Jerry Solomon - We Had Too Much Champagne

Jerry Solomon - known to record collectors around the globe for his unique recordings - created what we consider some of the most remarkable and treasured records in our collection. We came under Mr. Solomon's spell a while back during a live performance at Ariel Pink Presents Cuckoo's Nest, and have been fans ever since. Jerry was in good and kindred company at the busy event in Downtown Los Angeles that night a couple years ago, which also featured notables like Gary Wilson, Don Bolles, Shags Chamberlain, Old King Cole Younger, and Richard Ross.

Full of both admiration and questions,  we needed to learn more about him. Mr. Solomon has been gracious enough to give us a copy of his autobiography and speak with us on several occasions in 2016 and 2017 to answer just some of our most burning questions about his life and work.  We've posted some of his helpful insights here and there.  Vinyl copies of Jerry's original releases are as rare as they are remarkable,  so we were thrilled to recently obtain two rare Solomon 45s to share.

Jerry Solomon, our mysteriously magnificent knight in shining armor. Courtesy Jerry Solomon

Jerry Solomon, our mysteriously magnificent knight in shining armor. Courtesy Jerry Solomon

Though Jerry has made dozens of TV and film appearances over several decades, and performed live whenever the opportunity presented itself (once even at the behest of Andy Kaufman), the bulk of his recorded output was during the 1960s. It was during a brief and particularly productive window of 1966-1969 that Jerry self-released a limited string of DIY 7 " singles and EPs on his own Fountain Records. Sought by collectors of rare vinyl around the globe, we're fortunate and grateful to have snapped up this 1968 EP, which we're titling We Had Too Much Champagne (the lead track on what appears to be the A side)*. We assure you all those with an adventurous appetite for the pleasing and perplexing palette of Jerry Solomon that the We Had Too Much Champagne release does not disappoint. Let's look closer at this mysterious and captivating release.

Start with: Jerry's recorded catalog is as small as it is fascinating, so you really won't want skip anything, but if we must pick an introduction, why not the lead-off track, "We Had Too Much Champagne"? The song showcases Jerry's shift from his earlier songs emulating something resembling a garage rock vein ("Frisco Girls", for example) in favor of the minor-tinged, percussion heavy stylings of his final Fountain Records EP.

Why it’s worth revisiting: Once you hear a bit of Jerry's music, you'll have your answer. Unlike anything we've come across, Jerry's vision is fascinatingly singular. Truly a pioneer of DIY music and performance, Jerry's initiative and foresight in writing, recording, packaging, and distributing his own highly unconventional work in the 1960s was remarkably prophetic, prefiguring a world where DIY art and music would become commonplace in the following millennium.

One side of this sought-after 45 features the Solomon originals (like, really originals) "We Had Too Much Champagne" and "Abby - Ann Landers And The P.T.A.", while the other side treats the experimental listener to "Come One Come All" and "My Sailboat". 

The titles of the EP's tracks are curious in their specificity, given that Jerry's lyrics are all but unintelligible on this release. The careful listener does in fact hear sporadically recognizable words from the titles, but on the whole the lyrics remain tantalizingly mysterious, much like the man himself. Jerry's instrumentation for this EP is acoustic guitar, vocals, and an assortment of percussion instruments, including what sounds like a tambourine and hand drums.

Just who Jerry's target audience was for these (admittedly pretty weird!) recordings remains a mystery, and in that sense, we'd argue that it's pure art. After all, it doesn't seem that Jerry had his sights on the charts or financial return with such a limited run of the unconventional music. Instead, it appears Solomon was simply interested in expressing himself, documenting it as a record, and then distributing his media to anyone receptive to it. The expression - preserved in the form of a vinyl record -  has meaning in and of itself and needs no ulterior motive.

Jerry Solomon We Had Too Much Champagne Bside.jpeg

While the prefix "The legendary...."  is now standard fare in bios and various items of hype these days, Jerry Solomon is one of the few personalities out there who actually warrants that title. Unsubstantiated Solomon stories and anecdotes often tread into the domain of legend, and it's difficult to parse historical facts and legends that nonetheless tell a truth about a man, his work, and the time from which they both came. Prophetically, we do know that Solomon released an album in 1971 titled Past the 20th Century, which seems to be exactly where he fixed his artistic gaze while forging a tiny and obscure path - virtually ignored at the time - that has now grown into a familiar, well-traveled, and networked freeway populated by all sorts of DIY artists and cottage industry entrepreneurs. Solomon may not have been the first or only artist on this track, but he certainly belongs to a select group of forward-thinking artists who through example would lay the groundwork for the coming generations of DIY creatives.

Indeed, Jerry Solomon had few contemporaries, and hardly seems to have been part of a scene. His 1966 debut as a recording artist was the chart-topping era of the Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, Nancy Sinatra, and the Mamas & the Papas. The merits of those artists notwithstanding, Solomon's DIY creations stand in stark contrast to popular tastes of the time. Significantly, Frank Zappa's recording debut came the same year as Solomon's - a sign of future possibilities for artists and audiences eager to pursue the road less traveled. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Jerry Solomon's music audience remains a niche -albeit passionate- one. Regardless of musical preferences, however, the importance of Jerry's initiative in coordinating a cottage industry of sorts constitutes nothing short of music, art, and entrepreneurial history. Mr. Solomon is without a doubt one of the standouts of DIY music history in the 20th century. 

Championed by Ariel Pink, apparently an influence on the work of Andy Kaufman, and included in Enjoy the Experience, Jerry Solomon has left an indelible imprint in the DIY history books. It's unlikely we'll ever know the exact origins and motivations for Jerry's unique work, but one thing is sure: Jerry Solomon embodies the spirit of the fearless, independent, true original.

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We're also lucky enough to have a copy of Jerry's "The Virgins/They're Losing Their Virginity" single, 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.

*We've also seen this release titled Come One Come All

Danny James, Etc. - Pear

Danny James, Etc. - Pear

Jerry Solomon (Big Jerry) with Mark Bloom & His Combo - The Virgins single

Jerry Solomon (Big Jerry) with Mark Bloom & His Combo - The Virgins single