The Great Imposters-DOLLARS IN DRAG, A TRIBUTE TO DAVID BOWIE LP (Rare Records)
Talk about finding unsung (and underhanded) classic albums in the weirdest places! I dunno how many of you used to buy your bootlegs directly from the myriad assortment of shifty mail order companies (usually located somewhere in the mid-South) that seemed to proliferate during the seventies and eighties, but there was the one business called Pied Piper Records where I and assumedly a whole load of manic rock fans used to snatch up these clandestine wonders, at least until the authorities got wind and put 'em outta business for good. And as far as mailorder bootleg businesses go, Pied Piper was a pretty cool one for us to dump (as my father would say) a good portion of our lawn mowing monies, since they not only had all of the latest domestic (Korneyfone, Wizardo...) bootleg releases up for grabs but Pied Piper even managed to acquire a few of those deluxe European boots with the full color covers that cost a pretty penny back in the day! Besides that, Pied Piper offered a few legit import singles and Japanese-only live albums for sale in case you were interested in getting Bev Bevan's solo disc or Chicago live at Budokan, plus they had a taping service which charged rather high fees for stuff that you and I would take for granted these days but since we're talking 1977 I guess we hadda pay through the nose for stuff like John Lennon's One on One concert and other nth-generation "rarities" that many of us would poo-poo a good three decades down the line.
Besides all of the above hotcha drooloid goodies, Pied Piper had a series of self-produced tribute albums for sale. Predating the tribute album craze by a good ten years, their very own "Rare Records" subsidiary offered up a series consisting of nothing but cover versions of supposed rarities (at least for the times) by some of the greats and near-greats of the day. I forget who all got the Rare Records treatment thanks to the "Great Imposters", but I do remember that the Beatles and Nazz were honored with tributes of their own as was David Bowie, represented here with the re-recording of "original" b-sides done by this mysterioso group who were probably also of mid-South origin!
Of course there is one major gaffe with the above statement, that is unless the folks at Pied Piper didn't realize that "Waiting for the Man" was not a Bowie original (thankfully they recognized that "Around and Around" was Chuck Berry's and give him due credit), but that doesn't really matter considering the general hot-ness of this album that you know was intended as a quickie crankout to lure the import/bootleg fans outta even more of their hard-begged!
And soo-prize soo-prize, these Imposter guys are rather hotcha in the performance and punkitude department and thankfully do not attempt to recreate, or shall I say, clone the originals a la some mid-seventies Todd Rundgren project. Naw, from the low-fidelity cheap studio sound to the sparse production, DOLLARS IN DRAG sounds more or less like some anywhere USA garage band in the mid-seventies romping through mostly-obscure Bowie material, and doing a pretty dang good job of it even if the purists amongst us would probably be in for a good laff. These "Imposters" consist of rhythm guitar, electric piano, bass and drums and play like they were getting ready for some hot gig (perhaps an appearance at CBGB?) 'stead of preening and prancing about like one would expect on a cover album of David Bowie rarities. And I must admit that I really do wonder who these Imposters are...I have the feeling they may actually be a pseudo-famous North Carolina group who used to make treks up to CB's and Max's between '76 and '78 before metamorphing into a more famous group whose aging members have their own web page. Someone care to enlighten me any?
Although running only a half-hour, there is much good in DOLLARS IN DRAG to excite even the more jaded BLOG TO COMM fan. The garage performance and production is perfect, giving even more power to songs like "Can't Help Thinking About Me" which had the early-seventies Bowie freaks shrieking in horror at the time considering how little it sounds like Spiders From Mars-period space music. "Waiting For The Man" comes off like some suburban spuds stoked on their first spin of WHITE LIGHT/WHITE HEAT (in fact, other'n being faithful to Bowie's specific chord change this coulda been one of a thousand mid-seventies variations thereof done by bands who loathed ol' carrot top) and even "Rebel Rebel" (the only hit here) is as much knotty pine basement 1966 as all of those Kid Sister and Screamin' Mee-Mees tapes rotting away in your closet. Remember, although they mighta been acting decadent in New York and London, everywhere else men still knew they were men, and women at least acted like they were glad about it!
I'm not sayin' you should run out and get DOLLARS IN DRAG (not like it would be easy enough to do), but if you happen to come across a copy in a flea market bin why not snatch it up. Hopefully the price will be right (you do come across these three bucks a head LP sales even this late in the game) and it wouldn't hurt to give this li'l surprise a spin. Kinda wonder how these Imposters handled the Nazz, but I'll have to wait for another flea market to find that one out!
***HYPERION, VOL. 4 NO. 4, SUMMER '73; HYPE, VOL. 5. NO'S 1-2, FALL/WINTER '74 (fanzines published by Lion Periodicals, Annapolis MD)
Was it really Eastertime '07 when I reviewed three issues of this long-forgotten fanzine which had the honor of being edited by the future CREEM/WASHINGTON CITY PAPER rockcrit Mark Jenkins? Sure doesn't seems like it, but that's probably because I really threw myself knee-deep into those issues of HYPERION (and still do!) and certainly didn't want to wait a good year to read even more of 'em! Yes, HYPERION was a great fanzine and perhaps one of the tops in the annals of early-seventies rockitude, for not only was it published smack dab in the middle of the Golden Age of Rock Writing which I at BLOG TO COMM still honor deep in my soul, but HYPERION also exemplified the best qualities of the early/mid-seventies proto-punk 'zines (neat yet low-fi layout, smart to-the-point writing, a healthy surliness) and came about as close to the Lester Bangs/CREEM taproot of snide anti-"Youth Culture" razz as DENIM DELINQUENT or even BACK DOOR MAN would ever dare to. Not only that, but HYPERION really captured the early-seventies post-Vietnam loss of a singular identity amongst youth which would soon take up sides via such medium as rock publications and even AM radio. ROLLING STONE vs. CREEM; Jim Croce vs. Alice Cooper...which side are you on, peace creep?
HYPERION was clearly on the side of the punk (or at least what the punk stood for in the early-seventies) and frankly, what else would you expect from a fanzine that was edited by this Jenkins guy who came off as one of the most hard-nosed no-holds-barred rock writers to have hit the rock fandom circuit in years? It makes me wonder what ineffectual snobs like "Jeff" who believe that I "spew venom" would think of a man of Jenkins' ultimately higher caliber of seething ire, but remember that this was the same early-seventies that gave us NATIONAL LAMPOON and all of those other antidotes to the hippie mewls of the day and if anyone personified the true jaded aspects of early-seventies rock erudition it would be Meltzer, but Jenkins does come in a close second or maybe even third!
Anyway, as you could easily enough guess I love these newly-obtained HYPE(RION)s to the living end. They're just about everything I "dig" about the early-seventies rock fanzines and more...loads of proto-punk coverage at a time when writing about sixties garage bands, the Stooges and the New York Dolls seemed like the best thing a human being could do in the face of Joni Mitchell with heaping hunks of snide attitude that got me into a lotta trouble as a kid but at least they get away with it. And best yet this fanzine was one big RAZZBERRY directed towards all of those evil reformist forces of the day who tried their darndest to make kids like me do things we would never do in our right minds! I only wish I had HYPE(RION) with me when I was growing up and going to school...well, it least it would have pissed off the cute yet irritatingly New Left-cliched gal I knew who always used to bring Crosby Stills Nash and Young records to play during art class at least until someone had the good sense to get SCHOOL'S OUT onto the turntable one liberating Friday afternoon!
Still "free" (though subscriptions cost a buck per year with back issues going for a neat fifty pennies!), the Summer '73 issue of HYPERION is a marked improvement over the three that I reviewed last year. Nice artwork on the front cover (by Jenkins) with an artsy drawing of Lou Reed and band, superb printing (again, on quality paper) and to top it all off this issue runs a whopping 42 pages giving HYPERION some style and even more substance in the face of some of the thinnest fanzines of your life being produced just around the same nanosecond. Yeah, I know that such quality in the printing and layout doesn't mean a thing if the subject matter and writing style ain't got that zing, but this time ya know it really works in the mag's favor even if HYPERION had some of the best rock writing seen during those already hopped up days.
Thumbing through the insides you can at least see that the general idea behind HYPERION remained constant since the previous issues I've glommed. Charles Macauley still has his singles column in gear trying to make 1973 sound a lot better than it perhaps was AM-wise with everyone from Stevie Wonder, Bowie, the Moody Blues, Focus etc. getting their place in the sun where their records will probably warp beyond all recognition. (Zee professor muz make another one of heez stoopid leetle jokes.) Right after that is an article on what else but candy written by Jenkins himself where he spends a good enough amount of time telling us about the various "Good 'n Plenty" spinoffs that were hitting the market at the time. Not only was there "Good 'n Fruity" and "Good 'n Minty" (which lasted the bat of an eye), but "Good 'n Hot" which were cinnamon candies that Jenkins gives the thumbs up to and calls "the Blue Oyster Cult of the candy world"! This article was very important to me, because when I was a kid I used to love "Good 'n Fruity" and would sometimes segregate a box of 'em by color (saving my favorite flavor cherry for last) and then suck the little morsels down until all that remained was the clear and tasteless gel center which I would then chomp, pretending that I was Matter Eater Lad from the Legion of Superheroes eating some futuristic plastic! A great way to occupy oneself whilst reading comic books, and praise be to Jenkins for bringing back yet another memory of doofus mid-Amerigan suburban living that at least I remember with a great deal of fondness!
Of course what I've so far mentioned is only the tippy-top of the iceberg...surprises galore appear twixt the usual deals like Bruce Townley's column on sci-fi and fantasy fanzines plus there's even a bit from Jack Van Valkenburgh, the guy who really gave Jenkins grief for endorsing Nixon a few months earlier whilst getting soundly put down in the process. One big surprise is a piece entitled "Ray Davies at the Metropolitan Theater" by R. Meltzer which has very little on Davies but for the most part is a review of STIGMA, an exploito feature made to cash in on the VD craze of the early-seventies (this moom pitcher was reviewed in an early issue of PSYCHOTRONIC so dig out your copies of the mag and perhaps VHS tapes of the flick). Another HYPERION surprise is, in the books section, a review of a paperback edition of DEEP THROAT that Dell Publishing actually printed during that strange time when underground porn was making inroads into the local multiplex. Jenkins really gave that one a good coal-raking, as if a paperback version of that infamous movie would ever translate to print even with all of the X-rated cliches in the world tossed in.
But as for the meat and potatoes of this issue...the Lou Reed cover story's an interesting ramble on Jenkins' part with comments on Reed's AM success with "Walk on the Wild Side" and lack thereof with the followup singles from TRANSFORMER. (Also included in this Reedscreed is an interesting bit on the kind of Velvet Underground collection Jenkins and friend Steven Grey would've loved to release two years from then when John Cale has his hit single thus creating an audience for yet another Velvets "Greatest Hits" package!) The article on the Incredible String Band (also by Jenkins) was "informative", at least enough to tell us that by this time in their career the band was heavily into Scientology which is something I never knew about! I could toss in the easy-enough joke about the String Band, Edward Bear, Beck and Return to Forever going on tour together, but I won't. And (of course) a good hunk of this issue is taken up by album reviews which cover the hot shot material of the day from Bowie's ALLADIN SANE to T. Rex's TANX, and even John Cale's PARIS 1919 gets the feature review position which says a lot about the priorities of this mag! The addition of then-fanzine regular Kenne Highland to the review section sure kicks up a lotta turf as this guy was "thee" heavy metal cub reporter of the day and (if you'd dare to ask me) his teenage gonzo spazz style sure lends a lotta crunch to the at-times punk-intellectual proceedings!
And, as if to say "goodbye" to yet another fine issue of HYPERION, the back cover has another one of those incomprehensible surrealistic cartoons that doesn't make sense to anyone, perhaps even the guy who wrote it! And I thought the cartoons in NIX ON PIX were hard to decipher, but hey, ANYTHING in the comics medium is a vast improvement over "Cathy"!
I'm assuming that HYPE's Fall/Winter '74 issue was the next consecutive one (why they didn't number these in the normal fashion does stymie me...I mean, it wasn't like they were able to keep to a regular schedule!), but from one look I can see that more was lost than just the last four letters off the fanzine's title! Perhaps in an economy move HYPE went to newsprint which might have spelled financial relief for a freebie mag but translates into crumble time when it comes to reading these things three decades after the fact! Well, at least my copy's still in fine form even if the pages are a bit cream-colored, and speaking of CREEM you can see more and more how the likes of Jenkins and gang were aping for that classic Lester Bangs style and verve with this issue which makes it non-pariel even with the downgrade in paper!
Putting the New York Dolls on the cover was certainly a brilliant idea (hope Jenkins moved more issues than I did with my Dolls-encrusted cover), and the innards are an improvement even from the already on-the-right-track previous issues of this under-the-counterculture fanzine. Macauley returns with his AM radio column (with neat fannish rantings regarding Dylan's return to the performing front and the Raspberries) while Townley continues on with his metaphysical sci-fi fanzine dissertations which I don't think I'll ever understand (and that leaves you totally out of the loop!). New for this issue...Jenkins' "Lou Reed News" column (a nice update on the Gizzard King's latest endeavors which were many considering Reed's surprise rise to fame at the time) and a comics column also by Jenkins dealing with those over-sized comic magazines that Marvel was putting out in response to Warren, not forgetting a nice plug of Warren's own SPIRIT series that was finally making those classic comics available to a larger audience that probably wondered what all the hubbub about Eisner was about (like me...as I've said the ONLY Warren comic title I ever bought during my youth was THE SPIRIT, and I still do congratulate myself at times for doing so).
Amidst the usual flotsam of this issue (reviews of then-current films and tee-vee shows like AMERICAN GRAFFITI and KUNG FU) as well as the album writeups (GOATS HEAD SOUP, SLADEST, and a gang review of the first Blue Ash and second Dolls!) are the features...Jenkins clocks in with coverage of the Stooges at the Kennedy Center (!) complete with a wild drawing of Iggy that I'm surprised Bomp! didn't stick on one of their recent Stooges reissues (and believe me, this writeup should be archived by all of the Stooges fans amongst us!) while Meltzer puts in his two centavos with a Kim Fowley tour diary that I believe is totally diff. from the one that appeared in Highland's ROCK ON around the same time! The Dolls cover saga not only has live pix and a Jenkins cartoon (!) but a review of their DC show coupled with a piece that more or less tries to decipher their DNA (not really, but I am at a loss for words right now...I'm sure the average Dolls fan of the day would understand until coming down, if you know what I mean!). There are other totally unexpected bits and pieces, like a short article in which Jenkins waxes eloquent re. Bruce Springsteen back when the guy looked like Sam the Sham, plus a short piece on how those Osmonds are the new Beatles and boy could they do some good heavy metal and AM radio singles that was written by...Kenne Highland? Well, Mark Shipper did make some similar observation in the pages of PHONOGRAPH RECORD MAGAZINE so maybe I was missing something amidst the wholesome whitebread image and goony smiles?
Oddly enough, the only downer in this issue of HYPE just has to be the review of OUR BODIES, OUR SELVES by Libby Hatch, who not only handled the back issues and subscription departments but seemed to be the mag's softer rock/singer songwriter specialist and if I recall even performed the same duty in a 1975 issue of CREEM. In case you don't remember, OUR BODIES, OUR SELVES was a best-selling softcover feminist manifesto of sorts that, although not written with the ideal that all men are evil ogres as Hatch opines, was still way over-the-top with typical seventies feminist gusto in its dealings with all sorts of subject matter that one would find better suited for the ashcan of history where all of that libber rot belongs alongsides communism and left-wing libertarians who supported Guiliani for president. (It does makes me wonder if Libby is her real name or just a sly reflection of her sexual political agenda!) Now I'm not saying that this review does not have the right to exist, but does it have to appear in the pages of a high energy rock & roll magazine edited by a fierce Buckley/NATIONAL REVIEW (at least during the pre-neocon days) fanatic? The inclusion of this thankfully brief writeup is kinda akin to if Rod McKuen had inserted a sweet spoken word poem right in the middle of a Von Lmo guitar solo, and you know I'm right!
And maybe I should also mention just how much the former HYPERION staffer turned communist revolutionary/skyjacker/murderer Bryce Tuller figures in even this late in the game. Snide asides directed at Tuller can be found in this issue (as they could even in the very last issue where a "note" from the guy asking "Should I worry?" appears in the lettercol, with Jenkins giving a strong affirmative!), and while I'm at it I should note that the ire that Jenkins directed towards his former partner even spilled into the pages of CREEM with a letter allegedly written by Tuller bemoaning the passing of the Velvet Underground, Stooges and now New York Dolls! But then again, perhaps it was the actual Tuller writing this note...I mean, he must have had enough free time to continue following the rock scene from his cell, eh?
I guess it might be hard for some of you readers out there to realize it, but I really should impress on you as to just how important fanzines like HYPE(RION) were at the time even with their limited distribution and inability to compete with the mainstream mags. While major newsstand publications like CREEM had their own snot-nosed take on rock as a suburban punk rebellion, 'zines like HYPE(RION) along with the rest of the early/mid-seventies line-up took CREEM's reason-for-being and ran away with it, in fact IMMERSING THEMSELVES in that crazed bargain-bin/garage band attitude that I guess wasn't that uncommon even if you didn't see it mentioned on tee-vee at the time. These fanzines, like the garage bands of the early-seventies, were that crucial to the development of rock outside the corporation even if they were working in their own enclaves for their small and hopefully devoted audiences, and though the recognition and payoff wasn't always that great (even if Jenkins and many others did make it into the big time), like playing in Simply Saucer it was the ultimate credo of true "cool" (and a world-wide audience) and proof that a large audience and fame/fortune would eventually come even if it was thirty-plus years after the fact.
And, in case you're really interested, there's a rather informative (but not all-enveloping like I certainly would have liked) on-line interview with Jenkins that might help fill in a few of the gaps left out of this post.
It's sure wonderful (especially for a zilch-dimensional obsessive-compulsive rockism maniac like myself) reading good Golden Ages of Seventies Rock Writing such as the kind found in HYPE(RION), especially after being bombarded with the sub-sputum prattle that passes for rockcritspeak, fandom-mongering or what-have-you that appears in print or in pixel even after thirtysome years of rockism devolution! Who knows, perhaps the day will come when a new Golden Age of Rock Writing will creep upon us, but as far as I can tell only a major shift in musical tastes, and the deaths of a few rock bloggers out there, will hasten this new revolution. Until then, save yourself and glom any shard of classic fanzine/rock writing Golden Age scribing you may come across these days lest you turn into a regular VILLAGE VOICE reader, and what fate can be worse than that?
(And finally [I hope!] on the subject for today, I am still looking for any other issues of HYPE[RION] that might be floating about, especially the earliest ones from the very late-sixties/early-seventies when Tuller was a member of the staff and the magazine was not as music-oriented as it would become within a few years. If any of you have copies you're willing to part with for a modest fee [or hey, want to give away gratis to the BLOG TO COMM fanzine library] please let me know post haste. A clandestine comment in the proper place will get the message to me sooner than you think!)
***Reg'lar readers of this blog know just how much I dig the bejabbers outta the old DENIM DELINQUENT fanzine. Not only was DD neatly-printed and laid out in a professional fashion with photos and crisp, well-delineated artwork, but Jymn Parrett just hadda've been one of the few fanzine editors of the day to sport what I would call near-universal tastes. And by that I don't mean he was listening to a lotta slush or anything, but Jymn sure knew how to mix and match everything from the Stooges, Alice and the MC5 to Rush, Aerosmith, McCartney and Nugent. With a credo as expanding as that, no wonder DENIM DELINQUENT and BACK DOOR MAN were compared and contrasted by various fanzine reviewers on more than a few occasions!
Having read and re-read the complete seven issue run of DENIM DELINQUENT I've acquired o'er the past few decades, it has hurt me sorely that there were no more DDs left to conquer. However, instead of crying about it like Alexander the Great I merely seeked out other fanzines of the day hoping they would hold up to DD's boundless quality and devotion to the high energy metallic ideal. Some have, most haven't, but still I seek 'em out. However, while doing a little of that seeking I discovered this gem, a "suppliment" of sorts to issue #6 of that sainted fanzine that contained all of the stuff that didn't fit into the next-to-last issue published in a nice digest-size similar to DD #7 only with less pages. Let's just say that the acquisition of this rarity (which doesn't even appear on the DD website!) was a real godsend, almost like finding another issue of that manic fanzine to have and to hold and if you don't think that latching onto this was one of the best archaeological finds of '08 then may I call you an even bigger dunce than I originally suspected you to be?
Nice Eno cover story courtesy Parrett here. Never knew what Parrett's perspective on Eno was so it's great to read about it for the first time. The mention of the then-brand-spanking-new CHAMPAGNE AND NOVOCAINE bootleg sure sent me back to days I'll tell ya! Tom Bingham puts his two cents in on Benny Bell's "Shaving Cream", a seventies top tenner that I don't remember for the life of me! And it was a durty one too which is really surprising since none of those off-color records ever got past me nor the parental censors either! Of course what I really like about this companion is the large bargain bin album review section where Jymn gets to detail his then-current $1.98 faves in order to clue us in on the best cutout buys of the day. (And oddly enough, I don't remember seeing hardly any of these records floating around in the cheap section of my local record shop, though I still can recall latching onto Monty Python albums with relative ease!) Anyway, Parrett's "Consumer Guide" makes a load more sense than anything Robert Christgau would dare conceive and hey, I'm actually going to buy a few of these discs, unfortunately not at bargain bin prices, on the strength of Parrett's own recommendations. If they turn out to be bum steers there will be hell to pay, but you can't say that I'm not the adventurous sort of lad who will try a late-sixties unknown on the strength of a review by one of the smartest fanzine editors of the past!