Once the water subsides and the sun comes out, everyone wants to get back to normal. But as the days pass post-Sandy, the stories that will trickle out are sure to continue to break our hearts for awhile. And if you’re a music fan, the flooding of Norton Records’ warehouse in Red Hook is the most heartbreaking.
Formed in 1986 by Billy Miller and Miriam Linna — founding members of longtime NYC garage band the A-Bones — Norton Records is the go-to reissue label for the best, often obscure, and wildest ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s raw rock ‘n’ roll and crazed novelty oddities. Plus, in addition to all the other label imprints, books, and fanzines they distribute, they occasionally release some great new bands too, like locals Daddy Long Legs. Their catalog is as deep and extensive as any label ever, and their entire back catalog was almost completely damaged or ruined during Monday’s hurricane/storm.
Busy trying to transfer what was salvageable from the warehouse to their Prospect Heights home, Miller was only able to give a quick assessment. “Yeah, the water was four feet,” he said. Norton’s warehouse is encased in one of the beautiful old warehouses on Van Brunt Street, right near the water, those red brick buildings with the distinctive arched black metal doors. “It wasn’t just water flooding in. Those metal doors were bent! But the water was actually all out by the time I got there. I don’t remember exactly when I got there, the days are all blurring together.”
I have been to that warehouse a few times, and to think that so much of the massive piles and endless boxes of amazing vintage sounds that were housed there were destroyed is one more reminder of how powerful Sandy was. But mostly it’s just incredibly sad for the loss of so much fine music, much of it from lost, forgotten, or cult artists who Norton had saved from history’s dustbin to be enjoyed for another generation.
But the Norton folks are the most devoted and obsessive music fans you’re likely to encounter, and with the help of all their friends they will get back to pumping out more buried treasures of rock ‘n’ roll rowdiness soon.
In a related note, every year, Norton Records has a huge presence at the great WFMU Record Fair, one of the largest and best record shows in the world. But the Fair, scheduled for this coming weekend, has become yet another victim of Sandy. From the WFMU Facebook page:
“We are sorry to say that the WFMU Record Fair is cancelled. The Metropolitan Pavilion has no power and doesn’t expect any until Saturday at the earliest. WFMU has no power, the trans-Hudson PATH will be closed, MTA and the Holland Tunnel are also likely to be inactive this weekend. Apologies to everyone who had planned on coming out, we’ll update the site with info about a next one as soon as we can.”