Saturday, March 22, 2008

Be Bop Deluxe-SUNBURST FINISH; MODERN MUSIC cassettes (Harvest England)

Be Bop Deluxe burst outta the import bin scene and onto your stereo back in the mid-seventies with an album called AXE VICTIM which sounded like a shotgun marriage between British glam rock and the progressive post-psychedelia of Pink Floyd that Be Bop's label Harvest was raking in beaucoup with at the time. Followup FUTURAMA sorta broke the ice with an all new group backing up leader Bill Nelson and it even got a US release which seemed strange for an up-and-coming English rock act on a progressive label, and since CREEM even gave the thing a good review even I knew enough that I just hadda buy it! That one was a dilly of a dooze, with a particularly high-energy and erotic sound permeating each and every second not forgetting Nelson's post-post-post-Hendrix pyrotechnics that gave me the overall impression of a hetero Bowie or perhaps even the Pink Fairies getting the Queen production treatment. Even today I find this a once-in-awhile pleasure, though the last time it got a spin 'round here was when I was laying out issue #25 and you know how long ago that was!

It took me a whopping 32 years, but I finally got hold of these two followup Be Boppers in that same big cassette sweep that yielded me the Electric Light Orchestra tape reviewed last week. The reason for my procrastination was very simple. I figured I already had one record by this band so why bother snatching up another? And with that sorta attitude you know that there are gigantic hunkerin' gaps missing in my rock & roll education, but at least I am solvent.

But all cheapness aside, I gotta say that I found SUNBURST FINISH and MODERN MUSIC both to be rather plain, nay, tepid romps compared with FUTURAMA's over-the-top guitar freakouts and Ferry-esque double-entendres. Both of these albums seem to borrow ideas from that righteous masterpiece while contributing little that really involves you outside of having some slightly-perked up music to play the soundtrack to your last toke. Now don't get me 100% wrong (as you usually do), I find the music generally good enough for late-seventies jazzy-hookdom sounds and Bill Nelson's playing, lyrics and vocalese are always entertaining enough for what they are, but otherwise all this has me thinking of is that big fat juicy order Fusetron's gonna be sending me soon. After all, some of this seventies English progressive twaddle might be palatable in spurts or, if you're Brian Eno or Kevin Ayers, in elpee doses, but an entire afternoon of it is more or less likely to send one to a group therapy session where everybody looks like Dave Lang!

Strangely enough, MODERN MUSIC did warrant a page-length article/review in BACK DOOR MAN of all fanzines, although the author of the piece was not one of the regular gang of idiots and in fact had not been heard from before or even since in their hallowed pages. Maybe the writer of this piece was blackmailing Phast Phreddie and Don Waller into printing this piece lest some pretty tainting information fall into the hands of the Los Angeles Police Department? One may never know! But yes, I was surprised when I read that review, but then again should anything really surprise anyone anymore, especially in these ultra-jaded times?

Of course there is more to life than scarfing up old Be Bop Deluxe cassettes and writing 'em up for a clientele who couldn't give two whiffs of a rock critic's ass enough to care...there's also TEE-VEE!!! Naturally the medium as it exists today, even with its 100-plus channels and stereo sound, really can't hold a candle to the days when you were lucky enough if you only got three channels, maybe four during a tornado warning, yet if you played your cards right you could get enough good down-home viewing with just those three stations and a smart-enough local programmer to last you a good evening of solid television viewing, or more if you happened to have the day off! And, as usual, it seems that some of the best stuff that was once available at certain times of the day is now 24-7 thanks to youtube.

And yeah, I know that most people think about youtube as a place for someone to show cutesy-pie pics of their toddlers toppling over brimming full potty chairs that they just happened to catch on their cell-phones or better yet a place to resensify yourself with years of classoid rock viewing that we may have missed out on because Beat Club just wasn't shown on Amerigan tee-vee, but it's also a boffo place to pick up some of those great programs that you or I never had the chance to see for whatever reasons. Or at least its a good way to cop an eyefulla stuff that we used to watch way back when but haven't in decades because some doofus out there thought that "Jot" was a lot more beneficial for our minds and our souls than TALES OF THE RIVERBANK (and besides, they were free!). But for me, old television programs being made available on youtube certainly is a godsend, not only because these pushing-fifty shows are naturally fun, classy, low-fidelity and thus perfect for my own sense of suburban slob living, but because now I don't have to dish out the big $$$ just to refresh myself with something that maybe I could have passed on in favor of GOMER PYLE USMC DVDs!

As far as recent youtube finds go, I was very pleased to see that FOUR FEATHER FALLS has popped up, at least for the time being, on the youtube roster. Being a humongous fan of the early Gerry Anderson "Supermationation" programs, I've always wanted to view this western which never did get aired outside of Merrie Olde since those were the pre-Lew Grade days before Anderson could hitch up a world-wide distribution deal. Anyway, watching FOUR FEATHER FALLS was certainly an eye-opener at least for this early-sixties maniac...when I first discovered that this show even existed I pondered for the longest time as to just how a non-sci-fi Anderson series would fare. I also had the strange feeling, at least until I found out about the "fantasy" aspects of the show (hero Tex Tucker is in possession of four magic feathers which not only grant speech to his horse and dog but cause his guns to fire at will!) that FOUR FEATHER FALLS was going to be in the then-popular "adult western" vein of GUNSMOKE and HAVE GUN, WILL TRAVEL. As I should have suspected from the beginning this was pure kiddie western, the kind where the hero talks to his horse, only this time the horse answers back in an upper-crust English accent!

The overall quality isn't quite up to SUPERCAR standards (not to mention the mid/late-sixties Anderson productions) but it's sure one giant leap up from those saccharine mid-fifties Anderson puppetshows that only lend credence to us Amerigans that Archie Bunker was right in calling the English a bunch of fags, cuz if they grew up watching TWIZZLE how else would them kiddos mature other'n into a nation full of bowler-wearing "Pip Pip and Cheerio" types trying to outdo each other in the Oscar Wilde/Lord Alfred Douglas game! All kiddin' aside, FOUR FEATHER FALLS is a transitional program from the early Anderson-era primitive "puppet" style to the high-tech wonders we still know and love, and in some ways such characters as Pedro do foreshadow future Anderson villians as Masterspy down to that great expressive look on his equally spherical face. Others (such as the elderly couple) seem to be nothing more than leftover stock from the TWIZZLE and TORCHY, THE BATTERY BOY days so if you're expecting the early-sixties space-race class of SUPERCAR and FIREBALL XL-5 you will be let down to say the least. But please be aware that FOUR FEATHER FALLS does show technological upheaval in the making. In all, it's a weird mixed lot, and not an unimportant piece of television history from the true Golden Age t'boot!

Unfortunately I was unable to embed ("by request") the two parts of the "pilot" episode here, but if you just click Part One and Part Two you'll be taken directly to the youtube site where you can watch 'em and decide for yourself whether or not FOUR FEATHER FALLS was just more hokum or perhaps a real lost tee-vee classic that should be remembered at least as much as CRUNCH AND DEZ. As for me, I gotta say that it sure woulda been swell watching this 'un pop up on the old weekday morning cartoon show on channel 33 as a pre-school kid, perhaps as a respite from that station's tendency to run the same LITTLE RASCALS short where Spanky, Alfalfa and Buckwheat run away seemingly each and every week!

From the sixties to the seventies...y'know, I actually gotten heat from people for admitting to liking that decade which I guess was way too sick for their particularly "cultured" digestive systems, but I will stick to my guns and say that I'll take the seventies (tee-vee, music and magazines included!) o'er the eighties (now in the throes of nostalgiamania even as we speak!) and nineties for that matter because there was a whole lot more interesting stuff happening in those times than there were later on, unless you're a computer geek or suffer pangs of sadness over the cancellation of MAX HEADROOM. While the eighties were cornball hokum and the nineties faux-decadent, the seventies were the real deal when it came to multi-faceted slobboid suburban living, and that includes in the humor department as well as tee-vee, music and nekkid broads for that matter.

And you really couldn't do better on the humor front than on the boob tube, not only with MONTY PYTHON and the original SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, but with surprise finds like such long-lost classics as FERNWOOD 2NIGHT. I hardly got to watch this summer replacement series for MARY HARTMAN MARY HARTMAN since the local station that was airing that 'un passed on FERNWOOD, but whenever I did get the chance (when channel 43 in Cleveland was coming in, perhaps thanks to that aforementioned tornado) I was sure to have a ball. Like PYTHON, SNL and NATIONAL LAMPOON there was bound to be a load of bad-taste and just plain offensiveness packed into some of these episodes of FERNWOOD (and later on AMERICA) 2NIGHT, and not like the kind today where uptight knowitalls love to tell hardworking ethnic Americans how evil they are in the most unfunny fashion possible, but one where the humor knew no race, creed or color but rammed it into them all!!! And that's what I call real brotherhood!

Too bad (for you) that I couldn't dig up any of the truly acerbic (note spelling, Jeff!) and oh-so-non-"Pee-Cee" bits from the show like "Dial-A-Jew" or "Yankee Doodle Gook" (not forgetting that UBS, THE FIRST FIFTY DAYS special where the retired general/president of the UBS network gave that Patton-esque speech completely in military terms relaying in shock about catching a program on another net that showed a white man kissing a Chinese woman), but here's a pretty good 'un that I believe in my heart o' hearts typifies an average episode of the series.

First, part one:

Then, part two:

And how about this beaut of a scene hawking the "Wunda Blenda"????

Finally there's this bit with none other than Frank DeVol proving that his contributions to the small screen amount to a lot more than I'M DICKENS HE'S FENSTER and writing the theme to THE BRADY BUNCH (note: audio not uppa par):

Anyway, a Happy Easter to you all. Sure looks like Christmas out thar right now, but from what I hear it's all gonna melt into slush in a few days which all you schoolkids can kick up and splash your fellow students with. And what better springtime memories can you make outta all the times that I got splashed by rowdy kids like you anyway!

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