Jerry Solomon - The Circle of Life/The Beginning of Rock and Roll
As the opportunities have presented themselves, we've populated remote nooks and crannies of the Internet here and there about rare and rewarding Jerry Solomon self-releases from the 1960s. These records are dear to us (as well as to passionate collectors around the globe) both as curious and important artifacts of DIY 20th century music history, and in their own right as weird and fun listening. Mr. Solomon has been gracious enough to sit down and speak with us several times over the last couple years about his music, writing, performances, and more.
We've noted before that although we are not record collectors in the strict sense, we do think it is an important endeavor to obtain, document, and share glimpses into these remarkably rare records when the opportunity comes our way. Jerry's legendary, obscure self-releases from the 1960s certainly are some of the rarest documents of their kind, and it is a pleasure and privilege to consider yet another fascinating Solomon offering here.
This installment looks at the 1969 Fountain Records 45, which - along with the "The Virgins"/"They're Losing Their Virginity" single - was Solomon's last self-released seven inch. "The Circle of Life" constitutes what we'll call the A side, while "The Beginning of Rock and Roll" is found on the disc's other side.
Start With: This is another brief, two-song 45 from Mr. Solomon, so both tracks warrant listening. That being said, "The Circle of Life" is a standout track, even by Jerry's standards.
Why it's worth revisiting: This self-released record is one of the final two Solomon seven inch Fountain offerings. This particular installment in Mr. Solomon's fascinating body of work is one of the most complete examples of the fun, weirdness, and mystery that make Mr. Solomon such an enduring enigma and important part of underground 20th century music history.
"The Circle of Life" masterfully defies comprehension, and is arguably one of the best realized statements of the bizarre in Jerry's catalog. Anyone hoping for Jerry to pull the proverbial curtain back on the motivation or meaning behind the opaque lyrics (at least partially) about a lion and an audience will certainly only feel thwarted in the endeavor, and the most Mr. Solomon offered in 2017 was that "the lyrics just kind of came to my head."
Droning skeletal chords from what sounds like an accordion or organ, overdubbed moaning, manipulated vocals, barely-audible strings from what might be the inside of a piano or an acoustic guitar, and an arrhythmic percussive backdrop all contribute to the unique and esoteric experience of "The Circle of Life". Like nearly all of Jerry's creations, no amount of musical archaeology can ever fully explain what is going on here, but one thing is certain - it's yet another mystifying gem from Jerry.
"Circle of Life" was performed live by Ariel Pink and Don Bolles on October 23, 2015, and Jerry told us on June 2, 2017 that the version (which he saw performed that night) "was an honor." Mr. Solomon confirmed for us that he recounts the tribute on the last page of the upcoming second installment of his autobiography.
Flipping the 45 will reward the listener with "The Beginning of Rock and Roll", which also credits Mark Bloom and Mr. Stevens. This acoustic guitar/tambourine-driven, rather upbeat and folk-tinged song is characteristically off-kilter Solomon fare, offering elusive lyrics that somehow don't seem quite as straightforward as the tile might suggest.
If this single was indeed the last of the Solomon 45s to be released, it was an appropriately fascinating send-off to an unprecedented serial statement of artistic vision. Though this release apparently marks the end of his era of 45 singles, Mr. Solomon would go on to release more music like the highly sought-after LP Past the 20th Century, appear dozens of times on network television, and even perform onstage at the behest of Andy Kaufman.