Category Archives: Arthur Freedman Collection

A word from the filmmaker

The Arthur H. Freedman Collection at the Harvard Film Archives 

and the Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Museum of the Harvard College Library.

Marky Mayhem mini dv tapesStatement by the documentarian Arthur Freedman

August 13, 2015

I am honored to have my life’s work inducted into these prestigious collections. In 2012 I was contacted by Elizabeth Coffey, Film Conservator for the Harvard Film Archive, and by Peter Laurence and David Ackerman of the Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library. They had heard of my extensive documentation on audio and video of unsigned local bands that played in the nightclubs around Boston, Cambridge, Somerville and surrounding locales. I have had various write-ups and press over the years, and evidently it resonated with the progressive thinking at Harvard to see how it would integrate into an historic place amongst the more recognized works. Special thanks go out to Robert Dennis and Denise Gorayeb, along with those at Harvard who were, are, and will be involved in this project, with whom I am not familiar.

I would like to call to your attention several individuals who had very significant roles in collaboration with me, without whose support much of my work would not have been possible. First and foremost, Patricia Ann Pelland, who is a fine emerging photographer; the photograph of me amongst my recordings was taken by her. Patricia was often my roadie, collaborator on the Boston Archives Project, my wife and partner for over 10 years, and now, a quarter of a century later, still my best friend. Others include Timothy Fulham; Thomas White, videographer at MIT, film maker, guitarist for Unnatural Axe, Beach Combovers and several other bands; Kevin Boisevert; Timothy Jackson; Karen DiBiasse; Linda Cardinal; Paul Lovell; Timothy Maxwell; Steven Nelson; William McCarthy; Joseph and Nabil Sater; William Ruane; Jan Crocker; Mark Hussey, Steven Morse, Tristram Lozaw, Andrew Smith, Kris Fell. I am also grateful to musicians who thanked me from the stage, on their records and cds, and those who signed releases, as well those who called me to come and record them.

My audio recordings were primarily done using cassette tape and 2 microphones.  Video was almost always single camera, either hand-held or tripod.

Occasionally I had equipment problems, and it is a deep regret that I did not have better gear with which to work and additional camera operators with whom to collaborate. During the era in which I was recording, there were very few people doing what I was doing. The time of camera phones and miniature video cameras had not arrived, and 99% of the time I was the only one dedicated to chronicling the careers of bands I cared about. Regardless, the recordings are a time capsule of the music at a time of great creativity and energy. The bands with whom I worked were unsigned, unknown, sometimes underappreciated, and often forgotten. There were many times I would be one of only a few people in the audience. Those of you who attend large venue concerts do not have the connection to the musicians as I have had. I invite you to listen to these bands and let your imagination take you to dive bars with a dance floor where the audiences’ heads are bopping and a dance called the pogo is hep cat go man go!

Since very early in my recordings, I always wanted the bands to be vested in the project; I tried to make the recordings and my time available. The tapes were becoming more numerous and preservation of the fragile magnetic media was always on my mind, but due to financial constraints, time and resources, it has taken till now with the wonderful folks at Harvard to begin this monumental project. The recordings had never been properly cataloged and now that that has been accomplished, I am astonished at the breadth of what I have done. I still have additional recordings that I will be adding to this collection and there are some real treasures in those.

This collection will include additional works from me shortly and over time. On 7.26.1981, I was recording Mission of Burma and The Stains at the Paradise. It was a lazy Sunday afternoon and my car was stolen. In it was a case containing nearly 60 sets of my favorite early tapes I had recorded; they were never recovered. It is my hope that in watching, listening, and discovering the bands among my recordings that you step out, pay the cover charge and see some of these great bands yourselves. Please support live music, buy bands’ compact discs, records, and merchandise, and immerse yourself in one of the coolest eras of creativity. You will have the best times of your lives.

As I have previously mentioned, most of these bands are likely unknown to you, so I will offer several websites that can be useful in learning more:

http://bostongroupienews.com/

http://www.thenoise-boston.com/

http://mmone.org/

http://kinodv.net/home.html

http://www.collectorscum.com/volume3/mass/

Some of the performers and participants whose voices have been silenced:

http://bostongroupienews.com/BGNInMemorium.htm

I invite band members band members to sign releases, donate cds, records, tapes, set lists, personnel lists and contact information, posters, and flyers from any of the sets listed and help to make this one of the most important music history collections of the late 20th and early 21st century.

Thank you to all who give this project more than a passing glance.

Arthur Freedman

CONSERVATOR’S NOTE:

It was Tom White (Unnatural Axe, Beach Combovers) who tipped me off to Arthur’s collection.  I had recently been talking to Billy Ruane about his own extensive collection of local band recordings, and was rather heartbroken to learn that most of these tapes were lost when Billy stopped paying the bill on a storage container.  I didn’t want anything to happen to Arthur’s recordings, and hoped he would be interested in getting them into cold storage at Harvard.  We were very pleased when he agreed to give us this important collection.  ~Liz Coffey

new collection alert: Arthur Freedman Video Collection

We are pleased to announce one of our more recent acquisitions, the Arthur Freedman video collection!  A familiar figure in the local Boston area rock scene for nearly four decades, Artie Freedman recorded over two thousand hours of rock performances on VHS, Hi8, 8mm video, and Mini DV from the late 1970s through the early 2000s.
The HFA’s portion of the collection is searchable though our finding aid: Arthur Freedman Collection, ca. 1985-2011 : Guide

Freedman pictured with a portion of his collection, photo by Patricia Ann Pelland

Inspired by the music he heard from the neighbor’s band in his hometown of Newton, Massachuetts, Arthur attended concerts on the Common, the Esplanade and venues like the Music Hall (now the Wang Center), the Modern Theater and the Orpheum. When Arthur reached 18, he began to explore nightclubs like Cantone’s, the Club, the Rathskeller, Jonathan Swift’s, Jack’s and many others. That band in his neighborhood, the Rockin’ Ramrods, would eventually back up the Rolling Stones on the Canadian leg of their first North American tour, and Freedman would eventually go on to not only attentively listen to many more bands but record a whole era of local culture.

Watching the bands in the early days of the local punk rock movement, he realized that each show was unique: he witnessed set, song and personnel changes, different arrangements for some songs and, tragically, untimely deaths of band members. Many of these independent, unsigned bands would never make it into the recording studio, and those who did may not record the songs he liked or sequence the tracks on the record like a live set.  Believing that the energy and exuberance of a live performance could never be reproduced within the controlled perfection based recording studio, Arthur quickly realized the critical need of chronicling the edgy and incredibly creative era of punk music within the scene he loved.  In the late 1970s, he bought a cassette deck with microphone inputs and two microphones and started to record all of the shows he attended. In 1984, Freedman bought a video camera. He was one of the only people recording or filming in the nightclubs of Boston, Cambridge and Somerville – as well as the occasional out-of-town venue. Often sighted in front of the stage, video camera in hand, he documented countless rock acts for posterity, including many bands and venues that no longer exist. Either with tape decks and microphones, video cameras or video cameras attached to video recorders, Freedman would often go from club to club recording multiple bands in one evening. He became a familiar figure in the local Boston area rock scene for nearly four decades.

Dedicated to the music and his craft, Freedman wanted the tapes to be always available to the bands he recorded.  However, magnetic media is subject to degradation over time. He alerted the public to the massive nature of this preservation proposal through multiple articles in newspapers; thus, Harvard University became aware of a once in a lifetime opportunity to collaborate on an exclusive project and approached Freedman with a feasible way to preserve and make available the life’s work of a creative visionary.

Freedman maintained his archive of thousands of videotapes at his home until he donated his collection to Harvard in 2012. His audio recordings of local rock, dating back to the late 1970s, now reside at Harvard’s Loeb Music Library. The Arthur Freedman Collection at the Harvard Film Archive consists of over two thousand hours of recorded rock performances, recorded on 1185 VHS, Hi8, 8mm video, and Mini DV tapes. There are associated materials including fliers and set lists for some of the tapes.  Both Arthur Freedman and Harvard University welcome the help of legitimate band members to provide set lists, personnel listings, associated artworks, posters, records, tapes, cds, websites, Facebook pages and as much information about the bands contained in this collection as possible. By doing so, they would be able to access this collection while enriching its depth.
The audio and video recordings will be digitized at Harvard for access and posterity.