Friday, February 16, 2007

SPOTLIGHT ON...FLASH! (1972 fanzine edited by Mark Shipper)

Regular readers of my infamous BLACK TO COMM are no doubt familiar with a running series entitled "Spotlight On..." which has, at least for the past six issues or so, detailed the histories of various classic rock/proto-punk (mainly because they seemed to drool over the existence of the Stooges and Seeds and tried figuring in their sound/style when reviewing musical acts of all sorts in their pages) fanzines which, sad to say, seem to remain all but forgotten here in the digital age. All of the publications reported in this series to date (as well as those mentioned in my general rock fanzine rundown in issue #19) were part of what could in retrospect be called the "Golden Age of Rock Fanzines," a period in time which not surprisingly coincided with rock journalism's/criticism's own Golden Age in the seventies when writers such as Lester Bangs, Richard Meltzer, Nick Tosches and a number of faithful emulators were perhaps as big as the stars themselves, or at least one would get that impression thumbing through a few choice early-seventies issues of such celebrated mainstream rags as CREEM and FUSION where one might be able to see as many pictures of Brian Cullman in its pages as Alice Cooper.

But for all of the "proto-punk" fanzines mentioned so far in this "Spotlight" series, one of the biggest and most influential has been ignored. Not out of malice mind you (it was given its just dues in #19's general rundown) but I just didn't get around to writing anything on it for your own personal knowledge and edjamacation. And since BLACK TO COMM for all intent purposes is in hibernation until I can get enough moolah (and my soiled reputation) back it's not like this history of FLASH magazine is gonna be appearing in print any time soon, so better here in the internet world than ten years later on paper when for all intent purposes the fandom that I have rallied around and cheered on for ages in dead and buried, replaced by a particularly sad spirit of underground musical concerns you can read about on just about every other "rock music" blog extant, but not HERE!!! (thank goodness!).

Anyway, this ambitious project (especially in the ditto days of the early seventies) was the brainchild of one Mark Shipper, a guy who was sending out feelers for people to write to him about their favorite "bargain bin" finds of the day (1972) for a magazine he was putting together that would include such musings and more on past rock wonderment that seemed to have been all but forgotten even five years after the fact. And thus this professionally-printed (offset and worked on at the print shop Shipper was employed at after closing hours) was born, yet another much-needed excursion into rabid rock writing that sure lashed out against the staid "relevant" hippie attitudes that way too many people hadda put up with during those dismal days when people actually preferred drek like Cat Stevens to mad rockers like T. Rex and the Stooges. You may not remember those times, and in fact maybe you weren't even BORN then, but I was and let me tell you that anyone who'd wanna relive those days with all that BILLY JACK and BLESS THE BEASTS AND CHILDREN touchy-feeliness that stands squarely against the mission and aims of rock & roll deserves to have his head caved in. And considering how the late-oh-ohs seem to be turning into the early-seventies on many fronts maybe there are way too many wonks out there who want just that!

And so #1 popped out sometime early 1972, a nice production at that with a
wraparound cover a la the old READER'S DIGEST featuring Keith Richard and Mick Jagger live onstage (the "caption" to the pic reading "Seals and Croft kick out the jams before admiring throngs at L.A.'s Troubadour") and 28 pages of high-energy rock & roll writing within. Shipper himself put FLASH's main reason-for-being to words on the inside cover's manifesto entitled "An Open Letter to the Fantastic Baggys" where he...well, maybe I should just encapsulate for you what exactly he did say either in whole or in part (gee, how I hate editing these things)...

Well, here we are--a littler later and bigger than either of us expected, but nothing ever works out like you think it will. Before I say anything else, I'd like to thank you all for your response and support and thanks especially to those who contributed material. Also I'd like to express my gratitude to CREEM for the plug and to the print shop where I work for allowing me to come in at strange hours during the middle of the night to set copy and do camera work and paste up.

We're calling ourselves FLASH MAGAZINE for a couple of reasons. First, it's a pretty good definition of rock and roll music (and that's all we're about) and secondly, in dedication to the amazing Flash Cadillac and the Continental Kids, a rock and roll band in the truest sense of the term who've been a constant inspiration.

Since the idea for this thing germinated in my mind six months ago, I've decided to make a few alterations in the finished product. We're still basically going to be focusing on obscure albums, but there's no reason why we can't do that and lots more too, so you'll notice in this issue there's a few extended pieces of writing, some rock and roll trivia, some humor, some bad taste, and whatever else you find. Obscure albums remain my main love, however, and will always get first priority as far as publication goes. They also give us a pretty good reason for existence, for as far as I can tell, it's a virtually untouched field and yet their importance in the next few years cannot be underestimated, as we shall see.

Those who claim to know say that this drought we're going through at the present time is to be expected, that it's a part of the pattern of rock and roll to periodically rise and fall. I don't know if rock's been around long enough for anyone to be able to reliably predict such things, but I'm willing to go along with them out of sheer optimism. So, if its true, it means that there just ain't gonna be too much in the way of new music for us to get excited about for at least the next couple of years. Occasionally, in the great ocean of new releases, there are and will continue to be good rock, if only by accident, but if present trends continue, there just won't be nearly enough to satisfy those of us who could barely get our fill even in prosperous times, let alone in the depression. I'm not saying that rock is dead--far from it. Some people will tell you it's better than ever, and they have a point. Over the last five years, every facet of pop music--from musicianship to record quality--has improved ten times over. What I am saying is that it's not fun, and the way I see it, if it's not fun, it's not rock.

At any rate, there's enough good rock in the bargain bins of America to last us all five years; the problem is finding it. As you are well aware of, most of the LP's in the bins are there because they really deserve to be and the beauty of finding a 49-cent gem (and thereby beating the parking lot corporations that currently control the music) is lost if you had to spend $10 for 20 crappy albums to find it.

So that, basically, is the purpose of this magazine; to find the great overlooked stuff (there's so much of it!) and turn each other onto it. Obviously, there's a difference in tastes, but since this mag is limited exclusively to rock and roll (as opposed to a large paper like ROLLING STONE that covers so much more--jazz, country, R & B, and all rock mutations of the same) the spread shouldn't be so wide.

Another way to get around this would be to state up front just exactly what type of rock and roll you happen to be digging. Check Mike Saunders' letter in this issue. You don't have to lay it our in that great a detail (unless you want to) but if you'd name, say, your two or three favorite groups or albums at the moment, it would really help the rest of us to put your reviews in perspective.

For example, if you knew before reading my rantings and raving on the early Raiders in this issue that my current top three albums are BACK IN THE USA, GET YOUR YA YA'S OUT and FUNHOUSE (side one) you might have a better idea of how you'd react to the Raiders.

And don't let my immersion into the depths of reactionary rock influence anything you'd care to submit. I recognize it as a passing phase that I'll be out of in due time (I hope not though--haven't had this much fun for years) and I can dig it all. As long as its got a good beat and ain't too pretentious It qualifies.

I guess I should also mention that we're not gonna take it too much seriously here. To get as political as I ever care to get in the context of this mag, I'd say that rock's a joke* and that the joke's on anyone (performer or audience) who ever takes it for any more than that. To "Change the World," as Graham Nash would say (or "Save the Country," as Laura Nyro would say, or "Stop the War" as Grand Funk would say) is a big job that's going to require a lot of real work, the first prerequisite of which is to turn off the record player. And if it's hypocritical to bitch about pollution if you drive a car, it's just as hypocritical to bitch about the country if you spend your time and money on concerts and albums and anybody who does is a jackoff and should admit it. But since we all are to the same extent, there's no point in feeling guilty about it--that just messes up your rocknroll sensibilities. It's a lot better to be a self-confessed jackoff than it is to be a guilty one; it's the guilty jackoff that makes it possible for people like Chicago to get away with dedicating specially priced double record sets to the revolution, and for Melanie, Steve Stills, Graham Nash, etc., etc., you name it, to thrive and multiply. You can always tell a guilty jackoff--he's the one who expresses his political views vicariously through the music he buys (or you could say "corporations he supports," too, I suppose). So what's the answer? I dunno, but I don't ever expect to find it in as commoditable an item as pop music, that's for sure.

Anyway, the next issue (in a couple of months) will also be free (although your postage stamps are appreciated) and beginning with the one after that, we'll start publishing monthly and cost #4 per year. By that time, we'll be bigger, better, and hopefully worth the money.

In the meantime, I'd like to see your articles, photos, artwork, and especially reviews on your latest finds and opinions on any records here that you've heard or have. And, of course, any comments or suggestions about FLASH. Hopefully the next issue won't be the personal ego blitz that this one was. If you'd like your stuff returned, be sure to send a stamped, self-addressed envelope.

Have a good time.

--Mark Shipper

P.S.-A special thanks to the fab Bunny Baran at the Raiders Hollywood office for her help with the Raiders story and for digging up the old pictures for me.

__________________________________________

*Nick Cohn said that in his book, ROCK FROM THE BEGINNING. (Pocket Books, 95 cents) Read it if you haven't already--it's far and away the best book on rock ever written.


Yeah, I didn't bother editing a SINGLE WORD from that above missive or screed if you will, undoubtedly in lieu of had I printed this thing in my own mag rather'n online I would've copied the thing and pasted it verbatum anyway like I usually do and just stuck in on the side for you to peruse after reading my own piece. But, just like all of those other introductory fanzine issue statement of purposes that I have printed (such as for CRETINOUS CONTENTIONS and CAN'T BUY A THRILL) I gotta admit that the above unexpurgated splurge more or less represents some of the better rock scribbling seen by these eyes o'er the past tensome years, especially shining next to the prattle that often passes for blogprose these sorry days.

So you get it all in FLASH #1...punk rock writing/reviews, cheap-o bargain bin reports, hippydippy peacenlvoe putdowns, reminiscences of recording acts past who weren't that long-gone to begin with, but what exactly do these pages contain you might ask! Well, there's Metal Mike (still just Mike) Saunders with his bargain bin finds and similar observances not only giving us a good roundup of some early-sixties faves (Cascades, Neil Sedaka...) but some recent additions to his collection that he ended up deep-sixing (amongst 'em Autosalvage, John Fred, Amboy Dukes and even Skip Spence's OAR). As far as his "fave esoteric raves" went, they consisted of the Beau Brummels' VOL. 2, Bo Grumpus' BEFORE THE WAR, the first Good Rats and the Bobby Fuller Four's I FOUGHT THE LAW amongst others you'll probably pay beaucoup bucks for VG+ copies on ebay any day now.

Saunders wasn't the only big name rising to submit his faves to this premier issue of FLASH since we can also find entries from one Scott (soon to be Hot) Fischer from Florissant Missouri who lists amongst his faves the first Alice Cooper, the first two Amboy Dukes (contrary to Saunders' opines), Groundhogs' BLUES OBITUARY and a whole passel of Love disques amongst such BLOG TO COMM faves as the Velvet Underground and the Stooges' FUNHOUSE. (Shipper retort:" I must've played side one of FUNHOUSE 75 times by now--it still hasn't lost its power--'rhythmic rush' is right--I guess its hip to like side two, but it's probably hipper to admit it stinks--at least they had the sense to keep the good stuff together--to hear that this band had broken up was the most depressing bit of rock 'n' roll news I've heard in years--the Beatles were already useless by the time they parted, but the Stooges were hitting their stride--how do you sleep, Iggy?")

Of course it ain't like the "no names" who contributed were total slouches since their own mini-reviews seemed to capture the great headsmack of early-seventies musings just as well as the proto-punks on board. Take Michael Dean Smith from Chicago Illinois on Edgar Broughton's WASA WASA..."Cross a British blues group with Captain Beefheart in 1965 with a time warp connecting 1956 to 1971 and this is what I think would happen." Couldn't have said it better myself! Bob Grossweiner definitely earns the esoteric-beyond-control award for this issue, listing amongst his faves everything from Boz Scaggs, Black Oak Arkansas and Little Feat to the Velvet Underground and Fanny as his top pix!

Besides the reader write-ins there are also the articles which I gotta admit seem, at least from a good 35 years later to be the spark for the entire punk revolution that overturned a lotta dross out there a few years later. (Maybe not, but it looks nice saying such overused tripe in articles such as these.) Page four features the inauguration of "The Melanie Awards" (later swiped by guess who in the late-eighties as "The Ron House Awards"!), which were to be given to "that person or group of persons who have done exceptionally meritorious and uncalled-for work in promoting the ideals, values and doctrines of the counterculture," (I should let you know that Shipper had the good sense to slap a registered trademark symbol after the word "counterculture.") Readers were urged to submit their own nominations, the winner to receive a six-inch statue named after the famed ginchy folksinger of early-seventies fame probably best known for singing that dirty song "Brand New Key" which seemed to sneak by the usually astute censors of the day. The award was to be given out during Woodstock Week in August, marking the date for "the first annual FLASH MAGAZINE ROCK AND ROLL SLAM-BANG AFFAIR AND CAT STEVENS BONFIRE CONVENTION, highlights to include awarding a six-foot gold Melanie to the "most qualified of our previous winners."

And sure that bit of on-target satire was just what the Doctor ordered, but there was much more in FLASH to either laugh at or read with total starry-eyed wonder. "Esoterica" contributor Larry Keenan also gave us an article on the infamous Bubble Puppy of "Hot Smoke and Sassafras" fame (heavy metal quotient thusly filled?) plus as expected (if you paying attention to the massive opening schpiel above) an article on Paul Revere and the Raiders entitled "Where the Action Was" which gave us a pretty good rundown on the early hit days (little on the Northwest post-Wailers scream era nor the later-on Nehru jacket times) maybe not quite as good as Russell Desmond's piece in CAN'T BUY A THRILL #2 but tasty nonetheless. Topping this nice lookback to the rock scene of six years ago (though through the eyes of 1972 it must've seemed like a century!) was a fantastic Raiders ad for JUST LIKE US done up in that "relevant" early-seventies Columbia "The Man Can't Bust Our Music" style which is really fitting considering the whole anti-youth kultur attitude and pro-high energy appeal of FLASH.

Also for your approval was a rather Nick Tosches-inspired piece entitled "Bangla Desh Confidential," a missive which begins pretty much as a bad-taste putdown of all of the hipster mewlings (Harrison, Russell, Dylan...) for the denizens of that wartorn Asian nation (similar to Tosches' own "The Heartbeats Never Did Benefits" from an old FUSION) which surprisingly enough sorta morphs into a review of the (I believe) sole album by Columbia group the Illinois Speed Press. Given that everything I've heard about this act had me running in the opposite direction (perhaps the involvement of some future Eagles member is what did it) I gotta admit that I still enjoyed the piece especially for all of the relevance-baiting middle-Eastern mystico mumbojumbo krishna kreepies to be found therein. Sure dredges up the memories...bad ones I must admit.

And I shouldn't forget the first installment of "The Liner Notes Hall of Fame" appeared in this issue featuring none other than defeated presidential candidate Hubert Humphrey's note of gratitude to Tommy James and the Shondells for their campaigning assistance, splattered across the back of their CRIMSON AND CLOVER elpee t' boot. Not exactly something that would endear them to the cooler portion of the record buying populace at large, but a nice gesture anyway!

Page 26 (across from the Paul Revere mock up) featured a come-on for the following issue of FLASH, which was to have had a piece on Sky Saxon and the Seeds, "1969's Greatest (and most maligned) albums: The MC5's BACK IN THE USA and LED ZEPPELIN II" as well as other flotsam, but when a now-normally-dimensioned (8-and-a-half by 11 as opposed to seven-by-ten) issue #2 finally did appear (sometimes later on in that very same year) much of the material promised in that blurb wasn't delivered. However, what was in store for a variety of punks worldwide was pretty advanced stuff (in that aforementioned reactionary way) especially for the comparatively doldrum days of '72 when way too much time was being given to a load of sappy folk singers and boring pop stars at the expense of rock & roll (which was still in high-stock as any reading of ROCK ON would tell you). Anyway, FLASH #2 sported a fine cartoon cover dileneated by a Jim Evans featuring some doob-smoking teens evading the police while Chuck Berry plays on the car radio and plenty of high-energy on the insides, not with any promised Seeds piece or Led Zep for that matter, but an article on the second MC5 long-player (written by the elusive Wayne Davis) did pop up along with a Mike Saunders piece on the Dave Clark Five, Richard Meltzer reviewing the latest J. Geils Band album, and oddest of all a surprise appearance by Rockin' Ronnie Weiser (of ROLLIN' ROCK fanzine fame) on Eddie Cochran plus rock 'n' roll in general (this appearance being totally unexpected since Weiser had made it known clear, at least after this FLASH contribution, that he would NEVER contribute to a magazine that wrote about anything but juicy, greasy, bass-slappin' fifties rockaroll!). And of course there were even more pages of cheap-o bin finds and the usual hippoid putdowns that started with the debut blaster.

The sarcasm starts right at the beginning...in fact it's right there on the inside front cover which sports an spoof ad for an album by the infamous Jim Dippy (a.k.a. Jim Cribb), a purportedly real character who had not only jammed at all night sessions with Sky Saxon but released this "album" entitled SONGS ABOUT YOU (on the Protection label) which allegedly from the looks of it makes James Taylor sound like Iggy Pop (Mike Saunders said that Mr. Dippy was "...even more of what Cat Stevens and James Taylor already are..." though I thought he said that about some other sensitive singer/songwriter whose album he reviewed in PHONOGRAPH RECORD MAGAZINE around the same time!) and with song titles like "Sweet Baby Jesus," "Livin' Off the Land" and "Smokestacks Blowin' (People Chokin')" who could deny that??? Page three's got the table of contents and a snap of Flash Cadillac performing in some high school gym, while the following two pages have an even LONGER opening blab that I dare not reprint lest I pixel myself outta existence!

After you wade through the massive opening segment the fun really begins, with John Denver copping this issue's "Melanie Award" ("...for general grooviness above and beyond the call of duty") and (on the same page!) "The Punk Rock Top Ten" which, along with that do-it-yourself Mad Peck cassette in FUSION helped start off the punk revival that NUGGETS would spread across the planet within a relatively short time. FYI, the following are the records which made it to the top of the slag heap, and your recommendations are still welcome!:

1. "Try It"-The Standells
2. "Pushin' Too Hard"-The Seeds
3. "Talk Talk"-The Music Machine
4. "Psychotic Reaction-Count Five
5. 96 Tears-? and the Mysterians
6. Sometimes Good Guys Don't Wear White-The Standells
7. Double Shot-The Swingin' Medallions
8. Wild Thing-The Troggs
9. Dirty Water-The Standells
10. Gloria-The Shadows of Knight


OK, maybe it is a bit pedestrian, but for 1972 could you do any better???

The major articles themselves are as good as you would have expected during this sainted "Golden Age" including Saunders' Dave Clark Five piece (where he calls them avant garde because they had a sax player and in 1965!), but my fave has to be Davis' MC5 schpiel. The reason this one's a proverbial winner (and top placer in my "best rock articles of all time" list from years back) is because it takes the piss out of a lotta that hideous New Left rigmarole that still seems to be in vogue this far down the beaten path. You know, how these urban snobs kinda look down at suburban peons like you and me because we're so plastic and commercial and like all that so-called hokum culture, or at least we seem to be a few rungs lower on the evolutionary scale next to their terminal hipness I guess. Well, Davis proves to us that the MC5 and suburban slobs STAND TOGETHER and who are the real idiots anyway, the dyed-in-the-red-wool leftists who give lip service to the working guy while cursing him out every chance he gets, or the guys who grew up on old tee-vee shows, great comic strips and MC5 albums who never did fall for that new left hype nohow. But I'll let Davis explain it for you BLOG TO COMM-hating intellectuals anyway:

After three or four hundred plays, one no longer hears (BACK IN THE USA) as merely a brilliantly executed rock and roll extravaganza; it becomes more, somehow. Sort of like the Band's second album, it's a portrait of America, but not the civil-war America that the Band dealt with which nobody alive today can relate to refute, but 1969-70 America, the one everybody lives in. And instead of another "America Eats It" album, this one's a rock and roll celebration of everything that's made us great. It's about McDonalds and jukeboxes, and fast cars, and highschool, and teenage lust, and basically HAVING FUN. You know, all the things that so many intellectuals have been trying to tell you was WRONG with America, that it has no culture, no depth, no tradition, no class. You know, the same type of people who don't dig the Seeds. Well fuck them, Jack, this may be the hamburger culture, but its the only thing we've ever known so those of us who dig it should tell these assholes to beat it--to go read a book or something for crissakes, to just LEAVE US ALONE. We wanna have some fun!


Ok, put a slab of cheese on my burger because I'm all for the cheeseburger culture myself! And all of those decadent slobs like the one in Philadelphia Pee-YOU can go take a flying leap because my cheeseburger culture is a heckkuva lot better than your decadent porno one, and that's the fax, Lax!

You can tell that it's this sorta purebred energy writing that stirs my juices up, and there's plenty more where that came from! FLASH #2, besides containing TWO editions of "The Liner Notes Hall of Fame" (The Challengers and Red Crayola) has all of those great bargain bin writeups that filled up the first edition, and with some additional surprises as well. Ralph Gleason (as "Ralph Kramden") gets his just desserts with a piss-take on his "Perspectives" column from the pre-glitz ROLLING STONE. And in the "Esoterica" section Gene Sculatti (famed CATALOG OF COOL rocksribe also of Vom notoriety) clocks in with reviews of the McCoys and second Left Banke album amongst others, bigwig Ed Ward digs up a variety of late-sixties/early-seventies records both on-target and off the boards, Greg Shaw lists a whole slew of garage bands faves that must've seemed like totally obscure rarities at the time, and besides Scott Fischer and Mike Saunders noted teenage whiz Eddie Flowers adds a few faves including Southern heroes (yet at the time unknown north of Mason/Dixon) Wet Willie (his roots showing, natch!). Strangely enough, "Esoterica" ends with a note from some lass who actually took offense at a joke in the "Bangla Desh Confidential" article which mentions the Raiders' "Hungry" as being the number one song in that starved-out nation!

Needless to say, this was a super-fine issue of FLASH, a definite fanzine hall of fame winner which seems to predate DENIM DELINQUENT by a whole year and BACK DOOR MAN by a good three as far as looks, layout and snotty punk attitude goes! And dig that subscription come-on pic on the inside back cover showing some gal reading #1 while eating a banana in a room fulla record covers mounted on the wall (Elvis, Badfinger, Raiders, Standells, Beatles, Stooges, Seeds, Love, LOADED, LED ZEPPELIN II...)

And although a third issue was promised containing a "Surf Music Special" ("What happens when a reasonably normal human locks himself in a room for seven days with nothing but a record player and a stack of albums by the Challengers, Chantays, Renegaids, Del-Tones, Surfaris, etc? I don't know either, but I'm gonna do it, and you can read my intimate diary of this experience right here next time.") an interview with Jim Dippy (!) as well as the first installment of Mike Saunders' heavy metal column, alas it was not to be. Dunno the specifics of why FLASH went under, but considering the extremely fragile lifespans of the early proto-punk fanzines (especially one of this fine caliber) what would anyone expect? The cover to #3 did get reprinted in COWABUNGA #7 a few years later looking pretty much in the fashion of #2 with the same basic graphics and a whacked-out surf theme also courtesy Jim Evans, but that was it for this nice try at fandom...pffft dead and gone, though thankfully the inspiration lasted in the fanzine world long enough so that a number of spirited reads obviously influenced by FLASH were bound to spring up.

As for Shipper, after his FLASH experiences he ended up discovering a band who were actually doing Sonics covers in the dark reaches of the mid-seventies called the Droogs, eventually managing them and releasing a whole series of their singles and 12-inchers on his own Plug 'n' Socket, one of the first of the seventies independent homespun punk labels. And thanks to his FLASH stint he actually got a column entitled "Pipeline" in the pages of the United Artists-backed/Greg Shaw edited PHONOGRAPH RECORD MAGAZINE where he continued to drop some fine plop regarding what he considered the hot and dire during those seventies days. (Shipper being etapoint at times with his high-larious takedowns of the likes of Paul McCartney's "My Love" ["Prediction: Johnny Mathis will sing this song on THE TONIGHT SHOW within six weeks."] yet off-target at others, such as with his dismissal of the New York Dolls ["Their album does sound good in places, but they're not the kind of places you'd like to hang out"]). And speaking of the Sonics, Shipper oddly enough acquired the rights to the Etiquette albums and released a collection of the best of both (using the cover of BOOM!) called EXPLOSIVES complete with a booklet telling the story of the group where it mentioned things like Gerry Roslie refusing to go onstage at times and other probably heretofore unknown items along those lines. And although Billy and Miriam did a great job with their own Sonics reissues I wouldn't mind seeing the notes of this 'un to see if anything was left out... And, in a strange case of outright conflict of interest, Shipper actually reviewed this disc in PRM which I must admit seems a little too incestuous even for me!

Shipper also got together once again with buddy Saunders to put out an entirely new fanzine entitled BRAIN DAMAGE. Not to be confused with the long-running Pink Floyd fanzine of the same name, this BRAIN DAMAGE was a rag devoted to poking fun at the rock writers of the day including Ken Barnes, Lester Bangs (a high-larious fake ROLLING STONE interview utilizing actual Bangs review ejaculations to good use!), Greg Shaw (an enlightening take off of his old CREEM "Juke Box Jury" column dated five years in the future [1978] which was accurate on some points and totally off the wall on others that I actually reprinted in #24 of my own rag!), Ron Weiser, Wayne Davis on Lou Reed and loads more. A total hum-dinger of a fanzine that showed promise...and although this was originally a one-off it seems as if a second issue was planned though for some odd reason Shipper pulled out of the project, and just about his entire past life, leaving Saunders and the rest (Gene Sculatti) in the lurch so to speak. In fact, Saunders had sent out with some copies of BRAIN DAMAGE a letter printed on STAR TREK stationary a note explaining to the best of his abilities the sudden uprooting of Shipper and how the guy was his "brother" no more! (Note, some of this is "heresay" and parts were relayed to me by people close to the source, if anyone involved wants to add their two centavos they know what to do.)

And even after all the successes and backfires you could easily have seen just how FLASH was inspirational, setting the stage not only for the likes of CRETINOUS CONTENTIONS, DENIM DELINQUENT and BACK DOOR MAN in the 1973-1975 era but Charles Lamey's excellent RECORD RAVES (another two-issue wonder) during the punk-active year of '77 as well as the infamous KICKS and, oh yeah, that snotty little wipe known as BLACK TO COMM even. Todd Abramson of YOUNG FAST AND SCIENTIFIC and BREAKTHROUGH fame even said that if he had never picked up a copy of FLASH you might not have seen any of his fanzines at all! Of course, the anarchic humor, fantastic anti-PC ranting and typically-teenage cooler-than-thou attitude of FLASH would be totally verboten in today's liberal clampdown atmosphere which we all have to stifle in, but as they say what else is old??? But that is to be expected. Especially after reading some of the sordid mewlings passing as honest rock "criticism" these days, after which eyeballing an issue of FLASH is like taking a nice big whiff of pure clean air after being gagged by exhaust fumes all day. And I wouldn't expect you to understand, you with your tiresome intellectual posturings and record collecting mentalities and general "above-it-all" radical chic elitism, but the high energy rants and raves that these FLASHes radiate just make me wanna put out the next issue of my own beloved rag a lot sooner than expected, and with a mad rage that makes me wanna stand amidst the stale hipster fashion and calculated fandom seen these days screaming at the top of my lungs ENOUGH!!!!!, and maybe for once someone out there, for the sake of humanity, will listen. Yeah, that may sound corny to you, but not to me. Listening to a great record or reading a great piece of rockism-inspired criticism will make me do that, and if it doesn't do that to you I can recommend a whole slew of stale bloggage to sate your tiresome thirst. Understand?

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Looking forward to receiving the Steve Hall/Afflicted Man dbl CD. Orderred it this morning. From a personal point of view, it'll be one of the most gratefully received re-issues this decade.

Christopher said...

Way ahead of you anon (just got the bastard today), and although I should've excised your comment for not sticking to the subject matter I'll let your Afflicted Man comments slide by for once. Although the package is pretty much a lie (none of the Accursed material [post-Afflicted Man] is here as would be expected a "complete recordings" anthology) it does look like a true winner. Expect a writeup (and I do mean writeup!) this weekend!

Christopher said...

Readers, here's a letter I received via email that I thought you might want to read. Reprinted courtesy the author, who deserves plenty of thanks for writing the thing inna first place!

Dear Chris

Ira Robbins sent me the piece you did on Flash Magazine. Fucking blew me away is all it did (I don’t even have a copy!)

I sent it around to the friends who helped me on it back then, we’re all equally flabbergasted.

Really touched and honored that you enjoyed it so much. And, since I haven’t seen it in at least 15 years, it brought back a lot of memories, right down to the Jim Evans cover (I didn’t know him, I saw a comic he did in a surfing magazine, loved his style, wrote him a letter and offered him $25. It was all I could afford, I figured, what the hell, I’ll take a shot). Maybe 6 weeks later, after I’d forgotten I’d even sent it, this giant piece of artwork shows up in the mail.

Good things came to him, once I met a few people that could do something for him, he ended up getting a lot of album covers and PRM art.

It amazes me that you know so much about my past (the Sonics album, for example – you know, I was in a Mom & Pop hardware store, and there were a bunch of business cards under the glass where the cash register was. One of them was for landscaping (or gardening, something like that). And the name at the bottom was “Kent Morrill”. So I figured: how many Kent Morrills can there be? Maybe it’s the guy from the Wailers, and he was connected to Etiquette Records. So I called the number on the card. Damn, it was him. My wife (at the time, that’s her eating the banana in Flash) went over, I offered him $1 for every album we sold (for $5). He fucking trusted me, so I would never rip him off. He got a nice check every month. That thing just sold and sold and sold.

People still say the sound is better than the re-issues. I borrowed the original albums from Greg Shaw (RIP) and was living with Ron Weiser at the time. I just recorded them on his reel-to-reel, tried to get them as loud as possible without distorting, then took the master down to this place where Ron got his rockabilly records pressed.

It was easy enough to find Larry Parypa in the phone book (Tacoma or someplace). He was amazed that anyone wanted to talk to him. I was amazed that nobody hadn’t.

But my point is, if anybody from those days knows me, it’s usually from my book Paperback Writer, which I don’t believe you mentioned. On the off-chance that you don’t have a copy, I’d be more than happy to send you one. The fucking publisher went out of business, so the book is out of print. This is true: there are 600 books about the Beatles, and you can’t buy mine, except at out-of-print stores. If you punch it into Amazon.com, you’ll see what people are paying for it, and there’s a lot of “you ought to publish this again”. I don’t know, maybe I will someday. Right now I’m a little too busy, plus I did it then to get known, now I prefer to not be known.

But I’ve got a few copies around here, you’re more than welcome to one (don’t have any of the old Pipelines, don’t have the Sonics album).

It was so great, and I had such a good time reading your piece, I can’t thank you enough.

All the best

Mark Shipper

Christopher said...

Typegraphical error...that should read (five paragraphs down)..."Me and my wife went over..."

Jymn Parrett said...

So fine to see a piece about Flash, one of the great, if not the greatest zines of all time. A great influence on denim delinquent, to be sure.