FEELING BOXED IN? THEN TRY SOME OF THESE BOX SETS!
Yeah, I'm not too proud of that not-so-hipster come-on myself and true, they can't all be witty gems more attuned to this blog's self-proclaimed devotion to the "high energy" stratum of rock & roll, but it would be great if at least ONE of these post titles had a bitta the old vim, vigor and oomph needed to match my entire reason-for-being! But the lack of ability on my part to think up snappy and/or pithy titles for these missives is not what we're here to gab about today...right now I'm more/less interested in cluing you in on a coupla box sets that just might get your rabble roused when it comes to the more brain-frying musical matters that one can come in contact with especially in these truly bleary times (now celebrating a hefty QUARTER-CENTURY of post-energy non-jamz going down), and if YOU TOO (like me) spent a huge portion of the eighties huddled in your own personal bunker looking for the light at the end of a particularly long tunnel (glancing back with rose-colored rear view mirrors at all of the good stuff the seventies doth wrought that you didn't have the money or smarts to snatch up BEFORE IT WAS TOO LATE) then maybe these disques'll lurch you outta yer current doldrums...after all, we never really did get outta that tunnel, mind you!
Anyway, as anyone keeping their eyes on the underground music scene (and their pocketbooks) can tell you, there's been a pretty nice assortment of box sets featuring acts both bigtime and obscure coming out wirh alarming regularity ever since the advent ot anal-retentive/obsessive collecting trends began in earnest back in the eighties, and you don't have to nudge me too much in order to blab on about my favorite Les Rallizes Denudes box sets featuring items that'll probably be recycled on future sets for years to come. But I don't wanna talk about the Denudes guys today...instead let me blab on about these two nice li'l sets that've graced my laser launch pad as of late because, for once in my life I'd like to try'n keep a little big current.
And speaking of "nice sets" who could forget Niagara and her Destroy All Monsters! Yeah. I know that kinda remark'll have a whole slew of Women's Libbers pounding down the doors of BLOG TO COMM central demanding this Male Chauvinist Pig to be luau'd, but then again alla them dames are nothing but a buncha Flatty Pattys who couldn't get a date if someone tied a bone around their necks and set 'em loose in the dog pound! As for Niagara...sheesh, why didn't they have gals like her back in High School (at least those who would talk to me) but whadevva, the famed songstress from Destroy All Monsters/Dark Carnival and her brood can once again be heard in all their high energy glory on this brand-spanking-new HOT BOX six-disc set (available through Niagara Detroit) and it's worth your while (and welfare check) to dish out the seventy-plus it's gonna cost to procure this because no matter how you slice the thing it is a doozy. Now I gotta admit that I was a rather big follower of the Detroit/Ann Arbor high-energy sound back in the middle portion of the eighties and in fact you could say that it was this very same Detroit scene (along with its Australian brethren) that inspired me to get off my then not-as-fat and pitted butt and do my own fanzine which at the time was heavily devoted to a good portion of high-energy Detroit-styled rock groups both old and new. Thus you can bet your bottom buckskin that the appearance of a set like this really does get me all hot 'n bothered even if the thing did arrive into my life a good twenny-three years too late! And it's a good 'un too...coulda been better, but I'll tell y'all about that later.
Alongsides such post-Sinclair wonders as Rocket From the Tombs, Umela Hmota and Radio Birdman, Destroy All Monsters were one of many groups in the seventies who were helping to keep the late-sixties Michigan Rock flame alive. They certainly were a refreshing switch from the same-old same-old at the time, a nice change from the at-times cloying direction that gnu wave music was not only heading towards but deeply embedded in even though a dolt like myself really couldn't see it until 1981 set it but that's another sick saga. True they had the heavyweight Detroit sound goin' for 'em thanks to the likes of Ron Asheton and Michael Davis in their ranks, but it certainly was chanteuse Niagara who made the entire show worthwhile with her striking stage presence that I'm positive made a whole load of the eighties "women in rock" tough gal schtick look positively wilted in comparison (I mean, if Pat Benetar was supposed to be some sorta role model for an aggressive new female in rock as the likes of Anastasia Pantsios were hypeing her as, then Phyllis Schafley had nothing to worry about!). And what's best about it is that it didn't matter that Niagara couldn't "sing" either! I mean, sure she coulda taken a few lessons from Madame Du Warble, but like the "Granite Lady" in that infamous Plastic Man adventure all she really hadda do was be up there to make Destroy All Monsters the success they were with her pulchritude which, coupled with ear-blasting heavy metal (the real kind) sure came off a lot better'n not only the latest "introspective" clean cut "new music" band fresh from the assembly line but way too many of those hard rock "I'm my own bitch" metal women who tried way too hard and got way too little for it. Destroy All Monsters were the real kahuna even though the entire rock listening public was too brain-damaged from way too much "Album Oriented Rock" to rub two braincells together to notice!
Needless to say...HOT BOX is thee wowzer...disc one has the single sides and some more ne'er before heard rarities although the thing is inexplicably missing the infamous studio version of "Spruce Goose" (the complete sordid saga behind that song which probably tops the f-wordin' spew found in the NATIONAL LAMPOON's Lennon spoofer "Magical Misery Tour" can be found in part two of the Ron Asheton interview which popped up in the now o.p. BLACK TO COMM #15). If you wanna hear it bad enough it does appear on the Fan Club CD of DAM single sides, and while I'm at it, it woulda been great if that Cary Loren rarity of an EP was stuck on here as well (y'know, the one with "Assassination Photograph" and that bee-youtiful Virgil Finlay sleeve I actually reprinted way back in ish #21 because it looked so boss!) but I guess we can't have everything as Mom used to say. The second one's got a live show which is typical audience quality ('n I've heard better inc. an FM broadcast from Delaware or Maryland or somewhere like that which shoulda gotten snagged on here somewhere) but at least it's got that boss cover of Robert Calvert's "The Right Stuff" that always seems to get my blood boiling in a hefty early-seventies fit of power surge! Still, I got the feeling that Asheton's maddening electric leads and the general heavy jamz woulda upset a few punques out there back inna day of "no guitar solos"...heck I even remember playing the aforementioned DAM live broadcast while Jillery was in the room and this avowed Moody Blues fan actually CHASTIZED me saying "that's ACID ROCK!!!!!"
The rest of this collection features material from Niagara's Dark Carnival days in the equally-dark nineties when she, along with Asheton and a varying array of backing bozos inc. Greasy Carlisi from the old Sirius Trixon group and at times Cheetah Gene O'Connor of Rocket From the Tombs helped to keep the Detroit fires burning a little more...'n maybe they do sound a bit slick here and recording techniques have improved to the point where some of the "edge" of the music is gone, but I like the material her enough, or at least a lot more'n I like what I've heard of most recent Detroit revival material which seems to fall limp once placed upon the laser launching pad. OK, the studio disque (which originally came out back in the day although I was too tapped out to get my hands on it---that and the fact that I was told it was a dog anyway) wasn't quite what I was expecting with its lucid lack of true energetic inspiration, but the live tracks capture the Carnival in its total state of kinetic frenzy making it more or less the only true heir to the 1967 Grande Ballroom putsch extant. Cigarettes have sexed up Niagara's voice by this time so her sultriness has only been enhanced, and the backing group is every bit the equal of the old Monsters or just about any other post-Detroit aggregate that had been playing this planet twixt the fall of the Sinclair empire and the birth of the new punk era. 'n let me tell you, at times the hair on my back was standin' on end...well, I should say where there should be hair it was standin' but it was great to flash back to 1985 pretendin' I was flashing back to 1969 listenin' to this hard mash that never did seem to infect the general rock clime either then or now because...frankly it was too GOOD!!!
Oh yeah, the final disc is actually a DVD of the Dark Carnival show at the Rob Tyner Memorial gig back in '92, taken from a VCR tape and plopped right onto a DVD-R burn(!---I guess they were trying to cut costs, though if your system rejects these dubbed disques I guess caveat is the word!). The recording ain't that long and it's not like it was professionally edited, but at least it's a two-camera job and you get to see a lotta hot shots of Niagara singing as she strips down to bra and meows out the familiar Monsters and Stooges songs for you while rolling around onstage Ig-like getting the rather nineties-looking ninnies in the audience all hot and bothered! (Some nice shots of bouncers tossing a few over-rambunctious patrons back into the audience too!) Now if I were one of those picky rock critics you've seen too much of lo these many years I'd yammer and stammer about the all around tackiness of the whole affair but hey, I gotta admit that I like tackiness about as much as the next suburban brat raised on way too many viewings of entire film reels being run upside down and backwards on local tee-vee so what do aesthetics have to do with ANYTHING anyway???
Other'n a couple inserts there ain't the detailed historical notes that we're always begging for and I wouldn't've minded some of those other rarities previously mentioned but hey, I am a thankful li'l bastid! Stick it next to your Ecstatic Peace collection for a real hum-dinger of a Detroit art experience that's probably the best spurt of artistic creativity in that burgh since a car was torn apart at a Velvet Underground gig way back in '67!
And while we're talking about Detroit '67 I should also mention to you that it was also the year when the MC5 had practically sprung up from the nether-regions of small-change garage band-dom to the Big Time with their patented avant-rock sound, a style which pretty much overtook the Detroit/Ann Arbor (nay, the entire Michigan scene!) to the point where the coolest thing any upstart band could do was "imitate" the Five which I guess would have been the smartest thing for a band'd undertake on either an artistic or financial level. And it was during that year that the MC5 actually shared a gig with none other'n Sun Ra which included a jam between the two titans, a tape of which I'm sure is decaying somewhere in former manager John Sinclair's abode probably due to their ex-mentor's Marxist credo! (Well, I'm not exactly sure why these recordings remain hidden from "the people" but I remember reading a letter in a ROLLING STONE after the famed MC5 cover story where some reader mentions the tapes of the band playing with various Detroit avant garde jazzbos and I'd sure love to hear alla that stuff as much as you would!) Anyway, what better way to segue into Sun Ra than from the wilds of Detroit with this three-disque set that actually came out on the Freedom label in Germany, a surprise because I never knew that Sun Ra had anything issued on that famous avant label (for if they did, you woulda thunk that Arista's reissue that stuff here inna U. S. of Whoa when they got the Amerigan rights to that label back '75 way!). Well, I guess that most if not all of this has previously been issued on the Freedom-related Black Lion in Germany (and if I'm not mistaken [in fact, I'm POSITIVE], but wasn't "Outer Spaceways Incorporated" originally rollicking around under the title PICTURES OF INFINITY???), but even so I never knew about these disques which just goes to show you how much I've been paying attention!
But since I am not what one would call a Sun Ra expert I can't tell you much more about these disques other'n I think I have a whole lot of this material on vinyl in different forms and on different albums, but as to that I'm not 100% sure of it as well. Heck, if you wanna know for yourself bad enough, get hold of Robert L. Campbell's THE EARTHLY RECORDINGS OF SUN RA for the entire scoop...I don't have it but it seems like just the kinda thing that any real Sun Ra maniac would wanna have on hand. But I guess that I'm not maniac enough so I don't own a copy but whatever, Campbell did the liners for the "Spaceways" portion of this set and he did a pretty nice job of it, not only giving a nice little history of the clavioline, that weird proto-synthesizer used not only by Ra but the likes of the Tornados ("Telstar"), Beatles ("Baby You're a Rich Man"), Amon Duul II ("Surrounded by the Stars") and a whole load of rock snobs in those mysterioso early prog rock days!
A good enough collection (with "Spaceways" and "Outer Spaceways Incorporated" focusing on the late-sixties En Why See days and "Calling Planet Earth" live Dansk '71) that sorta nudges in on Ra and band at their uncontested height in astral jazz projectiveness. Naturally they don't compete with such downright classics as COSMIC TONES FOR MENTAL THERAPY or the BYG-sides, but they stand on their own with the ESP platters (and come to think of it, how many other avant garde jazz greats were able to record for all three of the big avant jazz labels of the sixties and seventies? Other'n Paul Bley, I can't think of any offhand!) No matter what, it's all worth the purchase even if you think you have most of this stuff in your abode already because I'm sure something here is gonna be midding. My fave of the trio is the "Calling Planet Earth" live set which seems to get closer to the astral mindwarp utter insanity of what we've known and loved as primo Ra than the other two, which ain't no slouches themselves!
ALSO HEARD: Hawkwind live Birmingham Icymetric Playground 12/2/71. Now, that may really be 2/12/71 because this was rec'd in England where the month and year are switched 'round unlike in Ameriga, but whenever this was laid onto tape it sure is a nice slice of early Hawkwind with none other than Twink from the Pink Fairies playing the drums on some proto-versions of such Hawkwind faves as "Born To Go" and "Spirit of the Age" six years before its appearance on the groundbreaking QUARK STRANGENESS AND CHARM (actually, this is a spoken version backed by electronic flange, but it's nice to hear those eerie words spoken anyway!). A good slab of early-seventies psychedelic musings, and what's remarkable about it all is that these tunes were laid down at a time when the entire psych scene seemed to have tumbled into a sick mass of either Wild West flashback or prog rock slop! Tape ends with a slightly different take of "Brainstorm" from '72 which'll certainly turn the heads of all budding Hawkwind maniacs worldwide! In case you care, this recording was sent to me about a decade ago by one Larry Boyd, an old BLACK TO COMM hanger-on who seems to have vanished from the face of this earth after going into the hospital for some serious work (he was messed up physically and internally t'boot) and whom I fear has since died...Larry, if you're alive and reading this, how about dropping me a line and putting my mind at ease???
Saturday, April 28, 2007
FEELING BOXED IN? THEN TRY SOME OF THESE BOX SETS!
Friday, April 27, 2007
Sunday, April 22, 2007
THIS IS NOT THE ROLLING STONE INTERVIEW WITH GEORGE BRIGMAN!
And while I'm at it, let it be known that I am not Ben Fong-Torres or whoever it is who conducts those silly sycophantic interviews that STONE at least used to run way back in the day! (You can tell just how outta-da-loop I am with regards to what actually goes on in that hallowed buttwipe-of-record, as if I'm really interested in their whole PEOPLE magazine for the aging armpit hair crowd these days!) Naw, this is not one of those seventies get-togethers where the participants at hand do a few tokes before getting down to biz, this here's an e-mail interview with none other than Pennsylvanian white-blues guitarist (and underground hero in his own right) George Brigman that was conducted by myself (with the help of Bona Fide records chief somethingorother Rick Noll tossing in a few questions of his own...I think even the dullest of readers will be able to discern as to who asked what!) over the past few weeks in order to push Brigman's latest for the label which is entitled RAGS IN SKULL (scroll down, as they say) which is a pretty bona-fide (heeee!) winner as far as recent self-produced hot-flash goes. And while you're at it, Bona-Fide has some more Brigman-related Cee-Dee ware that I'm sure you'll want to have and hold for your very own such as his bopping debut (and all 'round low-tech guitar monster) JUNGLE ROT as well as the followup I CAN HEAR THE ANTS DANCING, both of which should be essential listening for the serious BLOG TO COMM reader, or peruser, or whatever.
So w/o further ado...
BLOG TO COMM: Howcum it took you twentysome years to do a new album?
GEORGE BRIGMAN: Well, we had our first child December 20, 1986. A boy, Taylor, who was two-and-a-half months premature. He was seriously ill and actually was clinically dead twice in his first two weeks. He had his baptism and last rites on Christmas Eve 1986. He was in the NIC unit for his first four months. We had him home for one week and he went to Johns Hopkins for another week.
He was on oxygen for over four years and suffice to say I was significantly in debt. I mean major league dept. My oxygen costs alone were around $25,000 after four years. At eighteen per-cent interest. That was MY share. Just for oxygen. That doesn't account for the myriad of doctors, specialists, medications etc. I owed so much money I never thought I'd get out of it. At the hospital he was known as the million dollar kid. I worked (software design) sixty/eighty hours a week for years to pay it down.
I never stopped writing or playing at home. I just didn't have the time or the money to be able to afford a band. The boy came first. As it should be.
BTC: So, what made you do your new one after all these years?
GB: Well, I never wanted to stop. My son's illness pretty much changed everything. Now that he is out of school and doing well allows me to come back and do what I do best. I also can't lie to you but I was pretty fed up with dealing with musicians who just didn't get it. Not trying to sound arrogant, but I'm not a follower. Never was. Never wanted to sound or look like everyone else. Never wanted to use every rock cliche and play covers in bars around town.
I always had my own ideas about how I wanted to sound and what I wanted to say. It's pretty hard here in Baltimore trying to do anything original. Everyone wants to put you in a box i.e. heavy metal or thrash metal or punk etc. The box thing is not just for Baltimore but everywhere. They have to say you sound like some other band. You can't have your "own sound." But I do have my own sound. Always have. Always will. So for me it was time to come back and do some more music. RAGS isn't the last one. It's like starting over for me. There's plenty more to come.
RAGS would have been out even sooner but as you can see by the credits it took four drummers to get it done. John (Spokus) and I must have auditioned and/or tried over fifty-plus drummers who couldn't play what I needed for the album. I miss Rick Williams!!! Rick would have done RAGS without any problems. I've lost touch with him. So that explains the drummer problem!
BTC: As for RAGS IN SKULL, any interesting asides or bits of information you'd like to relay about it?
GB: Well, the coolest thing was that John wanted us to do the mastering at Invisible Sound here in Baltimore. When we went into the studio the first thing I noticed towards the end of the mixing console stood a stuffed groundhog!!! (NOTE FROM CHRIS: those who do not realize the significance of this seemingly strange occurrence please read on!) Who would have thunk it. Talk about getting a good vibe! That's the one from the picture in the jacket. I knew right then that it was a good thing. The sad thing was I also found out that my guitar and equipment technician and good friend Grant Franklin had just passed away. I'll miss him for sure. So will my guitars.
BTC: Tell us about the people backing you up on RAGS IN SKULL.
GB: John Spokus, bass and engineer. Originally I was going to do the bass parts myself until I met John during an interview. He was doing an article for an internet blog or something and we clicked right off the bat. This was over the phone. Then he came over to take some pictures and finish the interview. I s tarted playing him some of the newer material and he really liked it. I then asked him if he'd like to take a shot at some of the new stuff and he absolutely nailed them. John did an amazing job. He was instrumental in getting RAGS done. He's also quite accomplished as an engineer so with him I get the best of both worlds.
Jay Spiegel I knew through Richard (ANOTHER NOTE FROM CHRIS: this is the formal name for Rick Noll). Jay played with the Velvet Monkeys and Gumball and I met him hanging out at Richard's. He's a great partier and a fine drummer. Fun to be around and work with.
Tom Rollins came through an ad John ran and did a great job on his tracks.
Joe Wilkens was playing with John in one of his "side" bands and also did a good job on his tracks. He's since moved to North Carolina.
Billy Callaway also answered an ad John had run and has a Masters in percussion. He was teaching at a private school in the Baltimore area. He too moved, this time to Louisiana. A real sweetheart of a guy and a pleasure to work with.
BTC: Tell us about your associations with Rick Noll---how did he meet up with you and what kind of guy is he to hang around with?
GB: Richard and I met around late 1981. I received a letter from BMI (my performance rights organization) which was his request to try and get in touch with me. It included his contact info so I called him and he came down to Baltimore and we've been good friends ever since. He's also handled the business management side for me both as a manager and now being on his Bona Fide label.
At first I was a big skeptical but he kept going on about how great JUNGLE ROT was and wanted to sell whatever I had left. Just my luck, but my original partner in Solid records made off with most of the pressings so I only had about a hundred or so left. Richard sold them and for once in my life I got a bit of money from him.
As per the second part of the question he's a blast to be around. I like it best at his place because he has so many records. I mean thousands and thousands that I could stay there for years and not listen to them all!
That's not counting all the movies, books and other music-related stuff he has. So he has wound up being one of my closest friends.
BTC: How are the Bona Fide reissues doing? RAGS?
GB: The reissues are doing well. I think if we didn't have the Radioactive/Synton bootleg bullshit it would have been even better. We've also had a bunch of problems with illegal downloads. That's hurting everybody in the business, myself included. I need to eat too! But all in all better than expected. RAGS too is doing better than expected. I'm hoping it outsells all my other releases combined!
BTC: When and where did you first hear the Groundhogs and Beefheart?
GB: I first heard of the Groundhogs while in eleventh grade (1970-1971). I was in so much trouble that I was only allowed to go to school for half a day. If I went earlier or was on the grounds they let me know in no uncertain terms that I'd be arrested. So my brother drove me to school one day and we were listening to the progressive rock station WAYE-AM and I heard the intro to "Darkness Is No Friend" from the 'hogs' THANK CHRIST FOR THE BOMB. I begged my brother to wait until the end so I could hear who it was and the album it came from. I was hooked from the get. I loved that quirky rhythm and hadn't heard anything quite like it. Then I was on the hunt to get that album. On a Saturday that same week it took three-and-a-half hours of bus rides to get to this one record store that was huge. It was also totally different in that you looked up a reference code for the LP you wanted and wrote it down on a slip of paper and then gave it to a clerk. Kind of like looking up stuff in the library. A couple of minutes later I had my first Groundhogs album. Then it was another three-and-a-half hours to get home to hear the entire thing. Believe me, it was worth it. I still think it's one of the best albums ever.
Beefheart I read about in ROLLING STONE. Being a Zappa fan I picked up a copy of TROUT MASK REPLICA and then spent a great deal of time and effort locating and buying all of his stuff. When I heard TROUT MASK I was floored. I never heard anything like it (and doubt that I will again). He truly is in a "zone" all his own. I don't really have a favorite Beefheart album. They're all my favorites (except the Phonogram stuff).
BTC: How about Johnny Winter?
GB: I kept up with all the music magazines and it was hard not to hear about Johnny Winter. I picked up a copy of PROGRESSIVE BLUES EXPERIMENT and then his first Columbia LP and saw him in concert. Amazing. Just amazing. I always call him "The Motherfucker." Every time I saw him play I'd stand there shaking my head and saying "That Motherfucker," just totally amazed at the way he played. Just an incredible guitarist. I saw Johnny at least six times in concert. Always blew me away.
BTC: I hear there's a video from the album posted on Youtube.
GB: Actually it's an interview I did in 1985/1986 not long before my son was born (and my long hiatus). It was on a local college cable TV show where we were interviewed and we lip synched to an unreleased tune called "Make It One Day." We had a good time doing it. We did play along with the track.
BTC: What do you make of the constant comparisons of your work to the Stooges and Jimi Hendrix? have you ever seen either one? What was the best concert you saw?
GB: Well I'm very flattered of the comparisons to both, especially Hendrix. He was an amazing talent. Contrary to popular belief I wasn't a fan of Iggy and the Stooges. I'm not dissing the band at all. Just not my cup of tea. I saw the Stooges do a live show on TV which was pretty crazy. Iggy jumped off the stage and ran out into the audience and kissed some guy on the mouth who promptly punched Iggy in the mouth! That seemed to me what they were about. Just being crazy but I didn't see a lot musical-wise. I also saw Hendrix in Baltimore not too long before he died. He pretty much gave the impression that he was bored. You could see his heart wasn't in it. Something clearly looked wrong. He did a short set to boot. I went to the Hendrix show with a friend who was always having the "Who Is The Best Guitarist" and he always said Hendrix and I took Johnny Winter. After the show he said "Winter" and also said don't rub it in. Of course a few years later when I started reading about what was going on in Hendrix's life at the time it was like...why, no wonder! Still a great player who had an off night. I don't know how he could have dealt with all the stuff that was going on in his life at that time.
The best concert was Captain Beefheart during the SHINY BEAST/BAT CHAIN PULLER tour. I went with my roadies and another friend to see him at The Bayou in Georgetown in DC. Sitting up in the loft and I look over the side and lo and behold there was Van Vliet. I told my roadies I'm going over to meet him. They thought I was crazy but decided to follow. I tapped him on the shoulder, excused myself for interrupting him and said it was an honor to meet him. I also told him that I was hugely influenced by him and hand been waiting forever for the chance to see him play. He shook all of our hands and was most gracious. What a guy! What a show! Don and the boys just nailed it. I can see why they're called the Magic Band. The best part was when they finished their set Van Vliet fought his was through the crowd and came up to our table and very humbly asked "Well...uh...what did you think?" I told him it was the best show I had ever seen and asked him not to make us wait another twelve years to see him again. He kept his word when I saw him at the same venue for the "Best Batch Yet" tour.
BTC: Is "Some Of My Best Friends Are Snakes" about anyone in particular?
GB: Yes, and it's not my wife!
BTC: How did you develop your unique style of using your thumb instead of a pick?
GB: Well, I never had any guitar lessons. I self-taught myself. I tried using a pick but didn't like the "click click click" of the pick. I started trying to use my thumb and noticed all of the nuances of different angles with the thumb, using the "meat" of the thumb or some "meat" and the thumbnail and noticed all of the different sounds, tones that it brought so I dumped the pick and have been using my fingers ever since.
BTC: How is RAGS IN SKULL different from I CAN HEAR THE ANTS DANCING and JUNGLE ROT?
GB: Well pretty much night and day. JUNGLE ROT was me with a bunch of songs written while I was still in high school. I was just learning to play guitar and record when I did JUNGLE ROT. ANTS DANCING was my group Split "live" in the studio. RAGS is a culmination of thirty-eight-plus years experience in the business. I think it's the best thing I've ever done and have high hopes for it.
A SPECIAL THANKS TO GEORGE BRIGMAN AND OF COURSE "RICHARD" FOR ALL OF THEIR HELP IN MAKING THIS INTERVIEW A POSSIBILITY! A WHOLE BUNCHA BUGS BUNNY KISSES TO THE TWO OF YA!
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 9:22 AM
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Brad Kohler-ENERGY FOOLS THE MAGICIAN chapbook (Kendra Steiner Editions #45, 2007)
Enigmas have been running throughout my life, but after all these years I gotta say that none have been more enigmier than one Brad Kohler. A confidant of Jim Shepard, pen pal and contributor to BLACK TO COMM since 1987, and general nogoodnik compiler of Throbbing Gristle-related occult hooch, not once in our associations did the man threaten, berate, cajole or otherwise upset me, nor did he suddenly (and without proper warning) drop all connections only to badmouth his (former) sugar daddy in print in order to look "cool" with a load of underground rock press interviewers so "conscious" of racist and sexist trends in music who merely yawn (or worse yet, excuse the evil) when one of their protected classes wreaks havoc with the sons and daughters of the so-called well-to-do no matter how poor or unjustly treated they may have been. Which I guess really does say something in today's back-stab world, but exactly what its trying to convey falls on barren brains at this time.
Now, with such undying devotion and utter stupidity (I mean, you can get mega bonus points in today's "Pee-Cee" underground rock clime by trying to out-Communist the next blootch on the road to radicalsville!) you'd sorta wonder if the guy was literate, right? True, Kohler is a good artist/dileneator whether it comes to chic beret and stale Doritos sidewalk-sale canvas abstractions or the funny strips (which have appeared in the mag o'er the years) but taking pen to paper in order to put those twenty-six funny little figures together and make sense while yer at it, that's a totally different ball of polenta if I do say so myself. But Brad can do it, and he has done it not only in the mag but this very blog, which is proof positive that at least ONE MAN knows where his loyalties lie!
Kohler has done some of this fancy-schmancy prose before, not only with Bill Shute (see EXACTA BOX) but on his lonesome as well. However, I gotta say that Kohler's latest ENERGY FOOLS THE MAGICIAN is perhaps gonna be his tippy-toppest best work ever to fling from Kohler's fleet-like fingers, at least until the next one happens to pop up somewhere on the Volcanic Tongue mail order list. Beginning with a quote from Charlotte Pressler's history of the Cleveland "first wave" underground rock bands (circa. 1971-1975) where she talks about the sense of alienation and non-conduit conditions these mostly well-off late-teens were operating in, Kohler zings on with a weird tale that leaves about as much of that sprayed vomit in a Salt Lake City bus terminal on you that some un-named bum splattered all about and you too will feel the uneasy queeze that Brad (and I) feels/felt having to slip back to that craggy night shift or general drop-out sense of living that, like the Cle 1st-wavers, didn't wanna be part of the adult world yet didn't wanna be hippy. VT sez Bukowski but I say "not yet" since Kohler ain't old or dirty enough to be a Dirty Old Poet yet. But give him time like when he's sixty with drooping man-boobs and a double hernia that won't quit.
With people like Shute and Kohler in my camp (more or less), boy do I feel proud! I sure means a lot more to me than having the blogworld drool at my feet and myriad asst. of alternative geeks cling to my every last word of calculated drivel regarding late-period SST releases that I'm surprised anyone would care about a minute, let alone fifteen-plus years later.
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 10:16 AM
Saturday, April 14, 2007
THE LATEST IN A LONG LINE OF BLOG TO COMM FLUFF FILLER POSTS---THE BEST OF 2007 SO FAR (ramble-on edition)
Don't worry lads and lasses, true there are some exciting and perhaps even life-affirming posts heading your way within the week (including my long-awaited by Bill Shute review of Brad Kohler's tome for our times ENERGY FOOLS THE MAGICIAN!), but for today I thought I'd just waste a little precious blog-space (and at the same time not disappoint any of you long-time BLOG TO COMM tuner-inners) by listing some of my fave-rave moments from the current year (or maybe even last few 'uns at it!) which is just barely one-fourth over so you KNOW this one's nothing more or less than a time killer imposed on myself in order to meet a weekend deadline! Consider it what you will (modern-day equiv. of one of Sydney Harris' "A Columnist's Thoughts At Large" pieces w/o the sappy liberal bent), though given my at-times blowhardy and long-winded nature I still hope to out-do what that pathetic wreck did in his entire career of McGovern-esque moosh! (For those of you who forget, and I explained it on the blog a few years back, Harris was a particularly touchy-feely columnist of English extraction who I guess could be considered the Christopher Hitchens of the sixties/seventies, only instead of being stuck in the acerbic seething-hatred-of-all-things-decent present day he was more or less ensconced in the Phil Donahue sense of heartbleed post-Kennedy sixties/seventies liberalism that one still sees even this far down the line when pandering politicians wanna get out the aging ethnic vote by appealing to their worse instincts. Of course, the real question of the day is why does the United States allow such rotten anti-Amerigan hateschpielers like Hitchens and annoying/cloying artsy/craftsy furriners like Harris into this country in the first place??? You'd think that somehow This Nation of Ours would be smart enough to bar these insidious elements from our shores while allowing the likes of Third Wayers, Front National Le Pen followers and other beneficial immigrant-types over here! Oh I forgot...at least those people are too smart to leave their land of birth which is why Europe is always exporting their rotten intellectual fruit [while importing their own hate-screeders who are leading to that continent's sad demise!] while we're supposedly not looking!)
BEST TEE-VEE SHOW (at least airing somewhere at this time): THE MUNSTERS!!! Don't get to watch much tee-vee as I used to ever since getting a dish hookup, but I try to be front and center for this mid-six-oh classic as often as I can. Even beats noted competitor THE ADDAMS FAMILY although the Gomez/Morticia sex angle was certainly hot stuff for forty-plus year-old sitcom fare! Also tops...LEAVE IT TO BEAVER though that one seems to jump across the schedule unexpectedly for no particular reason.
WORST TEE-VEE SHOW: Toss-up between MURPHY BROWN reruns on Nick at Night (I guess it's time for early-nineties nostalgia, which come to think of it sounds even worse than eighties nostalgia!) and these Bill Moyers specials that occasionally pop-up on PBS (I sometimes see the guy while channel-surfing and out of morbid curiousity watch a few minutes before my stomach begins the flip-flops...smug Great Society nostalgia will do that to a fella!). While I'm at it...WORST TREND ON BROADCAST TEE-VEE: the sudden lack of quality junk rerun programming on PBS! For awhile PBS was more'n eager to run old programming from BURNS AND ALLEN and BEST OF GROUCHO to even ALFRED HITCHCOCK or LOST IN SPACE depending on which stations your rabbit ears were able to pick up! Heck, I remember back in the eighties and nineties when channel 16 in Pittsburgh was running a whole slew of classic fifties/sixties wonders mixed in with the old movies and Britcom imports making them, as Wikipedia said in their entry almost like another independent station of the good ol' classic kind! (And I remember Kohler's letter to me about a decade back in which he, in typically Pittsburgh-minded glee, mentioned that THE HONEYMOONERS were returning to channel 16 after a forty-year gap...y'see, before becoming hitched up with PBS as a "sister station" to VHF biggie WQED channel 13, 16 was actually a CBS station which really does seem strange as far as television history and afflilation changes go!) But no more...and frankly, I thought it was great seeing those old JACK BENNY PROGRAMs complete with the Lucky Strike commercials which were excised on second run because frankly we can't have of those being aired, especially on educational tee-vee!
BEST TEE-VEE COMMERCIALS: The Geico "Even a Caveman Can Do It" ones where this catch-phrase always seems to hit a particularly raw nerve with a bunch of chic urbanized cavemen who appear on news programs to air their disgust and eat haute cusine while talking to apologetic execs. Not only do these ads make for fine satire during a time when freewheeling "humor" seems limited to George Carlin and Bill Maher making insulting jibes at the same hoi polloi they claim to embrace, but they thankfully they also show the true face of the entire guilt industry which, in shadier moments, has given way to sheet-chasing civil rights (hah!) lawyers and calamity-seeking "anti-defamation" leagues who don't mind dishing out the defamation themselves. A tee-vee pilot is planned, but you know it's gonna suck.
BEST NEW DISQUE OF THE YEAR: THE WEIRDNESS by the Stooges, and if you disagree then you are in the majority! But then again I quit thinking that the majority "made" things right back in high school when some teacher told me this was certainly not the moral way to go (a shocker, but time has proved that said teach was correct!) so for this once let me proudly stand with the minority!
WORST NEW DISQUE OF THE YEAR! Ain't heard anything nearly bad enough to quality, though who knows...the Content Providers may release something before December 31st clocks in thus making a bee-line for the number one spot in no time flat J. "Neo" Marvin asks "What is truth?" My response should be "What is a lame alternative San Francisco-based hack of a musician????" (Ans.-"Got a mirror handy?")
JUSTICE AT ITS BEST!: The acquittal of the Duke Lacrosse team members for kidnapping and rape. It was long-coming, but it's sure good to find out that those three upstanding specimen of manhood were not responsible for the so-called rape, which never did happed thus bursting the bubbles of a lot of the same sheet-chasers mentioned earlier as well as their white lackeys whom you see all over the place who are more concerned with their own perverted views regarding race and society than they are with justice. Of course, like the infamous Tawana Brawley debacle there still are some believers like this dame I heard about who was on THE VIEW (ABC-TV's modern day re-do of the old women's coffee clatch programs of the fifties on down) who said that these players only got away with it THIS TIME as if such occurances were was definitely everyday happenings in rich kid frat houses world wide, and those over-testosteroned athletes were just plum-lucky the good ol' boys got their act together and ruined the reputation of that fine young stripper who made all of those pertinent yet baseless charges! It kinda reminds me of when I was in second grade and my bitch of a teacher punished me hard for something I didn't do, and my parents actually told me that perhaps there was something wrong that I did which I didn't get punished for so more or less this was the get back for that indiscretion! Well, at the time I thought maybe they were right even though I couldn't think of anything I had done that was really deserving of the tongue-lashing and whipping I had receieved which must prove some occult point, though what that point is I do not know and if anyone feels the need to comment on it they know what to do! (Hint...comment box can be retrieved at the bottom of this very post!) ADDITIONAL NOTE: years later I reminded my folks about this and they thought it was a silly thing to tell me so I guess time does heal all squeals.
JUSTICE AT ITS WORST!: the Don Imus "controversy" which I wrote about in length here, which certainly makes me a braver soul'n all of those lefty blog-types who blabbed on in theor inimitable self-righteous garment-rending manner. Not only is this proof that some slurs are worse than others (like, you never will see people like Maher or Hitchens be forced to retract their idiot statements and apologize for the vicious untruths they've spewed!) but it's also safe to say that it's not the actions of Imus (a relatively harmless person on the social/political scene especially when compared to a few of his targets) who is the biggest threat to racial equality but once again the aforementioned shyster lawyers and self-proclaimed "spokesmen" who are setting their cause back at least thirty years with their Tarzan-esque chest-beating forays into utter conjecture and overt stupidity. Come to think of it, weren't racial tensions were at a low lo those three decades back? Maybe not (I don't recall the rebellious rap kultur and lack of self-determination in the black community but then again maybe I was comatose) so I guess I gotta give congrats to the likes of Sharpton, Jackson etc. for taking a problem that was starting to cure itself and finding downright rampant racial strife and class hatred anyways!
WORST GENERAL KULTURAL TREND: The fact that people who believe in birth control and want everyone on this planet (especially the lower echelons of our society) to cut down on their own populations don't use it themselves! Maybe they do, but not enough (I can think of at least two people out there in computerland who should have, as they say, cut the worm at the hole) and although 20th century smart mind G. K. Chesterton once said that the only good thing that comes from birth control is that their supporters are not multiplying themselves I'm sure even he'd be shocked to see that certain postmodern-thought types are in fact reproducing, and any rate that they do so is sure cause for alarm! But really, what I wanna know is, given the guttural and downright decadent/smarm lives these West Coast and Southern Hemisphere hatescreeders lead, are rectal births all that painful?
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 1:14 PM
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
IN DEFENSE OF IMUS!
(For a change...) in keeping up-to-date with all of the tippy-top goings on out there in the real world...well, I just couldn't resist. I mean, here's this guy with the unkempt hair and the craggy face who looks a bit like "Radical Republican" congressman and Southerner-hater Thaddeus Stevens (probably best known to filmgoers as the basis for the naive-yet-powerful Austin Stoneman in Griffith's BIRTH OF A NATION) and now the legendary (or so his agents tell us) broadcaster is in deep 'doo for calling the Rutgers' women's basketball team "nappy headed 'hos"! Not only that, but a whole buncha people whom I wouldn't give the time of day if I only owned a wristwatch (y'know, the usual bleedheart suspects!) wanna see his 'nads lopped off in public for this unspeakable discrepancy which in saner times used to be called "free speech" no matter how off-the-wall it was! And call me a sensitive old fanabla but the entire brouhaha only makes me wanna feel even more sorry for Imus despite his reputation as just another bigname jerk because if anybody knows how it feels to be the lone defiant one while all of the despicable enemies (some whom you thought were friends!) close in on you for various crimes against humanity (or at least crimes against certain untouchable protected classes) it's ME!!! So maybe I am a better person than your runna-da-mill average blogster to comment on this stirring current event, for at least you ain't gonna be inundated either with self-conscious white-guilt bleating nor self-smarming elitism when it comes down to my own personal opines on the matter!
Frankly, I dunno just what to make of this Don Imus character at least as his whole radio and tee-vee career figure into the big picture. Never listened to him and doubt I ever will, and if you must know I don't even know which local station is running his (I guess) popular morning radio show. Evan after seeing him on television here and there and reading the usual hotcha comments about him via certain news programs o'er the years, I know relatively little about Imus which should be a given...after all, why should I spend time listening to him when I could listen to some Archie Shepp album? What I am trying to say is...attempting to get me interested in what's going on in the exciting not-so-new world of shock jock radio is probably on par with attempting to sway me over to the alternative lifestyle way o' being by inundating me with chic clothing and all the Judy Garland records I can stand!
I can tell you that the first time I can recall discovering who Imus was was also the first time I can clearly remember reading anything by that famed performance artist Richard Meltzer, and that was during Christmas Break '75/'76 inna pages of CREEM when The Master wrote a front-pages mini-missive about what was then considered the Dictators' last live appearance at the "Ms. All Bare America" beauty pageant! The article was aptly entitled "Manitoba's Last Hurrah," and naturally I remember this 'un because of Meltzer's then-eye-opening usage of the English Language and its less "couth" moments, such as when he wrote that this alleged Dictators swan song took place at a "slantfood emporium" in the "Chinkytown district" of New York City! (And, for a guy who had just started browsing through NATIONAL LAMPOON a few months earlier this was certainly startling stuff, especially in the nicey-nice atmosphere of the Gerald Ford-dominated mid-seventies.) I do recall being pretty much bowled-over by Meltzer's, er, flowery language and even though I must admit that I really like Asian people (especially their women!) I gotta relay to you that I didn't find Meltzer's comments to be racist as much as ridiculous. Anyway, the host of that stellar event was none other'n Mr. Imus himself, and the fact that somehow Imus and the Dictators were associated, even in this casual fashion (and being written up by Meltzer) was cool enough for me, sorta like hipness by association which doesn't always work but in this case it seemed OK.
In reality such a "connection" ain't enough for me to give Imus all the hip brownie points he needs especially now (and besides do you think he remembers the Dics?), but when it comes to TODAY Imus is in agua caliente for his comments which I personally think don't come off that offensive when read on paper or pixel (frankly he coulda been way more on-target if he called 'em a bunch of dykes) unless you wanna talk about white people co-opting black slang. But really, after all was said and done and Imus gave his enemies more than the prerequisite pound of flesh all I gotta ask is WHY THE CONTINUAL HARANGUING OF THE GUY ANYWAY??? Considering that a whole slew of so-called "shock jocks" who have been radically changing the industry ever since the early-eighties have said way worse than what Imus came up with it seems more to me like he's the guy who got caught for doing 65 in a 55 m.p.h. zone only because the cop couldn't get hold of the ones doing ninety! Like I said, maybe we should ticket Imus for using that rap ghetto lingo when he should know better, but this ain't the taste police we're talking about!
OK, I gotta be upfront with you all and say that I like offensiveness, at least when it comes to offending people, institutions and beliefs that I hate. Or at least I like it when the offended party isn't the minority member or the woman or the perv at the rest stop who has suddenly been elevated to victimhood status, but the sick white liberal who so patronizingly wants to look out for everyone as long as they fit into his preconceived notions of "inclusiveness" (which means no Southerners or ethnic Northern blue-collar types y'know!). Maybe that's one reason I hold such things as BACK DOOR MAN and the old NATIONAL LAMPOON to heart like I do (not to mention the original SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE which really knew how to dish it out to even the gathered post-hippies at hand, at least until Ronald Reagan sorta made 'em all traditional Democrats at heart!), because the intended target of scorn is probably gonna be that uptight guy with the glasses who mixed a little too much Marx in with his BLESS THE BEASTS AND CHILDREN and comes off like an even bigger bunsnitch all these years later. Y'know, that guy who kept giving me this evil eye when I showed up for jury duty ten years back with an issue of HETRODOXY featuring a "FREE MUMIA---NOT!" headline in a vain attempt to avoid getting picked!
So maybe you're oh-so offended...well, as the old saying goes, "WELCOME TO THE CLUB!" Have any of you "enlightened" ones out there who might have happened to read this via your fave search engine ever thought about how offensive you certainly may be? I mean, look at your own spokesmen if you wanna find some outright disturbing slurs and vehemence. Downright jagoffs like Penn Jillette, Bill "Penis Nose" Maher and Christopher Hitchens have been slinging out the worst sort of barbs towards a whole number of everyday people whose only crime is being productive citizens who happen to support a whole nation of freeloaders and still have faith in pre-enlightenment ideals. And yet, the well-publicized media stars of the day can get away with saying things that make Don Imus look about as innocuous as he was time and time again solely because their bosses agree with their invectives and can supposedly vanquish any criticism with tired old "free speech" bromides that always seemed to work for the ACLU defending child pornographers but not for people protesting at abortion clinics.
Of course the whole "sensitivity" issue that has sprouted from Imus' offhand remark is enough to make one who hadda grow up during the big "relevance" movement of the early-seventies gag (especially watching the coach of the team dribble on in a particularly sickly way while the team members took turns telling the world how "hurt" they were...I'm surprised the entire incident didn't end with a group singing of "Kumbaya"!). I guess we have come to the point in time where when certain groups are offended America has to collectively rend garments (as I said, only when people casually ignored or outright hated by liberals get the shaft does the specter of "free speech" and "diversity" rear its ugly head) which makes me wonder just how such bright minds of the past who certainly knew how to offend and disturb could even fathom existing during these rather Stalinesque times. I mean, can you see a Lester Bangs working in the here and now without the confines of Political Correctness run amok functioning like he did during his seventies CREEM days? (Maybe not, since his infamous racism in punk piece from '79 was certainly a harbinger of smear tactics to come.) Better yet, what about H. L. Mencken with his still-unequalled acerbic and admittedly offensive wit? And the fact that many Jews counted (and still do!) Mencken as a huge influence on their own core beliefs and that, despite his borderline racialist (for the uninitiated, there's a dif. between that and "racist") rants Mencken was an unabashed foe of Jim Crow will undoubtedly fly past way too many of his critics who were undoubtedly brand the Bard of Baltimore with all sorts of hate-filled denunciations once the next bio comes out!
But then again, after what I've been through thanks to a whole load of provoking remarks courtesy yours truly that might have been farcical yet probably more or less heartfelt I should know! I mean, having to take a load of manure from bloggers I wouldn't even pay to SHOVEL it is pretty bad enough, so lemme just tell you that I really bond with what Imus is going through these rather frightening (moreso'n the McCarthy-era, all you protest kiddies!) times. And it's undoubtedly even worse when Imus has to play kootchy-koo with the likes of such "race hustlers" as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton who you know won't stand for anything less than the total public humiliation of Imus. Y'know, that same sorta drubbing that these two have so richly deserved for many a year! Sheesh...having to stoop to a guy like Sharpton who never will apologize to Steven Pagones and who has started more than his fair share of riots only to act all innocent one the carnage is done (which makes him the American equivalent of Ian Paisley, whose recent turnabout seems oh-so-enticing mainly because you know he's gonna get crushed by all of those loyalist lackeys who bludgeoned on his command lo these many years) would be way too much for any man to take! Imus, if you're reading this, maybe it's time for you to take an early retirement rather'n suck the hiney of this fool!
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 6:18 PM
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!
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 1:41 PM
Saturday, April 07, 2007
IT'S EASTER STANDARD TIME! (yeeeeeeesh!)
Goober says hey, and while I'm at it I thought I'd wish all of you BLOG TO COMMsters a very Happy Easter and a really swingin' Easter Monday while I'm at it, that is if you lucked out and got the day off or somethin'! And I dunno about you, but where I'm at here in the wilds of Western Pee-YAY it sure looks more like Merry Christmas outside! Snow everywhere and pretty frigid temps for an April too...and with the climate the way it is (what global warming???) I'm sure that more'n a few of us locals'll be able to spot the Easter Bunny's tracks in the frozen slush comes tomorrow morn which is about as disappointing as you can get holiday-wise unless you count the myriad assortment of sogged-out Fourth of July's I've had to contend with! Oh well, we Western Pennsylvanians did have a pretty warm 'n steamy Christmas last year so I guess this is our payback so to speak, but sheesh, I've always associated Easter with the start of the warm weather season and seeing a blanket of snow onna ground sure doesn't conjure up all those happy memories of Easter past...they bein' happy ones because I knew that if Easter was here, could Summer Vacation be far behind?
But anyway, I hope you'll all be enjoying your chocolate-covered goodies come tomorrow as I know I will be! I'll also be enjoying myself a lot more because y'see, for lent I decided to really do myself in and not write any nasty things about all of those other people (in blogland and elsewhere) who hate my guts to the bone and frankly, after forty-six days (y'see, I'm no slouch, and in fact I even count the Sundays as part o' my lenten sacrifice/sentence unlike all of those slackers who chow down on the sweets and between-meal snacks once the sabbath roles around!) you could say that I've been HOLDING MY TONGUE to the point where it feels as if I've chewed through my lower lip not saying anything mean about a whole slew of stoops who certainly deserve a tongue or keystroke-lashing of biblical (keeping w/the holy season) magnitude. It's kinda like getting a diarrhea attack in the middle of nowhere and trying to hold it in until you can find a pot to poop in, only lasting a good month-and-a-half mind you! Let's just say that tomorrow morning I might just be splattering my long-held opinions all over this blog like a pigeon on ex-lax upon a statue of George Washington!
Sorry there's no music, comic or tee-vee related blog for today. The huge post on a now-top secret subject that I have in the works is still not ready for public consumption so that'll have to wait a bit, though if something of interest should pop up in the mail later on today or a long-forgotten item in a box of who-knows-what captures my attention I might just give you an additional weekend posting tomorrow, after I cleanse my soul of all of the demons that have been pecking away at it that is! Until then, have a good time this weekend and remember to celebrate Easter with the eggroll of your choice at your local Chinese restaurant!
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 1:15 PM
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
BOOK REVIEW! TALES TO ASTONISH by Ronin Ro (Bloomsbury, 2004)
Ah gee, I really love it when my fans send me interesting records and books and other sundries outta the blue, just because me iz me which seems just about as good an excuse for them to do so as any! I guess that's what I get for being such a magnetic personality here in the blog world, and frankly given my own humble surroundings and general lack of big long green I can only hope that more people get the bright idea to send me nice little goodies that I can either enjoy during the lonely evening hours or perhaps even sell for hopefully some beaucoup bucks down the line!
Anyway the fan in question for today's name is Brad Kohler (you already know who he is!) and the book he sent down Sharon way's TALES TO ASTONISH, and although Mr. Kohler was cheap enough to wait until the book was remaindered before he would buy me a copy I sure do appreciate this tome for our times and not only because it's free (which is about as good a reason as any!). TALES TO ASTONISH (also the name of one of the classic early-sixties Marvel monster/fantasy comics later to become a vehicle for their visionary superhero romps, hence the title coppage) purports to be a history of the comic book industry all the way from its humble beginnings until the here and now, but in actuality it's more or less the only biography of the great Jack Kirby that I think any of us'll come across in awhile, other'n in a variety of hard-to-get fanzines that pop up on the auction block once in a blue moon. For the Kirby fans amongst us we muct be grateful for such small favors. And yeah, there are a whole slew of comic book histories out there that also dig into the behind-the-scenes dirt, but despite all of the faults and downright errors (I spotted more'n a few of the obligatory ones that usually seem to slip into these reads perhaps on purpose just so's thousands of eager beaver kids can write in making themselves feel superior in the process) I actually kinda like TALES TO ASTONISH despite the occasional gaffes this book, for all its nicey-nice good intentions, exudes.
Naturally you could expect these faults to creep up on you here and there when you certainly aren't looking, but then again what else would you expect from a writer (cookie-cutter modern gooch with two "gangsta" rap books to his name) who seems to ooze all of the same current-affairs sense of gulcheral nada like a hunka cheese in the sun dripping sweat? True, I can excuse the occasional factual errors as well as the typically cringe-inducing social points which, like most current feely-good mush passing for honest criticism, seems drawn straight outta the ether (the Senator McCarthy reference was extremely nauseating showing that people really have to stray from the truth to besmirch their favorite dead whipping boy even more!), but at times the gush just seems to overtake the book into the usual realms of Irving Wallace blanditude. And author "Ro" has the unmitigated nerve to call SUBMARINER creator and longtime Marvel mainstay Bill Everett a hack! But then again I'd probably read about Jack Kirby and the birth of comic books even if a complete one-dimensional zilchoid like "Ro" (obviously an alias, as Captain America once said) did write it anyways, so just forget the fact that this book was scribed by some "professional" who contributes to the likes of ROLLING STONE and SPIN (thus keeping some real wild gonzo guy a la Meltzer unemployed thus depriving an entire generation as to what rock & roll writing is really about!) and who knows, maybe you'll enjoy TALES TO ASTONISH a wee bit too!
Like I did. In fact I read this mother (keeping a seventies-frame-'o-mind that I often associate with my serious comic book reading days) through twice and I only got the thing Saturday! But TALES TO ASTONISH is nerve-shooting enough even when "Ro" digs up dubious exact quotes from situations that happened over sixtysome years ago (but hey, what Beatle bio didn't do exactly that?) and seems to draw all of these strange convoluted conclusions you never would have in a million years because, at least the guy detailed a great history of the infighting and backstabbing that went on in the comic biz ever since the early days when SUPERMAN helped boost the industry into orbit. If anything TALES TO ASTONISH is tip top reading if only to find out about who the real jerks and heroes in the comic book world are, though even after a few read-throughs it's hard to discern even that. And what's probably best about this book (at least in some strange fashion) is that you know that more'n a few people out there probably have even stronger feelings against "Ro" than I do because other'n for two Kirby sketches that adorn the dustjacket there are NO illustrations to be found anywhere in this read! None, nada, nyet, and you pretty much get the impression that Marvel and DC denied the use of any of their archival Kirby artwork because of the gritty detail that is dug up and presented for us long-gone fans (much of it having to do with Kirby's attempts to recover his artwork in the eighties despite Marvel's best efforts to keep it for themselves), but sheesh, you'd'a thunk that maybe some early public domain Kirby comic coulda be stuck in here somewhere...
For those keeping score, Kirby naturally comes off the winner (toughguy cigar-chomping king of the realm) which would figure considering the author's unabashed fandom for the man, Stan Lee as an innovator as well as advantage-taker par-excellence (which is probably one reason for the lack of artwork!), John Goldwater (MLJ/Archie) as a hardnosed jerk (which was the general attitude of most comic fans considering his role in the creation of the Comics Code Authority...old hatreds die hard), former Kirby partner Joe Simon as a shrewd businessman who would eventually leave Kirby with a bad taste in his mouth and Steve Ditko as big a question as his infamous Charlton creation of the same name. You may interpret the proceedings with a slight difference which is your perogative I guess, but at least that's the impression I get from this book which really woulda shattered my perceptions of what I thought was going on behind the scenes back when I first discovered these fifteen-cent thrills (even less in used book shops, garage sales and flea markets!) long long ago!
I mean, back then I thought that the guys who were writing and drawing these books were having a ball working 9-to-5 in offices where they joked around all the time and had fun creating the next issue of THE INCREDIBLE HULK between table-top football games! (If I only knew that world-famous artists like Kirby were spending more'n a few evenings burning the midnight oil in order to meet approaching deadlines without the benefit of health insurance and all of the other fringes I'm sure I would've felt extremely jaded about the whole affair!) Who woulda thunk (esp. for a twelve-year-old) that the biz was just about as cutthroat and as oneupmanship hardassed as those schooldays that one longed to escape from via these very same comic books! Hey, if I only knew that the comics world wasn't that much different from real life maybe I wouldn't have spent all of those hours in the tee-vee room drawing RATS REAGAN and PUTTY CAT strips but ya gotta admit that at least the likes of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby helped keep up the illusion pretty well! And maybe that's the real message behind this book which no hack writer can spoil no matter how pedestrian his suspect talents may be.
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 4:59 PM