In 1967 Terry Riley was playing one of his “All Night Flight” concerts in Philadephia, featuring his soprano saxophone, keyboards, and tape delay devices, which went on for hours in the trance-inducing Minimalist fashion — as documented on the Poppy Nogood and the Phantom Band “All Night Flight” Vol. 1 CD. (Later, Brian Eno and Robert Fripp would adopt similar methods for their “Frippertronics” concerts and LPs like No Pussyfooting and Evening Star.) After the show the proprietor of a local discotheque asked Riley to compose a piece to be played in his club, and Riley obliged — but with a version of Harvey Averne’s “You’re No Good”, a single off Averne’s 1968 Atlantic LP Viva Soul.
Riley took a Motown-inspired pop tune and transformed it into a twenty-minute exploded view, slicing the track into long and short bits and looping them, as Steve Reich had done a few years earlier with his “Come Out” and “It’s Gonna Rain” pieces. The Riley remix (“No Good” becoming “Nogood” to echo his Poppy Nogood character) is wonderfully perverse: beginning with a two-and-a-half-minute piercing sine wave drone, increasing in pitch to the point of unbearability before suddenly breaking into the Averne song, which becomes more and more fragmented and complex, towards the end adding Moog shrieks. Averne’s song refuses to die even under this treatment, determined to keep the good times rolling even as it’s being purÃ©ed.
“You’re Nogood” was rescued from undeserved obscurity by the Cortical Foundation, run by Gary Todd, which lovingly repressed a series of very well-received Riley CDs as well as work by Derek Bailey, Hermann Nitsch, and the Scratch Orchestra (whose “The Great Learning” has since been reissued by Deutsche Grammofon). In 2001 Todd was seriously injured, and there has been no further word of his health or the possibility of future releases on his label. We wish him all the best.