MY LATEST ORDER FROM NORTON!
Back inna good ol' days (roughly 1979-1992), I used to cherish with glee a package of hard-earned recorded material and fanzine fodder that would get shipped my way thanks to an order I so eagerly placed with a variety of mailorder businesses that were more'n anxious to pilfer from the coffers of maladjusted kiddies nationwide even though many of 'em seemed to spurn the trammels of capitalism. Yes, I can still recall shipping off loot to the likes of Bomp, Rough Trade, Systematic, Disques Du Monde and even Midnight before some jerkoid employee of theirs gave me the telephonetic brushoff thus earning my eternal derision, and the bountiful booty that I received in exchange for money my father told me I was "pouring down a rathole" continues to color my already millyun-dollar collection all these years later...well, at least it was a better investment than some of the stocks dad got stuck with so all these years later I gotta say who was doing the real rathole pouring, eh? Looking back lo those many years its not hard to see that those were pretty exhilarating times (despite the very heavy personal probs I hadda struggle through) when discovering the music was just as all-enveloping as listening to it, when there were gems both old and new to explore out there in "indie rock" land (before that became the graveyard I thought it would never turn into considering how people were supposed to be a lot smarter than they were in the sixties!) and for the most part rock & roll wasn't this pallid, watered-down thin shadow of its former self but a true exploration of what was known as a "Universal Youth Language." Y'know, a musical Rosetta Stone which could trace its true beginnings way back to the proud and sublime workings of the Velvet Underground. Or maybe the Stooges or even Sky Saxon for that matter, but whatever I sure remember the unbridled joy I'd get opening up a boxfulla platters just beggin' to be spun while eyeballing some old long-unsold fanzines that were wallowing in the Bomp warehouse because nobody wanted to even know about 'em 'cept me! And you could bet dollars-to-doughboys that the evening was gonna be one sound-packed, info-crammin', parent-yellin' one-man party time when once again dear ol' me was gonna get a chance to resensify myself after a day of drudgery and general anti-life/human misery at the hands of just about everything and everyone out there in that mad, stinkin' world.
Of course nowadays I can't escape from the slime by merely playin' records (or Cee-Dees if you will) like I usedta and in fact a lotta the stress and nausea I experience these days comes at the hands of these very same music-mavens that I thought were my friends at one time, but nothing in the world can erase the happiness and joy I get whenever I open up a freshly-packed order of discs (and disques even!) sent my way courtesy of a variety of newer record-dealing businesses, Norton records being amongst the few I continue to do biz with. Now, guilt-riddled I must admit that I really don't order that many things from Norton even though I should...and who wouldn't want to buy and buy again from the likes of Billy Miller and Miriam Linna because not only is their service fast and courteous (esp. in this day and age when upstart entrepreneurs think they're doing you such a service that you must grovel at their footsies in abject appreciation), but they have such a great selection of recs for sale not only from their own label but from other fifties/sixties oriented specialists who seem to be about as obscure as you can get these days, and dealing with Norton is what we in the 21st Century would call "hassle free" if you get the drift. And not only that, but the team of Miller and Linna (no, not a seventies cop show but the brains behind the A-Bones!) are such neat-o people who have always been nice to even a low-rung fanzooner as I (while I've received so much guff n' stuff from way too many comparatively lower-echelon creeps emanating from the likes of San Francisco, Melbourne and other hell holes out there!) that sometimes I just have to pinch myself to see if I'm dreaming whenever I get such a nice letter from one or the other with whatever order is headin' my way! I've said it a hunnerd times before (and will say it a hunnerd times more at the risk of sounding tres-redundant) but Billy and Miriam have been like Big Brother and Big Sister to me, and whenever I get all discombobulated about all of the stuff I hadda go through (and CONTINUE to!) thanks to the likes of Jay and Dave (not to mention Gerard, Pat and their toady minions) all I have to do is remember all of the nice stuff that Mr. Miller and his better half did for me and maybe I don't feel like obliterating the human race as much as I usually do. But then again, Billy and Miriam know all about getting the shaft from people they trusted wholeheartedly, and although they got their justice (more or less) while I haven't I can sure understand and even (in the mooshiest sense!) feel for the two who have been called worse things in the heat of a greater hostility than I hope I will ever personally see. So all you people (names mentioned above and loads more) who get all bubbly and self-congratulating when some seventies punker of note emails you, just remember that I have Billy and Miriam in my corner and that's good enough for me!
Anyway, I just got this batch of singles (all on the Norton label) from the two this very morn...all were paid for by me myself and you-know-who (not a freebee inna batch...y'see, I can carry my own load and dish out the bux when need be...I'm no slouch even though I don't mind bein' one when the moment arises!) and listened to/written up in the afternoon, and although maybe I shoulda let these platters "soak in" in order to craft one of those deeply-fraught-with-meaning writeups you see in THE VILLAGE VOICE perhaps the immediacy of relaying to you all about these singles which always hit you right then-and-there (being quick fixes of musical pleasure lasting less than a few minutes a side) would be a lot better as far as my natural spontaneity on my part goes. And hey, maybe this post will egg you on to purchasing some or all of these wares but maybe not, but whaddeva I've seen my doody and I'm doing so let's just say the ball's in your court Billy Jean...
Bunker Hill-"Hide and Go Seek Pt. 1"/"Hide and Go Seek Pt. 2"
Remember back in the mid-eighties when those BACK FROM THE GRAVE elpees were comin' out and helping to spur on a sixties garage band revival on punk rock terms, or at least something to that effect? Well, my review of the boffo Vol. 4 of that series actually made it into the pages of either OP or OPTION or one of those rags I used to write for back in the day, and in that very review I mentioned rather tongue-up-cheeks-like that this very artist, the one known as Bunker Hill who was backed up by none other'n Link Wray and the Raymen, made Little Richard look like the ineffectual no-talent that he most certainly is! And if you don't think that off-that-cuff remark didn't earn my any unbridled ire at the hands of fifties rock & roll lovers world-wide, well then you're wronger than wtong (or Robert Christgau for that matter) can be! Actually, I gotta say that my (so called) temporary insanity was caused not only from Richard's rather tepid eighties comeback that left me colder than a dog's nose at a nudist colony, but his appearance on PHIL DONAHUE where the Little One schmoozed up to not only the host but an audience fulla limousine liberals (this being the pre-"latte" days) while playing a mushy gospel song for them as well! And don't tell me you'd think any differently if you were in my shoes having to put up with all that, you myopic leering insecure blogreader you!
Truth of the matter is I'll still take Hill over Little Richard even this late inna game, and sheesh, it's sure grand giving a listen to this long-gone obscurity which features the team of Hill and Wray in their only chart-crashing hit. What can I say other'n it's a great foot-stomper dance-floor shaker featuring, like followup b-side "Little Red Riding Hood" nothing but a steady drum beat with Hill barking out the rules of the game as Wray and band holler back. And it goes on for two sides as well to the point where yeah, I could see this one being an outta-left-field surprise hit in the early-sixties that I used to hear on car-radios as a wee little kid while my parents would act all disgusted, like there were a coupla dogs goin' at it out there or somethin'! Kinda sounds like one of those records my older cousin had in her collection that me and her brother would play at age three thinkin' it was so cool, only to once again slip on that scratchy copy of "Washington Square" and walk around the room to it over and over because we thought that's what the people on BANDSTAND did, we being preschoolers who couldn't comprehend things like the older folks but we wanted to play at grownups anyway. Kids, learn from me and take better care in your toddlin' musical tastes!
***The Dictators-16 Forever"/"Stay With Me"
It's about time these Dictator rarities saw the light of day, especially since they were swimming around on tape lists along with other Dics rarities (inc. the 1973 demos done by a pre-Handsome Dick Manitoba version of the band which I understand will get a proper release rather soon!) for well over a whopping quarter-century! But better late 'n never for you rabid Dickers and kudos def. must go to Mister Miller for pestering Adny Shernoff for years for the honor to release these sides until Shernoff eventually said "sure nuff!" (The blogster must get his little joke in here...) Taken from the classic BLOODBROTHERS era, "16"'s got Shernoff ticklin' the tonsils on yet another power-packed Dics winner that shoulda been released back then but wasn't because we all remember just how staid and frightened record company people were (and remain for that matter!), while the outtake of "Stay With Me" with a now-"HD" Manitoba up front sounds a lot better'n the official version making me wonder why this loft recording wasn't used 'stead of the not-that-much-better sounding cut that did made it! Whaddeva, it's top-rank Dictators here that even the scoffers will admit was a lot better'n the competition, with heavy metal power pop chords a la the MC5 or Eddie and the Hot Rods that woulda aroused more'n a few aficionados of the form in that CREEM/BACK DOOR MAN-sorta way had it only got around back then. But it didn't or else the Handsome One would have been making guest appearances on THAT SEVENTIES SHOW back when it was still on!
***Question Mark and the Mysterians-"Are You For Real?"/"I'll Be Back"
A nice surprise here's this pre-"96 Tears" demo side from the infamous Question Mark and his Mysterians which, although lacking in the rough-and-tumble punkiness of the better-known cuts this band offered up, shows the roots of it all with that great sorta Tex-Mex transplanted to Michigan style that the likes of Doug Sahm helped dish out when all seemed lost for Amerigan rock & roll. And really, what else could you say??? B-side seems a bit more Beatle-y slower'n the usual but it does suit me fine, as long as it stays on the flip!
***The Vikings-"I Need Your Lovin'"/"Such a Love"
Here's a disc I took a special interest in because these particular one-out-of-many Vikings came from none other than the small town of Champion Ohio, a place that ain't as close to the Cleveland Coast as Miriam Linna's liner notes would have you believe but a burgh located just north of Warren (in fact, Champion is best known as a "suburb" of that notable city!) which in itself is just north of Youngstown and believe me but that ain't anywhere near Cleveland even though you sure could pick the Cleveland stations up a lot clearer from Champion than you could ol' Sharon Pee-YAY! How should I know all this? Well, none other than Jillery herself lives in Champion and lemme tell you I've been there more times than you can count and it's a small farmboy kinda place with lots of old houses and vast fields and wild animals and things like that roaming about, not exactly the kinda place you'd expect a polka band to exist let alone a buncha punk rockers like the Vikings, who made this record (actually recorded in Youngstown) and vanished within the blink of an eye back in the middest of those middle sixties.
Nice Kinks jangle on the frontside with the early ('62/'63) Beatles getting the influence pickings on the flip, and it even comes on yellow see-through wax just in case you're nostalgic for those late-seventies Stiff singles you used to eyeball in the singles rack at shopping mall record haunts nationwide. Naturally I doubt that any of you reg'lar readers would care about such inanities as colored vinyl but it kinda looks nice in the anal-retentive collection, plus the sounds extant are fun enough in that great trashoid way that had me flocking to the same mailorder companies mentioned earlier in order to drool over a variety of listings for way-overpriced wares that we'd eventually latch onto once the market became saturated and prices went down. And funny thing about it, but a good fortysome years after this stuff was originally recorded and a good twenny after the big garage band reissue craze began in earnest the Vikings still sound fresh and alive just as they did the day this single was pressed up and sold at dances county-wide! I'm only saying this because some critics of the form out there seemed to tire of those same one/two-chord rompers rather early on and let this fact be known in their various writings o'er the years. Funny, but I never did get bored listening to these "primitive" hard-thunk single sides and (hopefully) never will no matter how long I live, which must only go to show you what a stick-inna-mud I am when it comes to rock & roll, right?
***Randy Alvey & The Green Fuz-"Green Fuz"/"There is a Land"
Here's one that Norton ished long ago but I'm only getting around to it now which sure must earn me some sorta award for procrastination, eh? Sounding a lot clearer'n on that very same PEBBLES VOL. 2 album you too first heard it, Randy and his Fuz sing their "come on" song from the bowels of Texas clanking away in typical teenage fashion while on the flip some guy named R. L. Hutchins or Christopher Hitchens for all I know talk sings this melodrama o'er a fifties r&b vamp that somehow deals with a mother who is going to die soon and an old man who is really Hutchins' father or something like that. True the lyricist for this should have taken a night school course in creative writing, but considering just how hard it is to follow some of these sixties punk platters (ever tried making sense of PEBBLES VOL. 3?) what else is new. Green vinyl makes the ownership experience more copasetic because once you get down to it, that five-year-old still getting all excited about learning his colors lives on deep inside my rather puffed exterior!
***The Figures of Light-"It's Lame"/"I Jes Wanna Go To Bed"
And finally for today's soiree into classic slabs of the past comes this all-umportant single side recorded by a group with the unlikely (at least for 1972) moniker the Figures of Light which reminds me more of the reams of post-Shadows of Knight influenced group names that came out in '66 more'n anything part and parcel to the early-seventies! And given these guys' pedigree I must say that it's strange that a group such as this should have evaded my radarscope for oh-so-long. I mean, not only were the Figures an early-seventies bunch heavily into the likes of the Velvet Underground and Stooges back when few people knew (or dared) to, but they had one of those all-important confrontational stage acts (mostly lifted from the Move, but I won't tell anyone!) customary to the likes of Alice Cooper, the Stooges, Kongress perhaps and other punk ravers of the day who hopefully will get their story told more sooner than later. And yeah, I gotta say that Billy Miller's remarks about how a tape of their debut live show back '70 way made "'Sister Ray' sound like 'MacArthur Park'" was enough to get my attention up like nothing written since Meltzer! It was just about as on-target in a Bill Tell sense as the time when Peter Laughner wrote that "the Electric Eels make the Stooges sound like the Carpenters" or even when Jymn Parrett once again in the pages of DENIM DELINQUENT mentioned that UFO's original guitarist Mick Bolton "makes Rock Asheton sound like Carlos Montoya"! Well, Miller's exclamation was powerful enough that when an original copy of this very single (100 copies pressed) came up for auction on ebay a few weeks ago I anxiously placed a bid, even though that $189.72 that I entered didn't stay tops for very long.
But hey, at least us po' folk can afford this reish complete with a cool pic sleeve (which I reprinted above nice and large because this is an important record and thus deserves the honor of more pixel-space!) and lemme tell you in a straightforwards BLOG TO COMM way that it's a real winner in an arena that shoulda been brimming with such primal underground rock acts but wasn't! Not too many people were making their own punk rock records back in '72 and even though there were more'n a fair share of such species roaming around it wasn't like local fame and fortune would warrant most groups issuing their own singles like they did back inna sixties. But the Figures of Light did just that, and although this ain't quite the heavy metal Detroit/WHITE LIGHT/WHITE HEAT all-out throttle I thought it was gonna be given Miller's appraisal it sure is a great romp that'll zone you back to the late-seventies days of primitive self-released crunch! Perhaps this single's even a contender for "Best of '07" even though it came out last year but as you know, such things don't really mean anything in BLOG TO COMM-time because frankly, I always get these things more later'n sooner.
Actually if you told me the "It's Lame" single was a mid-sixties rarity that just popped up into the collector's consciousness I would believe you sans any eye-batting to be seen on my part! And even though (despite?) these sides being recorded in the studio where at least somebody behind the boards shoulda known better, this single has the same raw urgency of a homemade recording that one found not only on the Electric Eels' "Agitated" side but another such similar classic as Distorted Levels "Hey Mister" which continues to rank as an anal-retentive punk collector's item in boffo standing even after a good three decades of rumination. And the performance is crazed enough that one could easily have imagined a Figures of Light/Electric Eels bill at some forsaken high school gym back in the day, with the a-side coming off like a simple sixties riff that stops and starts repeatedly throughout the side, while "I Jes' Wanna Go To Bed" has this Bo Diddley beat (or is it Stooges circa "1969" or even Gizmos circa 1976?????) that woulda guaranteed the Figs a spot on the latest BACK FROM THE GRAVE back in '87 or whenever they finally wrapped up that series even though it was recorded way outside the usual sixties garage band scope. And yeah it ain't exactly what I thought it was gonna be that don't mean it's a slouch either. Definitely a group who deserves more exposure (and don't worry, these guys did a reunion gig with none other than Miriam Linna filling in the drum slot!) and hey Billy, if that live debut of theirs was so wild, how about releasing that and in the very near future as well! Maybe you can offer a double set with their first gig and their reunion coupled, though if you do please warn me in advance so I can take some nitroglycerine tablets in order to PREPARE myself for da thing!