Saturday, February 14, 2009


Happy VD y'all, and just because I love each and every one of you reg'lar BLOG TO COMM readers soooooooooo much I decided to go ahead and post my usual weekend writeup rather than not post one I guess. And that means write, edit and publish a thought-out, informative and entertaining blogpost DESPITE any personal problems that might be digging away at yr humble blogger's physical and/or emotional state which at some times can become a regular Herculean task in typical Jerry Lewis-speak. And rilly, at this point in time the ol' personal problems have been piling up on me at a rate to make Job seem like a rather well-off runna the mill kinda guy because y'see, throughout the day I have been suffering from diarrhea (congratulate me...NO SKIDMARKS!) as well as aching joints and a severe case of the shivvers but still I move forward in order to make the you devout BLOGschpielers TO COMM a little bit happier in your otherwise mundane existences with my generally more uplifting than Penelope Playtex opines of just about everyone and everything that passes my jaded lobes. So gulp down the Immodium AD and ibuprofen shall I, and despite the call for physical and mental rest I will pursue a true to form weekend post for all you lovers out there. Sheesh, the things I go through should only happen to Dave Lang!

SENSE OF WONDER #12 fanzine dated 1972 (published by Bill Schelly and Hamster Press)

I dunno if the correlation would really be that accurate, but Bill Schelly is to comic book fandom what Sam Moskowitz is to Sci Fi and Byron Coley to rock & roll. Well, at least Schelly emerged from the swamp of poorly-churned out mid-sixties crudzines to produce SENSE OF WONDER, a brilliant high quality fanzine that continues to rank amongst the best of the comic book-oriented 'zines that were cluttering the sixties and early portion of the seventies, and to show his appreciation for the entire genre and what it doth wrought for him (mainly some quickly dashed hopes regarding breaking into the professional medium) the man even put together a number of great comic fanzine histories, two dealing with the whys and wherefores of comic fandom and the other reprinting some of the "amateur" stories that more or less came and went back in the day showing us obsessive music aficionados that we weren't the first to rake leaves and sell plasma so's we could have the ability to put our fantasies and hatescreeds to print just like the big guys used to do (and still do, but who's reading?)!

I believe this issue (#12) was SENSE OF WONDER's last since the '72 date is pointing towards the death of the original fandom era when comic book reading and collecting for all practical purposes became a mainstream endeavor with more than a few professional pubs doing what these kiddoes had pretty much created o'er the past decade or so. Still if this is the mag's swan song it's a pretty good 'un indeed, with a style and outlook that rivals the rest of the "prozines" of the day and loads more information on your favorite artists (in this case Jack Kirby and Will Eisner) that you can find with the mere click of a mouse nowadays but back then comic maniacs hadda get hold of it any way they could!

Unfortunately there are hardly any comic stories like the kind that loads of budding artists were publishing in their daddy-xeroxed wares at the time in #12, but we do get some interesting tidbits like an article on Yarmak, the Australian Tarzan whom I bet got one Mr. L**g to clock rocks in the outhouse until the cows came home (he gazing lovingly upon the visage of Yarmak, not the curvaceous cutie this jungle bum just rescued!). Well-researched indeed, and the fact that Schelly devoted his final ish to a comic character that's pretty well unknown above the equator is living proof that the guy was willing to take more than a few chances not putting a recognizable cartoon fave up onna front so's he could sell out his 1000 copies within a minute. Kinda reminds me of when I would slap people like Jamie Klimek and Simply Saucer on the cover of my own crudzine wonder...and take forever to sell off a measly 350-press run because you dolts were too busy reading these half-baked post-fanzine glossies to care about the real underground honest-to-Meltzer thing!

The rest of SENSE OF WONDER #12 is also hotcha top notch wowzer, not only for the boffo Kirby and Eisner pieces but because of such surprises as a WANTED FOR CONTEMPT OF COMICS: DR. FREDRIC WERTHAM mini-poster that (even if not enlarged to hippie poster dimensions) woulda adorned the wall of any comic maniac's stinky bedroom rather snazz-like. (The irony about this poster is that, after Wertham had been in contact and eventually praised the comic book fanzine idiom in his overview of the genre entitled THE WORLD OF FANZINES, Schelly softened his views of the man somewhat calling him "a well meaning liberal" as if we didn't know that already!) And hey, given how this issue also featured that Kirby article someone even decided to honor the occasion by drawing a topless pic of Big Barda from the old Mr. Miracle comic in classic Kirby style and I'm sure that woulda had more'n a few fans of Kirby's DC Fourth World titles running for the vaseline and a towel! Who sez that fanzines didn't serve an important purpose especially for fourteen-year-old aficionados of the form?

The original comic book story by a Joseph Wehrle was way too surreal for my tastes (reminded me of just about any other fanzine comic book offering found in just about every other fanzine of the day in its early-seventies wordless expression...and just because it's done for a fanzine doesn't mean it's necessarily worthy of your time as a perusal through any late-eighties FLIPSIDE can tell you!) but overall SENSE OF WONDER #12 was a fitting farewell to a title that still reverberates somewhere within the remnants of sixties comic book fandom. If you can, try to latch onto Schelly's mid/late-nineties fanzine history books including his own bio entitled what else but SENSE OF WONDER where he gets to dish out the lowdown regarding various fan and pro movers and shakers he had come across throughout his years on the 'zine circuit, including such notables as the irascible Don Thompson, Steve Ditko and of course Fredric Wertham.

The consensus, or at least what Gene Sculatti says, is that Quicksilver Messenger Service were much better live than their Capitol studio albums would lead us to believe, and also that the band was way past their prime when they got signed a good year after the major label rush to sign just about anything with a San Francisco name tag on it. Well, at least that's what Sculatti said, and really who can disagree with a man who probably had more knowledge and true appreciation of what San Francisco was all about long before the laid back rot began to overtake the state sometime in the early-seventies? Sculatti has, on many occasions, gone on to compare the energy levels of prime Quicksilver to that of the MC5's and if you don't think a recommendation like that would at least get this staunchly anti-hippie man of means to SIT UP AND TAKE NOTICE then you certainly haven't been reading the right blog for the past four-and-three-quarter years! Either that or I'm so hard up for high energy jamz these days that I'll try to find 'em anywhere I can, including the heart of freakazoid San Francisco.

These three offerings sure do present a nice slice of QMS as they were during the height of SF psychedelia before the eventual mellowing out of the entire scene, showing that perhaps they could've been as hot a high energy contender in the annals of rock as the Detroit bands. Still heavily settled in the mid-sixties more garage band frame of mind at this time, Quicksilver actually had more in common music-wise with the slowly-dying San Francisco punk scene than they did with the likes of the Airplane and Dead even if a good portion of their covers such as "Smokestack Lightning" and "Codeine" were more or less associated with the more psychedelic bands appearing on the ballroom scene. (BTW, does anyone have any information on the pre-Charlatans Androids, a group that could have been one of the more out-there examples of what avant rock could have meant, and as early as 1964 as well!) The performances are exploratory enough but not self-conscious or boring, and even when Quicksilver gets into their extended rave ups you don't always feel like taking a dump while the guitarists work out their onstage fantasies. Primitive and tribal enough for the times (their and ours), though you kinda get the idea that Quicksilver would be buried under a load of subpar sputum once the sixties were to role on to a cataclysmic end. And in many ways, they were.

One interesting aside, at the beginning of the September 9th CD a radio ad for a Family Dog show boasts none other than the Shadows of Knight's romping "Gospel Zone" as background music! Considering how I'd have thought that the denizens of SF would have considered the Shadows of Knight pure bubblegum kidstuff, I gotta marvel at the sight of these two storm fronts colliding, something you know would never had happened once SF turned into the bastion of Wennerland where all superficial "trash" was to have been abandoned.
Marion Brown-LE TEMPS FOU CD-R (Polydor)

Finally on today's soiree is yet another Bill Shute burn, this rarity recorded during famed avant-saxist Marion Brown's European jaunt which resulted in quite a few upstanding albs that seem to hold up just as well as all those other expatriate free jazz disques that seemed like rumors to us Amerigans only a few years back. Leading one of those standard mix o' Amerigan and Euro players (Steve McCall and Ambrose Jackson amongst the former, Gunter Hampel and Barre Phillips amongst the latter), the results of this "original soundtrack" to some movie that's probably indecipherable to everyone but French intellectuals are exemplary free scronk as you've come to know from Brown which is perhaps even bettered by the presence of people like Hampel on vibes and bass clarinet adding a certain savvy to an already nerve-bent sound. Even better than his Impulse sides, LE TEMPS FOU stands along with way too many to count similar affairs as one reason that people like Wayne McGuire used to call it "nova music". And whatever you do, don't miss "Boat Rock" which reminds me not only of the Contortions during their rule of the New York rock scene but some of the arty-funk that was being made in the wake of James Chance's punk spasms! Spazz enough to make you wanna go out and get a pompadour, a tuxedo and all the heroin you can stand...I mean, how lower Manhattan 1980 can you get?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Didn't Lester Bangs also compare early Quicksilver to the MC5?

And the Shadows of Knight being played in a Family Dog radio spot isn't that hard to fathom - the "battle lines" weren't drawn up yet in '66. Although Greg Shaw did fulminate against Chet Helms booking Paul Revere & The Raiders at the Fillmore in Mojo Navigator - pretty ironic considering how Shaw would regard the Raiders later.