Reissuing a record is a long and costly process, but rewarding in a few ways: as a lot of times in life, it’s equally about the journey than the destination. Tracking Zen Bow to reissue his record took almost two years and it started in a really coincidental way. I thought it’d be funny to share a bit of the behind the scenes on this one -I’m sure every single label who’s reissued any old tracks has similar (probably more “spectacular”, too) experiences… But here’s part two of mine/Zen Bow’s.
I dialed the number. And immediatley got served with a music digger’s least favorite three musical notes to hear, followed by a suave voice announcing, that, well, “We’re sorry, the number you are trying to reach is no longer in service or was disconnected.” Then again, what are the odds that a 25 year-old phone number might still be working? I know. You always need the thrill to have at least tried.
Back to square one with just a name, “Zenbar Bennett,” and that hopeful gut feeling that where he recorded Impression was so random, he might as well still be somewhere in Connecticut. That’s the thing with the great Jamaican immigration wave of the early 80s: a lot of the artists who settled down outside the big immigration hubs (NYC, Miami) have tended, I’ve noticed, to sort of stay in the countryside they ended up landing in, and start a career or a family out there.
There’s a lot of unexpected people along the backroads of America. Over the years I got lucky to be able to chat with Brigadier Jerry in a very foresty town in the middle of Connecticut (strange coincidence, innit?), catch up with Keith Rowe (of Keith and Tex fame) in the heart of New Jersey, 20 minutes away from my wife’s grandma’s, not to mention that after years of (pre-internet) chasing Tony Chin, I discovered that he was living a whopping 10-minutes bicycle ride away from my inlaws’, in California’s Inland Empire. Small world. Where surprises aren’t always happy ones : after months trying to get a number for Barrington Spence in Texas, I was requested an hefty amount of money to be “graced” with an interview. An offer, of course, I could, and did, refuse…
But anyway. Back to Zenbar. With an usual name and a supposed State of residence in hand, I turned up to the ever-useful White Pages. No disappointment this time, as an on-screen miracle happened : there was ONE current number for “Zenbar Bennett” in Connecticut. Which I immediately dialed, pondering the usual concerns : is it gonna work? Does it lead to the right Zenbar? More so: Is it just plain weird? I mean, to call somebody like that, out of the blue? Ring.. ring.. ring… a raspy female voice answered. Mmh. How do you explain clearly, in a pretty thick French accent mind you, the whole obsessive journey you’ve embarked on a few weeks ago? “Iz it the household of ze singer once known as Zen Bow?” is probably what it sounded like.
Silence. “What do you want from him?”
I took it as, “Yes it iz.”
“Well, I loved his song Impression that he did in 1986 and I’d like to interview him about it for a magazine”. Sweat beads on my end, a longer silence on the other one.
“How did you find this number?” the questionnaire continued.
“In… the… White Pages?”. Pause.
“Is Zenbar home perhaps?”
This time, the silence didn’t last.
“No sir, he’s not home sir, because we divorced years ago and I have no idea where he went. Don’t call back.” Click.
Well, that was that. All the info I had was used at this point. Was Zen Bow going to join the long list of these MIA singers I always end up trying to get back in touch with? It could have, if another idea hadn’t burgeoned in the very next days…
(Part III coming up next week… stay tuned!)