Saturday, February 02, 2008

RAUNCH AND ROLL; O. REXTASY/BLITZKRIEG; QUATRO QULT (fanzines from the Solomon/Jay Gruberger axis ca. 1974-1977)

Ya wanna talk about crudzines, those lower-end of the rung cheaply-produced fanzines that were certainly lacking in quality, looks and best of all intestinal fortitude??? You remember them from the eighties, when some hardcore punque rockers'd get together, review the latest batch of records they got from their latest Systematic and Rough Trade orders 'n throw in a bit of self-righteous/indulgent editorials and maybe that ten-second interview with Ian MacKaye they did after a gig ("Hi Ian"/"Bye puds!") and make it into a brand-spanking new 'zine that would compete with all the biggies and just get the collective minds of p-rock Ameriga all a'buzzin', right? Wrong! But the lack of expertise or writing abilities or anything like that never did stop a whole slew of fanzine-mad kiddoes ever since the days of the early Sci-Fi fandom surge of the thirties, and come to think of it such a lack of finesse never stopped me, and I've been in on this rock writing/self-publishing game for a much longer time than any of us could ever imagine, or were alive for that matter!

I don't think you could any of these fanzines that came straight from the stable of Solomon and Jay Gruberger "crudzines" per-se...sure they sometimes come out reproduced as if the mimeograph at the office was due for servicing back in 1972 and the one-sided printjob only makes the things look a lot larger than they actually were, but the writing in these mags is more often than not superb, and believe-it-or-not but I gotta admit that all of these RAUNCH & ROLL and O. REXTASYs (or is it "O REXTASIES"???) as well as the other fanzines from the "Calzone Ltd." publishing empire were mighty boffo reads even if the production values were way down. Just like every good bitta mid-seventies rock fan/prozine writing where you can sure get a whole lotta information let alone fun outta reading these magazines and who knows, maybe you'll even get to learn something just like Bill Cosby used to say at the beginning of all those Fat Albert cartoons even if the thought of "educational" entertainment used to make my skin feel so creepy as a kid!

You may know the Grubergers better as 2/3rds of the infamous O. Rex band of "Califawnia Girls" fame (see latest UGLY THINGS in particular, and Johan Kugelberg's "pre-punk" article specifically for more information) and you might also know them as members of the famed "critics" band Afrika Korps, but before they were setting their musical urges to sound they were setting them to type not only as contributors (Solomon to Kenne Highland's ROCK ON as well as Mark Jenkins' HYPE) but as publishers of their own mags, mainly these three titles in question. And, as you'd probably expect, the Gruberger brothers, like Lester Bangs and Richard Meltzer, Robot Hull, Adny Shernoff and Crescenzo Capece, dove full-tilt into this thing that we called gonzo rock journalism meaning that if you're one of those limp-wristed lilly-livered watercress sandwich-eating types who gets all aghast at the stuff that I've written about various "protected" peoples and classes then you're going to crap your Ghandis when you get an eyefulla the stuff that the Grubergers were writing way back inna day! So settle back Gertrude, because it's gonna be a long trip into bad-taste land for thee!

And yeah, I remember when I first read something by Solomon G., in fact in the pages of an issue of Kenne Highland's post-ROCK ON fanzine TRASH (the issue with the Eddie Flowers-drawn cover of the New York Dolls acting naughty) and an article entitled "Juba Night on the Midnight Special" appeared (in case you didn't know, "juba" is a Gruberger term for people of African heritage, and it appears a lot in these pages!) this one Solomon was tellin' us about how it was Friday night (actually Saturday AM) at One O'Clock and the two were gathered writing letters to record companies trying to scam freebie albums while THE MIDNIGHT SPECIAL was on, with the O'Jays singing a song in tattered clothes about slavery or something to which the two sang some lyrics outta one of those racist singles you used to hear about that went something along the lines of "America's for whites/Africa's for blacks" and you can probably guess the rest which is something so disturbing I dare not print it. And even then I could get the whole sick joke about two white guys singing such stuff (if in fact it did happen this way w/o any fanzine exaggeration on Solomon's part) because if anything the joke was not on any black people but on the sissified overtly-sensitive white rock listening public that might have had pity and empathy for minorities, but once the cameras and tape recorders were turned off seemed to be singing a different tune. A hypocrisy that dared not speak its name because just about everyone was going along with it!

The real punchline to the joke was that none of these guys were racist, and in fact I have it on good authority that Jay Gruberger's best friend in high school was of African heritage! But like I said ages back, I thought it was great when I read some CREEM critic saying that the various "Archie Bunkerisms" that people like Bangs etc. were spouting off at the time were such a refreshing change from "giving lip service to the liberal homilies of the sixties, which everybody agreed with but few believed in." And controversial or not, these mags really ain't as out-there as things that were being said in BACK DOOR MAN let alone NATIONAL LAMPOON at the time, and you could easily pick that one up at the newsstand!

But lest I lead you more tender readers into thinking that the sole output of the Grubergers was one of violent Amerigan Nasty Party propaganda let me just talk about these mags I recently got via my big fanzine score of last month. And let's start with RAUNCH AND ROLL, brother Jay's own mag which in many ways is almost identical to Solomon's O. REXTASY 'cept in the proportion of Jay to Solomon writing (reversed in Solomon's own mag, naturally!). Taking personalism to a new height, both RAUNCH AND ROLL and O. REXTASY have that faded xerox look of the sixties 'zines, lotsa quickie hand-printed covers and graphics, and comics that look like no expense was spared to get the neighbor's ten-year-old to draw 'em. Loads of Leslie West praise as well, not to mention some pages that are one-sided, some that are two! And, in a fanzine first, the front cover of issue #3 (June '75) is actually an ad for the Blue Oyster Cult's ON YOUR FEET OR ON YOUR KNEES which kinda makes me wanna guffaw because back when I was doing issue #13 of my own rag I got (as part of a pithy hate note from none other than Gerard Cosloy) a snide jibe about me using a press-release for Sonic Youth's DAYDREAM NATION on the inside front cover as if I was so low on copy or something equally oneupmanship-like, me politely responding that since this flyer was something that was not going to reach the general listening audience I felt that there was no significant rock/cultural gaffe being made in my printing of the thing. And besides, Blast First hinted that they might pay for the thing as an ad if I published it...of course they didn't!

Maybe the appearance a mere BOC ad smack-dab on the front cover of a fanzine was used to hide the fact that perhaps this ish was goin' over the edge into TEENAGE WASTELAND GAZETTE-inspired "bad taste" territory such as in "The Allman Brothers Show", a spoof of what it would've been like if that famed Southern Rock band had their own tee-vee program complete with that weekly skit "Snag a N----r, Inc.!" (pardon the censorship all you free speech kiddies out there!) where not only do various blacks done up in the old time stereotypes get offed, but none other than Eddie Flowers hisself since he's an albino "white coon"! (Elswhere in RAUNCH & ROLL was a section entitled "Could You Imagine" which said amongst other things, "Could you Imagine Eddie Flowers hating blacks?" that to me just seems like another fun dig at a fellow bad-taste monger!) Again, please keep in mind the real target of this sorta stuff, the Robert Christgaus of this world who still get all apopleptic over humor that even dares to tweak the nodes of their personal ideals of universal brotherhood, eh Clarabelle?

But anyway, I love these RAUNCH AND ROLLs. Ish #1 has a drawing by then noted-fanzine cartoonist (DENIM DELINQUENT, GULCHER, ELECTRIC WARRIOR FREE PRESS...) and future Classic Ruins bassist Carl Biancucci, who was then in the middle of his Jack Bruce obsession which really did fit into R&R's entire oeuvre, since Jay Gruberger was heavily into Mountain and West, Bruce and Laing! It's a spiffy issue too, not only with a column from Biancucci but a Mountain comic by Jay (whose style makes my old "Kickout D. Jamz" from the mid-eighties look like Milton Caniff!), a fake New York Dolls interview (don't worry, it won't be republished when they do a "New York Dolls in print" book a few years from now!) and loads more inc. the Kinks, heavy metal and brother Solomon on...Paul McCartney and Wings! What really makes RAUNCH & ROLL #1 so special is...that the thing is stapled not on the left side but at the top of the page making for very hard toilet reading! And as far as the New York Dolls poster promised on the front cover...well, it's just a promo pic from the same sesh that gave us the cover of TOO MUCH TOO SOON reduced to xerox fuz. No big deal!!!!

I'd like to say that future RAUNCH & ROLL stepped up the evolutionary ladder of fanzine humble beginnings to something a bit more...neat???? but in this case I'd be lying since ALL of these mags seemed to have the same sense of crudzine bliss that one can still find a lotta chahm in. There was a quick upgrade to what looked like a more professionally-printed cover with the October '75 ish (cover reprinted above) but that was not to last if the May '76 issue is any indication. Still, all of the mags I got made for some great fanzine reading time...and in fact I'm still going through these rags finding new and interesting things that missed my eye the first time kinda like I used to do with the old MAD magazine. And hey, amidst the cartoons swiped from the English weeklies and such other acts of blatant ripoff a gem or two can be found, such as the review of Phil Manzanara's DIAMOND HEAD written by none other than future underground rock spokesman Thurston Moore where he, in the course of name dropping some of his fave hits to pick like Television and Patti Smith, mentions such likely faves as Roxy Music as well as (now get this!) the rock version of PETER AND THE WOLF as well as Manfred Mann's NIGHTENGALES AND BOMBERS album and...Renaissance??? Naturally Moore's particular tastes in music were scrutinized by editor Jay with various wizecracking comments...but frankly what else would you expect??? However, the thought of Moore actually cheerleading o'er a group like Renaissance really does surprise me! Well, I feel a lot less guilty about some of the crap I was listening to back then after this...I never bought a Renaissance album and for that I am glad!

(And while I'm at it, how could I forget [which I actually did forget since I'm adding this to the post a good two hours after it originally published!] some of the great tossing about of the punk rock credo right around the time that term was filtering out of the fanzine/collector scum movement intothe general populace. Take this example from the October '75 ish in which appears a review of the first Thee Image album. Now, some of you avid garage sale and flea market record bin hustlers are sure to remember these guys, a trio fronted by former Blues Image leader Mike Pinera who had two albums out on ELP's Manticore label back in the day. Of course you should remember because you've seen both of these albums, the first with an actually pleasing psychedelic circa '69 sleeve and the second [with a Bermuda Triangle motif] languishing in 99-cent bins and flea markets for years on end, and although I had them pegged as an American ELP/Triumvrat guitar/mass of keyboards/drums-styled progressive band [I mean, why else would Manticore sign 'em?] the review of their album by presumably Jay has me thinking otherwise..."Boy, do these guys sound like PAUL REVERE AND THE RAIDERS except a little more rock 'n' roll. These guys would be such great punks if they didn't have that touch of heavy metal." Sound great, hunh? Well, I dunno because a few pages later Jay is badmouthing the very same group after he encountered them live although most of his ire seemed directed towards Pinera for his "boasting" about the group, the label and the album. So what's the verdict? Should I actually go and spend a buck on the first Thee Image LP I see at the next flea market? What's it gonna be? As usual, your votes will tell.)

Moving onto brother Solomon (the "heavier" of the pair, he weighing in at a good 350 according to the Afrika Korps weigh-in mentioned in the last issue of TAKE IT!), his magazine O. REXTASY seemed to be the more popular of the pair, at least judging from the reams of fanzine press the thing got compared with RAUNCH & ROLL. Frankly I felt the two titles were pretty much interchangeable with the same kind of low-fi printing, the typewriter-pecked front cover "masthead" at the top of the page and (again) the one/two-sided page job which makes you think you're getting a lot more than you actually do. The earliest of these two issue's actually not an O. REXTASY at all but the mag under its (temporary) new title BLITZKRIEG complete with a faux-nazi symbol on the front looking like a cross between a swastika and the Blue Oyster Cult Greek symbol for chaos and snaps of...Elton John and Black Sabbath? And yes, there's a long Elton John article on the insides written by some gal reader since it's really fannish and the pics are mostly faded snaps we've seen a million times taken from old ROLLING STONEs and other teenybopper fan mags. There is a drawing of the glammed-up Elton as well which was done by a Ron Agostinetti, a bloke who also did the cover of RAUNCH & ROLL #5 (with a S&M theme!) in case anybody is keeping track out there!

As for the name change: "Well, the whole point is, the name O. REXTASY was taken from the band O. Rex. And all that was named after Marc Bolan. And that was years ago. Now the times have changed. It's 1976, and Marc Bolan is a thing of the past. In fact, he never was! And I do not want to be associeted with a failure! So the name BLITZKRIEG is the name of the new band, and of this paper." However, I guess that Solomon once again changed his tune so to speak, because for all I know this was the only issue under the title BLITZKRIEG and as far as the new band goes, dunno what happened to them!

Still it is a nice ish, with Solomon's impressions of hanging out with Kenne Highland in Bloomington Indiana as well as a ghosted review of CAPTAIN FANTASTIC AND THE BROWN DIRT COWBOY which I guess only goes to prove to you that maybe my own personal music tastes when I was fourteen weren't as bad as I thought...for years I felt the pain of shame for growing up and actually liking a lotta that AM rock twaddle but since such big names as Solomon Gruberger have done the exact same thing...well, maybe I can now sleep well at nights safely and securely cuddled under my Beaver Cleaver dooner!

Next ish of O REXTASY I have's dated July '77, and the cover shot's a beaut even if it's a mere xerox. It features a photo of the main players at a Boston rock group night at CBGB with not only a good portion of the players posed onstage (including members of the Third Rail, Thundertrain and the Boom Boom Band, but Kim Kane from the Slickee Boys and Solomon Gruberger himself! The insides have a lotta musings regarding the then-roaring Boston scene as well as what was going on that very night, not foo-getting Kenne Highland's review of the LIVE AT THE RAT two-LP collection where he not only says it's a way better deal than the CBGB and Max's Kansas City discs that had come out about the same time but exhorts you, the unsuspecting reader, not to be "a cheap jew" and get the thing! Now frankly I think that some of Mr. Highland's best friends are Jewish (including the Gruberger brothers, who actually once decided to celebrate their favorite Jewish holiday with a take out pizza!) and again, he was merely tugging at the chains of way too many a hippie heartbleed out there so whatever you do, don't pester the man with emails! He don't answer them anyway! And for the sake of all you new wavers out there, this ish is more "underground rock"-oriented than the earlier ones with loads of reviews of the new Patti, Television, Iggy and whatnot by a Lisa Rosenberg and she did a really good job of it as well without a lotta the pretension and self-consciousness that too many innerlektuals put into a lotta these reviews at the time!

In between O. REXTASYs Solomon did an issue or maybe three of QUATRO QULT a fanzine devoted to his number one heart-throb Suzi Quatro who he loved despite her flat chest (which he pokes fun at!) and who gets the royal treatment not only with a load of Gruberger brothers pieces but mucho informacion pilfered from English music mags and perhaps some domestic product as well! Hmmm, nicer print and repro here, and none other than Mark Jenkins got to contribute his own article which certainly ups the ante in my book! And since Jay is now dead (auto accident) and I don't want to get into the recent history of Solomon I shall now put a cap on this piece on the Grubergers and their fanzines, which I hope will inspire you the BLOG TO COMM reader to...outbid me outrageously that rare time any more of these RAUNCH & ROLL and O. REXTASY fanzines go up on the ebay auction block. Get your trust funds ready, kids!


Rick Noll said...

sorry im not as obsessive as you, having none of these mags, but this made me dig out all 3 Korps LPs and they were fun to listen to but questions immediately arise, like what happened to the Grubergers on Hello World? what else is in the vaults? Even the 82 recordings that new rose did in 87, oh god its them again are perfect little rock and roll jewels. I think its time for the Afrika Korps revival! Calling Dacoit Records! Where is that Kim Kane solo LP anyway??

Christopher said...

Good question...Gulcher has two Afrika Korps albums out but much more remains out-of-reach. Gonna hafta dig out GOD... (which I believe I bought off you twenty years back) and give that one another spin. And while we're at it, what can anyone tell me about the other Afrika Korps group who I believe were from Sweden (see Johan Kugelberg's pre-punk piece in the latest UGLY THINGS for more info)???

solomon said...

Well it`s nice to be remembered. I came across this while googling my brother`s name. Very nice article. There is plenty of material left in the vaults. Something will be coming out on Gulcher Records eventually.

Anonymous said...


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Anonymous said...


solomon said...

Hi Ronnie,
I sent you a quick e-mail.

L. Genet said...

I am mindblown by your article on the Brothers Gruberger and their fanzine antics, of which I am proud to say I was part of. My name is Lisa Genet (a.k.a. Lisa Rosenberg) and I am so flattered by your recognition and praise of the photograph I took on stage at CB's of all those Boston boys, and of my writing. Much appreciated. And if Solomon sees this, PLEASE contact me!!! Would like to be in touch with ya. So sorry to hear about Jay...he was an excellent bass player and a good kid. Very sad. And I hope he is r.i.p. Just signed up to follow your blog Christopher. Check mine out as well:
I am always adding new material. Let's all rock on! Lisa G.