Exposé Online banner

Hasting's Street Opera — Slippery When Wet
(Guerssen Out-Sider OSR 073, 1969/2019, CD / LP / DL)

by Henry Schneider, Published 2019-06-23

Slippery When Wet Cover art

In the late 60s a group of young friends (Harry Wellott, Gordon Carlisle, Don Hathaway, and Chris Nelson) in Montclair, NJ formed the Hasting’s Street Opera, named after an old Detroit blues LP. In the late 60s the underground FM stations out of New York, WNEW-FM and WABC-FM (later renamed WPLJ), would play commercial free blues, blues rock, folk rock, psychedelic rock, etc. that greatly influenced the band: Blues Project, Butterfield Blues Band, Miles Davis, Pharaoh Sanders, Jethro Tull, and so on. Hasting’s Street Opera began as a blues band that evolved to an improvisational group. In 1969 they recorded their one and done vanity press album Slippery When Wet at Don’s house using a portable tape recorder operated by their math teacher, who also happened to be the old-time music preserver Charles Faurot. The album was a limited run of 100 copies housed in handmade covers. The recording was straight to tape with no overdubs and is a mixture of original tunes and three covers: “Summertime,” “Scarborough Fair,” and “A Taste of Honey.” Since master tapes were lost over the decades, this first ever reissue was sourced from a mint vinyl copy. Given the technology in the late 60s, the sound is lo-fi, but that does not detract from the music. The album opens with the strong psych jam “Nobody Knows,” with an extended drum solo lasting about 3 ½ minutes! This track is followed by “Fool-August,” a delicate acoustic guitar / flute duet that morphs into progressive jazz. At this point I did not know what to expect for “Scarborough Fair,” especially since this track is 6 ½ minutes long. The instrumental leads off with the flute playing the melody, but the phrasing is a bit off and all of a sudden the band kicks in and starts riffing on the melody for a creative and enjoyable folk rock jazz improvisation, culminating in a return to the melody line. Next is a 20 second playful recording of the band being silly “Lo-De-Lo.” Now we are treated to another original track, “Peach,” that is heavily influenced by Jethro Tull, and you may remember that in the late 60s Jethro Tull was more jazz oriented than progressive. Those of us who grew up in the 60s will probably remember Herb Alpert’s pop hit “A Taste of Honey.” Hasting’s Street Opera took this tune and made it their own as a progressive jazz track. “Think of Me,” another original track, is a tasty jazz tune built around a piano riff. And the album closes with a fantastic instrumental based on Gershwin’s “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess, launching into a wonderful jam lasting almost 14 minutes. The information is a bit sparse about Hasting’s Street Opera, but reading between the lines, I surmise that they were either in high school or in their early college years when they recorded this album. They were extremely talented and it is a crying shame that they never went any further. Kudos to Guerssen for unearthing this jem from the 60s.


Filed under: New releases, 2019 releases, 1969 recordings

Related artist(s): Hasting's Street Opera

More info
http://guerssenrecords.bandcamp.com/album/slippery-when-wet

Latest news

2020-01-21
Gong Announces UK Tour for 2020 – Having spent the last few years touring the world, including dates in Japan with psych legend Steve Hillage, multiple headline European tours and festivals, America’s Cruise to the Edge festival, a South America headline tour, and a headline performance at Tomorrow Festival in China, the band have won the hearts of both traditional and modern Gong fanbases. During this live journey, Gong has delved further into the truly psychedelic, exploratory, and mind-expanding side of the music. » Read more

2020-01-15
Carlos Alvarado RIP – Carlos Alvarado, pioneering composer, multi-instrumentalist and pioneer of progressive rock and electronic experimental music in Mexico, passed away January 14th, 2020 at age 68 after a two year battle with cancer.  » Read more

2020-01-12
Wolfgang Dauner RIP – Pianist Wolfgang Dauner, one of the pioneers of both European free jazz and jazz rock, has died at the age of 84. With his own groups and with the United Jazz+Rock Ensemble, his playing and compositions were a prominent presence in European jazz from the mid-60s until just recently. » Read more

2020-01-12
Michael Allison RIP – Michael Allison, who since 1997 has been recording as Darshan Ambient, passed away on January 9th after a long and brave battle with cancer. He has been at at the forefront of the new ambient/electronic music scene, with over eighteen releases to his credit. » Read more

2020-01-10
Neil Peart RIP – One of rock music's defining drummers has died at the age of 67. Neil Peart's work with Rush provided one of the templates for percussion in rock, and he certainly ranks in the top ten most influential drummers of the 20th Century. Peart retired from playing in 2015 due to health issues, and succumbed to brain cancer on January 7, 2020. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Algernon - Ghost Surveillance – Lately I've been listening to a lot of music that is labeled "post-rock," and like many genre labels, there is a point at which it becomes meaningless. World's End Girlfriend, GYBE,...  (2011) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues