TURNTABLE TRIVIALITIES II
Just a few actual long-playing offerings I dragged out of the collection this AM.
Ike and Tina Turner-THE HUNTER LP (Harvest England)-There will be no Harvest article for the next issue no matter how much the anonymous "John" who left a post looking forward to my once-proposed piece stamps his feet, so I'm just gonna dole out these reviews as time goes on and forego the massive roundup I was more or less planning. This is one of those Amerigan Blue Thumb offerings that Harvest released over there in order to variate from the progressive norm a little, and although the cover shot of Ike and Tina amidst a bunch of dummies looks rather Hipgnosis-esque that is where the similarity between this disc and a label that banked its fortunes on British art-swank ends. Done long before Tina went electroshock hairdo and became Celebrity Battered Wife Poster Child #1, THE HUNTER is mostly a buncha straight-blues that I never got into considering how the blues format has been choogalated all these years. However, "Sweet Soul Sister" does have the manic pounce to it.
DISCO TEX AND HIS SEX-O-LETTES LP (Chelsea)-Bought this one after Peter Crowley regaled me with the story about the time he booked famed disco queer Monti Rock III and "his" entourage at Max's Kansas City and lost a bundle of money even though the place was packed because the only ones who wanted to see 'em were members of the local rock underground, and they didn't have to pay to get in. Surprisingly enough, amongst the hipper-than-you'll-ever-be types front and center for Rock's appearance were member of not only Blondie (whom I'd expect to be there) but the Heartbreakers!!! Can you believe that??? I mean, I could see David Johansen there considering how he was camp all along (as Buster Pointdexter ultimately proved), but Johnny Thunders??? Weird thing about this record is, it's just a buncha art deco party chicness and disco-fied thirties themes (complete with a Mae West impression...is it time for a MYRA BRECKENRIDGE revival yet???) with Rock ranting in and out of the mess. Hilarious, and entertaining only because disco is daid as a doornail and this stuff ain't a threat to ANYONE anymore!!!
LISA BURNS LP (MCA)-New York third-stringer Burns' (see BLACK TO COMM #25 for a review of her Velveteen mini-LP) album from '78 captures the best of the mid-sixties (Byrdsy guitar jangle) as well as a wee bit of hint of what the eighties gnu wave drek Madonna et. al. would capitalize on long before that rot happened, so I guess it wasn't that bad at the time. Interesting selection of cover material (Boxtops, Jackie DeShannon, Michel Pagliaro) mixed with new stuff written by Moon Martin (!) as well as some originals which Burns co-wrote with Helen Wheels (!!!) and producer Craig Leon. Fans of Stiff Records should go for it.
Benitez and Nebula-NIGHT LIGHTS LP (Vaya)-Fourteen-year-old geniuses usually make one big flash then wander off into obscurity, which is what happened with this rather advanced Puerto Rican talented kinda guy. Benitez made a few waves in the mid-seventies leading his own band (which made appearances at Madison Square Garden and CBGB in the same year, though don't believe the hype that Benitez and Nebula were the first PR band to play that club...that honor goes to a band called SPX from a few years earlier) and releasing this album, which although heavily influenced by Hispanic rockers the likes of Carlos Santana still has a bit of rockism energy to appeal to the CBGB audience. It's no "El Watusi," and it's nothing I will spin even on a twice-decade basis, but it's better than I thought it would be.
Tuesday, August 31, 2004
TURNTABLE TRIVIALITIES II
Wednesday, August 25, 2004
A WHOLE BATCH OF VINYLIZED GOODIES THAT HAVEN'T BEEN DIGITIZED...YET!
I've always figured that if you're gonna swipe an idea from somebody, you better swipe it from somebody you HATE, and that's just what I've done with this new post listing a number of old-tyme longplayers that I haven't noticed being Cee-Dee'd even this far down the digital age line. And in yet another vain attempt to be "above it all," this list contains nothing but what I would consider platters truly worthy of being digitalized (not just the predicable entries mind you), and you just gotta know that the knowitalls you've read of elsewhere who have pooped pants over being the first to "say" that such and such should be silver dollar'd (the usual suspects such as the Hackamore Brick album and Tim Buckley's STARSAILOR, both OK discs if you ask me) would NEVER bring any of the classics I mention below up as worth the effort to re-release on aluminum which only goes to show the vapidity on their part (hee!). So, in order to correct past wrongs, here are some REAL entries into the canon of discs that should be made into disques, although a vinyl lover like me has no qualms about them remaining vinyl and vinyl only since that format is so superior in its own trash-gulcher way to the cold and sterile CD which is pretty much lacking on ALL fronts including sound quality (analog stil rules, and is naturally distorted!) and aesthetics (remember the Golden Age of Album Covers?), and you can't get any of this outta an easily-cracked CD case!
THE SIDEWINDERS (RCA)-I'm not talkin' the early-90s just-post-Giant Sand band from Arizona that was also on RCA and riding the grunge wave but the original buncha 'winders who had a fantastic yet wooshed-away album which came out during the so-called dog days of '72. Actually, this dynaflex'd disc fit in well with the best of the burgeoning power-pop groups who were only then just beginning to make themselves known, yet for all practical purposes you can say that THE SIDEWINDERS, with their decadent teenybopper look and the fantastic proto-punk sound, either came too late for the mid-sixties punk brigade or too early for the seventies deviation-sleaze crowd. And they were too cute to be the Dolls. Really, if you swear up and down the page about the likes of Hackamore Brick, you should also do so about these guys. But you won't. While I'm at it, someone should start a campaign to get ex-Sidewinder singer Andy Paley and brother Jonathan's late-seventies Sire LP reished on CD as well. Never heard it other than via various single tracks, but this is a must-track-down item for myself not to mention you with its punky take on the seventies surf/sixties revival sounds of the day (1977, and what I've heard sounds so fresh amidst the revivalist meets the worst aspects of seventies pop hit fodder that was unfortunately the big deal during those times, like "Beach Baby" and the theme from HAPPY DAYS) that SHOULD'VE been pushed 'stead of the horrid quap that unfortunately stood for my generation! And while we're talking about Andy Paley why don't we mention...
Elliott Murphy-NIGHT LIGHTS (RCA)-...which was an album I remember was unmercifully slagged upon arrival in 1976, yet for me it seemed like just the kinda record that I would have loved to have owned if only it would've headed for the cut-out rack a little sooner'n expected. (And for some odd reason it went directly from the full-priced bin into oblivion, at least around these parts!) This was the one that got Murphy kicked off RCA which is too bad, because once you get down to it this disc set the pace for a lot of what was to come out of the NYC underground for a few years afterwards with its mix of punky Velvetisms and New York gutter visions (with a healthy dose of New York singer-songwriter too!), ao let's just say it was ahead of its time which you must admit was the case with ALL of this stew. The tracks with Murphy and his late-'75 Boston-based band (which included, besides Paley on drums [!], ex-Modern Lovers Jerry Harrison and Ernie Brooks) remind me a lot of the more "traditional"-oriented numbers that ended up on the first Max's Kansas City album, and even that second one that it seems nobody likes but had some above-par offerings from the lines of Phillip Rambow and Andrew Pearson as well. The sound is very mid-seventies in that there are enough Arp strings and other synth sounds here to gag even Gary Wright, but maybe therein lies the charm in this excellent bit of pop paraphrenalia. Of course, we do have to put up with Murphy's occasionally overwrought lyrics as well as a guest appearance by Billy Joel, and Murphy's followup JUST A STORY FROM AMERICA on Columbia from '77 (which I believe was reissued on CD in Europe!) took the same drive and verve of NIGHT LIGHTS and improved even more on the decapop, but given all the abuse this vastly-underrated platter got, maybe it's time for an underground revival on par with Rocket From the Tombs and Hackamore Brick. (And while we're at it, how about if RCA reissues Nelson Slater's infamous WILD ANGEL album which was withdrawn because of the Warhol-derived cover featuring a pseudo-S&M pose that got the women's libbers all in an uproar!)
BINKY PHILIPS (Caroline)-Not quite CD-length (since it was a maxi-EP or mini-LP to begin with, but maybe someone could pad it out with outtakes etc.), this one gained a lot of underground press at the time it came out (1988) with even critical featherweights the likes of Parke Puterbaugh of ROLLING STONE singing its praises. As usual the general public yawned, not necessarily because Binky Philips and BINKY PHILIPS were stuck on a small label but because, hey, it was 1988, not exactly high energy rock & rolling times. Too bad, because this platter by ex-Planets leader Philips and his then-current band (featuring Mickey Leland from Susan "fame" on drums and then-galpal Sarah Lee from the League of Gentlemen and later Gang of Four on bass) were a healthy throwback to what underground rock was before Johnny Rotten and pals hadda go and change the punk non-rules for good. The Planets were a great blistering slice of energy rock, sorta like 1967 Who meets 1969 Stooges, and given their totally undeserved failure it was great to see a lotta people rally around Philips and his new aggregate over ten years after the fact. What led to Philips' downfall was that everyone rallied around him except his label, because at that time I got in touch with Caroline asking for help in setting up an interview with Philips for my fanzine, only to get yer typical "go away kid" response from the powers that be. Turns out that the man and band were being dropped right at the same time I was making my motions which would explain the bum's rush I got! Unfortunately I haven't heard anything about Binky or his endeavors since then (other than a mention by J. D. King in the latest BLACK TO COMM) which is a shame, since his high-energy pop sounded so refreshing in the light of an ever-decaying underground fifteen years back. You could only imagine how it would go over in today's particularly nil world...sort of like a fresh blast of air after being locked in a closet with a couple of bean eaters! In the same vein, I'd also like to see the demo tape by The Disposable God Squad digitized, since they were another band reviving seventies freshness in a stale eighties world. Anyone up to THAT task???
Lul-INSIDE LITTLE ORAL ANNIE (forget label, some Dutch thing)-Never heard it but wanted to for longer than I can remember. Reports had them sounding like the ultimate thud-dunce metallic punk act ever, something that would have made the metal thrash bands of the day pale in comparison and those self-appointed arbitors of metallic ways like Andy Secher freak out over the lack of "melody" and "poise" therein. While we're talking un-CD'd material I've never laid ears upon, I ought to mention Archie Shepp's JEWEL if only for the presence of the always-fascinating Kali Zusann Fasteau Garrett.
WALTER STEDING (Red Star)-I reviewed this one in the latest issue of BLACK TO COMM, and it really amazes me that nobody and I mean NOBODY gives the time of day to this wunnerful no wave masterpiece. As I said, imagine the best moments of THE MARBLE INDEX, HERE COME THE WARM JETS and the first Suicide album in an even madder stew than the originals. I think the Blondie connection (plus the subdued second album on Chris Stein's Animal label) scares a lotta prospective customers away, but really, if you've ever imagined a "New York Rock" album that was avant garde, frightening, insane, classical yet rock & rolling which made you flash back to the first time you heard THE VELVET UNDERGROUND AND NICO, this is it.
Musica Orbis-TO THE LISTENERS (Longdivity)-Kitty Brazelton's website has been promising the eventual CD reissue of this unacclaimed treasure (read BLACK TO COMM #24 for a review) for years, but still no sign of it as we speak which is going to be tough for all you audiophiles who cringe over the cow-patty pressings of this now-pricey platter that're flying around. As for me, I really enjoy this group despite everything that was going against them, such as their at-times classical gassy leanings (although they use their progginess to an overall rock advantage rather than come off looking like the music majors they were!) and while a few dire tracks seem to have popped straight out of the mid/late-seventies book of moosh, the smart-takes on then-current pop and avant garde inclinations, not to mention Brazelton's neat pop voice that reminds me of some of the better singers on the seventies scene only in tune, make this a surprise as far as its ability to rock out in a world which expected them to float around the stage! The use of harp, cello and pipe organ lends to the charm, and in some ways TO THE LISTENER sounds like what your typical prog band of the day would have if it were to traipse upon mid-seventies "underground" (read-proto-punk) territory. Which was in fact the case. Actually, TO THE LISTENERS has just about as much relevancy to what was going on in American (and elsewhere) garages in the mid-to-late-seventies as all our fave earbusting bands you'll search the ends of the earth for. Interesting aside: Brazelton mentions that at Musica Orbis' May 1976 appearance at CBGB none other than Joey Ramone was front and center for their set...unfortunately history does not record what Mr. Ramone thought of the show!
Luther Thomas and Dizzazz- YO' MAMA! (Moers Music, Germany)-There are a lot of small-label and especially micro-label seventies free jazz wares in need of reissue, such as Milford Graves' BABI MUSIC and a number of Human Arts Ensemble albums, but here's a strangie that I wouildn't mind seeing digitized soon if only for the prestige of it. Thomas was one of the young avant garde jazz upstarts of the seventies who made whatever kind of name he could have made for himself in the St. Louis BAG scene (leaving a number of records with and without the Human Arts Ensemble, all of which should be seeked out and perhaps even released on the shiny pancake!), but this one recorded in 1981 remains his messterpiece! At this time Thomas was in En Why See cashing in on the new avant garde jazz/punk merger that was very in vogue thanks to the Contortions (and which in fact still resonates from the Sunday Night avant garde jazz series at the
CBGB Lounge!), and, along with Sonny Sharrock, Joseph Bowie, Frank Lowe, Phillip Wilson and other black avant masters Thomas entered into the "dissonance and blues" sweepstakes with a band called Dazz, known as Dizzazz on this release for German avant label Moers Music. An unintentionally (maybe?) funny platter, YO' MAMA! features everything from fake rap to an anti-Reagan reggae number (which is odd in that he attacks RR from an abortion viewpoint by capitalizing on the claim that the administration would pursue criminal investigations with regards to miscarriages [and nada about the actual abortion procedure] leading me to think that Thomas is one of those few pro-life Dems around!) to even a couple straight-out punk rock things which are great in their hilariousness! I especially liked "Six Months in Reform School" (which, according to Thomas, "taught me everything I wanted to know") where our man affects this whiny snot-nosed voice in a great and successful attempt to imitate a teenaged white suburbanite! A black man imitating a while boy trying to imitate a white man who was trying to imitate a black man thirty years earlier??? Who knows, but anyway this is a truly forgotten classic of the early-eighties New York scene, and really, I KNOW that there were a ton of "authentic" white bands on the scene doing the exact same thing so don't call Thomas a cash in!
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Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 4:30 PM
Friday, August 06, 2004
Awhile back (in the course of a review of the Lester Bangs biography) I made the statement that Bangs wasn't my all-time favorite rock writer anymore. That lofty position was now held by none other than Wayne McGuire. Yes, a writer whose entire list of published articles (and a letter) could probably be counted by either your average four-year-old and one who never made it into the seventies writing scene fully intact, is now a bigger writer in my panthenon of rock critiquing greats than one Lester Bangs who gets all the glories and has pipsqueaks praising his name and dribblings this far down the line. And you know what, three years later I'm still sticking to my guns.
So, who is Wayne McGuire? From what I can patch out he was/is a Bostonian (living in Maine for a short spell in the very early-seventies) who had been involved with the underground there since at least the mid-sixties (in his "Boston Sound" piece he mentions trying to convince high school classmates the superiority of John Coltrane over the Beatles and Stones which would make him roughly now in his late-fifties). Not much else is known about this point in his life, though it is reported that he was arrested at a book shop where he wss working in 1967 for selling copies of Boston guru Mel Lyman's underground magazine AVATAR, which the local authorities were eyeballing as an obscene read due to its breaking of the language barrier amongst other things (naturally this and other arrests and Lyman's defiance made him a free-speech hero and all 'round countercultural guy, at least until the stories came out). McGuire came to "prominence" more or less in the pages of the old CRAWDADDY back when Paul Williams was still running the game and under the spell of the infamous Lyman. According to reports, McGuire was also under the spell of this mystical "World Savior" who was then working out of the Fort Hill complex as well, something which seemed to permeate a lot of his early works and earned him a bit of derision from many a quarter. The first of these works to get published appeared in the seventeenth issue of the self-proclaimed (and for many a good reason too!) "Magazine of Rock," a wowzer of a piece on the Velvet Underground entitled "The Boston Sound/The Velvet Underground and Mel Lyman" which not only delivers a pretty good review of WHITE LIGHT/WHITE HEAT but attempts to pair what the late-period Cale-era band (this article was dated August 1968) were doing along with the likes of Mel Lyman and his "community" who were then riding high on the infamy that came with publishing an underground newspaper run by none other than God with a big "G" himself! Considering how the Mel Lyman and "family" recordings that have been circulating under the title BIRTH (CD-R available from John Aes-Nihil) sound a lot like the early-Velvet Underground meets Amon Duul I with Sky Saxon's LOVERS COSMIC VOYAGE thrown in (this bit of information courtesy Imants Krumins, I never heard that one!), maybe McGuire did have a point.
But man oh man, did McGuire really do a good job making the Velvet Underground's music seem so beyond-walls. At first (around 1981 when I first read it) I thought McGuire was just another one of those fruity frilly innerlectual rock critics seemingly oh-so-proper and genteel, and the quick and curt putdown by Bangs in his famous "racism in punk" article helped solidify my original feelings, but subsequent readings had me doing more than just a complete turnaround. For I could now see just how this article, with its references to Burroughs, Genet and C.S. Lewis (whom I originally thought might have had some interesting value as a fantasy cum social/religioso figure but now comes off more or less as just another Northern Irish prod) and with all of its high-falutin' style captures the unmitigated essence of the Velvet Underground as the only band willing to take rock & roll to the heart of the matter at a time when many musical aggregations were getting ten times as much praise (witness ROLLING STONE's incessant cheerleading of the New Left rock agenda with little regards for the actual music or stylings, not counting the MC5 for a short spell of course!) while doing ten times less the effort or energy. Some might have shuddered at a description of the Velvets as being "at the fiery center of the twentieth-century dilemma, as was Nietzsche" but maybe from a 35+-year vantage point I can see just about how right McGuire could have been.
When McGuire begins to talk about the Velvet Underground's actual sound and vision (and not necessarily their light show) he improves even more, in fact laying down a lot of the same critical ideas that have been copped by many a Velvet-obsessed maniac this far down the line. Since everybody likes to insert large block-quotes brimming with major important hunks o' info, I myself will do just that with this following bit which will just goes to show you how far advanced McGuire's writings were with regards to the Velvets (as well as how advanced he was when compared with his literary "competition"):
"But what I really want to talk about is the Velvet Underground's music. Essential to that music is drone. Not the pencil-thin drone of Indian music which emanates from spirits and nervous systems which think they've found it and probably have within their limited structure of things, but a drone which is as broad as a house, a drone which is produced by New World Citizen nervous systems plunging into the Cosmic Whirl. The drone has two levels, high-pitched and low-pitched (corresponding to the drones of the central nervous systems), which are produced by two very heavy nervous systems belonging to Lou Reed and John Cale respectively. The drone is not always heard but rather felt as pure essence and perpetual presence.
"The constant feedback is produced by those nervous systems and projected through the amps which have been made perfect human extensions; it is organic and comes from from the inner recesses of their souls; and their souls are connected to mother earth, their energy is generated from the core of planet earth up through their feet through their heads and amps to create a wall of sounds which is a beautifully intricate and richly texturized abstract-expressionist motion picture. The feedback at peak moments is a suspended mystical ecstasy in which spirit is transformed into a negative mirror of itself, in which streams of energy travel into and out of spirit simultaneously at the speed of light. The only other musician to approach such a profound conception of feedback was Jimi Hendrix on ARE YOU EXPERIENCED? But, as can be heard on AXIS, BOLD AS LOVE, he didn't have enough energy to maintain that powerful conception; and by concentration on such superficial musical aspects as melody and harmonic progression has degenerated to the level of a second-rate jazz musician a la Roland Kirk or Yusef Lateef."
Yeah, I'll bet that a hefty portion of that sounded like pure shovel-it-on hokum to you, but if you think that was I can tell that you too have been blinded by the forces of moderne thought processes which would make you spurn such a well-crafted description of the entire early-Velvets essense of substance while eating up the usual alternative rock press quap so in vogue with the puncture-hole brigade these days. Maybe the "mother earth" ref. would have your stomach flopping but frankly I find the above paragraphs perhaps the best explanation, distillation if you so wish of the inner energy and spirit behind the Velvet Underground sound, a lot more relevant than the comparative duds flung out by a whole slew of Velvet-worshippers of the eighties and beyond whose prose is about as limp as their modern-day musical counterparts.
There are a few interesting open-ends left in this piece, which as McGuire said was only half of the story. This interesting quote; "The V. U. may well inherit the throne vacated by Dylan as the primary myth-makers of our generation. But that is a subject for a book which no doubt someone will write this summer." makes me wonder whether McGuire himself was the author of this probably-written and forever-to-be-unpublished manuscript.
By #19 (October '68), McGuire had penned another piece entitled "Towards a New Musical Form," an entertaining and intriguing work detailing McGuire's plan for a "Universal Musical Form" which is more or less McGuire's take on World Music concentrating on the massive-overdrive sounds of the late-sixties (The Velvet Underground, Cage, Coltrane, Shepp, Sanders, Soft Machine, Shankar, Stockhausen, "Eight Miles High," "Tomorrow Never Knows"...) which would result in a new musical style to be accompanied by a light-show highly reminiscent of the Exploding Plastic Inevitable. The musical make-up of this new grouping is so impressive, at least as much as all the credits on those late-sixties albums where each and every instrument is listed on the sleeve no matter how humble it may be that used to make me drop jaw in awe, so once again I'm going to do some block quoting and list the instrumentation just to give you an idea of how crazed this group would have been had it only materialized (and you would have thought, then and now, that someone out there would have had the brains to put McGuire's theories into practice):
Piano (electrically amplified, not electric piano)
Tamboura or cello drone (electrically amplified)
Tenor sax (electronically amplified)
Five tape decks
Five record players
Optional: electrified violin and/or viola; 2nd tenor sax; 2nd Bass guitar; 3rd and 4th drummers; extra tape decks, radios, record players and and television sets; bells and other radios, record players, and television sets, bells and other assorted rhythm instruments.
Whew! And what McGuire proceeds to write about with regards to this new dimension in sound is a (once again) rhythmic drone that takes the best of the new jazz (McGuire mentions Coltrane's IMPRESSIONS, Cecil Taylor's LIVE AT THE CAFE MONTMARTRE and the new rock of the Velvet Underground) combined into two "structures," an "Inner" and "Outer Clock" with one in a jazz and the other in a rock mode with the jazz part being "atonally based since these musicians will be playing lines, curves and arcs of sound, not notes (my itals.)." The "Outer Clock" would be more structured, playing in "Dorian, Phrygian, Mixolydian or Lydian modes." Ambitious true, and (expecially given the large rock "orchestra"-type ensembles of the early-eighties conducted by Glenn Branca, Rhys Chatham and Rudolph Grey) it's surprising this project never was fleshed out, and in fact was published in a magazine that, other than McGuire's rants, was devoted to the more boring aspects of late-sixties youth culture music.
McGuire seemingly disappeared from the pages of CRAWDADDY along with Williams (who himself was under the spell of the Lyman Family), but suddenly and without explanation popped up in the pages of FUSION in 1970. FUSION was one of the better of the new rock magazines of the day; coming out of Boston, it seemed to have a bit more on the ball than most of the competition perhaps thanks to a snider-style of writing that was a refreshing change from ROLLING STONE's starry-eyed utopianism. True it deep-dived into the same political miasma as STONE (anti-Nixon politics, youth gulcher, Wilhelm Reich...), but at least people like Richard Meltzer were let loose in its record review pages where even Lester Bangs could be given space to praise sixties garage band bargain bin finds (plus the Mad Peck's great cartoon reviews and "Flash Burn Funnies" would show up as well), and it was in this same spirit that McGuire would be given the opportunity to extrapolate himself with his own running (albeit shortly-running) column entitled "An Aquarian Journal."
No, don't expact anything on the Fifth Dimension here, for although McGuire was heavily into astrology as was even hinted in his Velvet Underground piece, this was not the hippy-dippy sort of mystical chicanery more attuned to headbanded gals in the poster shop. More or less astrology in the real Aquarian Age which would see the culmination of a real New World Order, one where both Communism and Capitalism would capitulate to "an electronic theocracy" which I guess McGuire once again left open to discussion as to what that meant!
These "Journals" were short, elliptical commentaries on a number of subject matters and items of varying range, most of them seemingly anti-youth leftist which is s trange considering how McGuire was writing in a "new" publication aimed at the very same hipsters McGuire was deriding. Besides the usual paens to the Velvets (as well as musical acts previously unmentioned by McGuire such as the Stooges, John Fahey, Robbie Basho and the Grateful Dead), there were bits and pieces on a wide array of "relevant" subjects that in many ways seemed to be as dagger-aimed at the heart of the love generation as Alice Cooper said his music was. Much of this is now outdated 'cept for students of early-seventies radicalism, but given McGuire's general hatred for the New Left as well as some of his more acidic, downright offensive comments, you could call these Aquarian Journals proto-punk in their slash and burn (not to mention musical) content.
Beware: McGuire, like Mencken, could really tear into his object of derision. He could also, like Mencken, say things about groups and races that would be considered "beyond the pale" by the arbitors of taste out there...y'know, the ones that shudder whenever something terrible is said about blacks or Jews but feel perfectly fine dishing it out to suburban squares and practicing Catholics who've been punching bags for these intellectuals for way too long. It's kinda funny, but sometimes these literaty-minded tastemongers seem to tear into people like Mencken for their at-times derisive words towards the protected classes of today while ignoring all the good things Mencken would say about 'em as well (I mean, he may have said some off-center things about blacks, but you must also admit that the KKK was after his hide for some even-more powerful daggers aimed at them!) Back to the subject at hand...McGuire too could say a lotta things that seem extremely offensive to blacks and especially Jews, but like Mencken there seems to be some sorta alterior motive. His barbs were more or less aimed at the radical aspects of each (maybe in the same way that I'm sure a lotta non-liberal/left Jews probably get all apopleptic over the radical Jewish elements who berate them for not being socialist...I actually read that somewhere but don't ask for any sources!) and even with some of his comments and usage of uncouth language towards blacks I couldn't see him as being as "racist" as such. After all, he was a big fan of the new avant garde jazz and actually felt that Pharoah Sanders was a milestone of the black race with his "karmic music."
But then again, I copied these journals for a BLACK TO COMM reader who at the time I didn't know was Jewish, and I told him that I thought some of this writing, while good, might be a bit extreme considering some of the things said. Oddly enough, the reader wrote back saying he enjoyed the journals and didn't find a thing in them he would consider anti-Semitic, so maybe I am over-conscious about these???
Still, the quotes found in these journals continue to sting this far down the line, and for anyone who can remember the "New Left" hijinx of the early-seventies they do have their power (and can even be applied to the current variation on the Young Communist League admireres out there). I remember one quote which went something like "I don't know about you, but I kind of like it when Spiro Agnew makes the tweedy, pipe-smoking liberal college professors cackle like a bunch of indignant hens." My sentiments (in retrospect) exactly! There were many more of these attacks on youth culture extant, from a disparaging commentary about a white girl with a picket sign swaying to soul music blasting from a speaker, to on-target destructions of the likes of Bill Graham and Ralph Gleason, whom McGuire saw as the worst West Coast shucks imaginable (despite his like for late-sixties Dead).
As far as the music went, McGuire was still strong on the Velvets as well as the aforementioned acts not forgetting Yoko Ono (this being her pre-gay icon days when she certainly exuded a, er, heterosexual persona you think the gay guys woulda run away from!), Lamonte Young and even jazz pianist Bill Evans. Nice li'l bits of flight can be found as well: "Life Cell Movie: The Stooges take over town. As a community joke, a large platform truck drives up and down Main Street all day and night for a week, carrying ten hanged people. Their eyes bulge out, their swollen black tongues hang out, their blistered faces have turned matted grey. The townsmen line the street to marvel at the Death Float. The ten hanged folks occasionally wink and grin at the spectators to let them know that everything is OK."
Besides the musical commentary (with more interesting proto-punk musings on the likes of how CCR's monotony is boring while the Stooges' is genius, and how McGuire's favorite music is that which is in "the raw stages of becoming" not to mention classic swipes at the likes of Eric Clapton and other seventies stupes) there more on the likes of McGuire's fave British fantasy writers with some great bits that may have even more meaning now than then. Even Dorothy Sayers gets quoted: "Humanism is always apt to underestimate, and to be baffled by, the deliberate will to evil." Humanist was one thing you couldn't blame McGuire for being, since it was he himself who called that modern thought process a "cop out" in his Velvet Underground tome.
It seems that there were only three "Aquarian Journals" to grace FUSION although McGuire would later pen a writeup of THE DUTTON REVIEW for them a year later as well as this letter in praise of a Mel Lyman piece (where he tears into the articles by Lillian Roxon, Nick Tosches, Richard Meltzer etc. that appeared in the same issue, strange because in a journal McGuire was very gung-ho on Meltzer but then again McGuire tended to praise then berate a lotta people, and vice versa). It seemed that McGuire and the New Journalism just weren't meant for each other which is probably wny the man seemingly dropped off the face of the earth for a spell.
McGuire reportedly turned up in the late-seventies in the pages of Nancy Foster's NEW AGE fanzine, first as an interview subject where he stated that he pretty much gave up on rock music after the Stooges, only to get back into it after hearing the Ramones, and later as a reviewer. I've only been told this and have yet to read anything from this period, but (as usual) any help would be appreciated. It was around this time that McGuire became the manager of La Peste, the Boston punk group that had released the excellent "Better Off Dead" single plus a bootleg along the line before entering the great garage in the sky. And after that nothing was heard, until...
McGuire once again showed up in cyberspace, during the early days of the internet where he became part of mideast discussion groups usually upsetting people on both sides of the aisle (I had read one entry of his commenting on the assassination of Rabin, which seemed very pro-Labour Party and anti-Likud to a frothing extent----supposedly he upset way too many people to the point where he was hounded off the web with detractors even going to the extent of digging up old dirt on a messy divorce!). There was also this website of his which was more or less technological data and linkage for the more brainy amongst us, though there was a neat page which listed various McGuire faves, likes and dislikes as far as various subjects went. He did mention an admiration for British historian Paul Johnson (who is considered very pro-Israel/Jew, so go figure!), though his other political/historical likings make McGuire a hard man to peg. He hates William Safire (which seems the course considering Safire's more or less turnaround towards a neocon-ish bent) but likes Maureen Dowd, perhaps because her Clinton-era writings were critical of the prez enough that many conservatives would cling to her at the time. His Howard Stern hatred seems to be an outcropping of his old hatred of such New Left types as Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, though his other likes and dislikes might make McGuire even harder to place amongst the uninitiated. However, I can understand him...amongst the things he least likes are "fundamentalist Christians/Conservatives/Liberals/Libertarians/Jews/Muslims" on and on down the line, and in many ways I echo the same sentiments, which seem very Menckenian in retrospect. (Though in no ways would I consider the man Randian...in fact, I wonder what Rand would have thought of McGuire doing an astrological reading on her!)
Also of interest were McGuire's musical tastes. On his lists of various musical faves he drops the names of the acts I would have expected after reading his writings of yore...the Velvets, Stooges and John Coltrane, but surrprisingly enough McGuire revealed his love for the heavy metal idiom, something never mentioned in any of the writings of his I have previously glommed. Black Sabbath are a fave, as is solo Ozzy (along with Randy Rhodes). McGuire also mentioned that amongst his fave musical acts of all time (and fave guitar solos etc.) were recordings by bands such as the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Neil Young and Crazy Horse (ca. the brilliant EVERYONE KNOWS THIS IS NOWHERE and the great solo on "Cinnamon Girl"), as well as some of my favorite "no comment" acts such as Alice in Chains, REM and U2. Hmmmm, maybe I'll give him a pass this once!
's funny, but McGuire's page was up for quite a long time, and being naturally intrigued I even wrote the man an email seeing if he'd get in touch because I wanted to get Edgar Breau (a huge fan) to interview him for my BLACK TO COMM fanzine. There was one long note mentioning everything from Lyman, the Velvets and Bach and another one a short while later (Imants Krumins also wrote a letter) but no response. Soon, McGuire's page was down for good making me wonder if li'l ol' me had anything to do with it...maybe McGuire was in hiding from the Lyman Family (or what's left of it) and thought I was part of a conspiracy to silence him for good, or maybe I was another internet trickster out to ruin him even more, or perhaps he was ashamed of something from those days but whatever, this attempt to get in touch with one of the greats had backfired, perhaps for good!
Wayne, the offer still stands...Edgar is waiting patiently for your return so he can do an interview, so if you happen to read this and want to take us up on our offer, why don't you post a comment or something???
ADDENDUM-Go to Groups.google.com and enter in "Wayne McGuire" with such combinations as "Velvet Underground" and "Boston Rock" or "Middle East" if you're so inclined (invent your own variations!) for even more insight as to what the man has been doing since the early days. This bit of information comes courtesy of Jim Hoffman. Thanks for the tip, Jim!
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 12:06 AM
Tuesday, August 03, 2004
KEVIN AYERS/SOFT MACHINE VIDEO!
Hi. I got this one about two-and-a-half-months back but I'm only reviewing it now. Wanna know why? Seems that the guy who dubbed these probably "classic" to someone-or-other performances by Kevin Ayers (plus some documentaries on Soft Machine and Robert Wyatt respectively) is a friend and one-time associate of a certain person who really rankled my ire as of late, and though I wanna drop the subject completely and act "above it all" you know, I really can't. Call me an immature petty and vindictive slob and you'll probably be right, and call me even more thin-skinned than I was during the not-so-calm days of YOUR FLESH and you'll be even righter, John! It's just that...here I am, a guy who's a miles ahead of EVERYBODY rock and gulcheral writer in on the gonz game for well over two decades who should have been (but never will be) awarded the laurels and rewards due such a person of my upstanding stature, and all I get for it is a whole slew of abuse and flung dung that (you know) I never deserved in the first place! An' yeah, I know that the man who made this video for me had nothing to do with the crimes perpetrated against me, but let's just say that things were pretty much too close for comfort for me to both fully appreciate this tape and acknowledge persons "A" and "B" as pals'n that really shouldn't have anything to do with anything, but sometimes I do tend to heap on a lotta "guilt by association." Really, I take things so seriously that I couldn't even STAND to play ANY MUSIC that was being reviewed by any of the people in question for a long time, which is a shame because I had just bought a cartload of Art Ensemble of Chicago albums and I couldn't BEAR TO LISTEN TO THEM KNOWING THAT ONE OF THE EVIL PEOPLE IN QUESTION WAS REVIEWING THEIR WARES POSITIVELY...I JUST COULDN'T STAND TO LISTEN TO ANY OF IT DAMMIT!!! That's how pee-yoed I had been for quite a long time, and frankly the anger and frustration (over a lack o' JUSTICE I might add!) only makes the wound sting a li'l more'n it should. Too bad I'm not Miles Davis, or I can order a bitta healthy retribution against the King Curtises of my life, but hey, I'm just another lousy petty peon so I guess I gotta get used to my lot in life as the TOILET FOR THE TERMINALLY HIP!!!
Anyway this associate of friend or whatever of person "A" sent me a videotape of some Kevin Ayers things from British tee-vee as well as some Soft Machine and Robert Wyatt thingies that he also decided to slap on, and although he dint exactly want me to "review" the thing and said it was made purely for my "enjoyment" I decided to write about it anyway since there's really nothing else to do right now. So, in order to stave off boredom even more here's a rundown on what was on the VCR which I'm sure even you'll get a swift kick inna pants outta.
Kevin Ayers on British musical shows like TOP OF THE POPS and OLD GREY WHISTLE TEST or both. Or none. I really dunno since all these shows tend to run together to me but I gotta say that I think the music performed on both and the way they were presented sure beats the way Amerigan tee-vee was doing up rock on those late-night shows in the seventies I used to try to stay up and watch in order to be "grown up." Hah! Those IN CONCERT and MIDNIGHT SPECIAL presentations were soooo infantile once you got down to it, with the "hip" producers knowing nada about how to make rock music palatable for a nation of stone freaks. Oh well, that's another blog, but I really like watching these Ayers videos not just for the UK feel, but for the music extant.
Good moment---Ayers and The Whole World on some show doing "May I." This was a song that showed Ayer's, er, continental side off almost like what Bryan Ferry would be doing with Roxy Music in a year or two with images of some decadent European at one of those French outdoor cafes with the umbrellas onna tables 'n everything looking at some sexy gal asking if it was hokay if he just eyeballed her a bit. Kinda Velvet-y too, with a feeling akin to something Lou shoulda put on his BERLIN LP a short while later. On television it's presented perfectly, with the accordian cranking out the usual French cheese and Lol Coxhill playing soprano sax with a little goatee (By the way, is his WELFARE STATE album on Caroline from 1976 any good? I never saw that one imported or CD'd, or publicized much for that matter) and that's Mike Oldfield on guitar there, and it's easy to wash away his pregressive/avant garde inclinations away after hearing him do his better-than-you'd-dare-admit leads. As I said in the mag...if only someone inna USA got hold of this stuff and presented it for us hippie-drenched teenbos of the time...it sure would have been much better than watching Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show speak for their generation, if ya know what I mean!
Another interesting Ayers bit...watching him, all glammed out with makeup and in shiny seventies glitter limpwrist clothing, mouthing "Falling In Love Again" from his YES WE HAVE NO MANANAS disc. I told you earlier that I got this one (on the UK Harvest and not the USA ABC label) recently even though I first heard it in 1977 when it came out and thought it was a drag then. Well, I haven't had the desire to spin it yet, but it was nice to at least see Ayers lipsynching this Marlene Dietrich number after all these years and I probably woulda gotten a kick outta if had I seen the thing fresh. It's kinda funny to see Ayers doing the sissyglam thing in '77 when that style was on the wane, but it does fit in at least with what was going on a few years earlier with a real camp backing that coulda been Wayne County's or even something from an Adrian Street record (!), and that ending where the piano Ayers was leaning against explodes seems to be the fitting touch, perhaps Ayers' final comment on the glitter movement? I dunno, but to me it would seem like Ayers was putting a cap on things himself considering how the punque goings on were pretty much sending Ayers and that whole early seventies prog-rock gang straight to the unemployment line!
Now onto the Soft Machine. Y'know, I was really intrigued with them ever since I read Lillian Roxon's blurb on them in her famed encyclopedia just like I was intrigued with her entries on the Mothers of Invention, Fugs, Silver Apples, Velvet Underground and Remains. The idea of a rock group playing avant garde jazz and being too avant for the rock guys and vicey-versey just struck a chord with my mid-teen psyche, and although the Machine's Columbia two-LP set (the one with the soft-serve ice cream cover as I liked to think about it) as well as the Harvest import BUNDLES were easily enough available, it was their early material I was seeking which I eventually found in a flea market. And I gotta say that I did get more than enough enjoyment outta them, but it's like they haven't been spun much in the years since I went whole hog into Velvets/garage concerns for some odd reason. I still have those early platters in my huge collection somewhere, but haven't had any time, luck or ROOM to go through the entire shebang to find 'em!
Still, that video is pretty snat. You get an actual documentary on 'em with neat clips of some rehearsals in one of those quaint English homes and shots of the band tossing their instruments (organ, drums, cello...) into the back of their mini-van while neighbors sunbathe in the raw, but it seems like right when everything is beginning to cook the thing's over. At least we get some blippoid lightshow effects which obscure the group more than the Exploding Plastic Inevitable ever could. Still good for the history lesson as is the German track from later-on ('70?) with a more British/avant/fusion style and a still-walking Wyatt making cool sounds into his mic. Funny, the Germans could present rock & roll on tee-vee better'n the Amerigans, and you'd think they would have been too strict and ordered to do so!!!
Closing the video's a documentary on Robert Wyatt. Now, I gotta say that Wyatt ain't exactly one of my faverave people and other'n his work on those old Brian Eno albums I couldn't bother to listen to him anymore. There was a time when I would spin things like RUTH IS STRANGER THAN RICHARD a lot, but then after a few years something crept into my psyche and said "Chris, this music is boring!!! It's droning in a negative way and there's no spark or dash to it!!! Why listen to this when you can go to the record shop and dish out good money for a copy of NUGGETS which you'll get a big kick outta!!!" And that li'l voice was right (for once), since it was the unadulterated teenage snarl of the sixties garage bands that began to capture my psyche and things like MATCHING MOLE'S LITTLE RED RECORD has remained in my cassette box for way longer than I can imagine.
Anyway, this Italian documentary on Wyatt is kinda dungeon if you ask me. (Not that you did, but I figured anyone bored silly enough to actually wanna seek this blog out to perhaps learn a little bit would be interested in me espousing on just about any shard of information at hand no matter how inane it may be.) Wyatt doesn't make for an interesting subject matter (I just got one little tidbit of relevant information outta this, the part where Wyatt related the saga about Theolonius Monk patting him on the head in lieu of an autograph!), and let's just say that a GOOD PORTION of his solo career isn't anything that makes a rock & roll legend. The usual hanger-on types, the old musical pals etc. gather 'round and heap on the standard praise, and frankly I didn't get anything outta that because it all seemed too, uh, structured. believe me, I would have much preferred that Wyatt be the honoree at a Dean Martin Celebrity Roast...I mean, at least those were entertaining!!! Fortunately this documentary swooshes over a lotta Wyatt's bad traits like his unflagging devotion to the old form of WORLD PEACE THROUGH MASSIVE OPPRESSION political fun and games that seemed to die down once revelations of Pol Pot and other world-savers began filtering out of the various workers paradises around (not that these things shouldn't be discussed...I'm only glad they weren't because I know that somehow they would be used to present Wyatt in an even more positive light!), but even with the whitewashing and Elvis Costello this documentary comes off worse than one of those PBS projects you still come across once in awhile!
Gotta give thanks to Mr. "B" for sending this along. A hearty tip of the BLOG TO COMM hat to you despite any poor choices of association you may have been involved with. Just hope there ain't any 180-degree switcharoos with you like there were with a few others out there in cyberbackstabland...I mean, one things the oft-mentioned Ayn Rand was right about was when she said DON'T TRUST ANYBODY!!!, and with such sage words I think I better just keep my eyes wide open with regards to just about ANYBODY bearing gifts out there who may decide to use something against me in the court of public opinion!
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 9:25 PM