YA GOTTA READ MORE STUFF, MAINLY COMIC BOOKS, IF YA'S WANNA BE LITERATE LIKE ME!
For a while, I dreaded the eventual outcome of the "illiterate generation" that was beginning to take hold in the eighties. That was a time when it was not hard to come by someone of your own class or "social strata" or what-have-you who was more'n glad to brag to one and all that he just "didn't read anything" with the same sense of pride as if he were spouting off to one and all all about his alleged sexual conquests or larger-than-thou record collection. A sorry state of affairs if you ask me because frankly, the more a kid was less likely to read only meant that there was one less bozo less likely to snatch up a copy of my own fanzine which I gotta admit was selling about as fast as books on chastity in San Francisco. And frankly, when I discovered that there were kiddos out there who actually took time out to read, they were wasting their precious few eyeballing some of the worst politically-poised neo-Marxist drivel ever to pass for rock writing to hit the boards! It did seem kinda funny on one hand to see a buncha "free-thinking" and "non-conformist" youth reading about their fave rock groups marinatred in some of the most totalitarian jiz to ever come down the pike (basically your typical CPUSA "tract" with a few foul words tossed in twixt the exclamation points guaranteed to drive yer average upper-midclass philosophy major to heights of revolutionary zeal) but on the other hand the entire trip was pretty frightening esp. when the punks of the seventies were tellin' everyone to eschew that whole revolutionary hype overtaking the youth of the land whilst the punks (or shall I say punques) of the eighties variety were trying to outdo such seventies icons as Abbie Hoffman, George Jackson and Dave Marsh in the teenage rebel-rousing game!
Boy, do I ever go on tangents, and Eddie Flowers and Jillery are RIGHT to castigate me when I step upon my soapbox and try to lay-it-onna-line for you unwashed mental toddlers out there! But hey, if nobody else on this planet is gonna tell ya that you is one of the stoopidest ignoramuses ever to exist then I guess it's my sworn duty to, and to this duty I shall not shirk! But hey, I was just tryin' t' make a li'l ol' point here about the gullibility of the youth of the eighties (and perhaps today!), and since it's my forum I guess I can get away with anything I do try to attempt, or at least give it the ol' college try eh? But enough of that, right now I wanna talk about some interesting bits of reading material I've come across as of the past rwo or so weeks that certainly tickled my psyche and may do the same for you. And the fact that three of these four items are dreaded comic books (and something I got absolute grief for reading when I was a adolescent although thankfully I was permitted to buy and enjoy the things!) might only upset the snooty Werthams amongst you but frankly I don't care! I find comics, at least the right ones, way more kulturally-relevant than all of that "good" reading that we were supposed to wallow in during our single-digit days. And way more memorable too...after all, just about every comic strip/book aficionado remembers the EC comics of the early-fifties, but how many remember all of those horrid primers they were forced to read in first grade anyways?
So here're some of the more recent comic book acquisitions that I've been combing through as of late, 30/40-year-old Silver/Bronze-Aged forgettables true but they sure mean a whole lots more to me than they would a guy born 'n bred on the McFarland-era Spiderman or some other atrocity done in the name of comics. Y'know, comics as they were meant for Saturday Afternoon Barbershop Kids 'stead of all of those innerlectual eggheads who used to drop acid and stare at various Dr. Strange panels for hours on end. Which might be fun for some of you readers but frankly, I'd rather read a comic book over a bottle of orange drink before headin' out with the guys down to the river to throw rocks innit before hitting the playground to cause a little trouble. I guess some of us never do ourgrow being 12 years old, eh?
***Just like every other comic book publisher on the face of the earth, Marvel Comics really knew a good trend when they jumped on it. And in the late-seventies, what better trend was there for Marvel to latch onto than the fifties nostalgia craze that had pretty much taken that entire decade by storm? Naturally they did the whole fifties bit a lot earlier with this terrible multi-part FANTASTIC FOUR saga where the quartet actually land on some fifties-themed planet (and you should see how the entire thing ends, in a mush of horrid white guilt self-flaggelation that I'm surprised didn't turn a whole generation of comic book readers into raving racists!) but at least by the time the 3-D Man appeared in the pages of MARVEL PREMIERE in the glory-hole days of '77 Marvel knew enough to leave the social consciousness in the trashcan and put out a strip which, although set in an era not-too-fondly-remembered by do-gooders and other forms of evil, at least delivered on a pretty good saga that only goes to show you that in an age of HOWARD THE DUCK and other outre quick-flashes the old style of superhero storytelling could be pulled off w/o looking like a fanzine reject!
At the time I passed on this as well as almost all comic books (preferring to spend my newsstand time reading NATIONAL LAMPOON and other pubs more geared towards my own sick sense of humor) though thirtysome years later after loads of way-worse offal has hit the comic racks it sure comes off rather enticing. Always one to jump onto a bandwagon, Marvel decided to create a new superhero set in the year 1958 with this character whose powers and mere existence p'haps came off a little too much a copy of Negative Man from the old DOOM PATROL for comfort, but since that was DC and this Marvel I guess having heroes with similar m.o.d.'s was permissible because both companies were interchangable to a point!
But ripoff styles and nostalgic forays aside, I should 'fess up to the fact that I do find that the stories read in 3-D Man's first two appearances were good enough even for my ever-rapidly-growing anti-Stan Lee tastes, with the Marvel house style (mainly imitate Jack Kirby as closely as you can!) still in place and for once Roy Thomas's oft-wordy captions and overzealous scripting doesn't clog up your mind to the point where this might as well be MRS. WIGGS OF THE CABBAGE PATCH. And for a superhero strip set in the late-fifties, at least Thomas didn't go off the deep end making this overly-referenced to just about every craze to hit that bountiful decade. Enough references do appear, but this isn't like one of those HAPPY DAYS episodes where every hula-hoop/Toni Home Perminant/Edsel mention's trotted out to cover up the fact that if anything this show looked like a buncha seventies actors trying to convince you its the fifties all over again. And though the art is strict Marvel-seventies as is the entire oeuvre, you don't have to squint your eyes and make believe it's them good ol' dayze because it sure feels it!
And it's good yuks as the 3-D Man fights off communist spies and pops off some of those great one-line gaggers just like Plastic Man used to do and even gets involved with a new rock 'n roll singing sensation and this sleazy host of a dance party tee-vee show named Doc Rock, who turns out not to be either Lenny Kaye or that moustachioed man-about-town seen in the Mad Peck cartoons but...a skrull if you can fathom that! And yeah, it's good on your system glomming comic book art that don't preach to you or make you feel evil for merely being alive, but just plain ol' entertains. And in many ways, the 3-D Man was a great throwback to some of the better fifties superhero tries during the bried comeback of the form such as Simon and Kirby's FIGHTING AMERICAN amongst other well-intentioned yet short-lived comic book efforts that might or might not have worked, but are remembered fondly for whatever reasons there may be. Dunno how well 3-D Man did after his MARVEL PREMIERE run...it'd be easy enough to find out with the web at my fingertips but considering how the guy just ain't on the lips of comic book fanatics the way Howard the Duck and Homer the Happy Ghost are I have the feeling he's gonna be mothballed for a quite longer time than any of us could imagine.
On the other end of the mainstream sixties/seventies comic book spectrum comes this oft-neglected title which I wouldn't've been caught dead buying back when it was readily available on the stands, but nowadays a much older and wise me's singing a slightly different tune! Y'know, I'd never thought I'd be picking up anything along the lines of a "kiddie" comic like SUGAR AND SPIKE in my life, but the recent purchase of GLX SPTZL GLAAH just, shall we say, piqued my interest in this long-running DC title a little more'n usual. And besides, I bought this particular issue (#75) for the Doodles Duck reprint that appeared as filler, and what filler it is because the thing's nothing but a deft anti-Wertham saga that not only tries to put the comic book point o' view forth but is good cause for some knee-slapping down the line!
But anyone who would think that SUGAR AND SPIKE is mere kiddie fodder has been playing with their own sense of pseudointellectualism a little too long. Sure the thing is "geared towards children" but I find a lotta what's going on in these pages rather intelligent and perhaps aimed at a much older'n the kids you'd think this was geared towards audience. And I'm talking the swinging over-thirty perusers as well as the teenage guffaw gang weaned on Jay Ward, and hey I gotta admit that I sure coulda used a lot more SUGAR AND SPIKE back in those days 'stead of being made to feel guilty enough to read TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST during one of my less-favorite Christmas breaks.
Everything is going right for SUGAR AND SPIKE, from the entire premise of two toddlers communicating in their own gibberish language and viewing the real world through their own budding existences to the witty storylines and definitely non-hack art, and why there just isn't a bigger SUGAR AND SPIKE cult in comicdom I'll never know because the stuff I've read so far is pretty good yucks-inducing material that you just can't get outta any moderne pretentious comicdom. Gonna hafta scoot some flea markets as well as ebay to see if there are any recent exhumations of this long gone 'un available out there because after a hard day at der kamp it's stuff like SUGAR AND SPIKE that helps me to wind down before I head for my Beaver Cleaver dooner'd (whatever that is!) bed for a few hours of shuteye!
And frankly, the Doodles Duck repro is also a great find. True we've seen many an anti-Wertham schpiel at the hands of comic book writers in the fifties, some more outspoken while others more veiled (take that crime comic that featured a gagged Doc on the front cover that Wertham told his gathered followers was none other than he!), but seeing Wertham attacked from the likes of a so-called "kid's comic" and rather wittily at that is certainly an exhilarating experience! Of course it ain't Kurtzmanesque or anything, but I thought that the portrayal of star Doodles as the uptight elder versus his know-it-all nephew (as well as the comparing of kid's comics and Grimm's Fairy Tales!) said it a whole lot better'n a generation of whiny college students who claimed that the Comic Code was a crime against humanity on par with the execution of the Rosenbergs and Joseph McCarthy's purging of unsavory elements in the State Department! The best satire and social commentary is always supposed to be the most sublime, and if that's true I guess that the great Sheldon Mayer sure did a better job of making the entire nannystate comics code debacle look as ridiculous as it was than all of the fanzine-based anti-Wertham editorials combined!
***As John Cleese would say, now for something completely somethingorother, a rock & roll fanzine review! Yes, I finally got that big box of long-awaited fanzine esoterica (and not a bit of eroterica in the batch!) that I've been waiting for since late autumn and guess what, you can bet that I feel like some adolescent boy whose just discovered a long-long box o' girly mags and a discarded bottle o' vaseline diggin' through these classic rock reads and discovering so many facts heretofore unknown about some of my fave artists and writers to the point where I kinda feel like "the Leader", that bad guy from the Hulk who absorbed every speck and shard of knowledge in the universe and croaked as a result! (Pardon me...still in comic book gear!) Yes, you can bet that I'll be spending more'n a few lost moments going through these "Golden Age of Rock Criticism"-era fanzines for the next few weeks, and naturally mentions/reviews and whatnot regarding a good buncha 'em should be coming atcha either on their lonesome or incorporated into larger single-themed articles depending on what use I have for 'em at the time, being such a discerning editor and all.
But for today's installment of "Fanzine Knowledge Oneupmanship" lemme gab about the second issue of SPOONFUL, a mag that came outta the wilds of Teaticket Mass, and a nice xeroxed one at that put out by a chap named Fred Whitlock who managed to unleash at least five of these neat wonders before joining with fellow-Boston area fanzine editor Dennis Metrano's SUNSHINE to create...none other than SPOONFUL OF SUNSHINE if you can believe that! But as far as early-seventies fanzines go SPOONFUL was a real fanzine winner...true it wasn't as pro as WHO PUT THE BOMP! or FLASH, but then again "good" fanzines don't exactly have to be glossy and professionally printed just as long as they have the rock & roll zeal, and SPOONFUL was just chock-fulla that no-holds-barred spunk that I always believed made for a great fanzine read, or at least made for more of that really grande gonzo rock writing that seems to be in short supply these sorry days!
I reviewed ish #3 of this mag a few months back, and although that issue was a nice, matter-of-fact yet lacking a certain something read, I found myself going back to it over the next few months pretty much in the same way I've been scouring my old issues of HYPE(RION) and, as I was doing about five years back, THE GROOVE ASSOCIATES. Maybe it was Whitlock's own aw-shucks writing style that did it, or perhaps the various contributors including Alan Betrock of JAMZ and NEW YORK ROCKER fame piqued my interest, or even the idea that some guy who was all for the likes of sixties garage bands, early-seventies heavy metal and all of those boss BLOG TO COMM faves could also be a cheerleader for the progressive rock of Yes and Flash (!) turned my head 360, but whaddeva I really thought that issue was good even if the lack of graphics did tend to deter from the overall wowzer effect of it all!
Strangely enough, this earlier ish (#2) was an overall much better product 'n the previously writ-up #3, not only with a classier cover (loads better'n #3's drawing of an acoustic guitar that would have led one to believe SPOONFUL a folkie mag!) but with neatly-stencilled artwork and a lot more jam-packed writing that really kept me glued to my toilet for hours on end! And what an issue it is, not ony with an article on Humble Pie (eh!) written by fan/prozine regular Jon Tiven (of whom more will be written on a lot sooner'n you'd imagine) but Whitlock's own piece on the MC5 which is cool enough because when the guy wrote the thing the Five were still alive and "sorta" kickin', and it's great to read stuff about 'em that was written in the then and there 'stead of the here and now where it's rockism correct to write nice things about these guys who were more often'n not put down while they were still in business! And, amongst the reams of reviews of then-new album fodder (everything from Jennifer Warnes' John Cale-produced disc to the first Lou Reed and Bowie's ZIGGY STARDUST), we're treated to mentions, name-drops and general raveups regarding bands and artists of many sortsa stripes, everything from Pink Floyd and Mayall to War (!), Elton John's HONKY CHATEAU (!!), Joan Baez (!!!) and Bob Weir's Ace (!!!?!?!?...or is that "#%@&%*#!!!!!"). But before you're ready to dump your copy into the trashcan (which I hope you'll never do since SPOONFUL is a class fanzine read despite some lapses in taste) please realize that if you look hard enough you will also find much of worth, and even some downright pertinent material relating to that seventies phenomenon known as punk rock! What I'm talkin' about's Whitlock's very own piece entitled "Todd Rundgren is a Punk" which makes the same point as a lotta other fanzines of the day, that if Mike Heron, Peter Hammill and Thee Image (!!!!!-more on THAT in a future post) could be considered punk rockers, why not the Runt hisself??? Given how this article is rather short yet sweet I decided to do you all a favor and reprint the thing in its entirety and let you be the judge...whether or not it would be wise of me to dish out the moolah for a copy of SOMETHING/ANYTHING even if people like the Electric Eels thought Rundgren was the greatest, and as usual I will make my decision (by week's end) regarding on how the vote goes. Please, do not be shy, and while I'm at it let me say that if you wanna vote you can either do so privately via email (if you're lucky enough to have my address!) or in the comment box. No votes will be accepted after Sunday, January 20th (I'm in a hurry!). And for the sake of not only clueing you in to just what the hell I'm writing about but to present some fine Golden Age of Rock Fanzine writing, I will (re)print this particular piece with all gaffes, goofs, at least two spelling errors and Whitlock-imposed spaces intact because frankly, I am not a snob and find such fanzine-level scribing a whole lot more digestible than some rock screed just oozing a NEW YORK TIMES set of sartorial elegance! In fact, I will even omit the sics because frankly, who needs 'em!!! So read on and lemme know if you think that Todd Rundgren is a punk worthy of my hard-begged shekels...remember to cast your own vote before Sunday comes a'knockin' at your door!!!
TODD RUNDGREN IS A PUNK by Fred WhitlockTo which I must add...Fred Whitlock, where are you these days? And if anyone's willing to part with any other issues of SPOONFUL (esp. #5 with the EDDIE FLOWERS-dileneated cover) please lemme know!
Just when everyone thought punk-rock was going to die out, along comes a two-record set which Breathes new life into 1965, smooch- Beatle music, Beach Boy- Bee Gee harmonies and hep to the jive rock n' roll. It's jukebox Saturday night all over again.
Something/ Anything on Bearsville gives me a chance to finally meet Rundgren face to face. This album comes on like a gift to my ears. This cruisin' music, filled with acvanced coolness that gives off the sensation of a soul - kiss. He's been through playing the high school bops and local band scene (check out the beginning of side four), somehow he manages to retain the rowdiness and cleaverness one gets from the experience. The music is filled with passion, sentimentality and enthusiastim that's hard to sometimes find in today's music.
The album runs through many different styles - Beatle rock, the old L. A. sound, heavy mental, pop ballads and soul music. His songs sum up the combination of toughness and youth which punk - rock is all about. This is Friday night, on the prowl, hold my hand, let's bug out music. At the same time it has all the freshness and crispy sound like a new head of lettuce makes it stands out in the flood of this year's releases. Todd is a crispy critter, who plays all the instruments, sings all the vocals (on the first three sides, did the fourth in onetake) and produced the album. A real wise guy, right? This is what being creative is all about. Todd is a solid sender who never gets super-hip, obnoxious, nor does he let himself get bogged down with self indulged pretentiousness, to the point of turning off the listener.
Yes, Todd is a punk and I hope he stays that way. I love this album, SOMETHING/ANYTHING and I am looking forwards to the release of his fourth album, there's always room in my head for Rundgren music.
Oh, and a final aside...one interesting revelation that certainly got my interest piqued appears on page 8, where we're treated to none other than a "THICK AS A BRICK contest"! As Whitlock writes "I find the new Jethro Tull album to be a drag. From what I understand Anderson meant this to be a spoof on concept albums but most people are taking it very serious. After spending some time listening to it, I've come up with my own outlook on what the album's about." Whitlock then goes on to say that he believes THICK IS A BRICK was all about KARL MARX and his development into a philosopher of "world renown" I guess as Europe was heading full-force into the industrial revolution! As a kicker, Whitlock then offers up a CONTEST/COMPETITION where you, the reader, can write in and tell us what you think THICK AS A BRICK is about! (No letters dated after 8/28/72 will be used, but if 1972 ever comes back boy, are you in luck!) Of course, nobody in Tull, friends, relatives or bedmates are eligible for this contest because you probably already know the answers, and what's more, the winner will receive TEN Warner Brothers/Reprise singles which certainly would have been a bargain for any music-starved young 'uns willing to give it a go! What I find most interesting about this contest is...a few years later in the pages of CREEM Lester Bangs used the same "gimmick" in his review of Tull followup A PASSION PLAY, making me wonder whether or not Bangs had copped his idea of having the reader explain what that concept LP was all about from the pages of a by-then defunct fanzine, figuring that not too many people had read the original in the first place and besides if Whitlock'd complained, who'd listen? Anyway, it is something to ponder though Bangs has been long gone from the scene and who knows where Whitlock is these days!