THE TEN BEST EPISODES OF GOMER PYLE, USMC!!!!
It always seemed (at least since the early-eighties) like some kinda classic tee-vee snobbery was in full swing when I'd hear the same people who were singing the praises of THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW (especially the Barney Fife-era b&w episodes) up nose when it came to GOMER PYLE USMC. I dunno about you, but yeah, I like ANDY GRIFFITH just as much as the next old-timey tee-vee viewer (and I even swear allegiance to the color ones as much as the original b&ws which is yet another no-no), but I gotta say that I rank this GRIFFITH show spinoff just as highly and at times even higher not only to get those selfsame purists all mad, but because PYLE had a strangely L7-yet-guffaw-inducing quality about it that continues to work on that same sainted plateau of blissed-out nada that OZZIE AND HARRIET and Bushmiller-period NANCY comics do. I must admit it's pretty creepy finding out that amongst fans of earlier television trends there's such a strong distaste for the series, because I hold GOMER PYLE in such high regards, in fact have such an esteem for this unjustly-maligned program that I'd even consider it one of the all-time tee-vee classics especially when it comes to late-sixties programming, which except for syndicated reruns and a few precious network classics weren't exactly banner years for high-energy television viewing!
Anyway, here's a no-order list of my ten fave GOMER PYLE episodes, and if some of you PYLE fans (or not) have any you wanna add or delete feel free ta do so! All I gotta say is, it's gonna be a hard task to decide which are the best given the show's no-holds-barred high-quality over its four or five-year (I forget if they're including the summer reruns or not) lifespan:
1) Gomer loses the Colonel's wild daughter in a discoteque where the Frank Zappa-produced Factory (with Lowell George and other Little Feat) are playing tracks from their unreleased until the late-eighties album! Great gag where Carter mistakes a long-haired guy for the teenage gal!
2) Opie runs away from home after getting a stern licking and hides out at Camp Pendleton (probably best known for the heart-felt and serious speech that Sgt. Carter gives to a wrecked Andy Taylor at the end of the episode).
3) Sgt. Carter, Gomer and longtime character actor Keith Larsen appear on an all-marine special episode of WIN A DATE (a thinly-veiled spoof of THE DATING GAME) and Gomer gets picked by the swinging blonde despite (or perhaps because of) his flat cornball answers! (This is the episode where Gomer exclaims, after seeing good-looking Larsen enter into the "green room," the immortal line "He's even handsomer than Rock Hudson"!!!!) This one is also good because once again Frank Sutton (as Carter) gets to do his extremely funny schtick where he tries to be overly-masculine/sexy in order to impress the lass and comes off looking like a total boob in the process!
4) Gomer's part of a quilting bee with some old ladies and because he doesn't want to get "ribbed" by his fellow marines he's rather tight-lipped about his whereabouts, only telling them that he's spending Saturday afternoons with "the girls." Meanwhile, the editors of some men's magazine take photos of Gomer in various poses and airbrush in snaps of bikini-clad beauties posing alongsides him for a "marine has fun at the beach" layout. Carter sees the photos and thinks that the young femme frolickers are "the girls" Gomer has been seeing every Saturday and begs Gomer to take him along despite Gomer's protestations to the contrary. BEST PART: the look on Carter's face when the door to the house opens and he sees the old biddies Gomer's been spending his time with! (An aside, during my high school days when PYLE repeats were airing in the afternoon, this particular episode caused all of the horny boys in school to speculate that the girls in the pics were actually nude and that they only had bikinis on in order to pass the censors! I mean, I was told by some of the more, er, erotically inclined amongst my peers that sure, those curvaceous cuties had "clothes" on, but they were really buck naked! You figure that one out!)
5) Gomer eats Welsh Rarebit (which he is warned might give him nightmares) and chews out Sgt. Carter while walking in his sleep! Carter then eats some and acts all docile while walking in his sleep, a perfectly comic role reversal gag that works better than most.
6) Gomer keeps sinking the inflatable raft (either by jumping through it, firing his rifle or jabbing it with his bayonet) during navy exercises.
7) Gomer and Carter go to Las Vegas and Gomer (who wants to visit the Hoover Dam and the rocks and minerals museum while Carter anxiously awaits all the gambling and high living) gives Carter's huge winnings to the Salvation Army! (I remember this ending really upsetting a gambling-inclined peer of mine who probably couldn't sleep that night seeing Carter's jackpot being dumped into a kettle! Boy was he mad and he sure let me know it!!!)
8) Gomer and his platoon are appearing in some film and Carter keeps blowing his single line "Let's hear it for Henshaw!"
9) Carter decides to play a trick on watermelon-growing Gomer by injecting vodka into the melons (by cutting a hole in the rind, sticking the neck of an open bottle into the flesh and letting the alcohol spread throughout), only Gomer gives the tainted fruit to the Colonel's wife for her bridge party!
10) The one where Gomer and Carter are bound and gagged by criminals, hide out in the trunk of the crooks' car, and get all soaking when the trunk opens in the middle of a car wash!
Hey, if you wanna add to the list, you know where to go! (Another good one; lost Japanese boy who only speaks his native tongue has Gomer and Carter take him all over Washington DC, ultimately giving himself away during a ballgame by yelling some choice English-language epithets at the umpire...strangest scene is where the boy is returned to his residence and is greeted at the door by his sexy older sister with the two latently gay soldiers [that is, if you believe all the stories and ascribe a Batman/Robin relationship to the pair!] all of a sudden acting super-hetero before getting the door shut in their faces! Another goodie...two crooks rent out an empty lunch counter next door to a bank in order to cut a hole through the wall and break in, only thanks to Gomer's help the restaurant actually becomes a legit business! And then again I like the one where, during war games, Gomer and his not too bright partner accidently capture Sgt. Carter who angrily mutters "I am the enemy Pyle, I AM the enemy!!!!" before getting ready to kill!!! This is the one where Pyle's partner sings "Hound Dog" (as a ruse) a decade after it was a hit, making me wonder if this was some old script written a long time back adapted for the show...sorta like I always thought that the "Sunset Strip" episode of THE LUCY SHOW was really an old beatnik-era script given a few changes in order to keep up with the times!)
Sunday, July 31, 2005
Saturday, July 30, 2005
Gays in the Military-PEOPLE IS BEAUTIFUL CD (Gulcher)
First off, lemme talk about the cover. It was delineated by one Peter Bagge, a guy who I'm positive more'n a few of you BLOG TO COMM-sters have been familiar with for the past twennysome years given his overexposure in more fanzines and underground comix than you can shake a stick at. And yeah, I remember when intelligent snoots the likes of Lindsay Hutton and Billy and Miriam at KICKS were singing the praises of this up-and-cumming artist, but besides maybe a few strips here and there that retained a sense of Bushmillerian simplicity I was totally non-sussed by the man's talents and even let you know that in some decade-old issue of my very own fanzine. Knowitall "I" had Bagge pegged as just another one of those new radical bunsnitches that you've seen popping up all across the alternative magspew ever since the eighties turned the mildly antisocial into rabid Trotskyites deserving of their own personal icepicks. But then again I've recently been getting an eyefulla Bagge's work in the pages of REASON magazine, and while I don't particularly subscribe to the magazine's more, er, Hinmanian beliefs (whenever they may be spouted, that is---although most of the time REASON's definition of libertarianism seems about as tight as that of Hinman's and J. Neo Marvin's they admittedly do offer a little bit of leeway in their range of libertarian opines albeit they sure seem loathe to accommodate the more Birchian/Sobranian/Raimondoian/anarcho-right brand I like to swagger around), I gotta say that it's great reading some underground snat cartooning that doesn't cozy up to the more thumbscrew-left braggadocio that way too many young and starry-eyed kiddies love to smash into yer face. (And the best thing about that is...when the radical leftists do come to power, it's the young and starry eyed who are first to get the shiv!)
Getting all of that superfluous stuff outta the way, now onto the music. Given the Gulcher imprimatur of quality (and the group's name), I was expecting Gays in the Military to be the Gizmos for the oh-ohs! I mean, isn't that exactly what we need in these sterile and can't make fun of people who deserve to be made fun of days, and if anyone could woosh it out for an eagerly-awaiting-the-return-of-seventies-bad-taste crowd it would hafta be Bob "Bear" Richert. But alas, I guess a Gizguy update is outta-the-question which is too bad, but that don't mean PEOPLE IS BEAUTIFUL is strictly grade-z turdsville either.
I was confused at the beginning...after a brief sound clip from THE WORLD'S GREATEST SINNER we're offered an instrumental which for some reason reminded me of an outtake from Emerson Lake and Palmer's BRAIN SALAD SURGERY, and that shouldn't excite any reg'lar readers of this blog unless your name happens to be Tim Ellison! (And I gotta say that I really enjoyed Tim's ELP [or is it ULP!!!] as no wave article written for an old ROCK MAG despite not buying a word of what Tim was trying to say!) But after that bit of musical onanism comes a pretty, er, solid rock & rolling album. The musical genre is more or less mid-eighties-on alternanderground post/pseudo-hardcore crunch slowed down to heavy metal beats which I must admit hasn't exactly been my tour-de-farce ever since I was getting sent album after cassette after EP ca. 1988-1992 and all of 'em sounded as if they came from the same gristmill, but if you like that brand of hard rock chicanery then by all means go fer it!!! As for me, I can osmose to the hard-edged pseudo-Butthole Surfers post-psycho clangacrunch (the Surfers' "Human Cannonball" even gets covered here!), but time has, uh, honed my tastes in bizarroid and difficult-to-describe ways over the years which can only be fully explained by repeated readings of my blog (and other writings on my part), preferably with third-eye viciously gouged out.
AMANDA MONACO 4 CD (Genevive, available through CD Baby)
Whatta letdown! After giving the Four the time-o'-day with a recent writeup where the group earned a general thumbs-up despite a few nagging reservations, I actually splurged for a CEE-DEE of their music expecting something perhaps as primitive (re. Monaco's guitar) and as 1959 avant (as the general backing) as what I saw and heard that night. Turns out that the AM4 put out a well-produced, clean-sounding and generally straightforward avant-lite platter, and although I wasn't exactly expecting Roscoe Mitchell I was hoping for something a little more...engaging??? Some interesting notes abound on tracks like "Speedy Green" but frankly this quartet covers ground that's been traipsed upon before, and while that's not exactly a crime of any great dimensions I coulda used a little more gunch in here somewhere. And why do they have to look like a buncha alternative rock weenies anyway??? If the Ayatollah or Castro or whoever's gonna open up the poppy-fields again in order to hasten the downfall of the decadent west, how about giving this band some white stuff? It could only be an improvement!
AND WHILE I'M AT IT, does anyone out there have any information, recordings, photos, reviews, articles etc. regarding the early-seventies Gallic group Rotomagus, considered by some aficionados of the form to have been the Stooges of France? (Which would make sense if you consider Mahogany Brain the Velvet Underground of France and the Frenchies the Dolls!) I know practically nada about 'em other'n what I picked up on the web (and from Mike Snider)...they had three singles on CBS that certain people like to affix the hoary tag "proto-punk" to while members later ended up in the group Phoenix, who released an LP containing several Led Zep covers. First person to leave info as to how I can obtain a CD-R or article or whatever via this blog (press "#" below to be taken to THE PROPER PAGE to leave comments) gets one or more BLACK TO COMM back issue of his liking! (By the way, the offer is still good [back issues of your choice!] for anyone who can get me that album of UMELA HMOTA's late-seventies recordings that Globus released a few years back!)
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 2:45 PM
Thursday, July 28, 2005
AN INTERVIEW WITH DEE POP THAT MOSTLY DISCUSSES THE LONG-RUNNING (AND SOON TO BE TERMINATED) FREESTYLE JAZZ SERIES AT THE CBGB LOUNGE THAT HAS BEEN GOING ON FOR OVER THREE YEARS ALREADY AND IF YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT THEN EITHER YOU HAVEN'T BEEN PAYING CLOSE ENOUGH ATTENTION TO THIS BLOG OR YOU'RE TOO BUSY WATCHING SHAUN OF THE DEAD FOR THE MILLIONTH TIME ALREADY YOU INBRED MARSUPIAL YOU!!!
Dee Pop is not only a man, he is an enigma and I'm not using the term in some trite and cliched fanspew way like too many self-important rockscribbles have o'er the past twentysome years either. Not only is Pop a drummer for the legendary post-no wave group the Bush Tetras (also featuring ex-Contortions Pat Place and ex-Clevelander/Tender Buttons [w/CLE editor Jim Ellis and Andrew "brother to Jamie" Klimek] Laura Kennedy) and a band I must confess that I never had much of a liking for, but he has been involved in a load of other musical endeavors for a longer time than any of us can imagine. This includes not only his soon-to-be-86'd tenure as the "curator" for the "Freestyle Jazz/Avant Garde Musics/Deformed Blues" series that have been taking place at the CBGB Lounge for a good three-plus years, but his role as a drummer for a variety of avant garde jazz groups including many I've written about in these webpages, such as Freedomland, the Hanuman Sextet and a duo with pianist Borah Bergman (and that's not counting his "sit ins" with various ad hoc groups either!). Search out this blog (too lazy to link anything up!) for more informative and entertaining musings on such acts as these and others who have appeared at the Lounge's Sunday Night (and for a time Wednesdays as well!) series which I gotta say has been the highlights of my CBGB cybercast viewing for many a moon. (By the way, the Bush Tetras will be playing at the Save CBGB's series of concerts happening throughout August and September in case you're interested in seeing Pop working with his old group again.) He's also drumming for the Annabelle Chongs who Pop describes as a Velvets-styled aggregate which sounds tasty albeit given my distaste for most of the post 1970s bands clinging to a Velvets credo I'm not entirely sold on the idea of giving them a listen...yet, that is. And to top that off I caught him behind the skins in some r&b group that played the CB's 313 Gallery a few months back. To put it mildly, Dee Pop is a busy person, but at least what he's busy at is something that only you or I could dream of.
This interview was slated to have appeared in the next issue (#26) of BLACK TO COMM, but given how that magazine may be years away from fruitation thanks to a load of adverse publicity and truth-twisting on the part of a few fair-weather blogsters, who knows when, or if the magazine will see the light of day. But enough self-pity...anyway, since this interview is more or less time sensitive given the series finale is this Sunday night and better you read about Dee Pop's hard work and stomach-churning efforts to keep these shows on the road before it's all history and we're merely reminiscing like we tend to do too much of these days, I've decided to give you all a look-see at my exclusive cybergab with Pop now rather'n the distant future. And hey, maybe if CBGB somehow overcomes their landlord hassles and continue on indefinitely, this series will be reinstated and there will be a NEW batch of freestyle gigs with the same greats that Pop introduced me to (Dom Minasi, Matana Roberts...) returning for even more Sunday evening jamz! (Which would be gosharootie because, y'see, I envisioned enclosing a CD with the next issue featuring the best of this series, considering I know that it's this free jazz/funk trip that's the true end-point in the punk continuum but who knows...) Anyway, enough musing, here's the deal as to what transpired between me and Dee...
BLACK TO COMM: OK, first question...how did you start booking avant garde jazz at the CBGB Lounge anyway?
DEE POP: Somewhere around '98, I was just finishing up another chapter of the Bush Tetras. We had just completed two years of "reunion" gigs and new recordings. We released one CD on Tim Kerr/Mercury produced by Nona Hendryx and recorded a second produced by Don Fleming, which has still not seen the light of day. When Seagrams Corporation bought Polygram about two-hundred artists were dropped at a hat. We were one and I was glad. One of my reactions to this was to turn my back completely on playing music that had anything to do with getting a record contract on a major label, and I suppose I turned my back on guitars and vocals and volume for awhile. I wanted to explore playing with other instruments, I didn't want to be tied to the 4/4 time signature any more. I wanted outpouring of raw emotion instead of calculated risk. Enough drama here. Jazz was also a forum of music I loved but never gotta a chance to play. Let's jump ahead a second.
Across the street from my day gig was a small place called the Internet Cafe. It booked "downtown" type jazz. Not really straight ahead but not totally out either. When Hayes Greenfield, the saxophonist who dealt with the bookings, decided to move on I immediately signed on. For me it was a chance to meet and play with that world of musicians. People like Tim Berne, Roy Campbell, Dave Sewelson, Hayes Greenfield, Mark Hellas, Ellery Eskelin. And I got to see a lot of great drummers like Rashid Ali, Walter Perkins, Brian Blade, Barry Altshul, Tom Rainey and Franklin Kiermeyer from two feet away. And I met DANIEL CARTER!!! He was my link, he was on the first gig I was ever on that could be termed "jazz." I had never met him before and I was expecting someone to come in talking about Ayler or Coltrane or some other stereotypical racial profiling crap. Instead I overheard him talking about old school hardcore punk bands like Agnostic Front, Kraut and others that would let him join them onstage. This was wild to me, and it made me feel like I could join this world and bridge it to my own roots. I booked the Internet for about three years. One group had two sets seven days a week. When it finally died due to volume complaints and also the owner's own stupidity, I beelined over to CBGB's where I have run a series on Sunday evenings for a little over three years now.
BTC: How did you manage to convince the people at CBGB to give you Sunday nights for free music? It seems like a wild gamble for a club like the Lounge...was it?
DP: I first played CBGB's in 1977, so I go back with the club. My first wife (Deerfrance) was probably their first door person as well as someone who performed early on in the club's history (with John Cale). Recently I told owner Hilly Kristal that I may have played the club more times than any other individual throughout the course of the club's history. I'm pretty sure this is the case.
Let's also remember that before CBGB's was known as a punk club, Hilly was trying to actually book other types of music. Hilly also used to work at the Village Vanguard when Coltrane, Miles and all of the greats were there, so the jazz is in his blood. He is actually very supportive, and while my Sunday Series does not exactly draw huge numbers it does give the club an added prestige (not sure if that's the word) of sorts. Presenting music on Sundays allows me to NOT have to play the numbers game. I can present music based on quality, not quantity or popularity. And when I do have a great crowd, it's just gravy.
BTC: I wasn't aware of you being in any groups before the Bush Tetras. Care to divulge information regarding any earlier rock & roll activity?
DP: I went to the University of Buffalo in the later seventies. There I was in a band called the Good. It was led by fanzine writer Bernard Kugel and later featured a very young fan named Vincent Gallo. Also in Buffalo I was in a group called the Secrets who were probably Buffalo's first "punk" band. When I moved back to New York City I played in a couple of things that never got off the ground. Then I joined a band fronted by ex-Eraser and then-Richard Hell girlfriend Susan Springfield. That band was called Desire (really bad name). That band played a bunch of cool gigs. One bill included the early Thurston Moore band called the Coachmen and another gig was a double bill with Danny Kalb of Blues Project fame. Somewhere before the band broke up I was already fooling around, jamming with a friend of mine named Jimmy Joe Ullanna. He was an original member of the Bush Tetras (probably before it was even named). He also played on the Gun Club record I was on. Hmmmm, I can't think of too many others though I might have missed something in there.
I also wrote reviews and did interviews for THE NEW YORK ROCKER, CREEM, a bunch of fanzines, a Warner Brothers in-house magazine, THE BUFFALO EVENING NEWS, and other crap.
BTC: Can you tell me a little more about your writing career and just who and what you were writing about?
DP: Oh God, my writing career was short. In college, I thought I wanted to be a writer/journalist, but straight journalism was boring to me. Reading Lester Bangs, Richard Meltzer, Hunter S. Thompson and a few others probably had a hand in that. Since I was heavily into music, "rock" journalism seemed like the natural solution. I was the editor of my college newspaper so I got to write a lot of record reviews and do many interviews. Some of the latter included very early interviews with the Clash (a few times), Damned, Elvis Costello, Vivienne Westwood, Stranglers, Richard Hell, Zantees, Screamers, Frank Zappa (I really don't like his music that much but he was quite the character!), the Ramones (many many times), Dictators, Mink DeVille, Patti Smith Group, Television, Talking Heads, Mickey Dolenz, Dion, Cher and Gregg Allman (that was a good one!) and more that I can't remember. This writing spread over to other magazines and stuff. It was fun. I moved back to New York City with the intention of making a career, but music making somehow took over.
BTC: Interesting. You did mention working with Bernie Kugel...is there anything special you can tell us about him?
DP: I met Bernie in Buffalo. He's originally from Brooklyn. I'm from Forest Hills which is in Queens. I'm not sure exactly how we met and I'm not sure exactly why we hung out together because initially it didn't seem like we had much in common. He was putting out a fanzine called BIG STAR and he let me write for it. And then we started playing music together. He started a band called the Good, which went through many line-ups and later evolved into the Mystic Eyes. He moved back to New York eventually and then returned up there to live for good in the late nineties. I know his wife was from there. He is a good guy.
BTC: Have you had any difficulty getting talent for Sunday nights?
DP: These are some of the people that have performed: Tom Abbs, Steve Swell, Daniel Carter, Ben Monder Group, Theo Blackman, Little Annie, James Chance, Sabir Mateen, Roy Campbell, Steve Lehman, Kevin Norton, Tony Malaby, Freedomland featuring David Sewelson, Daniel Carter, William Parker, David Hofstra and Dee Pop, Jameel Moondoc, Chad Taylor, Bill McHenry, Reid Anderson, Jackson Krall, Matana Roberts, Ty Braxton, Assif Tsahar, Matt Wilson, Cooper Moore, Other Dimensions in Music, Hanuman Quintet, Peter Kowalski, Rob Brown, Okkyung Lee, Jay Rosen, Louie Belogenis, Dom Minasi, John Abercrombie, Milford Graves, William Parker, Peter Brotzman, Joe McPhee, Joe Giardullo, Felice Rosser, Gold Sparkle Trio, Lukas Ligetti, Jack Wright, Bern Nix, Matt Maneri, Ori Kaplan, George Garzone, John Lindberg, Gerry Hemmingway, Mark Helias, Billy Bang, Butch Morris, Frank Lowe, Pheeroan Aklaff, Tim Berne, No Neck Blues Band, William Parker's Little Huey Orchestra, Lewis Barnes, Calvin Weston's Big Tree, John Sinclair, Ron Anderson, Wilber Morris, Thomas Ulrich, Whit Dickey, Rob Brown, Joe Morris, John Hollenbeck, Oliver Lake, Craig Taborn, Raphe Malik, Leena Conquest, Oluyemi Thomas, Perry Robinson, Mark Whitcage, Test, Trevor Dunn, Tom Rainey, William Hooker, Tim Barnes, Gregg Bendian, Rodney Green, Greg Osby, Open Loose, Anton Fier, Wilbo Wright, Paul Smoker, Billy Mintz, Jim Black, Eddie Gale, Kevin Norton, Izitiz, Sonny Simmons, Abdoulaye N'Diaye, Ravi Coltrane, Sunny Murray, Barry Altschul, Mario Pavone, Mary Halverson, Al Foster, Greg Tardy, Borah Bergman, Joseph Jarman, James Finn, Dominic Duval, Warren Smith, Burton Greene, Lou Grassi, Art Lewis, Ellery Eskelin, Gunter Hampel, Perry Robinson, Paraphrase, Sirone, Charles Gayle, Gary Lucas, Ernie Brooks, Idiophonic, Andrew Lamb...
I hope that answers your question.
BTC: That sure does answer my question...I'll bet you get a thrill being in contact with some of the creme-de-la-avant garde musicians of the past and present (you know what I mean!)...
DP: It's a thrill when I get to play with some of them. I studied with Milford Graves for a minute and that was EXTREMELY interesting. For the most part all the musicians are very down to earth individuals. Perhaps sometimes a little nutty, but usually very nice.
BTC: Great. What rock band are you now playing in anyways?
DP: The Annabel Chongs (named after the porn person).
BTC: Any releases planned, like a LIVE CB'S LOUNGE FREESTYLE JAZZ CD series?
DP: If I had an assistant or someone to help me, I would organize a CD-R sampler for giveaway each month. It was something I've toyed with when Rent Control was more active. Now I just don't think I can find the time or expenses to do it. There have been at least four live CDs from the series.
BTC: Final question...what does the future hold in store for the Freestyle Series? I've heard all the stories about CBGB's imminent demise and was wondering what plans if any are being made. (NOTE: this question dates from last May and since then we've known more [at least in some ways] as to what "the future holds in store for the Freestyle Series," mainly nothing unless the club is granted a new lease and the series miraculously continues on somehow...)
DP: That's a tough one. First off, I wouldn't make a money bet on it closing. Hilly Kristel has weathered a lot of storms, this time may be more drastic but I think a lot of support will be shown in the near future.
If not...well. I could retire from this stupidity, or I can bounce to the next station in life. I've never really planned anything as far as my music activities go. I have ideas and things I would like to do but mostly it's all just one big improv. Things I would consider...joining Bob Dylan's touring band, having the Hanuman Sextet become a full-fledged group i.e. having the group play elsewhere besides CBGB's and finally do a studio recording or two, putting together some sort of weird improv dub bluegrass thing and joining the circus.
As far as promoting more "jazz" music in New York...if CB's does go down, I might have had my fill. To tell you the truth there are quite a few days where I wake up very disenchanted by the whole thing. I can vent on this subject if allowed. I certainly debate the subject enough. Jazz, as a genre, shows the most limited rewards.
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 9:39 PM
Monday, July 25, 2005
SUNDAY, JULY 24TH --- $10:
FREESTYLE AVANT JAZZ & OTHER MUSICS Presents:
7:00 Dan DeChellis, Reuban Radding, Dee Pop
8:00 Amanda Monaco Quartet
9:00 Daniel Carter, Francois Grillot, Matt Lavelle, Federico Ughi
10:00 Ehran Elisha's EYECORE w/ Steve Swell, Ken Filiano & Mike Gamble
It's sure hard to cram down the gullet the fact that the above night of avant garde jazz at the CBGB Lounge was the last "real time" gig in that long-running series (next week's finale will feature some of the bigger stars of the series like Dom Minasi and Susan Alcorn playing in various groupings) before CBGB commits all three of its stages to a month-long all-star attempt to renew its lease. And I dunno about you, but it was perhaps this series of freeform wherewithall that kept me tuned into the entire CBGB shebang, especially since alternative wieners, hardcore waterdowns and folkie introverts usually don't make it with my musical parameters. However, the free jazz playing at the Lounge that has continued to roar with an impressing ferocity is what kept my ears and eyes attuned to the fabled club over these last few years because, once you put your thinking caps on, wouldn't you ponder that this free jazz has more in common with what "underground rock" of the seventies doth wrought than the usual penny ante musics that claim punk personification this far down the rock & roll line? Well, it sure has a lot more of the down and gutter-like scrunch that no wave exuded than any other "form" you can dare think of, and if you ask me wasn't this series more or less the end result of punkisms using free jazz forms that led to the likes of Sonny Sharrock, Phillip Wilson and Rashied Ali playing CBGB in the first place way back during those closing moments of the seventies???
After a long wait featuring some of the tinkliest gnu age muzak to grace these ears in an eon, the first act, an impromptu quartet featuring Dan DeChellis, Reuban Radding, Dee Pop (series curator) and another member whose name I didn't catch took to the stage. The three on-screen players have been common faces here at the Freestyle Series ever since it began almost three years back, and the quartet (sax, piano, drums and off-screen guitar) performed a fairly decent albeit toned-down avant scronk that at times reminded me more of the fifties/early-sixties style of jazz that the likes of Paul Bley became fairly well-known for. The foursome laid down a few brilliant snatches, though I felt there was a bitta "oomph" missing from the set, perhaps because I've become pampered by the reams of atonal frenzy that has become associated with the new thing after about 28+ years of modest perusal.
Following even more of that sappoid gnu age tinkle came the Amanda Monaco Quartet (or, as the website says, the Amanda Monaco 4) led by noneother'n Monaco, some gal with glasses who kinda reminds me of the type of gals in high school who thought they were sooo hot and used to spit the gooiest hawkers on me you can imagine. You'd think something like this would deter me from writing objectively about the woman but it won't, but anyway this grouping's yet another quartet of young and popping fresh fellows who'd look more fitting in some alternospew self-pity ensemble (not that I hate self-pity...I like my own naturally, but I can't stand when others do it!) than a free jazz aggregate. Don't let looks deceive, because Monaco and band can lay down some pretty interesting experimental gunch, maybe not as encompassing as the AACM or BAG stuff, but interesting enough to keep you from seeing some singer/songwriter mewling about his hard life over at the CB's Gallery next door. Monaco plays an electric guitar that sounds kinda choppy but in an electric 1956 jazz way...sorta like Jim Hall giving aid and comfort to Ornette Coleman on that Gunther Schuller Third Stream album but way more primitive to the point where I like her playing even if it isn't Sharrockian or Minasian, but because it's maybe a step up from what Lydia Lunch used to do! The rest of the group seemed able enough, but steered clear of the freeplay honkspew that this music is known for. Did I hate it? Well, I actually ordered their CD online while the band was still playing so let that answer your question!
After even MORE acoustic guitar and harp mellowness came yet another impromptu bunch, this time featuring sixties survivor Francois Grillot, Daniel Carter (Freedomland, Storm, Other Dimensions in Music...), Francesco Ughi and Matt Lavelle. All of 'em ('cept maybe Ughi) have played the series in one grouping or another so you could say that this may or may not have been the last night at the old folk's home, and (perhaps because they are vets) this batch sure cooked up an avant wail that seemed to put the earlier efforts that night in the shade so to speak. Still, there wasn't anything totally forceful about their set, which seemed on the verge of some eruptive breakthrough at times yet never quite pushed itself enough to transcend itself, if you want me to get hippie about it.
Didn't catch Eyecore due to sleep restraints. Anybody out there record it for me?
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 7:27 PM
Sunday, July 24, 2005
IT'S ANOTHER BLOG TO COMM LISTENING PARTY!
Hi-Here are a batcha CDs, CD-Rs and the like that I recently "acquired" either from people who sent this stuff to me in order to see what I thought of it (I guess they have nothing better to do!---hah!!!!), or purchased on my lonesome because I and only I wanted to know what I thought of it...but either way if you're one of those people who likes to tune in on my own personal views and opinions regarding music (and why not, given some of the unmitigated mongoloid remarks w/regards to music and gulcher being made on a variety of blogs out there it hipsterland) then I'm sure you'll enjoy my take on the following burnt and fresh CDs, most of which I probably wouldn't've bought in a million years (in fact, I'm gonna be game and tell you if I would or wouldn't've bought these if I feel like it!)
The following two CDs were burnt for me by Lou Rone, not only a former guitarist for VON LMO but a man who has led a variety of groups o'er the years and who has a tasty new CD called ALONE available on the Gulcher label! If you'd like to read the interview I did with Rone, then why dontcha pick up a copy of BLACK TO COMM #25, available here (howzat for my shameless once-per-post FREE PLUG???):
Jeff Beck Group-TRUTH (EMI): Gotta admit that I never was one of those Jeff Beck maniacs out there who used to drool and dribble over every note and splotch the man would dare to lay down on wax...coming to musical terms at a time when Beck and his whole generation seemed like total doofuses in light of the mechanical muzak they began laying down, what was he next to the true talents of a Sumner Crane, who may not have had the "chops" but had the scronk? But then again, after the punk/new/no wave dust had settled and I discovered that the underground quap that I had become infatuated with for years and the music I dismissed as old hat were more intertwined in more respects than I would have ever believed in 1979, maybe I could settle down and enjoy a Jeff Beck song outside the safe confines of the mid-sixties Yardbird days and not feel hipster guilty about it. Heck, I even like that one track entitled "Barabajabal" the Beck Group laid down with Donovan, perhaps the twinkiest of the Dylan imitators at least until Al Stewart, plus those long-rumored gtr solos on the other Donovan single sides at least kept me from switcherooing the radio in search of the calm and collected strains of Black Sabbath. So maybe there was something worthwhile in the music of old(er) turds after all, or at least in the light of just what the plain old turds the likes of the Smiths and X-tal were lining up for my jaded ears back during the gory days of YOUR FLESH promo packages.
Anyway, this Beck Cee-Dee reish does have more'n a few moments of worth, even with the flem (sic)-lined throat of Rod "I didn't want to go disco, they made me!" Stewart singing da blooze in a style that no wonder made blacks flee from the music with a passion. The new take of Yardbirdsian fave "Shapes of Things" works on a new level perhaps because of the bombast Stewart injects into the thing which actually succeeds given the twisted musical arrangement, while "Ol' Man River" seems
like one of those toss-ins they used to put into these teenage records just so's the old folks didn't think their kids were total sickos! (And there's even a cover of "Greensleeves" which I assume Beck recorded because he didn't have to pay Henry VIII any royalties!) Too much of the blues always got to me not because of their negative nature but because I'm not a big fancier of the form, but at least there are enough distractions to keep my attention like on the bonus tracks "Tallyman," "Love is Blue" (Beck goes elevator!) and "Hi Ho Silver Lining" which is real late-sixties flashmod true but sure sounds better'n a lotta the packaged commercial quap coming out at the time. Would I buy it for myself? Not in a million years, but it's sure better'n listening to the reams of big noise with nothing backing it which makes up the entire gist of most modern rock these days.
The Beatles-REVOLVER (EMI): People tend to call SGT. PEPPER the Beatles' tour-de-artrock, but I don't. To me, SARGE SCHLEPPER was not only the catalyst for a whole lotta bad progressive rock that would soil the good name of the Big Beat for the next twentysome years, but it was also a pretty stuck-on-itself cutesy-wootsey rock as art trip at that. (So you see, there is ONE thing I and otherwise-useless rockscribe Richard Goldstein can agree with, although I wouldn't be doing any about-turn face-saving like the kvetch ultimately did!) For me, the Beatles' true artistic statement was this platter done before the advent of facial hair and silly suits ruined their reputation more'n John's Christianity comments ever could. REVOLVER may have the freaky cover and the obligatory moosh "for the girls" ("Here, There and Everywhere") but it also has the outright rockers (and equal to top contemps the Byrds) like "And Your Bird Can Sing" (Flamin' Groovies before there were Flamin'Groovies, who proved this by covering the song for the Skydog label!) as well as that outright trip "Tomorrow Never Knows" which is so cool that even Wayne McGuire knew enough to use it as a "thread" for his Universal Musical Force printed in a now-desirable issue of CRAWDADDY. Yeah, there are a few bouts of mediocrity ("Got To Get You Into My Life"...paging Sammy Davis Jr.!) and downright stinkbombs like Ringo singing "Yellow Submarine" (I still remember how all the caring and sensitive gals in grade school used to shreik about Spiro Agnew picking on both that one [obvious barbituate ref.] and "With a Little Help From My Friends" [more pill refs. a la "Mother's Little Helpers"] during Agnew's far-reaching attack on the misguided youth of the day---considering even I couldn't rally the femmes to such heights of self-righteous fury all I gotta say is, way to go Spiro!), not to mention George doing his sitar whackoff which was just a shade of things to come, but at least Hari still had some smarts to tackle a truly right-wing/libertarian subject matter with his anti property-confiscation ode "Taxman" which probably stands as the guy's last major statement unless you want to count ELECTRONIC SOUND. Would I buy it? Not really, since I already have the alt. takes/mix of "Tomorrow Never Knows" on bootlegs and that's all I really need at this point.
The following CD-Rs were burned for me by Mike Snider:
Tom Waits-BEAUTIFUL MALADIES (I think Island issued it, correct me if I'm wrong): Snider dubbed me this stuff since I am only familiar w/Waits' Electra-era stuff when he was doing his Kerouac-revival schtick and getting praised all over the pages of ROLLING STONE for doing so. It was interesting enough at the time (I think I originally "got into" the guy because of his Zappa connection and wouldn't mind hearing the tracks he did with the Mothers of Invention backing him, preferably more later than sooner), but as time went by I couldn't really relate to that stuff at age 27 like I did at 17 even to the point of being unable to sit through a rather recent AUSTIN CITY LIMITS rerun of a late-seventies Waits performance that ended up on Sunday afternoon PBS, a fitting graveyard if there was one.
But as time went on Waits evolved and I might have heard some of his newer stylings here/there (and I remember Bill Shute raving about the newer Waits stuff, comparing it to the latterday Bruce Hampton material!), but it wasn't like I was going to be running out and purchasing any of the guy's output (which answers a question I was going to ask myself at the end of this review) just like I wasn't rushing out to buy Hampton's newer wares either. Still, it's a nice change of pace that I like to engage in a few times in this occasionally boresville life o' mine, with Waits' once-Satchmo growl having now mutated into a Dr. John/Cap Beefheart epiglottal rasp and the music? Well, it's more of an avant/mutated swampblues/oompah sound which (as on the Weil-esque "The Black Rider") probably would have fitted in well on Zappa's roster of tax writeoff crazies back in the early-seventies...well, it sure sounds better'n Judy Hennske and Jerry Yester! No liner notes so I can't snitch any "interesting ideas" to regurgitate here (plus the web seems kinda barren of any concrete info I could claim as my own!) so I can't say anymore, but this is a good sampler and at least for me tasty enough in small doses despite its "Fresh Air" NPR reputation which is saying something, but don't tell me just what it is yet...
Gal Costa-GAL; GAL COSTA (Mercury Brazil): Snider burned this one for me because I was totally unfamiliar with the whole "tropicalia" sounds that emanated from Brazil back in the late-sixties. Not that I'd want to be familiar w/tropicalia, especially considering how every Joe Blow on the underground rock soapbox (some whom I even admire) was championing this music about six years back when groups like Os Mutantes became to the fringe alternative what the Bolshoi Ballet became to viewers of THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW. Sometimes I smell skunks even in perfume shops, but then again when I have about fifty Les Rallizes Denudes CDs to enjoy over and over it's not like I'm out there looking for other forms of entertainment, savvy?
But anyway, I did get this CD-R of various Gal Costa tuneage and as far as an "introduction" to tropicalia goes all I gotta say is, I'm not really impressed, even with Costa's great screech-whine vocals and the at-times remarkable musical arrangements. At least for me it's more or less revved up Sergio Mendes which reminds me of the latter-part of my single-digit days when I was more concerned with my Corgi Toys than I was with the music oozing outta a variety of record players I was within earshot of. Hearing this I'm more inclined to dig into my box of old toys and revert to age eight the same way hearing the Fifth Dimension's "Aquarius" always brings back memories of the just-issued Matchbox model of the Lamborghini Miura which was one of my all-time faves. I used to call this stuff "old people music" when I was a kid...like the longhair stuff was for kids and teens and then soul and Sinatra and this stuff was for the college kids and older (up until you hit my parents' age, then it was all Lawrence Welk!)...and at this point I don't even think I'm STILL "old enough" to truly enjoy whatever this tropicalia will have to offer as the years roll by. However I gotta say that I eyeballed some pics of her, and not only is she a great-looking example of the female specimen (for being white, that is), but she likes to scamper around in various stages of undress in case any of you more pervo types happen to be reading this! Don't take my work for it, just enter Gal's name into your fave search engine, set on "images" and don't blame me if you go blind! Gal Costa's one dame who proves the age old adage "titties triumph totally!"
The following CD-Rs were sent to me by Imants Krumins:
Doodles-DISCONEDISCONEDISCONE (can't make out label): As you'd know from a variety of sources this relatively new group is one of my favorites which is a surprise since I've pretty much given up on "modern rock" considering the rampant assholism that the form is unfortunately associated with. Doodles, like the best of the post-Rallize Denudes Japanese underground, knows what it means to take the better aspects of the Velvet Underground oeuvre and go with it in their own personalist fashion, especially if such souls are pure in spirit and mind unlike too many weiners singing the praises of Velvets supremacy who fall flat on their pitted bums when their shallow premises are put to the musical test. (The works of J. Neo Marvin come to mind.) On this one, which I guess is their first "real" Cee-Dee after all, Doodles are a quartet with a fuller sound and perhaps more power because of it. The opening track is a wowzer, a rage of emotional (or is is psychic) power that reminds me of early Mirrors in its mix of intensity and eroticism (in the best Jonathan Richman definition), while cut #2 has more of that beautiful Eastern willowiness sorta filtered through a Southern Californian late-sixties motif. The third one's kinda aimless (as are a lotta the later Doodles releases) yet has a fragile beauty to it which reminds me of the Velvets' early experiments from the likes of the CHELSEA GIRLS soundtrack to their "Noise" track off the EAST VILLAGE OTHER album, at least before Akiko Terashima's guitar starts getting off into this atonal blast marring the spatial elegence before everything returns to normal! I could go on about the other numbers with their tasty mix of the above but I think you get the idea, and if I would buy this one of my own free will the answer is a strong and resounding YES!!!!!
Doodles-no title I can make out: A later release when the group had whittled down to a duo yet their sound remained as full as they were as a quartet. The opener's that familiar and oft-recorded track from their NIGHT GALLERY appearance and I think I heard the second one somewhere else too (like the ALCHEMY DVD p'haps?). Quality is not studio-esque or anything like that if these things mean anything to you, but I gotta 'fess up to the fact that it sure is grand hearing non-mainstream primitive post-Velvet Underground rock that doesn't sound like utter ca-ca these days, and frankly you can only find it in Japan (I guess the Japanese truly understand the deep beauty of what Lou Reed and John Cale doth wrought). Whatever it is, it's utterly magnificent, in some ways a throwback to the sixties/seventies of Velvets mysticism yet reflective of a current mode that I wish more people giving lip service to the "underground" (whatever that may be these days) would pledge undying allegiance to. But you know they won't.
HISATAKA: Dunno the label for this one, but this midgie (20 min.) Cee-Dee features a live recording by some band Krumins says likes to get into fights with each other onstage, sometimes to the point where no gig occurs. It's all more of that over-the-top post-hardcore stuff that Krumins still listens to (that is, if his eardrums are intact) yet I continue to get no pleasure out of it even though the entire shindig ends with a version of "Black to Comm." Would I buy this on my lonesome? NOT ON YOUR NELLY!!!!
And now, some items I bought all by myself w/o any help from reader of and not of this blog:
The Jacks-SUPER SESSION; ECHOES IN THE RADIO (EMI/Toshiba Japan): There's this guy who put out this rather useless Les Rallizes Denudes bootleg LP taken from easily-obtainable CD-Rs floating around who (back when I would correspond with him before spamming his address offa my computer) told me that the Denudes guy got a little bitta inspiration off these well-publicized Japanese rockers. Not that something like that would exactly make me rush out and buy any Jacks releases, but let's just say that there wasn't anything else to get obsessed about a few weeks back so I sprung for both of these legit EMI reissues that are a tad hard to come by at least in the Occident. SUPER SESSION's not only got a chintzy cover but the music is pretty typical big-time overproduced rock as it could get in areas NOT named the United States or Great Britain. Kinda horn-y, pseudo-Brit Invasion (or is it soul?) and certainly not cojone-grabbing enough to make anyone wonder in awe as they would with...well, with Les Rallizes Denudes. A lotta Japanese rock (of the present as well as past) tends to get that way at times, and it's nothing BAD'r anything, but I guess I was expecting MORE.
As for ECHOES IN THE RADIO, these later-on ('69) recordings taken from radio sessions had me thinking that by this time perhaps the Jacks had fully understood the drive and zeal of the psychedelic movement, and on this extremely short (19:01!) offering we get to hear the group under the strong sway of the New Sounds. The first few tracks are acoustic guitar and vocal accompaniament that kinda remind me of something that would have been heard at a Tokyo Folk Mass in '69 had the Japanese sunk that low, but in this context it does make for a fine diversion. I woudn't want to hear an entire Cee-Dee of this stuff, and fortunately by track three there's bass guitar and drums filling things out. I can see how Les Rallizes Denudes could have pinched a few ideas from the Jacks, though you know that the Denudes guys were strict underground practitioners while the Jacks were even straighter than Kyu Sakamoto! No revelations here, nor are there any epiphanies of anarchic brilliance that I like in my music. Oh well, better luck next time!
Chrome-HALF MACHINE LIP MOVES/ALIEN SOUNDTRACKS (Touch & Go): Here's one that brings me back to those maybe great in a few ways days of ALTERNATIVE MUSIC PROMO GRAVY!!!!! I actually got the vinyl variants of these two classic Chrome discs back when T&G actually sent me packages of their various wares long before the creativity creek dried up to a dribble, and considering I must've had these platters in at least three other forms in my collection let's just say that I was glad I had more to my name, greedy guy that I am. Of course there are slight editing differences between these and the Siren originals, but it's still worth having even an expurgated version on hand if only to hear the great robotic post-krautrockian spizzle of "Zombie Warfare." Plus (as I've said before thanks to Stephen Braitman, who tipped me off via his review in the final issue of BOMP!), this is
a GREAT AMERICAN ROCK ALBUM on par with such other faves as ONE KISS LEADS TO ANOTHER, KINGDOM DAY and BACK IN THE USA as anyone whose read my back-issues schpiel can tell you by memory. ALIEN SOUNDTRACKS sounds more late-seventies El Lay punkish with that Chromian electronic element, perhaps not as feral as HALF MACHINE but a good precursor...anyway, wonder why the intelligent ones at Touch & Go put this one on after HALF MACHINE and not before it anyway? Anyway, I'm glad that Chrome were one of those groups that I was around to enjoy back when they were an alive and functioning outfit even if their later records didn't quite seem to cut the mustard, but why complain about that when there are things out there to really complain about.
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 2:52 PM
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
ONE OF THE HOTTER RELEASES OF THE YEAR AND IT ORIGINALLY CAME OUT IN 1975! GEORGE BRIGMAN'S JUNGLE ROT! (Bona Fide, PO Box 185, Red Lion PA 17350)
It's been a pretty hunky dory year for archival underground releases/reissues/whaddevah, something which suits me fine considering my grumpy attitude towards a good hunkering portion of what passes for underground rock of a modern variety. Back in January I was raving at you about the Chinaboise Cee-Dee on Gulcher, a disque featuring Rich Stim and Dave Mahoney's pre-MX-80 Sound project which presented itself as a weird cross between Firesign Theatre-ish (without the drugs) hip guffaws and the better aspects of 1982 local scene gnu wave (that at least seemed part of the original thrust!) done at a time (1975) when the creature hadn't even been invented yet! (Meaning: Talking Heads, Blondie etc. were still firmly entrenched in smart post-Velvets art moves long before the smarm set in!). A month later I was tearin' your ear off about Norton's collection of Arch Hall Jr.'s single sides, live romps and film trax/dialogue packaged in a nice li'l bundle entitled WILD GUITAR which I'm sure all of you have bought by now. And here in July comes this wondrous slab of high energy mildew that I've been anticipating for quite a long time, and given how impatient I tend to get you know I've been awaiting this one with the same fervent vigor and gut-gnawing angst that I've been awaiting the arrival of my Yoko Ono lovedoll!
I never did get around to getting hold of George Brigman's debut schpiel entitled JUNGLE ROT back when it became one of the hot must-gets of the real-life underground rockist brigades around 1983. My head was in such a daze at the time (don't believe me? Just read some of my then-current writeups that make some of these current posts look coherent!) and besides money wasn't exactly something I had to splooch around like I do now! Frankly, if it weren't for Bill Shute's care packages (parachuted from planes along with white lumpy stuff for me to gobble up like those kidz you used to see on tee-vee alla time!) I probably would have been TOTALLY outta da hipster loop! In fact, there was a tape in one of those very selfsame care packages that had the title track from this 'un front and center, and after hearing that as well as Rick Noll's various releases on his own Bona Fide label (I'd link Bona Fide up if only Noll had a website, so write him the old-fashioned way until he gets it up...the website I mean!), I came to the conclusion that George Brigman was...well, a pretty wild guitarist with a hefty blues influx (not exactly a strong pt. in my book, but Brigman sure didn't sound like your typical bar band Chuck Berry rehasher!) who was such a refreshing switcheroo in the heart of the gnu wave/light metal eighties that you knew he would get ignored! Anyway, if you don't believe me, just read this review of I CAN HEAR THE ANTS DANCING I wrote just a week or so ago, or just scroll down this page a bit if you're that lazy!
Anyway, it's sure great that Noll found it righteous to reissue this classic on Cee-Dee (Karl Ikola at Anopheles pressed up a batch on good ol' vinyl in case you're a latent luddite like me!) because this one certainly is a contender for top reish o' the year. And given that I feel that the proto-punkian sounds that came out prior to the certification of "punk" as a valid rockism form in many ways were much better'n the latterday approved variant, JUNGLE ROT is all the more important in light of what was "to be" a few years down the ol' cliched line. Some may hear a Stooges influence (though Brigman heartedly denied this in an interview with the French fanzine EVERLASTING TRIBUTES way back in 1983) and there is kind of an Iggy growl in Brigman's great monotone rowllff, but them gtrs are straight outta late-sixties British bluezy punkisms a la the Groundhogs (nearest and dearest to Brigman's heart) and maybe even Killing Floor. The garage band primitivism does help (and sounds wonderful thanks to digitalism's ability to take so-called "poor" recordings and exemplify their flat, basic qualities) even to the point where you might even mistake a song like the instrumental "[T.S.]" (after McPhee) for some rare slice of 1966 San Francisco garage psych. And considering the man had not only taught himself but has been playing his guitbox for only a year when this platter was laid down, all I gotta say is that I wish I had Brigman's forsightfullnes and talents when I was teaching myself the instrument wanting so bad to form an early-Velvets feedback-enveloped sound collage back in 1981 when the whole VU trip was starting to flop over into alternative goodie-goodies, but hey, we can't all be as astute as Brigman, eh?
There may be a few low-points here/there but I wouldn't call 'em turdburgers or anything. And even if they don't seem "right" to your pampered ears at first, a few more listens may straighten you out like they did me with the song "Worrying," which originally reminded me of that old Jefferson Starship hit of the seventies that went something like "What you doin' to me with your love"...real post-psych hackdom that helped make punk rock sound all the more better. But a few more listens proved that "Worrying" was a lot more solid (no sic, given this is not only the name of Brigman's own label but a classic Groundhogs side!) and downright wiggle-into-you-like-an-earwig entertaining than anything outta the Starship catalog and I ain't gonna skip over it next or any future spins that I know of. The only track I really don't cozy up to here is the original LP closer "I'm Married Too" which not only features a different lead singer (and a not too good one at that) but standard caucazoid blues with little if anything to differentiate it from about a million other whiteboy attempts o'er the past thirtysome years. Oh well, even my fave LPs have their own clunkers so why should I complain???
Bonus tracks (w/band Hogwash) are fair enough even if a tad bitta mid-seventies post-freeform FM seems to seep in. But on the whole I'd consider JUNGLE ROT one of '05's highlights and a heavy contender for top reish status once I crank out my year end's rundown. I'm still hoping that the competition gets heated up so's making a choice as to which reish/archival dig gets the top award will be a tuffy (who knows, maybe some 1967 Velvet Underground wannabes will see the light of day more sooner than later!), but until then at least I've got JUNGLE ROT to chew on just like my dog Sam's brazen attempts to give himself a sex-change with his bare teeth, and what more can I ask for at least at this point in time!
Next post I hope to write up a buncha recent arrivals of not only promo disques but CD-Rs sent me by a variety of blog readers who want to see what I'd "do" with these offerings pretty much in the same way they'd wanna see what my now-deceased dog would do with my cousin Li'l Vic, who's fortunately still with us. Given that I've been very one-dimensional with regards to listening to music as a whole (meaning, if I don't wanna hear it, I DON'T WANNA HEAR IT!!!!), it's gonna be a task not only sitting through but explaining just how I feel about these things in words that properly convey my strained feelings. Hope you're looking forward to it (I'm not!), and if you're a person that's religiously inclined how about saying a prayer or three (even a novena would help!) or chant something so's I can pull this one off while SURVIVING through the carnage!
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 8:34 PM
Sunday, July 17, 2005
A GUIDE TO THE FILMAGE OF RICHARD MELTZER
A writer and novelist, a former rock critic, a singer and musician, an artist (teenaged participant in Alan Kaprow happenings!), radio personality, raconteur and toastmaster...Richard Meltzer has been all these things and more. And when I say "more" I mean MORE, since if anything Richard Meltzer is "thee" renaissance man for these times, the "new gulcher"'s very own Georgie Jessel if I must say so myself. However, how many of us know of Richard Meltzer the filmmaker??? After all, the man's done more in his sixty years than the entire blogosphere could cook up in a century true, but the mere fact that Richard Meltzer also dabbled in the once-hip world of "underground films" certainly went past the beanies of many a biographer of the man, myself included. That is, until I happened upon a copy of the FILM-MAKERS' COOPERATIVE CATALOGUE NO. 5, a huge hunkoid listing of a variety of avant-garde and/or just plain underground films that you could get directly from famed indie filmmaker Jonas Mekas for some rather stiff for the time rental fees. And amidst the usual array of well-known filmage by well-known underground directors (Kenneth Anger, Stan Brackhage...) and a variety of cinematic studies on onanism (more'n I could count on one hairy-palmed hand) comes what else but a listing of beyond-fractured flickers created by none other than Our Hero, complete with his own descriptive rundowns on what you're in store for if you'd only plunk down the $10-$100 so's you and your friends could watch 'em in the privacy of your clubhouse. But what do you get once you open the package and slap the kodachrome onto your projector?
Well, thankfully Meltzer's descriptive annotations gives you the viewer a taste of what is in store, and if you're brave enough why don't you just start off with his three-and-a-half-hour epic BOGUS BOXING TRASH (Std. 8 mm, B&W/Color. Silent, 16 FPS):
"It's silent, sure, but only until you enter the picture. It's so exciting you'll be doing the yelling yourself. All the thrills and chills of the sport of boxing, legalized human butchery as old as time itself. See one and you'll want them all, but you can sample it piece by piece."
And sample it you can, because the film is also available in seven-count-'em-SEVEN parts, each again w/their nice li'l descriptions provided by the director himself. As for a taste of what's in store, here's Meltzer's own take on PART ONE (Std. 8 mm. 36 min. B&W/Color. Silent 16 FPS):
"All the savage glory of the Olympics, including George Foreman's now famous flag ceremony; two females having at each other (we don't approve of the fairer sex fighting but its here in all its raw torrid brutality); Sandy Saddler vs. Carlos Ortiz in a battle of ex-champs; George Chuvalo's awesome knockout of Dante Cane, all-time mauler Sonny Liston KO'ing Roger Rischer; Bob Foster's crushing KO of Biafran Dick Tiger; man vs. dog (who will win?) and man vs. woman!"
At first reading, the above may seem like a quickie clip-together of various fight reels being passed off as some sort of post-Brackhage/Warhol minimalism, only as you read further and read into Meltzer's prose (a difficult task for acolytes) you kinda get the idea that there may be more written here than what possibly could have ever been captured on kodachrome. The man vs. dog clip surely seems suspicious (I dunno about man vs. woman since these were the days of the libbers who were trying to prove they were equal or even superior to men, so's maybe there was a feminist boxing match put on somewhere done in the spirit of the Billy Jean King/Bobby Riggs tennis match of the mid-seventies!)...I know that such a matchup in the wrestling arena would not have been so surprising since I once saw a card advertised featuring man vs. BEAR, though they had ol' Yogi muzzled so's as long as his claws didn't come out I couldn't see no harm done! However, was this bit of boxing esoterica (as well as the moniker Biafran Dick Tiger) part of the same fevered imagination of Meltzer that had him writing about a spurious three-part episode of GILLIGAN'S ISLAND where Thurston Howell III lectured the castaways about the workings of the lung???
But as you'd guess things do get even fishier as you continue reading the descriptive passages. By PART 4 Std. 8mm 33 min. B&W/Color Silent 16 FPS) we get to see this stellar array:
"Featuring Keenan Wynn, Shelly Winters, Cagney, and Keye Luke. Boxing is lots of punches, film is lots of frames, here's a fragmentation of both you won't wanna miss. If you thought Brackhage was something, you'll laugh up your sleeve at the old gopher when you see this one. There's one patch in full color, it's quick and you'll have to catch it (starring David Roter), and a boxing sequences with Janis Joplin."
As you may guess, things are now getting into the thick of lovable Meltzerian absurdity! As on more than one occasion throughout his career, Meltzer drop-names one of his close friends and confidants (David Roter, a person whom one analyst mused to me didn't even exist despite the wide-ranging accounts of live performances either as a solo or w/band, recorded output and even a letter to me from the man in question!), and as for the Joplin thing, where did they get footage of her engaged in fisticuffs? On the steps of the Fillmore battling Bill Graham???? (Doubt it, because he woulda been billed as well!)
The weirdness continues; PART 5 (Std. 8 mm. 36 min. B&W/Color Silent 16 FPS):
"See boxing robots knock each other's heads off! Also, violent premarital combat in a suburban cage between spouses to be, animals trained to fight other animals to the finish, and a pair of boxers actually taking over the stage at the Cafe Au Go-Go! As an added treat, a girl just out of the hospital (hair ball removed from her uterus) boxes her life away."
And PART 6 (Std. 8mm. 39 min. B&W/Color Silent 16 FPS):
"Slambang action as the one and only Muhammad Ali (Cassius Clay) throws his wits and fists against William Buckley in Ali's first film since REQUIEM FOR A HEAVYWEIGHT. And, for the theatrically inclined, there's James Earl Jones too, in his gutsy portrayal of the late great Jack Johnson, all-time heavyweight great. Your projectionist may be in for a surprise with this one!"
I think more people'n the projectionist will be surprised with these flickers, and I'll forego listing Meltzer's annotation for the final installment of this pugilistic romp because it ain't as whacked out as the others, and probably would ruin any sorta filmic continuity I'm trying to lay down on you. Still, BOGUS BOXING TRASH did garner one interesting remark from a Marcus Thil (who may or may not be yet another Meltzer nom-de-plume), who said it was "a spatio-temporal bonanza, rectangles and rectangles, and clocks and time, motion and stoppage, and life and death." Whew, who needs Tarantino with that???
But if you're still hankering for more of Meltzer's cinematic wonder, there's another film available from the Coop that might have helped quench your dadaist thirst, mainly AGES 9 TO 12 (Std. 8mm. 18 min. B&W/Color Silent 16 fps.):
"That's the reading age, it's a reading film of film credits from moves shown on TV (there hasn't been a movie in 65 yrs which lived up to the credits which preceded it). Such names are featured as George Raft, Joan Bennett, Lew Ayers (in HOLD 'EM NAVY), Anna Magnani (that Italian hot potato), W.C. Fields (in the one with the talking dog), Robert Young, Barbara Stanwyck, Burt Lancaster, Dick Powell and Rhonda Fleming. Bela Lugosi is in there somewhere too."
STILL looking for more Meltzer? Well, this film by Lar Tusb (pseud.) entitled JOE COCKER LIVE (Std. 8mm. 4 min. Silent 16 FPS) may be helpful:
"An exhibition baseball game featuring Joe and Les, the first major singer in the Soft White Underbelly after Jeff Richards and Jack Sprat; Les's sister is one great broad and she's wearing her lipstick in this one."-L.T.
That one's a relative cheapie which could have been rented for a mere four smackers!
By the way, in case you're interested in the whys and wherefores of the above snap of Meltzer (taken by onetime galpal of quite a spell in fact, Roni Hoffman), he is seen here kissing none other than "Betty," Nick Tosches' rubber face named so because of its resemblance to Tosches' first wife who as you'd guess had the same name. Strangely enough, after Betty's face became cracked (we're not talking about the ex-wife here!), her reservoir was filled with ball bearings or nuts or something like that and she was converted into a blackjack for those walks through tough neighborhoods. The above pic comes courtesy of Eddie Flowers at Slippytown, who urges you to go to his sight and buybuyBUY up as many things as you can, including some must-have items you can read about even on this very blog! Do as Eddie says since he needs your money more than you do, and so do I for that matter!
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 12:14 PM
Friday, July 15, 2005
A COUPLA CEE-DEES TO KEEP YOU UNTIL THE ZEITGEIST
George Brigman and Split-I CAN HEAR THE ANTS DANCING (Bona Fide, PO Box 185, Red Lion PA 17356 USA)
Haven't played anything by Brigman in a pretty long time; methinks it may be because of some of those later Bona Fide releases of his that had some of the swivel, but not enough of the swing. This reissue at least proves my theory that, while the sixties generation had a terrible time adapting to the seventies while defining the whole rotten state, the seventies flopped even more miserably (because they should have known better) while laying down the macadam for musical jamz that ended up just as bilious as the crud they were trying to overthrow. Not that Brigman and band had anything to do with this directly...it's just that he reminded me of just how all that promise and energy of the seventies devolved to a point where all it seemed to stand for once 1987 rolled around was Madonna and Poi Dog Pondering!
You may think that the music from this '78 sesh was out of step w/various trends and travails going on at the time, and if you thought so you'd probably be right. For a guy who really doesn't cozy up to "blues rock" (for all the images of white guys wanting to be black putting on all the airs of street tough falling flat on their trust-funded butts) I gotta say this one's chock fulla the better aspects of early-seventies hard blues chug filtered through Amerigan garage consciousness at a time when I'd swear that there were more aggros like this around just waiting to be discovered. The Groundhogs naturally come to mind as do a variety of other late-sixties/early-seventies British rock acts on the prog/trash cusp whom you've probably never heard of so I won't even bother mentioning 'em (or maybe I will...Killing Floor, early UFO, Velvett Fog...). And it has such a barnyard-production sound to it that could only come outta the more ruralfied portions of Pee-YAY, as well as an auguste primitiveness that even qualifies these guys as purveyors of punk, but don't go tellin' 'em that or they'll beat you up!
While I'm at it, howzbout a hearty round of applause for the return of Rick Noll and his Bona Fide records to the living. It was well over a decade ago when Noll surprisingly skeedaddled from not only record production but general communication with the outside world, not only leaving those of us in need of his mail order record business in the lurch so to speak, but leaving me with a huge hole in my bank account thanks to the moolah owed me for hundreds of old BLACK TO COMM back issues I'd been hightailing to him o'er the previous few years. Rumors of a down and dejected Noll filled whatever circles would discuss such things, and personally I had the idea the man was totally zoned out from the world in a haze of something I prefer not to mention here on this blog. Anyway he's back and hopefully there will be more to come from the Bona Fide camp as the years roll by, and hopefully I will be repaid in one form or another since I'm certainly not as rich as some of you "speculators" out there might think! Gee, it's great to be greedy and mercenary...sure beats that altruistic trip all of those other people in blogville aspire to!
VARIOUS ARTISTS-N.Y NO WAVE (Ze)
What this country needs, and has needed for well over twentysome years, is a good no wave anthology. Of course for years we've had the infamous NO NEW YORK album which defined no wave for more'n a few booger-encrusted blobs back during the days when Eno still seemed to mean something to the rockism continuum, but frankly, I must admit that other'n that aforementioned sampler and a number of records on a variety of visionary labels such as Theoretical and Lust/Unlust (not to mention the first Walter Steding album and VON LMO's FUTURE LANGUAGE masterpiece), no wave has not been represented very well on vinyl or on any other medium you'd care to think of for that matter. Let's face it, the majority of groups playing under the no wave banner during the pivotal years 1977-79 never even got their wares released, and by the time the financial/audience stability was there to allow for representative works by no wave acts the first generation had been superseded by a new no wave era that seemed maybe a little too arty, funky and obtuse for me to care. Gone was the vision of the early-Velvets meets da blues in a 1965 garage band clanksprawl. Now it was just as ahty as wearin' berets and eating stale Doritos!
Ze never was my idea of a top-notch no wave company...Lust-Unlust and their various aliases seemed closer to the guttural TR3/Max's Kansas City concept of underground thud (as opposed to Ze's chic Hurrahs/Danceteria fashionplate stylings) and this new CD comp bears my own bigotries out. Oh, I like a good portion of it if not the whole kitten kaboodle, but I woulda preferred a gritty noise-throb as only Lust/Unlust head Charles Ball mighta been able to pull it off with not only the familiar uglies the likes of Dark Day and DNA (even the Love of Life Orchestra? Sick Dick and the Volkswagens???) in tow but a whole hunka previous-unreleased goodies by never-before-heard groupings (everyone from Daily Life, the Gynecologists and Terminal to such one-offs and sidebars as Tone Death and Antenna) thrown in for adequate measure. But we do get enough scronkage to help rile the not-so-wild beast in us all, with choice selections from the likes of the Contortions, Lydia Lunch and Mars we can hear elswhere but sound OK in this glug.
The rarities are what clenched it for me, mainly since I missed out on a lotta the 12-inch singles and other hard-to-find tench the first go 'round due to lack of adequate funding. A big mistake was made in not putting the entire Pill Factory (no wave supergroup) EP here, but then again I finally got to hear the Arto Lindsay "Arto/Neto" single a quarter-century after eyeing it at the Drome as well as those Rosa Yemen things that never did seem to get released. Still, 's better'n nothing (I coulda put together a better no wave crud sampler using rarities in my collection only I am under strict orders never to let this stuff outta my sight!) and if I had any real complaint about the thing it would be the color cover. After all, EVERYBODY knows that no wave music was black and white!
WORST BOOK OF THE YEAR, OR ANY YEAR FOR THAT MATTER: I bought a copy of Francis Davis' LIKE YOUNG really cheap only because of the ebay comeon touting this read as having a chapter on the Velvet Underground's influence on modern jazz (no foolin') which had me saliviatin' from here to Bizoo thinkin' about more hidden Velvets stylings in the avant garde that I surely would have loved to've uncovered. Well, as they say in Fredonia that's my tough turds, since this book is nothing and nothing but some stuck-uppy jazz critic (who kinda looks like the late Gene Siskel, a panty of another waist) giving his leave 'em, don't take 'em impressions on jazz and gulcher written for equally stuck-uppy types who read such higher-than-thou falutin' rags as THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY fercryinoutloud. After expecting something a bit more gunch-inducing w/regards to avant garde jazz, all I got was boring quap on twentieth-century music and a pretty lame putdown of the already lame beyond belief docuwhiteguilt romp JAZZ (where he meekly rails against the cringe-inducing Ken Burns and mini-series svengali Wynton Marsalis, the black Jimmy Olsen because they are "friends") mixed in w/loads of faint piddle passing as praise for various musics I don't think I'll care much abour after eyeballing this travesty (like, why don't the REAL minds and mouths of the day get to write their own books while nth-degree snugglebunnies like Davis are allowed to prattle off all they can bear?).
Absolutist worst parts include this needless chapter occultly tying in Bill Clinton's Monicagate woes and sixties garage band music (complete w/a quote from Patti Smith originally printed in ROLLING STONE comparing the Kenneth Starr investigation to the crucifixion, with the new morality being nailed to the cross this time---a real disgrace since at least John Lennon and Oscar Wilde were able to think up better Jesus/_______ comparisons than this drek!), not to mention perhaps the worst Velvet Underground article ever with Davis trying to somehow hitch his wagon to a Velvets star failing miserably, coming off as if he read a moderne Velvets piece that as usual just chugged the sainted storyline to the hilt and then some and proceeded to whitewash the original thrust even more! (Believe me, this is certainly not the Velvets to avant jazz comparisons/influences screed I was hoping for!). One for the flea markets within at least the next three weeks.
Expect another raveup later on, perhaps Sunday if I can pull a few vital strings.
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 8:18 PM
Sunday, July 10, 2005
AN UNFINISHED INTERVIEW WITH PAUL MAROTTA OF MIRRORS FAME
(By the way, the man pictured on the left is Jamie Klimek, just so you don't get confused...)
This interview was originally scheduled to appear in BLACK TO COMM #24 but was never completed, not only due to Paul's own preoccupation regarding some personal family problems that wife Jill was going through at the time, but mostly because of what I perceived as a back-stab on Paul's part (this having to do with the flippant way the liner notes I wrote for the Mirrors' HANDS IN MY POCKET CD were presented on the group's website) which got me (as usual) steamed to a point where I pretty much cut off all contact with Marotta and group more or less out of sheer anger than pride. In retrospect it does seem a little silly that I would flip out over what maybe wasn't such a glaring faux pas on Marotta or whoever's part, but then again I have my (for what it's worth) image to keep up and I do try to defend myself despite recent defeats at the hands of people I don't feel like mentioning at this point. However, I do have this small portion of what was to be a lot larger interview to present to you discerning readers, some who think I've written about Mirrors over and over again ad infinitum, but even if you too are of the back-stabbing variety (and believe me I should know, come on over and count the holes on my back!) I'm sure you'll find some information or worth and might in here somewhere...
BLOG TO COMM-I think you (or someone else) told me you were a child prodigy.
PAUL MAROTTA-Not likely I would have said such a thing. I never claimed it and deny it emphatically. I'm just a guy that has an ear for music, like millions of others. I took some violin and piano lessons as a kid, and sporadically since then dabbled at a few other instrumental lessions (I took clarinet and flute each for about two months). I'm a self-taught guitar player. I read music, but poorly. If I use the English language analogy, I'd be functionally illiterate. As an adult I went to a few piano teachers, but my lack of reading skills and undisciplined attitude always kept me from nailing down any serious reperatoire. When you hear kids who are prodigies, you know it. They have technical facility that makes your mouth drop and they can read anything put in front of them. So though I'm amused and/or flattered by the question/comment, It just ain't so.
BTC-You sure sound like you could have been one! So were you forced to practice your violin while all the boys were roughing it up outside, or did you get your fill of rock & roll during your formative years as well?
PM-Well childhood wasn't quite as depressing as you make it sound. And I never practiced enough anyway. I used to spend hours going through my mother's piano music learning pop songs from the thirties and forties, and I learned that I could write a song when I was pretty young, which was far more interesting. I won a composing contest when I was in fifth grade. The other entries were all sappy songs written by the school music teacher with the kids singing dopey words. I wrote a two-minute piano piece, forgot all about it and six months later they wheeled the radio into our classroom and I heard my first creation played by somebody else.
BTC-So, what was young Paul listening to during his early composing days?
PM-I was buying top forty 45s starting from pretty early. My first record was Chuck Berry's "Rock & Roll Music" on Chess, so what year was that? I also listened to lots of classical especially late Romantics like Dvorak, Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff, some Mozart or Bach, a lot of popular Broadway like SOUTH PACIFIC, THE KING AND I, and minor shows like THE STUDENT PRINCE. Singers, especially Edith Piaf (my first real love) and Bobby Darin. And because I gre up in a Hungarian household (only my father was Italian and he and my mother got divorced when I was a year old) lots of Czardas and other gypsy fiddlin'. Country and Western was frowned upon in my house, but I really loved the electric guitar. No jazz until I was about eleven or twelve.
My mother was a bit of an audiophile. We had a component mono Fisher preamp and power amp, big blond speaker cabinent with a 15" and a horn. I remember when we had the guy come out to the house to fit the stereo cartridge, and we bought another amplifier and a second big-ass speaker.
BTC-So, were you attempting rock & roll at this stage in your life?
PM-Started out playing in a three-piece, guitar, bass, drums. I had a twelve-string electric and a Vox amp. PA was my old Wollensack tape recorder and one of those extra stereo speakers I told you about. I got a Wurlitzer electric piano and an organ which let us play more songs. At first it was like every other garage band in Cleveland, "Gloria," "Little Black Egg," "Satisfaction," "You Really Got Me," "It's Cold Outside" etc. After I got the keyboards we started to play some Animals, Baskerville Hounds, Outsiders and stuff like that and then as psychedelia came around we got into the Small Faces, Merry-Go-Round, Vanilla Fudge, Doors and that ilk. Didn't srart playuing my originals until about 1968 or so. We played a lot of gigs as either the Upper Half or thye Mourning Sun, or the Acropolis Pear Tree. During the height of the Baby Boom, there were dances at junior highs, YMCA's, high schools, CYO's etc. every Friday and Saturday night. Even the police department had a venue called "The Cell." So you'd need two bands a night at zillions of venues. I made better money during those days than recently. In 1967 and '68 a four-piece band could made $100-$250 a gig for two sets. If you factor in inflation that would be like $1200 a night.
BTC-Wow! What happened to the other guys in the band?
PM-From the first incarnation, the drummer was Bob Wagner whom I never saw again after 1967. The last time I saw the bass player Marc Blaine was at a Jefferson Airplane concert in Akron in 1971. Even though we went to the same high school, I never saw the guys from the second incarnation after 1968. Two of the guys were older and out of school, and the drummer just drifted away. By the fall of 1968 I started a psychedelic folkie phase, doing lots of drugs and doing solo gigs. I met Brian McMahon around then, but we never played together. Mike Weldon at that time was a guitar player for some band. Maybe Brian was in it.
I played with a Dixieland band called the Straws and Stripes. Straw hats and striped vests with bowties. It was pretty silly, but they had some good gigs that payed well for high school kids. I played electric piano and just faked my way through the songbook by reading the guitar chords and vamping along. I didn't last too long but I remember one arguement at rehearsal very vividly. The question was whether one could or should rehearse an improvised solo. How could it be improvised it it was rehearsed? (I still wrestle with that issue. A certain amount of the unexpected has always been a part of a Styrenes show. But if the band isn't prepared, then the audience can end up hearing and seeing some pretty awful music.)
Then for most of '69 I had gotten bigger amplifiers and was playing more electric piano and started jamming with some guys doing rock blues and Brit stuff like Traffic and Cream, Blues Project, Big Brother, Canned Heat, Yardbirds, Mayall. We didn't have a name and we didn't play any shows. Made my first recording in a studio then, strictly blues. "Shake Your Money Maker," "Outside Woman Blues."
I met John Morton in the spring of '69. I was still doing that folkie thing on Saturday nights and we took a lot of drugs and started writing songs right away.
I didn't play any more live gigs until spring of '70 when I did a solo gig in the Flats at a big festival. A guy from Electra got me the gig. I played electric guitar with stacks of amplifiers and sang, sort of like a Marc Bolan thing. I started making tapes then, but except for a few jam type things in bars, I didn't play any more gigs until the Eels shows in Columbus in 1973.
BTC-Tell me more about your solo career. Is this when the TOOL EP came out?
PM-Not much to tell, really, about that era. The only song from the live gig that survived at all was "Mustard" which appears on the Eels disc of THOSE WERE DIFFERENT TIMES. John Morton provided the words. ("When You're Using/Lots of Mustard/In Your Earphones/You Can Feel It.") And yes, that's where the name of my label came from.
I played at home a lot and wrote songs. What would eventually become "One Fanzine Reader Writes" was written during a period in fall '72. I also did a bit of the hippie thing, bought a 1968 VW bus (with a six-volt electrical system, the same one that later on John and Davy didn't like to be seen in) and moved with Jill and Paul Jr. to California for a short spell. Didn't like it so much but mostly because I couldn't find work. We came back to Cle.
The material for the TOOL EP came from the tapes I made during 1970-1972. I didn't have any multi-tracking capability so I would record a track onto a reel to reel deck, then I'd play it back and add another track wihle recording both onto another reel to reel deck, thereby creating the overdub. Though the results were decidedly mixed, both musically and technically, I learned a lot about recording. I kept making tapes like this up until I bought our first 4-track in 1977. The Eels' "You Crummy Fags" was recorded in Columbus using this technique.
BTC-Whose idea was it to release the EP? Did you put up the money for it? Did it get sold anywhere??? I remember you telling me you abandoned a box of them at a bus depot out of frustration.
PM-It just seemed like the right thing to do (the EP). I was real disappointed in the result. I suppose I was fooling myself into thinking the tapes were good. It's amazing what the mind can do. It was quite an earful to hear the finished discs. So I didn't sell them. I threw them around town and learned from the experience. Making the covers was fun. I went to a tool and die company and had a die made to cut and score them. I picked out paper and I silk-screened them in my apartment, laying them everywhere, over wire strung from the walls etc.
BTC-So this was around the time you were piecing together ideas that were to become the Polistyrene Jass Band?
PM-I started using the name Poli Styrene while I was in the Eels in Columbus in 1973. I began thinking of starting a band shortly thereafter. There was so much that was good about the Eels, the excitement of the music, the energy, reveling in being an outsider, knowing how much everyone really hated what we were doing, just the whole sound of the band. But there were also enough negatives to make me want to try something else. I was still making tapes, writing songs and I'd recently played bass for Mirrors at a few gigs in the summer of '73 and I liked playing keyboards. I was getting too cranky to stay in the Eels. But fortunately I relocated to Cleveland and Davy and John came after, and that brought enough change to let me have another dose of Eeldom.
BTC-About how long after TOOL came out did you join up with the guys in Mirrors?
PM-About six months after the TOOL EP I moved to Columbus to play with the Eels. Mike Weldon had come down to hear some practices, mentioned that he was playing in a band called Mirrors with a guitar player who was a mutual friend, Jim Crook. Although I had gone to school with Jamie Klimek's brother Terrence, I didn't know Jamie. Mike suggested that we might all get along. Shortly after the Eels gigs, I sold a couple of PA cabinets to Jamie and the boys. When they came down to Columbus to pick them up we started talking about things. Craig Bell was still in the army and Jamie asked if I could help out by playing a show or two as a bass player. I had a way cool Vox tear-drop bass guitar that needed a workout. And I liked that Mirrors was a real band that actually got along with each other, playing all these songs that were not that familiar to me. I had heard the stuff of course, but in addition to their original material, Pink Floyd, Syd Barrett, later Kinks and Velvets were not the things I had been playing. This was still the time when a band had to play three or four sets a night. So it was quite a challenge to learn all these songs in a short time and keep 'em straight. I needed cheat sheets on my amplifier for awhile!
BTC-So your Eels days precede the Mirrors era. How did you join up with the Eels?
PM-John Morton had told me about his plans to start the Electric Eels in late '72. Davy and Brian were going to be his bandmates. I knew Davy and Brian of course since we had gone to high school together. They moved to Columbus and started practicing. I went down to visit a few times, eventually I made the tape of "You Crummy Fags" with them. Brian left the band after a fight with John and I moved to Columbus and joined. We started auditioning drummers right away using the tape of "You Crummy Fags." We ended up with Danny Foland. John had met Jamie Lyons, formerly of the Music Explosion, who had a bad band called Hard Sauce. He told us we could play with them if we wanted. So we went to get our first (and only Columbus) gigs. The first one was scheduled for September 1973 at Positively 4th Street opening for Hard Sauce, and then another four weeks later at Mr. Brown's Descent with a bunch of no name cover bands. Right before we played, Positively 4th Street changed its name to the Moonshine Co-op, about as stupid a name as you can come by. Despite the lack of encouragement from the audience, we loved playing out as the Eels and after these two gigs we tried to get more but we were unsuccessful. With no more places to play and the mood getting worse in the band, around the end of '73 Danny quit and I stopped coming around. Brian then rejoined. They did the Eels thing for another six months or so in Columbus but didn't play out.
Then I moved back to Cleveland in the summer of '74 to play in Mirrors. John and Davy moved shortly thereafter. Brian stayed. In Cleveland we rehearsed as the Eels without Brian and without a drummer, and put together the Extermination Music Nights.
BTC-I remember you telling me long ago that the Velvet Underground were very popular in Cleveland, but that the Velvets-inspired groups that came in their wake weren't. There were Mirrors, the Eels, Laughner's groups and I'm sure more. What can you tell me about the Velvets sphere in Cleveland during those days?
PM-Just yesterday, in a different context, John Esplen, who owns Overground records, asked me a similar question. I mentioned that we had played with Tin Huey several times. He said "Ugh, they were a dreadful band."
Well, I don't know about dreadful, but one time Tin Huey, Rockets and Mirrors shared a bill at the VIking Saloon and all three bands played "Sweet Jane." So I suppose that's a good example of Velvets inspiration.
Funny thing about the Eels though. Despite listening to their records over and over again,we never tried to play any of their (the Velvet Underground's) songs. I don't recall other bands except those mentioned above doing Velvets-type stuff either.
BTC-I remember you telling me about that group Peter Laughner tried forming with you that was to have used influences as diverse as Mozart and the Velvets, but lasted only one rehearsal (you were using too much pedal on your electric piano I believe). What was that all about?
PM-You got the gist of it. At Morton's insistence, I went to some bar to meet Peter for the first time, must have been around 1974. John thought I should know him because of Peter's supposed wide-ranging musical knowledge. We chatted a bit and agreed that a band that could have the "musical sophistication of Mozart and the power of the Velvets" (his words) would be an awesome thing. Sounded good to me so I went to his home to jam. I brought my guitar. We played a bit but it seemed that he only wanted to play Lou Reed covers, "Wagon Wheel" over and over, and blues licks. He didn't play any of his original material and wasn't interested in any of mine. We only played for an hour or two and the day just devolved into his moronic philosophizing. This is when he told me he thought the piano was an OK instrument but only if you didn't use the pedal. Also he was real uncomfortable being a white kid. He kept talking about the blues and urban influences and how British music was all b.s., and how enlightened he was because he moved to a black neighborhood.
That was it, one wasted afternoon. I never played with Peter again in any context.
BTC-Seems to be a lot of animosity between you, Jamie and Jim Crook and the Plaza crowd.
PM-I used to go over to Scott Krauss' apartment at the Plaza to listen to music, so I can't say that it was the Plaza per se that bothered me. The historic Cleveland East/West animosity probably has more to do with any perceived animosity than a real problem with geography. Any real differences in personalities were just that, personality clashes.
BTC-Cindy Black was telling me about Scott's huge and esoteric record collection, and how people would go over to their apartment to hear him spin everything from classical to heavy metal to garage to the Dead!
PM-The time I describe was before he and Cindy were a thing, but yes, he did have an esoteric collection. I remember listening to a lot of Miles Davis' TRIBUTE TO JACK JOHNSON which in retrospect is very much what Ubu sounded like.
BTC-How'd you meet up with Krauss?
PM-We worked together at Northern Record Service, a rack jobber and one-stop. We were "billers," putting those little round stickers with the price code "C" and "D" on LPs that were to be sold in dime stores and discount stores like Grants and Gold Circle. The job required knowing the catalog prefixes or being able to find in catalogs the list price of LPs, 8-tracks and (a few) cassettes from all the different labels. Most LPs were $5.98 and $6.98 list price. The first live double for $7.98, FRAMPTON COMES ALIVE just came out, I think.
This was a promotion, actually, to filing away defective returned discs and paid $2.50 an hour. The minimum wage at that time was still either $1.65 or $1.90, I can't remember which.
Anyway, I got my first dose of how NOT to win friends among your fellow workers at this place. We worked a regular 45 hour week, which meant at least five hours of overtime. Like all working poor with a young family was, that sometimes was the difference between living and just surviving.
So one day the big boss, Lenny Silver, came down from Buffalo to announce to the entire workforce that there would be cutbacks. Not only no more overtime, but the work would be reduced to 36 hours.
So I piped up, in front of everyone, "Why don't you just lay off a couple of people and have the hours the same for the rest of us?" I was thinking about guys like Nick Knox and a half-dozen other burnout musicians who were a drain on the rest of us.
I knew I wouldn't get laid off, I worked hard. Well, as you can imagine, I instantly became a very unpopular guy. So much so, that a few days later I was transferred out of there over to the distributor branch of the same company called Action Music which had just opened. I became the shipping clerk. I got another raise and began a slow rise through the ranks.
BTC-You were playing with Mirrors before the Eels. Were you a bona-fide member at that point?
PM-I suppose I was. Although I began by playing bass as Craig's replacement, it was fairly apparent that I would stay on after he got out of the service and just move over to keyboards and stuff.
BTC-I just thought that maybe you were a "floater." How'd you get Mirrors booked, and where?
PM-It was pretty simple really. We'd been rehearsing and we were ready to play out. I went to the Clockwork Orange with Mike Weldon one day, and we got the gig. It didn't become a regular weekly thing until a few shows later, maybe after a month or two. The Viking Saloon was also an obvious one for me. I didn't do much more than make a few phone calls necessary to get and confirm dates for shows, and because in those days there weren't more than a few clubs to play, it was easy. Where I wouldn't succeed was in the social aspects that provide the necessary support network for bands., friends, informal gigs, parties etc. Its one of the common threads between Mirrors, Eels and the Styrenes...never part of the "scene." Weldon was by far the most social guy in Mirrors. He had been working in record stores (so had Jim Jones), which has a different vibe than working at wholesalers as did Jamie, Craig and I. I suppose he likes people. It was through Weldon's friendship with Crocus when they worked at the Drome that the Hearthan single came about.
BTC-Was Weldon way into films at the time?
PM-Yes, he was already spending inordinate amounts of time cutting out clippings of B-movies and stuff like that. This was pretty much a constant with him even during high school...we both were class of '70. Most of the clippings he's used for both of the books and the magazine are from his own collection. One time, in summer '74, he and I went to a drive-in (he never owned a car, but I did and yes, it was just the two of us) to see DEATH RACE 2000 with David Carradine.
It must have been around 1977 or '78 that he was responsible for bringing ERASERHEAD to Cleveland for its first showing.
BTC-Would you give me an idea of what the rest of the guys in Mirrors were like? Did you all get along?
PM-Friends? Well, Mike Weldon was always a very amilable guy and got along with just about everybody. Crook didn't much like me but since we'd known each other a number of years before I was in the band there were never any issues that surfaced. Jamie and I, even Craig got along OK. In fact, we must have gotten along since at various times most of us lived together.
BTC-Could you tell us about the jam sessions where Andrew Klimek sat in?
PM-Andrew was only twelve-thirteen years old at the time, and I don't think he was playing anything other than the radio.
BTC-Actually Charlotte Pressler wrote an article on Andrew in THE CLEVELAND EXPRESS saying he used to sit in with Mirrors and play stylophone and echoplex.
PM-I suppose it's a true statement, though I didn't think of it that way at the time. I've thought more about how old (young) we were then. In the summer of '73 I was twenty. Jamie has a younger brother, Terrence, who's my age and then there's Karen who is two years younger, so Andrew must have been 14 or 15, maybe even 16. And it could have only happened when Mirrors was practicing at Jamie's mother's house which stopped in early '74.
BTC-Were you making more of your solo tapes at this time?
PM-Yes, I was making solo tapes during my Mirrors and Eels days. After I got some multi-tracking capability, for some reason it wasn't quite as much fun anymore. Rehearsal of studio techniques was always valuable. Jamie did the same with tapes. On the upcoming ROIR comp, I'm going to include a version of "I Saw You" that is all Jamie, fuzztone vocals included, except for the drums.
BTC-Did you notice any sort of notoriety in Mirrors? It seems hard to imagine an original music band in Cleveland being acknowledged as even existing in the seventies.
PM-There were times when we thought that we were in fact gaining a little ground, but then reality would rear its ugly face and then we knew better. We were discouraged by spring/summer 1975, which partly led to Mirrors' demise. I think Craig knew better, which is why he went and joined Rockets.
BTC-The Polistyrene Jass Band, had that been formulated at this time?
PM-We'd been rehearsing, as Polistyrene Jass Band beginning in January 1975, right after the second extermination night. The first few months were Jamie, Jones, a drummer named Jeff Lewis and me. He (Lewis) was basically a skilled amateur and it was pretty obvious he wasn't into doing a band thing for real. Anton Fier joined in August after we had done a Men from UNCLE thing in our basement, and was ready to play out with us for the WRUW show in September '75 and record "Drano" right after.
BTC-Was their any friction with the other members of Mirrors over the Polistyrene Jass Band?
PM-I don't think so. When PSJB first started, Jamie and Jones were in the band so they wouldn't object and besides, we were so very different from anything Mirrors was doing that Jim Crook and Mike Weldon didn't care.
BTC-When did "Drano In Your Veins"/"Circus HIghlights" get released?
PM-Around the end of November, 1975.
BTC-That's interesting, a new band releasing a single so early in their career. How did it sell? Did it get distribution? I saw one then-current review of it, in a mid-'76 issue of BACK DOOR MAN.
PM-It was pretty funny. I worked for a regional distributor at the time, Action Music (they're still in business). I was all excited when we got them back from the pressing plant. When I played it for the owner and the buyer, they were openly hostile to it. They said things like, it's unprofessional, there's feedback on it, it's too short, blah blah blah. So I sent the record to some other one-stops and to radio stations and stuff. It sold out in about six months. It was a lot easier back then to sell a DIY record. There weren't many others at the time, so the experts and one-stops would take all they could.
BTC-Was the Polistyrene Jass Band playing many gigs before the Pirate's Cove began booking underground rock?
PM-We had played a few, I can't say "many." Then by the summer of 1976 we had started playing at the Looking Glass on the east side. Right after that is when the Pirate's Cove gigs started turning up. There was also the Coach House on the east side over by Case Western Reserve University. It was right around the early part of '77 that Tony FIer insisted we weren't good enough to be playing out (he was probably right) and he refused to play a show I had booked for us at the Cove. So I got rid of him. Danny Foland replaced him.
BTC-Your comments and Jamie's about Fier seem to hint that there's bad blood between the two camps, so to speak.
PM-There's no blood between the camps. It's as if he was never in the band.
BTC-I remember Jane Scott doing an article on "The George Money Band" in THE PLAIN DEALER. How'd that come about?
PM-I had just caller her to tell her about our goings on. We were mixing the second single at Cleveland Recording (which eventually became Suma Recording after moving to Painesville). She sent a PLAIN DEALER photographer to the studio to take our pictures. Jane was always easy to get along with, as long as you would tell her where you went to high school and stuff like that. She would call you every once in awhile to see what's up.
BTC-Anastasia Pantsios and Bruno Bornino were the exact opposite, weren't they?
PM-The name Bruno Bornino escapes me.
BTC-He was the music editor at THE CLEVELAND PRESS. Anyway, folks like Pantsios seemed extremely hostile to bands like yours.
And this, dear reader, is where the interview ends.
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 11:59 PM