Whew... it's taken me several tries to figure this out. Two lessons for posting to a Weebly page: first, save everything you do as you go along, so that it doesn't all disappear the first time you make a mistake. Two, when Weebly invites you to "drag" an item to the page, DON't do it. Keep clicking until it brings up menus from which you can choose items stored on your desktop. What is it with these software designers? Are they all insane?
Okay, enough of that. So I'm up to speed (maybe) on how to post to Weebly, something I was curious about for a long time anyway, and Hal (gently) goaded me into going there. "Wanted: El Jefe Loco" is old news, but in order to make it through the learning process, I had to have something to post, right? So here is the story of "El Jefe", which prompts discussion of one of the most perplexing conundrums (at least to me) in all things Walls Of Genius.
Nearly two years ago, Little Fyodor and I hatched a plan for the 'next' Walls Of Genius album project. We would revisit the so-called 'successful formula' of our most successful recordings, a formula that evolved to perfection with 1986's "Before...And After". That formula consisted of material that was 2/3rds solo work and 1/3rd ensemble. 1/3rd would be me solo (Evan Cantor), 1/3rd Little Fyodor solo and 1/3rd ensemble sessions with the three of us (me, Fyo & Ed Fowler). I started recording pieces piecemeal, so to speak, a little at a time. After a year had passed, I had assembled enough material to fill an entire album. During that period, 'Red Ed' had hardly touched his collection of guitars and ukuleles, complaining of stiff finger syndrome stemming from arthritis. At the same time, Little Fyodor was cooking up, or at least dreaming consciously or unconsciously of, his pithy ballads (see the previous post), not to mention the fabulous video for his new version of "Trump Loves You".
Whether he was working on all this or just contemplating and dreaming of it, he hadn't produced anything for Walls Of Genius. No guilt or blame, he just hadn't been on the Walls Of Genius track. But I had and I had produced an album's worth of material. So I decided to release it through the auspices of Walls Of Genius.
This forced me to look the greatest WoG conundrum of all time square in the face: Without Little Fyodor's participation, could it even be Walls Of Genius? Ed, Little Fyodor and I have all long referred to Walls Of Genius as "our old band". After re-igniting the WoG flame in 2014, we all still refer to "our" band and, truly, it is that, for all three of us. But as the self-anointed "Head Moron", I had long felt that I had some proprietary interest in Walls Of Genius, that it was, indeed, "my" band. I had started it, it was my vision made manifest, I promoted it and produced it. Through the circumstances of time, for a while, it became Little Fyodor's band. Because I abandoned it for so long, believing that nobody would ever give a damn about it. I've said it before. I was wrong!
The conundrum reared its head with "Wanted: El Jefe Loco". Why didn't I release it simply as Evan Cantor? When we re-ignited the Walls Of Genius flame in 2014, I saw it not only as an opportunity to re-ignite my interest in experimentation, but also to have an extant venue for it. Since I had always felt that proprietary interest in WoG, I felt I could do as I pleased with it, and it could consist of whatever participants I chose. I envisioned the opportunity to do whatever I damn well pleased, which was, of course, the original idea back in '82. This did not mean that anybody, much less Little Fyodor, would be kicked out of the band. I feel the same about the three core members of WoG as I had in 1986 when I dis-banded WoG. It couldn't be Walls Of Genius without Little Fyodor and Ed.
But here I was, in 2018, with a full album's worth of off-the-wall material in hand and nothing from either Ed or Little Fyodor. So I came up with the compromise that Walls Of Genius, as a so-called label, would release this material. As the once self-anointed Head Moron, I went with El Jefe Loco. It is both not-WoG and WoG at the same time. Any of this material would have been right at home on any Walls Of Genius title. For instance, I had the idea of arranging Elgar's Processional (think graduation ceremonies) in its original incarnation as a patriotic British anthem and pairing it with a waltz arrangement of "Anarchy In The U.K.". This led me to exploring the origins of "The Star Spangled Banner", which turned out to be such a silly song that simply singing it seemed like something Walls Of Genius would do. (I have included that piece as an mp3 at the head of this article)
Still, is it Walls Of Genius? The silk-and-gravel dichotomy that worked so well for Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong was also a signature feature at work in Walls Of Genius. All of the Walls Of Genius titles primarily feature the dichotomy or tension created by the offsetting of my and Little Fyodor's material and approaches. The combination of our voices on unhinged cover tunes is a specific example of how this dichotomy works. I would still like to apply this approach some time in the future to the Disney schmaltz-fest "It's A Small World".
It is accurate to recall that the origin of Little Fyodor's approach and persona was incubated by Walls Of Genius in the 1980s. He had recorded earlier (as John Leningrad), so it's not like Walls Of Genius invented him. But WoG gave him the opportunity to explore the persona, to give flesh to this avatar for the person otherwise known by the name his parents bestowed upon him. A lot of this has been discussed in the WoG Archive on the HalTapes website. Ed fondly remembers the day we handed Little Fyodor a lyric sheet for the Alice Cooper song "I'm Eighteen" and instructed him to sing. "We created a monster," Ed chuckles. The truth is that Little Fyodor was already in the process of creation at that time. As Little Fyodor emerged, I created alternate personas for me and Ed, part and parcel of the tongue-in-cheek promotion of WoG in the 1980s. Neither "Joe Colorado" nor "Red Ed" possessed the long-lasting life of Little Fyodor.
So Walls Of Genius in the 21st Century begs for the best of Little Fyodor's songs. They are simply not available the way they were in the 1980s. Little Fyodor doesn't need Walls Of Genius in order to be, to have a venue for or to promote his own work. He is a successful phenomenon unto himself. I can only hope that at some time in the future, he will once again turn his attentions to Walls Of Genius. As it was and as it shall be again, it ain't Walls Of Genius without him.