BOOK REVIEW: THE COMPLETE PEANUTS: 1950 TO 1954 by Charles M. Schulz (Fantagraphics)
Maybe I'm just overly-reminiscing about my childhood dayze (the GOOD portion, that is!) or perhaps I'm just starved for something interesting to happen for me gulcher-wize, but I guess that my latent fixation with the old PEANUTS comic strips that was revived upon a chance purchase of a couple paperbacks last month has finally come to full fanatical fruitation. And frankly, if you woulda told me even a good ten years back (never mind twenty or thirty) that I'd be dishing out hard-begged money for a PEANUTS anthology of any sorts let alone a hard-covered edition costing comparative megabucks I woulda called you a Jugheadus Supremus! I mean, by that time (roughly mid-nineties, though probably MUCH EARLIER) it was more'n obvious that PEANUTS had devolved into such a pathetic excuse for a comic (which undoubtedly mirrored the sick state of Suburban Ameriga just as much as it echoed its finer, more coherent qualities during the fifties) that I probably would have delivered a Lucy-styled SLUG atcha for even THINKING I'd ally myself with such a commercial and unfunny strip such as that. If anything, PEANUTS after its dip from mega-stardom sometime in the seventies became a comic that was obviously resting on its laurels...like a solo Beatles album (sorry Tim!), by that time PEANUTS merely existed because it was PEANUTS and could get away with anything whether it was a single-panel throwaway worthy of a greeting card or something completely dour echoing Charles Schulz's own emotional shortcomings (which, in interviews, he freely admitted to...Charlie Brown seemed so much an echo of Schulz not only as a child, but as a world-famed celebrity). I must admit that I held such a grudge against PEANUTS for what it became that for years I felt kinda ashamed that it had been one of my fave strips since the days I used to break my dad's lap having him read the funnies to me...after PEANUTS' fall from grace even at a time when it still remained a fave amongst the unwashed I refused to admit I ever liked it. Naw, my top fave strips were now (and had ALWAYS been) NANCY and DICK TRACY with such old timey faves as HENRY, FERD'NAND and Bob Montana-period ARCHIE up there somewhere (along w/SMOKEY STOVER, THE KATZENJAMMER KIDS, the sexual BEETLE BAILEY and a few more I'll remember in a week or two...).
But I don't care what anybody says, because I really dig the heck outta these fancy, slipcased Fantagraphic-edition PEANUTS bound-volume reprints! Sure it would have been better had NANCY or DICK TRACY or even THE JACKSON TWINS and FRECKLES (see, I told you I'd remember more!) got the royal smythe-sewn bound treatment, but considering that PEANUTS was at its tip-top best during the early days before everyone and their uptight uncle began jumping on the mid-sixties hipster bandwagon I ain't complainin'. When it comes to comic strips, early-PEANUTS is better than late-PEANUTS or maybe even no-PEANUTS for that matter, and given the sorry state of modern-day comic strip craftsmanship and belly-shaking guffaws these books sure come in handy for some quickie escapism that'll take you back to those fun days that presumably happened before you were born when the baby-boomer generation that was inspired by PEANUTS (and vice versa) sure held a lot more promise than it eventually delivered on!
The earliest strips have a quaint, almost NANCY-styled simple sense of humor and are appealing on that great mid-Amerigan doofus level, and after about a year's run you can start to see the beginnings of what the strip would become at its height (which for me was the mid-to-late-fifties, or right before it evolved into one of the more popular comics on the page). There are already some interesting running gags this early in the game, from Violet's mud-pies which Charlie Brown actually enjoys eating (or at least licking the sand off the top of 'em) to Lucy's winning streak at checkers (going for 10,000 wins in a row against Charlie Brown, who's always deluding himself that Lucy is just lucky) as well as the ones that begin with Patty and Violet not inviting Charlie Brown to their party (with Charlie Brown delivering some great comeback taking his rejection in stride thus turning the joke on the two stuck-ups!). The introduction of new characters like Schroeder, Lucy and Linus (originally as infants who quickly grow to the same age/size as the rest of the gang...excepting Linus who stays toddler-sized for quite awhile!) is quite intriguing if you can believe that...it's almost as if you were in on the ground floor of something BIG seeing these kids for the first time, and not only that but you get to see some early experimentation, such as the three-part Sunday sequence where Lucy enters a golf tournament where (shudder!) adult spectators can actually be seen, albeit either at a distance or from the waist down! And, for you sticklers, the first of Schulz's many PEANUTS failures can be observed once we hit late 1954 and the loud-mouthed Charlotte Braun, who perhaps should be given an award of sorts for being scooted outta the strip faster than Faron, Frieda's cat who had previously earned the honors of being the most useless PEANUTS character to get the guillotine.
Looking at the Fantagraphics website I see that the series is already up to 1958, and who knows, maybe if I sell enough BLACK TO COMM back issues I'll be able to AFFORD 'em all. I can always use such fine, engrossing reading for the upcoming winter season, and since I guess there aren't going to be any new issues of DENIM DELINQUENT or CRETINOUS CONTENTIONS coming out any day soon (but I've come to expect that) these books will do fine in easing the winter blahs.
THE STOOGES 2-CD set (Elektra/Rhino)
Apologies must go to Bomp/Alive because I can't find my copy of the Bloody Hollys CD they sent me to review, but until that one turns up amidst the leaning tower of Cee-Dees in my bedroom I guess this li'l gem'll have to do as far as reviewing fodder goes. And although I hate to admit it for fear of looking "square" amongst the throngs of enemies out there but frankly, I've been tiring of a lotta these Stooges repackages that have been coming out for the past few years! Now don't get me wrong, I still think that Iggy and crew were one of the bestest bands to grace this golden earth of ours and I sure dug that FUNHOUSE box set that Jon Behar burned for me ages back, but it hasn't been like I've been champing at the bit to buy that new 6-CD set of 1973 live gigs and outtakes that just came out (even with the DVD!) and a lotta the other repackages have left me yawning from here to San Diego and back. I figure that, at this point in time, I can osmose to about fifty Les Rallizes Denudes CDs in my collection even if there is some overlap, but having at least ten singles, LPs, cassettes and CDs with "I Got a Right" on 'em is merely taking up precious space that can be used storing ten singles, LPs cassettes and CDs with "Heroin".
But this new 2-CD edition of the debut Stooges splatter is different. That junk-shop gem has always been a favorite here at the BLOG TO COMM offices, but as far as outtakes and general additions go it's been the most neglected of the batch. Until now that is, for the extra CD enclosed therein contains a lotta rare booty that everybody said never existed and I believed them which only goes to prove what a gullible jerk I can be! Anyway whatcha get here are "original John Cale mixes," complete versions sans quickie fadeouts and alternate vocal takes of your Stooge faves guaranteed to ground your head into the woofer until it's mere pulp. Sure it woulda been great if some of those free-form freakout early Stooges gigs coulda popped up here (in the enclosed booklet, longtime Stooges biographer Ben Edmonds describes a show where the band played atonal mulch while Iggy sang "Slow Boat to China"!), but we can't have everything!!! Still, if you wanna hear your faves remade/remodeled, this makes more sense than those bogus Stooges "alternate mix" bootlegs that came out in the late-eighties.
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
BOOK REVIEW: THE COMPLETE PEANUTS: 1950 TO 1954 by Charles M. Schulz (Fantagraphics)
Saturday, September 24, 2005
DO NOT ADJUST YOUR SET 2-DVD SET (Tango Entertainment)
During my mid-teen years I was what some (not necessarily you) would call a big fan of MONTY PYTHON'S FLYING CIRCUS, and such a big fan at that I was more'n willing to yack about 'em to just about anyone stupid enough to get in harm's way. In retrospect, it was a fairly healthy obsession for someone such as I who would even inject various Pythonian asides into classroom discussions (once in Psychology class my teacher told us captives that he thought that we, and the students in the school in general, were more or less fans and followers of the likes of such caramel candy television programs as APPLE'S WAY...when I told him that most of the kids here were beyond that sort of pablum he asked me what is was that the youth of his fair school were watching these days and I replied MONTY PYTHON...he had to hold in his laughter!) and you can bet that I'd watch as much of the program as I could amidst soaking up other snide-aside seventies sarcasm (Zappa, SNL, sneak-peeks at NATIONAL LAMPOON) as I could which sure helped get me by all of that sickening Pollyannaish bile I was forced to endure not only in school but at home all the time. Y'know, those older generation images of youth as this misguided but altruistic vaguely Donny and Marie-looking mounds of clay just begging to be formed into upstanding breadwinners without a flyspec of grit or dirt anywhere. Like Roland Kirk said, "Real Hershey Bar with Almonds eaters!"
By the time I vamoosed the hallowed halls of learning and humiliation, I began to toss off a lotta the gulcheral entertainment that had captivated me during my high school days. Zappa didn't relate that much to me after his ZOOT ALLURES fiasco, and although the SNL/NATIONAL LAMPOON axis still held a semblance of meaning at least until the infamous Ackroyd/Belushi split, the plain fact that seventies snide humor just didn't translate into eighties social concern dampened any chance of entertainment that show would have for me. And as for MONTY PYTHON, well that was being jettisoned from the local PBS schedule around the same time which did seem fitting considering how much it had been run into the ground, but would you (non-Amerigans) believe that PBS didn't even have the BRAINS to run any of the PYTHON spinoffs from RIPPING YARNS to RUTLAND WEEKEND TELEVISION?!?!?! Well, it would figure since they didn't even start airing MONTY PYTHON until after the show was axed in Blighty, but you woulda thunk they were smart enough (given that this was Public/Educational television and all) to continue on a roll and air all the spinoffs other'n FAWLTY TOWERS which remains an entertaining series but doesn't exactly count. But feh, by this time I couldn't care, having written off MONTY PYTHON as merely GREEN ACRES with a British accent.
I also used to wonder why PBS never aired DO NOT ADJUST YOUR SET which not only featured future Pythoners Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin with the Bonzo Dog Band and comedy standbys David Jason and Denise Coffey, but at least PBS had a good reason not to...y'see, the show had been LOST for a longer time than anyone could imagine! But they've been found and readied for this 2-DVD release that fans of the form should snatch up faster than Richard Gere snatches up gerbils, for DO NOT ADJUST YOUR SET, while (true)of "historical" value to those scarfing up British television/humor and all that rot, is just a plain good ol' engrossing series that woulda made for worthwhile PBS filler had these been discovered a lot earlier.
In many ways I gotta prefer DO NOT ADJUST YOUR SET to PYTHON because it's a nicer program. Oh, I gotta admit that I liked PYTHON as well as SNL and the rest of the comedy attack brigades of the seventies because their targets were wide-ranging, going after everyone (long before the days of political correctness deemed that the sufferings of protected groups greatly outweighed those of standard runna-da-mill people w/o any racial/societal ginchiness), but it does make for a pleasant change sitting down to watch a show w/o cringing at the thought that something you hold near and dear is going to be suddenly skewered!!! Considering that DO NOT ADJUST YOUR SET was originally created as afternoon kiddie fodder it is pretty out-there, especially with the political humor and proto-PYTHON bizzaroids tossed in giving you a weird foreshadowing thirtysome years after the fact!
In fact DO NOT ADJUST YOUR SET looks like a dress-rehearsal/pilot for PYTHON, with Idle, Jones and Palin pretty much getting their act together even if the humor for the most part looks about as 1968 British as you can get. (And, since the show is monochrome, it looks 1962 even with the longish hair sported on the likes of Idle and the definite "mod" references.) Terry Gilliam is credited with animation, but other'n the closing credits I dunno what "they're" talking about, and as for the rest of DO NOT ADJUST YOUR SET's cast...David Jason seems more fitted for the British sitcoms he ended up doing than hip sketch humor as does Denise Coffey, but the two work together well on their own as they do in the "Captain Fantastic" skits which I must admit to liking despite Elton John's hijacking of the name. But then again, it all works out spiffingly well with a late-sixties attitude that, when thrust into the mad anti-everything non-PC humor of the seventies, made more than household names (even inna U. S. of Whoa) outta many of the future stars of this show.
And as for the Bonzo Dog Band, well, it's finally great to actually see 'em performing rather'n just look at all those stills outta some old issue of GORILLA BEAT. I never was what you'd call a fan of the Bonzos and in fact must admit to not owning any of their records or having even heard "Canyons Of Your Mind" for that matter. I once owned a copy of Grimm's ROCKIN' DUCK but got chewed out by a Bonzo fan for having it ("Yech, that has NOTHING to do with the Bonzos or Scaffold even!") so I got rid of it, so let's just say that watching the likes of Vivian Stanshall, future PYTHON Neil Innes and band romping through a variety of rock kitsch like a hip English take on Paul Revere and the Raiders was pleasant enough that I'll probably download "Canyons" as soon as I post this mess.
And if you're interested in the rest of the proto-PYTHON bunch, Tango also has a patchwork edition (meaning, they got whatever they could find!) of AT LAST THE 1948 SHOW where John Cleese and Graham Chapman could be seen alongside the likes of Marty Feldman!
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 6:53 PM
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
MOOM PITCHER REVIEW: THE DAY OF THE LOCUST (1974, directed by John Schlesinger)
If you ask me, one of the best things to come out of the Amerigan post-Vietnam/Watergate era was a healthy sense of cynicism! Y'know, that sarcastic "bad attitude" regarding all things high, mighty and downright stodgy that developed amongst not only the general working stiff populace, but the arts and crafts makers who were finally peddling some rather tasty shards of produce to their eager consumers because of it. Maybe it was because this was a time when anti-authoritarianism was being marketed to lumpen youthproles like myself that I remember it so fondly, but you also gotta remember that it was that oft-loathed in retrospect Gerald Ford time 'n place (and could you think of a better guy to exemplify those days?) which not only gave us discordant rock of a punk style and otherwise but snide satire, HOLLYWOOD BABYLON and a whole slew of movies that for once seemed to mirror some gritty realities that didn't make it past the early-thirties once the Code came into being. And, with or without any "retrospect" to rely on, I found this state o' affairs to be pretty positive with regards to civilization as a whole, a timespan where for once people could see things as they really were instead of through typical Pollyannaish glitz. Especially from a thirty-year perch it's not hard too see that roughly the years 1973-1976 were times when a curmudgeonness and caustic glances at "culture and society" (yech!) seemed to be firmly etched into the psyche of gulcher USA, and it's too bad that disco, Jimmy Carter's Mr. Rogers-inspired snakeoil shill and overemotional Social Worker doogooderisms hadda replace the seething bile within only a few short years!
So that's why I was looking forward to viewing THE DAY OF THE LOCUST, a film that I remember got hefty attention upon release way back in '74 yet seems to have been totally forgotten thirtyplus years down the line. After all, LOCUST was one of those mid-seventies flicks that was so dour it even turned its own death-mirror on the whole image of tinseltown and right at the height of its power and popularity (1939, the year of GONE WITH THE WIND, THE WIZARD OF OZ and maybe a few films I'd actually enjoy watching!), and it sure seemed interesting enough fitting in beautifully with the whole seventies trend towards "nostalgia" even if this film set out to destroy the rose-tinted hindsight of thirties Hollywood. But Cheese Louise, espying the dark underbelly of classic Hollywood through a mid-seventies aura of despair and disgust sounds so tasty, and since I was one of those wee li'l kids who always wanted to know what went on in alla them "R" rated movies that the more "with it" stoolboys got to see then why not give this flicker a chance since it sure seems a lot more, er, scrutinizing than a lotta the mooms being made these days.
Still, for all the promise and retro-decadence such a film begs for, all I gotta say is that I was expecting much more outta this flick than what was delivered. William Atherton as the gosh-darn-it young artist out to make it big in Hollywood just doesn't cut it with me, looking more or less like a modern-day (2005 as well as 1974) young soap opera actor on the "way up" trying to slam more of that "New Hollywood" into the old model failing miserably. I mean, I'm STILL seeing young doofs like him trying to bring back everything from "film noir" to pseudo-Bogartisms even this late in the game, so maybe I oughta credit him for being the first dolt to do it all! Femme lead Karen Black as the slutzy starlet who can't face the reality of love or stable relationships does have her "moments" if only to show the vacuousness of her existence, while longtime fave (not nec. mine) Burgess Meredith is certainly not up to earlier TWILIGHT ZONE/NAKED CITY standards here as Black's dying alkie father (the scene where he's peddling patent medicine door-to-door doesn't elicit the kinda pseudo-Chaplinesque pathos I'm sure hotshot director John Schlesinger, or most audiences for that matter were looking for...it's a wonder why Meredith ever got nominated for a "Best Supporting Actor" Oscar unless someone at the Acadamy felt sorry for him). As for the rest, well most of the supporting cast really doesn't elicit any sorta deep affection for anything. Maybe that was the point, though I woulda expected more outta old hands like Bo Hopkins as the cowboy/extra who runs cockfights with his over-testosteroned Mexican partner on the move for Black, and especially Billy Barty as another piece of H-wood flotsam albeit his earthiness was at least one redeeming factor even though his appearance can have the same uneasy feeling on me that midget wrestlers used to have on my cousin.
If you must know (and maybe you do wanna given you've read this far), the only character of any real interest here is Donald Sutherland's oafish Homer Simpson (and no, it's not exactly clear if this guy is the template for the more famous cartoon character, though in some ways he coulda been). Amidst the Hollywood phonies and lusters at least this guy can elicit a lotta rah-rahs perhaps because the goof's so lovable like a big teddy bear or the president even, and despite Simpson's near-retarded behavior, emotionalism and gullibility (as well as his inability to see through Hollywood sham) he is the only real man in a film fulla truly airhead wannabes and callous studio heads who don't care one iota whether or not their actors live or die (as in the battle sequence where the hilly soundstage collapses before everyone's eyes).
Still, THE DAY OF THE LOCUST comes off like a series of what could have been potentially powerful scenes strung together very haphazardly. The "Big Sister" seg. (with Geraldine Page as a mock Aimee Semple McPherson wowing the rubes) hits you seemingly out of nowhere (although it does add to the film's gist of Hollywood as this huge zilch-dimensional dream you just gotta buy into), and even the climax where Sutherland gets torn to shreds by a raging mob at a movie premiere after stomping to bloody death bratty adolescent "actress" Adore (played by Jackie Haley, later to star in a series of teenage cherrypop features) seems totally outta nowhere without any real stable lead in or reason for that matter. Perhaps under the direction of a less-connected director DAY OF THE LOCUST could have been cohesive, but even with the potential and mid-seventies grit trying to revive classic Hollywood form it misfires, not by a mile but just enough.
But as far as Old Hollywood morphing into the New goes, the casting couldn't've been better. Natalie Schafer of GILLIGAN'S ISLAND fame plays the madam at a house of ill-repute where Black moonlights when she needs the extra cash for her father's funeral amongst other things, while I even caught Florence Lake of the old Edgar Kennedy comedies in a quickie scene visiting Meredith at his bedside. Bill Baldwin (you've probably seen him on JACK BENNY and LEAVE IT TO BEAVER!) is great as the radio announcer at the movie premiere who actually thinks that the crazed riot ensuing is due to fan fervor giving the carnage a hyperbolic play-by-play and hey, Alvin Childress shows up in a post-AMOS 'N ANDY role, albeit he's once again reduced to playing a butler and even in "new" Hollywood for that matter. (And I think I saw Stymie Beard as a chauffeur, uncredited natch!) Who knows, maybe DAY OF THE LOCUST was after all the perfect mix of classic Hollywood and the aforementioned new cynicism, or maybe the best intrusion of Old Hollywood on new turf since MYRA BRECKINRIDGE.
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 10:20 AM
Friday, September 16, 2005
Sunday, September 11, 2005
The Sadistic Mika Band-GOLDEN BEST CD (Toshiba/EMI EU)
MILK 'N' COOKIES CD (RPM England)
Rouge-LIVE 1976 CD (Captain Trips Japan, available via Slippytown)
If I don't already have enough Japanese rock & roll to sift through these days (Taj Mahal Travelers, Fushitsusha, a 12-CD Les Rallizes Denudes selection of 90s-vintage recordings...) here comes more Asian Artyfacts (save for the Milk/Cookies disque of course) to help spice up my dismal round-eyed life. I gotta admit that, especially in the wake of some pretty dire music being regurgitated these days, Japanese rock's still got the sock, or maybe it's because the local market's just so dry, but either way here are a buncha cee-dees that have recently arrived which deal with some more of that now-archival Japanese music that's been taking my laser launching pad over by storm. BUT WAIT!!!!, I didn't know whether I wanted to make this essay/review into a piece on Japanese mid-seventies rock or just plain glam/punk concerns of the same chronological strata so's I decided to throw in the aforementioned Milk 'n' Cookies reissue just to confuse things up a bit, but I'm sure you'll understand deep down inside.
Whereas Les Rallizes Denudes represented just about as far underground and mysterioso you could get in the Japanese rock scene, it could be argued that the Sadistic Mika Band were the cream of the underground rock brigades in old Nippon. Of course, these guys (and gal) could only be considered "underground" if you still considered Roxy Music and T. Rex underground...I mean, maybe they were total obscurities to the mass of musical midgies swarming your local college and high school campuses during them dayze but what about those real rockism maniacs who eyeballed the rock mags with alarming regularity and professed interest in things that were new, looked refreshing and maybe sounded energetic enough as well? Face it, if you were part of the second swarm of smart-set musicologists out there in post-Watergate cynicismland you pretty much woulda KNOWN BY HEART who these Sadistic Mika people were! Why (if you got hold of the hypesheets), they were none other than Japan's answer to Roxy Music themselves, or was it King Crimson?, but anyway how could you have missed 'em not only with the hefty exposure (a piece by Jonh Ingham ex-BOMP/NEW HAVEN ROCK PRESS cartoonist and future Generation X manager in a '75 CREEM, Eno wearing a t-shirt with their name emblazoned upon it easily espiable on the back cover of the Quiet Sun MAINSTREAM album) but with their very own longplayer on Harvest Records that was actually released inna U.S. of Whoa for that matter! (Not only that but ex-Mirrors/Rocket From the Tombs bassist Craig Bell, who gave their sole US elpee a thumbs down in the pages of CREEM's "Rock-A-Rama" section told me that he really liked the disque but wrote that flippant review anyway in order to impress the powers that be!) Yes, if you were the kinda guy who had your own copy of the Jem catalog and paid hefty sums of $12 each for Ohr albums that you couldn't find ANYWHERE unless you took the big trek to Cleveland for your musical needs, there was no doubt you knew who the Sadistic Mikas were...how could you miss 'em even with that all-important Horseslips and Gentle Giant coverage of the day anyway?
Actually I must admit that I did miss the American edition of their album when it came out way back in 1975. In fact, although I recall seeing the British HOT MENU import in the bins once in awhile (the cover snap being convieniently lifted for GOLDEN BEST) I don't even remember seeing the Amerigan collection of various Japanese elpee tracks adorning my local NATIONAL RECORD MART ever, but that didn't stop me from snatching up a copy well over a decade later when I was, er, trying to search for life outside the patented underground rock/label anti-human muzak that was beginning to strangle the life outta the likes of my fanzine and my sanity for that matter.
But what do the Sadistic Mika Band mean in 2005? Well, that's open to debate...actually I thought GOLDEN BEST (sounds like a Chinese buffet!) would be quite the gathering of retro-glam-chic like Roxy were around the time of COUNTRY LIFE with an Asian-tint, and although there are shades of Roxiness here/there (the "2HB"-styled electric piano opening to "Sumie No Kunie" and the decadent pomp of "Black Ship [4th June]" come to mind) but this presumably career-spanning collection if anything shows that the Sadistics were a bunch that certainly bended with whatever times they happened to chance upon. Unfortunately their "go with the flow" attitude didn't take them from Roxy to New York to London like one would have hoped, because their (presumably) later recordings have this smarmy AM cum Japanese pop prance that sounds even more contrived than when other Japanese acts attempted it. I mean, I can take the slower, more AM-pop classics that seem "aimed" at that legendary just-post-18-to-34 demographic group, but the sambas and imitation fifties romps (though the disco-attempt "Suki Suki Suki" is an exception!) just make the Sadistics sound like a group struggling to keep head above water grasping for any gulcheral identity they can. TRANSLATION: when doing a hard British-inspired glamprog romp the Sadistics are within their proper niche...otherwise they might as well have been Kyu Sakamoto reincarnated for all YOU'LL care!
Not only that, but group namesake Mika is certainly kept in the background if she's being heard at all...dunno why since she had a nice enough set of pipes (though acc. to Ingham she hated her singing abilities!) and her hot looks woulda made for a fine CREEM DREEM pinup, but given the second-class treatment Mika gets in her own group it's not hard to fathom why the lass ditched hubby/group leader Kazuhiko Katoh and ended up marrying Harvest head Peter Jenner! Perhaps if she posed semi-clad in COUNTRY LIFE-inspired PENTHOUSE throes of ecstasy on the cover (or at least if they stuck her in the hot tub 'stead of her husband) this woulda sold a few more copies, though such a sexy concept as that might not have settled well in then-prudish mid-seventies Japan! Oh well, it sure woulda settled well with me, but they coulda at least used it for the western market!!!
Come to think of it. if the Sadistic's Occidental company Harvest (who were trying for an Island Records sound here!) handled this CD reissue I'm sure it would have made not only for a better collection but for an overall superior package! I mean, there's nada biographical or production info to go by here and the enclosed lyrics booklet's all in Japanese! Other'n copping a classic elpee cover photo, this product resembles something you can buy for $4.99 at the checkout line at Big Lots! (By the way, GOLDEN BEST still gets the OK from me despite not quite hitting the usual BLOG TO COMM high energy make best with what you got standards...I mean, besides the tracks worthy of your ears how could I ignore Mika's tender, seventies-sexual stride resplendent on the cover???)
As for Milk 'N' Cookies, I can somehow have seen these guys being "Big in Japan" themselves while remaining total unknowns here in the United States (and at a time when country rock schmooze a la the Starland Vocal Band was all the rage, though funny enough I actually recall liking "Afternoon Delight" on some now-unfathomable-to-me level, a fact which I'm sure Tim Ellison might get a huge kick outta!). They certainly had the looks and the sound to pull off such a stunt as that, but unfortunately you just knew that they would get PLOWED OVER here. A little history: Milk 'N' Cookies started off in the vast wilderness of the lower Manhattan rock scene playing at such hotspots as the 82 Club before taking the trek to the sunny confines of Southern California before heading back to a revitalized En Why See club circuit where they appeared frequently at such over-namedropped scribehyped outlets as CBGB and Max's Kansas City before offshooting into various projects both of interest and not to the average BLOG TO COMM reader In the meantime (1975) they got signed to Island in England where a single produced by Steve's brother Muff Winwood (who got his nickname the same way Beaver Harris got his...meaning the guy didn't wear a furry handwarmer in the winter, or maybe he did... if you know what I mean) came out though an album was shelved until "punk rock" supposedly became marketable for a few weeks in 1977. Cold hands and delayed releases aside, what you've here is yet another glam-slam project that ranks up there with a lotta the competition both saleable and not, and fortunately (like the best rock/roll) there's the right amount of punkiness mixed in with the extremely seventies glam-rock riffage and fey sex appeal "for the girls" to make Milk 'N' Cookies more'n just another slide down the charnelchute. If you can, imagine the perfect three-way bop between the Bay City Rollers, Sparks and the Ramones and you'll be halfway there. Anyway, this cee-dee plus oblig. extras makes for a nice occasional popspin for those of you enamored by the mid-seventies decapop I've been writing about not only today but the past week or so, and to top the whole thing off this comes with a neet insert featuring a group history written by noneother'n New York Dolls historian Nina Antonia!
Going back to Japan we have this not-so-new CD from Rouge to contend with. These guys were also mentioned in Jonh Ingham's Sadistic Mika piece because Kazuhiko was producing these "self styled punks"'s album at the time that article was written. Dunno what happened to that one, but Captain Trips released this live thingie recorded a year later, and I gotta 'fess up to the fact that LIVE 1976 is pretty hotcha in a now-deceased toughguy punk way that I'm sure seemed unique to a lotta the people in the respective burghs where groups like Rouge and others were playing out. However, after the Sex Pistols began making new waves it all kinda came off...I dunno...contrived. At least contrived to a lotta the more hipster-oriented amongst us, but I kinda found it interesting enough even if fading in popularity because it all had the power of the past and the vision of the present to it making it timeless in its own strange way. Back when punks in general and punk rock fanzines like ROCK NEWS, DENIM DELINQUENT and TEENAGE NEWS outta Montreal were still fawning over the Rolling Stones there were a lotta groups like this around kinda straggling the old and punk and metal waves with some ease and a lotta success if you ask me, and Rouge themselves did a pretty good Dolls (even quoting "Looking For a Kiss"!) cum Stones thing themselves with this booming live gig that three decades down the line comes off about as refreshing as I'm sure it would had I chanced upon a show of theirs way back when. Both the Dolls and Stones seem like good starting points; at least the back cover photo from a live gig with an oversized Easter Bunny hopping about brings back memories of the pix I saw of the "new" Dolls in Tokyo with a Frankenstein monster doing pretty much the same thing (OK, he was lurking). Hot, bluezy and definitely punky enough for the times, I'd say that LIVE 1976 is a pretty good approximation of the thud-headed fun and games groups like Somebody Good were laying down in the Big Apple and who knows what in your neck of the woods, and love it or hate it but you must ADMIT it...that rock groups like Rouge were sure a lot more fun'n entertaining than the usual bar-bait bands out there laying down the entire Moody Blues songbook for you, that's for sure! (Though initially you MIGHT be fooled into thinking that this is a progressive album upon listening to the first few seconds, where strains of Pink Floyd's "Sisyphus" [!!!!!!] morph into Alice Cooper's "Titanic Overture" before the fun and games begin!)
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 2:16 PM
Saturday, September 10, 2005
Thursday, September 08, 2005
THE MIDNIGHT SPECIAL WITH THE CARS, THE RECORDS, "M", LENE LOVICH, IGGY POP AND SUICIDE FROM SOMETIME IN THE LATE SUMMER/EARLY FALL OF 1979 (DVD-R)
I'll bet Jon Behar's wondering why I'm not writing more about all of dem CEE-DEE-ARES he recorded for me a few months back...I mean, I can see ol' Jon right now frothin' at the mouth thinkin' that I'm prob'ly using the entire batch of that precious booty he sent me for skeet shooting or something, totally unamused by the fact that he spent all that time "roasting" up various Taj Mahal Travelers, Fushitsusha and Peter Laughner disques for my listening pleasure and I'm more or less poo-pooing his efforts. Well, heave awe Jon, because it's not that I've been neglecting the vast array of recorded gems that you have made for me, it's just that I'm spacing 'em out in order to keep my listening ears fresh 'n fertile especially in times of musical/monetary stagnation. Yes, sometimes I'm a little strapped for the old buckskins and when I am it's not like I can plunk down money for an order to one of my fave internet emporiums for the latest platter to strike my fancy. As Freewheeling Frank should have said, "Music will get your through times of no money than money will get you through times of no music," and after a good three decades of record hoarding I shoulda known that by heart!!!
Anyway, one of the things that Mr. B so graciously "burned" for me was a DVD of a MIDNIGHT SPECIAL program from 1979 featuring what could be called a "new wave night" of groups, tonight's stars being none other than the Cars, an act one could say was perhaps the new waviest of the wavers who were flittering around during the brink of the seventies transmuting into the eighties. It was a time when many predicted that we'd be hearing NOTHING but this stuff for the next ten years, and I guess the folks at NBC wanted to make sure that you got to hear some of it before anyone else offered! And what a show to bring back memories...at that time (autumn 1979 I guess) I was pretty much a tee-vee addict and (if you can imagine) a bigger madman for the stuff than I am now. Although I'm sure that nobody would own up to it these days that time in television was pretty snat (though quickly fading) for entertainment-starved goons such as I, and although I pretty much avoided the prime-time fare barring MONTY PYTHON on PBS or some old moom pitcher that one of the struggling lower-class indie stations would still offer at nine in the evening, I could still find loads of worthwhile television from the aforementioned PBS imports as well as old and forgotten fare to classic reruns and not-yet subversive "hip" comedy with relative ease. Watching this MIDNIGHT SPECIAL, complete with the douchebag commercials, local promo spots (this show was dubbed from a WAFF, channel 48 which is located in Huntsville Alabama) and now-dated station IDs hyping POP GOES THE COUNTRY left intact reminds me of the serious, half-asleep late-night viewing I engaged in for years, switching from programs like this to the late movie and back, soaking in all the ennui and wishing in my heart of hearts that I was hanging out at Max's Kansas City and not stuck in some no-fun do-nothing dunghole like Sharon PA!
Enough warm 'n fuzzy reminiscences...as for the SPECIAL, it certainly is special for that night (or morning, since the show aired at one o'clock) there were no hosts or hostesses acting as coy and cute as they did on HULLABALOO, nor was there even a hint of Wolfman Jack doing his hipster rap in an era which seemed to keep him on only as an Uncle Dudley of a fast-fading relic. Naw, tonight was a special wordless episode of THE MIDNIGHT SPECIAL with alla 'em precocious and edge-cutting new wave acts being introduced by chyron-typed characters crawling up, down and across your television screen sans any idiot card rap or opening theme music for that matter. Yeah, it was experimental and foreshadows a whole lotta eighties tee-vee trips that helped send me running as fast from the box as I could, but howcum I keep thinking about Ernie Kovacs' EUGENE special and the opening from that bona fide experiment that at least WORKED when I see this thing???
The Cars, riding high on a string of AM chartbusters (no surprise, since it was the likes of the Cars that was considered the STRONGEST form of new wave that the average bloke out there could take back in those rather straight-jacketed days) take up the hugest hunkerin' portion of the show which would figure, but really, all I can say after watching Ben Orr in his Mick Ronson 'do and Ric Ocasek's adam's apple bobbing up and down is that when KICKS referred to the Cars as being "asexual muzakers" they were being kind. Really, if anything, the Cars should be noted for taking some of the better moments of mid-seventies underground pre-Sex Pistols rock (everything from the Flamin' Groovies, New York Rock and of course their fellow Boston groups who also sprang from the loins of the Modern Lovers such as Fox Pass and Susan) and "synthing" these tasty tidbits into a steaming glop of produce that the FM-bred classic rock dunces could digest with relative ease. I dunno if there's an award available for all of those groups who twisted the underground to suit their warped desires (while the real "music that matters" whether it be the Zantees, MX-80 Sound or Bernie and the Invisibles for all I know stayed cloistered in their respective scenes), but if there was one I would think it would be the hottest spot in Hell, Dante's or otherwise!
I dunno if the Records belong in that same hotspot alongside the Cars...at least "Starry Eyes" was a refreshing single even though it was aimed at the same morons who bought Pat Benetar records and no-bout-a-doubt-it a "twee" excursion into the then-hot "power-pop" genre. And "twee" these Britsters certainly were (even though one of 'em previously played in the early-seventies "people's" band Magic Muscle who at least had the brains to cover "Waiting For My Man" since the London hipster community was still keen on the Velvets as late as 1972), in fact "twee" enough that I found myself taking pee-breaks during their songs and rushing back to the screen for the commercials! Sheesh, I remember dismissing the Raspberries late in their career thinking they were snoozing out (with Eric Carmen's solo singles bearing out my initial suspicions), but next to the Records ol' Eric and company might as well have been the Stooges doing "Raw Power" for all I care.
And speaking of the Stooges, Iggy also makes a rock video appearance here lip-sync-a-gooching a coupla his solo things that never did appeal to me (and in fact helped turn me off to searching for his Stooges material that certainly would have been conduit to my listening parameters at the time), but watching these Iggy vids once again flashes me back to KICKS, more specifically Miriam Linna's review of "The MTV Awards" when Iggy himself accepted one for his "close, personal friend" David Bowie and Ms. L suggested that Mr. Osterberg was acting nicey-nice for the cameras just so's one of his own vids'd win an award next time around. Sorta like the time Lou Reed said all those nice and wonderful things about longtime enemy Frank Zappa just so's the Velvet Underground would be nominated to the Rock Hall of Fame, and I'm not sayin' that I wouldn't step up to the podium if the cause didn't suit me (I have my price), but (keeping with those Detroit aesthetics that are so important) comparing the '79 Iggy Model with the '69 classic is kinda like comparing a '67 Thunderbird with a '57!
Lessee...what else was there? Oh yeah, "M" doing a video of "Pop Music" which precurses the eighties infatuation with the form complete with all the arty eyeball candy you could find (and it would figure that, given the general seventies "live at the local rock arena" look of THE MIDNIGHT SPECIAL that the whole thing would eventually give way to the tres-eighties FRIDAY NIGHT VIDEOS a few years later), plus Lene Lovich is unbearable to watch (despite that one song of hers approaching Sparks-level mid-seventies deca-pop) with all of those cloying art/angle shots and quick editing that I guess was supposed to "say" something albeit I dunno if I'd wanna know what was being said.
But then again there's Suicide, fresh from opening for the Cars at a number of disastrous gigs and not quite into their second LP new wavey synth mode. I was told years back that Alan Vega performed wrapped in chains...this is not true and for once we get the feeling that we're watching a show at Max's and not the Fillmore which is the way it ought to have been for rock on television during that sorry decade. The Revega team do a fine "Cheree" and "Ghost Rider" and it 's fun finally watching the two move around and perform for you, even though they're acting just like I always imagined they would anyway.
Of course all of this, with local and national commercials and station ID's intermingled, makes for fine viewing...maybe "nostalgic" to an extent even though I don't have any great love for late-seventies Carter-era happy-face mentalities, but it does remind me of a time in my life when things around me were positively stale and all I had to rely on to get through the days/months/years was this extreme obsession/fascination with the Velvet Underground, Cleveland first and second-wave bands, and of course those New York groups that seemed to be running on concepts that appealed to me as a pimple-infested, emotionally distraught ten-directions-at-once self-made pariah. The DVD ends with the station signing off before fading into snow (no nat'l anthem though...COMMIES!) reminding me of when I would watch tee-vee stations signing off and stare at the screen for awhile before deciding to head on up to my room and maybe read a rock mag or two sorta half-consciously wreaked with a strange and incurable case of loneliness and self-loathing. A lot has changed since then, but I gotta admit that the late-night creeps still get to me at certain unguarded moments, at which times I write blog posts. Hey Jon, thanks for the memories!
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 10:47 PM