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.
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.
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
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
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
(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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
Somebody Wrote Their Name youtube / Beach Houselisten (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:
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 Beganlisten (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 Exitlisten / Tiny Tagalonglisten (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.
WhirlpoolYouTube / 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?