Various Artists – ESP Disk, East Village Other: Electric Newspaper

Lenny Kaye

By Lenny Kaye

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

East Village Other: Electric Newspaper

Various Artists - ESP Disk

The melange of mixed-media that was the '60s counter-culture took root in an alternative journalism that sought to move beyond words on a printed page. The underground newspapers — these days solidified into the prosaic (pun intended) entertainment weeklies that dot most major urban areas — attempted to visually and aurally rouse their psychedelicized readership in ways that were at once revolutionary and phantasmagorical, political, spiritual, nihilistic.

Ginsberg, the Velvets, the Fugs — you need yesterday’s papers.

Located in an office in the same Second Avenue theater building that would later house the Fillmore East, the East Village Other was one of the first and best counterculture papers. Electric Newspaper is their attempt to carry a microphone through a cross-section of their local lower Manhattan art community. The mantras of Allen Ginsberg are blended with the noise-on-noise of such free-rockers as the Velvet Underground and free-jazzers like Marion Brown and free-associators like Tuli Kupferberg (just then gestating with the Fugs) and Steve Weber (birthing the Holy Modal Rounders) and free-poets like Ishmael Reed and free-Warhol superstars like Gerard Malanga, and even Warhol himself, who contributes, characteristically, "Silence."

Who needs yesterday's papers? It depends on how long those newspapers have been sitting in the attic. Often it's not the main stories that have the interest, but the advertisements, the fly-by-night kaleidoscope of phases and faces and cartoons, the media listings and the where we were then. On the cusp of 40 years, these sounds of the Lower East Side are a textural frequency of their times, collaged in drones and overlays of conversation, a clamor that is the sound of subterranean civilization in times of war.