Friday, 19 November 2010

lotti golden

Here's a fascinating piece on Lotti Golden, written by Thomas Barry and originally published in LOOK magazine in the autumn of 1969:

Everything about Lotti is contradictory. She is direct-distant, earthy-fragile, young-old, part nun and part witch. When she speaks, the voice pipes and wavers like a little girl's, but the accent is tough Brooklyn. She industriously writes poetry and songs, rich in metaphor and starkly descriptive of people and places, and tells you with a straight face that "nothing's worthwhile, it's all a game, everything I do is just an excuse."


The "love disc" she wears was found on the street.

Lotti Golden thinks a lot about her poet's temperament these days because she is on the verge of becoming "significant." Even in her musically precocious generation, she stands out as a singer-composer of phenomenal power and originality. It's hard to believe so much volume can come from her long-legged, 5'6", 105lb. frame. The style derives from Negro blues, gospel and soul. Lotti began by soaking up the Billy Holiday records of her mother Anita, now 39, who admits to having been a "Holiday groupie"- following the singer from show to show. Lotti studied voice and began playing the guitar when she was 12. Her real influence was early 1960's rhythm & blues in a Brooklyn junior high school whose number she cannot recall. "The black kids had little transistors. Me and three black chicks would cut class, go to the bathrooms, smoke reefers and harmonize. Gradually, I began to make up my own personal lyrics over R&B chord progressions."
By the end of high school in 1967, Lotti had sung with bands up and down the East coast, taken up acting and entered the freaked-out, drugged-up street world of New York's Lower East Side. "It was sort of like daring myself to see how far I could go." With Michael- "a siren and a street god" who drove a motorcycle and bullied people-she went through painful changes.

Lottie began writing songs about it all, then split. In late 1968, with producer-arranger Bob Crewe, she recorded an autobiographical album called Motorcycle, a synthesis of funky singing and honest, hip lyrics about urban teenage trauma. The music was a sometimes satiric melange of rock, jazz, blues and soul. Jerry Wexler of Atlantic Records bought the tapes after one hearing, modestly telling his staff Lotti would be the greatest single popular artist since Aretha Franklin. The album appeared in May, and by summer, Lotti had a manager: Marty Erlichman, builder of another Brooklyn singer named Streisand.


In Central Park, Lotti meets a friendy creature during a stroll with friend Bob Gruen, left. She: "What is your name?" Creature: "My name is Fantusi. I think you're beautiful."

Last spring, after singing for an hour in her thin-walled Manhatten apartment, Lotti met a fellow tenant on the elevator and was asked, "What Aretha record were you playing?"
Lotti has much of the gospel fervor and soulful phrasing of the great Aretha. She jumps rapidly from funky moans in the lower register to soaring soprano shrieks. She admits Aretha's Influence but insists, "It wasn't really an imitation trip." When people tell her she sounds black, Lotti shakes her head: "It's me. It's part of my musical environment. How do you 'sound white'?"
Lotti and her 16-year-old sister, Glory, grew up in a three-room apartment in a two-family house in Flatbush. Thier father was a small businessman. "We were lower-middle-class," says Lotti. "It was hard making ends meet. We were always in a mixed neighborhood and schools. Glory and I learned all the inside black vernacular and tricks as we grew up- from our black friends- long before the current fad. I remember reading Manchild in the Promised Land and understanding just as if it was a Jewish book."


Glory Golden, 16, jokes with her older sister and Bob Gruen. Glory hits college this fall.

At Carnarsie High School, Lotti was "super popular" when she cared to be, was voted Most Likely to Succeed and graduated with a college scholarship. But by this time, she'd had enough of organized study. "During senior year, I regularly cut out to work at the Henry St. Playhouse in Manhatten or do heavy reading on my own. Then, I went down to a summer-stock theater in North Carolina." There, she met Silky, a kooky "250-lb. fruitfly" of a chick (she has slimmed down) who later came North to join Lotti in the down-and-out New York scene. You can find out what happened to Silky- and Michael and all the others- in Motor-Cycle. A whole underground world is candidly described, down to the last Seconal capsule.


Lotti eyes photos with Silky, her close friend and an aspiring model.

Lotti's collaborator in projecting this world was Bob Crewe, who at 38, can't read a note of music and considers himself primarily a pop poet and lyricist (Can't Take My Eyes Off You). He estimates he has sold over 100 million records, working with artists like The Four Seasons and Lesley Gore. "I get in the studio and arrange with my head," he explains."I hum all the parts, and the musicians pick it up."
When Lotti brought her material to Crewe in the fall of 1967, he exclaimed, "Good God, who are your friends?" (they later used this as the theme of a song) and asked: "Can you wait a year?" She did, while he cleared his schedule, and they finally created the album- with 16 New York musicians- in eight three-hour sessions. Lotti sang "live" in the studio rather than overdubbing her voice on tape as many pop stars do. Crewe feels his role was not to add effects but to refine Lotti's original "big block of sound" and reveal the truth inside-like Michelangelo, he says, who found a big enough piece of marble and "chopped away until Moses appeared."


Producer Bob Crewe with Lotti.

Wrinkling her nose as she smiles and staring with big, dark-hazel eyes, Lotti stretches out in the basement of her aunt's suburban Long Island home. She's moved here from a New York apartment; before that, it had been the streets and pads of friends.
"I'm two opposite things man. I've got to keep moving, but at the same time, I need peace. Without this family thing, I'd flip out. I stayed at the Chelsea Hotel last week, and what a bring-down! So many groupies and idiots knocking at your door at two in the morning. When I got back here and saw my little room and young cousins, I said, 'Wow!' This is where it's at. I love to be around children. They're on a constant trip. They know the truth.

"Of course, I'll always have to do crazy things, like rob drugstores. That's why I went down into the East Village-to find something of my own. I could never really identify myself with the Jewish middle-class type kid."


Jory and Lauren Israel are delighted when cousin Lotti comes to visit Merrick L.I.

Lotti frets over the business and competitive side of her new career: "The easy part is to sit down and create. The hard part is trying to make yourself heard, the promotion. I wish I could be like Dylan already-put out an album and have everybody dig it. That's what I look for. Not money. It'd be easier for me to marry a rich husband!"
Lotti has already written most of her next album- Blood Ring- about "unrequited love, unrequited God, unrequited everything." She hopes to go on the road to perform, also thinks about writing a musical about groupies.

"It'd be a surrealistic opera. There were fans in the old days, but now it's a cult, it's heavier. Groupies become sexually involved with musicians. People used to dream about such things. Now it's a direct activation of their fantasies. Of course, with kids these days, everything's heavier. It's a whole Genet syndrome: You kill yourself and yet you're still alive. There's nothing left to do."