Friday, December 31, 2004


...well, not really, but it sure could have been a lot better. Then again, any year for me post-1981 could've been improved on at least 75% musically (and 99% socially, health-wise etc.)...yeah (bear with me...if you tend to get bored by my personal reminiscences skip down a couple of paragraphs), I still remember being swept away by all of those great underground bands of that glorious seventies era when it seemed as if new ideas could easily be fleshed out and mutated into interesting and unique directions for this thing called ROCK & ROLL to develop and grow, but that all seemed to get washed away pretty much overnight (or so it seemed to me back in those soon-to-be-vapid days). The closing of the old Max's Kansas City was the first blow soon to be followed by the death of Lester Bangs a few months later, and as far as "era's end" goes you can't get any more dramatic than that unless you wanna count Kennedy getting his skull blown off him! And who can deny that when ol' Les died, he took the seventies with him. And what replaced that era of underground rock seemed like such a twisted, distorted and joke-take on what was once good and wholesome at least to the point where I hadda stop kidding myself after awhile and FACE THE FACT that no matter how much Greg Shaw pleaded and prayed, it wasn't coming back. But I digress...let's just say that if I had to live 2004 all over again, I'd rather choose 1979.

Keeping all of the personal trials/tribulations out of it, 2004 was STILL a pretty mediocre year not just for music in general but for the entire BLACK TO COMM empire, or what remains of it these days. But it's not like I really should KNOW...let's face it, I haven't paid much attention to anything in the music realms (above or under) other than what I want to pay attention to, and other than reading weblogs and stumbling across a name of interest (usually some ragtag underground thing playing at CBGB) that I research via a variety of search engines, I really am outta the loop with regards to "what is out there," or "what is BIG or even 'hip' these days." As if I really cared. When I was 18 I cared, because I was supposed to be in the "prime of my life" and there were a lotta things old (NUGGETS bands) and new (Pere Ubu) that were playing the soundtrack to my suburban slob brat existence the way the so-called "corporate rock" acts and disco never could. Nowadays I've seen too many bad things happen to the once wild-and-wooly world of rock & roll to KNOW that remedying the sad situation (y'know, the one which Billy Miller and Miriam Linna WARNED US ABOUT in the early issues of KICKS) is long gone past the repair stage. Let's face it, the punks (before they became punques!) valiantly tried at one point, but the fact that Stoner Ameriga hadda forsake the BIG BEAT in favor of "classic rock" schmalz has resulted in a death stench that lingers in the nostrils this far down the line. And yeah, I've said the same thing over and over again for years now...this is for the neophyte peruser who's just happened upon this blog by chance so be PATIENT for once in your life, savvy?

So as far as my top ten fave rave list for the year goes, I'm afraid it would mostly consist of oft-played old gems and recently-purchased classics, amongst them The Byrds' FIFTH DIMENSION, some 2-CD garage-band set mixing sixties classics, seventies punk and modern tribute that came outta Canada, The Velvet Underground AT THE ANDY WARHOL MUSEUM CD-R and the first disc of the PEEL SLOWLY AND SEE box set, as well as the Le Stelle De Mario Schifano reissue on Akarma. As far as any new items go, up on the top would be the Edgar Breau CD as well as a number of Japanese groups like LSD March, whose latest is certainly up there on the top ten for not only this year, but this decade. The rise of the new Japanese underground, with aggregates such as Up-Tight doing rather well despite their most recent being a bit of a comedown goes to show you just how much of an influence that the legendary Les Rallizes Denudes (the Japanese Velvet Underground) could have on more groups than anyone would be willing to 'fess up to. But, as you'd guess, none of these acts Japanese or not that I've been plugging to the rafters are exactly household names or at least in any of the households I invade, but then again given that internet has made it possible for anyone to connect with anything at anytime, does it MATTER if your favorite group ain't exactly tearin' up the Hit Parade like they probably wouldn't have twenty years back? Naw, today you can connect directly with whatever or whomever you wish, and acceptance can become yours with the mere flick of a switch!

I didn't say it earlier, but an award should certainly be given to Edgar Breau for his wonderful CANADIAN PRIMITIVE CD which I raved about a few months back and still can't seem to get out of my mind...remember when rock godz like Brooce Springsteen used to brag about taking sixteen months to make a record??? Well, this one took sixteen YEARS so I guess that makes it REALLY good, eh? (Pun unintended!)

The Hanuman Sextet also put out a wowzer that it seems just about everybody didn't connect with this year as well. Again, this is one of those great releases (a CD-R on the miniscule "Rent Control" label) that you'd THINK someone out there besides me would pick up on (and perhaps help move another two copies!) yet it's stuff like the Hanumans that makes a jaded for life fellow like myself want to keep on living while everyone else out there is doing...whatever it is everyone else does I guess. If you want to know what's really "happening" in the here and now (at least on a superior BLACK/BLOG TO COMM plane), check out the CBGB Lounge on Sunday nights! A great way to get over the Sunday evening if only they'd remember to turn on the cameras one of these days...

As far as the Japanese rock movement goes, I'll continue to give the time of day to THE NIGHT GALLERY (the original, not the second, not quite up to snuff followup) which reminds me of why I still flip for the early-Velvet Underground atmosphere and how it can still mean just as much to me (and a number of Japanese) now (as a building-block as to how rock & roll should be judged) as it did then. Also big on the laser launching pad this year is Hiroshi Nar, a longtime Japanese proto-punk figure whose recent discovery at least in the Occidental world proves that all that gab about rock & roll as the "Universal Youth Language" that was going around in the seventies was a reality after all! And in case you're interested in buying any of these new Japanese releases, Eclipse Records is only a mouse-click away.

As far as those must-have reissues go, just about everything on Gulcher (or at least everything that I've reviewed) is worth a spot on any top-ten/twenty list (especially all of the Gizmos releases, including the Slippytown-only limited-edition CD-R entitled RAW TAKES 1977 that I reviewed here), plus the Norton catalog is always worth the time it takes to look through it not to mention ORDERING the goodies therein! Believe me, if it's good it's in the Norton catalog...comprende??? Anyway, for a few of my opinions regarding a coupla recent Norton releases, just click on here.

Going English for a spell, another big reissue of the year was that of Kevin Ayers' JOY OF A TOY which not only brought back fond import bin memories but reminded me of just how good British rock could have been before it had to take itself too seriously and pretension/ego took over. Plus the bonus tracks with an audible Syd Barrett was worth the umpteen-year wait most of us had to endure!

Lessee, what else is there? OK, how about best book of the year??? There were a lotta contenders for top reads this past solar rotation ranging from the LI'L ABNER collection to the recent Suicide bio, but the biblio that has made the biggest impact on me this year hasn't even been reviewed on this blog. Well, it had, but my writeup was of such a poor quality that I quickly excised it for fear of being labeled a bigger nimnul than people already think I am, but anyway the book in question isn't even music related but historical in nature, and the subject matter really appealed to me on a youthful "if it looks cool I wanna know more about it!" level. This missive's title is none other than SUBMARINE WARFARE IN THE CIVIL WAR by Mark Ragan, and it's a very good piece together history of the submersible ships (or "Infernal Machines") used by the North and especially the South during the War Between the States. For someone who thought that submarines, like comic strips and automobiles, were mostly a 20th century development, this book is a godsend that not only shows just how extensive submarines were being used in the mid-nineteenth century, but proves that subs, like the aforementioned comics and autos, had been in development for quite some time before they became more or less "perfected" in the "Modern Age."

It's really eye (and conscious) opening reading about these early, modern-looking ships, most of which were partially or totally man-powered (remember, the gasoline engine had yet to be developed) and pretty deadly at that, not just for the battleships that were about to be rammed with a projectile, but for the submarine crews who were entering into a Brave New World of warfare ne'er before dreamed of. Scores of men lost their lives in the these subs' trials as well as in battle, and since a lotta records had been lost and destroyed over the years Ragan had to really piece the puzzle together using not only old newspaper articles (many of which were rather, er, inaccurate) and surviving documents, but recently-discovered drawings and letters which shed maybe a shard of light on the subject, but anything is better than nothing especially in this day and age when it seems that we have to grasp for all we can with regards to these shadowy and clandestine subjects. (Remember, at the time submarine warfare was pretty much considered less than kosher, almost like dirty pool if you can fathom that!) Naturally, much space is devoted to the best-known of these subs, the Hunley, which has recently been raised from its watery grave and is being readied for museum display in the hopefully near future, but ample space is given to WHATEVER WE KNOW about other ships like the Alligator, the Captain Pierce and other weapons of war which woulda looked oh-so-cool to me had I got an eyefulla these streamlined wonders back when I was eight.

Enough on how about the bummer of the year??? Keeping everyday things in my life that'll probably bore you to pieces out of it (illnesses etc.) I gotta say that the biggest bummer at least for me just hadda've been the death of Greg Shaw, perhaps the most noteworthy rock & roll loss in a long time, at least with regards to my own fanzine-oriented mindset. Johnny Ramone's passing was a big deal as well, don't get me wrong, but Shaw was a big guiding light for fanzine dorks like me, and although I never "made it" as big as others who were following the lead of Shaw in the fanzine world (like, say, Mike Stax), I felt that I learned as much from him as I did from my own hard knocks. As far as the biggest personal bummers go, this year's HAND'S DOWN WINNER were the personal attacks and assaults made regarding me, my private life, musical tastes, beliefs and my BLACK TO COMM fanzine via the weblogs of not only Dave Lang but Jay Hinman and Ken Shimamoto. Y'know, these digs at me and at my various scribings and opines don't usually get my Irish up, but they most certainly do when they're perpetrated on me by people who I've considered friends at least on some level (although Jay seems to have forgotten all about any sorta correspondence that had developed between both of us, which I guess is his right and something COMMON going on amongst former allies), and really fellas, it's not that I was "hurt" by any of your comments...pissed is a much more accurate way to describe how I've felt after reading the half-truths, distortions and outright LIES that all three of these "people" deemed me to be oh-so-deserving of. David seems to have forgotten the things I've done for him like get hold of rare, out-of-print back issues he shoulda paid through his pig-like snout for, but oh no, his pinko self had to go and prefabricate a whole lotta bile about my Neanderthal-level racism/sexism/whateverelsethereisism for whatever occult reasons he had in mind! A regular bundle of laughs for sure, and I'm sorta ashamed of myself NOT for what has happened to me, but for not spotting the jizbag when I should've in the first place. Well, I've learned one thing from my experiences with Dave, and that's when you BEND OVER backwards to help someone out, you're more than likely to get sodomized. And Dave, a good nickname for you would be "Bubba"...get any new tattoos lately?

Continuing on the rampage begun by Lang, fellow blogger Jay Hinman just hadda jump into the anti-BLACK TO COMM fray with his own "comments" which naturally resulted in a whole slew of unexpected remarks from a variety of sorts, some of 'em whom I've had no problems with prior and whom I never said anything derogatory about (which once again had me scratching my head to the point of terminal baldness!). I gotta admit that reading the remarks of the likes of Heinrich Olausson kinda "got to me" (that and knowing that X-tal leader J. Neo Marvin was still alive and kicking) because it's like I never did or said anything uncouth about him, and after all was said and done these "actions" on the part of a whole lotta fair-weather pals o' mine only helped stoke the fires of hate I have for a lotta people even more! In the past I used to try to shoosh these anti-me/BTC comments under the ol' rug, but then as time crept on I began to realize that by keeping quiet, people started thinking that I was automatically GUILTY of whatever charges were brought against me, and in the sage words of Popeye "That's all I can stands, I can't stands no more!" And really, I kinda got the impression that some of you readers thought I was DOUBLY guilty of any wrongdoing solely for coming to my own defense!

Both Lang and Hinman deleted their comments (nice gesture bubs, but TOO you think anyone'll GO NEAR ME after the bile you spewed [just take a look at the number of comments people leave for me as opposed to you]???) but Shimamoto didn't, and I gotta admit that his li'l snit "reference" stung the most. Here's a guy who was calling me up all the time, chatting about Detroit rock this and Mick Farren that for hours on end who seemed like the coolest person who could have graced this earth, and yet he too had to jump on this anti-Chris bandwagon making a whole slew of unfounded comments about me and my "beliefs" in an attempt not just to "censure" but to BURY. Listen Ken, any guy who goes about writing stories about black blues singers who like to pee on white women doesn't have any room to talk! And OK, so that's bad taste...hey, I GREW UP on seventies bad taste just like a lotta other people, only I knew enough not to progress to the modern-day politically pious version like you undoubtely have! Having to be called sexist (well, OK, I am traditional in many ways as are most people at last count), racist (hmmmmmm, if I were I wouldn't even have let you come NEAR me, and besides it's you who was tossing about the "guinea" term...did I ever make any terse comments about your race???) and homophobic (maybe about as much as everyone else who voted against same-sex marriages) in that typical hit and run fashion is bad enough, but when it's done by people whom I've given ample magazine space to and bragged about to my TRUE friends...well I know my back is large enough to sustain more knife wounds but et tu, Kenny? (hic!)

But why end this diatribe on a sour note? There were a few good things about the year 2004, like the 9-CD Albert Ayler box set which I'm going to have to tackle more sooner than later, not to mention the Rocket From the Tombs reunion CD which I have on order (though frankly, I'm not expecting that much) and the Henry Flynt and the Insurrectionists CD on Locust which is also winging its way to my door as we speak, so it wasn't like the year was a TOTAL washout. And I'm sure 2005 will offer us some new wonders by groups both new and old, with a few good archival digs in store and who knows, perhaps there will be a few more new acts out there that I can get obsessed over just like in the old days. I mean, I wasn't expecting much from the likes of LSD March or Up-Tight, and those bands are amongst my tops for the year...three years ago, who woulda thunk??? But whatever, here's hoping that all of you faithful BLOG TO COMM fans have a Happy New Year and may everyone I dig stay healthy and groovy with plenty of fine eating, heavy-duty musical listening and generally great TV jamz all the year through. All the rest of you (and you know who you are!) can go to hell.


Anonymous said...

So John Peel's death didn't make a big impact on you? The whole underground rock thing as we know it etc. would have been just as impossible without Peel as without Shaw. BOTH of them will be sorely missed.....

Christopher said...

Actually John Peel's demise didn't make that much of an impression on me (after finding out, I merely shrugged it off with a "too bad"), since I must admit that Peel was not as much a part of my own rockism consciousness as Shaw. Of course he was important as far as the development of a British underground/folk/punk current went (not to mention his role in the development of the Dandelion records label, a noble experiment that gave us Stackwaddy's two albums), but this Amerigan knows of him only through a variety of Marc Bolan press, Deviants liner notes and a batch of Peel Session recordings and radio broadcasts cluttering up my vinyl and tape collection. I'll admit that neglecting to mention Peel (and a few others whose names will come to me in a month or so) was a faux pas, but I'd be lying if I didn't say that Greg Shaw's passing had a much greater impact on me, if only because of Shaw's influential writings and of course fanzine/record label.