SUISHOU NO FUNE CD-R
As some of you (mainly the guys who sold me this stuff) know I have loads of Japanese goodies to write about, but while the Hiroshi Nar collection and latest Up-Tight offering not forgetting a slew of LSD Marches ferment in my mind I'll be a nice sport and give you a brief review of this newie to satiate your hunger for these obscure yet proto-punk in an anti-punk world Tokyo wonders. Suishou No Fine are yet another modern Japanese group with Les Rallizes Denudes connections (some of the many ex-members have passed through Suishou's ranks) thus making them of some interest to people like myself, and though they sure do have the right credentials this CD succeeds only about half-way. With a hard power-trio setting that at times veers very close to the all-out noise grate that turned me off faster than I would a Mike Myers marathon, SUISHOU NO FUNE remind me of more than a few of those nineties Japanese bands that seemed to clutter up the Forced Exposure catalog at the time...y'know, the ones with the hard artsy crash and thud that never did seem to light a fire under me because it sounded too...er, motionless. Music for monkeys to yank the hair outta their arms to. However, when they're not creating musique concrete with a metallic thud, SUISHOU NO FUNE do have a fine sense of pure underground slam that one can tell evolved from the great psychedelic garage EPI-inspired warm drone of the Les Rallizes guys. When it isn't getting too cerebral and settles into a nice repeato-riff groove (with the femme bassist singing these dulcet la-las) Suishou can even be exhilarating. One worth the effort to search even with the less-than-enthralling moments.
YOU CAN'T GO HOME AGAIN, BUT IT'S FUN TO TRY
Back when my sister was attending Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland I used to hit the two used record shops in nearby Cleveland Heights (on the way to the campus), they being Record Revolution and the Record Exchange. At the time both of these places were like a godsend for a kid who had to search far and wide for not only new but old, out-of-print wonders...there were no used record shops in the Youngstown/Sharon area that I knew of so finding those hard-to-get wares (this being the seventies long before mailorder and internet made even the most obscure offerings commonplace) available at used prices was more than what a depression-wages kid like myself was askin' for! The avant garde classical and free jazz albums were not only plentiful but inexpensive, plus rare items along the lines of bootlegs and imports could be found with ease and without denting your wallet that much. Record Exchange was good enough for bargains especially when trading old discs you got for practically nothing, but I preferred Record Revolution since it was twice as big, had the hugest selection of records and rock magazines one could hope for, plus they had the latest import/local release singles available in a small bin on the countertop which I always would comb through in order to find the latest underground Cleveland release...you can't imagine how many times I'd look through that box hoping for a Rocket From the Tombs single back in 1979! True you had to put up with a bitta the countercultural spew that one could find in this little Bohemia, but really, what was it in the light of import records starting at $5.99 (including the CLUSTER AND ENO LP which the local shopping malls were retailing for a whopping $11.99!) not to mention all of the rare free jazz wonders straight from the local college radio station that one just couldn't find at the local National Record Mart. And who could forget those unholy and illegal bootlegs...man, I even remember seeing Pere Ubu's infamous U-MEN boot in the Record Revolution basement racks going for a paltry $1.99 back when it first came out spring 1979!
And one great thing about these shops is that some of the same records would hang around in the bins for years on end! Since Cleveland Heights was folkie/hipster-entrenched, the denizens there would ditch the good stuff (punk, garage, avant jazz...) and take all the Alex Bevan and Down Home Jim Dippy platters they could get their hands on! Leaving the hot stuff for me, who could enter into these shops with maybe ten bucks in my pocket and a stack of used records bought cheap at a local flea market mixed with my own rejects, and leave with a hugeoid, humongous stack which certainly helped quadruple my record collection within a few short months! Sorta like the Charles Atlas plan for underdeveloped rock fans. Believe-you-me...if there was a used album there that I was thinking about buying in 1979, I could guarantee that the very same record would remain there for YEARS ON END in case I'd change my mind somewhere down the line. Like take this copy of the James White album on Animal...the one where Luther Thomas did the horn arrangements and maybe played a bit on it? Well, I saw this promo copy of it in the Record Revolution basement back in '82 when it came out, and thought about snatching it then and there but decided against it. A few years later the same thing. By 1988 I STILL saw it there and, missing the intense bleat of late-seventies underground rock to the max, rescued it from languishing in the bins for yet another ten/fifteen years!
Off the top of my shiny dome here are just a few of the records I can think of having bought at both Record Revolution and Record Exchange between 1978 and 1990, and to have fun I'm going to peck out all of the discs I can think of within the range of one minute! OK...ready...set...GO!: Pere Ubu's DATAPANIK IN THE YEAR ZERO 12-inch EP, Patty Waters and Alan Silva on ESP, Acting Trio on BYG, Red Crayola Radar reissues of first two albums, the Styrene Money Band's "Radial Arm Saw" 45, Alternative TV's "The Force is Blind" 45 plus the Mark Perry and the Good Missionaries 45, MC5 KICK OUT THE JAMS, Kim Fowley's OUTRAGEOUS, Kevin Ayers' ODD DITTIES, Sun Ra LIVE AT MONTREAUX, Max Neuhaus' Columbia album w/"Fontana Mix (Feed)," Zappa's 2-LP live '77 set that had the insert for the NO COMMERCIAL POTENTIAL bootleg, Unholy Modal Rounders etc.'s HAVE MOICY!, John Coltrane's INTERSTELLAR SPACE, Ornette Coleman's WHO'S CRAZY, Peter Laughner's Coolie album, the CLEVELAND CONFIDENTIAL EP (which was in that aforementioned singles bin smack-dab next to a display filled with the last issue of SLASH which I neglected to get despite a Roky Erickson interview!), Walter Steding's GET READY EP, THE REMAINS on Spoonfed, Guns 'n Roses' 44 CALIBRE HORTICULTURE 2-LP boot, the Velvet Underground's ARCHETYPES and THE FUGS SECOND ALBUM. Whew, that was tough! OK, it took LONGER than a minute, so whip me with a wet noodle!
Anyway, as the blah eighties led to the tiresome nineties, I became more and more introverted and began to stay in my room most of the time hardly venturing out other than to hit a flea market or Chinese restaurant. Believe me, I thought that such things as shopping for records was in my kiddish past, and given how records were giving way to (ugh!) CDs, there wasn't any impetus for me to get up off my acne-laden buttocks to go hunt for records anywhere 'cept maybe a local shop still carrying vinyl where rarities could be discovered on a few occasions. Besides, I HATE shopping for CDs with those plastic holding cases clattering everytime you go down the bin, and it ain't like you can pick 'em up and read the cover notes with any ease like you usedta with albums! I did make one trip back to Cleveland Heights in '97 and felt sad thinking what had happened to those shops that were once brimming full not only with albums and singles but some character. Like I said, shopping for CDs was no fun and the basement used record section at Record Revolution was now filled with used CDs. The only thing remaining of the used record section were a couple of the old-styled bins that survived filled with the same disco drivel they couldn't even get rid of back then! I sorta chuckled at that. Some surviving bootlegs were there, remnants of the old days (BONZO'S BIRTHDAY PARTY and some Hendrix items, plus a new vinyl boot of REM with Roger McGuinn that actually tempted me!), but they were being displayed in a showcase as if they were rare relics of a bygone era, which they were. I was inhibited from asking a clerk if I could inspect them up close.
As for Record Exchange, they seemed to be getting a lotta the biz from the new breed of kidz, but all of their CDs were stacked in locked cabinets and there was no way to see what was for sale. I split pronto knowing that I was never going to return. And at that time in my life there were a whole slew of things bothering me and eating away like that gnawing puppy the Spartan boy swiped and hid under his cloak until the dog chewed enough flesh to kill him (the li'l soldier uttering nary a whimper...true Spartan he!), and you can more or less guess that this li'l trip back just helped heave a little more angst on a guy who was going through more than a little bit of it himself (I get that way sometimes). Yeah, I know you can't go home again and things change, but just like I wish that television was firmly stuck in 1963 and rock groups in 1966, I still think it would be neat if record shops were timewarped in 1979, even with the disco! (Well, you need a counterpoint to make the good stuff all the more better!)
At least I got a copy of Coltrane's ASCENSION set from the trip so it wasn't a total washout, but I did feel the loss of yet another major source of fun and jamz gone from my gulcheral life, and I've suffered more than a few of those down the line! Heck, it was almost as bad as when you were a kid, and that TV show you were obsessed with was just canceled!
Flash forward to last Sunday. It was a whim, but I ended up back in Cleveland Heights after almost seven years! New buildings on one side of the street and oddly enough the same set up and front doors on both record shops, but I passed on Record Exchange (now known as CD and Game Exchange or something to that effect...new name's a tipoff that this place ain't exactly gonna be a fun way to spend my afternoon!). So different yet so the same, at least to the point where I fantasized that I was either Peter Laughner or some made-up Cleveland underground seventies rock personage of my own design who was hanging around the Heights on a cold November day before getting ready for a hot flash gig that evening at the Viking Saloon (some people have sex fantasies and I have rock ones!...well, it's better'n going through my own at-times yawnsville living!). I did get a fine feeling going through the doors of Record Revolution...sure the window display was hyping the likes of Luna just like they did Patti Smith 25+ years back, but it did send a retrogarde thrill down my spine. Of course the import bins where I used to pour over Flamin' Groovies and Soft Boys albums were gone, but they did have the CDs and I could get a bit of excitement thumbing through digitized versions of the same offerings I lusted over long ago. Downstairs is now closed up which is a shame because of that zing I'd get tromping down 'em to see the used/bootleg items up for grabs, but they did manage to move some of the graffiti from the walls next to the staircase over to the upper floor...available for eyeballing was Debbie Harry's '78 autograph as well as a bunch of things from...City Boy??? Dunno where the Laughner thing went, but someone should preserve it all for history's sake!
Surprisingly enough amidst the CDs and what's left of the clothing counter where paraphernalia used to be sold in less up-tight times was a display with some local long-playing records by groups I never even heard of, as well as one with what must be the very last batch of used records surviving from the glory days of used bins. Amongst these now-mystical wares was a British copy of WITH THE BEATLES ($6.00) which I actually inspected and considered buying before it dawned on me that I'm not that big of a Beatles fan, as well as a Bola Sete live thing that I was thinking of getting until I decided that I didn't want it that much considering the problems with my turntable. I left the shop, went a few doors down to the book store to see what was left of the shop that was once-brimming with hipster holy grail writings by the likes of William Burroughs and Patti Smith (not much...the only remaining artifacts of a boho past here was some R. Crumb-drawn AMERICAN SPLENDOR poster plus a pic of this Cleveland beat poet guy whose name I forget who got into trouble with the law probably for writing something dirty and killed himself), then returned to Record Revolution and purchased a CD of Funkadelic's FREE YOUR MIND AND YOUR ASS WILL FOLLOW. I had seen a copy of that in vinyl form at the same shop back in '88 and considered buying it then, but passed for some obscure reason. Buying it this go 'round was almost therapeutic, like maybe I did get a chance to slip back and make amends for a past non-purchasing error on my part.
To top it off, the man who waited on me was the same guy who had been checking my discs out ever since I started shopping at the store way back in the seventies! And as usual, he made a remark about the item I was buying (saying that he bought FREE YOUR MIND... when it came out and really liked it) just like he would when taking my moolah every other time over the years which I thought strangely surreal, a nice li'l cap to a day which I didn't expect to be anywhere as real as Gig Young's attempt to re-live past joys on THE TWILIGHT ZONE, but it was fitting.
Tuesday, November 30, 2004
SUISHOU NO FUNE CD-R
Friday, November 26, 2004
A BRIEF WORD OF WARNING...
After going over my most recent post toastie making corrections repeatedly as I'm wont to do (I publish my scribings as soon as I make my first draft because frankly, I've lost way too many long, drawn out articles by either directing them to the "preview" page or saving them as a rough draft in order to let these pieces ruminate a bit), I've noticed that a lot of the revised posts are not being changed despite repeated editing! I have no reason as to why this is happening, so if you see some redundancies or awkward passages in any of my recent posts believe me, I've tried to make these changes and over and over for that matter but they just won't stick! Also, I've noticed words missing from some early posts making them look really illiterate which isn't hard to do with my writing but believe it or not, I do strive for better. I think all this bugaboo is a result of the virus that affected my computer in the past which linked up certain words and did all sorts of screwy things to my blog but I have no proof of any of this. So while reading these oldies keep alla this in mind, and I will try to correct every little deletion and gaffe when the times is ripe and this blog isn't giving me more grief.
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 8:25 PM
Thursday, November 25, 2004
BOOK REVIEW: THE BEST OF LI'L ABNER by Al Capp (Holt, Reinhart and Winston, 1978)
There used to be these ads cluttering up a lotta newspaper and magazine space back when I was a kid, and they were for (I believe...we're talking well over thirty years of memory loss here!) Funk and Wagnalls encyclopedias and what made 'em so special to me was that they featured an endorsement, complete with a glamourous photo, from none other than Lucille Ball! It would have been fitting to get Ball to move your wares at the time, especially since she was riding pretty high as the queen of CBS Monday Night Comedy with her still-enjoyable series THE LUCY SHOW and later on fizzed-out HERE'S LUCY which also featured real-life children Lucy and Desi Jr. as a bunch of spoiled hippie brat-types who were more irritating than entertaining...even the special guests on the show couldn't save it for me! Anyhow, the banner for the ad (which I as a kiddie actually thought was written by Miss Ball herself with her own two hands, me bein' so altruistic and all about such things as eight-year-olds sometimes are) read something along the lines of "I never thought I'd fall in love with an encyclopedia," and of course I felt all warm and toasty inside thinking that this woman, who along with Jerry Lewis woulda made the perfect parent for me, was a book nut even with all her talent and millions and adoring fans. But hey, if yer a kid and you think that these big people are so cool and all and you find out that they read encyclopedias just like I did, well it does do a certain somethin' to you inside!
I don't know if I fell in love with THE BEST OF LI'L ABNER yet, but I've been reading it constantly since getting it into my hands yesterday. And even thought I'm not quite ready to take it down the aisle yet I gotta admit that this book at least got me so enthralled that whilst reading it I flashed back to those 12-year-old days when comic strip collections and various comic book titles made for an enriching, educational and ultimately enjoyable time especially for a pimply tub o' lard who hadda struggle to get a "C" average in school and was the butt of jokes from not only fellow students but teachers and parents alike. I'm not talking about myself, but I'm sure there was more'n a few kids out there who would fit this description.
For those of you who are totally in the dark, let me explain a bit about LI'L ABNER (which would be a shame because I thought just about everyone out there would still be aware of this 20th Century highmark which unfortunately seems to have gone the way of other forgotten stellar moments of them times such as the Edsel, Dog House drive-ins and OZZIE AND HARRIET---maybe I'm wrong). It was a comic strip that began in 1934 drawn by the shamelessly self-promoting and soon-to-be controversial Al Capp about a poor ignorant hillbilly, namely the title character himself Abner Yokum (a strapping muscle-bound youth with an IQ somewhere around that of the Hulk's) who lived with his folks (mother Pansy "Mammy" Yokum a verifiable superheroine who more or less came off like Popeye in drag while the other half Lucifer "Pappy" Yokum seemed satisfied with his role as the gentler, lazier of the two) in a run down shack in Dogpatch USA, which was eventually revealed to have been located smack dab in the state of Arkansas. From this Black Oak of squalor came over forty years of what I would call some of the finer humor to emerge from the funny pages...funnier than POGO (which I always took as a simpy, lackluster comic custom-made for the 120+ IQ crowd, that is, if they're as boring as they are smart) or DOONESBURY which still seems to echo the state of affairs concerning the youth revolt generation now snuggling comfortably into retirement age (meaning these people are STILL in shock that Ronald Reagan got elected back in 1980!). However, whereas both of these comic strips took on the political landscape from a leftish point of view (POGO from a comfortable Democratic standpoint and DOONESBURY from a son-of-privilege Ivy League New Leftism now snuggled further into the Ronald Dellums wing of the Democratic Party), LI'L ABNER took an interesting trip through the New Deal-vision on through the cold war and up through what can only be called an early take on Neoconservatism (but we won't hold that against Capp!) that shocked all of the Galbreaths and Lippman types who once hailed the strip for its regime support only a few decades earlier. But more on that later.
Anyway, I like this ABNER collection for one good reason, and that's because this book showcases NONE of the earlier, famous episodes I've read time and time again (y'know, the first Schmoo saga et. al.). Well, not quite, since the collection starts off with the famous marriage to Daisy Mae sequence continuing from there on to the strips from the late-sixties and seventies that comic historians would most like to forget. Y'know, the ones where Capp goes out of his way to TEAR DOWN a lotta the same things he was championing only a few years earlier depicting a new world that was being run by downright hoodlums and ruthless millionaires while authority looked on benignly, smiling all the time. Unfortunately some of his better youth-baiting stories are absent such as his on-target skewering of folk singer Joan Baez as "Joanie Phoanie" (which got him sued by the songstress who reportedly won, which I find hard to believe because if this is so then howcum MAD is still in business?) and the "Patrioats" episode where a new strain of oats is found which, when consumed by long-haired, smelly radical hippie types, turns them into clean-cut well-polished flag-salutin' specimens of young adulthood! Yeah, the Great Society cheerleaders as well as the Berkeley crowd weren't exactly going for this sorta rant (and neither were some of the classic liberal [read: libertarian] types...just read this interesting critique which makes a few valid points about DOONESBURY in relation to Capp and his strip by pressing here), but even as a kid in the single-digits I was following LI'L ABNER faithfully laughing my head off at the well-done spearing of a lotta the leftist sacred cows of the day, and this was long before I knew anything about politics other'n watching William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal tear each other's hair out as Howard K. Smith tried to moderate/intervene without much success.
But what does appear here sure makes me happy enough. After all, this was the stuff I was readin' during my formative years at least until the quality of the strip seemed to go downhill along with its creator (Capp, not exactly a man known to keep his pants up at the right time, was at the center of a couple sex scandals involving the same kind of college co-eds Capp was lambasting in his own strip...reports say that Capp's libido often got the best of him to the point where he would draw obscene pictures on the back of his strips in order to "flirt" with the women in the United Features Syndicate mailroom, and believe-it-or-not but Capp even made a move on none other than the sexless Goldie Haun, which I guess proves he'd bonk anything!). But that wasn't always the case...before Capp's personal life began catching up with his strip, he was at his peak, perhaps the best self-promoter and spokesman for a generation in the tradition of Oscar Wilde and Walt Whitman. Of course, the opening story from 1952 about how Li'l Abner was forced to marry longtime girlfriend (more or less) Daisy Mae after he took the Fearless Fosdick solemn oath to do anything Abner's "ideel" does including marriage (Fosdick's own hitch-up to longtime fiancee Prudence Pimpleton turned out to be a dream, but alas, Abner's wasn't!) is a classic which proved that Capp was the master of free publicity considering all of the headlines (and a LIFE magazine cover) this stunt earned him. (An aside, in the sixties Capp did a cunning spoof of PEANUTS which got Charles Schulz rather uptight...these Sunday pages unfortunately aren't reprinted here but I remember them as being a hoot, shamelessly lampooning how Schulz's creation went from a simple, funny kids strip to an intellectually-bent and perhaps pretentious comic with children quoting Shakespeare and Snoopy as a ham actor playing a World War I pilot! Of course this was all sarcastic and perhaps anger-laden sour grapes from a man who wanted to get back not only at a strip that stole a lotta ABNER's publicity and thunder, but at his old syndicate as well!) The various fifties/sixties spoofs of Liberace and Elvis work out swell (OK, maybe mensa/mensa since a lotta the Elvis spoofs of the times seem to have been born not out of satire, but of utter disdain), though for me it's the late-sixties/early-seventies comics that make this one of the top "book o' the year" contenders for my 12/31 year-end wrap-it-all-up which'll give you the TRUE lowdown on all the slam that's fit to print!
Included amongst these gems are such greats as the Johnny Carson satire done at the height of TONIGHT SHOW mania in the early-seventies (Abner gets a job as the schmuck who hides under "Tommy Wholesome"'s desk and hands him products to plug), not to mention a still-timely one where Dogpatch Indian Lonesome Polecat is admitted to Harvard solely on the basis of there being no Indians in the student body (and yes, there's a pun about American Indians and Asian Indians here---I'm not saying that Capp wasn't obvious!). In a brilliant move of Cappian satire, Polecat ends up owning the university after S.W.I.N.E. (Students Wildly Indignant about Nearly Everything) gives it to him in a fit of liberal righteousness, with Polecat in turn giving the entire shebang to the Mafia in exchange for his life, who end up running it their way!
My favorite of the late-sixties anti-nabob sagas reprinted here has to be "Fearless Fosdick Meets Dr. Doolittlegood," which is about the time Fosdick, along with the rest of the police force, get "sensitivity training" from a bleeding heart sociologist ("REMEMBER-A CROOK ISN'T NECESSARILY A BAD CHAP!! HE IS MERELY SOMEBODY WHO NEEDS SOMETHING SOMEONE ELSE OWNS!!") which turns him into the exact opposite of his former self, mainly a soft-hearted goody-two-shoes who allows criminals to escape (and shoot him after he ditches his gun in order to prove he's a nice guy!) thanks to the Doc's enlightened ways. (Naturally the Doctor changes his mind and wants bloody revenge after being mugged in Central Park while Fosdick finally reverts to his old, violent self after a bunch of looters attempt to swipe his steak dinner!) I tell ya, this, contrary to what the author of the above-linked "Doonesburied" piece may think, remains not only funny but pertinent even to this day...in fact, the commentary on compassion run amok is so powerful here that I'm surprised that Steve Ditko didn't write it!
(Though I have to say that there was a soft, human side to Capp I don't think his critics ever would dare acknowledge. Missing a leg himself, Capp did a special comic for amputee soldiers returning from World War II where he not only tells about his accident and eventually overcoming his problems adjusting to a new life, but of his travels down South which inspired the ABNER comic strip. I hate phony sentiment and modern day heart-bleeding over people who I wouldn't pee on if they were on fire, but Capp's heart-felt story about his own problems and how he got over them was pretty powerful and emotional, and I don't mean in today's phony, plastic way where it seems that compassion is limited to only groups approved by THE VILLAGE VOICE (sorry J-y!), if you know what I mean. Call me a cornball, but I really feel for Capp when he not only loses his leg but gets frustrated over life, pulls himself together then heads for Dixie and meets up with a kind family who turn out to be the Yokums!)
I must admit that the rest of this book varies, not in quality but in its ability to capture my imagination like most of the other stories do. But these things usually take time, and I'm sure that I'll have more'n enough of it this winter season to osmose THE BEST OF LI'L ABNER to its fullest. Still, when ABNER gets brilliant, the strip can soar with the best like it does in the Sunday strip spoof of STEVE CANYON (here titled STEVE CANTOR!)...Abner, tired of being in his own comic, gets a job with Milton Goniff (sic!) for a change of scenery so to speak, making a shambles of a secret mission in communist China where he and Cantor deal with the bald female spy Jewell Brynner! The artwork is an almost-impeccable swipe of the dark Caniff style and in many ways not only reminds me of something the classic-period MAD might have cooked up (in fact, there was a BLONDIE spoof where Dagwood gets the exact same wish!), but better yet what the young turks who worked for the early NATIONAL LAMPOON and the underground cartoonists the likes of Bill Griffith and Jay Kinney around the time of ARCADE could have done with a lotta bad taste thrown in as well! True, STEVE CANTOR may not be as loose-cannon outrageous as anything that those people could have whipped up, but on its own merit (that being of Capp existing merely for Capp's sake!) it sure does fine by me!
It's funny reading the later strips after all these years and man-oh-man how they dredge up old memories...I still remember how Capp gave Abner this swept-down Joe Nameth-esque hair that I thought looked ridiculous at the time but today seems rather innocuous. I also remember Capp's ascerbic attacks on ALL youth (which got Don Fellman mad because he was all for Capp and didn't like getting rounded up with a buncha longhairs!) and how Capp made John and Yoko look foolish at the bed-in (plus that NBC "Experiments in Television" program which pitted Capp against Kim Deitch and Trina Robbins!), not to mention the sex scandals and the local paper ultimately dropping ABNER some time after I quit reading it. I can clearly recall looking at it on and off via the Youngstown paper which carried it to the end, shuddering at the obvious loss of quality with strips consisting of nothing but one long panel of Dogpatch residents running to or from something like they had been for years, only day after day with little movement in the story plot or much dialogue for that matter. Even at that time when, frankly, I had all but abandoned the comics page save for BEETLE BAILEY, FERD'NAND and of course NANCY, I felt sorry for Capp and the sad fact that he wasn't going out in style. Finally, I recall hearing about his death in 1979, only two years after he retired from ABNER. At the time it only made a blip on the cultural radar, but I naturally picked up on it perhaps for old time's sake. Of course, the sad thing about it all is that when ABNER was on the way out strips like GARFIELD and CATHY were on the way in. They were comics that may have said something to an audience that hadn't been reached out to via the comics page, and they may have become successes that inspired a lot more in the way of new and hip comicdom, but frankly they weren't funny. At least ABNER in and even out of its prime was of some interest and contained plenty in the way of not only hard laughs but interesting storylines and plot-twists that still hold the attention years after. The fact that the ABNER era of comicdom is dead while today's strips reflect a culture either of "blue" latte liberal upper-crust snobs or "red" yammering baboon local yokels more than anxious to blow up the world in order to facilitate their own sainted vision of Armageddon is only proof as to how much good ol' Amerigan gulcher has devolved over the past forty years. And you know, I'm more than willing to forgive a sex maniac like Capp because he at least seemed to deserve redemption despite his unfounded claims of persecution...I'm NOT about to do any forgiving when it comes to the vast majority of hip-lefties and self-absorbed mind-numbed rightoids (who are not really right-wingers, but don't tell them!) who BOTH hate me for what I am even though they want it to look as if they're just oozing love all over the entire stinking world as we know it!
One final note: if you need more "resensifying" and those MC5 albums aren't quite enough...try LI'L ABNER...they do a mighty fine job!
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 8:14 PM
Sunday, November 21, 2004
Back in the old days when I was a kid Sunday afternoons were funner than fun. Naw, I'm not talkin' about all them times when mom and dad would drag me outta the house for one of those typically gulcheral "educational" day trips to some old fort or boring landmark...I'm talking about the Sunday PMs where I'd go w/the folks to a flea market or garage sale back when the 50s/60s way o' living that I was reveling in even at that early stage was being sold second-hand and at cheap-o enough prices as well! And if I couldn't make the trek to seek out old comic books and Dinky Toys there was always something good on tee-vee (like a good cheap old movie) to hold my attention for at least a minute or two. But alas, those wanderlusty days are long-gone but don't fear Sweet Polly Purebread, for there is something worth your while to replace those intensely powerful years of mid-amerigan doofus living and that's INTERNET!!!! So rather than mope about the house bored outta my gourd, now I can wile away the hours by writing reviews of recently (and not-so) acquired items not only for cathartic purposes but to kill an hour or two! So my loss (of pastimes yore) is your gain (reviews for all of you'ins who have nothing better to do yourselves), and to be nice about it I'll even try to cut out the long-windedness that has plagued my writings for longer than I can remember.
Tim Buckley-LORCA (Essential, Russia)-This "contractual obligation" album didn't quite win me over back when I first heard it during the avant-garde year (for me at least) of 1978, but the recent retroactive hubbub over Buckley's STARSAILOR offering from about the same time had me giving LORCA another go at it after years of indifference. The experimental numbers are a lot more entertaining than most of the obligatory "look-how-hip-we-are!" tracks it seems that each and every rock act just hadda include on their albums at the time, and in many ways LORCA is similar to Buckley's STARSAILOR yet is noticibly different mostly due to its chamber-esque setting. The title track is startling with the electric piano/pipe organ/acoustic 12-string intensely battling it out (and between LORCA, THE MARBLE INDEX and the MC5/Stooges catalog who's to say that Electra wasn't the primo avant garde label despite its folkie/hippie leanings!), with John Balkin's organ playing just as caustic and shatteringly synth-like (!) as Lee Underwood's was on STARSAILOR. The rest of this is standard Buckley folk/jazz, pleasant but not enough to make me want to hear anything outside of Buckley's experimental works.
The Revelons-ANTHOLOGY (Sepia Tone)-When I was younger I used to love combing through the En Why club listings to see which bands were playing at those oft-mentioned underground haunts, all the time wondering whether or not alla those obscure-o acts that I never heard of sounded just as essential as the ones who were actually putting out records at the time. (With my off-kilter modes of rock reasoning firmly in place, I figured that they just hadda, given that this was New York City and there was this great undercurrent of intensity happening right before my eyes, and in a world of giddy disco and arena barbituate-puke muzak that sure accounted for something.) Well, I finally get a chance to give a listen to yet another one of these still-obscure aggros, mainly them Revelon guys who were playing around at the end of the original New York scene from the late-seventies until the mid-eighties or so cluttering up a whole lotta gig ads along with the likes of such other potentially fun nobodies like the Sinatras and Hibiscus and his Screaming Violets, and like a good portion of groups out there on the punk train the Revelons owed more than a little to the mid-seventies early CBGB generation...after all, they had the look down pat (young skinnies with short hair) and the sound copped from Patti and Verlaine (it's no surprise that both Blondie/Television bassist Fred Smith and Patti drummer Jay Dee Daugherty were in the band at various points), and they do a competent job continuing on the tradition of the young suburban malnourished kid with burning intensity style started by the Velvets and continued on oh-so-craftily by the likes of the Modern Lovers and Talking Heads. However, the Revelons, like a lot of groups that came out in the wake of the innovators, seemed to lose more than a little with their translating of the early-seventies garage cultspeak into some supposedly-improved late-seventies creation. Nice hooks and cops from past accomplishments seperates this from the reams of "alternative" one-dimensionals that came in the Revelon's wake, but there's nothing that hits me in a powerful life-enhancing way anywhere to be found here. However, I have the feeling I will be warming up to it in a few months time or so...check back.
Archie Shepp-THE CRY OF MY PEOPLE (Impulse/Verve)-Here's a disque which proves that, where in the seventies it may have taken many jazz musicians six or seven years to forsake the freedom drive for softer or even downright mellow/disco tuneage, it took Shepp only two. Not that THE CRY OF MY PEOPLE is bad by any stretch, it's just that the man who did so much to further the cause of fire music only a short time earlier sure did a switcheroo with this return to the early watermarks of "great black music" that don't quite capture my attention (too much forties/fifties bad jazz references stick in my mind). Only the 1961-period Sun Ra-esque "African Drum Suite (Part Two)" and Ellington's "Come Sunday" managed to perk my ears up any.
LSD March-March 16, 1999 (Connection)-A lot has been written about LSD March here and there (scroll down), and a lot more will be written not only on this blog but elsewhere, but in the meanwhile I got hold of this CD-R of previously unheard by me March material, probably unleashed upon us w/o any band knowledge at that considering the sound quality and truncations. Sounding more like a rare archival tape from a cult fave that popped up on eighties tape-trading lists worldwide (though the final track sounds remarkably clear and professional in this stew), March 16, 1999 is a massive feedback fest/early-Velvets stormfront done by the version of LSD March where leader/guitarist Michishita Shinsuko is joined by an Inoue Mackoto on bass and Eddie and Bill from Coa on slide guitar and drums respectively. (Eddie and Bill, femmes despite the name, are in fact Coa en toto, a bass/drums duo that reportedly sounds more like a five-piece guitar band but I'll believe it when I hear it, which I will do via THE NIGHT GALLERY VOL. 2 CD which is winging its way to my door as we speak. Anyhow, Coa would be the second bass/drums rock duo extant that I am aware of, since fellow countrymen the Ruins also feature the exact same instrumentation leading me to believe that it all may be a Japanese thing!) Song fragments appear and get cut off right when things begin to cook, at times sounding nth-generation hand-held portable cassette just like all those supposedly soundboard Les Rallizes Denudes CDs going around, but it sure reveals itself to be so innermost sweet despite the glitches with the Rallizes-styled psychedelic blare meeting freakout meets stoner ballads and experimental popisms just like you wished more bands would have done during the height of the mushroom. It's been quite awhile since I got obsessed over anything so strongly early-VU-inspired/influenced, especially considering how most current bands have left me cold, but these Japanese aggregations like Rallizes, LSD March and their myriad assortment of followers and spinoffs have gotten me ALMOST as hot under the collar as I was with New York and Northeastern Ohio underground rock back inna late seventies. And given the amount of jadedness I've had to endure all these years, that's realling saying something!
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 5:07 PM
Friday, November 19, 2004
Whaddaya know, a film review after what...five years already?!?!?!
RAIN OR SHINE (Columbia, 1930)-Best known more for its director (Frank Capra) than leading man, RAIN OR SHINE stars vaudeville/Broadway legend and future Educational Films mainstay Joe Cook (in an adaptation of his 1927 stage hit) as the head of an on the brink of bankruptcy/disaster circus that he's more or less running (while staying one step ahead of the creditors) for Louise Fazenda, the daughter of the deceased owner whom Cook (like these things usually work out) loves although her's is purely platonic, Fazenda naturally going for the handsome rich guy played by Buster Collier Jr. Meanwhile the deceitful lion tamer and German strong-man have plans to take over the entire shebang after the local sheriff forecloses, with things naturally devolving to the point where the circus falls apart right before showtime as everyone goes on strike and Cook and a few loyalists have to do the entire performance themselves (resulting in a fine showcase for Cook's at-time amazingly unbelievable juggling and balancing expertise). And as you'd kinda expect, everything ends in a huge fire that destroys the entire enterprise, and although I'm not a circus movie expert by any stretch of the imagination I gotta say that this has to be one of the first of the oft-cliched circus-destroyed-by-fire scenes that seems to have been part and parcel of most of these films for at least the next quarter-century!
Joe Cook naturally shines as the shifty screwball running the show, and all two of you who have laughed yourself silly at Cook's Educational comedy shorts from a few years later will undoubtedly want to see how he "looks" in a feature role. Like in those comedy shorts, many of Cook's vaudeville routines pop up (such as in his pointless story about how as a child he once had to eat his cornflakes without condensed milk!) and seeing the man's stage routines within the frame of a feature-length film is a rather, uh, strange though tantalizing experience in itself. Also on hand are Cook's old right-hand man Dave Chasen, another screwball resembling a cross between Harpo Marx and Gene Wilder playing some obscure sidekick character who seems to have just wandered into the film without any real explanation (he later gaining even more fame as the owner of Chasen's restaurant in El Lay), and Tom Howard, this William Burroughs-esque fellow vaudevillian (and future Educational Films star in his own right) as Shrewsberry, a local merchant after Cook for an unpaid bill who naturally gets doubletalk hornswaggled in the process and becomes a part-owner of the circus and fair-weather ally of Cook's. (There's a strange, bizarre scene at a fancy dinner party where Cook, Chasen and Howard tangle with a load of twine/spaghetti that comes off weirdly surrealistic on one level and maybe pointless on another...I found it both entertaining and uncomfortable at the same time though I've read one account which really lambasted the futility of it all.)
As for Capra...well, the acting abilities of Cook and the play's adaptation (which introduced the song "Singin' In The Rain" long before Gene Kelly danced to it to every square film fan's delight) aren't harmed in any way by this over-rated director's hamfistedness. However, considering the brief mention of Cook and this film in Capra's autobiography I kinda get the feeling that the two didn't get along too swimmingly, which kinda pleases me in a strange way given how much I loathe Mr. IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE and all of the sappy cinema he "influenced." An interesting aside to the brief mention in that book is that the extremely-hated Columbia boss Harry Cohn was a big fan of Cook as was the infamous gathering of intellectual gasbags collectively known as the Algonquin Round Table, which I guess finally says something good about all of 'em! It's too bad that Cook's film career ultimately fizzled out after Educational Pictures went under in 1939, because I'm sure that Columbia could have found good work for him in their shorts department, at least until the Parkinson's Disease that ultimately doomed his career (and doomed Cook himself) began to take hold in 1942.
Anyway, if you're a fan of thirties nutzo humor RAIN OR SHINE better be on your film list (check ebay as well as lists of old films on VHS/DVD for sale via your fave classic cinema magazine), and before I tune out for the day I also gotta mention that it's even surprising that some people are still talking about Cook and his infamous schtick even all these years after-the-fact. (And hey, before I totally forget I better tell you that I never even mentioned Cook's trademark "Four Hawaiians" skit...which the man never even performed in his thirtysome-year career adding all the more to his nutzo mystique!) Heck, I even got some book on the screwball comic strips of the past...y'know, those wild, crazed funnies created by the likes of Milt Gross and Gene Ahern which included such unfortunately now-forgotten faves like SMOKEY STOVER and THE SQUIRREL CAGE whose pre-Ernie Kovacs/SNL/MONTY PYTHON sense of strange sure fit in well with the comic readers of the first half of this century. Anyway the author, in giving us a background of the screwball idiom from whence these classics came, mentions Joe Cook as one of the originators of the form! Well, he sure would have been great as the lead in a SMOKEY STOVER feature film had Monogram thought up such an idea around 1940!
Also check out W.C. Fields' autobiography where he namedrops Cook as a guy who "didn't have writers, he had carpenters!" (A reference to the strange visuals Cook used not only on stage but in some of his Educational comedies...such as the "Fruit and Flower Getter" and the door hinged to the floor!) Also, for an easy-to-find still from RAIN OR SHINE get hold of a copy of HOLLYWOOD BABYLON II for a pic of Cook and some circus underling looking upon the fat lady, whom Kenneth Anger jokingly refers to as the portly Liz Taylor!
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 1:46 PM
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
Hasil Adkins-THE WILD MAN CD (Norton)
The A-Bones-FREE BEER FOR LIFE 2-CD set (Norton)
I can still remember my first encounter with this Miriam Linna person...t'was in the pages of THE NEW YORK ROCKER about a quarter-century ago and from what I could gather she seemed like a rock & roll fan par excellence. Or at least Miriam looked cool enough since she resembled some wild rock & roll screamer you woulda seen in 1966 goin' after Brian Jones with an icepick on the prowl for a big and hairy CHUNK, which was cool in my book more or less! Then there was a piece on her band the Zantees in the pages of CLE #3-A not too soon after our initial hook-up which was interesting enough for a person like me wanting to know more about ANYTHING on the New York Scene (though from all the reports on 'em glommed from CLE and Garry Sperazza's "Crib Death" column in BOMP I had the Zantees pegged as a sixties garage-type of band in the tradition of the Fleshtones...boy was I surprised when I finally heard 'em!), then I recall talking to CLE editor Jim Ellis, him tellin' me about his trip to New York where he not only stayed with Billy and Miriam for a spell but with the Bush Tetras which was murder for him because there were all these people coming and going at their place day in and day out. (Ellis played in a band called Tender Buttons back in '77 w/future Tetra Laura Kennedy and Andrew Klimek and they, like Johny Dromette's Dromones w/Mike Weldon, played songs thirty seconds or less in length but unfortunately never tackled Hawkwind's "Master of the Universe" like the Dromones did!) I dunno, this all happened sooooo long ago so maybe I'm wrong about some of the details or even all, but I remember Miriam Linna as being one of the big names on that cool and afar New York Scene ca. 1979-81 that I was more than obsessed on at the time, and believe me, stuff like this was so exciting and energetic to me in the light of Christopher Cross!
It wasn't until 1982 that I finally got hold of a copy of KICKS, the thick and chewy fanzine that was written and edited by Linna and her partner-in-Zantee-crime Billy Miller. I remember this time as being a particularly void-filled one in my life, almost like a strange, ennui-laden dream thinking back a whole twenty-two years. The underground rock that I cherished seemed to be dying fast...oh, there were plenty of good groups playing around in New York City and elsewhere and the fact that both Manster and the 1975 version of the Planets had reformed was a good enough sign there was still some strength in the seventies-styled underground, but frankly nobody seemed to want anything to do with it (other than me, that is!). Hardcore did seem like the ultimate end result of the past ten or so years of punk development, and at that early stage I didn't realize that the form was ultimately going to burn itself out to the point of looking for the most part ridiculous once the middle portion of the decade clocked in. As for the "garage revival" bands, that seemed like an equally-healthy outpouring of rock & roll emotion, and I gotta give the form credit for holding my attention until at least the late-eighties when a lotta the groups who were involved with the movement seemed more or less too incestuous to the point of it all being like a small, private clique. But still, 1982 was like a strange, transitional year for me and for the music I was listening to with alarming regularity as well.
Anyhow, I got a copy of KICKS #2 via the old GOLDMINE BOOK SHELF and y'know what...I thought it was creepy! Not creepy in that it was brimming fulla rancid rock music I couldn't give a whit about...far from that...it's just that there seemed to be a lotta ragging on things I really held near and dear to my heart at the time! Things like "new wave" and I don't mean Billy Idol and more hair bleach than you can stand...seems that both Billy and Miriam had a big mad-on about this new rock & roll music which I couldn't understand and seemed very confusing to me because, although they were ragging on no wave and the New York groups/critics and a lotta the newer acts that made up my rockin' bread and butter, they were also devoting hefty space to the likes of the Flamin' Groovies and Dictators...and weren't those groups new wave??? Actually, according to my own point of rockism view at the time, any group that wasn't part of the "classic rock" FM stoner pimple-farm burnout jeeter music that permeated the Youngstown area was new wave...the Groovies and Dics true, as well as Motorhead and all those heavy metal groups that played CBGB and Max's Kansas City, Roky Erickson, Alex Chilton, 15-60-75 the Numbers Band, MX-80 Sound, the Zantees for that matter and the Chesterfield Kings. Considering what was happening in Soporland USA, ANYTHING that "stood against" the tide of rock & roll hard rock retardation so prevalent not only then but now WAS new wave, a music valiantly defending the spirit of rock & roll in the face of the usually horrid Chuck Eddy-inspired stuffed-crotch populist snobbery that unfortunately was "speaking for my generation" when it shoulda been Cheetah Chrome doin' all the talkin! Heck, at the time I actually woulda even called those sixties NUGGETS groups like the Seeds, Sonics and Troggs new wave...they sure sounded new to me, y'know, or at least newer than Bob Segar doing his boring croon version of hippie ballads with seventies schmalz.
Anyway, I devoured that issue of KICKS so much (mostly because of the sixties garage coverage...like I said, I thought that the sixties punks were a direct antecedent to the seventies batch and y'know, I still believe that!) and got to like it enough that I eagerly bought the third issue when it was hot off the presses and all subsequent ones at that(and paid a hefty price for the first ish directly from the source...I still remember the note that Billy Miller sent with an issue that went something like "So what's with all this Von Lmo crap!"). 'n yeah, though it took me awhile to get completely into what Billy, Miriam and their writers were tryin' to say, I sure dug their rather Gorcey-esque altitude...the sly raggings on the music and musical acts they hated, the reverse-snobbery (fifties/sixties primitive fun over eighties "hip-to-be-square" nerdism) and best of all the tweaking of the alternative/chic noses that never get tweaked or don't get tweaked enough. Y'know, like waving Ol' Glory while the competition was getting all hippie-hot over how much they hated Ameriga and all that...and hey, even onetime VILLAGE VOICE scribe R. J. Smith said something (in a positive mention if you can believe it!) about how KICKS was a "proudly conservative" fanzine, though I kinda get the idea that anyone who wipes their butt would be a conservative according to the heart-bleeding Smith! It might have taken me awhile, but I eventually knew where KICKS was coming from, and after their 1992 issue proved to be their last my fanzine reading has been a lot worse for wear if you ask me. I mean, if it weren't for KICKS and their very own record label Norton I would have been left in the dark with regards to a lotta really wild, primitive, garage and (dare I say?) punky things that are so satisfying in that hits-you-in-the-right-way that I didn't mind at all that a good portion of it was recorded even before I was born! And that's a long time ago...
So let's flash-forward to the present day where we find these two new items that have been freshly released by both Billy and Miriam's boss Norton label. Yes, the fanzine may be dead but the label lives on, and boy does it live with such stellar offerings the likes of Hasil Adkins and the A-Bones. It's kinda funny seeing these releases (and more) on CD especially since KICKS made such a well-conceived hubbub about these new tea-coaster monstrosities back inna eighties when such items were strictly in the confines of the yuppie squares, but it's nice that they're out and since I'm still using a cheap Westinghouse turntable borrowed from my brother-in-law which I only operate on occasion since I don't wanna ruin my vinyl more than I have to, I'm not complainin'!
First let's talk about Hasil Adkins. He's that one-man band rockabilly obscurity from the sainted fifties who wasn't known that much outside the pages of the old Ron Weiser ROLLIN' ROCK fanzine back in the seventies who sorta got a big PUSH thanks to B&M and some powerful KICKS-space devoted to him...well anyway, this is Adkins' first ever "modern day" recording or at least the first one since the seventies and frankly it's a winner just like the Norton debut LP featuring classic Adkins sides entitled OUT TO HUNCH was...if you can, imagine a Jerry Lee imitator doing the big beat on a guitar and drum set that sounds like it's the same kind Stymie played in the International Silver Screen Submarine Band with a pretty hard primal high-protein meat diet OOMPH! that comes off even more primal than those late-fifties garage bands who used to make records in their living room complete with the parlor upright piano way outta tune. I have the feeling that most of you already know what this sounds like and have been familiar with Adkins and the legend ever since B&M thrust him upon an IRS-records minded public way back when, but if you don't, and you're somehow under the impression that rockabilly is nothing but a buncha guys playing punk rock (talking the moderne variation of punk as punque for all the bad that may imply) with upright basses and Stray Cat hair, then listen to this and be in for a SURPRISE.
Liner notes included in the pull out booklet are wunnerful as well, and though you'll probably be familiar with the saga of Adkins' New York romp and subsequent tour if you've read KICKS since at least the fourth issue you'll wanna read it again and again. I particularly dug the stories about the time Adkins consumed a can of Campbell's chicken noodle soup that Miriam had autographed by Andy Warhol totally oblivious as to who this guy was (I dunno if that empty can is now worth more because Warhol signed it or Adkins ate from it!), not to mention the hissy-fit of a letter that rock star Sting wrote to the VOICE after a critic there gave Adkins a rave and Sting the boot in the same review! Hmmm, considering all of the good VOICE press Norton got you kinda wonder why there's all the animosity anyway...other than due to the existence of Robert Christgau, that is!
But enough of Adkins, now onto the A-Bones. They were the group that Billy and Miriam formed out of the ashes of their previous wonder the Zantees (I always wondered if there was any bad blood between B&M and the Statile twins at the time of the split because I never saw any mention of them anywhere after that, which is a shame because they were great guitarists). Anyway, this 2-CD set's a collection of mostly odds and sods and non-album wonders with a few newies thrown in just so's the reg'lar fellas who've been in on the game since the beginning will pick it up. (And they will, mostly because there's also a neat booklet with the band history and rare snaps these maniacs will want as well.) Anyway, this collection does show off the varied side of the A-Bones...naw, they ain't about to do their twenty-minute tribute to Iron Butterfly or rock opera ELROY DIETZEL SUPERSTAR any minute now, but they do show us just how much they could do with music just like they could show up just how much they could write about the music that inspired this interesting slice of rockandrollus noninterruptus in the first place.
Naturally the A-Bones work wonders with the rockabilly genre since that's what the proto-A-Bone Zantees have done so perfectly, but they also take nice treks into equally KICKS-condoned forms like frat rock and of course the mid-sixties punk/garage genre. Moments I particularly dug include their version of Paul Revere and the Raiders' "Louie Louie" sequel "Louie Go Home," not just the original 1964 "Alley Oop"-ish take and not just the 1966 raga-Yardbirds-inspired 'un either, but BOTH of 'em crunched into one wonderful take which is the next best things to playing the Raiders' punkified pair back-to-back deciding which one's the better. It takes a manic mind to conceive of such anarcho-splatter, and if you thought that B&M weren't of such a higher-plane mindset then you've been burying your head into way too many issues of RELIX, brothers and sisters! Also tops w/me is their instrumental take of the Velvet Underground's "Guess I'm Falling In Love" which sounds about as dog-gone New York gutter meets knotty-pine basement as all those garage bands covering Velvets-spew back in 1967!
Besides being able to switch from rockabilly to garage to rhythm and blues with seemingly relative ease, the A-Bones were pretty good at getting various rockin' legends to record with 'em. Not only do the Rudy Grayzell single sides appear here but the Great Gaylord, Johnny Powers and Roy Loney ones (as well as a live take of "Teenage Head"!) which does give the proceedings a more, rockified edge. (Japanese missies the 5-6-7-8's also chime in some backing vocals on "We're Gonna Get Married," so I guess all of the Japanese-baiting in the pages of KICKS was just a har-har puton like some of the things another writer I know would sometimes slip into his scribing in order to shock a PC-fied world!) It was a particular pleasure hearing Loney and the A-Bones tackle the PEBBLES "chestnut" "Stop It Baby" again since it was not only such a good song to begin with, but because hearing Loney sing it would have only been a mad fever dream to most garage band aficionados back in 1978 and you would have to leave it to B&M to have pulled off such a wild stunt to begin with, without looking ridiculous or anything like that. But then again, wouldn't you think that the entire publishing and recording career of our dynamic duo is more or less a fever dream come true for them??? After all, would you have thought that either of 'em in 1972 or 1975 or 1978 for that matter would have even imagined that not only would they be playing/living rock & roll but relatively well-known writers/fans with their own fanzine and record label, rubbing shoulders with people they undoubtedly admired for afar at one time but who they now know on a first name basis?!?!?! If you told the two of 'em back in 1976 that they would have been releasing Pretty Things albums in the not-so-distant future I'll bet the two of 'em woulda laughed at ya, thinking that dreams are dreams, but let's be real! Believe me, Billy and Miriam have done more living and fulfilling their rock & roll dreams in their to-date lifespans than the whole lot of us could ever imagine, and I'm sure their little toes have had a more exciting, fruitful and meaningful time than I could even if I were to live to be a few thousand years old!
Hopefully the new Norton catalog will be coming out shortly in time for Christmas cheers, and if I were you I'd save up yer shekels for a hugeoid order from 'em which should include both these stellar platters (which may still be available on vinyl, or at least the Adkins one probably is). Whatever, this is one "alternative" outfit that deserves to be supported in the face of about a thousand other "indie" labels vying for your hard-earned capital, and the best part of it is that every item you buy from Norton is like a spiritual sock in the jaw to Robert Christgau and his thirty-five years of published idiocy. Buy up, gang (POW!).
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 9:08 PM
Sunday, November 14, 2004
Edgar Breau-CANADIAN PRIMITIVE CD (Songhammer)
I've gotta big batch of recordings to catch up on as far as reviewin' and satisfyin' a slew of record labels goes (including a buncha new offerings from both Norton and Bomp and I better not keep 'em waitin' too long!) so excuse me while I get the whip out and start cracking away! And what a better way to commence my reviewing spree than by tossing out this newie by longtime BLACK TO COMM faverave Edgar Breau at you. Yeah, you remember Edgar from Simply Saucer, they were that now highly-regarded "proto-punk" group that only got their posthumous just desserts after the release of their now-infamous CYBORGS REVISITED album way back in 1990. Since that release, Simply Saucer have been regarded as one of those brave bands located somewhere in the so-called "Dark Ages" of underground rock (roughly 1968-1976) who, along with such enlightened acts as Rocket From the Tombs, Chinaboise and Umela Hmota, sorta bridged the period between mid-sixties teenage garage band aesthetics and mid-seventies punk revivalism of course getting pretty much nada in the way of fame and fortune during their 1972-1979 lifespan (and that includes during the days when a punk audience would have been more accepting of Saucer's splatter, or so you'd think). Well, since those musically-active days Breau has been in and out of the scene, playing in a mid-eighties reformed Saucer (or actually, "The Third Kind") who rehearsed for three years yet never played a gig because they couldn't get booked anywhere (!), as well as solo or with the Shadows of Ecstasy, but anyhoo after about twenty years of false starts and other amputations here it is...finally! Edgar Breau's one and only album and I don't know how you could have standed waiting for it this long as well.
Spanning the years 1988 to 2004, CANADIAN PRIMITIVE shows just where Edgar has gone since that fateful day in 1979 when he decided to de-tune his electric guitar for good and just go acoustic. (Though the credits list Edgar on electric as well as the old-fashioned kinda guitbox, so who knows?) Those of you expecting the Simply Saucer sound of old will be in for a rude awakening because this ain't the electro-rock a whole lotta you big beat fans are awaitin'. Naw, this is acoustic rock, but not the simpysappy stuff that made mixed-up nature boys wanna run away to Colorado in the seventies...it's acoustic but maybe in the same way the third Velvet Underground album is, or even PARADIESWARTS DUUL even though CANADIAN PRIMITIVE sounds nothing like either of 'em.
Believe me, this disque really has fooled a lotta people. It even fooled the people at Forced Exposure who won't touch the thing because it doesn't have the Simply Saucer putsch. Well, those guys can distribute whatever they want...it's their company and all and who's to say that someone else should dictate to 'em just what they have to handle...but sheesh, you'd'a thunk they'd have the taste and smarts to appreciate such an engaging, entertaining and downright intense platter as CANADIAN PRIMITIVE. Oh well, I guess there just ain't any accounting for taste!
As far as the actual sounds go, maybe, if you can, imagine a cross between late-sixties John Fahey and solo-period Syd Barrett and the better moments of early Marc Bolan with Michael Hurley lurking in the bushes somewhere, and oh, it ain't anything that sounds like the Raccoon Records catalog but still has a certain earthy appeal to it w/o coming off down-on-the-farm hippie (as if you'd expect anything like that from Breau!). I've heard a good portion of these songs before via live tapes, and although there is something lost in the translation from a live gig recorded at a table to a well-crafted product created in a proper studio, it's sure pleasant hearing these songs once again. The previously-heard by me tracks (like "Precincts," which I believe is about police stations, "Lorraine," "The King of China's Daughter" and Breau's sequel to BILLY BUDD entitled "Handsome Sailor" which for some odd reason reminds me of Hurley's "Robbing Banks" offa HAVE MOICY!) have been major tape-spinning experiences for sure, though I must admit that the newer tracks were the ones that really piqued my attention. Serious aficionados of the form must pay close attention to Breau's Nico elegy entitled (what else but...) "I Miss You My Nico" which is just as good or maybe even superior to the likes of Really Red's own '81 tribute not to mention even ex-Simply Saucer David Nelson Byers and his Shangs' homage entitled "Is She Blond?" from their second, just try finding it CD.
I have a sneaking suspicion that more than a few of your reg'lar blog readers will probably think that CANADIAN PRIMITIVE is just a weak-kneed lily-livered acoustic romp that I'm championing only because there's a self-created connection from the high-energy past to the limpoid present that somehow validates the current fun and games on Breau's behalf. Well, you're partly right, as I am raving this one to the rafters because of the Breau/Simply Saucer link, but that's not the only reason pard! After all, only a Helen Keller would deny that CANADIAN PRIMITIVE isn't a class act brimming with powerful, evocative numbers that rank with the best of the new acoustic music of meaning and worth that I come across once in awhile. I have the feeling that Breau would "fit in" rather well amongst the variety of acts playing the CB's 313 Gallery, and hey, if he were to grace their stage he probably could handily "shut down" many of the acts both good and tepid playing there as well!
FINAL NOTE: don't try getting hold of CANADIAN PRIMITIVE in any of your local faverave alternative musique stores whether you be in the United States or practically any nation outside of Canada. There's pretty much nil distribution or mail order action for this one available mainly because distributors are just a mangy buncha cheats and sheisters blah blah blah (well, a good portion of 'em are!)...but if you do want it bad enough you know where you can get it, mainly directly from Songhammer and I think they take all major credit cards and Paypal even though you'll have to inquire. Anyway, I hope you'll agree (once you get a copy into your moist palms and slam the thing onto your laser launching pad) that CANADIAN PRIMITIVE definitely is one of the better musical offerings that 2004 has given us so far (and for me, its up there with such constantly-played wonders as the new LSD March CD and The Hanuman Sextet CD-R). Just give it a spin...c'mon, has Unca Chris ever let you down??? (OK, I have on more than a few occasions but let's not mention it...)
There might be another review coming down the pike later on today (like I said, I am back-logged), so stay tuned and be real like Don Steele!
Mirrors-ANOTHER NAIL IN THE REMODELED COFFIN CD (ROIR)
Gotta make this one a briefie since I pretty much shot my creative load with the above review (and besides, I can get a little bogged down when I get on a roll and start runnin' off at the mouth, er, keyboard boring all of you readers to pieces in the process!). Anyway, this here's a reissue of the sole album from the reformed more or less Mirrors that originally came out some time in the hazy recessess of my mind (1989?, 1990?) on Semaphore over in Holland, but now it's available for all of you folks who either missed out on it the first time around (it never was that easy to get hold of in the US of Whoa), or just want a digital take since the original's way buried under years of vinyl strata like it is in my collection. Those of you expecting the primitive-yet-artistic approach of the original 1971-75 Mirrors will be let down, for these tracks (along with a huge hunk of never-before unleashed tuneage) are total trash/thud rockers with enough of the seventies swagger of the original group to keep your attention held for more than a few minutes. From newly-written future-faves to remakes of classic seventies Mirrors (and Styrenes) chestnuts, ANOTHER NAIL IN THE REMODELED COFFIN should excite more than a few of us who've been in on the game for what, twenty-five...THIRTY years??? Most striking moment (for me anyway): the new version of "Girls Will Be Girls" (a.k.a. "Girls Girls Girls") which takes a mighty hard crash and burn approach compared with the Styrene Money Band original yet still zones me especially with that "Eight Miles High"-influenced guitar sound courtesy head Mirror Jamie Klimek.
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 1:43 PM
Saturday, November 13, 2004
Serge Gainsbourg-COMIC STRIP CD (Universal, France)
France has been getting picked on so badly over here inna USA by people who seem to be more'n a buncha yer everyday runna the mill nimnuls (I mean, calling French Fries Freedom Fries will look just as silly two years from now as calling Sauerkraut "Liberty Cabbage" must have in 1921 when it finally sunk into everyone's skulls just what a waste of people World War I was), so I for one will stick up for the Gallics in the face of all this twelve-year-old chest-beating going on. (Besides, and listen up all you Yanks, where would yer redwhitenblue be had France not lent a big hand in yer war for independence and besides, more French'n can be counted ended up maimed and slaughtered at the same nanosecond that Ameriga was actually believing the liar Wilson's promises of peace so where do you get off callin' 'em a buncha cowards anyway!) There's a lotta good stuff about France believe-it-or-not, and of course I'm not talking about the hideous portion of that nation's history like the Huegenots or the subsequent French Revolutionary proto-Stalins who paved the way for twentieth-century mass murder, nor do I mean the whole slew of sissified philosophers like Voltaire, Sartre, Derrida, Foucault and all of those pampered trust fund brats not only in France but the USA who clung to their every word, whim, desire and inane utterance. Naw...what this humble scribe is talking about is the France of Mahogany Brain and ROCK NEWS and all of those sleek automobile designs of the late-thirties (the Citroen 2CV was merely a low-budget variant on the way-classier Francomobiles that were cluttering up les rues of pre-Vichy France), not to mention this Serge Gainsbourg guy who's one of those Frenchies I've heard about for ages but never did get to lend an earfull...until now that is.
Mucho thanx goes again to Mike Snider for burning a CD of this as well as The Sensational Alex Harvey Band's NEXT, and although the latter didn't gel w/me the way FRAMED had (way softer, less intense and more or less a pretext to the nice yet mixed THE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM) I've found myself spinning COMIC STRIP repeatedly upon first impact. Yeah I knew the legend of Gainsbourg from his romances and the reportedly hot "Je t'aime...moi non plus" (hope I got that right) which I don't recall hearing on the radio when it became Gainsbourg's one and only Amerigan "hit" (I do remember the even more moan-laden "Jungle Fever" getting quickly snapped off as a kiddie, complete with a lotta yelling from the likes of mom!), but I passed on his music figuring the man just hadda've been another Maurice Chevallier or one of the many French song and dance men that came in his wake. Big people music as I used to say age seven.
But how wrong I was...Serge Gainsbourg (originally "Ginsberg" which cracks me up because the Frenchifying of his name reminds me of Educational Films star Willie Howard's old phony Frenchman character Pierre Gynsbairge pronounced Ginsberg!) wasn't just another hard-drinking womanizing French celeb but a hard-drinking, womanizing French celeb with a load of talent and a string of hits over there (sic) that transcend the usual pop hackjobs and naturally osmose themselves into melodies of pure art and I even mean art in the most Apollonian way at that even though Dionysus may have a say in it if he so desires. They work on two levels as do all good mass-production entertainment, on one level being great mindless sap for the boobs out there and on the other quality smart-music just brimming full of eroticism whether or not the music has any sexual content or not. (But you knew that already, and this past sentence was very Jonathan Richman-inspired...I hope you can detect that!) Believe me, most "pop" heard by my ears, and I'm talking about fifties/sixties adult contemp or whatever it's called never made an impression on me, but leave it to Gainsbourg to actually come up with "big people music" that doesn't come off as the soundtrack for that guy who's lived next door to you for the past fifty years, and he STILL looks like Dennis the Menace's father!
With French being about as Greek to me as Greek I can't make out the subtleties in Gainsbourgh's lyrics (Snider told me that "Les Sucettes," which was written for provincial teen idol France Gall in '65, "is about a little girl who likes to suck lollipops until the syrup goes down her throat") but I can sure get the whiff of Gainsbourg's truly evil intent with songs bearing such titles as "69 Annee Erotique"! Come to think of it, COMIC STRIP sounds like what I would have imagined an aural equivalent of an X-rated movie to be (we're talking about the days when films like MYRA BRECKENRIDGE and WHAT DO YOU SAY TO A NAKED LADY were considered way hotcha nudge-nudge by kids like me who never even saw 'em...I used to think that those kinda films were supposed to have been just as naughty as the all-out porn flicks that were getting picketed all over the place back then!). Real steamy pop music that I'm sure helped urge some gawky teenagers to take French over Latin back in their high school days!
The duets with French superstar Brigitte Bardot are tops, with her nonchalant speak-singing fitting in well with Gainsbourg's off-the-cuff coolness, reaching great heights on the title track where Bardot utters some great pop-art "zaps" and "pows" right outta BATMAN sounding pretty cool and sexy all the while which is a surprise for me because I'm not even hot on French women or anything. (The former sexpot and now controversial author also shines on some equally sixties modpop numbers like "Ford Mustang" and "Bloody Jack.") The music itself transcends the usual patented cliches into something more in tune with the sparkle and energy of late-sixties rock, sounding typically French on one song and almost freakbeat the next (Snider mentions the Kinks, though I am not as well versed in their late-sixties output as many of you are). It's sure nice hearing something planted so firmly in the adult-pop category yet at the same time has all of the energy and excitement of the best late-sixties rock & roll.
Still, for ultimate thrills get hold of "Je t'aime" as well as '67 cash-in "Bonnie and Clyde," the former done with British francophony Jane Birkin and the latter with Bardot. Birkin's sexual moans are more than enough to make any Silent Majority mom smash Junior's radio to a pulp (even though I saw pix of Birkin, and although she sure has a sexy face I thought she, uh, could have used the Mark Eden Course), while Gainsbourg's cinema cash-in is enough to drive you insane between his and Bardot's sexy swagger speaksinging and the mad droning music, which like on "Je t'aime" sounds like such a perfect distillation of pop and avant garde that it coulda ended up on the first Velvets album. Don't know if these two tracks are on COMIC STRIP (they're both at the end of my CD-R), but whether or not they are, SNATCH 'EM UP!!!
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 8:16 PM
Friday, November 12, 2004
FRACTURED FLICKERS 3-DVD set (VCI Entertainment)
Longtime readers of BLACK TO COMM have been wondering just why I haven't been reviewing the old movies and television shows like I had been throughout the nineties. Whazzamatter they say, can't I get that light on my VCR to stop blinking or sumpin'? True, the last three or so issues have not exactly been ones for the more cinematic or boob-tube-oriented amongst us to savor, but there's a good reason for my virtual vamoosing from the "Video Schmideo" and "Moom Pitchers" columns since those filmatic days of yore. Y'see, back in those halcyon days Bill Shute and I had been sending each other huge boxes of VCR tapes, books, comics etc. as sort of a cultural exchange (or "Care Package" w/o the lumpy white stuff those starving kids used to gobble down), he crating off to me heavy parcels (complete with an iron truss for the mailman) brimming with copies of obscure thirties late-movie items and rare syndicated television wonders (while I responded with a whole batch of fifties/sixties TV series and films that made it to BTC's review pages along with comic strip anthologies and perhaps a BATMAN comic or two), and naturally the steady diet of PRC films and HATHAWAYS sitcoms affected my brain in such a way that I began devoting hefty portions of the mag to such long-forgotten wonders as EAST SIDE KIDS films and George Nader's 1961 syndicated detective series SHANNON. However, when Bill stopped all contact with the outside world for whatever reasons he had (I'm not too sure, but I assume it was because he wanted to live the same kind of hermetic lifestyle that I only wish I could) the Educational Pictures comedy shorts and George Zucco films just started drying up and I didn't feel the strange urge to watch all of those zilch-grade wonders and forgotten sixties sitcoms like I used to. So for all of you readers out there disappointed by the lack of mid-Amerigan dunce-level entertainment reviews...NOW YOU KNOW WHY!!!!
But it ain't like I have totally forsaken the anti-art of cheap cinema and low-budget tee-vee fare one bit! Readers of the latest issue will note that I did purchase the entire series of both SUPERCAR and FIREBALL XL-5 on DVD which kinda blows my mind because never in a million years did I ever think I would be able to view both of these long-forgotten "Supermarionation" series in their entirety! (And let me tell you, I used to fantasize about how there was probably some small UHF station in Biloxi Mississippi that was still running both these shows years after the fact and when I'd go past channel 33 in Youngstown I actually believed they had a basement brimming fulla those old SUPERCARs, BARNEY BEANs and all those shows they used to air before the hippies got in charge and deemed such Saturday Afternoon Barbershop Kid entertainment "verboten"!!!) And now, thanks to a tip via the "comments" box I hit upon today's item in question...a 3-DVD set containing every episode of FRACTURED FLICKERS ever made! I mean, WOW...what's next, the entire run of CRUNCH AND DEZ or better yet some totally off-the-wall (and presumably lost) wonder such as the puppet version of FEARLESS FOSDICK??? Who knows what the future (courtesy of the past) may hold for us!
FRACTURED FLICKERS wasn't the first attempt to take old film and dub in hilarious dialogue nor was it the last (I remember this relatively dud series that ran on cable in the mid-eighties where Shirley Temple features and the like would come in for a well-deserved ribbing that should have been more well-deserved considering the tepid tone of the program), but it was the best of 'em all (WHAT'S UP TIGER LILLY included). It hadda've been, mostly because FRACTURED FLICKERS was the brainchild of Jay Ward Productions who were riding high on the success of ROCKY AND HIS FRIENDS (the original cartoon series airing on ABC weekdays and cut to 15-minute syndication by the time FRACTURED FLICKERS made its Fall '63 debut) and of course the Sunday evening BULLWINKLE SHOW which lasted until '64, and if you thought the dry, understated humor of Rocky and gang was the toast of the early-sixties phony-intellectual college student brigade you should see how that same humor comes off when unchained from the restrictions of proper children's programming. Yes, you could say that FRACTURED FLICKERS was every bit the off-the-wall humorous equivalent of Ernie Kovacs, Harvey Kurtzman, Bobby Kennedy and all of those other early-sixties crackups out there!
Hans Conried was the perfect host for these 26 half-hour collections of old flicks with the standard Jay Ward stock company voices (Bill Scott, June Foray, Paul Frees and even Conried on occasion) with his droll mid-European manner fitting in perfectly, while the wide array of guests (everyone from Rod Serling and Paul Lynde to a Bullwinkle puppet!) are compatico playing against fuddy-duddy Conried. The use of old film (mostly from the silent period though I've caught plenty of clips taken from thirties Educational comedies starring the likes of Monty Collins and Joe Cook), given the typical Jay Ward treatment take these already classics to new and different heights that certainly won't endear themselves to everyone. (After all, Lon Chaney Jr. was ready to trek all the way to the TV station to rip the film right off the projector after seeing what FRACTURED FLICKERS did to his father's THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME, later on telling the press that it just wasn't right for Jay Ward to go around and smear people who weren't around to defend themselves!) I could also see the ultra-serious silent film fan shrieking in horror over these "burlesques" complete with their outrageous and often cutting humor (I mean, there's even a gay reference to Sonny Liston here that I'm surprised didn't get Jay Ward sued for millions a la the Chevy Chase/Cary Grant debacle in the eighties!), but for ignorant dolts like me (an admitted on/off silents fanatic I'll confess), things like FRACTURED FLICKERS rank amongst some of the funnier, more engaging comedy material to have come down the pike long before such programs as FRIENDS sorta set the standards for non-funny, dry as a desert and rather limited entertainment fare.
There are a few mini-surprises here too, like special-guest Bob Newhart feigning anger over his patented laid-back narrative schtick being used for a number of skits (complete with a fairly good voice imitation courtesy Scott---the great and unfortunately forgotten Eddie Lawrence was also "borrowed from"), and it's a hoot seeing teen idols the likes of Fabian and Annette Funicello slyly poking fun at their own pre-adult fame and fortune status as well. And I also got to mention the swift editing which really helps the faster-than-usual comedic pace of this program. Forget Eisenstein, Jay Ward's the true master of montage!
I gotta say one more thing about FRACTURED FLICKERS, and that is this program was at least ten years ahead of its time. Now don't get me wrong, it's still pretty much in the early-sixties canon of comedy coolness like I alluded to earlier, but frankly there just weren't that many programs like it on the box during its 1963/4 run. However, by the early-seventies screwball syndicated comedies along the likes of FRACTURED FLICKERS would flourish amidst the Saturday pre-Prime Time hours usually on big city network VHF stations. It can't be denied that FRACTURED FLICKERS was the spiritual forefather of such equally-skewered syndicated wonders as IT PAYS TO BE IGNORANT starring Joe Flynn with Charles Nelson Reilly, Jo Ann Worley and Billy Baxter, not to mention such oft-harharhar'd creative programming as DON ADAMS' SCREEN TEST, shows I would have loved to have eyeballed at the time only living in a valley complete with a small corner reflecter on the roof kept my viewing habits, er, limited way back when. I only hope it's a matter of time before someone makes the entire runs of IGNORANT and SCREEN TEST also available to us lumpen (and lumpy) hoi polloi because, if anything, we need more sixties/seventies mid-Amerigan cheepniz in a world of 21st century stultifying boredom!
INTERESTING WEBLOG CATCH HERE!: While on the lookout for more blogs so I could read about more people who are writing more nasty things about yours truly (hahaha!), I came across this one. There's nothing bad or defamatory written about me here yet, and frankly I doubt there ever will ever be because nothing's been written on this blog in well over a year, but I thought I should mention it to you because nancyneon.blogspot.com is/was the weblog of none other than the very same Nancy Foster who used to publish the highly-influential NEW AGE (before that term became co-opted by the crystal-mystics amongst us) fanzine, which from 1975 until 1980 or so was a pretty good amateur-level analysis of the new wave punk explosion along with sidesteps into various other pop facets. I never was able to get any of those but did get hold of two issues of her early-eighties THE GROOVE ASSOCIATES which continued on the same path as the original with loads of fanzine chirping on everyone from the Remains, Stiv Bators and the Velvet Underground to the Hampton Grease Band, REM and Michael Jackson! I've written about THE GROOVE ASSOCIATES in the latest ish of my mag where I tell y'all about the difficulties in ordering these self-produced wonders as well as how I never got a second order for back issues (as I wrote in #25, I have my own conspiracy theories as to why I had a hard time getting the first batch of mags and never got the second one, though I can't prove a thing at this time). Anyway, for some more currently available scribings (that I know of) from the likes of Foster (who actually got a big-city critics job thanks to her grass-roots endeavors...in fact, she is on-line somewhere so just plug her name into your fave search engine) just click here even if it's only for a week or so of interesting patter (I had no luck accessing the "archives" and I doubt you will too!), but it's nice seeing that some of the old guard is still around, even if they are being sporadic about it.
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 5:38 PM