Listen! The Revival of Teenage Music (1973)
Following is a facebook post from 2012 by Gary Sperrazza, he was a force of nature when it came to keeping, organizing and retaining information when it came to just about anything music or literary related. He was a rock writer, archivist and historian who contributed to such notable rock rags as Trouser Press Who Put The Bomp (notably hand cut-n-pasting and curating the entire Powerpop issue!), NME and he had his own zine called Shakin’ Street Gazette (Lester Bangs’ piece “How to Be a Rock Critic” originally published in Gary’s “Shakin’ Street Gazette” was used in a real Hollywood hit movie “Almost Famous”).
He was also my boss for a few years when I was just outta high school and trying to find my way in a town that I didn’t feel I belonged in even though I grew up there! From 1994-96, roughly, that dusty dark little store front of Apollo records became my home for what was a period of deep listening and understanding of the what’s where’s and why’s of music. I have written about this period and a bit about Gary in a previous post also.
Apollo was essentially the place that brought Hip-Hop to Buffalo when it was still a developing genre. The man has been cited as an influence by heavy hitters such as Gang Starr, Nas and also had KRS use some samples he dug up out of the ‘Back Room’ which was the Rock Room. He told me about this meeting once, when KRS walked in Gary gave him the store layout of what was where and he waved his hand over the whole floor (where all the hip-hop, soul funk and 12 inch dance stuff was kept and said ‘I have all that!’ and proceeded to the back room! Just a few examples of his reach. He also had a catalog full of DJ mixes you could buy, live mixes by guys like The Wizard, Latin Rascals, Red Alert and many more! His love for all music ran just as deep and he also had a version of The Bat Cave in the early 80’s at a now long gone club called The Continental.
He was also a major source for 12 inch import records and dj plates for dj’s of all sorts. His love for deep house music also ran, well…deep! Here’s another bit of love from that sector, a special dedication mix by NYC DJ Craig Twitty who I met personally a few times at the store and was always a gentleman and a scholar:
As far as I can tell this was his last post on facebook and even here, you can see that fb was not big enough to contain the content of this man’s mind, wit and encyclopedic knowledge of all things music and at the end is a comment from Barney Hoskyns! I will also post a few words from some folks that also knew him as he was a bit caustic in some ways but left a huge impression on anyone he met and that ventured to get to know him.
RIP Gary Apollo!
January 2012 post From Gary’s FB:
“Woke up this morning… all I had was gone…” – Robert Johnson.
“I loved Ray Lowry’s weekly NME cartoons and wild/strange rock ‘n’ roll humour. Here is just a sample of this man’s mind at work. I really miss him. Every week. Time stood still when the new issue of NME arrived. Anyone, ANYONE out there, who was there, knows what MINUTE the new NME arrived…. 1970’s. 1980’s. New Musical Express! All that venom…and spew…and some of the best rock journalism on a consistent, week-to-week basis…and Ray!
The list of ‘rock ‘n’ roll cartoonists’ isn’t a long one, but he was head-and-shoulders the Leader Of The Pack. Facts & bibliography here-http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ray_Lowry
More later, cuz it’s fairly destined that i’ll do a piece on this guy. Barney Hoskyns [[rocksbackpages.com] has asked me. I’m humbled, and i don’t know much more than anyone else does. I used to CUT OUT the strips from the NME [well, the exceptionals, at any rate], and clip them inside the walk-in glass door of my shop, way back when. You know….things to LOOK at, instead of swearing at me cuz I’m not THERE yet [lol!]. We did Really Busy Window Displays too [won two $500 prize contests, story some other time], and at least one down the line was Lowry-themed.
Um, you can even see the Scotch Tape skidmarks. But fuck it: i PEDDLE this wordsmut! Christ! That means recontacting [whoever’s still here]: Mick Jones, Hugh Cornwall, Steve Jones…Or using a Ouija Board to roust Joe Strummer. It’s burning a HOLE in me, until it’s done.
Takes a simple iconic first line of a song, and then: works it. To ‘Beyond Death’.
Come kiss the coffin with me. Ray Lowry. 1944-2008.
Like Adrian Borland [The Sound!] once sang : “I can’t believe they cut you down…in your heyday!”
[And i was a hot MESS in 2008…so tore up, i didn’t even know he died!]
But now i’m hot and focused.
Let’s wake the dead.
I woke up this morning.
Hi Gary. Yes, sad that Ray’s been forgotten…Would love to run something about him on RBP if you felt so inclined to put “pen to paper”… with a link to your mini-gallery. Nice thinking, and hope all well. Best- BH
[ Barney Hoskyns, Editorial Director, Rock’s Backpages, http://www.rocksbackpages.com/]
Following is a post from the Blog ‘The Next Big Thing’ in the comments you can read a bit of personal memories by myself and another Apollo Records employee and friend of Gary’s, the guy that was there right before me Marc Feliciano from the Amrep band Lollipop.
Stay tuned for updates as I’m sure there will be a few musicians and writers out there with something to say on the passing of such an enigmatic character on the scene. He didn’t play an instrument but was instrumental in the music world going back the heydays of LA, though he made his most important mark in Buffalo NY where he now rests, I’m sure he’s chopping it up with Rick James right now up there somewhere wondering what the hell happened to music and actually having the answers to that, he always knew…**wink**
UPDATES (some more links to articles from the web)
The following is an excerpt from Mike Mills Tribute (REM) about how Gary played large and crucial part in REM getting a record deal.
“We barraged New York with tapes,” Buck says. Then we purposely made it as hard as possible for them to understand it,” They edited the tape so that “Sitting Still” was prefaced by a thirty-second polka version; there was no return address on the tape; Stipe made Xerox baseball cards with the band members’ faces on them; and when they wrapped it all up, they wrote in big Magic Marker letters, “Careful, Do Not Open.” “There was a certain sense of humor about it,” Buck admits with gross understatement.
Then the impossible happened. The new wave bloodhounds at the old New York Rocker got interested and Gary Sperrazza gave the tape a rave review in his “Crib Death” demo tape column. That review inspired four record companies to send letters to the band asking for tapes.
Read the entire post HERE
Yet another mindblower! In 1974 (the year I was born) and when Gary was still in High School, he got UB to sponsor a Rock Writers Symposium which was attended by…get ready…Richard Meltzer, Nick Tosches, Lester Bangs, Rob Tyner and Patti Smith among others!
Excerpt from a Bun E. Carlos (Cheap Trick) interview 2012 in Punk Globe