Thanks to my friend, Tom, I know own something on ESP-DISK, a pioneering label that quickly became the primary exponent of free jazz. However, this 45 from 1975 – Bill Horwitz’s cheeky social commentary, “New American Guilt Trip” – has more of a Randy Newman / ‘Alice’s Restaurant’ sense of ironic bemusement rather than anything connected to jazz per se:
Song is kind of a low-rent “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant,” with the lyric set against those interminable lines for fuel during the 1970s gas crisis –
“Meet me here tomorrow by the gas line, dear.
You can bring the bottle, I will bring the beer.
We can both get happy while we both get gas.
And when the line gets long, they’ll sing a song about [our] great American past.”
“New American Guilt Trip” is also included on 1975’s Lies, Lies, Lies LP.
As ESP-Disk’s website recounts its own history in miniature —
“ESP-Disk opened for business in New York City in 1963 on the 12th floor of 156 Fifth Avenue, releasing an Esperanto album (hence the label’s name). Near the end of that year, owner Bernard Stollman heard Albert Ayler and made plans to record him. There followed a prolific 18-months in which 45 albums were recorded and released, mostly featuring previously unknown free improvisational artists. The main exceptions were Ornette Coleman and Paul Bley, both of whom had gained global recognition during the 1950’s.
Artists who made their debuts as leaders on ESP included Albert Ayler, Gato Barbieri, Bob James, Marion Brown, Roswell Rudd, Burton Greene, Patty Waters, Henry Grimes, Charles Tyler, Sunny Murray, Milford Graves, Sonny Simmons, Ronnie Boykins, and Frank Wright. Several of these artists were then quickly sought out and recorded by the Impulse and Columbia labels. ESP had signed no term agreements with its artists, anticipating that this might happen, and that they would then enjoy promotional support from these large companies.”