Sunday, April 08, 2007

The 13th Floor Elevators-EASTER EVERYWHERE CD (Spalax France)

I told you that I'd probably post another biggun today, and thanks to providence (and the fact that I've just downed my rather scrumptious Easter meal and have nothing else to do for the rest of the day) here's a li'l somethin' I thought I'd toss your eager beaver way in order to show you that I'm a blogger pure and simple who works above and beyond the call of duty to deliver my high-energy opines no matter what day or time it may be, just because I'm that kind of benevolent schmuck who lives for the pure sake of rockism. And frankly, don't you think the world can use a bit more of people like yours truly rather'n alla those cold and uncaring rock critics one sees these days who seem more or less wrapped up in themselves when they should be wrapped up in me???

And what better way to celebrate the Easter Season than with a review of EASTER EVERYWHERE, the second and best el-pee released by those purveyors of Better Living Through Chemistry themselves the 13th Floor Elevators! Here is an album that totally overtook my entire reason for punk being when I first saw a copy of it (wouldja believe at the old Hideo's Discodrome in Cleveland, the Radar reissue then going for a whopping-at-the-time $12.99?) during the punk-active summer of '79...a platter which no-bout-a-doubt-it won me over with one look not only because of that great cover which seemed more punk rock than psychedelic even (especially?) during those particularly high-energy days but because it seemed way more contempo than most of the underground product being pushed at the time! And in a scene which was creating hot flash from all sorts of directions EASTER EVERYWHERE looked more or less like something that would've suited me fine as I lived and breathed in the late-seventies/early-eighties post-Pere Ubu/New York scene than just about anything else to come outta the late-sixties! It seemed to have all the bared-wire intensity of the early-Velvet Underground, the sass of the Stooges and the suburban sprawl of the Seeds and, come to think of it, it's sure funny just how astute this budding rock fan (not "critic") was back then because even this far down the line EASTER EVERYWHERE holds a place in my sainted collection next to the first two Patti Smith offerings, Television and the entire late-seventies Amerigan garage band pantheon come to think of it! Well, it sure fits snugly into my seventies cold wave collection more than it does next to anything in the "psychedelic" range where the likes of the Elevators always seemed to get lumped in due to a few appearances at the Avalon Ballroom amongst other "psychedelic dungeons" the at-times equally dungeon-like Frank Zappa mentioned on "Who Needs the Peace Corps?" oh so long ago.

Even though I should "know better," I'm more or less apt to lump EASTER EVERYWHERE not only in with a whole line of late-seventies punk rock/cold wave offerings from Television to Pere Ubu (at least the debut) but with a whole slew of late-seventes English "post-punk" (ewwww!) releases of the same parity at the time, even though none of these items will never measure up to the broad splash of energy that the Elevators dish out on this '67 romp. (But hey, if I can make a clear connection between the Elevators and Swell Maps so should you!) And if the cover with the finger-y sun on the front and the phonus-balonus Eastern Mysticism on the back cover snaps of the band fails to hide the fact that the longhaired kids who recorded this thing were totally on par with all those other wild rednecks of Southern Rock fame (Black Oak Arkansas, Red Crayola, Debris, Hampton Grease Band...), then the music found within those grooves most certainly will.

And what music! Believe me, it should be more than obvious to all you readers this late in the game that EASTER EVERYWHERE has about as much to do with "psychedelic" rock (discounting Lenny Kaye's NUGGETS revision) and San Francisco as the Stooges had to do with the Moody Blues. Oh yeah, you can compare the playing here/there to what was going down in the clubs and ballrooms of SF and guitarist Stacy Sutherland's "Nobody To Love" was certainly an "answer" to the Jefferson Airplane's mega-hit, but that's about where the similarities end unless you wanna consider a few of the Bay Area acts that were still firmly ensconced in garage band aesthetics just like the Elevators were. And yeah, Roky and Co. were more or less still in a 1965 mindset and transplanted into the boho scene merely by accident if anything (never mind the stories about Tommy Hall and his experiments in cactus ingestion during the early-sixties...mind-altering experiences do not necessarily a hippie make), but if anything EASTER EVERYWHERE proved that even the most rural backroads kid of the day like Roky Erickson could transcend the usual pratfalls, cliches and gimmicks that have plagued hippiedom USA for a good many years and from innovation to hack as well!

And yeah, this record really doesn't have anything to do with Easter Proper (unless you wanna talk about the strict prod upbringings of various members of the band that were more or less "rearranged" by psychotropic drugs and the onset of libidinous impulses) but it sure speaks reams as far as what punk rock (at least inna US of Whoa) has meant for a pretty good stretch of time! Or at least until the "Do It Yourself" ethos sorta traipsed into "Shut Up Already!" with a million lesser minds putting their neuroses onto vinyl at a faster rate than Joni Mitchell would dare dream. EASTER EVERYWHERE is total teenager-at-his-noblest energy transposed onto a forty-minute disque that despite whatever "dated" (and really, not much) elements may be found says about as much about The New Rock of the day as Moby Grape and Love in California not forgetting our dear sainted Velvets or the then-budding Detroit Scene as just about any newcomer on the boards. And by "New Rock" I don't mean the sterile and atrophied music that Zappa told the lumpen LIFE readership about ("The Oracle Has It All Psyched-Out" indeed!) but a music, style and inner belief that was only beginning to manifest itself and would come to manic full fruition a distant ten years later. And frankly you didn't need to stare at that cube of sugar to get the full meaning. Just being a teenager with a guitar, ears wide open and a brain functioning on full-throttle would suffice.

Given that their three other International Artists albums were more or less demos slapped together into barely-coherent product EASTER EVERYWHERE remains the Elevators at their uncontested best. And like I said, for maximum effect don't spin next to the comparatively leaden (yet still worthwhile for occasional enlightenment) San Francisco psychedelic romps but mix in with HORSES, MARQUEE MOON and THE MODERN DANCE for proper full impact.

HYPERION. volume 4 numbers 1, 2 and 3 (fanzines published by Mark Jenkins, Fall and Winter 1972 and Spring 1973 respectively)

Readers of my "Fanzine Esoterica" article in BLACK TO COMM #24 will probably remember a few paragraphs devoted to an issue of HYPE. One of the better efforts to come out of the GOLDEN AGE OF ROCK WRITING/FANZINES during the early/mid-seventies, the fact that HYPE was such an exemplary read during those rather excell-o times was certainly no mean feat in a scene which included such top dogs as BACK DOOR MAN, DENIM DELINQUENT and SHAKIN' STREET GAZETTE. HYPE, originating from the staid confines of Maryland/Washington DC of all places was first brought to my attention via CREEM magazine's "Rockarama" column courtesy of none other than Lester Bangs, who made the 'zine out to be perhaps the best 'un on the boards at the time, and one that would actually publish rejected Bangs pieces that even CREEM felt too "scabrous" for their comparatively meek pages! Sounding like just "thee" kinda fanzine that would certainly "resensify" this at-times comatose scribe, I began searching through all of the available outlets at my disposal for a copy of HYPE only to find the very same issue Bangs was talking about (their last?) years later thanks to the miracle of modern ebay bidding! As you could guess the acquisition of this particular gem became the highlight of a fanzine searching season that had yielded such past wonders as TEENAGE NEWS not forgetting that long-ignored madzine CRETINOUS CONTENTIONS, two rags which in part wipe away every shard of lame eighties-on home-produced hippie punk mewlings that unfortunately live on even to this day long after we all should've known better.

True HYPE was printed on easy-to-yellow newsprint (making one fear to look into the thing other'n on mere occasions lest the mag crumble to dust) but otherwise it was pretty much what a true rockism maniac would be looking for not only in rock & roll reading matter but in pure punk gumption as well. What made HYPE such a lovable magazines, besides the fact they had an editor (Mark Jenkins) who knew his beans and capable staff writers (such as Paul McArthur, a rather exceptional and underrated scribe), was the fact that the fanzine mafia of the day (Eddie Flowers, Mike Saunders...) was in full force within their pages and because of the fine contributors and on-target drive and direction of the thing HYPE certainly made for a great settle-back Golden Age of Rock Fanzines/Criticism read that rivaled CREEM and PHONOGRAPH RECORD MAGAZINE for snot-nosed defiance in the face of the entire ROLLING STONE trip which punks definitely despised at the time, before learning to tolerate it sometime in the eighties only to accept and embrace what they once loathed (which reminds me of an old Alexander Pope poem which I must admit seems to speak about the current state of cultural and civilization-related affairs more than anything written since).

Anyway, HYPE obviously wasn't a huge hit on the fanzine market and like I said I believe the issue I got hold of was the last, but that didn't stop me from wanting to eyeball any and all of the others that made their way into the reading rooms of many a Punk Scientist. And yeah I know good things come to those who wait, but sometimes it's pretty hard waiting all these years before some classic fanzine of yore finally does makes its way to your mailbox. But when that day comes boy you can bet I will be immersed in deep fanzine reading not unlike my old dog Sam chomping on a smoky leather stick 'til its total destruction, and thankfully such a day was just yesterday afternoon when I received three copies of HYPERION (the original pre-rechanneled moniker for HYPE) for my very own!

Considering how last weekend my pimple-encrusted nose was stuck way deep in a copy of TALES TO ASTONISH you could say that I have been happier than Richard Chamberlain at a Boy Scout Jamboree over the arrival of these rarities. And rare/obscure these 'zines are, for other'n a brief review in an early issue of WHO PUT THE BOMP I haven't seen hide nor hair mentioned about HYPERION anywhere which is a total shame considering just how important this mag really was as far as the development of the rock fanzine from humble beginnings to punk rah-rah booster par-excellence went, at least when the laid-back early-seventies bulldozed their way into the high-energy latter portion of that best/worst of times decade.

The guy who sold me these HYPERIONs (name withheld in order to avoid jinxing any future prospective fanzine purchases) told me that these rags had a sci-fi fanzine feel to 'em, and in fact judging from the comparatively generic pen-and-ink covers and the rather graphic-free contents one might be fooled into thinking that HYPERION in fact began life as a Sci-Fi/comic book-cum-poetry read only to switch over to rock & roll the same way VARULVEN evolved from a horror mag to rock slowly but surely as well. It does have that SF look, though maybe the best way to describe these earlier HYPERIONs is to use that now-obsolete term "genzine"...a fanzine with a wide array of subject matter not limited to just rock music, though that certainly does get the majority of the space in these three rather engrossing reads.

Nice quality too...sorta like the early BACK DOOR MANs and issues 4-6 of DENIM DELINQUENT with fine-quality paper and mostly pristine printing and a saddle-stapled spine to boot. Otherwise you know HYPERION is pure fanzine from the use of the local university library typewriter (complete with uneven type and of course the capital letter which at times jets right up almost into the previous line) to the picture-free layouts and hand-printed article titles courtesy some art major at the St. John's College in Alexandria Virginia where this magazine was originating from during the '72/'73 season. In some ways HYPERION, at least as it stood during these earlier days, reminds me of the earlier professionally-printed issues of my own fanzine wonder (talking issues 10-16) only without the array of graphics and of course a much better attitude, more mature writing and an overall more intellectual (in the proper perspective) approach making editor Jenkins perhaps yet another true punk-intellectual in the same vein as Russell Desmond, Tim Ellison and maybe even Bill Shute.

Volume IV number one (Fall '72) sports a rather primitive cover that looks like something Von Lmo might have drawn at age twelve (with a weird-looking robot, a monster and a dwarf standing around in front of what looks like a pagan sarcophagus complete with dolphin and pentagram which maybe could fool some readers into thinking this a Sci-Fi/poetry 'zine) but I'm sure that didn't matter to most people espying it because this mag was FREE just like all of the other early HYPERIONs not to mention CRETINOUS CONTENTIONS, FLASH and other mags that were able to exist on the generous donations of a quarter or fifty cents for back issues (no ads in these rags as if anyone'd wanna buy space!). Open up the thing 'n maybe you too might doubt that HYPERION is a rock fanzine considering the lack of pix, a short story and especially the political editorial that starts off the mag on the inside front cover which sets HYPERION apart from the competition of the day at hand. Said editorial's an endorsement of none other than prez Richard Nixon for re-election over Democratic opponent George McGovern, a reluctant endorsement but one that would lead a neophyte like me to believe that HYPERION might have begun life as the token conservative magazine on campus before heading out into rock territory in an attempt to gain a larger readership. It's a pretty good, maybe even convincing piece which actually begins with a quote from none other'n "the conscious of the twentieth century" Freidrich Nietzsche (a fellow who seems to be more or less quoted or mentioned in just about EVERY HYPE(RION) in my possession!) leading into a rather apt putdown of McGovern for being a moralist (which, according to Jenkins in the following issue, is not "a person who takes things from other people," but one who does so "and then tries to justify it in terms of morality or ethics")! What got Jenkins all discombobulated about McGovern was not Vietnam or a variety of societal ills that seemed to yank at the teenage consciousness of the day but McGovern's promise to raise the inheritance tax. When Jenkins asked a McGovern volunteer "what right the federal government had to take money, via the inheritance tax that someone has clearly indicated he wants passed on to his descendants," the staffer responded that "one person has no right to be richer than others simply because his family is rich" which, as you would guess, certainly gave Jenkins cause for a major stroke! It seems as if Jenkins much preferred (well, maybe not that much) Nixon despite his "pragmatism" as opposed to McGovern's "moralism" and thirtysome years down the line I can see Jenkins' point clearer and clearer despite the fact that Nixon was merely continuing on the same feely-good paths to hand-in-hand utopianism as the previous five or so presidents which certainly makes him no great shakes (I do think that he and veep Spiro Agnew certainly had the "style," and we could certainly use Agnew's sharp wit in today's political scene as well!). I guess it might have seemed like choosing between the gas chamber and firing squad to Jenkins but sheesh, what else was a fellow to do other'n vote for John Schmitt???

There are twenty (counting the cover) pages in this ish, and amongst the various writeups which are all worth reading there are some pretty on-target schpiels, like Jenkins on television shows such as THE PRISONER and THE NEWLYWED GAME (a hilarious "pro" piece from a guy who used to hate the thing!) as well as "The Survivors of the Velvet Underground" (reviews of the Max's Kansas City album, the first solo Lou Reed disc, John Cale's ACADEMY IN PERIL not forgetting Bowie's THE RISE AND FALL OF ZIGGY STARDUST AND THE SPIDERS FROM MARS [and, as Jenkins clearly points out in his review true, Bowie was never a Velvet but he sure owes his existence and success to them just like most of the bright stars of the seventies rock scene did...and even by '72 Jenkins could see that the Velvets were to seventies rock what the Beatles were to the sixties and for that he should get extra brownie points for such futuristic vision]). Book reviews are on-target as well, including a prophetic writeup of FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS by Hunter S. Thompson ("The best thing that Hunter S. Thompson can do for those who still believe in the system and see it the only chance for advancement is to go back out to the Las Vegas wastelands. This time he shouldn't bother the armadillos with his .375 Magnum, but should blow his brains out with nothing less than a .44"!!!!!!) as well as a surprise for what purports to be a high energy rock fanzine, a review of none other than that famous early-seventies weeper JONATHAN LIVINGSTON SEAGULL! Now, a book such as that would've had me just dismissing it with a few curt lines but Jenkins is too class to let that hippiespeak off so lightly...naw, he actually writes about what it is that makes SEAGULL such a disgusting slab of 1972 feely-good humanism worthy of the trash (his out as to why he possessed the thing in the first place was that it was a "gift" perhaps on the same aesthetic scale as a bottle of Hai Karate or Charlie Brown bubble bath). Though frankly, I wonder if Jenkin's mention of the "Christ Bird" motif in literature (a referral to the main character, a gull who gets ostracized from the pack for coming up with new and unique philosophical ideals in the eternal quest for bird-dom) is in fact a truism or just another way of puncturing holes in this slice of post-hippie niceties. One may never know!

The next one (Winter) has yet another convoluted fanzine pen-and ink cover which reminds me of Roger Waters' cover art for the European version of Pink Floyd's RELICS, remained a freebie even with a boost to 32 pages and surprise surprise begins with a rebuttal of the previous issue's anti-McGovern writeup courtesy a Jack Van Valkenburgh who feared that the "anarchism" of Jenkins et. al. would "doom" the poor, the environment and the "overcrowded" (this "reply" eliciting a rebuttal in itself, this time from Jenkins for Van Valkenburgh's "misunderstanding" of the term "moralism" which I described earlier, amongst other things). Also in the opening schpiel was a commentary regarding a former HYPERION staffer named Bryce Tuller who at the time this editorial was written was holed up in a Cuban jail waiting extradition to the US to stand trial for "attempted bank robbery, murder and skyjacking." (Also awaiting trial were others who were at least peripherally involved with HYPERION during their earlier days, which I would gauge as being 1969 leading me to wonder whether or not that magazine was the conservative bastion on campus that I believe it would have been.) The response of Jenkins does seem more or less in tune with the more right-wing sway of the magazine and various libertarian-derived movements developing on campus during those days making me wanna do a Google search to find out more about this Tuller character as soon as this piece is safely posted on the internet! (Oddly enough there is some pertinent internet info on Tuller who with his father and brother, all budding Marxist revolutionaries, robbed a bank killing a guard in the process before hijacking a plane to Cuba while haranguing the passengers with pro-Cuban rhetoric. Once arrived in Havana the trio discovered that Cuban jails weren't exactly the stuff nice dreams are made of and all three gladly returned to the United States to face charges rather than stay in the Worker's Paradise any longer than they had to! TWO WEEK LATER CORRECTION: actually, only the Tullers volunatarily returned to the US to face charges...yet another member of the gang stayed in Cuba and told American authorities that he had freedom to roam, was enrolling in school and in fact was planning on hanging out at the beach that very afternoon! As for what became of him afterwards I do not know. As for Tuller Jr., he got a hefty sentence for his deeds and later on in the early-eighties made headlines again by escaping from his maximum security prison by merely walking out the front door!)

Contents-wise we get yet another short story (which seems rather pointless in itself but fitting as far as early-seventies Sci-Fi could get) plus the usual record and book reviews. Up on the chopping block this time are Lou Reed's TRANSFORMER (getting a firm thumbs-up after the debut's "best worst album" writeup in the previous ish), Loudon Wainwright III (a guy I tossed off as a folkie jerk though it seems smarter minds might disagree) and surprisingly the Jefferson Airplane's LONG JOHN SILVER which gets a royal drubbing from Jenkins especially for the way it makes revolutionary folk heroes out of the famed pirate, Eagles (not the group but the actual species!) and Jesus Christ! The last one was done (in?) via the tune entitled "Son of Christ," which I originally assumed was a retelling of the Merovingian fable that was recently popularized via Dan Brown's THE DA VINCI CODE but in fact comes off more like a Wild West tale of revenge and justice with this descendant of Christ roaming the plains looking for the guys who did his Father in! What makes this strange trio of unlikely Airplane heroes even stranger is that they are presented to the Airplane's wide-ranging audience as verifiable revolutionary icons on par with Che Guevara and other famed neck-shooters who got away with it because they were wearing their hair long, grew beards and looked late-sixties hip a good ten years earlier. But in any case Jenkins puts the likes of Grace Slick and crew to shame with his etapoint critiques that don't have to read nasty in order to get the cutting point across. (Of course the whole millionaire Marxist equation is brought up...I mean, what else???)

Also getting the reaming this go 'round were the Grateful Dead via newcomer Paul McArthur's equally striking review (which asks the musical question why is Mickey Hart's new album ROLLING THUNDER better than GRATEFUL DEAD EUROPE '72? Because it's only one album as opposed to three!) and other newies to make their mark on the early-seventies pockmarked scene. The book section on the other hand seems devoted to the likes of Solzhenitsyn, William F. Buckley and other seventies notables (the Firesign Theatre?) once again making me wonder exactly what HYPERION looked like during their very early days (I mean, Buckley boppers and potential skyjackers don't exactly seem like close knit friends!) And closing out the rag's a piece on the AM radio scene of the day, a pretty good place to hear some good stuff mind you and author Charles Macauley sure does his best to remind me of some of the good top forty singles (Al Green comes to mind) that made my comic book reading days even more comic I guess. True he dredges up a lotta the gunk of the time but ya gotta take the gunk with the punk and it's not like I'm complainin'....

Vol. IV #3 (Spring '73) actually took a step up with some green ink on the cover and an illustration which helps us readers decipher what exactly we're in store for once we open up the thing ("The Death of the Solo Star") with a drawing of some multi-armed guitar-toting freak standing on what appears to be a dead folkie...not as good as Chuck Berry shooting a hippie with his guitar on the cover of TEENAGE WASTELAND GAZETTE but smart enough. Only 24 pages this time but the writing is an improvement if you can fathom that it was already exemplary to begin with and the article subject matter pretty snat as well. The obligatory short story in this issue is a weird convolution of something or other (couldn't concentrate on it that much considering all of the rock-oriented material beckoning me) entitled "Rare Argentine Fanzines" which comes off like Meltzer during his early-FUSION obscurest...not like this piece didn't fit in. Speaking of The Master, his GULCHER gets reviewed by Jenkins on page ten, a fine romp with allusions to James Joyce that doesn't upset a Joyce hater such as I so that must mean it's good! Contributor Rainer Karasz weighs in with a tee-vee article of his own, this time on the late-night rock shows that suddenly popped up on the tube early-'73 (what else but IN CONCERT and THE MIDNIGHT SPECIAL, the former getting the raves for its ability to make you feel as if you were there front and center for your favorite live rock gig while the latter is poo-poo'd as an updated HULLABALOO for the kids of NBC executives). Jenkin's article on football didn't quite satiate me (hate the sport esp. since in this area it is an undeniable fact that football is KING thus making me an iconoclast in the face of boring armchair athletes) but I really must say that the "fictitious" cover story on the death of the solo star (or did author McArthur mean "singer/songwriter"???) was mighty satisfying, especially the part about James Taylor's intentional heroin overdose (he "died for a piece of ass" meaning wife Carly Simon) and how wife Simon threw herself on the funeral pyre just like those widows in India! Naturally the main gist of the piece is that the rock groups (Stooges, a reformed Velvet Underground and HYPERION faves Little Feat) were gonna be the wave of the remaining portion of the decade which of course didn't happen other'n on the underground scene...maybe this was really part two of Bangs' Troggs piece but at least it does seem like a footnote of sorts. Up for review were Blue Oyster Cult's TYRANNY AND MUTATION and the Stooges' RAW POWER (surprisingly iffy albeit definitely pro-Ig!) courtesy Jenkins but the added illustrations certainly did help us all out!

Well worth the big bucks I dished out for 'em, and as good an idea of just why the seventies were the decade of high energy avant rock once you stripped away the folkies and assorted morons of the day. And although McArthur (who almost seemed second-in-command) seems nowhere to be found (last ref. I have of him is in a mid-seventies CREEM where he wrote in saying that he was a conservative and regularly read several newspapers and the New York Dolls were his fave band...should he worry? CREEM responding "Not unless you are one of the New York Dolls"), but Jenkins could be seen contributing items on and off to that famed rag well into the eighties while becoming the chief rock critic for THE WASHINGTON POST which is great because what other big newspaper scribe on the boards would give space to the Cramps like Jenkins did? Of course even if he did nothing after HYPERION's demise his place in fanzine heaven would already be firmly planted, and yeah you know the rigmarole already but these three mags only make me wanna read more and more seventies high energy musings at the hands of these Meltzer wannabes and hopefully that day'll come sooner than I think. But until then I'm locking myself inna bunker with these wonders and as the placard says please DO NOT DISTURB!

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