On the way out of the record fair, I stopped to shuffle through a box of 45’s labeled “‘60s garage under $8,” one last stop before heading to the subway, and I found a few things to plunk down cash for: a version of “Pretty Flamingo” by Tommy Vann & The Echoes (?), singles on Laurie (“Nowhere Chick” b/w “Wake Me Shake Me” by The Endless Pulse) and Date (“Flower Girl” by Plant Life). And a promo copy of a single on Sire Records, “Horn, Harpsicord [sic] & Do Not Disturb” b/w “Jump Up” by a group called Barry Pohl and The Concessions. I already own a copy of that single, but I felt it was my obligation to buy this one, because if I didn’t, who would? It would just stay there, barely even glanced at, left on the pile, and that’s just too sad.
It’s not “garage” really. It’s closer to sunshine-pop, I suppose, with a bit of the good time music of the Lovin’ Spoonful, the baroque-rock of The Left Banke, and proto-bubblegum, and Barry’s vocals have touches of Davy Jones and Peter Noone. A dash of psych-pop guitar on the b-side, and it’s all very Summer of Love (“Jump up! We live in a wonderful world!,” and the “fragrance of flowers,” and Lemon Pipers reverb and so forth). You might not be able to tell if the group is American or British, but you certainly can zero in on the Pop Moment when everything, including ragtime and vaudeville, and what sounds like a stoned-out classical/Mariachi band, could be tossed into the mix and you could sing about fruit with a straight face.
They were my version of The Twylight Zones, the band from David Chase’s Not Fade Away, except I wasn’t in the band — which was called Basement Concession before the single came out — just around it. Barry Pohl was one of my good friends, and all the girls I liked hung out with the band, and they rehearsed in my apartment once and once only, because the racket carried clear across the Grand Concourse, beyond Joyce Kilmer Park, and all the way to Jerome Avenue. I wrote the copy for a poster promoting a gig (maybe I was destined to be their Derek Taylor or Andrew Loog Oldham). And they were the first band I knew personally to get a record deal (other Bronx bands, like The Age of Reason and The Bloos — later Blues — Magoos had records out, but we’d only heard about them from other kids). They were one of the initial acts signed to the new Sire label, distributed by London, started by Seymour Stein and Richard Gottehrer. Years later, I met Stein, and worked with Gottehrer, and I asked them if they remembered Barry Pohl and The Concessions, and although they both have damned good memories for records, neither could recall anything about the band, or the single. It slipped away, like most failed 45’s did, like those other records I bought by The Endless Pulse and Plant Life, names that only ring a bell with people who were in their orbit at the instant the singles were released, and evidently not always by them.
It was thrilling to have your friends make a record, even for an unknown label. A connection to what we basically lived for, and whatever Not Fade Away misses the mark on, it nails the significance, the way proximity to the music felt, how everyone wanted to take a ride on that train. Sire 5003 doesn’t sound like Basement Concession sounded live; like so many New York-based bands, they were doing R&B and soul filtered through The Rascals and the British groups (the Concession did “Under My Thumb” the way The Twylight Zones do “Ride On Baby”). The people who wrote and produced their single decided to go for happy and peppy. It’s not my memory of the band, but it triggered others, and I couldn’t walk out of The Bell House and leave this ancient artifact to be boxed up at the end of the day, unpacked for the next fair, spending the rest of its existence in an endless cycle of anonymity.