IT WAS A VERY BAD YEAR...
...well, not really, but it sure could have been a lot better. Then again, any year for me post-1981 could've been improved on at least 75% musically (and 99% socially, health-wise etc.)...yeah (bear with me...if you tend to get bored by my personal reminiscences skip down a couple of paragraphs), I still remember being swept away by all of those great underground bands of that glorious seventies era when it seemed as if new ideas could easily be fleshed out and mutated into interesting and unique directions for this thing called ROCK & ROLL to develop and grow, but that all seemed to get washed away pretty much overnight (or so it seemed to me back in those soon-to-be-vapid days). The closing of the old Max's Kansas City was the first blow soon to be followed by the death of Lester Bangs a few months later, and as far as "era's end" goes you can't get any more dramatic than that unless you wanna count Kennedy getting his skull blown off him! And who can deny that when ol' Les died, he took the seventies with him. And what replaced that era of underground rock seemed like such a twisted, distorted and joke-take on what was once good and wholesome at least to the point where I hadda stop kidding myself after awhile and FACE THE FACT that no matter how much Greg Shaw pleaded and prayed, it wasn't coming back. But I digress...let's just say that if I had to live 2004 all over again, I'd rather choose 1979.
Keeping all of the personal trials/tribulations out of it, 2004 was STILL a pretty mediocre year not just for music in general but for the entire BLACK TO COMM empire, or what remains of it these days. But it's not like I really should KNOW...let's face it, I haven't paid much attention to anything in the music realms (above or under) other than what I want to pay attention to, and other than reading weblogs and stumbling across a name of interest (usually some ragtag underground thing playing at CBGB) that I research via a variety of search engines, I really am outta the loop with regards to "what is out there," or "what is BIG or even 'hip' these days." As if I really cared. When I was 18 I cared, because I was supposed to be in the "prime of my life" and there were a lotta things old (NUGGETS bands) and new (Pere Ubu) that were playing the soundtrack to my suburban slob brat existence the way the so-called "corporate rock" acts and disco never could. Nowadays I've seen too many bad things happen to the once wild-and-wooly world of rock & roll to KNOW that remedying the sad situation (y'know, the one which Billy Miller and Miriam Linna WARNED US ABOUT in the early issues of KICKS) is long gone past the repair stage. Let's face it, the punks (before they became punques!) valiantly tried at one point, but the fact that Stoner Ameriga hadda forsake the BIG BEAT in favor of "classic rock" schmalz has resulted in a death stench that lingers in the nostrils this far down the line. And yeah, I've said the same thing over and over again for years now...this is for the neophyte peruser who's just happened upon this blog by chance so be PATIENT for once in your life, savvy?
So as far as my top ten fave rave list for the year goes, I'm afraid it would mostly consist of oft-played old gems and recently-purchased classics, amongst them The Byrds' FIFTH DIMENSION, some 2-CD garage-band set mixing sixties classics, seventies punk and modern tribute that came outta Canada, The Velvet Underground AT THE ANDY WARHOL MUSEUM CD-R and the first disc of the PEEL SLOWLY AND SEE box set, as well as the Le Stelle De Mario Schifano reissue on Akarma. As far as any new items go, up on the top would be the Edgar Breau CD as well as a number of Japanese groups like LSD March, whose latest is certainly up there on the top ten for not only this year, but this decade. The rise of the new Japanese underground, with aggregates such as Up-Tight doing rather well despite their most recent being a bit of a comedown goes to show you just how much of an influence that the legendary Les Rallizes Denudes (the Japanese Velvet Underground) could have on more groups than anyone would be willing to 'fess up to. But, as you'd guess, none of these acts Japanese or not that I've been plugging to the rafters are exactly household names or at least in any of the households I invade, but then again given that internet has made it possible for anyone to connect with anything at anytime, does it MATTER if your favorite group ain't exactly tearin' up the Hit Parade like they probably wouldn't have twenty years back? Naw, today you can connect directly with whatever or whomever you wish, and acceptance can become yours with the mere flick of a switch!
I didn't say it earlier, but an award should certainly be given to Edgar Breau for his wonderful CANADIAN PRIMITIVE CD which I raved about a few months back and still can't seem to get out of my mind...remember when rock godz like Brooce Springsteen used to brag about taking sixteen months to make a record??? Well, this one took sixteen YEARS so I guess that makes it REALLY good, eh? (Pun unintended!)
The Hanuman Sextet also put out a wowzer that it seems just about everybody didn't connect with this year as well. Again, this is one of those great releases (a CD-R on the miniscule "Rent Control" label) that you'd THINK someone out there besides me would pick up on (and perhaps help move another two copies!) yet it's stuff like the Hanumans that makes a jaded for life fellow like myself want to keep on living while everyone else out there is doing...whatever it is everyone else does I guess. If you want to know what's really "happening" in the here and now (at least on a superior BLACK/BLOG TO COMM plane), check out the CBGB Lounge on Sunday nights! A great way to get over the Sunday evening doldrums...now if only they'd remember to turn on the cameras one of these days...
As far as the Japanese rock movement goes, I'll continue to give the time of day to THE NIGHT GALLERY (the original, not the second, not quite up to snuff followup) which reminds me of why I still flip for the early-Velvet Underground atmosphere and how it can still mean just as much to me (and a number of Japanese) now (as a building-block as to how rock & roll should be judged) as it did then. Also big on the laser launching pad this year is Hiroshi Nar, a longtime Japanese proto-punk figure whose recent discovery at least in the Occidental world proves that all that gab about rock & roll as the "Universal Youth Language" that was going around in the seventies was a reality after all! And in case you're interested in buying any of these new Japanese releases, Eclipse Records is only a mouse-click away.
As far as those must-have reissues go, just about everything on Gulcher (or at least everything that I've reviewed) is worth a spot on any top-ten/twenty list (especially all of the Gizmos releases, including the Slippytown-only limited-edition CD-R entitled RAW TAKES 1977 that I reviewed here), plus the Norton catalog is always worth the time it takes to look through it not to mention ORDERING the goodies therein! Believe me, if it's good it's in the Norton catalog...comprende??? Anyway, for a few of my opinions regarding a coupla recent Norton releases, just click on here.
Going English for a spell, another big reissue of the year was that of Kevin Ayers' JOY OF A TOY which not only brought back fond import bin memories but reminded me of just how good British rock could have been before it had to take itself too seriously and pretension/ego took over. Plus the bonus tracks with an audible Syd Barrett was worth the umpteen-year wait most of us had to endure!
Lessee, what else is there? OK, how about best book of the year??? There were a lotta contenders for top reads this past solar rotation ranging from the LI'L ABNER collection to the recent Suicide bio, but the biblio that has made the biggest impact on me this year hasn't even been reviewed on this blog. Well, it had, but my writeup was of such a poor quality that I quickly excised it for fear of being labeled a bigger nimnul than people already think I am, but anyway the book in question isn't even music related but historical in nature, and the subject matter really appealed to me on a youthful "if it looks cool I wanna know more about it!" level. This missive's title is none other than SUBMARINE WARFARE IN THE CIVIL WAR by Mark Ragan, and it's a very good piece together history of the submersible ships (or "Infernal Machines") used by the North and especially the South during the War Between the States. For someone who thought that submarines, like comic strips and automobiles, were mostly a 20th century development, this book is a godsend that not only shows just how extensive submarines were being used in the mid-nineteenth century, but proves that subs, like the aforementioned comics and autos, had been in development for quite some time before they became more or less "perfected" in the "Modern Age."
It's really eye (and conscious) opening reading about these early, modern-looking ships, most of which were partially or totally man-powered (remember, the gasoline engine had yet to be developed) and pretty deadly at that, not just for the battleships that were about to be rammed with a projectile, but for the submarine crews who were entering into a Brave New World of warfare ne'er before dreamed of. Scores of men lost their lives in the these subs' trials as well as in battle, and since a lotta records had been lost and destroyed over the years Ragan had to really piece the puzzle together using not only old newspaper articles (many of which were rather, er, inaccurate) and surviving documents, but recently-discovered drawings and letters which shed maybe a shard of light on the subject, but anything is better than nothing especially in this day and age when it seems that we have to grasp for all we can with regards to these shadowy and clandestine subjects. (Remember, at the time submarine warfare was pretty much considered less than kosher, almost like dirty pool if you can fathom that!) Naturally, much space is devoted to the best-known of these subs, the Hunley, which has recently been raised from its watery grave and is being readied for museum display in the hopefully near future, but ample space is given to WHATEVER WE KNOW about other ships like the Alligator, the Captain Pierce and other weapons of war which woulda looked oh-so-cool to me had I got an eyefulla these streamlined wonders back when I was eight.
Enough on books...now how about the bummer of the year??? Keeping everyday things in my life that'll probably bore you to pieces out of it (illnesses etc.) I gotta say that the biggest bummer at least for me just hadda've been the death of Greg Shaw, perhaps the most noteworthy rock & roll loss in a long time, at least with regards to my own fanzine-oriented mindset. Johnny Ramone's passing was a big deal as well, don't get me wrong, but Shaw was a big guiding light for fanzine dorks like me, and although I never "made it" as big as others who were following the lead of Shaw in the fanzine world (like, say, Mike Stax), I felt that I learned as much from him as I did from my own hard knocks. As far as the biggest personal bummers go, this year's HAND'S DOWN WINNER were the personal attacks and assaults made regarding me, my private life, musical tastes, beliefs and my BLACK TO COMM fanzine via the weblogs of not only Dave Lang but Jay Hinman and Ken Shimamoto. Y'know, these digs at me and at my various scribings and opines don't usually get my Irish up, but they most certainly do when they're perpetrated on me by people who I've considered friends at least on some level (although Jay seems to have forgotten all about any sorta correspondence that had developed between both of us, which I guess is his right and something COMMON going on amongst former allies), and really fellas, it's not that I was "hurt" by any of your comments...pissed is a much more accurate way to describe how I've felt after reading the half-truths, distortions and outright LIES that all three of these "people" deemed me to be oh-so-deserving of. David seems to have forgotten the things I've done for him like get hold of rare, out-of-print back issues he shoulda paid through his pig-like snout for, but oh no, his pinko self had to go and prefabricate a whole lotta bile about my Neanderthal-level racism/sexism/whateverelsethereisism for whatever occult reasons he had in mind! A regular bundle of laughs for sure, and I'm sorta ashamed of myself NOT for what has happened to me, but for not spotting the jizbag when I should've in the first place. Well, I've learned one thing from my experiences with Dave, and that's when you BEND OVER backwards to help someone out, you're more than likely to get sodomized. And Dave, a good nickname for you would be "Bubba"...get any new tattoos lately?
Continuing on the rampage begun by Lang, fellow blogger Jay Hinman just hadda jump into the anti-BLACK TO COMM fray with his own "comments" which naturally resulted in a whole slew of unexpected remarks from a variety of sorts, some of 'em whom I've had no problems with prior and whom I never said anything derogatory about (which once again had me scratching my head to the point of terminal baldness!). I gotta admit that reading the remarks of the likes of Heinrich Olausson kinda "got to me" (that and knowing that X-tal leader J. Neo Marvin was still alive and kicking) because it's like I never did or said anything uncouth about him, and after all was said and done these "actions" on the part of a whole lotta fair-weather pals o' mine only helped stoke the fires of hate I have for a lotta people even more! In the past I used to try to shoosh these anti-me/BTC comments under the ol' rug, but then as time crept on I began to realize that by keeping quiet, people started thinking that I was automatically GUILTY of whatever charges were brought against me, and in the sage words of Popeye "That's all I can stands, I can't stands no more!" And really, I kinda got the impression that some of you readers thought I was DOUBLY guilty of any wrongdoing solely for coming to my own defense!
Both Lang and Hinman deleted their comments (nice gesture bubs, but TOO LATE...do you think anyone'll GO NEAR ME after the bile you spewed [just take a look at the number of comments people leave for me as opposed to you]???) but Shimamoto didn't, and I gotta admit that his li'l snit "reference" stung the most. Here's a guy who was calling me up all the time, chatting about Detroit rock this and Mick Farren that for hours on end who seemed like the coolest person who could have graced this earth, and yet he too had to jump on this anti-Chris bandwagon making a whole slew of unfounded comments about me and my "beliefs" in an attempt not just to "censure" but to BURY. Listen Ken, any guy who goes about writing stories about black blues singers who like to pee on white women doesn't have any room to talk! And OK, so that's bad taste...hey, I GREW UP on seventies bad taste just like a lotta other people, only I knew enough not to progress to the modern-day politically pious version like you undoubtely have! Having to be called sexist (well, OK, I am traditional in many ways as are most people at last count), racist (hmmmmmm, if I were I wouldn't even have let you come NEAR me, and besides it's you who was tossing about the "guinea" term...did I ever make any terse comments about your race???) and homophobic (maybe about as much as everyone else who voted against same-sex marriages) in that typical hit and run fashion is bad enough, but when it's done by people whom I've given ample magazine space to and bragged about to my TRUE friends...well I know my back is large enough to sustain more knife wounds but et tu, Kenny? (hic!)
But why end this diatribe on a sour note? There were a few good things about the year 2004, like the 9-CD Albert Ayler box set which I'm going to have to tackle more sooner than later, not to mention the Rocket From the Tombs reunion CD which I have on order (though frankly, I'm not expecting that much) and the Henry Flynt and the Insurrectionists CD on Locust which is also winging its way to my door as we speak, so it wasn't like the year was a TOTAL washout. And I'm sure 2005 will offer us some new wonders by groups both new and old, with a few good archival digs in store and who knows, perhaps there will be a few more new acts out there that I can get obsessed over just like in the old days. I mean, I wasn't expecting much from the likes of LSD March or Up-Tight, and those bands are amongst my tops for the year...three years ago, who woulda thunk??? But whatever, here's hoping that all of you faithful BLOG TO COMM fans have a Happy New Year and may everyone I dig stay healthy and groovy with plenty of fine eating, heavy-duty musical listening and generally great TV jamz all the year through. All the rest of you (and you know who you are!) can go to hell.
Friday, December 31, 2004
IT WAS A VERY BAD YEAR...
Tuesday, December 28, 2004
TOP TEN OF TEE-VEE
While in the midst of preparing my massive New Year's Eve wrap-up I thought I'd toss out this list of my faverave Top Ten Tee-Vee programs of all time (or at least the Top Ten of this week!) in order to add a little levity to your probably sagged-out post-Holiday existence. Nothing serious here, just having a little bitta fun with this filler that's bound to get some of the brainiac types confused so don't get too excited...
1) LEAVE IT TO BEAVER-Great show, squirt!
2) THE TWILIGHT ZONE-Submitted for your approval...
3) NAKED CITY-Eight million stories, and even the one with wimp Roddy McDowell was really good!
4) THE HATHAWAYS-Peggy Cass did more with her life than pop up on TO TELL THE TRUTH (or was it I'VE GOT A SECRET or WHAT'S MY LINE??? All those shows were interchangeable to me!). And sharing the spotlight with a buncha chimps didn't hurt any either!
5) HAVE GUN, WILL TRAVEL-Richard Boone as a sophisticated yet brutal gun-for-hire in the Old West works well despite just how bad such a concept could have flopped in the wrong hands and at the wrong time (like say, 1971). Too bad he hadda go to pot, get fat, shaggy and become HECK RAMSEY!
6) M-SQUAD-Lee Marvin as late-fifties Hi-Fi cop Ballinger can't get any tougher!
7) DRAGNET-...and who can forget Joe Friday? You may prefer the long-running fifties version or swing with the more popular late-sixties variety, but any way you choose it you just can't lose it!
8) THE OUTER LIMITS-Some may say that this, along with ONE STEP BEYOND was ABC's answer to THE TWILIGHT ZONE, but it had a bared-wire intensity all its own. I still remember freaking out over "The Zanti Misfits" not to mention that episode that took place on the moon with the bald guy with the goggles and the big, bulging radioactive eyes. As I was screaming in fear my dad was joking with me, saying that the guy "looks like Mickey Mouse!" No wonder I hate Disney!
9) THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN-My Superman died in 1959, sorry about yours...
10) THE ADVENTURES OF OZZIE AND HARRIET-Ozzie Nelson...top TV dad of all time!
Not forgetting such other HUGE all-time faves...THE MUNSTERS, SOUPY SALES, GUNSMOKE (pre-mid-sixties), GILLIGAN'S ISLAND, ABBOTT AND COSTELLO, SUPERCAR, FIREBALL XL-5, THE LUCY SHOW, THE FLINTSTONES, AMERICAN BANDSTAND, SHINDIG, HULLABALOO and just about every mid-sixties rock & roll show, THE HONEYMOONERS, THE ADDAMS FAMILY, LOST IN SPACE, GREEN ACRES and (stepping outside the Golden Age of American Intensity High Energy Living period for one sec) early SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, THE ODD COUPLE and MONTY PYTHON'S FLYING CIRCUS. And of course there will be a thousand more that'll come to mind within a minute or two...
And folks, if you'd like to leave a comment about a specific entry on this blog, let me remind you that all you have to do is click on the highlighted pound sign at the end of the post which will take you to a page repeating the very same entry complete with a place where you can leave your own comments as well as read those that have already been left. (If I were you I'd try to avoid the "general" comment box at the bottom of the main page, a mistake I'd get rid of even though I'd be losing the comments already posted therein.) Even if you're not a "member" of blogger you can always write an "anonymous" response/retort, though leaving your name would be "nice" but not mandatory. Anyway, I thought I should remind you about this pertinent info in case you had something important (or maybe not-so) to add to/detract from these thrilling and oh-so meaningful (especially in this vacuum-packed world of ours) posts I have been making for well over six months!
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 9:38 AM
Sunday, December 26, 2004
BLAW BLAW BLAW...
THE TOTAL CHRISTMAS TALLY IS NOT QUITE IN AT PRESSTIME, but I can tell you that this year I actually made money on the deal for a change! Last go 'round had me way inna red, but scaling back on presents for the uncles/aunts/cousins helped a bit (broke out about even there) though fortunately I did exceptionally well with the closer relatives and gained about $250 in the process. Not bad, and I hope I can do even better next time, finding even cheaper gifts to toss at the folks with perhaps even greater rewards my way!
However, my disappointment over the utter lack of useless junk gifts this 2004 season should be noted. Not one Thing Maker or Kenner's Give-A-Show Projector graced the bottom of my tree, nor did any Dinky Toys get stuffed into my stocking! Even something more "adult" (and needed!) like a new turntable/stereo set was not to be found, though I've come to expect that from people who can't take hints no matter how many times you hit them on their noggins with sledge hammers. I'm only hoping for better results in this division comes the 2005 season so wish me luck 'cause I need it given how all those little "asides" and "nudge-nudges" this year were all for naught!
Thankfully there were some highlights to Christmas 2004 (which paled next to past Christmasses of worth especially 1971, 1975, 1976, 1979 and who can forget the infamous "Sock Christmas" of 1983, but I've come to expect that). The best part of this Holiday Season was watching both the MR. ED Christmas episode (where Ed relates to Wilbur the saga of how it was a horse who led Santa Claus on his initial journey) and especially the Mr. Magoo looser-than-diarrhea adaptation of A CHRISTMAS CAROL which was originally aired in the glorious year of '62 and shelved since at least the latter portion of that decade for all I know. After having not seen it in, er, quite a long time, I found it rather...staid in the worst sixties NBC "quality programming" way with too many boring musical numbers that probably had me and a thousand other kiddies running for the 'fridge or commode, plus the lack of any Magoo "regulars" like Cholly added to the overall glum nature of this maybe not-so-special. (And the characters who were in it were so lackluster...Bob Cratchit came off like an aimless simpleton while Tiny Tim was so unloveable that I was hoping he wouldn't get that life-saving operation given how utterly boring he was!) Still, it was great to once again osmose that classic UPA animation that made up a small yet strong enough part of early-sixties television (see my Dick Tracy review for more), plus after all these years I got to see that strange "Ghost of Christmas Past" character, this ambisexual being (with long hair and voiced by a woman [Joan Gardner or June Foray...sources differ], but was she or wasn't she???) sporting a flame above it's head who for some odd reason really, er, appealed to me as a five-year-old. I don't know why...it couldn't have been anything sexual 'cause I was way too young for that sorta chicanery, or maybe it was my own mixedupness about the roles men and women play in this world, but somehow I fell in love with this ghost, or at least fell in love as much as a post-toddler could I guess! Maybe it was a platonic thing similar to the feelings Julian Cope had for Damo Suzuki, but there was something about her (?) I found most attractive if you can believe that! Perhaps it was the long hair, the slender figure or even the distorted wispy voice...good thing I didn't see DEATH IN VENICE at the same age or else I woulda really been sexually screwed up! If anything, my infatuation over this character must have prepared me for the likes of Marc and Alice and David only a few short years later!
The only "culturally significant" arrival worthy of mention in today's post is the recently (give or take a few years) reissued MAD STRIKES BACK paperback (ibooks, 2002) that was unleashed on the market as part of MAD magazine's fiftieth anniversary celebrations a couple years back. Naturally these paperbacks collecting the early MAD comic book-era sagas are now pretty much needless considering how everybody and his brother have been reprinting these now-legendary (and perhaps overly-praised) stories in one form or another ever since MAD's half-century celebrations began, but considering how they were perhaps the only place to read the original MAD comics (as well as anything EC related) for a long time it's sure neat seeing these old-timey paperbacks available in their original form again even if the printing isn't reduced to a faded grey and the pages are supple enough that you can bend the book without cracking the spine! I remember when I got my first copy of this 'un back in 1972...it was at the National Record Mart in the Eastwood Mall and seeing it in the paperback racks (with the original cover restored---none of that Peter Max stuff that plagued the previous edition!) almost made my eyes pop out (amongst other things!). I immediately picked up a copy and handed it to the pseudo-hippie with the wild print shirt and necktie at the counter and rushed home to read it, which I did with relish (and perhaps some mustard and ketchup as well...hey, I like OBVIOUS jokes just like the next guy not to mention Harvey Kurtzman himself!). Needless to say, when the other Ballantine collections of the original MAD paperbacks began popping up in the racks after a few years of being out of print I was there to latch onto 'em, and you can bet your bottom dollar that when I'm through re-re-re...reading this new MAD STRIKES BACK its gonna join that very same copy I purchased oh so long ago along with the others in that big box of paperbacks sitting in my closet! The highlight of this Holiday Season, at least so far!
Maybe I'll get another post in before my New Year's "best," "worst," and "even more worst" of 2004 year-end wrapitallup, but don't count on it! Blaw!!!
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 2:22 PM
Thursday, December 23, 2004
AIN'T NOTHIN' TO DO
Sorry there isn't much to today's post, but to put it mildly, I'm bored! Can't even get in the mood to write a review of some old gem I dug outta the collection and spun for the first time in twennysome years. Maybe it's the time of year bein' the Christmas season and all that's getting me down...now, back when I was a stoolboy I used to love getting away from the salt mines for the Christmas break and like any other normal uncultured brat I spent a good hunka the month of December anticipating unwrapping all the presents I was gonna get December 25th morn, but (sad to say) them days're gone forever. Now Christmas is nothing but the last "big event" of the year before I have to look forward to three more months of bitter cold, and at least those months were made merrier by the presence of not only high energy television but rock & roll and comic books to get all obsessed over as I froze my fat butt off! Maybe if Christmas was more like it was back in those golden days of fun trash growing-up suburban ranch house living...really, wouldn't it be great if us grown ups got two weeks off from work (with pay!) and just goofed around at the mall or over at someone else's house breaking their new toys and all that fun stuff??? I mean, I'd really love to spend Christmas Eve with the cousins just liked I usedta, joking around and turning on all of the lights and appliances tryin' to blow the fuses in order to rile up the old folks and eating and drinking until we got sick and staying up late watching some old movie on TV because it made ya feel like a big guy---real big kid stuff! And of course for Christmas we could get more of those goodies we wanted oh so bad as kids! I make it no secret that I'm hoping this year Santa'll leave me a whole buncha old MAD magazines and paperbacks, some classic Corgi Toys, a Mattel Vac-U-Form and of course that SUPERCAR model with the pre-patterned directional guide that I've been lusting after for as long as I can remember. Naturally I'll spend my Christmas dough at the mall browsing through the records in the import bin just like I did during my influential mid/late-teen years "pouring my money down a rat-hole" (as my dad used to say) on Monty Python and Amon Duul albums! Now if I can only get hold of Mr. Peabody and his Wayback Machine so's I can live my fantasies out and not just grumble about the real ghosts of Christmas Past like some post-modern Scrooge! At least when I was a kiddie Christmas meant something, and it wasn't this "peace on earth" drivel! It was pure, unadulterated GREED, goofing off and eating till ya burst, all of which we can use a lot more of these sissified days!
As for other things (non-Christmas related), right now I'm not only kicking about how to execute (key word) my year's end (perhaps literal) rundown but dreaming up ways as to how I could/should write about the new Albert Ayler HOLY GHOST box set which has been released on "John Fahey's" Revenant label a few months back (but Chrissy-come-lately has just received it---hey, it's not like I'm Rockefeller 'r anything!). My review of the pre-release sampler can be read here, but you'll have to wait for my epic-dimension treatise on the entire nine-plus CD set which not only comes in a genuine plastic box but includes a professionally-bound book, neat inserts and even a flower from Ayler's casket! I've only had the opportunity to wade through the thing and listen to two of the disques (don't wanna overdo myself all in one sitting!) but for an initial impression of this endeavor all I gotta say is that yeah, I'm glad it's out, but gee willikers I hate it! Well, not because of the music (of which I've heard so far is phenomenal), but because these box sets are so hard to access. Not only do the clumsy dimensions make it hard to store amidst the rest of the compost disques, but the entire packaging seems so fragile especially with the delicate paper sleeves that house the CDs...I feel like I should be using rubber gloves and handling this thing in that same hermetically-sealed room where the Bubble Boy used to live. It's not like I can just drag the thing out and slap in on the old whatever it is you slap CDs onto...when I get my copy of HOLY GHOST into my mitts I feel like I have to use the same sorta care one would give an original Gutenberg Bible! After I chew up and digest the whole thing spinning each disque a few times (and osmose the book and booklets while I'm at it) I'll give you a probably much-anticipated (right!) report you probably can't live without.
Other goodies are heading my way as well, and if there's something of value and worth for me to write about you can bet your bottom that I'll be scribbling a little or a lot about it more sooner than later. Hang in there, and if you have any old issues of ARCHIE'S CHRISTMAS STOCKING to send my way please do so, if only to get me into a real mid-Amerigan suburban brat mood for the next Holiday Season!
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 8:46 PM
Sunday, December 19, 2004
While other blogs tempt you with top five lists, I'm going to do 'em all ONE BETTER and give you my TOP SIX fave rave listening/reading/dining and dancing obsessions so you can all live vicariously through my (I guess) superior to whatever it is you do exploits. Don't go sayin' I don't do nothing for you faithful readers!
The Gizmos-ROCK & ROLL DON'T COME FROM NEW YORK! CD (Gulcher)
I gotta admit that I never was too thrilled by the "new" Gizmos that came out in the wake of the infamous "fanzine mafia" version of this now-legandary band. Given that none of the original members were in this live-oriented actively gigging edition (that was formed to back Gizmo Bowieclone Teddy Niemiec's attempt to further his own solo career although for some unknown reason he backed out a week after its formation) and that these new guys had none of the original group's mid-seventies Velvets/Stooges/Dictators/ROCK ON! drive, you could say that I wasn't exactly busting down the door to hear 'em. In fact, I was so non-enthralled that I only played the latterday NEVER MIND THE SEX PISTOLS, HERE'S THE GIZMOS EP once and sold that split album that the faux-group did with new wave cookie-cutters Dow Jones and the Industrials during one of my frequent mid-eighties record collection purges. But then again, I wasn't a huge fan of the late-seventies punk as pUnK (soon to be "punque") sounds that seemed to capture the imaginations of more than a few rock critics at least before Springsteen's DARKNESS ON THE EDGE OF WETNESS finally came out! Y'see, I "went" for the kinda groups that seemed to take the best moments that the mid/late-sixties drummed up taking all of that hard-driving inspiration into even more frightening avenues...Pere Ubu and a pre-art project Talking Heads (!) come to mind, but you know there were many more.
So you can imagine my surprise giving these "new" Gizmos a listening to years after I dismissed them as grave-robbing shucks. True, neo-Gizmo leader Dale Lawrence ain't no Teddy Niemiec but he's Dale Lawrence which is good enough, and these songs have a nice Ramones-y romp to 'em that don't come off carbon copy or anything like that which is a good change though not mandatory. Superfine originals coupled with great lyrics ("When you die/You will lie/Underneath a cowpie!") make for a welcome relief, and for an added, 1979 kick you even get a punkified take of Al Green via Talking Heads' "Take Me To The River" which, had the Gizmos hit with it 'stead of Byrne's crew, could have veered Ameriga's youth onto the path of pure punky righteousness rather than new wave pretension! A nice surprise which is more than just another tombstone to what was vibrant, free, and ignored.
Freedomland-AMUSEMENT PARK CD-R (Rent Control)
One of the few reasons I have for existing these days is the Sunday Night freestyle/avant jazz cybercasts eminating from the CBGB Lounge. For those of you who don't know, this place, owned and operated by the world-reknown CBGB next door, has given its Sunday evening stage space to the creme-de-la-avant free jazz acts lucky enough to make the scene, and over the past three years there have been many young upstarts as well as old reliables playing the Home of Underground Whatever in a mad rage of fury that equals the very same now-legendary New York Loft Jazz scene of the mid-to-late seventies that yielded us the classic WILDFLOWERS series of LPs on Douglas records. In the past such solo stars and groups ranging from Zusann Kali Fasteau, Joseph Jarman and the Earth People not forgetting free-pattern GIANT Sunny Murray have played the series, and upcoming shows will feature the likes of Byard Lancaster and Luther Thomas, veterans who aren't strangers to the CBGB stage having played there during the post-no wave days of the very-late seventies/very-early eighties.
I reviewed Freedomland's AMUSEMENT PARK in my latest, and given that it's become a frequent spin here at the BLOG TO COMM office and that you probably don't know about it I thought I'd better give the disque another mention and perhaps help move a copy or two. AMUSEMENT PARK, recorded at the Lounge on February 10 2002, is the sole release from this interesting avant garde ensemble featuring not only such free jazz veterans as William Parker (he of Frank Lowe's BLACK BEINGS fame) and Daniel Carter, but various late seventies New York rockers like David Hofstra (Contortions, Chinese Puzzle) on tuba and bass saxophone as well as the omnipresent Dee Pop (who's booking these Sunday Night gigs!) on drums. An interesting combination, but it works just as well as all of those seventies avant collectives cluttering up your collection and perhaps swings even more so since this is all going down at a punk rock club and not inna middle of some chic dinner and tux tails swank-set cabaret. Two longies here: "Community Meeting at the Chicken Shack" (34:55) is a wunnerful Shepp-esque romp starting off with out-kilter play on tubas and baritone saxes before turning into this sorta spaced-out free rock that kinda reminds me of the music that was being made on that episode of GILLIGAN'S ISLAND when the castaways began playing this primitive-instrumental music and the warring natives began dancing to it just like on AMERICAN BANDSTAND! "New Brass Miasma" (27:42) is more spazz jazz that reminds me of the free ebb and flow of the best improvisational new-thing twist that the AACM started and more than a few loft aggregates picked up on in the mid-seventies before it all seemed to fade away in the eighties (only to be resurrected thanks to the fine toil of a free-minded being the likes of Pop!). One can only hope that more of the avant garde will find its way to the CBGB Lounge soon, since we all could use return performances from the likes of Billy Bang, Frank Lowe and Milford Graves more sooner than later! (And somebody, how about releasing more gigs from this series, which I'm sure serious jazz critiquers will be praising to the hilt in forty years but we're in on the game NOW so be proud of yourself FOR ONCE!)
Michael Nyman-DECAY MUSIC CD (EMI/Virgin...I think Forced Exposure has it in stock)
Here's a brand-spanking-new "digitally remastered" (if that really means anything!) re-release of this platter that originally came out on Brian Eno's Obscure label back in the days when Eno was so humongous that he too could have his own company to do whatever he wanted to just like Frank Zappa and the Jefferson Airplane! Being an import bin hunter when this originally came out in (I believe, booklet notes being, er, obscure) 1976, I was familiar with this debut release from British composer and Larry Fine lookalike Nyman but didn't dare snatch it up not only because money was such a rare object of desire at the time, but because I didn't feel like taking chances with my hard-begged moolah on a platter that coulda been a dog, no matter how enticing it may have looked. Well, here it is in my sweaty palms twenny-nine years later and guess what? I'm taking chances not only because I now have a little more scratch to spread around, but because I figure that at the rate I'm going I'm probably going to be dead more sooner than later and I better start lending an ear to a lotta things I've passed up o'er the years before I start taking up residence in Potter's Field!
Three tracks here, and if you were expecting some sorta strange avant garde classical cum rock screech like I was you too will be in for a shock. A nice shock mind you..."1-100" is a side-long (using old el-pee terminology here!) solo piano track featuring various dolorous chords that kinda reminds me of something I woulda done age twelve playing at random albeit most of my notes woulda been clunkers. "Bell Set No. 1" sounds like a buncha clockwork gone kaplooey. It brings back memories of this time when I was in my teens and my dad was fixing this small clock we used to have in our living room and the chimes on it struck out in this weird, wavering, twisted way. I told my dad I thought it sounded cool. He told me I was nuts. Anyway, if you got a whole buncha clocks that chimed in this distorted way at various decibels and pitches it would probably sound like "Bell Set No. 1." "1-100 (Faster Decay)" comes off like the original only (as you'd guess) faster, like maybe if I got good enough at cranking out those John Schaum chords a li'l quicker and wanted to impress the uncles and aunts when they came over. Anyway, I hope my personal injections into this writeup read a lot better'n the reams of boring, clinical and staid reviews of this CD you're more or less likely to find!
Les Rallizes Denudes-'67 ET STUDIO CD-R
This one came as part of a 10-CD set of various Les Rallizes Denudes live/studio/solo endeavors (which also includes their OZ DAYS tracks and leader Mizutani's performing farewell backing Arthur Doyle), but for me it's one of the most important of the batch for it documents the group's heavy Velvet Underground-influenced sound and vision being done at a time when John Cale was still driving the Velvets towards avenues of unspeakable beauty and density. Yes, along with Doug Snyder's Cooger and Dark's Pandemonium Shadow Show and Le Stelle De Mario Schifano, Les Rallizes Denudes were creating an EPI-influenced sonic/visual blast and at a time when we were at least five years away from realizing just how widespread and influential the entire Velvets/Warhol scene was! So you've gotta admit that we better give these Tokyo thumpsters their just DUES for at least for being ahead of the rest of us as far as knowing that the musical high point of the twentieth century was happening in a Polish meeting hall in New York and not necessarily a ballroom in San Francisco! I believe this CD is identical to the '67-'69 legitimate offering that lead Denude Mizutani briefly released in the early-nineties, though for some odd reason the twenty-minute "Smoking Cigarette Blues" (a fine hunk of repeato-riff garage sputum that sounds like Davie Allen and the Arrows trying to play "Sister Ray") is missing. But you can find that one on vinyl if you look hard enough. What you do get on this CD is an excerpt from the very first Denudes gig in early 1968 sounding like a tape I have of the second Family Dog Tribal Stomp from 1967 where Quicksilver, the Oxford Circle and Big Brother and the Holding Company got together and created this wild feedback whoop. Mizutani's guitar careens and crashes while the drummer keeps to the floor tom sounding like he's about to declare war on Abyssinia! Then there's this harmonica player breathing in and out Huck Finn-style like he took lessons from Roscoe Mitchell and Leroy Jenkins! Some tracks're great buzzsaw six-oh garage (played in the Japanese "tradition" a la the Jacks and Golden Cups...hah!) while others may even be a little sappy for your tastes (a lotta these Japanese proto-punks tended to have their softer, more pop-oriented Kyu Sakamoto moments, and there are two slow and terse numbers here [each punctuated with a small bell] that come close to...Bob Segar's "Turn the Page"?!?!?!?), but if you too are a follower of not only the Velvet Underground but all those groups they influenced long before that became "hip" (and a million subpar spuds took the drive and drone and rammed it into the ground), here's another one for the pile.
THE BEAT OF THE EARTH CD (Radioactive)
In my original review of this recently-reissued rarity (scroll down), I did mention that the Beat of the Earth would take time to grow on me. Well, it has...sorta, at least enough that I can enjoy it more on a west coast Seeds-drone level and ignore the at-times lovey-dovey lyrics not to mention the silly hippie patter on side-two (again, using old vinyl talk here!). It actually has a nice late-sixties West Coast "vibe" that I gotta admit comes off good, at least until the West Coast went from the likes of Love and the original Byrds to the early seventies fringe and acoustic guitar whole earth eating stuff that David Crosby was riding to the bank with. Still, I'm wary about head Beat Ron Pearlman's other endeavors which I fear may take the seventies portion of the Californian equation to heart.
15-60-75 (The Numbers Band)-JIMMY BELL'S STILL IN TOWN CD-R (Reedurban)
There's a professional CD of this available on line from the same people who also have a bunch of Backdoor Men CDs up for sale not to mention a digital take of the ten copies only Peter Laughner/Terry Hartman NOTES ON A COCKTAIL NAPKIN acetate w/o the skips and crackles, but I keep forgetting to order that stuff which must prove how little the original Cleveland seventies thrust means to me these days. However, I do own this cheap-o knockoff which I not only bought directly from the band way back in 1999 but reviewed in the now outta-print (and thankfully so, considering the jerk who contributed to it!) BLACK TO COMM #23. Recorded in 1975 and released a year later, JIMMY BELL'S STILL IN TOWN remains 15-60-75's best (I never could "get into" their eighties-period recordings, which were jazzier and less-intense), showing the Numbers Band guys at their peak in many ways sounding like just about any other seventies Akron/Kent/Cleveland underground aggro of the day (pre-media push) doing the hard garage band thud with hefty Velvet Underground reference points, only with a horn section and a way stronger blues approach than most of the new wave would have ever dared. These guys were such a big fixture in Kent throughout the seventies and eighties, and people who saw them way back when tell me they seemed to be destined for way bigger things that never did happen. And hey, if there are any Cleveland/Akron seventies underground aficionados reading this, could you/would you please give me some insight as to what the group Nightlife were like (they being a jazz band featuring members of the Numbers Band and Tin Huey wanting to do "something different," which usually meant gigging at one of those small run down bars where it seems somebody gets shot in the parking lot at least once a week), not forgetting an ultra-obscure Cleveland-area act called the LETTERS Band, they also playing the same kinda murder hotspots 'cept they seemed to be oriented near the campus of Case Western Reserve University.
Anyway, enough of that. I hope you've appreciated the extra mile (actually, the extra review!) that I went for this posting, and considering the time of year it is let me close with this bit of seasonal holiday advice...keep Chris in Christmas!
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 4:46 PM
Thursday, December 16, 2004
JAPANESE ROCK'S GOT THE SOCK!
Y'know, I really don't want to write this post after such a hard day at work. But I must. Not because of any self-important call to duty. Not because of any desire to enlighten you readers about rare and obscure releases and music that you undoubtedly would want to know about. NOT because of any sick sort of "oneupmanship" ("Ha ha, I got it and you don't!") or anything along those lines. The reason I am posting this is because some other people (who will thankfully remain nameless) have just put up a buncha new and fresh items that are going to take a lotta the thunder away from MY scribings, and I don't want to look like the lazy and shiftless LOUT that you undoubtedly think I am, especially in the light of their varied musings! So here's a brief lowdown thingie that I've promised you ages back on some of the Japanese underground rock CDs I've gotten hold of only a month ago but am writing about now because...I am really such a lazy turdball, ain't I!
Up-Tight-LUCREZIA (Alchemy, available through Eclipse)
It doesn't quite hold up as well as their earlier releases. Perhaps it's too "heavy" without the fine psychedelic early-Velvets blast that attracted me to this Les Rallizes Denudes-influenced bunch in the first place. (It seems that Up-tight is starting to veer away from the Velvets/Denudes basis heading straight for...Budgie-territory???) Future listens, as usual, will hone my opinion but on first earful all I had to say was..."when's the song going to start???"
Various Artists-THE NIGHT GALLERY VOL. 2: 21ST CENTURY WEST PSYCHEDELIA (Alchemy, and just guess where you can buy it on-line!)
Yeah, I don't know what "west psychedelia" is either, but what it is is pretty good! Well, I still prefer this series' initial volume of dreamy, powerful, energetic and erotic (in the purest 1967 Jonathan Richman sense) rockism which you can read about here, but the second volume in this hopefully long series also features its fair share of early-VU-inspired joy that doesn't quite zoom me back to those thrilling days of yesteryear like the first one, but it still has more than its fair share of high points. Top moments...Coa (Eddie and Bill from LSD March) making one of the finest atonal rackets ever on a mere bass and drums, while whoever it is that did the opening acoustic tracks (liners are in Japanese which doesn't help me) sure managed to pull it off spiffy and w/o looking like a buncha hippies on the Boone's Farm Apple Wine kick! Whoever they are, they sorta remind me of Nagisa Ni Te only better; with a little more emotion and verve in order! She Brings the Rainbow also deserve kudos if only for that blistering guitar rave that opens their first track while Magura Mozart should be mentioned not only for their name but for the way they hearken back to some strange proto-punky sound kinda coming off like Faust at their garagiest. Hmmmmmm, it ain't that bad after all, though definitely lend ear to the first one!
Hiroshi Nar-WHERE DO YOU COME FROM (Underground, available through Eclipse)
The Japan-based "Underground" label has released a couple of "must have" (and perhaps a couple "just try'n find it!") items that probably will appeal to whomever reads this blog including a Les Rallizes Denudes live '74 2-CD set that I haven't even seen offered for sale, but this one's relatively easy to find. And it is a treasure especially for those of you studying the Japanese proto-punk style for it contains a history of recordings made by one Hiroshi Nar, a guy who deserves at least a plaque in the Punk Rock Hall of Fame just for being a member of Japan's two biggest early-seventies p-rock aggregates, they being Zuno Keisatsu and believe-it-or-not but the Denudes guys themselves! I dunno if that makes Nar the Japanese equiv. of Peter Laughner being in both Rocket From the Tombs and Television, but anyway this guy's been pretty prolific as of late not only recording (and singing in his best Mick Farren nasal-voice) with the Jokers on PSF but by getting his archival and therefore rawest booty released in a variety of CD forms. Some of it is "must have," like his ten-CD series of three-inch CD-Rs featuring old home-recordings (Eclipse only has five of 'em, which I guess is five more than NONE) ranging from an early garbled '65 version of "The Times They Are A'Changin'" to some rather inspired early-seventies bedroom-level recordings that recall similar efforts by everyone from Laughner to Metal Mike Saunders. Some of these releases are totally disposable like this sub-bootleg recording he did with Nishinihon which came outta Australia, but for those looking for the best available historical overview of Nar's career get hold of WHERE DO YOU COME FROM! A proto-punk trip detailing most if not all of Nar's "professional" groupings, this 'un begins with an interesting live thing from (I guess) the early-seventies, an organ-dominated and typically truncated live-cassette recording which seems to border on early-seventies garage concerns before suddenly traipsing into what could only be considered a garage-progressive keyboard romp reminding me of ? and the Mysterians osmosing into one of those German prog-garage groups (like Ainigma?) that collectors seem to consider "punk" (not that I'm going to argue about it!). Again, liners are in Japanese so I certainly am inna dark, but you get choice tracks from Zuno Keisatsu (a bit sing-songy but raw nonetheless) and '74-era Denudes (which are worth the price of admission) besides rarities from Nar's more current aggregations like Niplets and Port Cuss which do "continue in the tradition" even if they were recorded long after the radiation from seventies underground brilliance sorta died down. Someone out there should do an English lang thing on Nar for BLACK TO COMM if it ever comes out...any takers?
LSD March-five CD-R set
The original of this goes for like $500-plus (only ten copies made it out), but I managed to get it burned for me (for a nominal fee). You man say it's a burn as well, since these CDs are rather short (one clocking in at I believe a little over eight minutes or so!) but given that you need to hear more of LSD March's brilliant psych-punk I'm sure the average fan won't mind the fact that the entire shebang could have been reduced to maybe two disques en toto. LSD March are undoubtedly the current leaders of this scene now that Les Rallizes Denudes have abdicated their throne of velvet (Underground)...with Up-Tight not quite living up to past promises (I hope future listens hone my "appreciation") Michishita Shinnsuke and company (including the infamous Eddie and Bill) are perhaps thee undisputed kings (and queens) of lizard slink with their style veering all over the place sounding like Mirrors one minute and the Zombies (Doors?) the next with nary a clunker to be discerned. Their latest (scroll down for the review) is a contender for best o' '04 as we speak, and the way things are going LSD March might just worm their way into my all-time top-hundred best bands of all time lest they start dishing out subpar sputum like way too many bands w/promise ultimately did. Remind me to review their 1997-2001 AT MUSHROOM one of these days.
Various Artists-PSYCHEDELIC ATMOSPHERE BEATNIK TOUR 10-CD box set (La Musica, Germany)
These people who released this monster've also put out about five Les Rallizes Denudes box sets (there must be about fifteen Denudes sets out there, and I've got about half of 'em!), and these Japanese noise/psych groups on their European tours from the mid/late-nineties would appeal to those of you stoked on Mizutani's almost three decades old quest for the perfect feedback drone. Only got through about six of the ten disques in this box but here's what I can discern...Toho Bara remind me of 1968 Pink Floyd while I can't even remember what Ohicami No Jiican sound like. Mainliner are a fantastic ball of raw sound though the hands down winners here (which would figure since they take up a huger hunk of these platters than one would expect) are Musica Transonic who remind me of High Rise (which would figure since someone from them is here) taken to even higher levels of distorted shards of metallic frenzy. Can't wait to hear the rest.
Hopefully coming up in the next few posts, a review of the latest Gizmos collection and the Albert Ayler box set on Revenant (currently preparing myself for the latter with a constant bombardment of my Ayler collection CLOCKWORK ORANGE-style...pray for my survival).
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 8:40 PM
Saturday, December 11, 2004
A PRETTY WHOPPING GOOD BOOK FOR YEZ TO READ HERE!
How often do you like to curl up with a good book? Frankly, nowadays there ain't quite as many good books to curl up with like there were when I was a kid...now, back then I couldn't wait to rush home from scrool to read a good book 'specially on a cold winter's day, though the kinda books I was curling up with weren't exactly the ones my teachers and folks had in mind! Actually, the literature the forces of Grown Up Squaredness wanted me ro read (TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MESS, SILAS MURMER) actually were good for curling...the SPORT of curling that is, since I'm sure if ya pressed alla the "cultured" books that I was s'posed to read (being of such a higher class of human than all of those base and lowbrow children I went to school with) into one big HUNK and got yer brooms and skates and headed for the nearest frozen pond you'd have a fine game of curling in no time! But as for reading...naaaaah! Face it, the kinda books THIS kiddo went for were far more enriching than reading about some fag sailors and an old grumblebum! I didn't waste my time with those phony classics, I went for the REAL ones...THE MAD READER, MAD STRIKES BACK (and all the other ones up to and including GOOD 'N MAD), DENNIS THE MENACE A.M. (Ambassador of Mischief), PEANUTS EVERY SUNDAY, THE MIGHTY THOR and a whole turdload more. Face it, life is too short for culture!
I still stand by my ten-year-old (that is age ten, not ten years back!) reading rules, which is why I say that if you wanna read something good and beneficial these days don't waste it on shallow one-dimensional drivel that pretends to "speak" to your inner being. Waste it on something without any redeeming snob value for once in your life! And what a better way to waste it than on a book like SUICIDE: NO COMPROMISE by David Nobakht (available through SAF publishing, copyrighted 2005 but I got one early!). Yes, it's a book all about one of rock & roll's baddest of the bad boy underground rock acts of the seventies, and yeah there coulda been more pictures in it (though the ones they do have from the early undocumented days were worth the 25 year wait) and the writer's one of your typical modern-day cookie-cutter scribblers who takes huge blocks of quotes and surrounds them with what he thinks you should know about what he's writing about (as if the quotes enough aren't helpful on their lonesome), but it's still a wowzer. Yeah, Nobakht is kinda "staid" as far as giving his subject matter any real dimension plus he has this irritating habit of reminding us of what else (in the "real world," natch!) was happening in the Suicide saga at certain points in time as if the fact that LOVE STORY and M*A*S*H were box office boffo the same year Suicide formed has any bearing on anything, but the mere idea that a book about one of the top 100 rock/roll bands of all time has been unleashed certainly overcomes any adverse reactions one may have to the chicness of it all. If you are/were a guy like me who, being so enamored of the Suicide credo, tried to track done any li'l piece or chard of information on 'em just a'hungerin' for more and more of that insatiable history, man will this book help you out!
It sure helped me. For years Suicide were up there on my honor roll as one of the few rock & roll bands with a truly unique concept, and that certainly put them in the same realm of avant garde street rock alongsides the Velvet Underground, Stooges, the Cleveland strata as well as a variety of fellow New York groups of an equally twisted vision, most notably those of the "no wave" which sprang from the loins of Alan Vega and Martin Rev. And hey, I was just one of those befuddled inna middle a nowhere suburban bums who was more or less enamored with all those reports of what was happening in New York at the clubs that were incessantly pushing underground rock in a world of disco and mainstream mush (not forgetting FM sludge...it's like what Dale Lawrence said in the booklet of the new Gizmos CD collection on Gulcher; underground rock/punk/garage/what-have-you instantly made EVERYTHING else pale in comparison, and if you don't "get it" you're heading straight for Chuck Eddy territory). And I hate to bore you again with all of this oft-tossed about personal background but in case you DIDN'T know, the Velvet Underground (who at the time I didn't even connect with as far as their being influential on a whole slew of music I was enjoying) had really re-arranged my listening parameters, and for some not-so-odd reason I was being sucked in by a whole variety of groups featuring guys in wraparound shades and dark clothing looking like aliens from another world playing music that fit in with these preconceived notions of mad-drone rock. I think I told you how I imagined the Velvet Underground to have sounded (this is at age 13 or so) after taking a look at 'em on the back cover of their first album? Well, Suicide sounded EXACTLY like I imagined them to sound, without the guitars or viola, of course, and with a rhythm machine.
OK, maybe there's not ENOUGH nit-picking information (or at least enough as a guy like me would wanna know) here, but at least there's more than nothing. I mean, hey, I'm glad that the pre-Suicide Reverend B. (a play on Martin Rev's real surname, Reverby although that is not mentioned anywhere in this book) got their just dues, but I sure coulda used some technical data like instrumentation, members, recordings etc. (And a CD or ten would be welcome given all the new hoopla that'll be a result of this book goin' on!) The usual mistakes and inaccuracies can be found if one looks hard enough, and if the interview Suicide did with CHANGES (which was a major publication at the time) way back in '71 was discussed somewhere in these pages, I missed it. But still, despite the occasional breeze-throughs and the author's politically pious stuck-on-the-hipster-vision-of-life snootism (I mean, who else but a young idealist would refer to a flophouse as a "homeless shelter"?), I got a pretty fair fill of new and exciting information that made me a happier man. Like I said, I coulda used much more, but I guess I've gotta be happy with what I did end up with.
Yes, I was zoned. Right back to those days when I would read about the "futuristic" night club Max's Kansas City and envision a stage (and city) just brimming fulla these Exploding Plastic Inevitable rejects playing their gritty, under-the-covers New York City noise to large and appreciative audiences and here I was stuck in English class readin' THE GRATE GATSBY wishing that I could roam wild with these savages! NO COMPROMISE does capture that whole En Why See rigmarole pretty good even with the author's usual fumbles here/there, and despite the typically post-seventies lack of insight and skill in telling us just why group "x" is the bestest thing ever let's just say you get the message.
Nice supporting cast here too...Peter Crowley gives us some more of that history regarding how he got to book all them bands into Max's in the first place, while you get some surprise guest appearances from the likes of Dee Dee Ramone, Sylvain Sylvain, Jayne County and even James Chance telling us about Suicide this and no wave that! The omnipresent Rudolph Grey pops up telling us about his Suicide encounters, and although they're not mentioned by name Vega relates to us about the time he, Arto Lindsay and Grey played a gig as the Blue Humans which Grey has on tape but won't release for some cockamamie reason or another...feh! All these cool cat appearances are enough to make you forget the lesser-lights who also share the spotlight such as Michael Stipe and Henry Rollins, which might be enough to make you take a running jump but don't. Heck, even Miriam Linna puts in her two centavos, and I gotta say that if she's in the book you know it's gotta be a winner!
(I only wish the author had tried getting hold of Byron Coley for a comment or two, especially since Coley has views on Suicide that pretty much mirror those of his mentor Lester Bangs. Both of 'em seemed to have had a love/hate relationship with regards to the Revega team, and considering how frothing at the mouth Coley could have gotten at times his imput would have been more'n welcome. [Many seem to forget about Bangs putting Suicide down as phony preeners in his Peter Laughner obit despite heaping praise in the past before 360-ing after the release of their first album.] Coley's involvement went much farther to the point of personally hassling Vega at a number of Suicide shows...he in fact can be heard on the first set of a May '77 Max's gig tape that's been floating around for years giving the duo a hard time before being flung down the steps by the bouncers. But then he did a switcheroo as well, though still seemed to harbor old hatreds at least when I was talkin' to him back in the late-eighties.)
And to be fair about it, a lotta the later, eighties-on information that was dispensed was about as exciting to me as Art Garfunkel reciting "Desiderada" while the Enoch Light Orchestra plays in the background. That era was too boring for my tastes and maybe even painful especially since what the seventies promised the eighties certainly didn't deliver on (plus, the solo careers of the two didn't quite thrill me other'n on the early records and only a rare 1986 bootleg LP I have was of any enjoyment whatsoever), but still, SUICIDE: NO COMPROMISE made for some pretty thrilling eyeballing just like inna old days when I'd peruse some NEW YORK ROCKER and just go wild about all the avant gardeness going on in the big town and how I was so glad to be living at the same time it was happening and how I thought it would never end. Well, it DID end, and maybe a lot faster than any of us would have believed, but it was fun while it lasted. At least this book captures some of the reasons as to why those days were great, and maybe somehow, somewhere that whole scene can eventually be relived on modern terms and I don't mean all this ersatz jive that's going on today. Who knows, maybe SUICIDE: NO COMPROMISE will be the book that catapults New York back into the swing of high energy post-Velvet Underground drone more sooner than later!
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 6:53 PM
Sunday, December 05, 2004
Here's a worthwhile link that should be of great interest to fans of the early Velvet Underground whateveritis that makes obsessive/compulsives like me want to know more (and hear more...when is Polygram gonna get up off their duffs and release some more of that early stuff given we've been waiting years on end for it?!?!?) long after the fact!
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 1:32 PM
Saturday, December 04, 2004
UGLY THINGS #22 (magazine available from www.ugly-things.com)
Yeah, I know that Jeroen Vedder over at THE NEXT BIG THING reviewed it as soon as it hit his mailbox, and he can do that if he wants to in order to beat doofuses like me to the punch, and you can call me an old fogey if you like but I prefer to thoroughly and thoughtfully read my mags before I write 'em up! And given that I didn't take the Evelyn Woods course like Vedder did and I tend to linger on the beauty and significance of single words while others just woooooosh through 'em, let's just say that it took me a lot longer to digest (urp!) the latest UGLY THINGS than it would the usual brilliantines out there in quickie blog land. So while everybody else has pointed out that this mag exists and have filled you in on what's in it and what it's all about, let me just say that here's my UGLY THINGS (#22) write-up for your perusal, and even a jaded person like myself must admit that the mag sure has come a long way in twenny-one year's time ever since it was a neet xeroxed dying gasp of the seventies fanzine era (even though it debuted in '83) when the old guard (THE GROOVE ASSOCIATES, TAKE IT!...) was dying out and the new breed of hardcore and garage band 'zines were more'n anxious to take their place. Sheesh, I can still remember that summer day in 1983 when I was cutting the yard around the lamp-post contemplatin' whether or not to fork over the money for the first issue (or was it the second?) being sold through the latest Bomp! catalog, and parting with the buck or two it cost in order to savor its tangy, six-oh punk-fueled pages surely ranks as one of the smarter things I've done in my life along with buying a copy of LOADED upon first or second sight (March, 1976) solely on account of its legend or deciding on whether to snatch up the Alice Cooper "Elected" single or Arlo Guthrie's "The City Of New Orleans" at the J. C. Penney's at the Eastwood Mall (summer '72) opting for Alice (and thus saving you all from the fanzine I would have ultimately created had I chosen Arlo, namely THE DOWN HOME GOOD TIMES GAZETTE!), my first ever non-flea market record purchase if you can believe that! So that's my UGLY THINGS epiphany, and I'm sure you'll write about yours on your own blog one of these days...
(After thinking it over a bit...I bought #2 from Bomp! since the first was sold out, though I sent away for the first ish and got it from Mike saying it was the last one available, so if there are any historical anal-retentives out there looking for such facts for future Stax bios and the like, here's a tasty footnote for ya!)
Anyway, you can't call UGLY THINGS a fanzine anymore which perhaps is our loss but editor Mike Stax's GAIN (mainly, monetary gain!). But still, Mike keeps cranking out these UGLY THINGS faster than Wales keeps cranking out bastards, and who am I to fault Stax for his strong capitalist desires (coupled with a rock & roll obsession that woulda gotten me locked up years ago!) which have resulted in this mad desire to spread the garage band rock & roll word no matter how much it must cost him to unleash these thick phonebook-sized mags! Yes, while most other fanzines have either died out due to their inbred stifling natures or keep on going not knowing they've been dead for years (and you can guess who I'm talking about!), UGLY THINGS and the Ugly One himself (just kidding!) keep going on, and you can tell that Mike's hit the BIG TIME because he doesn't even want me to write for him anymore which is really saying something (what it says is that I'm a lousy writer which I am, but as long as I have people eagerly reading my tripe why should I disappoint my public?)! In the past we've often wondered about Greg Prevost's age, but nowadays we wonder about what Mike Stax does for a living because it must be a ritzy job if he can afford to put out magazines the quality of this! (Probably works at the same mysterious place Ward Cleaver and Ozzie Nelson do...hee!)
I didn't read the entire latest issue yet, and I doubt that I ever will because it's so gosh-darn big and besides, there may be a few things here and there that don't exactly light a fire 'r anything (like the Dickens article, which I can't throw myself into at all!), but I think I've read enough to give this garage/punk 'zine a thoroughly objective review. Well, about as objective as I can be anyway, but for the sake of order here's a rundown (no, not literally) of what I think was fine and perhaps no-so-fine about the new UT, and I hope you will agree too!
THE GOOD STUFF: I gotta hand it to Mike...he coulda published the ongoing Misunderstood saga as some big book complete with a humongous price tag (hey Mike, ever wonder why I never ordered any records from you? You must think all yer readers are members of the Fortune 500 or something and frankly I'm lucky if I can break outta the four-digits a year trap I'm in!), but just to show us that he's a fine chap and all he's running it in installments which undoubtedly is a treat for all of us reg'lar readers. Yeah, I know I can't exactly get excited over a period in rock (sans "& roll") music that champions the likes of Mr. Palsy himself Joe Cocker, but it's still fun reading even if the subject matter at the time might not be. (Like with BACK DOOR MAN and DENIM DELINQUENT, you KNOW the writing's good even if you're not quite interested in what's being written about but it seems so engrossing anyhow!) Also of worth...the vast assortment of plattertudes given to such wondrous obscurities (in the realm of dopus americanus, of course!) as the Creatures, ex-Move Ace Kefford (!), the "even newer!" MC5 (hokay...DTK/MC5!) and others I will read about as soon as the laxatives kick in. Johan Kugelberg (is he the same Johan who was Herman's less-couth prototype on an ancient episode of THE MUNSTERS??? I'm only saying this because he used to wanna be friendly with me and all, but has since dropped any correspondence and contact leading your not-so-humble reviewer to think he's gone down the same sorry path as all those other "friends" who turned on me worse than Ben Arnold himself!) weighs in with more of his collector's scum "I got it and you don't!" reviews of garage/punk low-fi trash-rock gems (though Johan missed a few...no "Forming" by the Germs, or even those old Umela Hmota and Dom tracks would be worth the mention even if they didn't appear on any singles!). I can't forget the reams of reviews of recordings and books I wish I could afford but I can at least read about 'em, eh? (Wow, Mike must have some really hot job if he can buy all the recordings that peons like me can only DREAM ABOUT!!!) Believe me, what you're glomming in UGLY THINGS today is what you'll be rediscovering on this blog once I can afford the booty, sometime in 2040, so don't be a Chris-Come-Lately like I am! And one thing I really like about this ish is that the usual gang of idiots who used to write as if they were still working at the "want ads" section of the local paper seem to be improving. No names, but I used to think that these few writers were bringing the quality of UGLY THINGS way down with their flaccid skills which tended to bore me to pieces. (I mean, I used to love the whole post-Meltzer gonzo style which helped to get me through the eighties and even dabbled in it myself, but now the pendulum seems to have swung the other way towards...college dissertations???) Nowadays I can actually enjoy reading these scribes' wares since they're not as one-dimensional nor as Calvin Coolidge-esque as they may have seemed at one time, but I'd probably STILL wanna kill the whole lot of 'em (and vicey versy) would we ever meet face to face.
THE BAD STUFF: Well, I dunno if there's anything really bad in this issue but I'll try to find something. OK, there's the article on Mel Lyman who you think would make a great subject matter for the likes of an issue of UT, but the author fills us people who've been in on the Lyman Family game for quite some time with very little if anything we didn't know already, nor does he give us any insight into the mystique of Mel that us familiar types would have liked to have read about given that the Lyman subject has not been as thoroughly exhausted as it has been with his West Coast brother Charles Manson. Besides, it seems that a lot was left out of the Lyman saga like the time he flew out to visit Manson and his similarly-minded Family in 1968 and how the two hit it off really well (Manson eventually dropping Lyman into his conversations and quoting him as well even to the point of saying "Mel Lyman is my mentor!"---and how could anyone writing a piece on Lyman ignore such a profound statement as that???). Lyman acolyte Mark Frechette's jail stint for bank robbery is pretty much skipped over as well (and contrary to what the author says, Frechette's prison stretch and accidental death while weight lifting are VERY MUCH part of the story's scope no matter what he may think!). And besides, there was no mention of Wayne McGuire anywhere here which would be akin to writing a Lou Reed history without mentioning Lester Bangs I guess!
As far as other nit-picking goes...well, like I said earlier the Misunderstood saga is more/less past the scope of my interests settling well into the early-seventies snooze-producing progressive era (I mean, if you told me back in '83 that the likes of Juicy Lucy would be written about in the pages of UT even within the scope of a Misunderstood article I woulda called you a loony...back then Stax would have merely written something along the lines of "Glen Fernando Campbell eventually joined Juicy Lucy and played with Joe Cocker, about which the less said the better!" and left it at that!!!!!) but I still read it only because it's presented so fine and transcends its subject matter to the point where it actually makes the whole shaggy bunch of 'em look good! And if you really want me to pick nits, lemme just say that there weren't quite enough mentions of the Velvet Underground here, and let me remind you that at one time Mike used to be able to drop their name with the worst of 'em!
And there you have it...the good, the bad and the UGLY THINGS and frankly, with the fanzine world dwindling and dwindling into nothingness as the days go by and the active high energy rock scenes and fandom surrounding it aging to the point where the mania of thirty, twenty and even ten years back has been reduced to a whimper (just take a look at my sales records sometimes!), the appearance of a new UGLY THINGS is an event that is the closest modern equivalent of waiting for a whole slew of similar-minded rags back in the seventies and eighties when mags such as this (with a much lower fidelity mind you!) pretty much roamed the fandom earth as did the buffalo. Nowadays the thrills are too sparse to pass up and too many of you are doing just that figuring that the force and thrust of the entire scene is just one big memory, but it doesn't have to be that way. If I were you, I'd continue on the righteous path of the high-energy rock & roll living that you grew up with and are probably missing with a passion by buying up as many of these UGLY THINGS as you can find (back issues are available for an arm and a leg), and while you're at it why don't you give some of the competition a go of it as well, eh?
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 2:52 PM