TVD Radar: Hunter S. Thompson, The Kentucky Derby is Decadent & Depraved first vinyl release in stores 7/15

VIA PRESS RELEASE | “Produced by Hal Wilner, the Robert Altman of all-star concept LPs, this dramatized reading of Hunter S. Thompson’s 1970 essay casts Tim Robbins in the lead, with cameos by Dr. John and Ralph Steadman, Thompson’s sidekick and frames illustrator. Basically Fear and Loathing at the Track, this album is a rifle-scope piss-take with a heart of darkness and a soundtrack composed by jazz guitarist Bill Frisell, who colors the tale with skewed Dixieland brass, shivering strings and groaning woodwinds. The joke, per usual, is that monsters are everywhere. “Shit,” Thompson writes after examining Steadman’s horrifying crowd portraits. “We both look worse than anything you’ve drawn here.”
Will Hermes, Rolling Stone

Today, Shimmy-Disc (through exclusive license with Paris Records) announces an exclusive first-time vinyl release of iconic Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson’s The Kentucky Derby is Decadent & Depraved (originally published in 1970 via Scanlon’s Monthly and released as a CD performance via Paris Records in 2012), featuring an all-star cast of musicians and actors including Tim Robbins (as Thompson), Dr. John, Bill Frisell, Ralph Steadman, Annie Ross, John Joyce III, and Will Forte. The release translates the classic piece of reporting through spoken word and music, introduced now with the first segment, “On Our Way Back To The Motel.”

Hunter S. Thompson’s inimitable non-fiction hysterics are perfectly portrayed here by none other than Tim Robbins, with music composed by Bill Frisell, illustrating the full-on decadence of The Kentucky Derby, as Thompson himself saw it, and felt it… “Neither of us had brought any strange or illegal drugs, so we’d have to get by on booze.” The LP, re-mastered by Kramer in 2021, is due July 15 via Shimmy-Disc.

“I remember the day I met Hal Willner in 1979. It was love at first sight. We remained friends, like brothers, til the day he died, when a big part of me died with him. I wasn’t far away when he was making this amazing project come to life in 2011. He played the final mixes for me in his little listening room in NYC, surrounded by his puppets, his records (well, some of them, anyway), and the swirling surgical wit and spirit of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson.

“So whaddaya think?,” Hal asked. ‘Is HST spinning in his grave right now? Did I do something good here, or is he gonna go gonzo on me in my dreams, forever?’ You done good, Hal. You done real good. Rest in Peace.” —Kramer, June 2022

Shimmy-Disc (through an exclusive license with Paris Records), is set to release for the first time on vinyl The Kentucky Derby is Decadent & Depraved—by the father of Gonzo Journalism, Hunter S. Thompson—an all-star cast of musicians and actors lead by Tim Robbins, Dr. John, Bill Frisell, Ralph Steadman, Annie Ross, John Joyce III, and Will Forte, who bring Thompson’s classic Gonzo reportage on the 1970 Kentucky Derby to life through spoken word and musical composition.

Conceived by executive producer Michael Minzer, the project was produced by Hal Willner who invited Bill Frisell to compose the music. Bill enlisted the help of an ensemble including Curtis Fowlkes (trombone), Ron Miles (trumpet), Eyvind Kang (viola), Doug Weiselman (woodwinds), Jenny Scheinman (violin), Hank Roberts (cello) and Kenny Wolleson (drums, percussion). Ralph Steadman does double duty portraying himself in the narration and contributing original artwork for the project.

In 2005, Paris Records founder Michael Minzer called up his friend Hal Willner with the idea of recording a definitive performance of an all time classic piece of journalism, The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved. Originally published in Scanlon’s Monthly in June of 1970, it’s the quintessential example of Hunter S. Thompson’s uniquely humorous and piercing insight—the article that inspired the term Gonzo Journalism (coined by the late Bill Cardoso).

Minzer and Willner had collaborated before on several “wide open” tributes to such literary luminaries as Allen Ginsberg’s “The Lion For Real,” William S. Burrough’s “Dead City Radio,” and Terry Southern’s “Give Me your Hump!.” Hal was friends with Ralph Steadman who’s involvement was a major boost in getting the project off the ground. Hal also was able to enlist Tim Robbins as lead narrator and Bill Frisell to oversee the music and the project was off to the races so to speak.

Says Michael Minzer: “The big challenge was to match Bill’s sharply drawn moody vignettes with the perfect segments of a very long reading. When we realized that it all worked out beautifully, Hal just said ‘I told you I had worked on this!’’ Says Tim Robbins: “I couldn’t be more thrilled to be a part of this project—who could say no to such an opportunity to toast the king of Gonzo journalism? It’s been a great pleasure diving into the chaotic, genius prose of Hunter and I feel flattered to be working with such a stellar group of creative folks like Hal Willner, Ralph Steadman, Bill Frisell and Michael Minzer who made it come alive so brilliantly.”

Re-Mastered by Kramer in 2021, this limited-edition LP (on ‘Horse-Shit Brown’ vinyl) is destined to become the indispensable classic it always deserved to be.

Dedicated to Hal Willner, producer extraordinaire, in Loving Memory.

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