Friday, July 30, 2004

REVIEWS OF A BUNCHA OLD FANZINES I GOT HOLD OF WITHIN THE LAST FEW DAYS OR MONTHS OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT YOU MIGHT WANNA READ ABOUT IF YOU LIKE THE THINGS I'VE DONE ON THOSE OLD SELF-PUBLISHED WONDERS IN PAST ISSUES OF BLACK TO COMM

HEAVY METAL DIGEST no. 2-Here's an oldie that always seemed to be mentioned with a short, usually complimentary sentence and nothing else. And with a name like HEAVY METAL DIGEST you probably thought that it was gonna be a mad 1973 raver with snaps of BOC and articles on Iggy all over the place, right? Well, have you ever read a heavy metal fanzine which featured a full page ad for Cat Stevens' CATCH BULL AT FOUR (along w/a glowing mention)??? Not to mention Lester Bangs and Richard Meltzer flinging some of their less-inspired dookey around and more than enough space given to that wastrel Cameron Crowe??? (I mean, why would anyone want to heap praise upon this teenage mainstream muck when there was a REAL teen punk like Eddie Flowers more deserving of notoriety???) I thought more of Danny Sugarman even with his overbearing Doors worship, but frankly this is one of the blander (non-collector-oriented) early-seventies fanzines I've ever read. And it ain't even a digest!!!! Come to think of it, it ain't even heavy metal either!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

THE NEW HAVEN ROCK PRESS vol. III no. 4-This is the fanzine that used to get dumped upon by everyone including their contributors (most notably Meltzer), and while I still "don't get it" as to why fanzine-creepers then and now continue to rag on Jon Tiven and company (sure, some of Tiven's musical choices could have been, er, better, but then again I could say that about everyone writing their blogs these days, some more than others!) I gotta admit that the issues I've read come off a lot better'n Sugarman's read above. At least for the choice of contributors, like Meltzer hisself for example who writes for the first time about his dead animals in Jello art and how certain parts of the then-deceased Janis Joplin's anatomy "would sure have been great appetizers in celery flavored Jello on the Thanksgiving table," a theme that seems to recur in Meltzer's writings such as the time he made the remarks about Jackie O's nether-regions making a good cheese storage bin. Tiven actually does well too with not only an interview with the famed biker-bootlegger "Rubber Dubber," and there's a for once on-target rip on Ralph Gleason's "Perspectives" column from the old ROLLING STONE, the one where the counterculture's elder statesman tore into bootleggers calling 'em "quack Robin Hoods" and "pigs." Funny thing is, there still are bootlegs around and with CD-R technology anyone can start their own label up, but ol' Ralph's been out of commission for almost three decades. Glad to see that the good guys won that round for once! Interesting Nick Tosches note: new Meltzer book to be called THE NEW ALCOHOLISM.

SHAKIN' STREET GAZETTE no.'s 10, 11, 12 and 14-This was the fanzine that was actually funded by the mandatory student activity fee at the State University Collage at Buffalo in New York State. Nice scam, and thanks to this evil sort of chicanery we got a whole buncha fanzines to peruse and enjoy at least until the funding was cut. And the fanzine was FREE if you got it on campus, and although editor Gary Sperrazza had promised a rebirth for a few years afterwards, we should at least be thankful that we got the issues that we did!

Most of the coverage in SHAKIN' STREET GAZETTE was of the mainstream rock variety; you could call SSG a collegiate version of CREEM, but like the inspiration there was a lotta great, early-seventies-styled rockism in these magazines to digest and peruse. The writing was very good as was a lotta the scribbling laid down during the "Golden Age of Rock Criticism" (which coincidentally coincided with rock fandom's GA as well!), and the rec reviews were snat in the CREEM fashion too, with all those old obscurities that would come out back when the labels would release anything getting the ink making you wonder just how this rag woulda made it in the punk rock days...too bad it couldn't sweat it out another five or so years!!! The usual funny and strange asides abound...like, Sperrazza (in a review of Amon Duul II) comparing Neu! to...King Crimson??? And (speaking of CREEM), one-time contributor Joe Fernbacher does a lotta good gonzo stuff here including (in #14) the first part of an actually informative and entertaining article on Frank Zappa's Bizarre and Straight labels which discusses the offerings that Captain Beefheart and Alice Cooper recorded for Straight (and Wild Man Fisher for Bizarre)...wouldn't mind reading future installments just to see his take on the Tim Buckley wares...'s funny, but I never really cared that much for STARSAILOR but considering how every copy of that one that I have sounds like it was pressed in Taiwan I wouldn't mind hearing a clear version for once if you actually can fathom that!!!! Believe me, I love reading things like that, and for a "genzine" SHAKIN' STREET GAZETTE sure did a pretty good job of it!

One unfortunate big heaping disappointment though...in the batch of SSG's I got gratis from Russell Desmond of CAN'T BUY A THRILL fame, missing was their punk rock "It's Not Coming Back" issue with much-desired articles on the likes of the Monkees, Byrds, Chocolate Watchband and Sonics!!! As they say in babyland...WAAAH!!!!

REVIEWSIT no. ?-One of those late-seventies fanzines that didn't quite make the transition from mid-seventies prog/California/metal to punk. They make a good try at it, although flopping a bit in the process. Their "punk" reviewer does get a little frothy at times, sounding like someone who just took a film course at the college of his choice and has to use all of his newfound knowledge to describe an album that seems to stand against such artistic dribble. Still a decent, ALL REVIEW fanzine that reminds me of some lesser attempts that cluttered up the eighties only with boring alternative disques abounding and nothing in the way of rock 'n roll, if you know what I mean.

THE FARCE OF FANDOM no. 3-I reviewed #2 in BLACK TO COMM #25, and believe-it-or-not, but one of the original editors of the mag is auctioning off copies of this great sophomoric MAD-inspired fanzine on ebay as I type! Interesting mix of then-current comic book spoofing (mainly a halfway-meaningful swipe at DC's more infantile moments, though I thought it was great to see silent film star Snub Pollard mentioned as the star of a prospective DC title!), though the rather well-drawn EC spoof (about a man who kills his wife and puts pieces of her body in Cracker Jack boxes as free surprises...shades of Meltzer!), like a lotta these takes, fell through despite just about everything else going for it. Still I can't believe the astuteness these guys oozed, like with their rip on the late-sixties Hanna-Barbera trend towards animating old comedy teams to surprisingly subpar effect. (I mean, I remember seeing an Abbott and Costello comic book based on the then-running cartoon at the time thinking it was sooooo lame, and that and their usually staid feature film performances really had me down on the duo until I finally gotta chance to eyeball their stellar TV series in the late-eighties!) Sure you have to put up with an occasionally faded mimeo page and sometimes the humor doesn't work out (plus they have to rely on using a "Mr. Natural" comic with their own dialogue on the back cover perhaps in order to milk some credo from it), but I really like these fanzine satire rags which I gotta admit take the tar outta what some of the biggie mags (MAD included) were doing at the same time, not to mention today! Good text: a surprisingly mature essay on Laurel and Hardy from high schoolers no less. Bad text: two pages of unfunny Polish jokes (and anyone could have gathered up a much better crop, believe-you-me!).

CAPTAIN GEORGE'S COMIC WORLD no. 27-Here's a strangie. CAPTAIN GEORGE'S COMIC WORLD (along with sister pub CAPTAIN GEORGE'S WHIZBANG) was the brainchild of Captain George Henderson, a Toronto fan of old stuff who put out these newsprint fanzines which mostly featured reprints of old strips, articles etc. and a few new tidbits on everything from classic comic characters to pulps, radio, historical figures, you name it, which was a wise move considering that at the time he was doing this (late-sixties and early-seventies) there was a huge nostalgia craze going on for old-timey fun things of the post-WW I/pre-fifties days. Later on the nostalgia boom moved to the fifties and early-sixties which gave us more than our fill of films and nostalgia crank-out, but ya gotta admit that Cap George had the right idea presenting these little bits of memory jogging pieces (as well as "special issues" on the likes of KRAZY KAT) for a world that was sadly seeing its past pride and heritage get overrun by a buncha wild hippies ranting and raving all over the place! This was a pretty good effort, so good that even Dr. Fred Wertham mentioned it in his book on fanzines, or is that a bad thing considering the Doctor's legacy, or is that a bad good or a good bad thing, or...

So howcum by ish 27 the fanzine hadda go into decadent territory? The cover, autographed by onetime SUPERMAN star Kirk Alyn was fitting enough, but the insides... Well, the SPIRIT reprint straight out of an old issue of HELP! (the one where they adapted Ebony White to make him look...well, white) was printed verbatum which I guess is OK for those unfamiliar with the famed comic book legend and his artist, but why would a mag devoted to goodtimey old comics and fun Saturday Afternoon Barbershop Kids living want to devote space to underground comix complete with shining examples by the likes of S. Clay Wilson guaranteed to send the average LAWRENCE WELK SHOW devotee into complete shock??? I mean, even the language used in the piece and the comix presented wouldn't be the kinda thing you'd normally hear in polite company, and I get the feeling even the pool hall crowd woulda shriveled in shame reading it as well! What exactly was going on here??? The article on the influence of comics in pop art, well, I could perhaps see a little worth in that, but donating space to the undergrounds in a fanzine you'd've expected your pushing-sixty batchelor uncle to subscribe to back then reminds me of how they used to sneak really dreary, controversial and downright instant douse stuff into "family-oriented" television shows in the late-seventies. Like, there'd be an episode of REAL PEOPLE, a usually light-hearted and wholesome television romp for the FAMILY CIRCUS crowd with a segment on a child molester which would get into all sorts of disgusting detail, or perhaps some sitcom with an absolutely depressing theme dealing with a major character trying to commit suicide would pop up ruining your Saturday evening. This sorta stuff always bugged me because no matter how you slice it, NOBODY would think of inserting a Kate Smith song in the middle of one of those really didactic documentaries you see on PBS's POV! Other issues are better, but I dunno, maybe Captain George makes his living smuggling cocaine and decided to sample a little bit himself??? Is pot legal in Canada????? Maybe Captain George drank so much Canadian Club he drank Canada Dry?????

3 comments:

Roberto Iza Valdes said...
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My-Juno said...
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BigR said...

Christopher,

There is a copy of issue 15 of the Shakin' Street Gazette on Ebay now if you wanted a copy. Does one of the copies you mention cover the December 1973 Buffalo gigs?

Raza