Always in Trouble: An Oral History of ESP Disk, The Most Outrageous Record Label in America (Wesleyan University Press), by Jason Weiss
Aug. 1, 2012
Independent labels have often pushed American music forward into areas deemed uncommercial or risky by the majors. One of the most adventurous indies, ESP, was founded in the early 1960s to document New York's avant-garde jazz scene. Soon enough, the label was enmeshed in a countercultural milieu expansive enough to embrace the radical satire of the Fugs, the other worldly liturgical music of Ukrainian Orthodoxy, a spoken word record by acid guru Timothy Leary… even an album Charles Manson recorded before his murder spree. “I thought the songs had a peculiar kind of individuality to them,” says the label's founder Bernard Stollman of Manson in one of the many interviews at the heart of Always in Trouble. A loose operation (in the spirit of its era), ESP focused on the creative wishes of the artists and produced a catalogue of music that flourished on the edges of the '60s.