Saturday, December 06, 2008


Before I get into this weekend's grand huzza, I thought it would be best to tip you regular readers off too a few pressing things that you'd probably wanna know about, enlightened and intelligent beings that you might be. First off...well, have you ever heard of Johann Sebastian Bach's "Water Music"? Well so have I, but I wonder just what ol' Mr. B would have thought about all of the water that spilled from the floor atop where I store the back issues of my stellar BLACK TO COMM fanzine staining/soaking my now-precious booty causing for much consternation and concern amongst myself, and everyone else within earshot for that matter! Fortunately a great percentage of the magazines have survived the onslaught with no damage whatsoever, but a few of the rags kept directly underneath the leakage (which sounded like an indoor rainstorm!) did become waterlogged or at least have some of this annoying brown watermarking adorning the bottommost part of said rag. So, in order to get rid of some inferior produce while giving some of the more stingier of you readers a bargain, I am now offering these not-quite-ruined magazines, some with minimal damage and others warp-o city, to you, the loyal BLOG TO COMM reader, for the measly price of three smakeroos each! Of course that does not include the postage which I will have to figure up for you depending on where you reside but where else can you find a bargain like this in such recessionary times anyway? The issues available thanks to this mini-deluge include #'s 21, 24 and 25 (the one with the Cee-Dee!), and perhaps a copy of #14 and #17 in there somewhere as well. Refer to my latest back issue update posting for explicit (hotcha!) information regarding the contents of these shoulda been legendary ages ago fanzines. Happy bargain hunting and remember one thing...the mag covers depicted in this posting look a whole lot better than the way some of these real life magazines ended up! If you want 'em bad enough you know what to do...either write me via the comment portion of this blog w/your name and other important information and I will get back to you incognito (your comment will not be published considering the private nature of this business transaction) discussing such frivolities as payment (paypal can be arranged) and whatnot, or if you feel freaky enough just mail me a buncha money with a request for whaddeva issues listed you'd like to me, Christopher Stigliano at 701 North Hermitage Rd., Suite 23, Hermitage, PA 16148 USA and who knows what, maybe I'll answer your letter!

One mo' thing thing before we delve into the meat 'n potatoes of today's subjects at hand...surprisingly enough, my review of the ARTIFACTS ten-inch flexidisc last posting elicited a number of comments, but the most interesting response of the batch came from one of the original founders of the Titfield Thunderbolt, a band whose "elusive" t' coin a phrase single "Born on the Wrong Planet"/"In The Can" from 1971 remains one of the totally forgotten wonders of the indie Amerigan underground rock scene. The various shards of information I got from this member, Stymie the Hermit, were eye-opening to say the very least, and with his permission I am passing along what he did tell me about his participation with this early proto-punk aggregation that somehow keeps missing getting included on those HOMEWORK Cee-Dee collections. I think you will agree that various avenues of thought with regards to the seventies underground have been opened up by these startling revelations, and thanks be to Mr. Hermit for daring to enlighten us all these years after the fact:

I'll try to tell you what I can about TT. Remember, it's been 39 years. We started in the fall of 1969, just William Burke and myself, he as Key Ring Torch and I as Stymie the Hermit. The band itself was never called Key Ring Torch. We were named by a friend after the train in the 1951 English movie THE TITFIELD THUNDERBOLT, probably because we hurled ourselves down the musical track with abandon.

But first, a correction or two, and a little more info, as well as I can remember.

We were both MC5 fans, but neither of us to my knowledge ever made the comment Mr. Meltzer referred to. Maybe somebody on the sidelines said it. But I don't really get the comparison either. I hope after all this time waiting to hear the single, you won't be disappointed. It ain't the MC5.

The "On the Can" track on the Artifacts sampler was, in fact, recorded (through the bathroom door) in the hallway on a battery-powered mono recorder just outside the bathroom in our shared townhouse in Richmond. The old houses had ten or twelve foot
ceilings, and in fact the acoustics in that particular bathroom were incredible. If only our recording equipment had been better...

We opened for Alice Cooper in the fall of 1970, and our keyboard player, Foot Fetish, WAS playing the clavinet with live lobsters. Our drummer, Bo Jane Valvoline, was playing drums with frozen mackerels, which he threw into the audience at one point. I believe that Key Ring Torch was playing slide guitar that night using a can of Silly String as a slide, and shooting it into the audience. We did things like that.

One of the first shows, if not THE first, in late 1969, maybe even New Year's Eve, included my trumpet solo of the Star-Spangled Banner, which I stopped halfway through for Key Ring to play what may have been a 5-minute or more drum solo, after which I finished the trumpet solo. We would also sit at a table and play the card game "Go Fish", talking into microphones, and waiting for the audiences to squirm. We DID like to challenge their perspective. And in the large ensembles, we did MAKE SOME NOISE. I remember one night when quite a few bands were playing, one of the other bands went outside and tore down several of the posters because they were afraid someone would think we were them...

"In the Can" (note from Chris...obviously, "In the Can" and "On the Can" are two entirely different tracks which confused me perhaps because of the "Albert Ayler workout" on both) was recorded live at the Carillon Gallery at Maymount/Byrd Park in Richmond, during the opening of a spring student art show (Virginia Commonwealth University) right after Kent State. Quite a few of the art students had hung black plastic over their work in protest, so we took some of the 5-foot-wide plastic and stretched it between those big padded PA speakers, so people could only see our feet and the tops of our heads. It's a jam featuring one of the art teachers playing electric violin.

I wrote "Born on the Wrong Planet" and I guess the reason Meltzer called it our "country sellout" is because of my accent (North Carolina). I have no idea when or where it was recorded, but it was also live. But we never really sold out or sold anything else, except most of the records over several years.

I'm the one who got the records made. I was in Communication Arts & Design and had to turn in 10 copies of a book that I designed, wrote the copy for, dealt with the typographers and printers, as part of a senior "thesis" project. I decided to do it about the band. There were 250 books printed and to my recollection 200 records were pressed, in Nashville or Memphis, at Southern Plastics, if my memory serves me correctly. I remember that when I picked up the boxes at the Trailways Station I told the guy who read the label as he brought them out to me that it was country music, and I opened a box and gave him one. I laughed all the way home thinking about him going home and listening to "In the Can".

There are a few TT tapes which I still haven't digitized. I don't really have "masters". A lot of the recorded material is mono and poor quality. I have the master tape for the record, but the tape fell apart a couple of years ago when a friend tried to digitize it.

I started digitizing the Bomis Prendin cassette tapes 9 years ago, and have been through over 500 cassettes. I still have 300 or so to go. And I work for a living. Bomis Prendin is still recording, every two weeks or so, and one of the current members, Hungry "Isaac" Hidden played in one or more of those bands on the Artifacts sampler. We were all friends, most of us in school, and a lot of us were art students.

Although there were first 2, then 3, then 5 members of Titfield Thunderbolt, there were always other people playing a gig or two with us here or there. I think at one point I counted 20 or so people who had done guest spots. Sometimes part of one band would jam with part of another band at a gig, and make up a new band name for the
occasion. It was sort of like that. Artifacts was, as one of the guys described it, an "umbrella label"...
Expect more information regarding the Thunderbolt, the Richmond scene of the seventies and Bomis Prendin (post-TT late-seventies electronic mayhem) as the weeks continue to roll on. But for now...da reviews!!!!
Sonny and Linda Sharrock-PARADISE CD (Water, available through Forced Exposure the last time I looked...Volcanic Tongue too!)

Awlright, I know that for most of you people who plunked down a good three dollars for this one during the great Sonny Sharrock revival of 1988 this 'un ain't exactly a top notch spin on your precious turntable. And yeah, I can understand why that would be...after listening to the tribal storm of MONKEY POCKIE BOO an album like PARADISE would be like reading an issue of CHEMICAL IMBALANCE after feasting your eyes upon the likes of a classic long-forgotten HYPERION. Well, maybe not...while CI seemed more or less like some college kid with a lotta money slumming in the wild world of underground gulcher skimming as many references to "hip" as he can and regurgitating 'em in the pages of his "'zine", PARADISE was a comparatively bold experiment in mooshing together the jazz avant garde of the sixties with the early-seventies fusion experiments making for a platter that sure says a lot more about what good 1975 stood for than bad. And for a guy who lived through that year and remembers ir lemme tell you there sure were plenty of bad things goin' down during those comparatively halcyon times.

Look at it this way, the mid-seventies were sorta "transitional" years for jazz. On one hand there was this really sick sack of doody stuff going on custom-made for people who couldn't hack the innovation of the past twentysome years, not only with a whole lotta post-Herb Alpert elevator music that people the caliber of Chuck Mangione were cranking out but with acts like Return to Forever kinda doing for jazz what Emerson Lake and Palmer were doing for rock, or at least what was left of it. You could just see the fancy Johnny Carson neckties on the patrons of such swanky clubs where "light" or "cool" jazz was being played, and of course many of these fusion acts were just as much "in place" on the AOR FM rosters as were the usual progressive rock suspects. On the other hand what had become of the fifties/sixties avant garde/free jazz scene was becoming even more caustic and hard-edged, and remarkably enough finding itself a large enough audience to sustain itself. Sam Rivers' Studio Rivbea was one hot spot for this new blast (see my review of the WILDFLOWERS five-LP/3-CD set on Douglas for more information) which spawned a fresh avant garde jazz movement that even spilled into the ongoing underground rock scene once the torrid seventies began giving way to the floundering eighties and who could forget groups like Air, who were getting a pretty hefty amount of press which these days seems almost ridiculous. PARADISE sorta bridged the commercial and avant garde jazz scenes without compromising any integrity or just plain ol' fun, making for a pretty accurate foreshadowing of just what Sharrock would be doing when he did join up with bands such as Material in the eighties once again mixing the avant garde with a more caustic form of rock, but that don't mean PARADISE is no slouch. FAR from it.

Linda Sharrock does her cooing and wails nice and tasteful like, and really the Ono comparisons that popped up after MONKEY POCKIE BOO don't figure in here that much. The group's general playing is fine enough with Sonny being the star of the entire shebang playing nice and tasty one minute before getting into his heavy-duty string bending the next, and while I'm at it PARADISE is smart enough that even though it mixes the free jazz with various rock and funk/boogie formats the typical mega-keyboard finesse of Kenny Armstrong (who even tackles the dreaded Mellotron here!) doesn't get in the way like it would on a Chick Corea outing.

Made for wonderful pre-beddy bye listening and accompanied my reading of some recently-unearthed NEW HAVEN ROCK PRESSes splendid-like, and the Byron Coley booklet notes only make me wish the guy was astute enough to have broken into the big league writing game a lot earlier than he had since these liners do capture the spirit and vigor of not only the music, but the cream of the critiquing scene of the seventies about as well as anything else coming out today. Kinda makes me wish I picked this up six years back when it originally came out!
The Heartbreakers-WHAT GOES AROUND CD (Bomp!)

Got it cheap enough because I hate searching through my massive vinyl record collection trying to find the original version. But I say so what because WHAT GOES AROUND is a powerful document that has that great mid-seventies Velvets live at Max's ambience to it (courtesy the CBGB mystique being written about at the time?) capturing exactly what was going on in undergroundrocksville USA around the same time I would sneak-peak watching MONTY PYTHON'S FLYING CIRCUS when my mother wasn't looking. And speaking of mother, does anyone know if the entire set of the Heartbreakers' show at Mothers (sort of a mini-Max's Kansas City for those who couldn't make it to the real thing) has been digitized yet? The vinyl variation of this show was typically mid-seventies cool enough in its own right and should be made available to a larger audience which probably has become too mind-numbed from repeated listenings to today's current flash but that ain't gonna stop me from dragging these people back into the seventies, even if I have to pull them to enlightenment by their nose rings.

Hokay, like I've said many a time I find a lotta this "post-punk" music a tad trifling even though I was perhaps one of its bigger cheerleaders back when these punks got arty in the v. late-seventies. True there were many good moments that came outta these brainiac underground Rough Trade records as any listen to a MESSTHETICS volume would prove to you, but for the life of me I dunno why anyone would want to take a good portion of such acts as the Delta 5 or Essential Logic over a good high energy early-seventies punk rock item that was probably going for a half buck in any flea market bin around the same time I was counting pennies to rush off an order for the latest Raincoats record! Really, for the life of me I can't understand why, let alone how anyone could listen to the Fall, a band which I must rate as being one of the most overrated and boring musical abominations to come outta Ol' Blighty, and that's including alla them prog poopsters that groups like the Fall were supposed to replace! I guess you'd have to live in a squat in South London, or be a white collar worker in San Francisco to truly understand.

As you know, Wire are a different story. True I pretty much ignored Wire for years because of the same intellectual hipster hype surrounding them that also surrounded such acts as the Fall not to mention a number of other acts people probably didn't know about until THE FACE slapped 'em in their pages, but as anyone with a brain knows Wire really owes more to the beauty of the proto-punk English mindset than the post-punk one having as much, if not more to do with various early/mid-seventies highmarks of punkitude as Can, Syd Barrett, the Velvets and Ramones as they do with the standard English working-class dodo we've heard moan and boo for longer than any of us could imagine. And at least for that we should salute 'em because frankly, I've really grown tired of the transformation of punk from garage to punk to pUnK to punque to the point where even prez-elect Obama could be seen chatting it up with some mohawked gawker who looks like he woulda been kicked outta the pages of MAXIMUM ROCK 'N ROLL for looking too spiffy, and is that supposed to be the end result for any true rebel movement you can think of offhand???

Spiffy DOCUMENT AND EYEWITNESS ain't, and in fact it's a pretty gnarly affair that was just too much for my tender ears to listen to back when I snatched this up in the late eighties just to remind myself of what the hubbub was all about. Typical Rough Trade sound here, and in fact if I'm not mistaken the entire Rough Trade Wire catalog including the "Our Swimmer" single is crammed into one solid disque which is really neat if you ask me! Otherwise this is Wire mostly live at the tail end of their original stay including what's purported to be a real disasto appearance at the Electric Ballroom that was recorded incorrectly and perhaps confused more than a few nabobs who quickly exited for safer ground. Of course I love it...the group drones and drags on to the point of incomprehension making for a kind of rock & roll that subsists totally on vibrations and perhaps instinct rather than song structure. It makes for a fitting cap on a rather stellar recording and live career and please excuse me if I'll continue to ignore the music Wire made from their '87 reunion on because frankly I'm still scared off after reading all of those naysaying reviews at the time and hey, maybe I don't want to ruin any illusions even I continue to harbor!

Wonder of wonders, a recent release! Not that I was expecting that much from this forgotten downtown Manhattan aggregate because I really don't cozy up to much of what happened on the so-called underground after art chic attitudes began taking precedence over snot-nosed mid-Amerigan takes on mid-sixties innovation. As I recall, this transformation began during the late-seventies days o' rage and came to bear fruit somewhere around the time when the concept of art as aht began infesting the various "new wave scenes" across the globe. At least to me, the no wave bands of the seventies were thematically close to what a whole lot of like-minded non no wave bands were doing in their quest to take the original Velvet Underground ideal and thrust it into new arenas. However, the newer groups that had come up through the no wave movement into the eighties seemed more concerned with making "statements" (usually political, perhaps musical) and working within a "culturally approved" New York art frame of mind without any regards to "rocking out" or other seemingly primal motives. And for that it suffered tremendously. Really, I could easily see groups like the Contortions, DNA and Mars as being part of that continuum performing music that was thematically and perhaps schematically similar to hoards of early-seventies punk bands nationwide, though I can't say the same for the groups their members ultimately formed only a few short years later. Von Lmo, bless his heart, was one of the few who continued playing rock & roll amidst all of these (perhaps in retrospect) bad moves in musical direction, and you can bet that he never got invited to any art gallery openings!

So where does that put the Toy Killers? Well, like I said I didn't have that much hope for it, but danged if this Cee-Dee ain't near enjoyable with its mix of the good ol' unadulterated noise, the new jazz moves and yeah, some of that Soho boho smarm but at least it doesn't get too much in the way. A pretty loose aggregation (just take a look at the credits), the Toy Killers take off with the standard "downtown" players like Bill Laswell, Arto Lindsay and John Zorn honking and hooting it up both live and in the studio making a sound like DNA mutating into Material or Loisada calling for that matter. Twisting and turning, the Killers might sound more Danceteria than Max's Kansas City (ifyaknowwaddamean!), but even if a good hunk of this is improv they still exude enough pure blast of plain ol' noise music to keep this from turning into yet another eighties-era art project that had me dreading a whole lotta things at the time. And it all comes together under the leadership of M. E. Miller who is listed as the player of "incendiaries" amongst other things! Serious improv fans who wear coke-bottle glasses, are you listening?

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