Scott Fagan – “Tenement Hall” (Stereogum Premiere)

Scott Fagan’s lost 1968 album, South Atlantic Blues, rediscovered by New York artist Jasper Johns a year later in a cutout bin, is about to be reissued, and you can listen to the latest remastered track “Tenement Hall” below. Inspired by the recordings, Johns created a series of three artworks based on the album titled “Scott Fagan Record.” The successor to previous advance single “In My Head,” the track floats upon Fagan’s jazzy vocals and bluesy instrumentation, thriving on the cool simplicity of delicate horns that recall a classic New York City 1960s-era feel.

Fagan is Magnetic Fields frontman Stephin Merritt’s long-lost father. The two met for the first time in 2012, and the South Atlantic Blues liner notes include a conversation between them. Here is an excerpt in which Fagan gives some background on this song:

The middle section was [co-writer] Joe Kookoolis and I wanting to express the crazy feeling of being trapped via some “free jazz”. [Arranger] Horace Ott, who was a reasonable, rational responsible, recipient of the best training a music man could get down south, had never heard of such a thing. Our New York first caliber big time unionized studio musicians, all reasonable responsible, reliable and rational men, had never heard of such a thing. They looked at us as if we were crazy. Nevertheless, to their credit, they were willing.

Horace tried swinging his baton, up and down, round and round, The drummer tried counting, the bass man bopped his feet, the string men struggled and tried. They all tried and tried and then looked at each in defeat. Finally, Horace looked at Joe and me and said “you do it!” It may have been Joe’s finest hour. Waving and hollerin’ pointing and cajoling, spinning, banging, gesticulating, eyes rolling like two lunatics… and then it was done. What a laughing happy and relieved group of delighted people. We got what we wanted… and there you have it.

Listen below.

South Atlantic Blues will be reissued on 11/20 via Saint Cecilia Knows.

Tags: Scott Fagan