Library, Multimedia Addition: Art & Language, Corrected Slogans
In anticipation of an upcoming article on the deconstruction of song and rhetoric in the 1967 album Corrected Slogans, I have prepared a smaller introductory article from the fair amount of background information that came out of my research. The album is obscure and information about it is scattered in many different sources, so I hope this compilation of facts will find itself useful outside of being a brief introduction to That’s Not It readers unfamiliar with the album itself.
The Birth of Corrected Slogans
In the late 1960’s in Houston, Mayo Thompson and his group the Red Krayola were at the forefront of the American experimental music scene, transcending the formulaic limitations of the psychadelic genre and the aesthetic boundaries of noise. Their first record, The Parable of Arable Land, released in 1968 is half composed of sound collages recorded with the help of an almost 100-person collective known as The Familiar Ugly. These six tracks make the Velvet Underground’s contemporaneously ‘experimental’ “Velvet Underground & Nico” look like the pop album it truly is. The original formation of the Red Krayola recorded two more albums in the following two years (although one, Coconut Hotel, which the label considered too much a departure from traditional music, remained unreleased until Drag City put it out on cd in 1995). Thompson’ solo album Corky’s Debt to his Father, a collection of cleverly worded and intricately arranged country and blues songs, was recorded in 1969 and showcased his ability to work creatively within more conventional song structures.
In the early 1970’s, the original line-up of the Red Krayola had dispersed and Thompson himself had moved to New York where he became involved in the visual art scene and worked as a studio assistant for Robert Rauschenberg (wikipedia). At the same time, London-based collective Art & Language was setting up a New York branch which attracted artists, historians, and theorists such as Joseph Kosuth (wikipedia), Terry Smith, Charles Harrison, and Michael Corris, and which was later joined by Thompson himself, who contributed to and assisted with the publication of the group’s periodical The Fox. As the New York and London branches became more divided, Thompson, who was disillusioned with the American scene, continued to work closely with the English members and eventually relocated to London.
The history of Corrected Slogans goes back to at least 1973, when the idea was originally proposed. The story of the proposition itself (which I imagine has been somewhat fictionalized in the intervening decades, but will repeat here despite this) goes as such: Thompson played Corky’s Debt to his Father for the members of the group who agreed that the songwriting was impressive, though questioned whether or not the songs were too ‘personal’. This comment intrigued Thompson who either then dared the group or accepted the groups’ dare that they would create an album together, where Thompson would set to music whatever words the members chose as lyrics. The contest-like aspect of this story does not seem an unlikely source of Corrected Slogans, as the lyrics seem almost purposely written to be the most un-singable material that could be given a songwriter. And so the story of this strange album’s birth is told
- Music Resources
- “Corrected Slogans” was reissued on cd in 1997 by Chicago-based Drag City Records and can be purchased from their online catalog (as can all other Krayola releases) at dragcity.com.
- The album is also available in mp3 form through iTunes.
- Print Resources
- The August, 2005 issue (258) of music journal The Wire, features a cover-story on Thompson. The back-issue can be purchased through their website, thewire.co.uk.
‘Art & Language’, wikipedia
- ‘Mayo Thompson’, wikipedia
- Comprehensive Mayo Thompson / Red Krayola Discography, white-rose.net/redcrayola/
- Harrison, Charles. ‘Essays on Art & Language’ books.google.com