Art Of The Gifted


There’s lots of records by crazy people out there, but albums made by real mental patients are considerably fewer. Here’s one, recorded in 1985 by clients at various mental health facilities in Colorado. The project was the brainchild of Dr Alan Melinger, and upon scrutiny it appears to be a partial vanity trip for the good doctor himself, seeing how he inserted a few numbers of his own creation into the mix. These lean towards an unexceptional 80s Springsteen/Bon Jovi muscle rock sound, and include the 45 pick “Live For A Friend”, composed and sung by the bearded Dr Melinger. However, about half the album consists of creative outpourings from patients, and some of these are rather remarkable. “Secret Of The Night” is dark singer/songwriter with an instant appeal, while “We Too Care” is a spoken word female lament over moody keyboard backdrops, reminding us that people with mental problems also care about things such as Christmas. Then there is the “State Hospital Tune” by one Jean M, and here we enter some truly strange domains. In a somewhat toneless voice, Miss M delivers a rhymed poem which mentions a lot of her psychiatrists by name, and not all that respectfully either, followed by strange narrative jumps and 30 seconds of French chanson singing. As often within the field, it’s hard to tell where irony ends and true pathology begins.

Before this therapy project had been completed the 38-year old Dr Melinger died of a heart attack. Out of respect for his efforts, the album was pressed up and released privately in 1988. Oddly, the cover opens at the top rather than on the right. Googling on the album and a few names involved produced nothing, and it seems this is a previously unknown item. Here you can find some snips from the LP.

Update: as evident from the comments below, Alan Melinger was a former member of Texan 60s garage legends the Iguanas (“I can only give you everything”; “Black Suit”), after which he joined Endle St Cloud, who released a circa 1970 album on International Artists (of 13th Floor Elevators fame). In a 1984 garage fanzine interview he testified on being strongly influenced by the Elevators during his Iguanas tenure. He had also been the owner of a 6-foot Iguana which named the band. At one concert he held the iguana by its tail and swung it over his head, but it slipped out of his grip and flew out into the audience. The “Art Of The Gifted” back cover obituary contains no such information. R.I.P Dr Alan “Al” Melinger & thanks again to the eagle-eyed Hawthorne Wingo for making the connection.

88 Comments

  • the first tune here is really great. any chance of getting a full digital copy?

  • Patrick……looks like you have found one of the missing links of Texas Garage Music,,,,Melinger was in the Iguanas and Endle St. Cloud!!

    IGUANAS
    This single was produced by Gordon Bynum, who was also responsible for The Thirteenth Floor Elevators’ debut on Contact. The result is awesome. The Elevators influence is everywhere and turns this version into a masterpiece. The electric jug sounds works really well for the song, it just makes you wonder what could have happened if Roky & Co. had tried to record it themselves. In fact The Iguanas toured with Roky Erickson in 1968 as The Thirteenth Floor Elevators! The Iguanas’ Al Melinger later played in Endle St. Cloud who recorded 2 singles and an album on International Artists. To set the record straight for once and for all, Iggy Pop was NOT a member of these Iguanas. The Iguanas credit the song to (T. Scott/V. Morrison), probably in an attempt to cash in on the runaway success of ‘Gloria’ by The Shadows Of Knight. This is a classic by all means that had hit written all over it! Released March 1966.

  • This seemed too good to be true, but more googling on his name produced strong indications of it being the same guy… alumni of a Baytown high school ’66, born 1948, deceased 1987, which would match the age and timeframe given on the “Art Of The Gifted” back cover exactly.

    My earlier googling all included “Dr” or “Colorado” combinations, and generated nothing… seems he left Texas for a Rocky Mountain High (or Low) at some point.

    Outstanding input from the “sleuth in Texas”, as the Major crowned HW long ago.

  • Alan Melinger is interviewed in Greg Prevost’s old fanzine Outasite #2, I just fished out the interview… the Elevators were a big influence, and Melinger was the owner of a 6-foot Iguana which named the band… this seems to connect to Cold Sun somehow… during one concert back then, he held the iguana by its tail and swung it over his head, but it slipped out of his grip and flew into the audience… I wonder if he told his mental patients stories like this?

    // Patrick

    PS this made my day, maybe even my week. Thanks Rich.

  • “As with any good nut” is perhaps a little insensitive.

  • Perhaps. It does reflect a positive outlook, no? But I altered it. The name was already anonymized.

  • the woman in the second clip sounds a LOT like Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon.

  • Does anyone know where to acquire this record?

  • Alan Melinger did not kill himself. He died of a heart attack. ‘Art of the Gifted’ was a chance for him to combine his compassion for his patients with his past musical experience. The record was already produced when he passed away quite suddenly. The song “Live for a Friend” was played at his memorial service, creating an especially poignant moment for the numerous people in attendance, several of whom also appeared on the recording.
    Although he passed away the day before his 39th birthday, Alan Melinger had a full life and lived it on his own terms. He believed in a lot of people who had stopped believing in themselves. Although you may not be crazy about ‘Art of the Gifted’, bear in mind that it was not made for you.

  • Thanks for the info, mm. The review has been updated.

  • this is very very interesting that all this should come together here.
    its beautiful mate.
    we now know more than we did

  • Ihad no idea anyone outside Denver even knew this album existed. It just so happens that we are going to release this on cd very soon. Alan and I, along with about 25 other people worked on this project back in the 80’s and had a wonderful time. It was incredibly difficult to finish this after his death. Lots of people “made me do it!”. Since then we released another album(cd) called “Starfish on Broadway” and are starting on our 4th project. The community involvement and support is developing a life of its own and is reinforcing why we did this to begin with. Stay tuned folks and feel free to contact me.
    DB,(and yes, another PhD)

  • Anyone still interested in “Art of the Gifted”? Delighted to come across this website. I co-produced it with Alan Melinger. In process of doing our 4th project. See my comment dated 4/15/09. Dave Babak

  • Dave, good to hear from you. I wrote the original review of the LP (above) after finding a copy on eBay. It really is a unique experience, and some of the music on it is truly arresting. Finding out about Alan Melinger’s rock’n’roll past made it even more intriguing.

    The copy I have is the only one I’ve seen so far.

    Best regards,
    // Patrick

  • Man, it would be seriously cool if you posted full clips for this. It’s obviously rare as hens teeth and out of print so I doubt anyone will get too upset if it was posted in it’s entirety for free so that this doesn’t descend into obscurity. I have been making flacs of many of my old records like this and just uploading them online to preserve them digitally forever. Anyway, I know some people have a problem with doing this (but it isn’t like I can just go buy this…I would if I could even find it, even at a high price) but it would be nice to have.

  • Hi patrick and jlc
    Sorry I haven’t responded sooner but we appreciate your interest in the Art of the Gifted. If you are interested in a copy of the cd we would be happy to make that available to you by snail mail or possibly mp3. We are currently half way through a new cd that continues the spirit and message of these projects. It is developing a life of its own and has become much larger than any one individual. Please contact us.

  • Hi again. Just to clarify, the CD’s are copies from the original vinyl. There were no CD’s printed from the first release. However, if you are interested,I have a few of the original lps still in the original shrink wrap, complete with “circles and arrows” and a glossy picture of Alan Melinger on the back.
    Dave Babak

  • wow…

    i had just found out about this site and i stumbled upon this post. i was really intrigued by the idea of mental patients making spoken word and the bits were even more interesting.

    then i read on to discovered a tiny but unique piece of history being gathered here.. the man who kept the story “alive” (dave babak) really did die (http://www.denverpost.com/obituaries/ci_14219009)on the 8th of december, not too long after he posted his last reply here..

    really amazing and truly random collection of musical information on this tiny page on the web..

  • Hello all I am Dave Babak’s wife. He did pass in December. We all miss him terribly. The week before he passed we finished recording for our new CD. There are some truly talented folks with mental illness out there. This new CD is absolutely amazing. Due to the emotional toll on us, we are just now getting production started. If anyone is interested in this new CD let me know and I will make it available. Thanks.
    Terri Babak

  • Terri – sorry for your loss. Are there Art of the Gifted Cds available? Contact me at medialit1@hotmail.com. Thanks and, again, my sympathies.

  • Dear Mrs Terri Babak, hi.
    I am very sorry for your loss.
    You made a stunning job there…
    As a record company owner, I am interesting in releasing such projects as CD or Lp, internationally. Please, be in contact with me.
    Regards
    Christos Tsanakas
    Author/Journalist
    ACROASIS RECORDS

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  • Mrs Babak, I hope that you still check this I would be very interested in getting a copy of the CD. Please contact me at Isis18942@yahoo.com

  • Hello Mrs. Babak, I too would love to get a copy of , “The Art Of The Gifted” C.D. Please feel free to contact me via brucerhodes@ntlworld.com

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