Saturday, December 04, 2004

UGLY THINGS #22 (magazine available from

Yeah, I know that Jeroen Vedder over at THE NEXT BIG THING reviewed it as soon as it hit his mailbox, and he can do that if he wants to in order to beat doofuses like me to the punch, and you can call me an old fogey if you like but I prefer to thoroughly and thoughtfully read my mags before I write 'em up! And given that I didn't take the Evelyn Woods course like Vedder did and I tend to linger on the beauty and significance of single words while others just woooooosh through 'em, let's just say that it took me a lot longer to digest (urp!) the latest UGLY THINGS than it would the usual brilliantines out there in quickie blog land. So while everybody else has pointed out that this mag exists and have filled you in on what's in it and what it's all about, let me just say that here's my UGLY THINGS (#22) write-up for your perusal, and even a jaded person like myself must admit that the mag sure has come a long way in twenny-one year's time ever since it was a neet xeroxed dying gasp of the seventies fanzine era (even though it debuted in '83) when the old guard (THE GROOVE ASSOCIATES, TAKE IT!...) was dying out and the new breed of hardcore and garage band 'zines were more'n anxious to take their place. Sheesh, I can still remember that summer day in 1983 when I was cutting the yard around the lamp-post contemplatin' whether or not to fork over the money for the first issue (or was it the second?) being sold through the latest Bomp! catalog, and parting with the buck or two it cost in order to savor its tangy, six-oh punk-fueled pages surely ranks as one of the smarter things I've done in my life along with buying a copy of LOADED upon first or second sight (March, 1976) solely on account of its legend or deciding on whether to snatch up the Alice Cooper "Elected" single or Arlo Guthrie's "The City Of New Orleans" at the J. C. Penney's at the Eastwood Mall (summer '72) opting for Alice (and thus saving you all from the fanzine I would have ultimately created had I chosen Arlo, namely THE DOWN HOME GOOD TIMES GAZETTE!), my first ever non-flea market record purchase if you can believe that! So that's my UGLY THINGS epiphany, and I'm sure you'll write about yours on your own blog one of these days...

(After thinking it over a bit...I bought #2 from Bomp! since the first was sold out, though I sent away for the first ish and got it from Mike saying it was the last one available, so if there are any historical anal-retentives out there looking for such facts for future Stax bios and the like, here's a tasty footnote for ya!)

Anyway, you can't call UGLY THINGS a fanzine anymore which perhaps is our loss but editor Mike Stax's GAIN (mainly, monetary gain!). But still, Mike keeps cranking out these UGLY THINGS faster than Wales keeps cranking out bastards, and who am I to fault Stax for his strong capitalist desires (coupled with a rock & roll obsession that woulda gotten me locked up years ago!) which have resulted in this mad desire to spread the garage band rock & roll word no matter how much it must cost him to unleash these thick phonebook-sized mags! Yes, while most other fanzines have either died out due to their inbred stifling natures or keep on going not knowing they've been dead for years (and you can guess who I'm talking about!), UGLY THINGS and the Ugly One himself (just kidding!) keep going on, and you can tell that Mike's hit the BIG TIME because he doesn't even want me to write for him anymore which is really saying something (what it says is that I'm a lousy writer which I am, but as long as I have people eagerly reading my tripe why should I disappoint my public?)! In the past we've often wondered about Greg Prevost's age, but nowadays we wonder about what Mike Stax does for a living because it must be a ritzy job if he can afford to put out magazines the quality of this! (Probably works at the same mysterious place Ward Cleaver and Ozzie Nelson do...hee!)

I didn't read the entire latest issue yet, and I doubt that I ever will because it's so gosh-darn big and besides, there may be a few things here and there that don't exactly light a fire 'r anything (like the Dickens article, which I can't throw myself into at all!), but I think I've read enough to give this garage/punk 'zine a thoroughly objective review. Well, about as objective as I can be anyway, but for the sake of order here's a rundown (no, not literally) of what I think was fine and perhaps no-so-fine about the new UT, and I hope you will agree too!

THE GOOD STUFF: I gotta hand it to Mike...he coulda published the ongoing Misunderstood saga as some big book complete with a humongous price tag (hey Mike, ever wonder why I never ordered any records from you? You must think all yer readers are members of the Fortune 500 or something and frankly I'm lucky if I can break outta the four-digits a year trap I'm in!), but just to show us that he's a fine chap and all he's running it in installments which undoubtedly is a treat for all of us reg'lar readers. Yeah, I know I can't exactly get excited over a period in rock (sans "& roll") music that champions the likes of Mr. Palsy himself Joe Cocker, but it's still fun reading even if the subject matter at the time might not be. (Like with BACK DOOR MAN and DENIM DELINQUENT, you KNOW the writing's good even if you're not quite interested in what's being written about but it seems so engrossing anyhow!) Also of worth...the vast assortment of plattertudes given to such wondrous obscurities (in the realm of dopus americanus, of course!) as the Creatures, ex-Move Ace Kefford (!), the "even newer!" MC5 (hokay...DTK/MC5!) and others I will read about as soon as the laxatives kick in. Johan Kugelberg (is he the same Johan who was Herman's less-couth prototype on an ancient episode of THE MUNSTERS??? I'm only saying this because he used to wanna be friendly with me and all, but has since dropped any correspondence and contact leading your not-so-humble reviewer to think he's gone down the same sorry path as all those other "friends" who turned on me worse than Ben Arnold himself!) weighs in with more of his collector's scum "I got it and you don't!" reviews of garage/punk low-fi trash-rock gems (though Johan missed a "Forming" by the Germs, or even those old Umela Hmota and Dom tracks would be worth the mention even if they didn't appear on any singles!). I can't forget the reams of reviews of recordings and books I wish I could afford but I can at least read about 'em, eh? (Wow, Mike must have some really hot job if he can buy all the recordings that peons like me can only DREAM ABOUT!!!) Believe me, what you're glomming in UGLY THINGS today is what you'll be rediscovering on this blog once I can afford the booty, sometime in 2040, so don't be a Chris-Come-Lately like I am! And one thing I really like about this ish is that the usual gang of idiots who used to write as if they were still working at the "want ads" section of the local paper seem to be improving. No names, but I used to think that these few writers were bringing the quality of UGLY THINGS way down with their flaccid skills which tended to bore me to pieces. (I mean, I used to love the whole post-Meltzer gonzo style which helped to get me through the eighties and even dabbled in it myself, but now the pendulum seems to have swung the other way dissertations???) Nowadays I can actually enjoy reading these scribes' wares since they're not as one-dimensional nor as Calvin Coolidge-esque as they may have seemed at one time, but I'd probably STILL wanna kill the whole lot of 'em (and vicey versy) would we ever meet face to face.

THE BAD STUFF: Well, I dunno if there's anything really bad in this issue but I'll try to find something. OK, there's the article on Mel Lyman who you think would make a great subject matter for the likes of an issue of UT, but the author fills us people who've been in on the Lyman Family game for quite some time with very little if anything we didn't know already, nor does he give us any insight into the mystique of Mel that us familiar types would have liked to have read about given that the Lyman subject has not been as thoroughly exhausted as it has been with his West Coast brother Charles Manson. Besides, it seems that a lot was left out of the Lyman saga like the time he flew out to visit Manson and his similarly-minded Family in 1968 and how the two hit it off really well (Manson eventually dropping Lyman into his conversations and quoting him as well even to the point of saying "Mel Lyman is my mentor!"---and how could anyone writing a piece on Lyman ignore such a profound statement as that???). Lyman acolyte Mark Frechette's jail stint for bank robbery is pretty much skipped over as well (and contrary to what the author says, Frechette's prison stretch and accidental death while weight lifting are VERY MUCH part of the story's scope no matter what he may think!). And besides, there was no mention of Wayne McGuire anywhere here which would be akin to writing a Lou Reed history without mentioning Lester Bangs I guess!

As far as other nit-picking goes...well, like I said earlier the Misunderstood saga is more/less past the scope of my interests settling well into the early-seventies snooze-producing progressive era (I mean, if you told me back in '83 that the likes of Juicy Lucy would be written about in the pages of UT even within the scope of a Misunderstood article I woulda called you a loony...back then Stax would have merely written something along the lines of "Glen Fernando Campbell eventually joined Juicy Lucy and played with Joe Cocker, about which the less said the better!" and left it at that!!!!!) but I still read it only because it's presented so fine and transcends its subject matter to the point where it actually makes the whole shaggy bunch of 'em look good! And if you really want me to pick nits, lemme just say that there weren't quite enough mentions of the Velvet Underground here, and let me remind you that at one time Mike used to be able to drop their name with the worst of 'em!

And there you have it...the good, the bad and the UGLY THINGS and frankly, with the fanzine world dwindling and dwindling into nothingness as the days go by and the active high energy rock scenes and fandom surrounding it aging to the point where the mania of thirty, twenty and even ten years back has been reduced to a whimper (just take a look at my sales records sometimes!), the appearance of a new UGLY THINGS is an event that is the closest modern equivalent of waiting for a whole slew of similar-minded rags back in the seventies and eighties when mags such as this (with a much lower fidelity mind you!) pretty much roamed the fandom earth as did the buffalo. Nowadays the thrills are too sparse to pass up and too many of you are doing just that figuring that the force and thrust of the entire scene is just one big memory, but it doesn't have to be that way. If I were you, I'd continue on the righteous path of the high-energy rock & roll living that you grew up with and are probably missing with a passion by buying up as many of these UGLY THINGS as you can find (back issues are available for an arm and a leg), and while you're at it why don't you give some of the competition a go of it as well, eh?

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