Hi, it's your fave rabid chihuahua again settlin' back to write about a whole lotta recorded gems I've come across since BLACK TO COMM #25 closed up shop late last year. And besides that, I'm even gonna act high falutin' and all by throwing a book review into this mess lest you forget that I'm a bonafide innerlectual, and all it's gonna cost you is the power to turn your computer on (plus the monthly AOL fees and local connection and...).
GREEN TAMBOURINE: THE BEST OF THE LEMON PIPERS CD (Buddah)-Long ago, I purchased a typically beat up used copy of the Pipers' JELLY JUNGLE album at a flea market thinking it was going to be some crazy and fine slab of NUGGETS garage rock that was probably going to sound like the Stooges before-the-fact, so you could imagine just how I felt when I got home, anxiously slapped the thing onto the turntable and heard a lotta what I thought was flaky pop that certainly didn't help satiate my garage cravings any! But then again, I still remember how I used to be disappointed upon hearing those then-recent garage band LP reissues that were being made available at exorbitant import prices thinking that every track on the thing was gonna sound like "You're Gonna Miss Me" or "Don't Look Back"!!!! (The exceptions to the "rule" were the Sonics discs, which I loved to listen to over and over thinking they were every bit as maddening as the Flesheaters, and when I heard Chris D and company's cover of "Cinderella" I knew I was right!) At that time, the last thing I wanted to hear was gooey sixties pop, and frankly the strings, harp and harmony vocals exiled JELLY JUNGLE to a worse than death fate wallowing in the fifty-cent bin at Record Revolution in Cleveland Heights where it must have remained for ages!
If I had only held out a year I would have been able to appreciate the album, but hey, you aren't the same person you were at 21 that you are at 22, so mistakes can be made. As for the present tense, I find the Lemon Pipers an excellent pop group that certainly expanded on their sound well beyond the oft-condemned "bubblegum" tag. (And no, I haven't read that Feral House bubblegum book yet probably because I don't exactly cozy up to osmosing the musings of bad rock writers, even if they're mixed in with good ones and I have to pay for the entire mess!)
The only truly "punk" track here is the hit, which does retain a garage sense of mid-American suburban PRIDE alongsides GILLIGAN'S ISLAND reruns and Shake-a-Puddin', but the rest ain't no slouch to coin a phrase. Most of the Lemon Pipers' heavily orchestrated tracks (including harp, an instrument that always reminded me of
LAWRENCE WELK schmooze as a kid!) actually have a smart-pop sense to them, like the better numbers on the second Left Banke album but maybe not Montage, and even when they hop on the trendy bandwagon like they do on "Love Beads and Meditation" (it's about what you know it's about!) they still sound better than the more intellectual bands on the scene singing about the same subject matter in a way garbled style. And dig that crazed instrumental passage at the end of "Catch Me Falling" which reminds me of Little Phil and the Nightshadows at their lysergic best!
Even when the Lemon Pipers do the "hard and heavy" '69 attack like on "Dead End Street/Half Light" they still retain a smooth pop sense that could have even made it to one of those mid-eighties garage band comps, at least by the time the upper-echelon stuff was used up. If you thought the Lemon Pipers were nth-stringers or still retain your prejudices of old (y'know, "that's stuff my teenybopper sister listened to!!!!"), this CD may change at least a few perspectives. Maybe not, but I find this sort of late-sixties pre-teen fun just as satisfying as the Detroit bands or Velvets, and way better'n much of the "intellectual" prattle that enveloped a good portion of the rock world at the time.
In closing, I gotta say that I find it kinda high-larious that Pipers guitarist Bill Bartlett later ended up in Ramjam, whose '77 hit "Black Betty" (yes, the Leadbelly song!) not only was one of the hokier FM hits to come out of the late-seventies bad metal scene but was a number that got my aunt all discombobulated because she thought the lyrics were no-bout-a-doubt-it OBSCENE! (Of course it didn't help having me supply her with all the words she thought she was hearing, and I was only doing PG-ish stuff just to rib her!)
Le Stelle Di Mario Schifano-DEDICADO A... CD (Akarma, Italy)-Given all of the avant garde publicity that the Velvet Underground and Nico got back in '66 you'd think there would have been more groups instantly absorbing their style and looks just like they did the Byrds, Love and the San Francisco Sound. Unfortunately only a scant few did (the majority of first-generation "Velvets-inspired groups" having formed or recorded just after John Cale's departure), and one of those scat few were Le Stelle Di Mario Schifano, a bunch that, like Cooger and Dark's Pandemonium Shadow Show in Cincinnati, not only aped the early-Velvets sound in their own wopadago image but, like the Deviants, wrapped it in a fine pop-art package that adds plenty to the entire, er, drive of it all.
Believing the hype that it was in fact Andy Warhol who assembled his own group (the Velvet Underground) for his own nightclub (again, the Velvet Underground as we were led to believe by that British 2-LP collection from the seventies!), Italian pop artist Schifano did just that with this aggregate who performed in the clubs of Rome with a very EPI-esque light show naturally featuring Schifano's own artwork. In fact, if you take a gander into the massive booklet that comes with this disque (obtain the vinyl version for a bigger pop art thrill!) you'll see a great live snap that could easily be mistaken for one of the Velvets that ended up in such publications as EVERGREEN at the time...right down to the striped shirted Sterling Morrison lookalike! But besides the beaut of a pop art album cover there's the music, which also shows us just how much the Velvet Underground were doing for the benefit of rock sensibilities at the time...the side-long "Le Ultime Parole Di Brandimante, Dall'orlando Furioso, Ospite Peter Hartman e Fine (Da Ascoltarsi Con TV Accesa, Senza Volume)" (whew!) reminds me of what Amon Duul II's "Phallus Dei" would have sounded like two years earlier on the progressive rock timescope, while the flip's selection of avant-rock ranges from Rolling Stones thud (and Rolling Stones mush, as on the "As Tears Go By"-ish "Susan Song") to garage band clatter and three-ring psychosis that only the Velvets, Pink Floyd, the Deviants and a few others I hope to hear soon could mix and match with such utter abandon. It's really fresh hearing the Velvets interpreted like this way back in '67, fifteen years before all of these alternative necrophiles chomped down on the flesh but neglected the bone. When you're finished with this one you might want to check other early Velvet Underground studies ranging from Sweden's brilliant Parson Sound and their various offshoots, not to mention Japan's incredibly wonderful Les Rallizes Denudes, more or whom will be written about on the printed page.
HAPSASH AND THE COLOURED COAT FEATURING THE HUMAN HOST AND THE HEAVY METAL KIDS CD (Akarma Italy)-What I said about the above can also be said about this notorious disc. When I first heard it I wans't impressed, but nowadays Hapsash etc. remind me of the Velvet Underground and Nico transforming into Amon Duul I. Fits in well with the 1967 English psychedelic party you'll be wanting to throw for John Peel any day now!
England's Glory-LEGENDARY LOST ALBUM CD (Anagram England)-It's been out for ten years already but since I'm having trouble finding both of my vinyl copies in my behemoth collection I decided to get hold of this CD with the extra tracks they use to rope people who already have this stuff on plastic into buying it again! Peter Perrett remarked during his Only One days that England's Glory had more to do with the music happening in '77 than did his then-current band, though I can't quite follow that...England's Glory are firmly planted in the early-seventies British proto-punk era, back when very few English bands (on the national as well as local/bedroom level) seemed to draw not only from the standard US garage and mid-sixties beat influences but heavily on Syd Barrett and 1967 accomplishment, not to mention a bit of the best the West Coast was offering before that scene tumbled into the ocean. As good as solo Syd, better than Nick Drake, and if you could say there was anything American about this sound then maybe it would be in its similarities to the first Tom Verlaine album, and that was seven years later! One thing I dunno was ever brought up before, but I'll toss it out to you...was the song title "Peter and the Pets" a spoof on Elton John's "Benny and the Jets"?
THE SAVAGE BEST OF THE SCREAMING TRIBESMEN CD (Savage Beat, Australia. try shock.au.com)-As faithful readers of BLACK TO COMM have known for the past umpteen years, the Australian underground rock scene of the eighties was something that kept the flame going as far as high energy rock went in an era increasingly being overrun by lame dance music and happyhappy gulcheral scrunch (which stood against all of the violence and noise that made the seventies so great). The eighties Australian scene was almost like a flashback to everything that made seventies underground rock (at least in the United States) so exciting...primitive performance, heavy metal pounce without the puton of the mainstream breed, sixties punk style and attitude, and believe me, there was a time in my life when I wanted to go down to Australia and get in on the action myself!
This collection (which I believe was culled from a variety of recordings made for the Citadel label, a company that acted for the Australian underground the same way International Artists acted for the Houston scene only about fifty times more prolific) shows that the Screamin' Tribesmen were a proud purveyor of the Australian sound with their manic mix of Detroit metal, sixties punk and the best the seventies dared to offer us, all done at a time when I know that nobody cared because I used to get all hot and excited and tell people about bands like the Tribesmen back in 1985 and all I got for my troubles were funny looks! Along with Savage Beat's DO THE POP sampler (reviewed in BLACK TO COMM #25, still available for $10 plus postage at 714 Shady Ave., Sharon PA 16146-3149 USA) this one gives us proof that yes, there was life in the rock & roll of the eighties after all...you just had to know where to look for it! (Just like TODAY, mind ye.)
Kevin Ayers-JOY OF A TOY CD (EMI/Harvest England); SHOOTING AT THE MOON CD (BGO Germany)-I've been on a Kevin Ayers kick of sorts since late last year, buying not only these items but the 1975 Harvest Heritage twofa vinyl edition and a British Harvest import (believe it or not, but the USA version was on the old Soft Machine label ABC) of Ayers' 1977 YES WE HAVE NO MANANAS which I heard when it came out and shrugged off, but maybe a 27-year-later spin'll reflect a more mature listening attitude on my part??? SURE HOPE NOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
JOY OF A TOY remains one of Ayers' best, maybe because it was recorded in '69 when the aftershock of British psychedelia was still in the damp London air. Whatever, this is a wonderful, eclectic bag (to coin another phrase) that, even with Ayers romping through Syd Barrett-esque whimsy, world music, early-Velvet Underground-inspired rock etc. still retains a style and vision that one could only call the Harvest Sound. The bonus tracks are especially needed as well, not only containing all the b-sides that later ended up on the stellar ODD DITTIES collection but a bevy of outtakes including the legendary (and oft misrepresented) version of "Singing a Song in the Morning" with special guest Syd Barrett not only adding a spazzy guitar line but vocals! I don't know how you older BLACK/BLOG TO COMM readers could've standed to wait so long for this stuff but here it is and we certainly are the better for it.
I got the old BGO version of Ayers' second solo platter (he now backed by "The Whole World," a group consisting not only of future TUBULAR BELLS millionaire Mike Oldfield but British avant garde jazzman and future Damned crony Lol Coxhill) so not only am I missing out on the bonus tracks and informative booklet but the chance to look at the neat Harvest logo! At least I got the sounds, which I'm sure a few people would think are perhaps even more crazed than on TOY. Of course there's the great pop ("May I") and some folk ("The Oyster and the Flying Fish" with guest vocals by British folksinger Bridget St. John), and the Velvet Underground ("Lunatic's Lament", which has the craziest, most punk guitar solo I've heard on an Ayers album courtesy of none other than Oldfield!) and the usual mix of Ayers genius, but what makes SHOOTING AT THE MOON really so freakingly special are the musique concrete and free rock segments that sound like (respectively) some late-fifties avant garde experiments made by a composer who didn't have the notoriety of a Cage or late-sixties addle made by someone who didn't have the budget of the Beatles. Too bad Ayers' later recordings didn't have the gunch of these early platters...at least he didn't OFFEND the way a good porton of bigtime rockers all over the globe did in the mid-seventies. From what I understand, Ayers' now living in retirement in the south of France not having done much in a long time, but even if he continued recording albums only the biggest of fans would dare buy I believe he's earned his place in the panthenon of rock & roll GREATNESS with these early discs which still stand the test of time. (Unlike the majority of Ayers' prog-mates, who now come off like some weird dream you had a long time ago!)
The Bizarros-CAN'T FIGHT YOUR WAY UP TOWN FROM HERE CD (Clone, www.thebizarros.com or PO Box 6014, Akron Ohio 44312 USA)-It's kinda mind-boggling to not only see Tin Huey but this bunch reunited in the here and now which once again makes me wonder "what year is this anyway????" Yeah, I know I sorta shrugged alla those Akron groups off around 1982 when new wave had definitely devolved into gnu wave and even bands with past flash seemed to go the rock lobster giddy route to the point that I was way ashamed to have ever championed them in the first place, but here, twennysome years later, all is forgiven mainly because, considering some of the even worse atrocities committed against the name of rock & roll not only then but now, at least these bands were pretty good at one time in the underground timescope!
Anyway, it's like they never left. If you were one to love the Bizarros single sides (plus their split LP with the Rubber City Rebels) while thinking their Mercury LP iffy, you'll flip over this new CD where the reunited oldsters (who leave the new spawn in the dust!) continue on just as if they never broke up and it was still 1979 and music like this was making up the reason for your existence. It still does even this long after the fact, but what makes it even more impactual (like that word? I made it up just like Julius Sumner Miller used to do!) is that it seems as if the Bizarros are acting and breathing and performing as if it were still 1979 only its now 2004 and I guess it's OK to still be meaningful and intense in a world that on one hand discourages anything that's primitive and base and uncultured yet on the other doesn't care one way or another what you do. Kinda reminds me of the Troggs in 1979-80, who were riding high as underground punk/new wave icons with an album on the Max's Kansas City label and prestigeous club gigs across the United States, yet in many ways it seemed as if they were still living in 1968!
I'll probably be reviewing the entire Clone catalog one of these days, though that will have to wait until I get my turntable fixed. Until then, this (as well as the Akron underground rock documentary that ran on channel 45 last year...go to ch4549.org to see how you can order it) is something that will being back more of those great, dream-like memories of past rockism glories and if you're a young 'un it might teach you a two or thing!
MAD ABOUT THE COMICS book (Mad Books, 2003)-Believe me, I was overjoyed when I found out this softcover collection of MAD comic strip spoofs was out. Y'see, one of the things that drew me to MAD when I was still in the single digits were their strip burlseques and I don't mean women but the way they'd do takeoffs on a lotta my faves like "Nancy" and "Archie" which at age eight was a new and different concept that stymied me! All I gotta say is, it's a good thing I didn't discover Tijuana Bibles at the same time and fall for them for the exact same reason, or else this blog might have quite a different tone about it!
Unfortunately this collection of MAD comic satires ain't exactly the definitive one. In fact, it's far from perfect, with too many omissions (the fantastic "Nansy" spoof and a variety of early-sixties classics amongst them) and way too much new material which will just reinforce in old fans like me as to how much MAD continued to decay as the years rolled by and its influence (ranging from late-night comedy to underground comix etc.) outdid the source as far as biting satire and talent went. Not to mention that this once-hallowed rag is now just plain ol' unfunny...it's hard digesting stories which wallow in grossness, blasphemy and political piousness while lacking any sort of redeeming value as if there could be any this late in the game. After all, it's no big laugh having Dennis the Menace report Mr. Wilson to the police as a child molester...it was funny forty years back when Dennis ran into the house holding a skull yelling "Mom, look what I found inside Mr. Wilson's head!"
Next time...Gulcher records!
Friday, May 14, 2004