Eric’s Freaks

 

In high school, most kids study Algebra and Social Studies. I studied Shel Silverstein, Basil Wolverton and Gahan Wilson, developing a visual vocabulary that allowed me to spit out my Freaks effortlessly, much to the delight of my children many years later.

 

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Eric Schuurman Video Nightsweats (Tongues of Jakob)

When my eponymous album was released in 2007, this video was posted along with this ridiculous story about its history:

About twenty years ago, through the eighties, I was recording music that was getting national airplay on college radio. The lifestyle was a strain, and my first marriage broke up. After that, I basically suffered writer’s block  and couldn’t complete a project. Then one night about three years ago, my wife tried to wake me up. I was drenched in sweat and talking strangely in my sleep, like I was speaking in tongues. She said “Eric, wake up,” at which point I said “I’m not Eric, I’m Jakob.” It happened again several times. She then videotaped me doing this. It was pretty strange watching myself on the video. I decided to add some graphics and a music bed and created a music video. It’s called  ‘Nightsweats (Tongues of Jakob)’ and it’s up on YouTube. Anyway, I was having trouble sleeping since then, so I recorded the album. I’m glad the album is done. I’m sleeping again.

That is not how the song actually came about…

In the summer of 1984, when I was traveling in Europe prior to going to Poland, I met a young West German guy named Tarek. At his home in Hamburg, he put together a cassette for me with a bunch of obscure European bands. One of the tracks was titled ‘Apfelbuch’. Tarek told me the lyrics were from a Bertolt Brecht poem, and wrote them in my notebook. I was never able to confirm it being a Brecht poem, though. The song was in German. It was very dark. He told me it was about a boy named Jakob Apfelbuch who dismembered his parents and put their bodies in a clothes hamper. The milkman asked him what the smell was, and he responded saying it was the meat in the refrigerator. The laundryman pressed him, saying it wasn’t just meat in the refrigerator, to which Apfelbuch said that it was the meat in the clothes hamper. As they led him away, Jakob Apfelbuch vowed to visit his parents graves each year and leave flowers.

Two years later, I recorded my own version of the song. With my German language skills being non-existent, the words are especially mangled to German ears. Though the song remained unfinished, in 1995 I created a video around it for a project assignment at Columbia College. In 2007 I finally completed the song, re-titling it ‘Nightsweats (Tongues of Jakob)’. The butchering of the original German was so thorough that I decided to write out the phonetic gibberish text and claim it as my own under the new title. I updated the audio track in my student video project, posting it on YouTube along with the ridiculous promo story in support of the release of my eponymous album.

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1994 Sopot International Song Festival

Photography by Allan Roysdon.

Love Dangerously, the song I wrote and produced for BB Bugaloo, had been entered by Arthur Winiarski in a competition to determine participants for the 1994 Sopot International Song Festival in Sopot, Poland. It was selected and we were invited to participate. Arthur’s company, Galaxy Group was our corporate sponsor for the event, providing us with airfare, translators, a driver, lodging, and meals. Arthur was our manager, promoter, and fellow white knuckle thrill-seeker for the event.

BB Bugaloo, Allan Roysdon, a friend from Columbia College, and I flew into Warsaw and met Arthur in mid-August to perform in the ’94 Sopot Festival. We were whisked through a week of interviews and performances leading up to the festival’s major weekend programs: the Grand Prix competition, and the Gala event. We partied the week away at Spatif with Polish artists, celebrities and media. We met other American and British musicians, including Afghan Whigs and Radiohead. It was a glorious, debauched week, and by the end of it, BB was sicker than shit with a sore throat.

Basia Winiarski, Arthur’s wife, fed BB a steady stream of honey and lemon tea, and tried to cut off conversations with him through the day Friday. As we waited in the hotel lobby for our ride to Opera Lesne, I remember looking at BB and thinking “How the fuck is he gonna pull this off?” Waiting backstage in the dressing room as the other performers left for their appearances, I was in a cold sweat. Our person with the headset came for us, and led us to the curtain’s edge, where we were introduced. BB made up for his damaged vocals with a huge performance. He took off dancing through the audience with his hand held mic, security in tow, yelping and moaning soulfully, greeting the crowd. He forced the orchestra and the television director to improvise his performance as a national audience of 2.5 million looked on. Everything was off-script, improvised, teetering on the edge, rock and roll chaos.

BB’s wild performance won us the Grand Prix competition audience award. We were invited to perform again the following, final night of the festival at the Gala event. We performed ‘Love Dangerously’ again, received the award, then BB encored the song a second time with an ecstatic, rapturous performance of a lifetime, wrecked voice and all. We gave acceptance speeches, were led backstage where Arthur and Basia were waiting for us, then spilled out into the night watching the rest of the program from the audience. Strangers high-fived us, bought us drinks, chanted BB’s name, and had BB sign autographs. Arthur and I talked about future collaborations.

Love Dangerously – Sopot Festival 1994 Live – Encore #1

Love Dangerously – Sopot Festival 1994 Live – Encore #2

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Sopot Festival 1994 Live – Encore #2

(Sorry for the poor quality of the video and audio. It was the only copy of the performance I could track down.)

BB and I won the Audience Award in the Sopot Festival in Sopot, Poland 8-26-94. There was a lot of partying that week, and by the day of the first major festival appearance, BB was sick. We performed on Friday (8-26-94) and Saturday (8-27-94.) This is the second performance of ‘Love Dangerously’ at the Gala Event on Saturday. His voice was cashed by the second time it was performed that night, but his performance ecstatic and mesmerizing. The award and speeches are at the end of this clip.

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Sopot Festival 1994 Live – Encore #1

(Sorry for the poor quality of the video and audio. It was the only copy of the performance I could track down.)

BB and I won the Audience Award in the Sopot Festival in Sopot, Poland 8-26-94. There was a lot of partying that week, and by the day of the first major festival appearance, BB was sick. We performed on Friday (8-26-94) and Saturday (8-27-94.) This is the first performance of ‘Love Dangerously’ at the Gala Event on Saturday, the following day. His voice was pretty cashed by the second time it was performed that night, but his performance was wild. The awards speeches are at the end of the second encore of ‘Love Dangerously’.

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