Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Despite being ravaged with the agony of lower-back pain (which was "set off" by a wild sneezing jag of all things last Monday evening!) that not only has kept me awake half the night these past two evenings but enveloped me in virtual torture ever since, I am still going to face it like a MAN and give you a typical mid-week update on just a few of the Cee-Dees that have graced my ears despite being held hostage by a feeling akin to your lower spine being sledgehammered by an unemployed Polish plumber! (And yeah, I would "wish it on my worst enemy" or Dave Lang even...I mean, he deserves it!) But hey, I guess in order to be a striving and successful blogger in this world of utter hippie swill soldier on I must, so don't go saying that I can't do the humble selflessness routine once in awhile too!

Television-MARQUEE MOON CD (Elektra/Rhino)

Yeah, I know that reviewing a top ten win place or show slab o' aluminum like this 'un is akin to hipping all of you lumpen prolesters to old Alice Cooper singles just like I used to do during the early days of my own crudzine, but since I just got this new mini-LP sleeve version o' the thing ("LOVINGLY REPRODUCED IN A CD-SIZED JACKET"...well, I'm glad they did it without malice in their hearts!) plus I gotta admit that I haven't even spun my original musicassette version o' the thing in quite awhile, what better fodder for this orgy can you think of? And true, Television come off like a group that spawned way too many imitators and emulators o'er the years (some of 'em even good!), but once you get down to it MARQUEE MOON was a whole lot more to me than just being one of those brave new wave offerings that miraculously sprung forth from the ether to educate all of us stoopid suburbanites as to the music that we shoulda been listening to. It was a pretty good late-seventies bargan bin find alongsides all of those '77-vintage Sire albums, and seein' once-revered "save-the-world" music like this intermingling in the cheap bins alongsides Flamin' Groovies and Young Rascals offerings was pretty invigorating for a fellow like myself who certainly hadda count the pennies in order to get a little bitta high energy into his life!

After years of listening to audience tapes of Richard Hell-period shows at Max's and CBGB not to mention the Eno-produced demos and loads of pertinent bootleg wares, MARQUEE MOON sure sounds downright major label spit 'n polish professional. Which is probably why I didn't totally cozy up that much to this 'un when I gave it a spin last night...of course there might have been extraneous circumstances extant (like a throbbing spine) that hampered my critical acumen, but danged if I'll take the wide array of pre-MARQUEE MOON demos (Eno's or Lanier's) and live recordings over the official product.

But that's no reason to dump on MARQUEE MOON which is still a superfine example of what some outta-nowhere New York City punk rock group could do with a whizbang producer and real studio to work in. And it's a good place in itself to start, even if the the thing sounds more like a 1977 professionally-produced product than it does 1971 garage band. If only MARQUEE MOON had the tough edge of TEENAGE HEAD would it be the no-holds-barred album I sure was hoping for. But for now, I believe it will suffice at least in the face of all it stood AGAINST back in the day.
STUMBLEBUNNY CD-R (private pressing)

I'll betcha yez all thunk I wuz some smartsy when it came to Noo Yawk punk rock releases, eh? Well, here's a late-seventies NYC-oriented disc that I never even knew existed, and to add insult to injury the thing came out on a major label if you can believe it! Of course I knew that there was a band called Stumblebunny playing 'round the local club circuit at the time...I mean, they seemed to be playing out a lot (they even opened for Link Wray at Max's!) and who could forget their single which appeared on the very first edition of KILLED BY DEATH way back in the dark ages of the eighties? Stumblebunny seemed nice enough, though with all of the other groups playing around in the 'burgh at the time I'm sure they got plowed under, if you know what I mean. What I didn't know was that Stumblebunny actually toured England and Germany opening for the Hollies (!), and while they were holed up in the former REICHSTAG they actually recorded and released an album for Phonogram which I guess has been all but forgotten 'cept for the most diehard of New York City punkitudeners a good thirty years after the fact!

Flash forward thirty years and none other'n ex-member Chris Robison's making CD-Rs of this very album and auctioning them off on ebay! Praise be to Chris for taking the time out to make this rarity once again available (if it ever really was) to a punk-starved public, and even though I'm sure this "re-release" was done without the knowledge of the parent company who cares? I'll bet that Robison's making more selling these burns than he did from the legit album, and it's nice to see that the artist is finally seeing some long-missing moolah for his hard work after all these years. I mean, you don't think he's doing this merely for his health do you?!?

Anyway this Stumblebunny album's pretty neat stuff that, while not of the hard post-Velvets/experimental hard-edge late-sixties garage band style, is still pretty good NYC rock that sounds a lot like what I figure many of these other underdocumented groups did. Nothing hardcore rocking but surprisingly nice pop rock...even melodic pop at times with harmonies and nice playing which makes me wonder why a lotta doofs out there were pouncing on punksterisms at the time w/o hearing nary a note of it. Kinda reminds me of back in the day when things like "Cruel to be Kind" were considered tres-outre by a lotta my peers which only goes to show you how repressed teenage mindsets were, and I only hope this gives you an idea of what I was up AGAINST at the time so don't go 'round thinking I'm some sorta bandwagon jumper-on, pleeze...

No track listings and the songs are "banded" into two sides so you can't just click on a fave so you'll have to do a lotta fast-forwarding to get to a fave song. (I liked this one numbuh with a Lovin' Spoonful sorta lilt to it...wish I knew what it was called because it was a proverbial ear-pleaser!) And yeah, there's nothing "meaning of life" anywhere on this platter but Stumblebunny are still worth tracking down if your tastes veer into the more melodic side of late-seventies self-produced gems. And of course stuff like this only makes me wanna hear more and more of alla them "under-the-cover" local bands from throughout the seventies from not only New York but elsewhere across the globe, and hopefully alla the vaults will be opened so's we can get a taste of what all those unreleased/recorded bands we used to hear about were just like. Maybe least while I still have my hearing, I hope!
Material-MEMORY SERVES CD (G&P, Russia)

My recent Sonny Sharrock dig-ups had me going back to this classic early-eighties album that was originally released on Elektra/Musician during one of their more lucid moments. Considering how MEMORY SERVES, like the Television platter above also seemingly went directly into the cutout bins I guess budget-conscious record collectors like us must've had a field day collecting rarities such as this and at low cost to our already over-taxed pocketbooks as well! I mean, who sez the eighties were a bad time for music considering all of the great sixties/seventies flea market and cheap rack finds that helped quadruple my record collection, and for the fraction of the cost had I bought these things at full price or from GOLDMINE set-sale lists!

And maybe not-so-surprisingly so MEMORY SERVES is an extremely boffo album from a time when the merger between punk rock and freedom jazz was pretty much being solidified thanks to way too many smarties drawing the comparisons in a variety of magazine articles o'er the past ten years. This of couse was a time when Rudolph Grey would get Ken Simon to play free sax in Red Transistor (and of course introduce the likes of Beaver Harris and Arthur Doyle to a new generation via the Blue Humans) and hard-edged players such as Joseph Bowie, Philip Wilson, Ronald Shannon Jackson and Luther Thomas were intermingling on the same stages where the Contortions and Von Lmo would perform. And Material, with not only Sharrock on guitar but free jazz players the likes of Billy Bang and Olu Dara (not forgotting sax player Henry Threadgill and AACM alumni George Lewis on trombone) certainly fit in with that budding trend in underground rock, and it's too bad that more of this kind of jazz-rock didn't get out to the public like it shoulda because I think we sure coulda used a lot more avantjazzpunk merger at the time and a lot less bands filled with people dressing up like Lilly Tomlin doing the gnu wave dance rock deal!

The two vocal tracks sound very mid-seventies Eno before he began to take himself too seriously with Sharrock's guitar playing angular enough yet fitting in with the funkpunk rather smoothly. (Of course Fred Frith also contributes a few licks as does multi-instrumentalist Michael Beinhorn, and if any of them are doing those twisted licks then may I call them ample imitators?) The instrumentals also digest well enough, not falling into those horrid dance-rock grooves of the time (which Material could certainly be guilty of) and even with the Ronald Reagan sample this doesn't sound dated one bit! And hey, it's always great hearing players like Bang doing rural fiddle scraping with that urban touch kinda coming off like GREEN ACRES inna 'hood proving that you didn't have to be an uptight Manhattan snob or decadent artiste to make true art statements. And it didn't even HELP either!

Makes me wanna hear more such as some of those Material live shows like the ones done when Sharrock took over the guitar chair after Chris Cultieri left Summer '80. And with all the taping that was going on at the time you woulda thunk some of those gigs woulda made the trading lists but nooooo. I mean, I have a CBGB show from early '80 before Sharrock's arrival that's wasting away somewhere in the hovel, but it sure looks as if nobody and I mean nobody was astute enough to grab a recorder and take it to one of the gigs when Sharrock was front and center! Kinda makes me mad that these shows are rotting away in (the now "respected producer") Bill Laswell's collection when there are big bucks to be made in releasing this stuff to a hungry general populace! Hey Bill, why dontcha open sesame the vaults and share some of that gnarly stuff for once! (Until then, snarf up all the Last Exit disques you can find...those should sate your appetite for unchained Sharrock at his late-eighties best!)


duck_stab said...

Chris Robison was also late of Elephant's Memory and originally got his start in mustache-homo-poppers, Steam (of 'Na Na Na Hey Hey Hey' (in)fame). He had two limited press/private press singer-songwriter rock albums prior to Stumblebunny focusing specifically on personal vignettes from his openly gay lifestyle (very uncommon at the time). Stumblebunny had a limited EP prior to the album called Bad Habits and the LP only came out in Deutschland, produced by Richard Gottehrer (Strangeloves, Dirty Angels, Blondie, et al). Line-up included Peter Jordan; unsure if this is the same Peter Jordan who filled in for the Dolls when Arthur had his thumb 'accident.' Chris later made a CD of acclaimed childrens music with his partner. Track listing is as follows:

1. Tonite (originally on the first Stumblebunny EP and later cut by Ronnie Spector)
2. Down The Road
3. Walk Away
4. Don't Wanna Love
5. Airplane Song
6. Young Stuff (originally cut on his second solo LP, 'Manchild')
7. Jimmy Rowe
8. Knockin' Around
9. Soap Opera Day
10. Rock 'N' Roll Man

...and no, I'm not Chris Robison. Just a fan of this great unheralded power pop album. Really great and needs due NOW!

Anonymous said...

Re : Stumblebunny

I saw this LP in Paris in 1981 when I was going out one night. Not wanting to carry any records that night, I figured on going back the next day to pick it up.
When I went back to the where I thought the record shop was, I could not find the shop anywhere. I walked around all the surrounding streets, but could not find it!

Never saw the LP ever again, and some friends of mine doubted its existence.

The band includes Peter Jordan of NY Dolls.

Nice to see it's out there.
I'll have to hunt down the cdr.

Cheers, Imants.