Saturday, December 11, 2004

A PRETTY WHOPPING GOOD BOOK FOR YEZ TO READ HERE!

How often do you like to curl up with a good book? Frankly, nowadays there ain't quite as many good books to curl up with like there were when I was a kid...now, back then I couldn't wait to rush home from scrool to read a good book 'specially on a cold winter's day, though the kinda books I was curling up with weren't exactly the ones my teachers and folks had in mind! Actually, the literature the forces of Grown Up Squaredness wanted me ro read (TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MESS, SILAS MURMER) actually were good for curling...the SPORT of curling that is, since I'm sure if ya pressed alla the "cultured" books that I was s'posed to read (being of such a higher class of human than all of those base and lowbrow children I went to school with) into one big HUNK and got yer brooms and skates and headed for the nearest frozen pond you'd have a fine game of curling in no time! But as for reading...naaaaah! Face it, the kinda books THIS kiddo went for were far more enriching than reading about some fag sailors and an old grumblebum! I didn't waste my time with those phony classics, I went for the REAL ones...THE MAD READER, MAD STRIKES BACK (and all the other ones up to and including GOOD 'N MAD), DENNIS THE MENACE A.M. (Ambassador of Mischief), PEANUTS EVERY SUNDAY, THE MIGHTY THOR and a whole turdload more. Face it, life is too short for culture!

I still stand by my ten-year-old (that is age ten, not ten years back!) reading rules, which is why I say that if you wanna read something good and beneficial these days don't waste it on shallow one-dimensional drivel that pretends to "speak" to your inner being. Waste it on something without any redeeming snob value for once in your life! And what a better way to waste it than on a book like SUICIDE: NO COMPROMISE by David Nobakht (available through SAF publishing, copyrighted 2005 but I got one early!). Yes, it's a book all about one of rock & roll's baddest of the bad boy underground rock acts of the seventies, and yeah there coulda been more pictures in it (though the ones they do have from the early undocumented days were worth the 25 year wait) and the writer's one of your typical modern-day cookie-cutter scribblers who takes huge blocks of quotes and surrounds them with what he thinks you should know about what he's writing about (as if the quotes enough aren't helpful on their lonesome), but it's still a wowzer. Yeah, Nobakht is kinda "staid" as far as giving his subject matter any real dimension plus he has this irritating habit of reminding us of what else (in the "real world," natch!) was happening in the Suicide saga at certain points in time as if the fact that LOVE STORY and M*A*S*H were box office boffo the same year Suicide formed has any bearing on anything, but the mere idea that a book about one of the top 100 rock/roll bands of all time has been unleashed certainly overcomes any adverse reactions one may have to the chicness of it all. If you are/were a guy like me who, being so enamored of the Suicide credo, tried to track done any li'l piece or chard of information on 'em just a'hungerin' for more and more of that insatiable history, man will this book help you out!

It sure helped me. For years Suicide were up there on my honor roll as one of the few rock & roll bands with a truly unique concept, and that certainly put them in the same realm of avant garde street rock alongsides the Velvet Underground, Stooges, the Cleveland strata as well as a variety of fellow New York groups of an equally twisted vision, most notably those of the "no wave" which sprang from the loins of Alan Vega and Martin Rev. And hey, I was just one of those befuddled inna middle a nowhere suburban bums who was more or less enamored with all those reports of what was happening in New York at the clubs that were incessantly pushing underground rock in a world of disco and mainstream mush (not forgetting FM sludge...it's like what Dale Lawrence said in the booklet of the new Gizmos CD collection on Gulcher; underground rock/punk/garage/what-have-you instantly made EVERYTHING else pale in comparison, and if you don't "get it" you're heading straight for Chuck Eddy territory). And I hate to bore you again with all of this oft-tossed about personal background but in case you DIDN'T know, the Velvet Underground (who at the time I didn't even connect with as far as their being influential on a whole slew of music I was enjoying) had really re-arranged my listening parameters, and for some not-so-odd reason I was being sucked in by a whole variety of groups featuring guys in wraparound shades and dark clothing looking like aliens from another world playing music that fit in with these preconceived notions of mad-drone rock. I think I told you how I imagined the Velvet Underground to have sounded (this is at age 13 or so) after taking a look at 'em on the back cover of their first album? Well, Suicide sounded EXACTLY like I imagined them to sound, without the guitars or viola, of course, and with a rhythm machine.

OK, maybe there's not ENOUGH nit-picking information (or at least enough as a guy like me would wanna know) here, but at least there's more than nothing. I mean, hey, I'm glad that the pre-Suicide Reverend B. (a play on Martin Rev's real surname, Reverby although that is not mentioned anywhere in this book) got their just dues, but I sure coulda used some technical data like instrumentation, members, recordings etc. (And a CD or ten would be welcome given all the new hoopla that'll be a result of this book goin' on!) The usual mistakes and inaccuracies can be found if one looks hard enough, and if the interview Suicide did with CHANGES (which was a major publication at the time) way back in '71 was discussed somewhere in these pages, I missed it. But still, despite the occasional breeze-throughs and the author's politically pious stuck-on-the-hipster-vision-of-life snootism (I mean, who else but a young idealist would refer to a flophouse as a "homeless shelter"?), I got a pretty fair fill of new and exciting information that made me a happier man. Like I said, I coulda used much more, but I guess I've gotta be happy with what I did end up with.

Yes, I was zoned. Right back to those days when I would read about the "futuristic" night club Max's Kansas City and envision a stage (and city) just brimming fulla these Exploding Plastic Inevitable rejects playing their gritty, under-the-covers New York City noise to large and appreciative audiences and here I was stuck in English class readin' THE GRATE GATSBY wishing that I could roam wild with these savages! NO COMPROMISE does capture that whole En Why See rigmarole pretty good even with the author's usual fumbles here/there, and despite the typically post-seventies lack of insight and skill in telling us just why group "x" is the bestest thing ever let's just say you get the message.

Nice supporting cast here too...Peter Crowley gives us some more of that history regarding how he got to book all them bands into Max's in the first place, while you get some surprise guest appearances from the likes of Dee Dee Ramone, Sylvain Sylvain, Jayne County and even James Chance telling us about Suicide this and no wave that! The omnipresent Rudolph Grey pops up telling us about his Suicide encounters, and although they're not mentioned by name Vega relates to us about the time he, Arto Lindsay and Grey played a gig as the Blue Humans which Grey has on tape but won't release for some cockamamie reason or another...feh! All these cool cat appearances are enough to make you forget the lesser-lights who also share the spotlight such as Michael Stipe and Henry Rollins, which might be enough to make you take a running jump but don't. Heck, even Miriam Linna puts in her two centavos, and I gotta say that if she's in the book you know it's gotta be a winner!

(I only wish the author had tried getting hold of Byron Coley for a comment or two, especially since Coley has views on Suicide that pretty much mirror those of his mentor Lester Bangs. Both of 'em seemed to have had a love/hate relationship with regards to the Revega team, and considering how frothing at the mouth Coley could have gotten at times his imput would have been more'n welcome. [Many seem to forget about Bangs putting Suicide down as phony preeners in his Peter Laughner obit despite heaping praise in the past before 360-ing after the release of their first album.] Coley's involvement went much farther to the point of personally hassling Vega at a number of Suicide shows...he in fact can be heard on the first set of a May '77 Max's gig tape that's been floating around for years giving the duo a hard time before being flung down the steps by the bouncers. But then he did a switcheroo as well, though still seemed to harbor old hatreds at least when I was talkin' to him back in the late-eighties.)

And to be fair about it, a lotta the later, eighties-on information that was dispensed was about as exciting to me as Art Garfunkel reciting "Desiderada" while the Enoch Light Orchestra plays in the background. That era was too boring for my tastes and maybe even painful especially since what the seventies promised the eighties certainly didn't deliver on (plus, the solo careers of the two didn't quite thrill me other'n on the early records and only a rare 1986 bootleg LP I have was of any enjoyment whatsoever), but still, SUICIDE: NO COMPROMISE made for some pretty thrilling eyeballing just like inna old days when I'd peruse some NEW YORK ROCKER and just go wild about all the avant gardeness going on in the big town and how I was so glad to be living at the same time it was happening and how I thought it would never end. Well, it DID end, and maybe a lot faster than any of us would have believed, but it was fun while it lasted. At least this book captures some of the reasons as to why those days were great, and maybe somehow, somewhere that whole scene can eventually be relived on modern terms and I don't mean all this ersatz jive that's going on today. Who knows, maybe SUICIDE: NO COMPROMISE will be the book that catapults New York back into the swing of high energy post-Velvet Underground drone more sooner than later!

5 comments:

tim ellison said...

Chris, the Suicide/M*A*S*H* connection = "Suicide Is Painless."

Christopher said...

Good point, but what about LOVE STORY? Is Martin Rev Ryan O'Neill and Alan Vega Ali McGraw???

Christopher said...

Hey, can anybody out there with a comic book collection help me out with some detective work? In the Suicide book (and elsewhere), Vega claims that the group's name was taken from a character named "Satan Suicide" who appeared in an issue of the Marvel Ghost Rider comic book. However, as far as I can recall, the Ghost Rider character debuted in 1972, yet Suicide had been gigging for two years by the time this title appeared! If what I'm thinking is true, there's some sorta discrepency, two year's worth, between the birth of Suicide and the birth of the comic title which begat the group's name which means that Alan Vega is mistaken about the origins of the Suicide name, and nobody's caught it until now. Anyone out there willing to shed a little light on this situation?

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