By Brett Koshkin
When Sandy came to town, she forced the frigid East River waters through Red Hook like a sieve, leaving a wake of waterlogged bedlam behind and destroying countless people’s lives and livelihoods in the process. Purveyors of all things rockin’, Norton Records suffered heavy casualties when their Van Brunt Street warehouse took more than four feet of water, destroying the majority of their countless, well-adored rockabilly and garage rock releases in the process.
Norton is a label that prides itself on finding and rereleasing the obscure and arcane. Their compilations of unreleased garage acetates and Sun Ra albums are more labors of love for music aficionados than they are commercial blockbusters. The label exists left of the dial and this is where it thrives unlike few others, unearthing the seldom-heard and giving it a chance to be loved, albeit by a limited but truly dedicated audience. Producing a chart-topping record has never been part of the plan.
Norton has found themselves in the rather painful race against the clock as they try to salvage what vinyl they can before mold and mildew do their dirty work, inhibiting Charlie Feathers albums from ever touching a turntable.
Last night, Norton held a call to arms, enlisting music fans and musicians alike to lend a hand at Brooklyn Bowl to salvage what still remains. A record cleaning party with some of the finest deejays the city has to offer including Jonathon Toubin, Phast Phreddie and a cast of WFMU jocks like Mr. Fine Wine, Debbie D, and Rex of the nuggets-laden Fool’s Paradise program joined forces for the love of all things music.
A sad disassembly line was organized with soggy, sealed vinyl spread out across the dance floor, cut open and then peeled away from their withered packaging like ripe bananas from oxidized skins. Then the world’s largest kitchen staff -complete with yellow gloves, washed each and every record, laid them out to dry and finally, gave them all a fresh new sleeve.
A jovial scene emerged as volunteers bumped soapy elbows and danced in place while scrubbing away all that Sandy left behind. By 10pm, an estimated 6,000 records had been sudsed up and the Norton staff had to make a mad dash back to their Prospect Heights office to get more.
By evening’s end, roughly 13,000 records had been salvaged, helping to get the rather unique label back at the helm for everyone to enjoy for years to come. Within time, Norton plans to print up new jackets for the saved wax and get them into music-lover’s hands, where they can live out long lives and long spins on turntables across the globe.