I WAS GONNA CALL THIS YEAR-END WRAPUP THAT WAS THE YEAR THAT WAS BUT THE SHOW WHOSE TITLE I AM SPOOFING SUCKED BAD SO I WON'T!
I know that I may be letting off airs of a particularly vile curmudgeon-ness, but as we drive further and further down this toll road we call life I for one for one am pretty glad to see the year 2008 in my rear view mirror. Not that the year was particularly bad, and on some levels it was one of the best years I've lived through in recent memory if the wide array of old fanzines and rare recordings that have made it to my portals will attest to, but in most respects 2008 has been one of the most cringe-inducing and unpleasant ones in my life since such dog years as 1983 and even 1997, a year that I'm surprised didn't end with my committal to the nearest booby hatch considering all of the mental upheaval I hadda go through. Really, the way '08 turned out with all of the high anxiety it poured forth from its vile bowels it's a wonder I even survived at all. Despite all this I did put up a pretty good front, eh? Really, I broke my own record for the yearly number of posts on this blog and only the snootiest of anti-BLOG TO COMM zealots would not agree that as far as upturning some nice rock & roll stones goes, I sure flipped over a few beauts (of which I dutifully am proud of...see entries below). But then again during this past year there were so many downright sad, disturbing and tension-enveloping periods that I'm surprised I survived with my sanity intact. Most if not all of these things happened during the late-winter and spring which much account for the massive blogging I did during those times, probably in order to blow off the pressure that was building inside me. I'll tell ya, I didn't feel this bound and gagged since the spring of 2004 when Dave Lang, Jay Hinman and their minions (some of whom I considered close enough "pen pals") decided to do their little sucker punch not only exhausting my own sense of well being, but squashing any serious attempts I had a selling a load more copies of BLACK TO COMM #25 than I had ever dreamed I would.
Enough moaning and boo-hooing and other forms of self-pity (a virtue which I must say I find healthy for all...after all, how far would the Music Machine have gone without it?) and onto my much-admired and awaited BLOG TO COMM BEST OF 2008 YEAR-END WRAP-UP AND RITUAL BARBEQUE where I get my time-honored chance to lay down the law as to what exactly was worth your while and not quite so during the past 366 days of pressure-cooker-induced everyday living. As usual I will tell you, the ever anxious BLOG TO COMM reader, just exactly what it was that made this particular year either so ginchy goochy fantab or worse than a weekend in Brad Kohler's laundry hamper for that matter and remember, if you read about it anywhere else it just ain't the proper year-end roundup that you've been waiting for. You have been warned.
***ALBUM OF THE YEAR!: A hard one to call considering a number of non-reissued goodies that I've had the pleasure of hearing during '08, but as far as the bestest of the best go the hands down WINNER of the year just hazta be The Figures of Light's SMASH HITS on the ever-popular Norton label! True a small portion of this release is made up of archival material from the group's early-seventies existence, but for the most part this reunion disque is top notch hard-rockin' fun and games that goes to show ya that maybe guys in their late-fifties have more of an idea as to what rockaroll is all about than some of those multi-pierced ding-dongs you see all over the place. Runner up award goes to Simply Saucer's HALF HUMAN-HALF ALIVE via Canada's Sonic Unyon, an album that I do continue to drool buckets about only there's something fishy about this release that kept it from hittin the numero uno spot this past solar rotation. Maybe it's the cover???
***SINGLE OF THE YEAR!: Not that singles really have that much of an impact as they did say...twenny/thirty/forty years back when some pimple-encrusted teenage goof could pick up his fave at the local five 'n dime for a mere ninetysome cents, but at least they still actually have the nerve to make 'em! And as far as this year goes, the hands-down winner just hasta be the Ruth's "Mon Pote"/"Mescalito" wowee-zowee that kinda took us all (or at least us smarter than the average blogger types) by surprise! OK it was recorded in '78, but these Gallic gosharooties really had the electric eurobeat down pat and, like classic Pere Ubu, knew how to mix the new electronic music with the standard punk drive of the times to create a sound that sure stands for everything good and high energy that the seventies really were. It's what I'd call a top spin at least here at BLOG TO COMM central, and who knows, if more records like this came out of France back then maybe the fallacy that the French play lousy rock 'n roll would have gone down the proverbial chute along with a lotta other false assumptions regarding that at least once-noble nation.
***BEST PACKAGE OF THE YEAR!: Remember the days when album covers were just as important as the goodies that were stashed inside, with peelable bananas and zippers and spinning things galore making for scrumptious eye candy even if the record inside might've been the dregs? Well, as the old song says "those days are gone forever" but at least we still have things like box sets with posters and extensive booklet notes as well to jump right into! This year the winning award for Best Package goes to the Suicide 1977-1978 Five-CD set, which I think will keep more than a few kiddoes out there quiet for at least a few hours before the next archival rush hits the market.
***BOOTLEG OF THE YEAR!: Lotsa good boots popped up this go 'round including the Can four-CD box set that is easily enough downloadable if you have the technology and the smarts (unlike me), not to mention a gaggle of Pink Floyd longplaying albums including a live pic disc featuring Frank Zappa sitting in with 'em for a side-long "Interstellar Overdrive" which is boss enough even for a guy like myself who hasn't cared about Zappa since ZOOT ALLURES. However as far as I'm concerned the best bootleg of the year just has to be THE VELVET UNDERGROUND LIVE AT THE GYMNASIUM release that's available in a number of formats best suited for your own personal hell while you snuggle up in the low-rent hovel of your choice. It was downloadable and still may be, but I cherish my green vinyl take with the professional cover that reminds me of the days when bootlegs started goin' upscale in the late-seventies in an attempt to look like the real deal, usually upstaging the real deal in the process! As usual, these classic Velvet tidbits only make me hunger to hear more, which is why I ask when in the name of Sam Hill is someone gonna start releasing all of those reel-to-reels of those 1965 Falling Spikes/Warlocks rehearsals we've all heard about??? What are they gonna do, piecemeal this stuff for the next bazillion years to the point where it's nothing but archival gunch for brainy college students to dissect like some dead rat???
***ARCHIVAL DIG OF THE YEAR!: Lotsa good unpchucks gone 'round in '07, but I gotta say that the best reissue out of a sea of millions (well, at least seven) was the SOGGY album from the wilds of France circa 1981. High energy rock has been in pretty short supply over the past few decades, so it's sure a wonderful, resensifying experience listening to these French guys do the heavy metal game without succumbing to the trappings and tastes of the time. Plus they rock out a whole lot more than any of the alternative quap of the eighties on and if you think "rocking out" is some sort of detrimental quality in rock music (as one decidedly anti-BLACK TO COMM Latin major opined in a late-eighties article on yours truly!) then may I point you towards your Cat Stevens albums which you and your significant other can listen to in the solemnity of your hot tub? Runner ups! Anything Norton released this year, with hefty salutes to the MAD MIKE collections which makes me wish I was smart enough to know what was what in the flea market bins of Western Pee-YAY back in the day!
***JAZZ ALBUM OF THE YEAR! Not that many to choose from this time, so the award goes to a disque of "questionable" legality, mainly the TONY WILLIAMS LIFETIME LIVE VILLAGE VANGUARD '69 one that you'll have to do a little effort to search out considerin' that Amazon ain't exactly gonna have this one in stock. Great pounding, nerve-twisting intense jazz cum rock with the classic three-piece lineup, and if even a doof like Ralph Gleason could acknowledge the greatness of this group what more can I say?
***POST OF THE YEAR!: Back when I was doing my fanzine in the eighties and nineties (and beyond) I tried to uncover some major rockism mystery that has bugged my beanie for a much longer time than I can imagine as often as I could. It might not have mattered to any of my readers, but if I could get the low down on a rock acts of the past that drank from the same well of Velvets/Detroit energy as I did I sure felt like I had accomplished something very important. Sure it would've been better if you readers actually PAID ATTENTION to acts like Umela Hmota and Lou Rone, but at least I made their existences known and if you're too stoopid to take the bait, what else could I do?
Well, just this past month I finally got some of the hardcore facts straight with regards to the ultra-elusive Titfield Thunderbolt, a group whose lone single "Born on the Wrong Planet"/"In The Can" has finally graced my ears after twenty years of deep addled mystery. And you can betcha that I am proud of my little writeup on this act that I published on this blog only a mere two weeks ago. Excuse me if I do a little self-back-patting on this 'un, because I'm sure someone will reference this when they write a history of underground rock music a good fifty years from now.
***DEATH OF THE YEAR!: Hard one to call here...I mean, was it that of Bo Diddley. or Jim Jones or perhaps some celebrity whom I personally could care less about, like George Carlin??? (He being the guy who spent a hefty portion of his career posing as the outside-the-establishment maverick while, as one astute commenter on the TAKI'S TOP DRAWER site noted, he was every much as part and parcel of that same dreaded establishment as the moaxes he was supposedly railing against! At least his was a death that I could really rally around!) Maybe it was William F. Buckley's or Klaus Dinger's or Jimmy Giuffre's or even Forrest Ackerman's, who had the good sense to die twice and thus throw everyone off!
Naw, if you must know, the real honest-to-goodness death of the year was that of none other than Bill Harris, better known to the kids of the channel 33 viewing area as BARNEY BEAN who passed away this June even if I only heard about it via wikipedia this past Christmas Eve.
It probably doesn't mean much to anyone born outside of the tri-county area nor would it mean anything to people born after at least 1967, but for the baby boomer gang (and I mean "baby boomer" in the most suburban ranch house fun and garage band games way possible!), THE BARNEY BEAN SHOW was thee afternoon draw in these parts, unless you count the z-movie/sci-fi flicks that channel 21 ran opposite him for a few years. And yeah, some of you locals probably heard all the stories about the guy swearin' at the kids before goin' on the air as well as his "old tricks" as it was put to me, but I gotta admit that I was one bozo who was more or less front-and-center for the BEAN show every weekday at least until I got older (age 11) and 21 began a long string of GILLIGAN'S ISLAND reruns, oddly enough a staple at 33 throughout the seventies and early eighties. But despite the stories and rumors that were flying around everybody's neighborhood during the day it's pretty obvious that Harris/Bean, or at least what he represented on the tube, made up a big part of my growing up sense of cheapazoid television tastemongering along with Saturday afternoon JD flicks and tornado warnings, and learning about his passing was...well, another indication about these changing for the worse times yabetcha!
Fortunately his YOUNGSTOWN VINDICATOR obit didn't mention any of his personal troubles, but it didn't go into his role on local television that much either. Of course you wouldn't expect such a writeup to go into how he would make drawings out of kids' initials for their birthdays and mail 'em out, nor how he would use the same ol' joke book humor week after week while doing his ventriloquist routine with Sherwood the City Slicker (one oft-used joke had to be the one about how Sherwood bought stock in an underwear manufacturer, but the bottom fell out) nor even how Bean would always pronounce Wednesday "Wed-nez-day" which is how my Italian-Swiss aunt (born and raised in Cairo) does as well. He was 79, and the obit said he worked in the sales department at Gordon Brothers (water softeners) until 2004 which means he probably was still in contact with his former employers at channel 33 for quite a long time after his show went off the air which must've been painful for him trekking back and forth to the station which gave him the heave-ho so long ago. Funny, nobody I knew who was connected with the Youngstown-area media seemed to have known his whereabouts...it sure would have been great if he opened up and told us about the old days of local kid shows and television in general as it was back when it was actually a fun experience to turn on the dial!
***ROCK MAG ON THE YEAR!: Best "new" mag...UGLY THINGS of course...best "archival dig"...that issue of HYPE with the New York Dolls on the cover and the Stooges on the inside. SIGNAL TO NOISE also made a very good impression on my already-impressed head even though their latest didn't quite gel with me like a thick junket of a rock read should. Maybe it's because some of the more "modern" stuff they write about gets in the way of the old faves I like to read the mag for. Very disturbing, just like when I'm watching a classic 1958 YOGI BEAR cartoon and all of a sudden some modern graphics appear ruining the great mid-Amerigan suburban UHF feel. DAGGER is always worthwhile to look into even if most of these new underground groups they cover seem to have as much name recognition in my beanie as Jan Garber. Other'n that, it all tumbled into the abyss long long ago...
***BOOK OF THE YEAR!: Lotsa good reads this past 366, and although the promised TRUMP collection was canceled and HUMBUG delayed I found myself more'n satisfied when it came to my usual late-night reading sessions, usually accompanied by the soothing strains of some early-seventies Velvet Underground wannabes. However, I must admit that as far as '08 goes the ultimo hands-down winner of the best book category just has to be Byron Coley and Thurston Moore's history of the New York underground rockin' no wave movement. Don't get me wrong, Mark Master's own no wave histoire was what you would also call essential and necessary, but Coley and Moore, being at the heart of the matter for a longer time than anyone could imagine really deliver the meat and inner guts truth about this late-seventies En Why phenom that dishes out a whole load of previously-revealed facts in a totally new way, then tops it off with more information on such obscurities of the scene as Terminal and the Gynecologists that makes you beg for moremoreMORE!!!! Like a good rock article that creates an instant obsession for a certain group's style and substance, NO WAVE answers many old questions only to create new ones, and for that we should be thankful that even this much of the story has been told at all!
***BIG SURPRISE OF THE YEAR!: Yes there were many big surprises bound to make even the stodgiest of BLOG TO COMM readers sit up and take notice including the return of none other than Hackamore Brick to the one-off Mirrors reunion in Cleveland, but after all is said and done it's just gotta be the re-discovery of the Titfield Thunderbolt (which also made my post of the year choice above). With something this monumental, you just can't honor it in just one single category!
***LETDOWN OF THE YEAR!: That Dave Lang, Jay Hinman, Ken Shimamoto etc. and so forth didn't do the right thing and off themselves like any good blooches should. Sorry guys, the Christmas magic just wore off.
***POLITICAL COMMENTATOR OF THE YEAR!: Jack Hunter, The Southern Avenger, who is one of the few political commentators on the right (forget the left!) worth paying any attention to these days. Other than the usual Taki's Top Drawer/CHRONICLES/"paleoconservative" crowd whom I've been mentioning on this blog for quite a long while, I could care less about what the usual conservative commentators who've sold out more than they'll ever realize have to say these day (but I will listen in at times!), while the left remains as evil (though for a "good cause") as ever, playing race-based political games and getting even more "touchy feely" in their quest for the elusive "we are all one"-ness than ever now that Barack Obama is going to be the US of Whoa's next president. (Expect to see more than a few people dismayed by the Obama administration but too afraid of being called "reactionary" to admit it.) So amidst all this it's sure good to read (and watch) people like Hunter as well as other smart pundits like Justin Raimondo and Clyde Wilson give forth with the real deal while everyone else seem to be stumbling all over themselves trying to see who could bob for the most turds outta the toilet. And you know the Avenger is effective since most of the comments left on his CHARLESTON CITY PAPER column are the snittiest of precious liberal pearly-goo one can see in any comment section anywhere on the web, including my own!
***LAFF OF THE YEAR!: Jay Hinman apologizing for using a photo of George W. Bush "out of context" on his political blog. I mean, if any guy knows about taking things out of context, it's Jay himself!
***BLOG OF THE YEAR!: Hands down fave has to be PUREPOP where Barracuda Robin Wills presents for us singles-ignorant proles some of the best glam-unto-punk rarities that most of us would pay $15 for on an annotated Cee-Dee collection, but here we can get it free! Now if I only had the smarts to know how to download these songs and slap 'em on a shiny pancake so's I could go driving around while these obscurities blare from my speakers just like it was 1974 and these songs were miraculously being played on the local top forty stations!
***'n so THAT'S 2008 which you could have taken or leaven, but if you didn't do either too late because it's over, and good riddance! Unfortunately who knows what bedevilment lies ahead in '09? Not me but I don't care right now...gotta run and watch some TELECOMICS, which come to think of it was probably the most IMPORTANT television show of 2008, or at least it was for Bill Shute!