As if I haven't had a bad time of it already. This hasn't been exactly a good week with a load of tension and some potentially bad news down the line, but the week ain't even over and here I find out that none other than Greg Shaw has passed away at the young for the 21st century age of 55. They say it was his pancreas or liver, but considering the stories I've heard about his health, who knows? At first I denied that the story (posted on www.nextbigthing.blogspot.com) was accurate...after all, there was a big rumor floating around back in the late eighties that Shaw was on his deathbed thanks to diabetes and I even mentioned it in passing in an early BTC and felt mighty foolish for doing so. Well, thankfully that one never came to pass but I guess this one has, and if you've ever considered yourself a fan, follower or just plain peruser of late-twentieth-century underground rockism this bitta news will come off as a downright shocker considering just how much of a godfather, mentor and general overseer Shaw had been to this entire rant and rave that has been going under a variety of names (all monikers ultimately translating into PUNK) for over 35 years awlready!
In case any of you youngster upstarts are in the dark as to just who this Greg Shaw fellow was, he was one of the architects, nay, creators of this whole balla wax called rock fandom that more than a few neophytes and well-traveled types have been dabbling in ever since the first rock fanzines began popping up on the scene way back when. Shaw was one of the first to do 'em (after a good seven or so years of Sci-Fi worship though he seemed embarrassed having me reprint the covers of some of his early efforts to illustrate an interview done with him printed in BLACK TO COMM #24 which is why I didn't) with the infamous MOJO NAVAGATOR, a '66-'67 affair covering the early San Francisco scene mingling between mid-sixties punk aggression and upstart hipster concerns, the mag thankfully petering out before the latter won over. Of course it was with WHO PUT THE BOMP a few years later that Shaw made his mark on the rock scene with a mimeo job that took all of the low-fidelity rant of Sci-Fi and Comic Book fanzines and channelled it into worship of forgotten fifties rockabilly and sixties punks leading the way for magazines the likes of THE NEW HAVEN ROCK PRESS (of which Shaw was a contributor) and JAMZ (ditto) and perhaps even TEENAGE WASTELAND GAZETTE if you want to stretch things a bit. I wouldn't call BOMP the archetype for the punk rock fanzines of the seventies (that was FLASH), but it sure set the stage for a lotta much-needed impetus like sixties garage-band praise (in a world when most thought the sixties punks from the Seeds to Stooges big jokes best forgotten in a world of singer-songwriters and the usual early-seventies culprits usually vililfied in the pages of BLACK TO COMM and a variety of similar-minded pubs), rockabilly rambunctiousness, surf historical overviews and, of course, groups who were continuing the punk tradition that far down the line (though at that time what was there other than Hot Poop?). And, like it or lump it but it was Shaw who really helped get all of that punkism that made the decade so appealing into gear. I gotta add that looking through those early issues it's kinda funny reading Shaw's want list asking for records and information re. a lotta acts most of you readers would consider well known, thanks to Shaw no doubt...like, at one time he actually thought the Sonics were from Texas!
At this time Shaw was the James Brown of rock criticism/fandom, not only putting out his own fanzine (which was improving in content and quality as time went on, with contributions from Bangs, Meltzer, Saunders and the best of the young gonzo brats) but editing the much-better-than-ROLLING STONE PHONOGRAPH RECORD MAGAZINE and writing rather astute rock criticism for everyone from CREEM to STONE. Then of course there was Shaw's "Juke Box Jury" column in CREEM which blabbed on about the then-current 45s you could or could not hear on the radio...it's interesting reading Shaw's rather all-encompassing views on everything from West Coast hippie musings you'd'a thunk he hated (Eagles, Poco) to groups like the Flamin' Groovies and Roxy Music who according to Shaw were nothing but the best distillation of the early-Velvet Underground sound! You gotta say that even Shaw (who reportedly showed Jan Wenner the ropes, but not the noose!) was lucky enough to have had some pull with ROLLING STONE reviews editor Jon Landau, as his write-up of NUGGETS in a '72 issue was given the lead spot, something not exactly expected for a compilation of sixties rejects that had about as much to do with the average RS readership as soap and water.
Meanwhile, Shaw had become one of the leading lights of the underground rock scene, pushing the aforementioned Flamin' Groovies when nobody else cared (his activism ultimately led to their re-birth as late-seventies mod-punks with a string of winning albums on Sire), starting up his own label, and more or less becoming one of the leading lights of punk promotion with his Stooges/Weirdos etc. singles and a slew of records that at least gave unaware nimnuls like me an idea of what the pop side of the punk revolution was like. BOMP the fanzine was continuing on at a fine pace, not only going nicely slick a la TROUSER PRESS but leading the 'zine pack with in-depth coverage of the budding underground (plenty of reviews of the new bands both in the USA and afar), sixties garage rediscovery (tying the bands of the past and present pointing towards the future...very prophetic fellow that Shaw was!) and all the while acting as Mr. Nice Guy to just abour everybody he came across. He responded to most of my letters which I thought was cool considering how I was just starting out as a geekoid "rock critic" in the early-eighties, and believe-it-or-not but Shaw even thanked me for a live tape of local garage wannabes the 8-Balls (whose "Science Gone Too Far" single from the day is perhaps "the" forgotten early-eighties pop/punk masterpiece nobody seems to know about) when I sent him a hand-held cassette tape along with an interview taken from the pithy Youngstown State University student paper back in '81. With a whole slew of biggies either ignoring me or smashing my face into the dirt throughout my illustrious career it was great being treated like an "equal" by Shaw. A true gentleman all the way.
Shaw was pretty quiet after the seventies punks gave way to eighties fragmentation. Of course he was the prime mover behind the sixties revival throughout the eighties with not only his Voxx label offshoot and such ambitious albums as BATTLE OF THE GARAGES but who could forget his efforts to push the garage scene into overdrive as the owner and head-honcho of the short-lived Cavern Club in Los Angeles? However, Shaw never really did cozy up to the hardcore scene in El Lay and elsewhere for that matter (sitting on the first Black Flag record when it could have started the rage a few years earlier, something which earned Shaw a lotta derisive words in Joe Carducci's ROCK AND THE POP NARCOTIC)...come to think of it, he didn't seem to like a lotta post-seventies underground rock and remained silent with regards to newer trends, with perhaps a nice word for the Butthole Surfers or Spaceman 3 somewhere down the line in THE BOMP NEWSLETTER or even the infamous Bomp catalog where you could find a load of the kind of records people like me used to dream about. But that was cool...I find Shaw's disdain for a lotta latterday rock movements pretty much in gear with my own in many ways, since there was a very high level of energy and excitement that even a relatively tame band could have exuded in the seventies which few could have or would have cared to duplicate as the days went by.
I could go on about how I really flipped over the first issue of BOMP I came across via a trip to the Drome in Cleveland (actually it was the last issue, but eventually I got hold of most of 'em one way or another), or the excitement I got receiving my first Bomp! mailorder catalog with the Christmas insert featuring the group photo of Greg, ex-wife Suzy and fanzine/Frontier Records great Lisa Fancher amongst others where I FINALLY got to see a lotta records I wanted being made available to me for the first time, but maybe I tell you people a little too much about my private life only opening myself up to more ridicule. Fooey on that! Let's just say that Shaw was a biggie...as big as Roxon and Bangs and even bigger than Alan Betrock, and I can imagine the whole bunch of 'em on some clouds with wings and halos talking about the sixties and seventies and all the fun and games they had before everything had to be nicey nice and we all had to "get along." Well, it seems like more fun than writing about comparatively dull records by zilch-dimensional grooveless wonders like you see in most rock scribing these days, and Shaw, if you somehow can read what I'm writing here lemme say you deserve A BIG THANKS, so thanks!
THE SPOOKY PART...remember when I mentioned somewhere on this blog about when I was about ten or so I used to think that I could inadvertently cause harm or even death by buying a certain thing by a certain artist or read a certain thing by someone or listen to a certain record and then blam said artist is DEAD??? Well, would YOU consider it a "coincidence" that two days ago I got hold of a copy of Fancher's 1977 STREET LIFE fanzine with not only a Shaw interview but a nice love letter from Fancher herself saying how great it was that Shaw printed her first ever article in BOMP in 1975 (age 15), then last night I gabbed on the phone with Don Fellman and told him the story about the time Shaw was sweet-fifteen and none other than Forrest Ackerman began taking a romantic interest in him??? And then again in the mail today, I received without warning a copy of HIPSTERS QUARTERLY REVIEW courtesy Jeff Smith of FEMINIST BASEBALL fame which features an interview with Shaw! And now THIS. I don't consider myself overly superstitious if superstitious at all, but these happenings have me feeling a little creepy just like they would've back when I was a kid. Well, it's almost All Hallows Eve anyway, so who knows?
Thursday, October 21, 2004