Gary Wilson

  • Gary Wilson
  • You Think You Really Know Me (Gary Wilson) 1977  (Motel) 2002 

Imagine there’s this dorky-looking guy (in Endicott, New York, perhaps) — like the turkey who always got caught picking his nose, or the one who got nabbed for smoking in the boys room ’cause he choked when he inhaled. What’s a small-town guy like that to do after high school? Who cares? But he has an inner life like everyone else; he has fantasies about girls, too. Maybe his are weirder, since he never got any.

If he’s Gary Wilson, he also happens to be fluent on keyboards, guitar and bass and passable on drums. He makes his own record (with a little help from friends here and there, but mostly just him) at home. He wants to be cool, but he sounds like Lou Reed’s dumb cousin trying to be Mel Tormé or something and has these songs that sound like the electric-piano-dominated, bleached-out funk-jazz soundtracks for public service announcements. Such is the medium for his fevered imaginings: “I wanna lose control (hey!) for 15 minutes (hah!)…” The “groovy girls make love at the beach” but are “out of reach.” “Sick trips take the place of someone else’s blind date.” And so on. The more he screams, “She’s got red lips … she’s real,” the more you know she’s not. (She’s a blow-up doll.) And then he’ll dip and swerve into a psychedelic guitar mood piece (“sometimes I wish I were dead…”) Intense!

The postscript to Wilson’s five minutes of underground glory came a quarter-century later, when his album, and he, received an unexpected second life and far more critical acknowledgment and enthusiasm than it had the first time around. Switching from curio to artifact, Wilson’s 1977 proto-funk new wave stylings seemed more prescient than odd to those encountering it for the first time.

[Jim Green / Ira Robbins]