Monday, November 07, 2005

SWAP-MEET SUPERSTARS: MINGERING MIKE

While poking through a Washington D.C. flea-market, Dori Hadar and Frank Beylotte made an amazing discovery: an entire collection of handmade album covers that containing cardboard "records" from the late 1960s and early 1970s, created by a would-be funky soulman named "Mingering Mike". From a New York Times article:

"The front covers were intricately painted to look like classic funk albums; on the spines were titles and fake catalog numbers; the backs had everything from liner notes to copyright information to original logos...A few albums had even been covered in shrink-wrap and bore price stickers and labels with apocryphal promotional quotes.

What Mr. Hadar found was a cache of seemingly nonexistent music: soundtracks to imaginary films, instrumental albums, a benefit album for sickle cell anemia, a tribute to Bruce Lee, a triple-record work titled "Life in Paris," songs protesting the Vietnam War and promoting racial unity, and records of Christmas, Easter and American bicentennial music. He had discovered, perhaps, an outsider artist.

After some detective work, the pair have actually tracked down Mingering Mike, and it turns out that the music to these fantasy records really did exist. Mike still possesses scores of old reel and cassette tapes of his homemade music, often made under the most primitive of conditions: some feature people mouthing bass parts and even entire string sections. Some feature people beating on a bed with a comb or thumping telephone books for percussion. Some feature someone playing a kazoo-like trumpet made out of crumpled paper. Mike claims to have written over 4,000 songs."

Kids often fantasize about a music career - doodling possible band names on their notebooks, jamming with friends, making grandiose plans. Eventually they either get some instruments, start playing, and try to work towards their dreams, or give it up as they grow up. Mike (and his anonymous associates) grew up, but never left the fantasy stage - he never learned traditional instruments, sought out live gigs, etc. Why should he? Reality would have been disappointing. It was all perfect in his mind.

Does Mingering Mike know that "minge" is an extremely rude British slang word? Regardless, Hadar and Beylotte recently set up a website featuring scads of beautiful scans of his album covers and artwork. However, only a few sound files are up - transferring Mike's crumbling reel-to-reel and cassette archives is a mammoth task, as a friend of theirs writes here. I transferred two of the songs to mp3s:

Mingering Mike: "Hey You" - a fine bit of acapella funk
Mingering Mike: "Tribute to Bruce" - Bruce Lee, that is. Hi-ya!

2 comments:

idigworms said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
idigworms said...

Mr. Fab, this is amazing. Mingering Mike has to be - HAS GOT to be issued on CD. It may take a while to do it right, but I'm willing to wait for a box set of this. Or, maybe a various artists tribute covering Mingering Mike's songs...that would be awesome.

I posted something...

MANY THANKS, MR. FAB, FOR POSTING MINGERING MIKE.