ITS THAT TIME OF THE MONTH AGAIN!
Boy, how those words used to send me into spasms of shock (at least before I hit male menopause), but nowadays when I think about "that time of the month" I'm not pondering those big five days of crabbing but the end of that particular period in the year when we gotta flip over the calendars to the next month and start the whole rigmarole all over again! And really, one thing I will say about living through the first 1/12th of this year is that I am sure glad that I'm finally seeing January in my rear view mirror because these past 31 have just gotta've been one of the worst months for me in quite a long time, not only with the sub-freezing weather and the doldrums that go along with it but the general strain and stress this month has decided to dump all over me like a flying pterodactyl with the runs. January has usually been the time of year for me to have a general mental crack-up, and although I haven't gone that far down the road to looneyville yet I can only marvel that I haven't succumbed to the overall madness that this month has heaved upon my fragile soul! Not only that, but there haven't been that many goodies hitting the mailorder bizzes like I woulda hoped, and although there are a few tempting nibblers out there just begging for my hard-begged moolah the lack of something extra-special, like perhaps some more Velvet Underground from the Warhol archives, is really affecting my chemical balance. Maybe we'll see some hot goodies up there on the chopping block as the months progress, but for now the lack of anything really new and attention-grabbing is altering everything in my life from my own social intercourse to even my writing which I must say has gone sucky these past few weeks. Feh!
Well, at least I was able to scarf up a few interesting items of an aural as well as visual format as of late, and perhaps these precious few are keeping me from going totally over the brink where I suspect I'll be joining most of you readers any time now. Get over the hackneyed writing style and generally mediocre messages to be found therein and maybe you can extract something of worth from these writeups. Lord know I can't!
***Sandy Bull-DEMOLITION DERBY LP (Vanguard)
Bull's last for Vanguard (or any reputable record company for that matter!) is an energetic, dare-I-say even rockism-laced album that I'm surprised never did garner up any real cult status behind it like many lesser ventures have. And for a last el-pee blowout Bull really knew how to let the sparklers fly with DEMOLITION DERBY, an offering that really does live up to its name with a fine array of musical styles chop shopped up and repackaged as a spanking new 1972 model that I know would have looked keen next to your FUNHOUSE and LOVE IT TO DEATH like you knew it would. Of course the familiar Bull mix and match of folk, mideastern, country and rock & roll pops up here, I mean what Bull album didn't have all that, but Bull had the smarts to add not only some new twists (Caribbean Island sounds including steel drums!) but even some vocals which I gotta admit will take getting used to but then again you hadda do that with Janis Joplin and everything worked out well in the end. Not only that, but Bull actually got avant gardester Denis Charles to play hand drums on a few tracks (I guess Billy Higgins wasn't available) which I guess would be one way to get you hardcore free jazzers to figure upon buying one of these up!
The choice of cover material, basically two country and western charttoppers ("Tennessee Waltz" and "Last Date") are good enough to send you back to any lunch counter CSA circa 1962 and you're all nervous because two burly guys are getting ready to beat you up because you're a nerk with eyeglasses on! And of course the original music is fine whether it's Bull on the oud and Charles on drums sounding like they're playin' at some tabouli joint or the Caribbean-influenced numbers which somehow recall "El Watusi" and perhaps coulda been a left-field hit like that one was! Even the opening electric rocker which has Bull yellin' "juicy" throughout and making cracks as if he were at some jiggle club is a total boppin' surprise for a label that made their fortune selling Joan Baez to ultra-serious college girls who cared enough for all of us! Why this has remained unissued in its entirety is one great mystery to me, and what else can I really say 'cept that DEMOLITION DERBY is a true winner that shoulda gotten more rockers and other sundry types all excited back in those early-seventies days of low-energy jamz! Heck, el-pee closer "Cheeseburger"'s the best two-second number recorded since the Red Krayola's "Listen to This" and a raucous punk rocker to boot! Need any excuses not to get it???
***THE ROCKETS CD (Varese Saraband)
Sundazed's just got a vinyl reish of this out on the market, but people who claim to like the better aspects of late-sixties West Coast rock will want to get hold of the sole album by the guys who more or less became Neil Young's Crazy Horse in just about any configuration they can lay hands on. As for the reason """""I""""" finally latched onto this after years of curiosity...well, I'll have to admit that the fact that these guys, or at least three of 'em, were the reason Neil Young's EVERYONE KNOWS THIS IS NOWHERE was one of the better disques to make its way outta the whole ROLLING STONE and hippy haze Southern California scene at the time, plus a few people who I thought knew better (and maybe did) have made perhaps not-so-startling comparisons between the Rockets and the Velvet Underground due to the presence of violinist Bobby Notkoff, and dollars-to-doughnuts but those two excuses were good enough grounds for giving this one a try at least in my own addled way! Maybe I was just searching for the next musical thrill, but hey I finally got hold of this and yeah, I'll admit that the Rockets are no Velvet Underground (but then again, how many groups in 1967 were?) but THE ROCKETS is still a dandy bit of good 1967 just-post-garage El Lay rock that actually does good not only with the use of Notkoff's violin but the triple-guitar threat of Leon Whitsell, George Whitsell (brother?) and the legendary and eventually to deep-six Danny Whitten who seemed to remain a fallen hero to many a Neil Young fan I've known ever since I even knew who Neil Young was!
Although the Rockets were obviously born and bred of the once-admirable SoCal style while the Velvets were pure New York Warholia there are some brilliant, explosive uses of Notkoff's violin that at time mirror John Cale's viola explorations (and listen to Notkoff on the first few seconds of "It's a Mistake" which does sound like he's about to break into "Heroin"), plus the Rocket's use of the repeato-riff motif on "Let Me Go" and "Eraser" coupled with the violin soaring above it all does seem to recall the Velvets during their early days, so maybe their usage of patented early-Velvets trademarks was intentional? Even downright larcenous?
Who knows, and only unreconstructed/unrepentant Velvets freaks like myself would really care enough to dwell on it so much in a review, but better to hear it from a true believer like myself rather than some post-Stipe superficialist (a word I just made up which only proves my inherent brilliance) like J. Neo Marvin. And for what it is (yet another SoCal tossout via the White Whale label, one of the bigger ripoff labels of the sixties as Flo and Eddie could tell ya) THE ROCKETS is a better-than-average example of smart '67 rock that, although from the sunshine and happyhappy California clime, fortunately didn't succumb to the stale granola trappings that would overcome that scene within a few grisly years. In a way I guess it was a good thing that Neil Young disemboweled these guys for his own backup bunch lest they have fallen into the hippysimp countrytwaddle trap o' the times. I mean, wasn't one New Riders of the Purple Sage more than enough?
(And while we're on the subject of rock groups named the Rockets, when is someone like Japan's Captain Trip gonna release whatever surviving tapes there may be by Andy Colquhoun's mid-seventies punk band of the same name, a group that was touted as playing in the hard Detroit style long before the likes of Radio Birdman made that a popular route to go on the underground highway? Reports of these Rockets had 'em pegged as one mighty high energy outfit, plus the snap of 'em I saw in an issue of THE AYLESBURY ROXETTE looked almost as tasty with them in their imitation leather jackets looking as cool as the Stooges in theirs! If someone really wants to stimulate the economy all they really have to do is issue rarities such as this and watch the monies just keep piling into the ol' SEP!)
***DOODLES LOVER DIARY STARRING DOODLES WEAVER DVD (available from www.j4hi.com)
Doodles Weaver may be known as what some people would call an "acquired taste", but it seems as if this guy and his whacked-out cornball humor is one thing that really appeals to me the same way that such wholesome and totally mid-Amerigan things as cheeseburgers, Ernie Bushmiller-period NANCY comics and afternoon reruns of classic television series on old UHF stations do. Of course if you're an urban sophisticado who reads THE NEW YORKER and has a strange hankerin' for fine wine and acting patronizing towards people who don't have to go to tanning salons to get the correct shade you desire you wouldn't understand. But then again you wouldn't be reading this blog, so whaddaya know about real life anyway?
But really, who having the unmitigated intelligence to read this blog could deny just what a talent the man was, whether it be from his late-forties days in Spike Jones' City Slickers to his various film appearances not to mention a short-lived "recurring role" as the mailman on THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW as well as his bit part in that all-time drive-in wowzer MACON COUNTY LINE where he gets into a typically cornpone comedy routine with the sun-baked stereotypically idiotic garage mechanic about his bartering a newborn calf for a lube job! That scene really had nothing to do with the rest of the movie, but then again there was a lot stuck into MACON COUNTY LINE that really didn't have much to do with the basic storyline and if anything this "comedy relief" scene probably got a lotta horny kidz mad because it meant they hadda wait even longer for the flick to make its way to the infamous part where the boy and girl take a bath together in the water trough!
I'll bet that the good mothers who were so happy to see their offspring watching A DAY WITH DOODLES on the local tee-vee kidshow would've been shocked, nay, aghast that such a nice man like Doodles would have consented to appear in such a low-budget raunchy and foul-language film as MACON COUNTY LINE. Mebbee so, but these selfsame mothers should be glad that at least Doodles had the good sense to keep his clothes on! And at least Mr. Weaver had the good sense not to ditch his old timey hokum schtick when he made these mid-sixties shorts (created especially for the ever-burgeoning local kiddie show market), and I gotta admit that these A DAY WITH DOODLES comedies remain pretty good slabs of slapstick that were tossed out at the young suburban squealers who wanted a break from whatever Warner Brothers cartoon package the local station was running into the ground.
Better than ART LINKLETTER AND THE KIDS or even KID STUFF, A DAY WITH DOODLES is more than just simpy kiddie fodder to fill up a few minutes before the evening news but an actual yuck-inducing five-minute film that showcases one of the forgotten comedy geniuses of the day in situations that will get the kids all hot and bothered, and I'm sure some of the adults tuning in found more than a little value in 'em as well!
In these five-minute fillers Doodles plays all the roles coming off strangely enough like a low-budget Snub Pollard (which would figure as these were filmed silent with organ music and narration on almost all of them) as he switches from himself more or less playing a shorty-pants kiddo type to various mustachioed bosses and old ladies getting the pie in the face or cracked eggs all over 'em (no, this show had nothing to do with Eric Burdon!). The execution is simple and the budget is almost non-existent, but Doodles makes these films worth watching with his natural pantomimic abilities which must prove that the guy spent more than a few hours checking out the silent comedians at the moom pitchers when he was a kid himself! Great pre-youth micromanagement fun that oddly enough reminds me of some of those short films they used to show on the old SESAME STREET (talking about kiddie micromanagement!), like the ones where the guy who used to play Mr. Bentley on THE JEFFERSONS wants to paint various numbers all over New York City.
As a bonus, an episode of Doodles' 1951 summer replacement show on NBC is slapped on at the end and that one gets by with even more corn than the Green Giant could stand! A good example of what television was like before most people could afford to own one, THE DOODLES WEAVER SHOW shows the hazards and pratfalls of the cathode connection especially during the musical number/citrus juice commercial where we see the actor playing the grocer mess up his lines. Strange at it may seem at the end of the program it is announced that this show wasn't even broadcast live but was filmed in advance which makes me wonder why they didn't have that guy do his part all over again! Maybe they filmed it in the afternoon and it was aired that evening, sorta like that infamous Gothic soap DARK SHADOWS which were also filled with enough bloopers to rival the Golden Age of Live Broadcasts!
The strangest thing (at least for me) regarding Doodles really cranking up the laff quotient on this DVD is knowing that the man eventually shot himself in the head, so while you're watching these expect the same creeps you got when you first sat in for SUPERMAN to stick with you, at least for a short while. You'll get over it, but you'll still wonder why such a guy who seemed like the ultimate funnyman ever would do such a thing...I mean, he always seemed so happy and easy-going, like an uncle when you were a kid or the next door neighbor. Oh well, I guess they thought Richard Cory was a real yuk-it-upper until he went home that fateful day, and given how sick this already disgusting world is I wouldn't be surprised to see that Mr. Moose offed himself as well! You just never know.