Wednesday, June 03, 2009

HIGH SIX!!!!!

Haven't done one of these in awhile since there hasn't been enough going on to allow for even a high two or three. Thankfully that situation is about to change as the summer months hit the Western Pee-YAY area and the rockism juices once again begin to flow. As usual this 'un consists of a myriad assortment of things that are flibbin' my jib as of late; a coupla books, an old fanzine and Cee-Dee plus a website which I guess won't suit you fine if you're looking for real meat and potatoes manly rock blogging, but if you're looking for the personalist side of this hoary old rockfan you couldn't've come to a better place!

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BOOTLEG; THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE OTHER RECORDING INDUSTRY by Clinton Heylin (Penguin Books, 1995)

Let me begin by stating that I am reading (and reviewing) BOOTLEG against my better judgment considering my own opinions regarding its author which I spelled out in no uncertain terms in an editorial I've written quite some time back, but with the current mushrooming of an already-underlying bootleg fascination in my life this book has become mandatory bedtime reading these past few nights. Now some may believe that author Heylin's version of the whole rock bootleg story is fraught with inaccuracies and downright twisto-changeos (not to mention the author's penchant for letting his disgusting British prejudices rise to the surface of his work as if we need to know of his inherent snobbery), but I think it conveys rather well the story behind those beat-up white-cover with insert albums that used to get their very own special spot in those outta-the-way hip record shops back in the mid-seventies. Various facts (I think) regarding the big names behind the boots are laid out for all (even the FBI) to see, and considering how these people must remain underground even this far down the line only proves how hot the subject of bootlegging remains fortysome years after the fact! If you're a guy whose only fond memories of a misspent teendom are record-hunting/playing, tee-vee watching and spending inordinate amounts of time in the john with a hula gal-laden issue of NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, this'll remind you of what the then exorbitant sum of $4.99 could getcha if you were in the right shop at just the right time.

The only thing that I really didn't care much about BOOTLEG outside of Heylin's vast English moral superiority was the fact that most of the bootleg cover reproductions were shrunk down to the size of a postage stamp (hokay, a large postage stamp but small enough nonetheless) plus there weren't enough covers to gander as I would have liked. If you want to reminisce at least about the good old days of the post-seventies era full color covers and multi-colored vinyl try finding a few copies of HOT WACKS which should satisfy anyone who used to wait for the bootleg delivery man to hit their fave outta the way record shop, but as far as this 'un goes you better break out that magnifying glass you used when reading those early issues of my own eyestrain wonder!
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CHRONICLES MAGAZINE WEBSITE (also linked up on the left in case you wanna access this at any other time!)

If you think I'm upset about the political future of not only this nation of ours but the entire blooming world you are correct! Really, where's a guy that's so on-target about everything like me to turn these days, what with Prez Obama going back on those very few campaign promises of his I liked (or merely shifting the mideast battle lines from Iraq to Afghanistan) and printing up moolah like there was no tomorrow (I sure liked it better when we were all Stoogians rather than Keynesians), while seemingly all of the right has been co-opted by a neocon frenzy that has pretty much mulched up most if not all of those good ideas that earlier proto-conservatives like Mencken and (stretching it to a point since he was no "conservative") Murray Rothbard laid down in theory if not practice. Where else can I go to osmose views are a lot more "copasetic" with my own high standards but to those few "alternative right" sites where I can digest the current political situation in a way where not only can the usual onslaught of cloying self-righteous liberals be avoided with glee, but thankfully I will dodge the usual turdbomb writings of those sensitive and caring conservatives who always seem to feign frothing-mouth loathing when confronted by a rightist of the more traditional, pre-compassion mode (as they did during the Ron Paul campaign of last year).

Taki's Top Drawer is one site that I often troll for the dissemination of alternative-right views what with regulars the caliber of Justin Raimondo and Paul Gottfried, but to my chagrin they closed down their comment section after some neo-nazis decided to overrun it with derogatory mentions of "the Jew Gottfried" and other anti-Semitic toasties that I always thought would "go with the territory" considering how the internet is open to all, but spell trouble when such an organized attempt to "take over" a site is firmly in gear. At least the guys at CHRONICLES kept their commenting section up which is fine by me even if they too get their share of cranky commentaries that slip through the cracks once in awhile. But wha' th' hey especially considering how most of the people who do write in at least have some intelligent ideas regarding the current state of politics and social what-fors that never did seem to get into the pages of your local fishwrap...y'know, those monopolies across the small city landscape that always put up a staunch traditionalist front but reeked country club chic underneath.

CHRONICLES' regular contributors, especially such faves as Paul Craig Roberts, Clyde Wilson, Paul Zmiriak and Tom Piatek (the latter two usually writing on traditionalist/Romanist concerns which fly in the face of the usual reverse inquisitions seen in the media) are a blessed relief especially after hearing again and again what a louse I am just for even existing! Pat Buchanan, who seems to run afoul of CHRONICLES' general readership for his pro-Republican Party viewpoints which seem so unreal considering the shiv he's received from their heirarchy time and time again also pops up putting forth viewpoints that more or less seem to be copasetic with my own personal (and not-so) ideals than they would with most wanks from either side of the aisle. Still can't buy his seemingly pro-torture remarks, but we can't all be me/perfect.

Of course the usual commentators who chime in with their own take on the subject at hand are a blast, especially when the in-fighting and name calling hits the fan before getting edited out, that is. And as is the rage these days, CHRONICLES even has their own token leftist in the guise of former VOICE scribe Alexander Cockburn who's also running COUNTERPUNCH, and he sure acts like a better leftist on paleoconservative soil commentator than such lunks as Christopher Hitchens does playing schmoochie not only with the standard mainstream conservative movement but with many faux "libertarians" who like him for his strident atheism and nothing else!

Did I tell you that the man behind CHRONICLES is Dr. Thomas Fleming, who once discussed Shakespeare sonnets with Lou Reed backstage at a Velvet Underground show in San Francisco 1969?

More paleocon than libertarian true (and Fleming seems to have a great animus towards what is passing for "mainstream libertarianism" these days, finding little difference between them and the even-newer left so in vogue), but I'll take CHRONICLES and its writers over a good portion of the people finding every opportunity to undermine Western Civilization as they can at REASON, excepting Brian Doherty even if he and I would come to loggerheads given the chance. At least if I have to be told that I'm a member of a dying breed heading for extinction only to be replaced by this vague image of a post-Soviet "new man", I want to hear it from someone who isn't gloating about it!
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THE ROCK SCENE by Richard Robinson and Andy Zwerling (Pyramid Books, 1971)
"The Flamin Groovies, J Geils, Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks, the Stooges, the Velvet Underground, Up, Man Ray, the MC5, Nico, John Cale, and Frost. They are the 1970's. Are you?"
Of course I am "the seventies" even if these are the final days of the oh-oh's, though I have the feeling that Richard Robinson's ideas of what the seventies were going to be and everybody else's differed greatly. But still it's nice to dig this paperback (then going for a whopping 75 pennies) outta the mothballs for an occasional read as it (like those Jon Eisen AGE OF ROCK hardcovers) surprisingly does give a balanced view of where rock and pop music stood during a time when I'm sure most followers of the underground form thought that it was never coming back. Naturally you do get to read a lot of puff here (nothing wrong with that) about people like Melanie and Simon and Garfunkel (something wrong with that!!!), but even the more commercial-attuned musings mostly courtesy of Zwerling (whose SPIDERS IN THE NIGHT album was one of the bigger downers of my record buying life...I thought Lenny Kaye knew better!) don't make you want to run for the nearest vomitorium the way reams of college paper appreciations of Genesis have these past thirtysome years.

Naturally when Robinson gets into high-energy gear with his astute appreciations of the Velvets, Stooges, Groovies et. al. THE ROCK SCENE cooks more than dippy swill, and although most would say that his prophesies regarding the careers and success of the likes of the VU, Stooges and Five were far from what actually happened (considering how one-dimensional seventies mainstream rock/pop became) most of his ideals regarding a seventies high energy sound did transpire albeit on a thriving underground level that most Anastasia Pantsiosesque critics never really did want to admit even existed until it was safe enough to years later. But after all is said and the last uttering on the remnants of Detroit '69 is done all I wanna know is:
WHICH BAND IS THE FINEST IN THE LAND?

The Grateful Dead? The Stooges? The Velvet Underground? Hackamore Brick? Grand Funk Railroad? Led Zeppelin? Chicago?
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WIRE...EVERYBODY LOVES A HISTORY by Keven S. Eden (SAF England, 1991)

For a guy who was put off by the original Wire hype of 1977 and pretty much avoided 'em mostly due to the reams of dolts who didn't, I find myself spinning PINK FLAG a lot more now than I have ever since buying the thing a few mere years ago. I guess once I get that horrid "post-punk" label outta my mind and listen to 'em within a fully "proto-punk" frame (keeping in mind their perchance for early-Velvets/Floyd/Can/Troggs musical references) they don't sound half bad after all. It also helps to keep out-of-mind the legions of their fans as well as the bands "influenced" by Wire, if that is at all possible.

Keeping dry post-intelligence fanzine writers out of it I must admit that I did enjoy this quickie toss out in the tradition of various nineties bios of under-the-radar rock bands that came out during that retrowhatziz decade. Writing is good enough that I even made it through this book's description of the latterday supposedly snoozeville Wire era (which I never heard out of respect for sanity) as well as alla those art projects passing as side projects (if yaknowwhaddamean...), and after all is read and done I can't see just about any skinny gnarly self-obsessed save-the-world geek out there who dribbled reams of skidmarks o'er these guys in the eighties being without this. And if you're a rock & roll type who thinks all good rock music began with the Velvets (like I tend to do), you'll get a kick outta it too.
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REASONS FOR LIVING #1 (fanzine edited by Jim DeRogatis, 1984)

As you might already know, I consider the true GA of rock fanzinedom to have existed roughly between 1971 (with the advent of such legends as JAMZ and TEENAGE WASTELAND GAZETTE) and the early eighties which saw the execution of a few nice yet short lived publications nobody seems to remember or care about these days such as THE GROOVE ASSOCIATES and TWO-HEADED DOG. With the arrival of hardcore punk and the post-seventies "alternative" of underground rock the media seemed to be changing with the mode of the music, and who with at least two braincells to rub together could deny that only a very few number of fanzines that came after the big early-eighties underground rock crash really hold up as well as those from the original seventies era. Oh, there might have been an interesting moment in 'zinedom here and there such as the two or so issues of THROAT CULTURE that were released in the very-late eighties or FLESH AND BONES not forgetting the likes of AWAY FROM THE PULSEBEAT or OSMOTIC TONGUE PRESSURE and a few other reliables, but it sure wasn't the same as it was for the average underground rock fanatic of the seventies who was being inundated with a wide variety of crucial and necessary pubs like DENIM DELINQUENT and BACK DOOR MAN not to mention a few others who were trying to be ample imitations-cum-emulations. Then again, once the eighties got into gear and high energy and intensity were replaced by gnu wave schmooze nothing was the same again!

So anyhoo I guess this is where REASONS FOR LIVING comes in, a mag that you "could" say was to serve editor Jim DeRogatis the same way OUT THERE served Paul Morley or CAN'T BUY A THRILL Russell Desmond...mainly as a vehicle to spring forth into the WONDERFUL WORLD OF PROFESSIONAL ROCK CRITICISM! But then again you (and even I) may be wrong. True DeRogatis eventually became a relatively famous rockscribe who authored a few books and even wrote for the dinosaur daddy of 'em all ROLLING STONE before he was unceremoniously ejected from their hallowed hippie ranks, but REASONS FOR LIVING probably just ain't the reason the guy went on to better things. The mag, surprisingly enough, was too good, too literate and if anything too much in the tradition of the boss seventies fanzines to act as a springboard into the big time of rock writing fame and fortune! It might have gotten DeRogatis a job in the society department of a small town newspaper, but what would you expect in a world that spurns exciting and creative rock writing for sheer hackdom!

Coming off kinda like what NEW HAVEN ROCK PRESS might've had it entered into the eighties, REASONS FOR LIVING despite the unattractive cover more akin to a collectors-oriented fanzine houses some of the better "amateur" writing I've seen from that decade outside of the usual big name standbys like KICKS and OUTASITE. DeRogatis, for being a mere college student, was a rather intelligent and tear into the heart of it writer who can get beneath the superficiality of it all and tell you exactly why (in a halfway decent intellectual manner) group "X" is worth the time and trouble to listen to, and in a great talking TO you manner as well not often seen in the fanzine idiom even that far into the game. Subject matter is timely while being timeless, with DeRogatis waxing eloquent enough on such subject matters as Wire (why do you think I reviewed the above book anyway?) and the then-new Velvet Underground exhumation entitled VU in which the budding fanzine star is one of the few to not only note the new high-fidelity modernesque sound quality of the thing but remark how this reshaped product was being peddled to none other than yuppies (which I could tell as soon as I laid eyes upon the cover!).

Also included are a buncha guest writers who do perfectly well even if their subject matter doesn't quite swing by me one bit. Naturally I am not too interested in reading what anybody thinks about REM pro or con, and I never did hear Dumptruck and must admit that I have little desire to even if DeRogatis did deliver what I would call a very good article, but I can't deny that these pieces don't have a place in this particular fanzine if only for the way they're presented to us in that wonderful matter-of-fact style. What I believe also has a place in this fanzine (and was sorely needed in many others of the day) was the general sway and style that seems to permeate the entire issue...it seems so out of place given the generally anti-energy squeaky-clean demeanor of the day and if there were only more fanzines like REASONS FOR LIVING back then perhaps maybe we wouldn't have had to suffer reading through all of those rather tepid mags that were "speaking" for the new sophisticated punk generation making the whole thing look sillier as the days progressed.

Oh, and maybe I should mention what I consider the featured item of the issue, the fabled final interview that a high school-era DeRogatis did with none other than his idol, Lester Bangs. A pretty spiffy interview it is as well even if it captures Bangs during the least potent part of his career, but I don't care considering the historical significance of it all (besides, his commentary about rock videos shows that perhaps providence was kind in offing him before he could live to see Twisted Sister). It all reminds me of a story regarding my own dealings more or less with DeRogatis when I wrote the man to fill him in on some articles that were missing from the list of published writings listed in the back of his very own Lester Bangs bio from about a decade back. I got a nice email from DeRogatis asking for copies of these fanzine rarities that seemed to have gone under the Bangs radarscope which I did, but when I brought up a few more discoveries I got what I considered a smartsy assy response from the guy for reasons I still can't comprehend. Made me mad enough at the time that I didn't even mention the additional pieces (one of 'em from NIX ON PIX come to think of it) I discovered in the interim, but I think I got "over" this bit of adolescent-level angst and anxiety by now. Whatever, one should not mess with the master, and for that breach of protocol who knows if I'll ever help out a struggling researcher with any rockism-related information wallowing in the serenity of my deepest thoughts! Shudder!!!!
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Erica Pomerance-YOU USED TO THINK CD (ZYX/ESP Germany)

In honor of the recent digipack reissue of this oft-passed on ESP album I decided to spin my 1992 Cee-Dee version of YOU USED TO THINK again and it sounds even better than when I last listened in two years back. Can't say that this is one of those all-important late-sixties rock epiphanies in the tradition of the Velvet Underground and Stooges like the recent hype would lead us to believe, but it sure transcends a lotta hippie watermarks into just good, intense rock music with nice avant-jazz references. Nuttin' wrong wit' dat especially when the hippie watermarks are firmly entrenched in the avant jazz and they don't come off as stark pertentious as they usually would (as in Joni Mitchell's MINGUS...need I say more?).

6 comments:

MS69 said...

Re: Raimondo's latest screed

Damn, did I ever with for a return to open commenting at Taki's. The old queen would have gotten his brains beat out.

Bill said...

Chris, regarding the book
THE ROCK SCENE by Richard Robinson and Andy Zwerling, I downloaded an LP on Kama Sutra (guess Robinson helped getting him on KS, eh?) by Zwerling recently, though I have not listened to it yet. Have you heard it? He's still active today...
Will have to listen to it now...

BILL S.

Christopher said...

Bill, that would be SPIDERS IN THE NIGHT which like I said was a big disappointment considering how I thought it was going to be more NUGGETS/Patti Smith sounding considering Lenny Kaye's involvement. It's way on the soft and introspective side which would figure given that Zwerling was the guy who wrote the more introspective singer/songwriter material in THE ROCK SCENE. There was an article on him in CREEM a few years afte SPIDERS mentioning that he had more rocking material he wanted to record (I guess he realized that SPIDERS was way too soft himself!), and Zwerling did have an act with one of his sisters (who is pictured with him amongst other sisters in the gatefold sleeve) in '79 that appeared at CBGB amongst other New York hotspots. Last I heard he was still living in his old neighborhood in the same house he was pictured posing on the roof of on the front of SPIDERS supporting himself with a trust fund his father set up years back. Every day he hangs around the basketball court and goes to the corner grocers to buy fruit juice etc.

Christopher said...

To MS69...which article are you referring to...can't seem to locate it on Taki's anywhere!

Markus said...

Where did you hear about Fleming running into Lou Reed in San Francisco in 1969? If it was at one of those Matrix shows, I wonder if he crossed paths with Willard Van Orman Quine's nephew as well?

Christopher said...

Fleming mentioned his meeting with Lou in one of his comments a few years back, around 2005 or so I believe. I linked it up at the time, so a little blogsearching should pull up the particular post where I included this mention. And as far as crossing path with Willard Van Orman, I wonder if he met up with Aral Sezen or any of the Deviants who might have been there!