Song Of The Day 11/3/2015: Bill Holt's Dreamies – “Program Ten (Parts 1-3)”

Allegations of Weirdness – The story of Bill Holt’s Dreamies is kind of divine in its purity. Holt was a junior marketing executive in Philadelphia in the 1960’s. “If you know the TV show Mad Men, that was me,” he said in a 2012 interview with the online magazine It’s Psychedelic Baby. Unlike most of the characters on Mad Men (except Stan Rizzo, and probably Kenneth Cosgrove, though he ultimately turned his blunted creativity into corporate connivance, and is it too late for us to have a Mad Men discussion group?) Holt reacted with more personal investment in the great societal and artistic changes happening at the time. He was particularly affected by the Vietnam conflict, as a friend from his everyday ’50s suburban neighborhood died from the stab of a bayonet. The Cold War with Soviet Russia was still a thing, much more frigid than it is now.

Soaking up all this information and keeping his antenna open to new music and art, Holt dropped everything at the turn of the ‘70s, quit his job, stopped wearing blazers, and decided to become a musician. He wasn’t professionally trained. He wasn’t as proficient as any of the hitmakers of the time, maybe not even as much as most miss-makers. He got himself a couple of rudimentary tape recorders, a very primitive drum machine, a Moog synthesizer and recorded two extended pieces. “Program Ten” and “Program Eleven” were direct spin-offs of intention from the Beatles’ infamous tape loop gala “Revolution 9” – but with, and it very feels odd to say this, more substance.

Holt very painstakingly arranged the synthesizer furbelows and snippets he had recorded off television (JFK, LBJ, Walter Cronkite, Let’s Make a Deal) with his own mantra-like acoustic guitar, plus his muted but stoutly forceful vocals into two 26-minute works. “Program Ten” and “Program Eleven” were extraordinarily mature, especially for someone who had no recording, musical or artistic training. Certainly for someone who’d been a junior marketing exec and just decided to chuck it out on his own hunches. What Holt was able to accomplish in 1973 with a strictly amateur, comparatively bare-boned set-up is up there with some of the most intriguing electronic music of its time. Or even after its time.

There’s a bunch about Holt’s story and efforts to sell his music that you should check out at that interview link above. Suffice to say the resultant album Dreamies: Auralgraphic Entertainment (nobody’s really sure what the official name and title was) didn’t sell at all, but was treasured by the most select of cult audiences enough that it got reissued and revived by contemporary hunters. I’m putting Spotify links up for today’s entries so Bill can get whatever money he can for his work. I think if you play it 250,000 times he’ll get at least ten bucks. So get crackin’.

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