Ahead of Light in the Attic Records‘ 16th anniversary, we asked founder Matt Sullivan to pick a few of his favourite albums…
Lynn Castle – Rose Colored Corner 1966-1967
Lynn Castle was one of the first female barbers in Los Angeles in the ‘60s, cutting hair for folks like The Monkees, Sonny & Cher, and the Byrds. At night she wrote songs which bent the ears of such industry heavyweights as Jack Nitzsche and Lee Hazlewood, who released The Lady Barber and Rose Colored Corner.
Reissue producer Hunter Lea and I became obsessed with those two songs but could not find Lynn. After about two years of looking, Hunter found out that Lynn’s real name was Madelynn von Ritz, which led us to her home just fifteen minutes from our office here in L.A. Lynn was everything we had hoped for: the sweetest person, with amazing hair, endless warmth, and still writing and recording, having taught herself to use Pro-Tools at the age of 75 years old.
She shyly played us a session that she recorded with Jack Nitzsche in ’66 and our mouths dropped to the floor. Gorgeous, sparse demos of Lynn’s brilliant song-writing. We put together a compilation called Rose Colored Corner, which included these demos plus the single produced by Hazlewood.
Donnie & Joe Emerson – Dreamin’ Wild (1979)
Around 2010, record collectors Andy Zax and Zach Cowie played me an album called Dreamin’ Wild by two teenager farmers Donnie & Joe Emerson. I was hooked at track one, Good Time and by the time track three hit, Baby I had a giant perma-smile. Beautiful, Lo-Fi Pop songs recorded with an immense amount of purity.
Decades later, record collector Jack Fleischer stumbled upon the album in a local thrift store. He fell in love with the record and would soon be turning on a universe of record collectors, such as Andy and Zach and then us. A few years back we made a number of trips to Donnie and Joe Emerson’s farm where we produced this short doc for those wanting to dig further.
Jim Sullivan – U.F.O. (1969)
I stumbled upon a listing of the U.F.O. album on a site called Waxidermy and was immediately floored by Jim’s voice, the playing, the song-writing, the production and the arrangements. Nine or so years later and I still remember it as one of those epic musical moments of my life. Jim’s voice is deep and expressive like Fred Neil with a weathered and worldly Americana sound like Joe South; pop songs that aren’t happy – but with filled with despair.
After digging further, I learned about Jim’s life. A struggling singer-songwriter in Los angeles throughout the ‘60s, in 1975, he left Los Angeles in his little VW bug, driving for Nashville. He was pulled over by cops who thought he was drunk after seeing him swerving on the highway – he was actually sober but tired from the drive and checked into the local motel. The next day his car was found 26 miles outside town, with his keys, wallet and guitar. No one has seen or heard from Jim since. If you’re curious, we made a short doc which you can view here:
‘At that moment, the world felt silent other than the sounds of Mark, Richie and Steve
Acetone – 1992 – 2001
As high school kids in the suburbs of Seattle, myself and my business partner Josh Wright enrolled in our high school radio station. In 1993, I called the college radio rep at Acetone’s first label, who also had the Smashing Pumpkins on their roster – I simply wanted Pumpkins tickets. The college radio rep said ‘chart Acetone on your next Top 35 chart and you’ve got two tickets.’
It took years, like good music sometimes does, to fully sink in. Around 2014, in my friend Sam Sweet’s car, the Acetone home demo Smokey came on. Sam shared stories about the band’s history, pointing out notable places during Acetone’s time – they lived there, they played there, they hung out there. On the stereo, Mark Lightcap’s guitar playing took over and I teared up as we drove over the East 1st Street Bridge and miles of empty train tracks. At that moment, the world felt silent other than the sounds of Mark, Richie and Steve.
V/A – Native North America (Vol. 1): Aboriginal Folk, Rock, and Country 1966–1985
Fifteen or so years ago music historian Kevin ‘Sipreano’ Howes started digging up records by First Nations, Native Americans and Inuit musicians – records pressed in very limited quantities with echoes of Neil Young, Velvet Underground, and Creedence, injected with Native consciousness, storytelling, poetry, history, and ceremony. He emailed us a bunch of MP3s, and we were mesmerised – one of those beautiful moments you wish could happen every day.
It was an intense four years putting together the release. One story in particular involved the band Sugluk from a tiny town called Iqaluit, over 1,000 miles north of Montreal. Kevin couldn’t find the band to save his life, so he called the town hall, who recommended that he contact the local radio station (as everyone in town listens in) who would give out his number on air. An hour later Kevin is on the phone with the band, interviews them and asks for their phone number in case he has follow up questions. They respond by telling him to just call the radio station.
The artists had dealt with so much brutal racism in the music world for decades and they understandably had very little faith that we would be different. In time they came around, seeing that we were honest and would pay fair royalties, while their music would finally be properly documented.
The compilation was eventually nominated for a Grammy (I think we lost to Dylan or Coltrane which ain’t bad). We’re currently deep into compiling Volume 2 for release in 2019.
Lewis – L’Amour (1983)
Lewis was a hard one to pin down. After years of obsessive research and hiring a private detective, we’re still trying to put the pieces together.
In 2007, record collectors Aaron Levin and Jon Murphy stumbled upon the L’Amour album at a flea market in Edmonton, Canada. We had zero info on the man outside of the clues on the LP jacket but fortunately record collector Jack Fleischer came on board to help bring this one to fruition. The cover (showing a naked waist-up Lewis) was shot by legendary photographer Ed Colver. Ed told us ‘My experience with Lewis is one of the worst in over 34 years of shooting photographs.’ Long story short: Lewis hired Ed to shoot the album cover, gave him a $250 check, which bounced, and Ed hasn’t seen/heard from Lewis since. We quickly learned that R.A.W. Records, the label it was released on, stood for Randy A. Wulff – Lewis’s real name.
When Jack and I spent four days in Vancouver flashing our poster ‘Have You Seen This Man?’, somehow the planets aligned and just a few hours from our departure, we stumbled upon Randy sitting outside a local coffee shop, dressed in all white.
He was friendly, but didn’t seem to care of the sudden interest in his music. We had a cheque for royalties for his album reissue but he wouldn’t take it. He simply said, ‘that was a long time ago,’ and that we should ‘have a ball.’ After a half hour reminiscing over stories about hanging out with George Harrison and Harry Nilsson, he kindly got up, said goodbye, and that was that. No question, our adventures with Randy make this the strangest tale in the Light In The Attic catalogue.
Haruomi Hosono + Acetone / Light in the Attic takes place Sat 23 Jun in the Barbican Hall.