Friday, July 23, 2004


Lemme tell you, the 1980s were one of the worst decades that I hadda live through, at least until the '90s and '00s made their way into my pithy life. Face it, everything that was brilliant about the '70s, the wild punky music and general mass madness made life a lot easier for a lotta maladjusted post-embryos like myself who needed the release! (Maybe you can recall the acceptance of generally non-pc concerns even by comedians and writers who you thought would know better...face it, Norman Lear was condoning some pretty non-bleeding heart humor on FERNWOOD TONIGHT [remember such atrocities as "Yankee Doodle Gook" and "Dial-A-Jew" fercryinoutloud???] and how about MONTY PYTHON...think that could ever cut the pc mustard these days??????, and that was none other than Al Franken who was so deftly making fun of feminism and the sick-white-liberal mentality on those SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE skits that were so good even the redneck types laughed!) This freewheeling attitude was expressed in not only in film, television and music but the manic, unbridled crazed fanzines that were doing on a local, low-budget level what the likes of Bangs, Meltzer, Hull onandon could actually get away with in the "professional" scribing scene at least until the screws were put to use...and yeah, it wasn't until the early-eighties when I finally got hold of such handmade wonders as TEENAGE WASTELAND GAZETTE, BACK DOOR MAN, DENIM DELINQUENT and the rest but man, with not only the big names cranking out all that energy but a slewfulla kiddies with their Olivetti Selectrics making their own rock journalistic punkisms known who says there was an energy crisis going on???

Sadly enough it all hadda end in the aforementioned ' was probably Ronald Reagan getting elected that splashed a lotta cold water on these upstarts not to mention the deaths of Lennon and later on Lester Bangs, not forgetting Max's Kansas City closing up shop but whatever, suddenly it wasn't "hip" or "cool" to follow the '70s way of living anymore. Everything was now tired, squeaky-clean and ultimately BORING..sure there still was "underground rock" just like there was in the previous decade, but nobody felt like writing about it anymore. The good movements that came out of that underground like early-hardcore weren't just poo-poo'd, they were thought of as pure, unadulterated evil that needed to be stomped out on ALL levels! As for another sign of life such as the garage revival...well, when the bigname types finally did sit up and take notice long after the form was petering out they did it more or less in the same fashion that those Tooey lookalikes you see all over the place do when they study bugs under some magnifying glass. In retrospect, what were the '80s other than THE REVENGE OF JOHNNY MANN'S STAND UP AND CHEER and frankly, when the only dissident voices out there were coming from the likes of the holed-up Berkeleyites at MAXIMUM ROCKNROLL what could you do???? What was there to cut through the feelygoodisms of the day and get to the meat and bone of high-energy, rock & roll living???

I'll tell you what, there was Billy Miller and Miriam Linna and their fanzine entitled KICKS. Sure there were a few other low-fidelity fanmags out there like Nancy Foster's GROOVE ASSOCIATES and Greg Prevost's OUTASITE that hearkened back to '70s triumphs more or less, but it was KICKS that really laid it down on the line as far as standing for something that STOOD AGAINST all that boring quap that pushed Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson and their minions to the forefront while all the high energy and tension in music hadda go snivel over in some corner!

Y'know, at first KICKS didn't quite cozy up to my punkism psyche because I was still in the middle of my commie rat days when I first eyeballed a copy (and they were pretty gung ho on the USA which was a no-no for my Boris Badenov-bred mentality), but soon the thing grew on me to the point where I was actually seeking out rock & roll recordings made before 1964! KICKS had it all from mega-pages (which "influenced" a certain fanzine mogul who was getting his publishing chops in gear not-too-soon after) to the coverage of the bossest rock & roll to be made before it all hadda be "intellectualized" and in the wrong way, and if one thing could be said it's that KICKS was perhaps the ONLY fanzine left with the '70s intensity of BACK DOOR MAN fully intact, lasting well into the early-'90s to boot! And I'm talking about all the "bad taste" stuff that used to have tweedy pipe-smoking bunsnitches yelling "racist, sexist, anti-gay" whenever the tee-vee cameras were pointed their way but y'know, real people knew different. Which was cool for me, not only because Billy and Miriam weren't any of those things but because they were breaking all of the nicey-nice rules of the decade (which have by now grown into a throttling, anti-free speech MONSTER) that seemed to have been laid down by your Aunt Petunia. Y'know, "If you can't say anything nice about anybody don't say anything at all!" Well Aunt Petunia, swivel on THIS!!!!

And like BACK DOOR MAN not to mention BIG STAR, KICKS eventually started up their own record label, and while the fanzine has pretty much gone down the proverbial crapper B&M production's Norton has continued to pump out the prime great rock and roll on LP, singles and now (shudder!) CDs which is great because, frankly these guys started the whole thing and I have the sneaking suspicion that had there been no Billy Miller, Miriam Linna or Norton there would be no Sundazed, and Rhino would probably be spending their time releasing BW Stevenson collections because if anyone gave the garage and rockabilly and surf sounds any real dignity it was KICKS and Norton and not the myriad asst. of slimy shucksters out for the quickie buck and "nostalgia bilking."

Amyway, enough background...let's talk about the three volumes of FORT WORTH TEEN SCENE disques the label has only recently brought forth. Man they're great...just as wild as when you've first heard the "previously reissued" sounds on BOULDERS way back when and the clear sound doesn't even hinder the addled garage feeling! You can now hear the overdub on "Night of the Phantom" by Larry and the Blue Notes a lot better and "The Chocolate Moose Theme" is easier to decipher now than it was when pressed on cow patties twennysome years back. And it's fantab FINE romping though these three disques, because it's just like you're living through 1965 again and although I was way too young to appreciate things back then it makes me wish I was born five/ten years earlier so I coulda been conscious enough to maybe buy a bus ticket to Fort Worth and get in on some of the action myself!

Neat booklets too, with loads of photos and info to keep you busy reading while the music emanates from the speakers into your cosmic bean. And for once you get to see a snap of the (Fort Worth) Jades and find out their drummer's name and what he looks like because...well, there was this story in KICKS on the Fort Worth '60s scene around issue #5 or so (many of the pix from these booklets had originally appeared there) and in that story some incident was related about the time the group hadda take a quickie break because this drum guy...well, I don't wanna make any of you nauseated or embarrass him forty years later, but if you want the sordid details just pick up the issue yourself. In all, it reminds me about the time Bill Shute was dancing in some club and met some gal who...well, let's just say that the olfactory system of Bill's went into deep shock...

Enough bad taste for one review, but for good taste in garage rock pick up all three of these shiny platters! You get it all, from the Jagger and McGuinn wannabes to the usual Ernie Douglas types hoping for better, and a lotta covers and crossovers and things like a version of "Night of the Phantom" by Mark Five where we find out that the Phantom was the singer's cousin all along! Real whacked stuff that proves that '60s punk has a lot more STAYING POWER than such moldy eighties relics as "Frankie Says" ever did!

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