-wrap look menacing. There are some glaring limitations in the budget, but the concept trumps all.
Iconic Moment: Tom Baker's "homo sapiens" speech
Trivia: to save money, the set was re-used for "Revenge of the Cybermen" a few stories later.
More Trivia: The "In Space" was added to distinguish this story from the Hartnell story "The Ark," another story about the future of humanity facing peril on a space ark.
Unintentional Racism: The Ark's sleepers are genetically selected... and yup, they're all white.

5. The Green Death (1973, 6 episodes)
Doctor: Jon Pertwee
Companion: Jo Grant (and the UNIT team)
Writer: Robert Sloman
In an economically depressed Welsh mining town, a petroleum refinery claims its new process creates no waste, but the hippie scientists living in the nearby commune (led by the dashing Clifford Jones) believe otherwise. The Doctor looks in and discovers that, yup, the refinery is dumping its toxic sludge into the abandoned mines, which among other things, is creating a swarm of giant maggots impervious to UNIT bullets. The refinery's mysterious "BOSS" has a hypnotic hold over its employees, and turns out to be a supercomputer with megalomaniacal designs on world domination to achieve 'maximum efficiency and productivity.' A powerfully leftist political stance for the show, conflating capitalism with inhumanity; definitely not recommended for Ayn Rand fans.
Famous Moment: At the end, when the Doctor sneaks out of Jo and Cliff's engagement/farewell party and drives away, alone and heart(s)broken.
Secretly Best Moment: Stevens' tear, after he regains his humanity and saves the world.
Trivia: Jo and Prof. Jones were a real-life couple at the time.
Continuity: The Metebelis Crystal would become a major plot element in Pertwee's farewell story "Planet of Spiders" the following year.

6. Pyramids of Mars (1975, 4 episodes)
Doctor: Tom Baker
Companion: Sarah Jane Smith
Writer: Steven Harris (pseudonym for Robert Holmes and Louis Greifer)
Doctor Who's version of The Mummy. Sutekh, an ancient God, is trapped in a state of paralysis in an Egyptian pyramid by the Eye of Horus, a ruby sitting at the center of a pyramid on Mars. When his tomb is opened, he awakens and sets the stage for his return... with robot mummies. It takes a little while to get going, but Sutekh is one B.A.M.F. of a villain. The showdown between him and the Doctor is truly chilling, and one of Baker's best moments.

7. The Three Doctors (1973, 4 episodes)
Doctor: William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee
Companion: Jo Grant (plus the UNIT team)
Writers: Bob Baker and Dave Martin
If you want to experience the first three Doctors in one sitting and don't want to sit through a black-and-white story (sigh... really?), this is your best bet. This tenth anniversary story was intended to exhibit all three doctors equally, until it was evident that Hartnell's infirmity would make this impossible (the writers' solution is clever, though). The interplay between Troughton and Pertwee is a treat. Omega, the Time Lord villain at the heart of the story, is played way over-the-top, the gel-guards are very very silly, there's a lot of capture-escape-recapture plot padding, but it's a whole lot of fun.

8. The Curse of Fenric (1989, 4 episodes)
Doctor: Sylvester McCoy
Companion: Ace
Writer: Ian Briggs
The Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy eras were arguably a nadir for the series: the budget and audience kept shrinking, the BBC execs wanted the show gone, producer John Nathan Turner wanted out, and many stories were (in our opinion at least) awful. But the 26th and final season was a brief renaissance, and this was the highlight, with a lot of concepts that laid the groundwork for the new series. It took 25 years to come up with a companion with a backstory, family, and an emotional catharsis to undergo, and seeing this in the classic series was a bit of a revelation. The plot? WWII codebreakers, Russian navy spies (who switch from sub-titled Russian to heavily accented English for no reason whatsoever), and a dormant Norse God coming back to life. And lots of monsters rising from the sea in latex masks. Or something.

9. The Ribos Operation (1978, 4 episodes)
Doctor: Tom Baker
Companion: Romana I
Writer: Robert Holmes
Season sixteen's stories, for the first time in the show's history, comprised an all-encompassing arc; each story centered around finding a segment of the Key to Time, and this was the first story. Although set on an alien planet, there are far more medieval elements than sci-fi. Two intergalactic con men attempt to scam the disgraced warrior prince Graff Vynda-K (an awesomely whackjob name) into buying a planet, and the Doctor and Romana are stuck in the middle. It's a Robert Holmes script so it's witty, funny, and wise, but its truly iconic moment is the Binro the Heretic scene. BINRO WAS RIGHT!

10. The Horror Of Fang Rock (1977, 4 episodes)
Doctor: Tom Baker
Companion: Leela
Writer: Terrence Dicks
A hastily-written script, but very effective. A shape-shifting alien crash-lands near an isolated lighthouse, and starts picking off the crew. It's a little slow-moving (and the episode one cliffhanger is a dud), but stick with this one. Particularly chilling (spoilers, sorry) is the body count: although the enemy menace is defeated, every character except the Doctor and Leela dies.

11. Spearhead From Space (1970, 4 episodes)
Doctor: Jon Pertwee
Companion: Liz Shaw (plus the UNIT crew)
Writer: Robert Holmes
After an unprecedented six month hiatus (after running virtually every week for six years), Doctor Who did a full re-boot with a new lead actor, a new companion (who was also a scientist), a new Earthbound action-oriented direction, and in COLOR!! This one was shot entirely on film due to a strike at the BBC, so it has a filmic quality to it. The Nestene Consciousness and their animated plastic soldiers, the Autons, were so iconic and tied to the notion of a Doctor Who re-boot, that they were also the villains of the very first New Series episode, complete with an homage to Spearhead's memorable scene of the shop window dummies.
Trivia: the film clips of doll manufacturing were originally set to Fleetwood Mac's "Oh Well," but the music is removed from all VHS and DVD releases.

12. The Leisure Hive (1980, 4 episodes)
Doctor: Tom Baker
Companion: Romana II
Writer: David Fisher
When John Nathan Turner took over as producer after the troubled Graham Williams era, his impact was swift and dramatic: new credits and theme music, a new pool of writers, phasing out K9, an emphasis on synthesizer music, and experimentation with the latest special effects. Tom Baker is a bit lost this season, his seventh and final in the role, and his performance has an autumnal quality with a very tangible change of focus away from the overtly comic direction he'd taken the Doctor. The grab-bag plot involves cloning, nuclear holocaust, and an alien holiday camp. Director Lovett Bickford opens with a memorable panning shot on the beach, and the makeup work on the Doctor when he is aged several hundred years is outstanding.

13. The Mind Robber (1968, 5 episodes)
Doctor: Patrick Troughton
Companions: Zoe, Jamie, and... Alternate Jamie!
Writer: Derrick Sherwin (ep 1) and Peter Ling (ep 2-5)
Of the two B/W era episodes available on Netflix, this narrowly gets precedence over the other, if anything for the boldly experimental plot and the boundary-pushing special effects (some that work, others that don't). The TARDIS lands outside of the known Universe, in the Land of Fiction, in which anything can happen depending on the imagination of the controller. Thanks to the 'anything goes' structure, the story is even able to absorb the temporary loss of one of the companions, when Fraser Hines' illness kept Jamie out of episode Two. It was too late to re-write the script, so a brilliantly unique solution was devised...

14. The Aztecs (1964, 4 episodes)
Doctor: William Hartnell
Companions: Susan, Ian and Barbara
Writer: John Lucarotti
Probably the best of the surviving Hartnell era stories. For the first four seasons, the series alternated between science fiction-focused and history-focused stories. In the latter, the Doctor & Co. would land in Earth's past, get separated from the TARDIS, interact with famous people or critical moments in history, and attempt to escape without A) Getting Killed or B) Changing History. They land in an Aztec tomb which closes behind them, shutting them off from the TARDIS. The Aztecs hail Barbara as a re-incarnated goddess since she'd grabbed a bracelet off a corpse while in the tomb (um, eww...). Barbara appalls the Doctor and incites the wrath of the Aztec shaman by denouncing the practice of human sacrifice. Meanwhile, the Doctor has to woo the widow of the tomb's architect to find a way back to the TARDIS, Ian makes an enemy of the warrior chief, and Susan tries to avoid getting married. In the end they get out alive, but leave a considerable mess behind - shattered faith, spilled blood and broken hearts.

15. The Pirate Planet (1977, 4 episodes)
Doctor: Tom Baker
Companion: Romana I
Writer: Douglas Adams (under the pen-name David Agnew)
Part Two in the Key To Time saga, this one's a mixed bag. A lot of great sci-fi concepts and a witty script, a fantastic villain in The Captain, and a nice twist at the end, but underdone by a weak supporting cast, some sloppy production work, and Tom Baker's alternately indifferent, silly, or over the top acting.

16. The Androids of Tara (1977, 4 episodes)
Doctor: Tom Baker
Companion: Romana I
Writer: David Fisher
Part Four of the Key To Time saga. The plot: Prisoner of Zenda, with androids in it. And a really, really, REALLY stupid looking Taran Wood Beast, so stupid looking that it almost hobbles the entire story even though it's on screen for maybe five seconds. The villainous Count Grendel is fun, and the climactic swordfight is sufficiently swashbuckly, but meh.

17. The Power of Kroll (1977, 4 episodes)
Doctor: Tom Baker
Companion: Romana I
Writer: Robert Holmes
Part Five of the Key to Time saga. Doctor Who attempts King Kong, but with a giant squid. Not Robert Holmes' best script by any measure, hampered further by budgetary limitations and miscasting (though it is fun to watch Philip Madoc visibly seething that he's not playing Thawn).

18. The Visitation (1982, 4 episodes)
Doctor: Peter Davison
Companion: Nyssa, Tegan, Adric
Writer: Eric Saward
Saward has his fans, but we're not among them. The Terleptyl looks great, but there's nothing else memorable about him. Since the plot centers around the Great Plague and Great Fire of London, we'll bet Saward intended to set it in 1660's London, but the budget confined him to a nearby village with an apparent population of five. And the plot is one of the most egregious examples of capture, escape, re-capture. The vagabond actor Richard Mace is memorable, but that's about all there is here. There's no action. None. Just wandering around and talking for four episodes, with three crap cliffhangers in between. Others seem to rate this highly, but to us, it's a dud.

COMING SOON: The Best Dr Who Episodes Not On Netflix

May 16, 2014

Just saw... On The Verge at New Rep

I worked crew on a production of On The Verge in my tiny hometown theatre, the Players Ring, in Portsmouth NH in, oh, 1998 or so. I absolutely fell in love with this play, and in my mind his dazzling flights of linguistic fancy is only rivaled in this century by Tom Stoppard. I would sit backstage and let the words wash over me.  It helped that it starred three of my favorite actresses on the planet - well, three semi-professional actors from Portsmouth whose skills could match (and best) many pros - Peggi McCarthy, Nickie Fuller (Farr), and Kristan Raymond (Curtis), who fed on the text as if it were fuel. Director Michael Gillette wisely put the words front and center.

I saw it again at Arena Stage in 2006 or so. What a letdown. The greatest/worst example of a play sabotaged by its production design that I can conceive of, and three actresses with zero chemistry. A full third of the audience was asleep, and another third left at intermission. A narrow platform diagonally spanned the arena theatre, suspended over a chasm. I was distracted by the possibility of a castmember falling into the void, at least 16 feet down. And the actresses weren't connected with the material at all (maybe they too were distracted at the prospect of plunging). They memorized the lines and delivered them clearly (the least that can be expected from professionals), but exhibited no indication they had the slightest idea what the hell they were talking about.

A few years later, just outside of DC, Rep Stage took a stab at it, directed by the guy who directed the original production. The three actresses were better, as I recall, and the production was OK... I just had a problem with the guy playing the male roles. I learned later that he had some kind of condition that affected the way he talked, which accounted for the odd, stilted delivery. I gathered that he was not their first choice (I was invited to audition a few months beforehand, clearly indicating the original actor had dropped out, and had I been available I'd've definitely gone).

And I'm just back from seeing New Rep's production. I would rank this as the best professional production I've seen, though I must admit that the Ring production still is the gold standard. I think the key here is the abstraction of the staging. All the moving bubble-wrapped screens aside, this was a very minimalist production, arguably too minimal. Three chairs served as cliffs, bridges, etc., and it took most of the first act for the audience to glom onto and buy into the presentation. Too long. It asked for too much imagination from the audience too soon, and quite a few checked out. The Ring's production, in my opinion, was less abstract and thereby met the audience halfway and brought them across the chasm, so to speak. And in a small theatre, the emphasis invariably went to the words instead of spectacle.

More evidence that an Equity Card or a LORT contract is no guarantee of artistic validity.

October 1, 2013

Goddammit, Bill.

Not even 24 hrs since you left this world.

I'm supposed to be grateful for the memories we've shared over the twenty-four years we've known each other, and I am, I promise I am, but goddammit all I can think about now are future memories denied - yours, mine, and everyone you knew.

Our last conversation, all too brief in retrospect, contained the following exchange:
Me: "How are you, man?"
You: "I'm dying."
Me: "Well, stop."
It was at the apartment you got with Sean, what we all secretly hoped would be the change you needed in your life, hoping against hope that it wasn't too late. You lived there for nearly six months. Number of times I hung out with you and Sean in this apartment: zero. I thought there would be time. Opportunities deferred.

I wish you knew how scared we all were, to a person, about the prospect of losing you. Only a few people ever told you unequivocally to your face, and to my shame I was not one of them, those few futile words excepted. I remember times where you made tentative stabs at talking about your own fears, and I didn't follow through. We don't do confrontation well. If I had told you how much I loved you and dreaded the prospect of a life without you in it, I don't know if it would have helped, but goddammit, at the very least my conscience would be clearer.

I wish you had it in you to heal yourself. This wasn't cancer, goddammit, this was controllable. The mountain was steep, and climbing it would have been the hardest thing you've ever done in your life, but every day it got higher. Who knows what day that was when you passed that threshold and decided, consciously or subconsciously, the mountain was just too high.

As far as I can tell, you saw your weight as an insurmountable obstacle until it became a self-fulfilling prophesy and stopped a heart so full of love.

The little things so many take for granted. Window shopping. Walking around town. Going to a concert or a ball game. Going to a movie without needing a special seat. Getting into your car without complicated choreography. It wasn't so long ago that you did these things. And bit by bit they became impossible, each item added to the List Of No-Longer-Possibles was another humiliation, another surrender. Goddammit, you surrendered far too soon.

I wish you found a previously undiscovered well of inner strength, that you stunned us all with your focus, tenacity and will power, that you reinvented your entire life and bought yourself (and us) twenty, thirty, forty more years. To see you so transformed would be a greater victory than, well, any sports championship. I wanted you to have that victory more than anything, and I regret that I never told you that. I wanted to see you on top of that mountain.

Now I can't help but compile The List Of Lasts:
  • Last concert we went to: King Crimson, NYC, March 2003
  • Last play I was in that you saw: Blackadder II Live!, April 2011
  • Last time we listened to music together: your house, after a dinner at Flatbread Co, April 2012
  • Last time we went for a beer: The Mead Hall, Sept 2012.
  • Last time we watched Doctor Who: same day, I think. "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship"
  • Last time we had scotch and cigars: October 2012, with Sean and Mike. It nearly killed me.
  • Last movie we saw together: Star Trek: Into Darkness, May 2013
  • Last time we had a meal together: North By Northeast, Inman Sq, my birthday, June 29th
  • Last time I saw you upright and conscious: Tuesday, August 27th for about 5 minutes at your apartment
  • Last Facebook comment: September 12th, on a video I posted of Chris Squire's isolated bass track of "Roundabout"
  • Last time you left your apartment: Saturday, September 21, 2013
  • Last time you took a breath without a machine: early Monday, September 23, 2013
  • Last time I saw you alive, albeit comatose: later that evening
  • Last heartbeat: about 6:30pm on Sunday, September 29, 2013
  • Last time I could listen to King Crimson's "Starless" without weeping: same.
 I'm mad at myself for letting opportunities slip by. I've been in "Our Town" enough times that I should know better.

And I'm mad at you for leaving the party too soon.

Goddammit, Bill, you were supposed to grow old with us.

Graduation day, UMaine, 1993 (Bill, me, Sean and Frank; Mike in the front)

My 40th Birthday weekend, 2011

January 7, 2013

Yet Another Edition of Piercing Analysis From Random Facebook Apps

Your results:
You are Data
Data
66%
Chekov
60%
Mr. Sulu
60%
An Expendable Character (Redshirt)
60%
Uhura
55%
Geordi LaForge
55%
James T. Kirk (Captain)
50%
Mr. Scott
50%
Will Riker
45%
Spock
42%
Leonard McCoy (Bones)
40%
Jean-Luc Picard
40%
Beverly Crusher
40%
Deanna Troi
40%
Worf
35%
Even though you are a genius
you are always striving to be better.
Click here to take the Star Trek Personality Test

December 8, 2012

Four Gentlemen of Verona (or, "Hey, Didn't We Just See This?")

We have two Equity theatre companies in the Boston area devoted primarily to Shakespeare. Commonwealth Shakespeare Company does a splashy outdoor free production on Boston Common every summer, while Actors Shakespeare Project does full seasons of edgy productions in a variety of metro-Boston venues.

I don't think the two consider themselves in competition with one another; their production dates don't overlap, they frequently employ the same actors, Comm Shakes has at least three times ASP's budget, and they arguably are going after different audiences.

ASP is about to open the second production of its season, Two Gentlemen of Verona, next week. Yesterday Comm Shakes announced its upcoming summer production, and its... yup. Two Gents. Two professional productions of the same play in the same region, eight months apart. As it turns out, this is the second time this has happened in three years; they both did Othello in 2010.

This is odd to me. Even if the two companies don't consider themselves in competition, I'd've assumed they consulted one another regarding play selection; some kind of "I call dibs on Hamlet next year" kind of gentleman's agreement. Or Rock-Paper-Scissors. Guess not.

Given that ASP announces its season well in advance, the onus is on Comm Shakes to take ASP's season into consideration; apparently they don't. I don't know nor will I speculate what ASP thinks about this. The differences between the two companies are such that ultimately the effect on each others' audiences is negligible, so I guess in the end it doesn't matter.

Among Boston's fringe theatre scene there has been a fair amount of similar instances. In the past year, for example, two companies did Romeo and Juliet within days of each other, another did a play a professional company on the Cape had done three months prior, another is doing a play performed six months earlier by Boston's local youth troupe, and two companies recently announced the same production to be performed within a year of one another. (UPDATE: a local company just announced they're throwing together a benefit production... of a play another local company is opening the following month.)

These companies are chasing the same audiences, so it does matter. A hundred tickets can separate financial solvency from ruin. There are other considerations as well - companies producing the same play so close together invite comparison and competition. The producers of the first production then is tempted to become protective of their artistic choices, and issues of intellectual property rights then come into play. This promotes competitiveness, divisiveness, secretiveness and disharmony, which is cancerous for a scene that requires unity, openness, and collegiality to survive.

It would be prudent, then, to establish some sort of Best Practice standards regarding play selection. I submit the following.

Dear Fringe Theatre Companies:

When a member of the theatre community approaches you with a script they want you to consider, assume they have a vested interest in it. If they're an actor, they want to act in it. If they're a director, they want to direct. If they're a playwright, they probably wrote it. If you decide to greenlight the production, it's only fair to include them in it. If you don't, from their perspective you're snatching their dream project from them and slamming the door in their face.

Keep the lines of communication open. If they bring you a script and don't hear from you, they have no way of knowing that you're laying the groundwork while they're off pitching it to another company who might just wind up greenlighting it first.

Or maybe they didn't pitch it to you; maybe they just mentioned a particular play near and dear to their heart. If you're suddenly struck with an all-encompassing desire to produce this play yourself, it's only fair to mention it to them beforehand, get their okay, ask if they want to be involved somehow, etc. Otherwise you're stealing their baby.

Maybe it's a play that you've discovered yourself, something you've been dying to produce since you first read it or saw it years ago, or whatever. Before you announce it to the world, avail yourself of the nearest available Internet Search Engine, be it Google, Bing or - god forbid - Yahoo, and check to see if it's been produced locally in the last few years, or if it's already slated for production by another local company.

Okay, so you've committed, come hell or high water, to doing a play that another group is doing a few months or weeks beforehand. As an actor, if I'm in a play that's been made into a movie I make a choice not to see it. I want my creation to be my own, and not influenced - even unconsciously - by someone else's specific choices. And in this case, that prior company's design choices, directorial choices, etc, are their own intellectual property.

On the other hand, if you're the company doing the prior production, you have the option to reach out to that other company and talk about a co-production. Neither you nor they have a monopoly on good ideas; by unifying your efforts, you might have a better show. And you're also splitting your production costs. Why work apart when you can work together?

I understand that it's unrealistic to expect every theatre company to get together once a year to  hammer out a season in which nobody doubles up. But it is possible to observe some guidelines.
  • Open communication with people who bring potential ideas/projects/scripts to you.
  • Due diligence to make sure your dream production isn't already on some other company's schedule.
  • Consider a generally agreed-upon moratorium between productions - if another local company did it within, say, the last couple years, hold off before you do it. My number: five years.
  • But if you *must*,  make sure it's your own creation, and not influenced by the earlier show.
At the root of all of this is simply this: although there needs to be some incentive to do the best work we can do, we shoot ourselves in the foot when we work against each other, or needlessly duplicate efforts, or engender bad faith amongst one another. Onstage and off.

Thoughts? Observations? Comments?

October 7, 2012

On the Economics of Small Theatre

My friend Karen replied to my earlier blog post about small theatre companies who don't/can't offer compensation to their cast/crew by offering an intriguing question. What if these companies gave audiences the option to pay an extra $5 per ticket, and all that extra money was then split amongst the artists?

The practicality of this solution is debatable. But it did get me thinking. Although much of our audience is each other - our fellow theatre colleagues, our families, friends and co-workers - the rest is the general public, who by and large are unaware of the economics of small theatre.

And I should take this moment to talk more about those economics, lest my previous post be considered to be a blanket indictment against these small companies.

It costs a lot to produce a play in Boston.

A three-week rental of the area's various blackbox and small spaces costs between $2,400 (Factory Theatre) to over $6,000 (BCA Plaza Theatre). Dramatists' Play Service's average royalty rate for a full-length play is $75 per performance. Then there's budget for set construction, costume budget, and props. There's publicity - postcards and/or posters and occasionally advertizing space. There are other miscellaneous expenses, particularly if they're utilizing the theatre's in-house tech staff or equipment.

How much is our audience aware of the expense in producing the play they're watching? Are they aware that in many cases, nobody (actors, crew, designers, director, or even producers) gets paid?

What benefit would there be, if any, if these small companies were transparent with their audiences about where their ticket prices go? If they approached their audience with the dilemma they face - wanting to keep ticket prices low but then having little or nothing left for the artists - would they be open to paying a few dollars more? Would they be more open to making donations? Would they be willing to be more supportive of small theatre in general? Get their employers to underwrite productions? Lobby their state/local politicians to create more arts funding?

You never know if there's a theatre lover in your audience who has a lucrative job at one of the Boston area's tech, finance, legal or healthcare companies, who has no idea that box office income never covers the cost of production and the artists involved are largely working without compensation.  This transparency could be the start of productive dialogue that could be a watershed moment for Boston theatre.

October 3, 2012

My Non-Equity Actor Manifesto


Dear Boston-area non-Equity theatre producers:
I am a non-Equity actor. I call myself a professional due to my two decades' experience, training, attitude and ability. I made a choice to work a full-time career outside of my art from economic necessity. I neither expect nor demand a living wage in exchange for my services.

However.

My time is valuable.
In addition to my full-time job, you're asking me to spend 4-6 weeks in rehearsal and 2-4 weeks in performance. When I'm working on a show, I leave the house at 8:30 am and roll in after 11pm. This is time away from my friends, family and partner. My cats miss me. My laundry and dishes pile up. My milk goes bad. I miss other people's shows. I miss family gatherings. I miss concerts, movies, museum exhibits, TV shows, and other cultural events. I spend money on gas, tolls, parking, bus fare, cab fare and subway fare to get to rehearsal.

My skill set is valuable.
Check out my résumé. I don't need any more exposure or experience, thanks; I've been at this for twenty years. Trust me. I've got plenty.

There is a limited set of circumstances under which I'll work for free.
It's my first time working with you.
I'm excited about the play, the role, the cast, the director, etc.
There's a realistic chance you'll bring me on board as an artistic associate, let me direct someday, etc.

You really should pay your actors.
If you don't already, I strongly suggest you make it your mission in the very near future to do so. This may mean more active/aggressive fundraising, a slightly higher ticket price, or choosing plays with smaller casts. Even if it's only a $100 or $150 stipend, it's a start, and it's meaningful and beneficial to us actors.

I know it's not (always) your fault.
I understand that there are economic realities at play, especially in this city. Performance space is expensive and limited. There's nowhere to rehearse. It costs a lot to put on a show, and I absolutely respect that you want to reach a broad audience and keep ticket prices low. I know you're investing as much if not more time and sweat into this as we are, and quite often you're not making a dime on this either. I don't accuse you of deliberately exploiting the actors of this city; I trust that the vast majority of you would pay us if you could.

But the more that actors are willing to work for free, the more that theatre producers become accustomed to actors working for free. When we set our value at zero, eventually our worth becomes zero.

When you pay your actors:
  • You attract better actors, which usually improves the quality of your productions, which usually raises your profile.
  • You make the theatre scene more competitive, but in a good way; actors with less experience are motivated to improve their skill set.
  • You stymie the attrition of the area's talent pool. You give a reason for early and mid-career artists to stay around, and for artists to settle here.

Until that happy day when someone opens a checkbook and creates a complex of affordable blackboxes specifically for the emerging/small/fringe theatre scene, when the local university theatre programs are more willing to share their spaces and resources, and when there is increased mentoring between larger and smaller theatre companies, a major step in pushing our theatre scene forward is paying the artists you hire. And for our local actors to take a stand and demand compensation.

January 5, 2012

In Search of Kittery's Lost Garage Rock Legend



(Note to readers - I'm in the process of re-writing this entire post from top to bottom.)

Tens of thousands of starry-eyed teenagers all over the world picked up musical instruments in the 50's and 60's and formed bands. Exactly one of these bands became the Beatles.

As for the rest of them, maybe they got some gigs, maybe made a demo, maybe got a local record deal, maybe opened for big acts when they came to town, maybe got signed by a major label, maybe had a hit, maybe two, maybe got on network TV, maybe got their own headlining tour, maybe they captured the zeitgeist for a year, maybe more. Maybe their signature song(s) is/are still played on oldies radio. If they're still alive, maybe they're even still performing.

Somewhere at some point along the way, however, the vast majority of these musical acts fell off this path. Maybe they fractured due to egos or drugs, maybe they didn't have just the right song, or maybe it was just a matter of timing, lack of opportunity, or they never caught those mythical 'breaks.' Some of these musicians managed to stay in the industry somehow as a session musician, songwriter, producer, A-and-R person, etc, others might become teachers just to stay part of the music-making process and to pass their joy along to others. But many wind up outside music altogether and join the rat race with the rest of us.

But if they got into a studio and recorded anything, odds are it survives somewhere. And that's what's fascinating. You can't bring back a theatrical performance from 45 years ago unless it was recorded, and those rare cases were usually because they had celebrities in them. Nobody was recording community theatre in Keokuk, IA. But if there's a surviving copy of a 45 rpm single that a Keokuk IA band cut in its handful of studio sessions that still is playable today, no matter what these guys are doing today, that moment is preserved and will live forever.

Garage rock fans scour record stores and antique shops for rare treasures. Obscure tracks are digitized, compiled, traded, uploaded and downloaded. Why this obsession? I think it's a testimony to the bold diversity of that brief period. As the boundaries of guitar-pop expanded and rock music evolved from a teen fad into a musical art form, the rulebook of what one could and couldn't do in a pop song was constantly being re-written or thrown out entirely. This flush of experimentation coinciding with and fueled by Revolver, Pet Sounds, The Kinks, Sgt Pepper et al, inspired bands large and small to go deeper, or inward, or bigger, or louder. The fecund period of 1965-69 produced thousands of fantastically twisted, heady, strange, brilliant, wonderful tracks (as well as a lot of crap, obviously). Even if they weren't hits, most are worth a listen.

One such song was on a compilation I was listening to one day a few years ago; a bit ragged around the edges, but with a driving, fuzz-drenched rhythm that caught my attention. The song was called 'Whirlpool.' I noted the band's name, Alan Burn and the Ushers, and imagined a bunch of ambitious high-schoolers who probably played a bunch of school dances and VFW halls, had a whole bunch of covers in their repertoire, 'Louie Louie' chief among them, and 'Whirlpool' was their one original. Scraping enough money together for a studio session, they gathered around a single microphone and recorded their one shot at rock 'n' roll glory. It obviously wasn't to be, and they went off to various blue-collar jobs and had ordinary lives.

Well, some internet digging later, and I got a slightly different story. In the first place, it turns out that these guys were from my own backyard.  The Ushers hailed from York ME and Alan was from the neighboring town of Kittery: my hometown.  And although my instincts were right on about the Ushers - they were indeed a high school band - I hadn't expected to discover the extent of Alan Burn's exploits as a young would-be rock n' roller.

This is the story, then, of Alan Burn, who was far from a high-schooler living a momentary rock 'n' roll fantasy. He had chops, talent, and ambition, got some breaks, and came pretty damn close to breaking through. He didn't, but that doesn't mean that his story isn't worthy of being told. In fact, there's something intrinsically more interesting about someone who nearly makes it than someone who makes it huge, or doesn't make it at all. That is the essence of tragedy in the Aristotelian sense, having your goal within your reach and having it slip away. The fact that he grew up in my hometown makes his story all the more compelling to me. I wanted to know what happened to him.

Through my research and contact with a fellow songwriter, I briefly spoke to Alan on the phone, and he corrected a few flaws in my research, but apparently I got most of it correct. We hope to meet for a more formal interview when he's next in town.

His story is worthy of being told, and his music is more than worth hearing, so this is my attempt to tell it.

An Attempt at a Biography

Young Alan Burn(s)
from a 1964 article in
his hometown paper
Alan G Burn was born in 1944 and grew up in Lewiston, Maine.  He graduated from Lewiston High School in 1962, by which time his love of music was already evident, penning numerous songs.  During summers he worked as a lobsterman off Kittery Point, where he and his mother had a summer home on Cutts Island.  While attending University of Alaska he appeared on a local talent show "Alaska Bandstand," and recorded his first single, 'Parking Meters on Lovers Lane' which he released on his own label, Island Records (no relation to the famed major label) in November 1964.  According to Alan, the music track was recorded in New York and he recorded the vocals in Alaska.

I took the above information from a Nov '64 newspaper article announcing the single's release; his and his mothers' surname is listed as "Burns."  It is unclear if this is a typo or if Alan dropped the 's' for professional reasons.

At the tender age of 20, Alan exhibits admirable independence, enterprise and industry, opting to self-produce rather shop around for a label.  Yet he wouldn't have to wait long.

In 1965 Alan was signed to Mala Records, a subsidiary label of Bell Records that existed from 1959 to 1969.  Mala released many big hits including "G.T.O." by Ronnie and the Daytonas as well as "The Letter," "Cry Like a Baby" and "Neon Rainbow" by the Box Tops, and its roster included at one time or another Chad Allan, Spooky Tooth, Billy Fury, Chip Taylor, R Dean Taylor, David Gates, Solomon Burke and Link Wray

His first single with Mala was under the tutelage of the notable songwriting and production team of Bob Feldman, Jerry Goldstein and Richard Gottehrer, who were having one heluva year in 1965. In addition to the songs they wrote and produced for other artists, the trio (and their non-existent arranger, Bassett Hand) released a number of their own compositions as The Strangeloves, going so far as to invent backstories for the fictional group members.  But when they scored a nationwide hit with "I Want Candy", they were forced to hire a live band to tour and make TV appearances as the Strangeloves, taking on the fictional members' names. As Milli-Vanillian as it sounds, this was far from unusual at the time. The Grass Roots existed in name only until producer/songwriter P.F. Sloan had to hire a real band after "Where Where You When I Needed You" hit the top 20.  A large number of Bubblegum Pop bands were completely studio creations.

He spent about six months as an FGG staff songwriter, during which time he recorded two of his own compositions, "Somebody Wrote Their Name" and "Beach House" (Mala 510), and collaborated on a barn-burner of a song called "Right Hand Man" recorded by Bobby Comstock (another FGG stablemate). He is also credited with a composition titled "Groovy Chick." The Mala single didn't chart, though "Somebody Wrote Their Name" was played by famed Boston DJ Arnie 'Woo Woo' Ginsberg as a 'hit or miss' single - alas, it missed - and "Beach House" was a top 10 hit in Portsmouth NH.  Meanwhile FGG had other acts that were making bigger splashes - that year in addition to "I Want Candy" and "Night Time," they also produced the McCoy's "Hang On Sloopy," launching the career of teenage frontman Rick Derringer.

Alan continued undaunted, apparently settling in Kittery, releasing other material on Island Records and later Tuesday Records, both of which I posit were his own labels, either as Alan Burn (with various backing bands like the Ushers, the World of Darkness, and the Jaguars) or credited solely as "Alan." His compositions were published under the entity Far North via BMI, and his producing efforts were known as Red Hot Productions. A band known as the Alright Five released a pair of Alan Burn compositions on the Tuesday label, but it only takes a cursory listen to identify Alan at the mic; was he attempting to follow in FGG's footsteps in creating a fictional band name as a front for himself? He also collaborated with local legend Bobby Herne on several compositions (including "Whirlpool").

(Because the name Alan Burn appears on a list of Kittery's Vietnam veterans, I had assumed that he was drafted in the late 60's, thereby stalling his career momentum.  Alan informs me that this is incorrect, and that he did not serve in the military.)

Alan's musical aspirations appear to have flagged as the decade came to a close, and presumably out of financial obligation he pursued a career with a steadier paycheck. He has since settled in upstate New York.

In 2003 he re-entered the studio to cut an album of sixteen Christian acoustic country-folk tunes called "Reality Gospels," quite a departure indeed from his pop and garage leanings nearly four decades previous. But indeed a lot can happen in that time. (According to songwriter Craig Wiser, they are currently collaborating on new material.) Alan still visits Kittery fairly regularly.

Further Googling reveals an Alan Burn who was part of a lobstering co-operative in Belize, but even with the crustacean connection it might be a stretch to suppose it's the same person.  Another member of the co-op is Billy Usher, another intriguing but probable coincidence.

Burning Up The Charts... Nearly

The BMI online archives list over 40 songs penned or co-penned by Alan Burn, and this list doesn't appear to be comprehensive.  It also doesn't give any dates or suggest any kind of chronology.  There appears to be a change in the way BMI assigned ID #'s to his songs; his later Christian music all has sequential numbering, but the rest, when listed in ID order, are alphabetical.  So I don't know exactly when this material was actually released, but the date range is between '65 and '68, give or take.

Somebody Wrote Their Name youtube / Beach House listen (Mala 510) ~1965
Both sides written by Alan Burn and produced by Feldman/Goldstein/Gottehrer

No known compilation.

The a-side (which Alan says is one of his favorite compositions) is charming if a bit nostalgic, with a riff and a chord progression lifted from "Silhouettes" and reminiscent of the weepy teen ballads (and vocal stylings) of Neil Sedaka.  Burn laments in 6/8 time how he spied his girlfriend's name on the blackboard inside a heart with another boy's name, indicating she's no longer his.  Awwww.
Everybody's starting to talk.
There it was, written in chalk.
Your name in a heart with his
Gave me such a start, gee whiz.
As far as I can tell, this single has never been included in any garage compilations; understandable as it's pretty far removed from the garage sound.

Here's a YouTube posting for Somebody Wrote Their Name:


And here's Beach House (thanks to Dom from domsvinyl)

A breezy uptempo surf-pop alternative to the flipside, and very reminiscent of "Sugar Shack" with its organ lead.  Alan here is much more carefree and relaxed, opting to take his pick of the beach bunnies until he "meets his special chick."  Inspired, no doubt, by his Kittery summers?

The Arf-Arf Records website offers a single in good condition for $3, listing Alan Burn as a "legendary Maine artist."  I recently won an eBay auction for a near-mint copy, paying $18.50.

Plaything listen / That's How It All Began listen (Island 3/4) ~1965
Plaything by Bob Williams and Alan Burn, That's How It All Began by Alan Burn
Produced by Alan Burn
No known compilations.


Not sure who the Jaguars are, though Don Rivard of the Ushers recalls they were a high school band from Kittery.

Plaything has an interesting interplay of vocals and a bit of a Buddy Holly vibe to it.  That's How It All Began reminds me a lot of the Mindbenders' Game of Love, with a pair of verses set in the Garden of Eden juxtaposed with a contemporary boy-meets-girl tale.

I bought the single from Aram Heller at Stanton Park Records, who was kind enough to provide me with mp3's first.  The single isn't in the best of shape, as the Soundcloud links demonstrate.  Hopefully a better quality copy is in existence somewhere.

Turn Off, Next Exit listen / Tiny Tagalong listen (Tuesday 7/8) ~1966
Credited to "The Alright Five", both sides written/produced by Alan Burn
No known compilations 



Thanks to Dan at Indian Head Records for sending me the mp3 of Tiny Tagalong!

No idea who the Alright Five are, but that's clearly Alan at the mic.  Perhaps the Alright Five are one of those studio creation bands like the Strangeloves (indicating he learned from FG and G well).

Turn Off, Next Exit might just be my favorite Alan Burn track.  It's a slice of Garage Rock heaven, with a great riff and an awesome rave-up at the end.  Plus, I love the lyrics - a cynical take on the "Life is a Highway" metaphor:
Start at Mile One
A place called Conception on the Road to Self-Destruction
Proceed to Mile Two
Now you're in Childhood not so far from Subtlety
Go onto Mile Three
A few miles from Sinning on the outskirts of Temptation
If you make it to Mile Four
The one who drives the fastest will make it first to Ashes.
And who knew the penner of such winsome material as Somebody Wrote Their Name could come up with a bridge like this:
Spend your nights lookin' for some action
Laying in a motel in a place called Satisfaction
And you haunt the Bureau of Information
About the way to Self-Gratification
Tiny Tagalong is a return to his twee pop roots: an 11-yr old boy considers the continual presence of a 9-yr old girl a nuisance.  Second verse, two years later, same story.  Then during the bridge, hormones kick in and his attitude changes.  In the final verse, they're 18 and 16, and engaged.  Awwww.

This is actually a pretty rare and desirable single - a few weeks ago, one went for $400, and today (1/29) another sold for $105.


See Susie Run listen / Information (Help Me Please) listen (Tuesday TR-SRR) ~1967
Credited solely as "Alan," music by The World of Darkness (a-side) and The Ushers (b-side)
Written by Bobby Herne and Alan Burn (a-side), Alan Burn (b-side)

Both tracks on compilation "Upstate NY - Both Sides Now"


Thanks to Chuck, who made the above compilation, for sending me the mp3's!  Haven't heard "See Susie Run", but I've heard "Information" on a podcast (scroll to approximately 20:12 in - I can't isolate it to make an MP3 of it) and I think it's great!  A charmingly garage-y tune worthy of the Monkees, Blues Magoos, or any popular guitar-pop band of the time. Two guitars (and two chords!) and an organ with bass and drums, with vocals laced with tongue-in-cheek humor as Alan seeks some assistance from Ma Bell in nursing his broken heart:
One... Two-One-Two...
Five-Five-Five... One-Two-One-Two...
Information, can you help me? Here's my situation
I need the numbers of the girls in your town
I don't mean to mess around, but I've been put down, yeah.
Help me, Information!
Recently an original 45 sold on eBay for $97, not a bad price.

Whirlpool YouTube / Lion in Love (Tuesday 11/12) ~1967
Written by Bobby Herne and Alan Burn, music by the Ushers, produced by Alan Burn
Whirlpool: included on compilations "Total Raunch" and "A Funny Thing Happened"
Lion In Love: No known compilations.


According to their guitarist Don Rivard, the Ushers were students at York High School; he was class of '67 and the rest class of '68.  He came up with the name Ushers after the outfits they wore onstage, a cross between usher suits and Nehru jackets. They gigged regularly throughout the area but pretty much broke up after graduation. Alan hired them for a number of gigs and recordings - Don recalls that Alan was one of the region's best singers, although his vocal talents may have been better exhibited on his earlier singles.  The lineup was Gary Boardman (voc), Don Rivard (g/v), John Stewart (g/v), Barry Bracy (b/v), and Bob Bowker (d).

As Don recalls, Alan booked a studio at UNH for a studio session (where presumably they recorded most if not all of their tracks - at least Whirlpool and Information since the drum sound is so similar); Bob replaced the drums with trashcan lids due to echo problems - and doesn't that just give these recordings legitimacy as 'garage' in the coolest sense of the word!  During the recording session a foot of snow fell, and their van spun out at least twice on the way home, but they all made it home alive.

Musically, this is archetypal mid-60's garage rock.  A 4-beat rhythm with a descending G/F#/Em chord progression, organ and possibly two guitars (one fuzzy lead and another rhythm guitar) with bass and drums.  Alan sings lead alongside Gary Boardman.  It sounds like a pretty rushed affair, his singing is a bit timid going into the bridges, and at the end he goes into the chorus but the rest of the band doesn't follow. Another vocal take might've been in order, but perhaps there wasn't time - though he is credited as producer. Nonetheless, it has a ragged glory to it that I find quite compelling and interesting.  So do many garage rock enthusiasts and collectors, who can ask over $100 on eBay for the handful of surviving 45's.  Listen for yourself:



The lyrics paint a portrait of someone going through some pretty substantial existential angst.  What a progression from his first single!  As a writer and a person, he sounds as if he's endured some traumatic real life experiences that have left permanent scars on his psyche.
Milling in my mind
Are a billion sands of time
It's an hourglass of wrath
Where no man makes a path
     [...]
My life was wasted 'til I tasted sin, sweet honey
I got things that just cannot be bought with money
I lost my miiiiiiind! 
Other singles from this era include... (thanks to Erik Lindgren of Arf!Arf! Records)
Alan: Stop, You're Killin' Me / Shadow (both w/Ushers) (Tuesday, no number)
Alan Burn: Agatha Abernathy / Tiny Tagalong (flip is same version as the Alright Five 45) (Tuesday TR-2)
Alan: Catchin' Spies / Kathy Cryin Heart (Tuesday 5/6)

The BMI Archives also list these titles - unknown if they were ever recorded or released.
Crib Sheets, Crime Doesn't Pay (w/Bobby Herne), Dusty Country Roads, Gotham City, Hang Up, Little Things Like That, Okay Okay, On My Honor, Outplayed Outsmarted Outloved, Teardrops Can't Paint The Town, Two Thousand Tears, and Under The Lights.

Erik Lindgren of Arf Arf Records also claims to have unreleased Alan Burn material in his vaults, provided to him by Bobby Herne before he died... could an Alan Burn compilation in the works someday?

Reality Gospels (self-produced CD, 2003) listen to samples here
Credited to "Alan," all songs written by Alan Burn

The Man Who Lives Under The Bridge / Are We There Yet / His Handiwork / Color The Sky / Raptured From Jerusalem / Angels In Disguise / Single Mom / It's Not Magic / Move My Spirit / When Was The Last Time / They Might Have Been / Temples Made With Hands / So Many Souls / Anchor in the Storm / Whatever Time I Have Left / As Long As There's A Song

When I started looking for more information about Alan a month or so ago, I was surprised to find that he had made much more music than I'd expected, had rubbed shoulders with industry heavyweights, etc.  I hadn't expected to find that he's still making music today, and that he released an entire album not too long ago.  The direction his songwriting took also was a surprise; the angsty and cynically humorous garage punk edge of his heavier early material has faded into a gentle groundedness with an devoutly intense underlying piety.  "Reality Gospels" features sixteen mid-tempo acoustic country-folk songs accompanied by Celtic fiddle.  On the one hand, he has a very caring spirit for homeless people and single mothers (the '64 article strongly suggests he was raised by one), yet he doesn't conceal his strong opinions on abortion, new-age spirituality, etc.

So what is there to say about Alan Burn, and why am I so interested?  He was as worthy of success, if not more so, as any of the garage artists that blossomed into one-hit wonders.  He definitely had talent and chops, if not outright genius, as a songwriter; "Somebody Wrote Their Name" could've been cut by Neil Sedaka had it been written five years earlier.  Had he hailed from New York or LA he could've sold a song like "Information" to a publisher and seen it recorded by a flavor-of-the-month rock band.  Perhaps it was a lack of persistence, opportunity, connections, timing, or any number of factors that kept the brass ring from his hands. Also, people a generation or two ago seemed far more practical and nuts-and-bolts about life than mine - rather than pursue a fanciful dream, people got settled into careers. As I ponder my own pursuit of my own brass ring (as a would-be professional stage actor) and contemplate where I am in my quest, I look to people who didn't make it despite their talents to get a sense of perspective.

Alan Burn Discography-In-Progress
Text color indicates how I have access to these songs:  
Red - vinyl plus audio file Fuchsia - audio file only

Mala 510 - Somebody Wrote Their Name / Beach House
(speculative: Island 1/2 Parking Meters on Lovers Lane / ??)
Island 3/4 - Plaything / That's How It All Began (w/ the Jaguars)
Tuesday 5/6 - Catchin' Spies / Kathy Cryin Heart ("Alan")
Tuesday 7/8 - Turn Off, Next Exit / Tiny Tagalong (as "The Alright Five")
Tuesday 9/10 - ???
Tuesday 11/12 - Whirlpool / Lion In Love (w/ the Ushers)
Tuesday (no #) - Stop, You're Killin' Me / Shadow ("Alan" w/ the Ushers)
Tuesday TR-SSR - Information (Help Me Please) ("Alan" w/ the Ushers) / See Susie Run ("Alan" w/ World of Darkness)
Tuesday TR-2 - Agatha Abernathy / Tiny Tagalong (apparently same recording as Alright Five)

self-produced album: Reality Gospel (Alan, 2003)

Note: I found a listing for a single by Dee Dee Warwick, sister of Dionne, I Who Have Nothing / I Can't Go Back on Tuesday 1/2.  I'm reasonably confident that this is incorrect.  There was such a single released on a Utica NY label called Hurd; perhaps Alan re-released it on his own label?