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Component is a area of  Aux.Out. for one-off pieces, appropriate editorials, and absent orphans of the music discussion. Today, Ryan Bort revisits Red Hook’s Norton Records, the iconic characterization absent to the abomination of Hurricane Sandy, and how it may accept accession life. 

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Miriam Linna and Billy Miller admired Red Hook. Afterwards accepting priced out of their barn amplitude on N. 6th St. in Williamsburg in 2006, they relocated beyond Brooklyn to the mostly automated adjacency that bows out into the Hudson River, abroad from acceptable alms stops and the blow of the rapidly gentrifying mainland borough. To abode the banal of Norton Records, the characterization they founded calm over 25 years ago, the husband-and-wife duo active a 2,200 aboveboard bottom amplitude at the end of Van Brunt street, a affable stone’s bandy from the water. They could drive a barter appropriate off the artery into their new barn to unload merch afterwards backward night shows. Noise or odd hours were not an issue, a huge advantage for a business on a bedrock and cycle schedule.

Miller affectionately remembers hot summer nights aback he’d aces up some craven from the Fairway bazaar beyond the street, about-face up some old doo-wop almanac as loud as he could, and leave the warehouse’s large, cast-iron aperture open. He’d sit on the street, content, the music abrasion the calmness of the old, blue-collar New York that persists in Red Hook. There were no accompany about to abstract him like there were on N. 6th in Williamsburg, which he says went from “being a apparition boondocks to actuality the basic annoyance in Las Vegas.” It was aloof him and the music and the city.

“[Red Hook] was idyllic,” Linna says now, sitting in the couple’s Anticipation Heights home and appointment a year afterwards accepting larboard the adjacency behind. “We absence it, but there’s no way we could go aback there. Aftermost time we went in that architecture there was annihilation but bad vibes. It was about like it was a animal attractive at you, adage get out.”

There’s no aggregate of words, no admeasurement of ability that could do amends to what Hurricane Sandy did to Norton’s Red Hook barn on the night of Oct. 29, 2012. I could acquaint you that the billow took out the facility’s 150-year-old cast-iron aperture like it was a allotment of bargain aluminum; I could reel off statistics—the 13 1/2 accoutrements of bits alien out afterwards Norton spent a ages removing their damaged stock, the accoutrements aloft thousand of almanac sleeves, anthology covers, and CDs destroyed, the boxes of priceless claimed accord ruined, including ancestors photos Linna’s mother had saved; I could appearance you pictures, or the heart-wrenching video taken of a addled Linna as she traipsed through the accident anon afterwards the catastrophe. The consequence of the concrete accident was article few accept anytime accomplished or alike anticipation possible.

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“You aloof can’t alike imagine,” says Bloodshot Bill, one of Norton’s best accepted artists who came bottomward to New York to advance in the accretion effort. “All the pictures you see, it couldn’t alike adapt you for what it was like live. It was the best cutting affair to alike anticipate about charwoman up.”

The cerebral and bread-and-er assessment it took on Linna and Miller was aloof as great. Norton had afresh acclaimed their 25th anniversary, and spent six months arch up to the storm commutual their aboriginal absolute inventory. The barn absolute about 250,000 records. They were gearing up for their active division in the fall, they were about to barrage a new website, new releases were on the way, and the WFMU almanac fair would booty abode in a few weeks. But then, in a night, the a concrete absoluteness of Norton Records, into which they had caked their hearts and souls for best of their lives, was atrociously caked into a pulpy, sewage-ridden accumulation by armament Linna describes on assorted occasions as “satanic.” Sometimes an act of nature’s alienation can booty abode on such a abstruse calibration that it becomes evil.

Linna and Miller formed Norton Annal in 1986 over a aggregate adulation of old academy bedrock and roll, R&B, barn punk, doo-wop, and rockabilly…really annihilation that involves greased-back hair, formed up shirt sleeves, and soul. They had been publishing a annual alleged Kicks aback 1978 that covered the aforementioned types of under-appreciated music, and afterwards active a allotment on Hasil Adkins they absitively it’d be a acceptable abstraction to re-issue a accumulating of singles he recorded in the ‘50s that had never been appropriately compiled. Aback then, Norton has appear endless re-issues of titles from artists that contrarily would accept continued been forgotten, as able-bodied as new actual by artists whose music avalanche about forth the aforementioned spectrum of pure, complete bedrock and roll. Anybody from The Sonics, Link Wray, and The Iguanas to King Khan, Black Lips, and Reigning Complete (who active to Merge backward aftermost year) accept been affiliated with the label. Norton additionally releases music by The A-Bones, Linna and Miller’s own bandage for which they comedy drums and sing advance vocals, respectively. (When they aboriginal met in 1976, Linna was boot for The Cramps.) Afresh there’s Esquerita, the tall-haired bedrock avant-garde and Little Richard-influencer whose blithe visage Norton copped for the label’s logo.

Linna and Miller appear to every aspect of Norton’s releases—the sleeves, the packaging, the artwork, aggregate that contributes to the artful adorableness of a vinyl record—with conscientious detail. They admit that there is article angelic in the acquaintance of acrimonious out a record, administration it, removing it from its jacket, bottomward the needle, and that the capacity of this attitude are aloof as important to bottle as the music itself. Their akin of charge is not absent on their fans. For many, Norton is the alone affair befitting the music they adulation alive, and because they do so with such care, craftsmanship, and reverence, abounding who adulation the characterization about accede themselves subscribers to a affectionate of religion, or at atomic a way of life. Bigger labels, alike bigger absolute labels, ability accept far beyond fan bases, but they absolutely don’t accept admirers that adulation them as acutely as Norton’s admirers adulation Norton. “It’s added than aloof a almanac label,” says Bloodshot Bill. “I’ll allege for myself. Those records, aggregate they put out…I don’t apperceive if affairs is the appropriate word, but it absolutely affectionate of shapes our world, you know? It’s added than aloof a brace of records.”

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After they put out the alarm for help, Miller says they anticipation “five or six people” ability appearance up. It was a atrocious plea, and because abundant of New York was afterwards power, transportation, or alive buzz service, there was no way to apperceive how abounding bodies would be able to volunteer.

But bodies came out. Norton admirers showed up from beyond New York, off assignment because of the storm and attractive to help. Norton artists came, advisers of added labels came, alike a accumulation of schoolchildren came. “It was bodies like you wouldn’t believe,” remembers Linna, and admitting she and Miller were bent to get Norton aback on its feet, it was the absurd access of abutment that fabricated them apprehend not alone that it aloof ability be possible, but that they had no added best but to accomplish it work. There was too abundant love.

“With all the bodies casting in, I anticipate it absolutely aloft their alcohol and fabricated them see that they would get through it at that point,” says Bloodshot Bill, who was additionally volunteering. Miller afterwards activity as he remembers a specific instance aback he saw the Montreal guitarist appear accustomed two accoutrements of garbage, the awning of one of his albums arresting in one, the awning or accession arresting in the other.

They started by alteration all that was accidentally salvageable, primarily vinyl records, from the barn to Norton’s appointment in Anticipation Heights. All of the sleeves and anthology jackets were destroyed, as were best of Linna and Miller’s accord and business papers. They didn’t apperceive area annihilation was, as the billow had berserk tossed and angry the warehouse’s capacity central and out. Baptize was still everywhere. In what angry out to be one of abounding miracles of acceptable fortune, Norton aggregate their amplitude on Van Brunt with a affective and accumulator aggregation that was able to accommodate them artificial tubs to carriage vinyl. “They had two sizes,” says Linna. “One was absolute for albums, one was absolute for seven inchers.” Afterwards them there would accept been no way to carriage the albums, as application agenda boxes was out of the question. Over the advance of the aing ages they confused added than 700 crates of vinyl beyond Brooklyn into their appointment and their acute plant, Brooklyn Phono, which had offered up accumulator space—another extenuative grace.

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Throughout it all volunteers were affable aliment for anybody on a circadian basis, volunteers were bringing bottomward gasoline from upstate, volunteers were carriage in admirers to dry off vinyl and basic accord they had to attack to save. (They initially approved to dry abstracts on clotheslines, but this activity was bound alone aback aggregate froze on the line.) Afterwards affluence of balloon and error, Linna and Miller eventually able a factory-like system, one of them stationed at the Red Hook warehouse, the added at the Anticipation Heights appointment administering traffic. They formed 12-hour days. “It was adamantine to acquaint aback one day started and the aing concluded because it aloof kept activity and going,” says Miller.

They additionally got advice from Sony Records—the arctic adverse of the adamantly absolute and ideal-driven Norton—who had bodies appear bottomward and “roll up their sleeves and put on gloves.” They basic to be reminded what actuality a almanac characterization is all about, and in accession to the concrete activity they promised to accord all the white close sleeves Norton needed. They additionally alien Linna and Miller to a aggregation that fabricated spinning machines that bound done bedraggled vinyl, who afresh donated some to the cause. A “Wash-A-Thon” was organized, in which volunteers congregated at Brooklyn Bowl to ablution and dry annal as an all-star casting of DJs spun Norton-approved tunes. They done 10,000 LPs in eight hours and organized accession one the aing week. Like the first, it was billed as B.Y.O.R.G: Accompany Your Own Rubber Gloves.

They say call is the mother of invention, and the actuality that Norton was broke—their allowance didn’t awning the accident from Sandy; it was an “act of God”—forced Linna and Miller to appear up with artistic means to acquire some added banknote and get bodies aflame to advice apple-pie up. The vinyl abrasion parties at Brooklyn Bowl were one example. They additionally took Miller’s accumulating of best music t-shirts that was blood-soaked in flood water, done them all, broiled them all, and awash them individually. They started affairs “Sandy 45s” for $2 a allotment (or in “grab bags” of 10 for $20) that didn’t accept sleeves and were beat from the flood, but that they formed with a custom “Sandy” stamp. “We had a choice,” says Linna. “We could bits aggregate or try to deliver them in some way.”

At the end of February, Linna and Miller were able to get their website aback up, booty account of what they had left, and activate to anticipate about affairs annal again. The alone botheration was that they didn’t accept abundant commodity larboard to wholesale, and because the flood wiped out their busiest division of the year, they didn’t accept abundant basic to aloof album everything. All in all, Norton absent about 300 45 and 250 LP titles entirely, not to acknowledgment the CDs. They were thankfully offered discounts from the manufacturers on press and acute jobs for the jackets and vinyl, but their account was so far abaft that they could alone allow abate pressings at first. But aloof as with the insurmountable sea of bits they had to accouterment afterwards Sandy hit, they had to alpha somewhere.

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What buoyed Norton throughout this afterwards date of recovery, aback the charge for banking abutment outweighed the charge for concrete labor, ability accept been the best adorning allotment of the absolute accretion effort. Unprompted, apart of Linna and Miller, bodies starting putting on account shows…lots them. They took abode in Texas, they took abode in California, they took abode in Australia, they took abode in Japan. All about the world, one afterwards another, almanac labels, venues, artists, and anyone abroad who cared organized concerts to account Norton’s abatement efforts. Yo La Tengo, adept accompany of Linna and Miller, alike awash Hanukkah appearance mixes in December. “I don’t apperceive if a lot of those bodies had anytime done annihilation like that,” says Linna. “But they did all of the leg work, putting the bands calm and everything. It absolutely helped. It absolutely helped, because we were absolutely out of business.”

The better account of all, though, was befuddled by Norton themselves this November. Over two nights at Brooklyn Bowl, they hosted the “Hurricane Sandy Aboriginal Ceremony Weekend Blast.” A year afterwards the storm, the characterization still has a continued way to go, but they’re in business. They’re press records, they’re affairs records, they’re already afresh accomplishment the allowances of the active season. They accept a new barn they’re using, a algid accumulator amplitude added inland. To celebrate, they brought out The Sonics, they brought out The Flamin Grooves, they brought out Daddy Continued Legs. On Saturday night, Bloodshot Bill led things off with a antic set of old school, greased-back bedrock and roll. La La Brooks and Reigning Complete would comedy later, and afterwards midnight Jonathan Toubin would DJ a Pulp Fiction-style ball challenge until four in the morning. But aboriginal Linna and Miller’s band, The A-Bones would play. They couldn’t accept been happier, Miller manning the mic, abnormally adroit as he lumbered around, introducing his players and the songs they were about to barrage into. Linna counted them bottomward abaft her boom kit, singing advancement vocals and ripping away. Afore and afterwards they played they could be begin about the merch table, in their element, activity through and acclimation records, authoritative abiding aggregate was aloof so. While in bandage I asked a accidental man continuing aing to me how continued he’d been a fan of Norton Records. “16 years,” he said, afore cogent me how he fabricated abiding that his accompany and ancestors fabricated donations to Norton in lieu of giving him presents on his aftermost birthday.

Linna and Miller’s Anticipation Heights home and appointment is added of a bedrock and cycle building than a abode of business. It’s a huge space, with aerial beam and a authentic library of vinyl, with rows to airing bottomward and everything. Records, memorabilia, posters, books and sleeves are everywhere. Aback I met them there on a weekday night they were adamantine at work. Linna batten freely, quickly, and at breadth about all aspects of their acquaintance with Sandy and the area of affections they ran through over the advance of the accomplished year. Miller alone by and sat in actuality and there, understandably busy. Seeing how abundant they assignment can accomplish one apprehend what absolute affection and adherence are. Linna and Miller’s lives are Norton; their lives are the music they affliction about. There is no mistaking this fact. It shows in aggregate they do and this is why they are so beloved. Bloodshot Bill summed it up Norton’s fan base’s animosity rather succinctly: “I anticipate we all aloof appetite Norton Annal to animate forever.”

There were affluence of others who weren’t so advantageous in the accretion from Sandy. Affluence of homes and livelihoods were absent and never begin again, and it wasn’t because of abridgement of effort. It’s adamantine to acquaint it whether it was the adroitness of God or the absolute acknowledgment to the activity of Linna and Miller’s affection and arduous will that accustomed them to accompany Norton aback from its darkest hour. Added acceptable is those two account are one in the same.

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However you appetite to anatomize the recovery, whatever catholic force or inextinguishable blaze that exists central Linna and Miller led them from a accumulation of briny, duplicate bits to an all-night anniversary with all of their accompany a year later, it ability be easiest and added authentic to call it simply, the aforementioned way Linna and Miller accept been anecdotic it aback they put a rain hat on top of Esquerita’s still celebrating face to arresting that Norton would not be activity away: “You can’t asphyxiate the sound.”


Ryan Bort is a  freelance biographer who has contributed ahead to Aux.Out. and additionally writes for Paste, Grantland, The Classical, and abounding others. Follow him on Twitter.

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