Steve and Dave’s May 2013 self-released album ‘Zuccotti Confidential’ is an Occupy Wall Street song cycle of expertly crafted pop songs in the vein of the Beach Boys, if the Beach Boys had been pepper sprayed and robbed of their first amendment rights, then wrote an album about it. The 10-song album conjures specific people, incidents, and themes associated with Occupy Wall Street and defies the popular notion that no original music emerged from the movement.
“Plenty of music was created for Occupy,” notes Stephen C. Baldwin (vocals, guitar, production), and David Intrator (sax). “But the music that was played in Zuccotti, on marches, behind the barricades – the music that was from Occupy was never recorded, except in field recordings. This is the music that we’ve tried to include on this album.”
“The music didn’t stop when the encampment was shut down,” says David Intrator. “Although the November crackdown stopped the drummers—who provided the rhythm track for life at the park—the music itself was unstoppable. Musicians forbidden to use drums picked up guitars. Songs were invented to deal with the great trauma of losing Zuccotti Park and to create community in our wandering diaspora.”
Many of the themes in Zuccotti Confidential come from these days of wandering, loss, and bewilderment. They heartbreak can be heard in such songs as “M-17,” about the momentous final battle by Occupiers to re-inhabit Zuccotti, or “99 Miles” about the grueling 99-Mile March that took guitar-playing activists on a foot march from Philadelphia to Zuccotti along the highways and swamps of New Jersey in July 2011.
“It was important for me to write about some of the people who were heroes—and anti-heroes—to those of us in the Park,” says Baldwin. “People like ‘The Man in the Box,’ who I think of as the Warhol of cardboard, and The Knitting Ladies, who were characters right out of A Tale of Two Cities. And I wanted to write at least one song that mentioned Officer Winski,” says Baldwin, who ended up writing two songs (“The Man in the Box” and “Back in Zuccotti Again) featuring the NYPD officer, whose presence loomed large for Occupiers throughout 2011 and 2012. “I happened to see Officer Winski last week in Washington Square Park but he didn’t even remember me. Maybe that’s a good thing,” said Baldwin.
Zuccotti Confidential would never have come about without the contributions of David Peel, who, along with Baldwin, Intrator, and a core group of about 20 other musicians, formed what Baldwin calls the “OZM,” (Original Zuccotti Musicians). “Peel called me earlier this year and yelled at me for letting all of these songs rot away on paper,” says Baldwin. “He got me off my ass and into my kitchen, which is where I recorded everything except Dave’s saxophone solos, which he remotely recorded and e-mailed to me.” Album production was finalized using an ancient copy of Cubase running on a half-dead XP notebook.
Musical influences on the album include Lou Reed, Nick Lowe, The Beach Boys, Serge Gainsbourg, Lester Young, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, and Bertold Brecht. “The music is probably not in the style that many people will likely associate with Occupy. But this is the music that we heard from inside the movement , from inside the Freedom Cage, along the side of the road, and around the camps as the lights grew dim and hope seemed to vanish from the world. It was this music that kept us going forward.”
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