Ken Nordine - Wink

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A world where windshield wipers fall in love and some people making a business out of licking lampshades may sound like something Ken Nordine imagined, but his 1967 album "Twink" was actually Nordine reading a little-known Beat Generation classic somebody else wrote.

Robert Shure wrote the strange little poems, published in 1957 by City Lights Books, the San Francisco publishing company operated by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti. It was a tiny little book, three or four inches across, illustrated with whimsical black and white drawings by Ray Zimmerman. Nordine, whose own cult classic ("Word Jazz") was also first released in 1957, stumbled across the tiny gem years later, but instantly recognized a kindred spirit.

"Two voices, one head," he said. "I knew it was going to be perfect." He recorded the dialogue, talking to himself from opposite sides of the stereo spectrum, one voice recorded dry, the other drenched in echo. The album was released in 1967 while he was signed with Phillips Records. Nordine was experiencing a modest comeback at the time on the early freeform underground radio stations. Not only were tracks from "Word Jazz" and "Son Of Word Jazz" showing up on psychedelic airwaves, his most recent album, the intuitively trippy "Colors," also was finding favor in those circles. But "Twink" disappeared without a trace.

Over the years, the originality and imagination of Nordine's anomalous creations has become ever more evident. What once was viewed -- with some beneficence -- as a quirky, if entertaining, irrelevance now is more commonly accorded the status of a timeless classic. He was saluted as a hipster elder by such acolytes as Jerry Garcia and Tom Waits, both of whom participated in Nordine's 1991 (yet another comeback) album, "Devout Catalyst," on Grateful Dead Records. The more recognition accorded Nordine, the more his wonderful recording of Shure's little masterpiece was missed.. . . . .

Along comes Mitzi Johnson of Asphodel Ltd., who arranged the re-release of Nordine's other Phillips album, "Colors," whose next project was the CD, "Wink," that you hold in your hands. The recording was given a new title for its digital incarnation at the insistence of author Shure, who believed the original title to be a word entirely of his own invention, devoid completely at the time of any of the implications the term has gathered over the years in the gay community. The hallmark of his original work was its unfeigned innocence, an atmosphere the original title, alas, could no longer convey.

"It's absolutely free of angst," said Nordine. "Oh, there may be a little sadness in it here and there."

-- Joel Selvin, March 2003

Catalog Number: ASP 2015
Release Date: June 24, 2003

Track Listing

  1. Windshield Wipers (1:16)
  2. Tears (1:17)
  3. Suede (0:27)
  4. Zebra (1:15)
  5. Sidewalks (0:56)
  6. Breathing (1:18)
  7. Chimney (0:39)
  8. Queen (1:21)
  9. Nothing (1:22)
  10. Apple Cider (1:45)
  11. Bathtub (1:12)
  12. When You're Born (1:12)
  13. Piccolos (1:12)
  14. Knee (1:23)
  15. Pea (0:19)
  16. Great (1:21)
  17. Eyelashes (1:02)
  18. Clock (1:28)
  19. Ear (1:31)
  20. Ping Pong (1:20)
  21. Freckles (1:37)
  22. Cellophane (1:38)
  23. Dream (1:48)
  24. Gabardine (1:00)
  25. Planet (1:30)
  26. Meat Balls (0:41)
  27. Sky (1:16)
  28. Envelope (1:05)
  29. Roller Skate (0:51)
  30. Blotter (0:35)
  31. Moth (1:16)
  32. Indians (1:48)
  33. Lampshades (1:49)
  34. Cigars (1:44)