Hilly Kristal | Mad Mordechai

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Hilly's home page at the Stereo Society

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Blues: Rockin' Blues Blues: New York Blues Moods: Solo Male Artist
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Mad Mordechai

by Hilly Kristal

Hilly Kristal owned and ran the legendary CBGB’s, New York, for 33 years to closedown in 2006, but he started (and finished?) his club reign as a musician: not your regular muso, though.
Genre: Blues: Rockin' Blues
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Mud
7:30 $0.99
2. Everybody's Buddy
3:11 $0.99
3. There Was A Time
3:27 $0.99
4. Birds And The Bees
3:59 $0.99
5. 'Sno Joke
6:01 $0.99
6. An introduction
0:51 $0.99
7. If I Could Call On You
1:37 $0.99
8. Rock 'n' Roll Jackson
7:10 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
‘Mad Mordechai’ is Hilly Kristal’s first, and so far only, CD, although he released a few singles way back. Read on for a unique story. These are the 1999 CD sleeve notes by producer and long-time CBGB’s hanger-on Mike Thorne. You can’t describe Hilly Kristal in a short, convenient sound bite…

Even though they clearly broke the mold after they made him, Hilly Kristal is a traditional kind of character. So his record deserves a traditional sleeve note. Most people know Hilly only as the owner of CBGB's, the rock and roll club on the Bowery in New York City, now probably the most famous in the world and where you can still sometimes catch him at reception with feet up, strumming a guitar. For over 30 years it has been a focus for the city's pop music invention. Fewer people know that he sang on the stage of Radio City Music Hall, washed dishes in Montreal, ran the Village Vanguard in a jazz heyday, or that he was patted on the head by Einstein when he was just three years old. Such a physical introduction to physics must have been helpful when throwing transgressors out of the club. I have observed the process from a distance, shirt collars lifted high in each hand and heading involuntarily for the door. But even fewer people have heard his songs or his extraordinary singing voice, a true bass.

I first met Hilly (a common first line for a downtown New York anecdote) in 1977, when I arrived from London to begin a production relationship of two albums with the Shirts, the Brooklyn band that he was managing. After a beer at the club, he suggested that we walk round the corner to his home/office to talk about logistics and other serious showbiz things. He sat at his small, congested desk; I sat opposite. Formality hadn't melted yet, so the cockroaches that walked across it were very circumspect. We each watched them stroll, never acknowledging them by interrupting our conversation. He wasted each one, accurately and efficiently, never breaking his cadence. Later, when CBGB's embraced the technological marvel of fax, their descendants would find a nice warm place to hang out. Flattened, they would emerge on a sheet of paper either there or virtually down a phone line. The area is less bug-friendly now, but the club and his music spirit persist. Some logistics worked. Technology still races on, helping us more than the cockroaches.

‘Mud’, the story of the little wiggly pig's preferred birthday present, was the B side of the 1976 CBGB's Christmas record (the club had a 16-track tape recorder even then). A countryish type of experience, he had originally written the song to sing to his daughter Lisa, and it stayed on the jukebox for ten years, along with a few other curios including Hilly's singing on a true period piece ‘The Man Of The Sky’. I found out that he had supported himself as a singer and writer for many years, even (typically) turning down a deal with Atlantic Records to go with a breakaway independent which went under without releasing even a single. Several years later, in the early eighties, after one beer too many for us both at the club's bar, he suggested, 'How about doing ‘Mud’ to a disco beat?' A mutant rap/dance/camp/party/pop/children's record was too good an idea to let go, even the following slow morning.

The person who got the plot instantly was Michael Zilkha, whose rambunctiously creative Ze Records exposed many adventurous artists in the early eighties. We recorded ‘Mud’ in both birthday and Christmas versions. This was not to be just a Christmas novelty record, no barking chorus dogs, please, although there is one pathetic whimper late in the record. Paralleling Hilly's previous record deal experience, the record was buried by the indifference of Ze's distributing record company. End of story, until I found myself with a powerful recording studio of my own.

I enjoy working with unusual artists most - people who take risks and make something novel used to be the foundation of pop music. 1989 was a conservative time in the record business, and the big companies weren't signing them. However, I knew many artists, friends, acquaintances and other misfits who I thought could make good records, could make good records people would like, and could make money making good records that people would like. I needed some trouble/stimulus in my life. I called Hilly and we remade Mud. Cut loose completely, we had even more fun recording it. We took the time and made an ambitious party record. And then made some more, and hence this album. A labor of love has turned into a real CD, and I'm still not quite used to the idea.

In the approach to releasing the CD, we collected several other off-the-wall insights: ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Jackson’ (one of the lesser-know knights of King Arthur’s Round Table), ‘Sno Joke’ (in the genre of paranoia-disco, and possibly a monologue by someone you’d prefer not to be sitting next to at the bar) and ‘Everybody’s Buddy’, by the Elvis hit-writer who gave it to Hilly: Otis Blackwell. This had to come out. It was the first release on the Stereo Society label.

We still doubt if we could get arrested by the mainstream record business, even for a crime like this. So, finally, I'm happy to release it as the first on the Stereo Society label. As I write, we're not in the record stores, our only presence being on the internet, at www.stereosociety.com, where you can also read more about the record and the artist. This means we can be self-sufficient with unusual little records that can't enjoy the slim chance of a hit from a big company campaign. Technology has developed to help us even more since we first got all excited in pre-fax days at the club bar (www.cbgb.com). It has enabled us to put out a record which doesn't fit neatly in an established category, rather like Hilly himself. Perhaps, soon, it will be able to change our hair colors back to our respective previous shades.

Little wiggly pigs might fly.

- Mike Thorne

Hilly Kristal: vocals, acoustic guitars
Rick Shaffer: electric guitars
Mike Thorne: rhythm and keyboards
Tish & Snooky: background vocals

Produced by Mike Thorne

Running time: 34 minutes.
With 16-page full color booklet

Much more detail at the Stereo Society website (see link at left)



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