THE TOP TEN FILMS OF ALL TIME THAT MADE A MAN OUTTA ME!
Can you imagine the audacity of some of these bloggers out there! Here they are, world-reknown with friends aplenty, promo records by the bushel and more marijuana than a Mexican peon can grow, and you can just betcha bottom dollar that these all-knowing blogomites just hafta go 'round making up top ten lists of their favorite films just so's all of us lowly bunsnitches can read about these cinematic excursions and live vicariously through the tastes and actions of said bloggers! Nothing really wrong there, 'cept when said blogger's tastes are about as exciting as your standard big city filmscribe's boho obscurer-than-thou pretensions...just snap here for an example of just how dullsville some flicker pickers' tastes can be (you may have to scroll down)...sheesh, the whole sordid episode just begs to ask the question "Are there enough arthouses and berets in Australia to sustain the uppercrust snootiness of at least ONE moom pitcher maven struggling for love and acceptance in the Antipodes?"
In order to clear the flatulence-laden dinge of the aforementioned top ten list, I thought I'd just drop a post your way as to my faverave films of all time. Frankly, I find this list a lot more real, down-to-earth and ultimately more satisfying than dribbling on about urban cowpokes and the Amerigan Experience at the dawn of the eighties and all that above-it-all hokum, and besides these films are a lot more fun too!
1) MANIAC (1934)
MANIAC was director Dwayne Esper and Hildegarde Stadie's brave attempt to cash in on the horror craze of the day with this totally off-the-wall look at mental illness wrapped in pseudo-Edgar Allen Poe. If Parker Tyler were really as on-the-spot as he thinks he was, this one would have been mentioned in his bright-yet-brainy book on underground cinema, only I think he was too intellecto to do such a thing and besides he died before film camp of this nature was lifted to an art level anyway.
2) BOWERY TO BAGHDAD (1955)
Leo Gorcey and the boys discover a genie in a lamp and grapple with a buncha gangsters who want to use the guy for their own nefarious purposes. Considering the locale where Gorcey and co. end up, the film may have a lot more meaning in today's political clime than it did back then. I'll bet Lillian Hellman shuddered seeing the fruits of her dark, socially-consiousness-riddled play evolve rather quickly into a series of quickie crank-out b-films displaying none of her Stalinist intent. Serves her right!
3) PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE (1957)
I coulda sworn I saw this one on tee-vee at age four on the afternoon horror movie show and shuddered in fear over the doom-laden music, spooky cemetery scenes and walking dead. Too bad I didn't get to see it age nine when I would have appreciated its science-fiction turned sideways tale of interstellar invasion. For me it has WAR OF THE WORLDS (Martians land, blow up things, die of disease and everything is all happy) beat all hollow.
4) STOP, LOOK AND LAUGH (1961)
Clips from Three Stooges shorts are shown between ventriloquist Paul Winchell mixing it up with his dummies (plus the Marquis Chimps a year before hitting the small screen in THE HATHAWAYS). Memorable film, not only because I like dummies and chimp humor, but because for years this was the only Three Stooges (w/Curly or anyone other'n the sixties features) that was shown on local TV. I remember Christmas Break '74 when channel 33 was hyping this film by running the trailer incessantly. Only trouble was that the film was being broadcast on the morning everybody went back to school...believe me, I was planning to play sick just to stay home and watch the thing, only my conscience got the best of me. Stupid conscience! Stupid programmers!!!!
5) THE SADIST (1963)
I've heard a bonehead compare this film to the works of Orson Welles, which kinda makes me wonder...when are all of these highly-praised and critically acclaimed films (mainstream or not) going to be compared to fun low-budget "trash" like THE SADIST??? Ace punk Arch Hall Jr. plays the Starkweather role in this straightforward crime film a lot better than Martin Sheen did in the oft-lauded BADLANDS, and I don't even think that Hall thought he looked like James Dean one bit unlike Sheen, who probably practiced his sneer in the mirror!
6) SATAN'S BED (1965)
It's hard to tell if this is aspiring to be one of those art house films that the laxative devil mentioned above creams his corn over or just two unfinished films crammed together. Vocalist Yoko Ono stars at least in one half of the film as a mail order bride who ends up getting beaten up by some guy who happens NOT to be a Beatles fan, while the other half stars these three hoods (including a lezbo) who go around raping women before the axe falls harder than if Ed Ames threw it. Maybe if Yoko didn't end up marrying the world's biggest gasbag she coulda continued starring in movies like SATAN'S BED, which would have been a lot more pleasing than sitting through a spin of SEASONS OF GLASS anyday!
7) THE WILD BUNCH (1969)
Yeah, some of this tends to snooze and coulda been edited, but the action-packed scenes spill more blood and shard more skin than a dozen illegal cockfights. Besides, it's kinda neat watching respected actors from the forties and fifties like William Holden, Robert Ryan and Ernest Borgnine cussing and fighting in the amoralest of ways which must've had their old-timey fans scratchin' their heads in disbelief...
8) MACON COUNTY LINE (1974)
In the age of AMERICAN GRAFFITI and HAPPY DAYS, a more realistic approach to fifties "nostalgia" was taken in this great, non-pretentious drive in flick that was actually shown uncut on channel 21 back in the early-eighties...until somebody caught on and the remaining time was filled with LITTLE RASCALS shorts. Two brothers cheat and fornicate their way through the mid-fifties South, pick up some gal dressed like an extra from a Ma and Pa Kettle film, then end up in one of the Biblest parts of Georgia where they meet up with none other than Jethro Bodine as the local redneck sheriff. Then a bunch of guys who look like they were just kicked outta Ian Dury and the Blockheads show up in a 1950 Studebaker and kill the sheriff's wife, which is where the fun really starts...
9) THE NIGHT PORTER (1974)
Dirk Bogarde's this former concentration camp commandant hiding from the good guys in postwar Vienna working as a night porter in a hotel, surely a comedown from slaughtering millions only a short decade earlier. Meanwhile there are a whole buncha other nazi pervos and murderers also in Vienna, and all of 'em are keeping an eye on each other for obvious reasons. Then suddenly Charlotte Rampling (who must've starved herself for this role considering the flesh and bones look she has in the surreal Marlene Dietrich scene) re-enters Bogarde's life...y'see, she was a prisoner and Bogarde fell for her in a big way, and well, as the Everly Brothers once sang, "love hurts." At that time there were a whole slew of movies coming out that dealt with the subjects of love, lust and death, but THE NIGHT PORTER won't make you puke like some of the others will. It'll make you wanna run wild and kill people, but you won't get sick to your stomach!
10) HENRY, PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER (1987)
This one had my sister gasping and saying "Chris, how can you watch this?" Actually, a good straightahead crime film that perhaps is marred not by the violent content, but by the boring, non-violent scenes (like where the dimwitted sister of Otis tells Henry about how her father sexually abused her...yawn, like we really needed that in this film!). Actually pretty neat despite a load of boring beret-heads flocking to this one as if it were some poetry reading or new intellectual Susan Sonntag (rest in pieces!) screed!
WAIT---THERE'S MORE!!!, mainly a review of the COMBAT! Season One, Campaign One box-set available through Image Entertainment.
You know, I should be insulted! Total angry and frothing at the mouth MAD over the way I've been misrepresented and pre-judged by a number of you people out there in computerland! And if you wanna know just how I've been run through the mill by a few of these people, just look at the way they've judged not only me, but the movies and tee-vee programs that I've championed in previous pages of my BLACK TO COMM fanzine! Take Jay Hinman f'rinstance...now, I don't wanna go picking any fights with him, but there was one thing he said in a posting on his blogsite that I think was more'n a bit misleading, and perhaps ON PURPOSE misleading rather'n "oops" misleading as well. Y'see, in a post dealing with something I don't want to get into here, Hinman mentioned what he considers my love of "Eisenhower-era television" or something like that which, although perhaps a totally innocent comment and all prima-facie like, may have been a heavily-packed slam of sorts. I mean, yeah, I do go for tee-vee shows of the Ike days (though my main love more or less lies in late-period Eisenhower through Kennedy through mid-Johnson administration television as any astute reader could tell ya!), but I have the sneaking suspicion that Hinman decided to use Eisenhower and Eisenhower only in his remark to portray to his readership that li'l ol' me is stuck in the oft-loathed "fifties" with all dem bad things that wuz happening in Li'l Rock and to commies and all that which ruined those days until young and shiny JFK appeared on the scene to set things straight! Like I said, maybe not, but I wouldn't put that past him. Even though Ike wasn't quite as staid as his image lent (after all, he was the one who sent the troops in to desegregate the aforementioned L. Rock, and beside ol' Ike was a reader/follower of Wilhelm Reich so he couldn't have been as Mister Rogers as everyone makes him out to be!), those images that moderne kiddies have pounded into their skulls re. the "fifties" (booo! hissss!) and what it stood for re. repeated viewings of ATOMIC CAFE sure don't do any good fer my image. It's like that reader who told me he thought I liked the fifties and its movies and tee-vee and automobiles and general gulcher because that was a time when women, minorities and gays were kept in their place by overbearing white males like me! Uh, I guess this reader never heard of things like great fifties trash culture and general Amerigan teenage FUN that hasn't been duplicated since (not to mention the good stuff like low crime rates and less polarization), but what can you expect from a generation that rejected everything that was good and wholesome (in a degenerate BTC way) and took the laziest, stupidest, most boring aspects of "youth" to heart in its stead?!?!?
Anyway, what I want to talk about right now is the burnt DVD set (sent courtesy Paul McGarry, who was front and center when it originally aired) of COMBAT! (the first half of the first season...you gotta pay more for the full thang!), a program that not only aired during the greatest years of not only television but of general low-fi living (1962-1967) but featured some of the best, high-energy intensity to be shown on television during those already-intense times. And intense COMBAT! is, intense as THE TWILIGHT ZONE or THE OUTER LIMITS not to mention THE FUGITIVE and NAKED CITY, and even more powerful than a long-forgotten fave like ONE STEP BEYOND. Believe me, this show was a powerhouse of energy and emotion, perhaps thanks in part to main director Robert Altman, who was certainly put to better use directing shows like this and M-SQUAD rather'n later yawnsville features like M*A*S*H which seem to wash away any sorta respect I might have for the man, which I don't even if he was a vital part of this series.
So, what was COMBAT! anyway? I'll tell ya what is wuz...nothing but the first and the best of the World War II-themed series that seemed to permeate television during the early-to-mid-sixties. Ya gotta remember that when COMBAT! debuted on ABC in the fall of '62, WW II had ended a only mere seventeen years earlier, yet enough time had elapsed that a television program dealing with them days was now a fresh enough idea (sorta like the rash of Vietnam War series that popped up in the eighties)...nothing "nostalgic" mind you, but let's just say it was now safe to milk those times with a hard-hitting, power-drenched show about the war. And after COMBAT!'s success more and more WW II series came, from THE RAT PATROL to GARRISON'S GORILLAS, and who could forget the infamous HOGAN'S HEROES with all those "lovable Nazis" that caused such an outrage. (Heck, I remember some kid I grew up with who thought the Nazis were cool with their uniforms and tanks and goosestepping after watching HOGAN'S HEROES, and I still recall the lecture I got from dad when all these shows were on about how bad them krauts were and how they killed Jews like my neighbors and all that [they didn't kill my neighbors but people like them over in Europe!]...it was kinda confusing because I wasn't even a fan of these shows at the time being more a sitcom and cartoon kid myself and don't recall saying anything pro-Nazi to anyone! Maybe he was just being pre-emptive!!!) Anyway, COMBAT! was yet another cool coup for ABC, which at that time was the "small" network with a buncha UHF stations that were little more than low-budget indie channels that happened to run network programming, but they sure made up for it with their fantastic schedules that mixed lowbrow, teenybop and innovation.
I think it 's cool how they had two stars of this show who more or less alternated as featured players every other week. Rick Jason (who later committed suicide after years of obscurity) stars as Lieutenant Hanley, a mature, perhaps reserved yet still wiry enough guy when the situation calls, while the great Vic Morrow (aka Artie West and a buncha tee-vee wiseguys before fighting in the Big One...only to lose his life and head making a comeback in a lousy attempt at them Baby Boomer dollars viz a viz the TWILIGHT ZONE revival) stars (or co-stars if it's Jason's turn) as Sergeant Saunders, a guy so cold-steel surly that you'd think the world would crumble if he merely smiled. The supporting cast is fine as well, from the cool Cajun called what else but "Caje" as well as Kirby, the strung out guy who always seems to be on the verge of losing his head, Littlejohn who for some reason flashes images of Steve Hesske into my brain probably because I think that's what Hesske looks like, not forgetting comic Shecky Greene as Braddock, the shifty conniving private who reminds me of Lou Costello to no end!
Yeah, some of this may show signs of early-sixties "consciousness" (like the episode with the "nice" Nazi, which brings back memories of that old MAD story about how Germans were portrayed in monsters in movies during the war yet twenty years later they were more or less made out to be confused and misunderstood, who was captured by Saunders and crew who can't come to the conclusion whether to let him go or kill him as they make their escape!), but thankfully any sorta deep introspection and intellectual blabbery is washed away by the energy, the intensity and the explosions and deaths galore (and even the familiar faces get snuffed on this show making things seem even more personal). All mixed with a strange sort of cameraderie and a depth that seems totally alien especially in these cyborg times.
Episodes that stick out in my mind...Albert Salmi as a tough sergeant who's giving the already-tough Saunders more'n a little grief (look for Ted Knight, better known as Ted Baxter on THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW, as a Nazi!) only to make the ultimate sacrifice (the ending will leave you a bit stunned, perhaps even more stunned than Saunders himself!), plus the one where a soldier meets up with his doctor father in a small French village and discovers dad's playing footsies with the Germans also keeps you a bit on edge. Another COMBAT! that sticks out in my noggin's the one where Saunder's company get three new and inexperienced soldiers, one a pudge of a cook, the other a ballet dancer and the third a wise-cracking deejay whom I'm surprised Saunders didn't beat to smithereens the way this guy irritated not only Saunders but I'm sure most of the viewing audience to no end. I think I like this episode because these three "losers" eventually prove themselves to be true fighters (with the chubby ex-cook ultimately giving his life)...perhaps I tend to like these shows and films where the loser underdog types succeed, perhaps getting slaughtered in the process because I somehow see myself as the fast-failing nincompoops portrayed on screen and feel great when they vindicate themselves, but I don't want to play psychoanalyst like too many self-conscious pundits out there. I also got the same feeling in the episode where this middle-aged guy who had a comfy assignment in England joins up with Saunders and gang in order to make a dent in his lackluster existence, only to lose it all by the end of the program. Believe me, there's a lotta sweat, blood, sinew and pain on this program that I haven't seen anywhere in a long time!
If you're man enough to be reading this you MAY have a hankerin' for what I would consider classic tee-vee, and it ain't "Eisenhower-era" or what snob big city critics consider "The Golden Age" (to them 1949-1959 I guess)...the BLOG TO COMM GA is roughly 1957-1967, with the strongest years being 1959-1963 and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. It's fitting that COMBAT! debuted during the 1962-1963 season, one of the ten best ever (with THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES and McHALE'S NAVY debuting, plus it was the last year for not only LEAVE IT TO BEAVER but NAKED CITY, DOBIE GILLIS and HAVE GUN, WILL TRAVEL) and left us in '67, perhaps the final year of lingering early-sixties prime-time television coolness before it all slipped into a late-sixties dump that didn't crawl up and out until the early-seventies. Either way, I found these COMBAT!s a fine alternative to most of the rot available nowadays, and if you like a little power sans political piousness and Amerigan self-hatred you might love it as well.
Thursday, January 27, 2005
THE TOP TEN FILMS OF ALL TIME THAT MADE A MAN OUTTA ME!
Monday, January 24, 2005
Hey, that wasn't Byard Lancaster playing at the CBGB Lounge last night, but a substitute. A pretty good one at that...y'see, Lancaster couldn't make the trek to New York from Philadelphia because of the all the snow that got pounced upon the East Coast this weekend, so 'stead of Lancaster and co. in the anticipated (at least by me!) 9:00 slot the quartet of Ursel Schlict on piano, Adam Simmons on Lancasteresque tenor sax, Reuben Radding on bass and Klaus Kugel on drums got a chance to strut their stuff and they did a really good job strutting it too, even if something was taken away from the proceedings because of the frequent stop/starting due to "buffering" not to mention the at-times La Jettee-ish freeze frames. Dunno if the fault's with my computer or with the engineers at the club, but I find it more than worth my while tuning into these cybercasts if only to hear a truly underground, exciting side to jazz I don't think Ken Burns will ever really own up to. Really good avant-style, in the "tradition" if I dare say it.
As far as other pertinent news go, I guess I should make a comment or ten re. the recent passing of Johnny Carson. Actually I dunno what I can say other'n what's already been said by anybody IMPORTANT out there, but since I guess I am "famous" at least on a mini-blog/small-run press level (with an audience of maybe ten, fifteen people max) why shouldn't I make my feelings known given this is the age of emote, where everyone from Billy Joel giving his heartfelt sniffblubber over hearing about Prez Kennedy getting shot to the lowliest peon lecturing the highest in command is deemed not only appropriate but part of democracy today!
So here goes...I still remember when THE TONIGHT SHOW was big stuff. Well, at least the local NBC affiliate here would constantly run this whacked out, pop arty TONIGHT SHOW commercial during the morning cartoons (WW II-vintage Warner Brothers!) which in retrospect seems kinda strange, since when are seven-year-old kids gonna be allowed to stay up late to watch Carson anyway? (Maybe you remember this commercial, where the word "tonight" would appear in strange places, like on the Declaration of Independence as a signature etc.!) I also remember how THE TONIGHT SHOW used to tie in with the anxiety of growing...during the school year, I was always worried about taking tests and just being in classes with a whole buncha tormenters (including teachers) whose only reasons for existence were to bother me to no end! Often I would be so keyed up about school and life that I'd lie wide awake in bed just dreading the humiliations and degradation I would be forced to go through the next day whether it be having to dissect a frog or taking a pop quiz re. some subject I knew nada about or perhaps having to face up to the bully and irritant of the week and wouldn't you know it, in the other room the tee-vee was blaring with either the news (I recall that channel 33 filmed the kids who were on THE BARNEY BEAN SHOW that afternoon waving in a pan shot for their parents who weren't home for the live broadcast to see at 11:15 PM...hearing the familiar BARNEY BEAN theme as the film ran was one clue as to what time it was!), or my dad would be howling in laughter at THE TONIGHT SHOW and here I was sweatin' and frettin' about the next day, where a tired and worn out me would have to face another six hours of drudgery and failing grades. Oh well, at least somebody was having fun throughout my torment!
Later on when I was older and I could stay up late on weekends and days off, I'd get an idea of what was going on there...and sheesh, the show was racier'n Dean Martin's which killed me because what they were talkin' about on THE TONIGHT SHOW was stuff that woulda gotten my mouth washed out with soap! Still, the older I got the more I would watch Carson at least if there wasn't some classic old film playing opposite (remember, this was long before the late movie, a fixture on television since around 1953 or so, was pretty much axed from local programming nationwide), and though I got the idea THE TONIGHT SHOW was pretty much "old people's" programming (and for fifteen-year-old me, "old people" were anybody 40 or over), I didn't mind watching Johnny Carson cracking off-color jokes while Ed McMahon guffawed...in fact watching THE TONIGHT SHOW made pimply, tubby 'n insecure ME feel like a big guy, at least until I switched stations to see what was happening on the aforementioned late show anyway.
And as I got even older and could stay up late on a daily basis I got to see more and more of Carson and THE TONIGHT SHOW. Gotta admit that I didn't always stick around for the guests, but I just hadda see the opening monologue as well as "The Mighty Carson Art Players" skit, perhaps featuring such characters as Art Fern from "The Tea Time Movie" with those wild products he pitched ("Preparation H-Bomb") and those films with the outrageous titles ("Frankie Darrow, Mia Farrow, Sonny Bono, Yoko Ono and Splash the Wonder Carp in THE WRIGHT BROTHERS FAIL TO GET IT UP") or perhaps Carson's cutting spoof of Mister Rogers, not to mention the all time great Floyd R. Turbo editorial replies which still crack me up years later ("...and I don't even know why they have women newscasters! Last night I was in bed watching the news with my wife and I told her I'd never turn on a woman in bed...and my wife agreed!").
What was best about Carson was (as many have noted before), he was the last of the great old-time radio/television personalities, or at least a guy who continued using time-tested, hoary old routines from the days of old well into the modern, hipster times which seemed to eschew the old, funny stuff in favor of flaccid hippie humor. As Bill Shute once told me, Carson took a lotta his style from Jack Benny...he being Benny, Ed McMahon being Don Wilson and Phil Harris (well, the drunk jokes part anyway!), Tommy Newsome being Dennis Day and Doc Severinson...hmmmmm, maybe he had a bit of Harris in him as well. Still, Carson kinda updated the Benny oeuvre for a newer audience which is kinda cool considering how a lotta the entertainment over the past thirty years seemed to take the best the old times had to offer and splattered it all over the pavement. Another link to the past..."The Mighty Carson Art Players" name itself, lifted almost directly from "The Mighty Allen Art Players" via Fred Allen's thirties/forties radio show. And I'll bet Carson took a lot more from Jackie Gleason (Carson's remarks to the oft-glitzed out Severinson bear more than a passing resemblance to Gleason's jokes regarding bandleader Sammy Spear) than anyone would dare admit, not to mention a few hundred more old-time personalities who seemed to be heading out to pasture around the time I started growing from a wee sprout to an unsightly weed. And of course for an "out-of-step" kinda kid like me who was constantly digging into old-timey radio/TV comedians and twenties comic strips while everyone else in school was acting "hip" to George Carlin (a frequent TONIGHT SHOW guest...don't remind me!), Carson's old time style revamped as modern establishment cool swung pretty well with me!
And of course who can forget the mythmaking, both real (Ed Ames' axe throwing, Tiny Tim's marriage to Miss Vickie which I wanted to see so bad only it was on a school night!) and imagined (Arnold Palmer's wife kissing his balls for good luck and Carson's "I'll bet that flutters his putter" reply, not to mention Zsa Zsa Gabor and the cat [though when that story was going around my High School it was Raquel Welch who had the misfortune of bringing her feline along!])...
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 6:58 PM
Monday, January 17, 2005
LUTHER THOMAS, CBGB LOUNGE 1/16/05
Well, I tuned in, and as you'd expect "technical difficulties" hampered any attempts to enjoy anything I tuned in to see, including the opening drummer-less avant trio featuring two females. Thomas played with a drummer only (name missed because of aforementioned td's) and dressed in baggy hip hop clothing (to hide new girth?) complete with dreadlocks and beard. From what I could make out, playing was smooth and evocative with tasty applications of Chancian scronk. Maybe next time cyberconditions will be more in my favor since other gigs of worth seem to be popping up not only at the Lounge but the gallery and main club.
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 7:53 PM
Sunday, January 16, 2005
Chinaboise-THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD CD (Gulcher)
Those of you pongos smart enough to have latched onto a copy of BLACK TO COMM #25 back when it first came out 12/03 will probably remember my jumping-the-gun-on-EVERYONE review of the "pre-MX-80" Chinaboise CD. In case you don't remember (but do care), Chinaboise was a musical project/brainchild of future MX-80 vocalist/saxist/guitarist Rich Stim and Dave Mahoney (also a future MX-er, this time on drums) along with asst. helpers including local college radio personality Rich Fish, MX-80 guitarist extraordinaire Bruce Anderson, and a bevy of bountiful broads joining in as a chorus of sorts. A proto-punk delight for sure, best represented by their signature tune "The Greatest Story Ever Told" which just happened to end up on 1975's BLOOMINGTON ONE sampler alongside MX-80 (back when they were still MX-80 Sound), the Screaming Gypsy Bandits and a buncha other local talent that it seems hardly anybody cares about these days given how mainstreamish and aspiring to boring heights they were.
I believe this CD is a reissue of the cassette-only release that got mentioned in the MX-80 discog that FORCED EXPOSURE printed along with their MX-80 interview long ago, but the underrated and oft-ignored Eddie Flowers' liner-note interview with Stim doesn't seem to mention that so maybe it ain't. Whatever it is, THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD is a more-than-"representative" document of what else (besides MX-80 and the Bandits) was happenin' on in the fertile Bloomington scene in the early/mid-seventies which also gave us two vital fanzines (BEYOND OUR CONTROL and INITIAL SHOCK) and a label like Gulcher which in retrospect was about as important to the growth of Amerigan underground fun-and-games as any of the more popular companies out there in new wave land you can think of. Of course, if you wish, you can read more about the whole sordid saga here.
What is so remarkable about THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD is that on one hand, the thing just reeks mid-seventies miasma (with not only the energy crisis and JAWS getting their oh-so-'75 dues, but a well-placed Groucho Marx "aside" sends this thing straight back to the days of bad seventies impressions of not only Groucho but W. C. Fields and Clark Gable---who sez the seventies were that hip anyway!!!), yet on the other this sounds so late-period new wave (talking early-eighties original scene crash) that it almost seems contepo of some of those other MX-80 side projects of them dark ages, most notably PLAYETTE which maybe not-so-coincidentally is also slated for a Gulcher reissue. In fact, both Chinaboise and PLAYETTE share a track in "Dear Tears," which was originally done by Chinaboise as a sublime, jazzy tune and later on turned into a tortured, beautiful dirge. Future MX-80 staples pop up as well, like "Myonga Von Bontee," "SCP" (here w/lyrics as "Self Conscious Pisser") and "Partners in a Crime" (the song not only with the aforementioned Groucho impression but a nasty ref to Stim's ethnic background). Like I said in my original write-up, people studying the growth and development of MX-80 will enjoy just seeing how these songs developed from stripped-down comedy rock numbers into full-blown heavy metal ephiphanies.
The Flowers-conducted interview is somewhat informative (though I naturally want to know about three times more, or at least what Flowers edited out of the thing!), but the biggest surprise about the entire enchilada is the revelation that Chinaboise was a studio-only project (!), something which really stymies me to no end because I just THUNK that they were an actual, live-functioning and gigging aggregate though how they could have pulled off a live show with this material woulda been interesting. Anyway, for a fantastic look into the mid-seventies Bloomington underground complete w/"found sound" ("Time-Temp," "Walker Dallas"), Zappafied (or is it Firesignied?) funnies ("Breakfast at the Gables," "In The Sahara") and of course Bruce Anderson's better'n McLaughlin even guitar playing, you better get hold of it, and don't even wait until the price goes down like I tend to do!
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 9:51 AM
Thursday, January 13, 2005
Luther Thomas Quartet-BAGIN' IT CD; Luther Thomas Trio-SAXCROBATIC FANATIC CD (both CDs are on the CIMP label)
In anticipation of the Luther Thomas Quartet's rarer than hen's teeth (Thomas having skeedaddled to Denmark o'er the past few years) upcoming Sunday evening appearance at the CBGB Lounge (and also in anticipation that someone will actually turn on the camera/mic so I can see/hear the cybercast for once!), I thought nothing could be finer than to prepare myself with a play of these two platters that the St. Louis born/bred alto saxist had recorded for Cadence's Creative Improvised Music Project back in the mid/late-nineties. You may remember this man for his post-Ayleresque free playing in Charles "Bobo" Shaw's Human Arts Ensemble via the Black Arts Group out of St. Louis back in the seventies, or maybe you're more familiar with his early-eighties escapades on the New York Punk Scene where not only did he decide to give James Chance a run for the saxhonk money but did arrangements and session work for the supposed "racist" (yeah James, I know how it feels!), but whatever your sainted visions of the man may be, it's no secret that Luther Thomas is one of the few remaining free jazz purveyors from the once-fertile seventies scene more than worthy of not only your time but your precious monetary funds, and maybe if you blogscum readers in search of the ultimate musical listening experience decided to devote your attention to the likes of Thomas (and about a hundred other similar, currently functioning avant garde jazz aggregates out there) and ditched all this phony ersatz jive being hyped at you regularly by subspecie alternative rectalspew then maybe Thomas and cohorts'll be the ones riding around in shiny limos while all of those gnu muzak sissies have to fight over who gets to sell their well-traveled butts for cabfare home! But then again maybe not, but we can dream can't we?
The quartet on BAGGIN' IT features Thomas along with bassist Wilbur Morris, trumpeter/Kahai horn/flugel horn/hunting horn player Ted Daniels (who you may remember from Sonny Sharrock's brill BLACK WOMAN album and about a hundred other similar-minded outings) and drummer Denis Charles, and although I dunno if this quartet is the same one that will be playing Sunday PM I'll betcha dollars to doughnuts that the music emitted on this stellar yet strangely sublime CD will match what Thomas and band lay down this upcoming weekend. Nice chamber-setting avant-jazz fueled by Thomas' at-times mournful, at-times total-flash playing that reminds me plenty of the hot mid-seventies crash and burn that oozed forth from the lofts of Sam Rivers and others during the unheralded New York renaissance that yeilded the WILDFLOWERS series of highly-desirable freespew ages back.
However, I tend to prefer SAXCROBATIC FANATIC, mainly because it seems to veer more into a funk/rock/jazz scree that I believe probably typified the post-no wave scene that was revealing itself in En Why See during the seventies/eighties cusp. Here Thomas performs with guitarist Kelvyn Bell (whom I believe was the leader of the eighties NYC black rock coalition-related aggregate Kelvynator, though I may be wrong) and drummer Ronnie Burrage, a reunion of sorts since the three played together as an early seventies garage band doing avant garde renditions of Motown and other then-contemp radio faves. None of that here, but we do get more of that great horn/gtr/drums flange that's been done by everyone from not only the Blue Humans but Storm (scroll down for a review) and even one of the trio settings on that Circle release of the Human Arts Ensemble with Shaw and trombonist Joseph Bowie being joined by a guitarist whose name will come to me more later than sooner! Thomas seems to swing more in this less-restrained grouping, and although Bell's guitar-playing is not-so-free and sadly buried in the back he still makes his at-times gnarly presence known (well, more or less). Like I said...sublime. Maybe an all-out free player of the capabilities of Sharrock or whoever that guitarist in Storm is would have been more apocalyptic in this grouping, especially on Thomas's take of "The Star Spangled Banner" (here titled "Baseball") which woulda even made the one called Jimi stand up and salute! But still, the interplay between Thomas' fireplay, Bell's jazz chording and Burrage's post-Murray pounce works more than wonders here.
Y'know, I could get all technical and dry when describing this music just like every other jazz critic out there in "serious" land, but I've always hated that sterile scribing used to relay to the supposedly unaware hoi polloi the power and high energy of this sway which thankfully never really did prostitute itself like many other forms of jazz did. It remains nerve-grating, power-laden total eruption music (even forty-plus years after the fact) and let's just say that Thomas and bands deliver on more of the high-energy jamz than all of those prissy and preening trust fund kids pretendin' to be the Velvet Underground you see today COMBINED ever could. And while rock & roll these days remains more of a touch and go situation (with more "go" than "touch" in store), the avant garde of jazz remains powerful and perhaps more connected to the backbone/nerve-endings of rock than rock itself. At least in my book, guys like Thomas and all those other great free players appearing at the Vision Quest Festival and at the CBGB Lounge are more important to the development of a new, continuing, growing music for the new millenium than all of these pre-packaged. retread rock groups that even the "underground" (hah!) continues to toss out as us this late in the game.
Hope to see you at the cybercast Sunday. If you can't make it, these disques will make a soothing substitute. If you do make it, they'll make a fine memento of what's bound to be one of the better moments of this sure to be dudsville year.
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 9:33 PM
Wednesday, January 12, 2005
In the latest PSYCHOTRONIC (or so I'm told), someone or other wrote (in a letter criticizing Michael Weldon's newfound [?] leftward editorial shift) that his magazine is starting to resemble my very own BLACK TO COMM and its "articles and quips about 'fags' and 'Afro-Americans'." (Well, the letter writer obviously meant it in an opposite sorta way, but you know where his heart is!) Funny, I dunno if I ever wrote any huge, page-spanning articles about either group though I will admit "fags" get mentioned on an occasion or two, and I believe the only time I ever used the term "Afro-American" in the pages of BTC was in a review of some BYG-Actuel re-releases that appeared in issue #24. In case you're interested, the context in which the term was used goes like this:
"In BACK DOOR MAN #14 (March/April 1978), Phast Phreddie Patterson referred to free jazz as being 'mostly a bunch of crazy spades honkin' on saxophones with little regard for melody.' Leave it to BDM to make a questionable 'out there' statement such as that, but despite the lack of taste Phreddie does have a point. That is, if you compare the term 'spade' with that of 'dignified negro' (Charles Mingus, Sidney Poitier) or 'African American' (Jesse Jackson, Spike Lee), or 'Afro-American' (note: my emphasis) (Huey Newton) or 'Mau Mau' (Khalid Muhammad) for that matter. I don't think that the guys who started out playing this breed of ultrasqueal back in the fifties considered themselves in the same class as the upwardly-mobile blacks who were the pillars of their society...in fact, these very selfsame jazzbos mighta even been the kind who'd beat to smithereens any member of the upper black class that would just happen to wander into their dark alley..." (If you want to read the entire review you'll have to get hold of issue #24 yourself...just click here for more information. I'm not in the position to be giving out freebies, y'know?)
OK, that's about it as far as any "articles" or mention regarding the term "Afro-American" goes. And in case you didn't know, Khalid Muhammad was the former Nation of Islam leader (or actually second-in-command if I'm not mistaken) who made such lovely comments as the one found here whose demise has surely left a gap in the outrageous remarks made by people who get a pass everytime they open their mouths these days. And frankly, I thought he didn't suffer enough either, but that's neither here nor there. What is is that the cretins keep coming out of the woodwork to make their little derogatory "comments" (yawn) about me and my writings, and frankly I'm not the kind of guy who believes in a mere eye for an eye...I believe in chopping the whole head off given the unnecessary grief I've had to endure as of late! (And if I have any apologies to make, let them be to Phast Phreddie Patterson in case some zilch-dimensional nimnul starts flying off the handle calling him racist! Sheesh, don't you Social Anthropology dropouts have anything better to do???)
Just wanting to put things in their proper perspective.
Anyhow, here are three recordings I've gotten hold of since the last post. I guess there are some "fans" out there who want to read more of my writings despite all of the negative "publicity" I have received over the past year, and to all three of you may I say "thanks" for the support. And, on a lighter note, may I also say that although the year 2005 marks the twentieth anniversary of my humbler than you'll ever admit fanzine it also marks the sixtieth birthdays of a number of people we here at BTC hold near and dear to our hearts, not only the irrepressible Sky Saxon but the irresponsible Richard Meltzer and non-irrythmic Maureen Tucker. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU'INS!, as we say here in Western Pee-Yay!
Rocket From the Tombs-ROCKET REDUX CD (Smog Veil)
This was about as high-energy and engaging as I thought it would be. TRANSLATION: You can't go home again no matter how hard you try to recapture past glories. Like the Velvet Underground reunion of '93, the reborn Rocket slightly pleases but fails to scale past heights of (as Charlotte Pressler so eloquently said) "demonically intense" power. MORE ARCHIVAL MATERIAL, PLEASE!
Pentwater-OUT OF THE ABYSS CD (Syn-Phonic)
Here's a CD I bought more or less out of curiosity, especially after having mentioned Pentwater twice in last issue's New York Rock history totally forgetting that I'd already wrote about them in passing once. The reason for the remarks: Pentwater were one of those local American rock groups that performed not only at CBGB but Max's Kansas City during the first rush of non-local talent to the New York club scene '75/'76, but unlike a lot of the bands looking for a Big City date at these then-hyped Manhattan musicspots Pentwater weren't your garden-variety garage/heavy metal/pop-hybrid or any variation thereof but a straight-ahead, no-bout-a-doubt-it progressive rock group! An' I don't mean prog as in some garage act who might have copped some progressive influences (like the Shirts or Musica Orbis, f'rexample) but downright progressive rock as in a quintet featuring long-haired rockstar lookalikes in starship trooper gear utilizing not only a dozen keyboards that must've cost 'em fifteen thou PER, but a drum set w/huge ka-banging GONGS just like all those import bin groups over in Europe! For years I wondered about what some of those unfamiliar names playing on early En Why See billings sounded like, imagining them to be some sorta wild and too-primitive for even the standard FAN'S tastes bedroom level Velvets wannabes. Well, now I know at least what ONE of 'em sounds like, and I can't say that I'm exactly pleased about it either! Anyway, for VARIETY band booster Fred Kirby's own opinion on Pentwater, click here and skip down a review or two.
As for me, I gotta say that given I don't care for this music one whit, I can't critique Pentwater for you without using such ageworn terms as "pretentious" and "delusional fantasist" or sans reducing my writings to some hatescreed gibberish. However, I can point out that even when compared with their influences like Gentle Giant, ELP and Yes, Pentwater sound surprisingly dull. I mean, even though a band like, say, Yes were about as boring and as stuck-on-themselves as many of these progressive acts came, I knew that Steve Howe was a dynamic guitarist who was deluding himself if he thought that was he was doing in 1972 was better than what he was playing on "Crawdaddy Simone" years earlier...ditto Chris Squire and his "Syn" days. (And come to think of it, I kinda get the feeling that the Schulman brothers of Gentle Giant would cower in fear had anyone even mentioned Simon Dupree to their faces!) As for Pentwater, they just sound tiring enough not only to me but I'm positive to the usual progressive fan into the whole art-rock mummery and flash that those groups delivered to generations of toking boxboys worldwide. Face it, progressive rock for the most part is flat and lifeless music despite the technowhiz and classically-trained performers, but this stuff is downright unmemorable! And it's about as instant-tossout as Pentwater's fellow Midwestern brothers in prog slop like Kansas and Nebraska...all this music proves is that take away the dragons and castles and being close to edges and things like that, and your typical prog fans's gonna need even MORE marijuana to get into this!
The bonus live track entitled "Kill The Bunny," recorded live at CBGB 11/76 (the same month both the Cramps and Richard Hell and the Voidoids debuted there, keeping things within a relative time-frame mind you) seemed a bit jazzier than the rest of the disque, perhaps coming off like the the missing link between Genesis and Weather Report. I'm surprised that the song elicited the polite applause it did, but then again given how all-over-the-place people are with their tastes not only then but NOW (even from rock writers whom I admire!), should I really be surprised?
Henry Flynt and the Insurrectionists-I DON'T WANNA CD (Locust)
Aaaah, thaz more like it. You, me and the bedpost've all read about Flynt, first via the back cover of Brian Eno's DISCREET MUSIC (which must've done for Flynt's "career" what the Lamonte Young namedrop on the cover of METAL MACHINE MUSIC did for his!) and later on knew about him subbing for John Cale in the Velvet Underground almost getting fired on-stage for being too country'n all that (not to mention the tapes of YOU ARE MY EVER LOVIN' flying around during the eighties), but nobody seems to've known about Flynt's 1966 "basement band" at least until this compilation came out last year! And bwah, is it a doozy! Having Lou Reed himself as a guitar teacher sure helped Flynt hone his avantgardities into something cohesive enough to be played in a rock/roll context, and with a band not only consisting of drummer Walter DeMaria (ex-Primitives and later-on bigname sculptor) not to mention keyboardist Art Murphy (whom I'm 1000% positive was a member of the early Philip Glass Ensemble) and acoustic bassist Paul Breslin (no credentials as of yet that I know of) how could Flynt go wrong especially when creating a total rockism sound that comes off like the perfect mixture of trashy swamp/BACK FROM THE GRAVE teenage Southern-Fried warble and En Why See/Velvet Underground urban headsmack! Yes, long before the likes of the Cramps and Scientists and all those latterday practitioners were getting hefty fanzine space for doing the same thing, Henry and his Insurrectionists were creating a totally deep-south meets lower Manhattan country-boogie/trash garage Velvets spree, though given how ordinary he looks onna cover ya just wonder how far he coulda gone with it all!
Still, I DON'T WANNA is a messterpiece of great magnitude even if it's only a little longer'n a half-hour. Every cut's a gem, from the crash-protest numbers like "Uncle Sam Do" (napalm you!) and "Missionary Stew" to the fantastic guitar/violin (probably the acoustic bass!) duo "Jumping," this is totally enjoyable (even for a jaded old turd like me!) bedroom noise rock that actually (along with those 1965 Velvet Underground demos) sorta points the way for even bigger things to come which we all saw come and go by now but that doesn't diminish its beauty one iota.
I may have some more to post this weekend, but then again I may not. Anyway, keep on listening, reading, eating, sweating and please do keep in touch!
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 4:00 PM