Moondog learned rhythm from American Indians and counterpoint from J.S. Bach. Many of his recordings feature instruments he built himself: trimba, yukh, tuji, oo. Sometimes you can hear in the background the streets of New York, where Moondog often slept rough (even though blind, since an accident when he was 15).
Sometime in the 1950s, fed up with being mistaken on the street for Christ — his regular busking spot was uptown on Sixth — Moondog put on a Viking costume, with spear and horned helmet; and he dressed like this till the late 1970s (by which time he was working with orchestras in Germany).
Igor Stravinsky lobbied a judge on Moondog’s behalf. Charlie Parker wanted to play with him (Julie Andrews did play with him), and he was feted by Bob Dylan, Marlon Brando, Steve Reich. Andy Warhol’s mum designed one of his covers, and Weegee took photographs of him (included in the booklet). Janis Joplin covered him, Mr Scruff owes him badly, and Antony And The Johnsons does him live.
This is the first retrospective of Moondog’s music — thirty-six tracks from 1949 to 1995, most of them exceptionally rare and reissued now for the first time, all of them miraculous.
‘This selection of 36 of his pieces for percussion, brass and the odd howling canine, and occasional, madrigal-like songs, is both ethereal and earthy, sounding old as the hills and utterly out of time. Sometimes it’s almost jazz, mostly it’s that rare thing in music: unique. Moondog was a creature of an entirely lost New York’ (The Guardian).
‘... utterly contemporary — invoking trance, fidgety electronica, spooky folk and oriental drones… Highly recommended’ (Time Out).
‘One thing’s for certain: you can buy this album secure in the knowledge that nothing else in your collection sounds remotely like it. Go on, surprise yourself’ (Observer Music Monthly).