Jack Grunsky: Brace for the Obscure (60s rock)! — August 29, 2022

THE GREATEST SONGS OF THE 1960s THAT NO ONE HAS EVER HEARD

566) Jack Grunsky — “Figure of the Gothic Age”

Lovely, lilting ‘70 folk rock tribute to the gargoyles of the Middle Ages and their makers. I know, I know, not another paean to a gargoyle, but this one is really good and the Stones’ Mick Taylor plays guitar! (https://archive.org/details/jack-grunsky-toronto-1970) Jack Grunsky was famous at the time — well, he was famous in Austria. Most people know him now as a children’s music superstar.

Austria’s City Magazin says (courtesy of Google Translate):

Born in Austria, [Jack Grunsky] crossed the Atlantic as a small child on the Queen Elizabeth II with his parents, both musicians. The family emigrated to Canada [and] little Jack spent his childhood in Toronto. . . . Somehow he was drawn back to Europe. After graduating from high school, Jack . . . went to Vienna in 1964 and studied painting at the art academy. . . . For ten years he was in the top of the European charts as a singer and songwriter, some of them with Jack’s Angels. He had his own weekly radio show “Folk with Jack” on ORF [Austrian Broadcasting Corporation, Austria’s PBS]. In 1974, Jack Grunsky crossed the Atlantic again towards Canada. . . . and discovered his love for music for children. . . .

https://web.archive.org/web/20070928121943/http://www.city-magazin.at/storysundevents/szeneundleute/grunsky.html

Grunsky recounts his career:

After finishing high school in Toronto in 1964, I moved to Austria to study at the Academy of Arts in Vienna. At the same time I formed a folk singing group called ‘Jack’s Angels’ and we were signed to Amadeo Records, touring and recording 4 albums. Within the span of two years we gained considerable popularity before disbanding in 1968. The record label kept me on for two more albums after which I was brought on board the progressive German ‘Kuckuck’ label in Munich. I pursued a solo singer-songwriter career for the next 8 years, touring extensively throughout Europe and recording 5 more albums of original material. My ‘Toronto’ LP [including “Figure”] was recorded in London and was produced by Alexis Korner with various tracks featuring Mick Taylor (of the Stones) on slide guitar. In Vienna I composed music for 3 television children’s musicals . . . . With a few hits on the charts . . . and also hosting my own radio show ‘Folk mit Jack’ for ORF Austria, my following continued to grow in the Euro Pop Music scene of that time. . . . In 1974, together with my family, I returned to Canada. In spite of European success highlights, a shift in the Euro music industry took place and I found myself in fringe territory. I was seeking closer connection with the folk/rock music scene happening in North America. . . . [I released] my album ‘The Patience Of A Sailor’ and . . . reboot[ed] my singing career . . . . We performed as a band in clubs and festivals and returned to tour in Europe several times allowing me to stay in touch with my fans. In the early 80’s however, pointers and signs were guiding me in a new direction. Our daughter’s teacher invited me into the classroom to sing with the students. This led to offers to be a freelance music teacher at various Montessori schools around greater Toronto. . . . I became passionate about quality children’s music and discovered a market in need of it. Building a repertoire of original children’s songs and drawing on my concert performance experiences, I soon found a manager, a concert agent and eventually was signed up to the BMG Kidz Music label. . . . I have presented my children’s performances and workshops for over 30 years. This led to countless . . . teacher workshop opportunities across Canada and the US . . . . TV and radio appearances; major concert tours and international children’s festivals followed plus a number of symphony shows for family audiences. To date I’ve released 16 CD’s for children garnering a number of awards including 3 JUNO’s [Canada’s Grammys].

https://www.jackgrunsky.net/bio

While that was a bit self-promotional (I guess to get bookings), here is a part of a quite enlightening and appealing interview that Jack Grunksy had with TV Ontario in 1997:

Richard Ouzounian: I KNOW YOU FORMED A GROUP AT ONE POINT, JACK’S ANGELS, RIGHT?

Jack Grunsky: YES.

Richard: I HAVE VISIONS OFCHARLIE’S ANGELS. IT WASN’T THE SAME THING. IT WASN’T YOU AND THREE —

Jack: IT WAS A TERRIBLE NAME.

Richard: NO. IT WASN’T THREE BODACIOUS LADIES BEHIND YOU WHILE YOU SANG UP FRONT, NO.

Jack: THE NAME JACK’S ANGELS WAS NOT MY DOING.

Richard: OKAY.

Jack: WHEN I LIVED IN VIENNA, WHENI WAS TAKING THE COURSE AT THE ACADEMY OF ARTS, I FORMED THIS GROUP. AND WE PERFORMED OUR REPERTOIRE OF FOLK SONGS, NORTH AMERICAN, BRITISH FOLK SONGS. AND I HAD ALREADY STARTED TO WRITE SONGS WITH THE GUITAR. AND MY FASCINATION WITH THE NORTH AMERICAN FOLK MUSIC SCENE, AT THAT TIME, THE KIND OF MUSIC I WAS LISTENING TO DURING HIGH SCHOOL, SUCH AS PETER, PAUL AND MARY, THE KINGSTON TRIO, BOB DYLAN,THOSE KIND OF PEOPLE,THEY WERE MY ROLE MODELS. SO WITH THIS ENTHUSIASM OF WANTING TO EMULATE BEING A SONGWRITER AND SINGER AND GUITARIST, I SHARED THIS WITH SOME STUDENT FRIENDS OF MINE IN VIENNA. AND WE FORMED THE GROUP AND PERFORMED IN VARIOUS LOCATIONS IN THE AREA. AND A FRIEND OF OURS CONTACTED A RECORD LABEL, AND THEY WERE QUITE INTERESTED IN WHAT WE WERE DOING. SO THEY CAME TO ONE OF OUR CONCERTS, AND WITHIN TWO WEEKS, SIGNED US UP FOR A TWO YEAR CONTRACT, DURING THE TIME OF WHICH WE RECORDED FOUR ALBUMS, AND A NUMBER OF SINGLES, AND STARTED TO TOUR QUITE EXTENSIVELY. I HAVE TO TELL YOU, AT THAT TIME, IN AUSTRIA AND CENTRAL EUROPE, THE NORTH AMERICAN FOLK MUSIC DID NOT YET CATCH ON. SO WHAT I WAS DOING, IN AWAY, WAS NEW TO EUROPEANS. AND THERE WAS A CERTAIN ENTHUSIASM THAT WE COMMUNICATED SIMPLY BECAUSE OF THE JOY THAT WE HAD IN SINGING TOGETHER IN HARMONY AND PLAYING TOGETHER. AND I THINK THIS SPARKED THE INTEREST AND CAUGHT THE PEOPLE’S IMAGINATION.

Richard: NOW, WHAT YEARS ARE WE TALKING HERE, ROUGHLY?

Jack: THIS WAS ’66, ’67.AND WE CONNECTED WITH JOAN BAEZ WHEN SHE CAME. AND SHE BROUGHT US UP ON STAGE AFTER HER PERFORMANCE. SO THERE WAS CONNECTION TO THE FOLK MUSIC SCENE, WHICH, IN AUSTRIA, THEY LABELLED THE GREEN WAVE. . . . AFTER THE GROUP JACK’S ANGELS DISBANDED BECAUSE SOME OF THE MEMBERS DID NOT WANT TO PURSUE MUSIC AS A CAREER, AND WE WERE GETTING SO BUSY TOURING AND RECORDING THAT IT WAS JUST TOO MUCH FOR THEM. SO WE HAD INTERNAL PROBLEMS. AND THE RECORD LABEL AGREED TO THE SPLIT OF THE GROUP, AS LONG AS I WOULD REMAIN WITH THEM, BEING THE LEADER AND THE SONGWRITER. SO AFTERWARDS, I CONTINUED ON MY OWN AS A SOLO PERFORMER . . . .

Richard: I REMEMBER YOU SAID SOMETHING ONCE ABOUT, YOU SAID THAT A SONG WAS LIKE A LITTLE WINDOW A CHILD COULD LOOK THROUGH. AND YOU SHOW THEM THE WHOLE WORLD.

Jack: WELL, IT’S THE WINDOW OF YOUR IMAGINATION. SO SOUNDS AND SONGS CAN TRIGGER A LOT OF THINGS IN A VERY CONSTRUCTIVE AND POSITIVE WAY.

https://www.tvo.org/transcript/632935

“Figure of the gothic age standing in the midst of the crowd. How majestic and how noble and how sad and lonely your visage looks upon me. Figure of the gothic age, leaning on your flying buttresses. How weary, and how worn, must you be here among the strangers looking up to thee. Figure of the gothic age, sighing in your dreams of yesterday. Figure of the gothic age, ever to outlive the strangers. How precious and how perfect and how beautiful and passionate in mind were your makers.”

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