Jerry Solomon (Big Jerry) with Mark Bloom & His Combo - The Virgins single
As we've shared before, Jerry Solomon is responsible for some of the most unconventional and wonderful records in our collection. We first crossed paths with the DIY musician/performer/actor/writer during a rare live performance at Ariel Pink Presents Cuckoo's Nest (which also featured notables like Gary Wilson, Don Bolles, Shags Chamberlain, Old King Cole Younger, and Richard Ross) a while back, and needed to learn more about this underground legend.
Jerry's fascinatingly weird music is in a class of its own, and is still compelling and intriguing nearly fifty years after its release. The more we looked into the story of Mr. Solomon, the more we wanted to know, and Jerry has been more than receptive to filling in at least some of the blanks. He's graciously given us a copy of his autobiography and has spoken with us on several occasions in 2016 and 2017, answering some of our most burning questions about his unique body of work. We've posted some of his helpful insights here and there, and look forward to future conversations with Jerry. In the meantime, we're thrilled to share some of Mr. Solomon's exceedingly rare music, which we've been fortunate enough to procure.
Though Jerry has appeared in one way or another on TV, films, and the stage (once even at the behest of Andy Kaufman) on several occasions over the course of past decades, the bulk of his recorded output was during the 1960s. It was during the brief and especially prolific era of 1966-1969 that Jerry self-released a limited series of DIY 7 " singles and EPs on his own Fountain Records.
These 45s are coveted by niche collectors around the globe, so we're over the moon to have the privilege of owning and - more importantly - sharing this 1969 single. "The Virgins" single (along with the other 1969 single, "Circle of Life") seems to mark the end of Jerry's fabled Fountain Records period, and showcases his move away from music aligned with contemporary styles. Let's look closer at this mysterious and captivating release.
Start with: Well, in this case, we're only talking two songs, so we suggest both (especially since there's clearly a motif going on with this one!). Jerry's recorded catalog is as small as it is fascinating, so you really won't want to skip anything.
Why it’s worth revisiting: Once you hear a bit of Jerry's music, you'll know. Unlike just about anything else you'll likely come across, Jerry's vision is curiously singular. Truly a pioneer of DIY music and performance, Jerry's intuitive pursuits in writing, recording, packaging, and distributing his own unorthodox creations in the 1960s were remarkably prophetic, prefiguring a world where DIY art and music would become the standard rather than the exception.
Released in 1969, this rare 45's A-side features "The Virgins", while the B-side expands the lyrical motif with "They're Losing Their Virginity". Curiously, Jerry decided to go by "Big Jerry" on this release, apparently the only example of this in his catalog.* Additionally, "Mark Bloom & His Combo" are credited - an anomaly in the Solomon catalog. Another bit of interest here is that Jerry himself confirmed for us in 2017 that these two songs, along with "The Beginning of Rock and Roll", are home recordings.
At least vocally, we find Jerry favoring the minor-keyed folk-like melodies heard on other releases like the We Had Too Much Champagne EP and Past the 20th Century), the two songs fall stylistically in-between some of his earlier garage-style offerings, and the almost completely opaque We Had Too Much Champagne 45. The lyrics are slightly easier to decipher on this release than the aforementioned, though still defy complete intelligibility. Additionally, the billing of "Mark Bloom & His Combo" might mislead the would-be listener into thinking it's a traditional band backing Jerry here. On the contrary, the accompaniment of hand claps, maracas, saxophone, and kazoos are anything but standard fare of a traditional backing combo.
While we are now accustomed to encountering "The legendary...." when reading bios and promotional documents, Jerry Solomon embodies the rare individual who does in fact deserve such fanfare. Memories and anecdotes about Jerry often intersect with legend, and it's difficult to separate historical facts from embellishments that may or may not be rooted in history. Either way, however, such uncorroborated legends (one maintains that Jerry drove around on his motorcycle, handing out his records for free to people in L.A. ) share a truth about an artist working within and beyond the constraints of his surroundings, and are a fun and illuminating accompaniment to Jerry's mystifying releases.
Solomon released his Past the 20th Century album in 1971, seemingly announcing to the world where his vision would eventually find its home. Now, with several decades perspective, Solomon's work can be appreciated not only as fun and weird listening from yesteryear, but also (and more importantly) as a harbinger of our contemporary DIY age that invites a wide spectrum of creative expression, rather than just the offerings of a select group of candidates with what is deemed the greatest commercial potential by the powers that be.
Apparently an inspiration for Andy Kaufman, championed by Ariel Pink, and included in Enjoy the Experience, the inner workings of Jerry's creative process will in all likelihood always remain at least partially shrouded in mystery, but one thing is certain: Jerry Solomon embodies the zeitgeist of the courageous, self-starting, true original with a message he needs the world to hear.
We're also lucky enough to have a copy of Jerry's We Had Too Much Champagne EP, which you can read about and listen to here. You can buy the second installation of his autobiography, A Drug-Free Life and a Glass of PCP II, here.
*On June 2, 2017 in a conversation with with me, Jerry confirmed the name was a parody of Tiny Tim.