Thursday, 12 March 2020 12:48

Neighbors: Chuck Vosganian AKA Rochmon

On the third Tuesday of each month, Chuck Vosganian AKA Rochmon, leads a live multi-media presentation about a classic album from rock ‘n’ roll’s heyday. There are stories. There are songs. There are trivia contests, the exploration of lyrics, and a timeline of culture in an iconic time. After relocating the monthly sessions to Caffe Lena nearly three years ago, Rochman is slated to return to the place of his origins at the newly reopened and remodeled Universal Preservation Hall.

Where did you grow up and how did you get to Saratoga?

I grew up in East Moriches, Long Island, in the middle of nowhere. Potato-and-duck country. Later, I lived in Chicago for 15 years then in Queensbury for 27 years before moving to Saratoga. Being in Saratoga, I wanted to live in a community where I could go out my door and walk around downtown.    

When was the first Rochmon show?

September 2016. The first album was actually a movie: I played the Joe Cocker “Mad Dogs and Englishmen.” We had like nine people come. It was so much fun. So, I asked Teddy (Foster, of UPH) if I could do it again. I returned the next month with David Bowie’s “Young Americans.”

What other artists’ albums had you done at UPH?

We did Queen and Led Zeppelin, we did Deep Purple; the music was a little bit of harder rock over at UPH. We got folk-i-fied when we went to Caffe Lena, haha. But Lena’s did such a great job building an audience for me. I was there since April 2017 - and our audience - we had lines around the corner. Sarah Craig at Caffe Lena was great.

I have always been surrounded by smart women. Between Teddy Foster and Mary Beth McGarrahan at UPH,  Sarah at Caffe Lena, my wife Karen, and my daughter Alyssa, they’ve really helped bring the show forward. I couldn’t have done it without any of them.  

You’re assisted during the shows by your daughter?

My daughter Alyssa, who’s 28. She’s my youngest and grew up listening to this stuff. Now, doing this with my daughter is also a reach-back to my mom, who taught me how to deeply listen to music; to see the picture that the music was trying to paint. My parents were classically trained opera singers and performers. So when we listen to an album and I do the deep dig-in, it is part of that connection.

How many Rochmon Record Club presentations have you done to date?

Forty-seven. Forty-seven different albums. And every show evolves in an unexpected direction. Like Paul Simon’s “Graceland,” which we’re doing next week. (Ed. note: this presentation, along with all other shows at UPH have been postponed until April 12).  Sound and pictures of Paul Simon - throughout his career, and people who played on the album, interesting instruments, the lyrics. We’ll talk about each song individually, the album cover, sales, and I also play some deeper audio drops; for instance, there will be a demo version of “Homeless,” and it’s nothing like the (recorded) song goes.  

The entire album is played?

I ask people: When was the last time you listened to an entire album? Ten years ago? Fifteen years ago? Today, the way we consume music is different, so you might listen to a couple of songs, but not the whole record. And the whole record is the complete work of art. It’s the Mona Lisa.  And that’s how we connect around the album. We’re listening to the whole thing. I like to say we’re listening to the album again for the first time. And it gives us an opportunity to go back.   

Now that you’re coming back to UPH, what are some future listening parties you are planning?

Later this year we’ll have “Led Zeppelin IV,” Springsteen’s “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” “Chicago II,” Elvis Costello’s “My Aim Is True.” 

How do the stories work?

A lot of it is just relating the story of the band and talking about what I loved about the music. I explain what I hear and discuss the connections. What’s really interesting is how the listening has evolved. In the beginning it was what the album meant to me, but years later, the way you hear it today changes from how you heard it as a kid. And that’s an amazing journey.

- Interview by Thomas Dimopoulos

The Rochmon Record Club presentation of Paul Simon’s “Graceland,” at UPH, on Washington Street was slated to take place March 17. All shows at the venue have been postponed, through April 12. 

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