DamonLabel: Now Again Records
Damon’s Song Of A Gypsy is generally regarded as one of the finest privately-pressed psychedelic rock records and has, for over twenty years, been one of the most sought after late 60s American rock artifacts in the world, with the scant original copies that exist exchanging hands for thousands of dollars. Bad bootlegs and scrappy reissues have spread the music a little but left Damon’s story untouched, leaving Song of a Gypsyhigh on its own plateau: out of reach and indescribable. It seemed that this homespun, funky psychedelic monument borrowed from nothing and sprung from nowhere. But it was obvious from Damon’s unique, introspective songwriting and nuanced voice, his interplay with lead guitarist Charlie Carey and an atmosphere that so perfectly captured the last bloom of the flower power era as it decayed into the dark haze of the ’70s underground could only have arisen from a spark of genius.
Finally, Damon’s story can be told. Under the supervision of Eothen “Egon” Alapatt and Damon, born David Del Conte, Song Of A Gypsy has been lovingly remastered and will be reissued on Now-Again as a deluxe package that includes the entirety of Damon’s ’60s recordings on a bonus disc, dozens of unpublished photos and extensive liner notes and a candid interview with the artist.
Born into a tight-knit Italian American family, Damon reflects now on his “predestined life as a gypsy”. As his family life collapsed in the early to mid ‘60s, Damon’s musical wanderings took him throughsurf-rock, schmaltzy pop, convincing doo-wop, blue-eyed soul and garage rock. By 1967 he transformed from a pop hopeful into the tortured soul who would create an LP to file alongside works by other lost greats of the late ‘60s, from Shuggie Otis to Rodriguez.
This edition investigates Damon’s chance meeting with fuzz guitarist Carey, the loss he suffered that lead to his abuse of heroin, and after he kicked that, the psychotropic experience of LSD. It was an acid trip that took him on a meandering journey to Big Sur’s Esalen Institute, where a chance meeting with Ravi Shankar and George Harrison turned everything around for him, as he nursed a five-string guitar back to spiritual health aside the maestros’ sitars under Big Sur’s endless sky.
Back in Los Angeles after that profound experience, Damon assembled a team of musicians in a Hollywood studio to record Song of a Gypsy, riffing on Jefferson Airplane themes with a world-weary melancholy, and paying tribute to his idol Jim Morrison with unexpected results. Damon wrote with a childlike naiveté yet sang like a weathered old man, too exhausted to be anything but honest. There is no pretense to his Song of a Gypsy, just a transparent view into his churning soul. The album Song Of A Gypsy was pressed in a run of five hundred copies. At some point, Damon’s master tapes disappeared. He only kept a ¼” tape duped from a scratchy copy of the album.
Damon spent the mid-’70s robbing drug dealers, being robbed, and getting into precarious situations, like that one night in Arizona when he found himself on the receiving end of a snub-nosed revolver. It all changed in 1979 when he found God. Sober for over twenty years, he’s had a chance to reflect on his legacy and he’s proud of his role as an elder statesman of the psychedelic movement. Though he is in the autumn of his life, his music is timeless. The themes he treats with such candor on his life’s great work resonate today, as they always will, a reminder of the marvels man is capable of creating under even the most adverse circumstances.
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