HOT AND COLD RATS!
OK pilgrims, here's a mix of a whole buncha goodies I decided to "whip up" for your pleasure this weekend. I will 'fess up to the fact that this is a strange oleo of various beauts that I have chanced upon as of late (hence the title) but I think you might get a kick outta the thing and maybe even learn something in typical Bill Cosby fashion. If not, please unplug your computer and give it a decent burial, and give yourself one as well for I fear nothing will help you!
Before we get into the meat/potatoes I thought I'd cue you into this interesting new site that was pointed out to me called Reverbnation in which you can help yourself to a whole buncha downloads re. a variety of well-respected and award-laden artists for free, a word that always seemed to appeal to me for some strange reason! I normally wouldn't publicize Reverbnation if it weren't for the fact that none other than Otto von Ruggins is utilizing Reverbnation to showcase a variety of old and new recordings of his mostly featuring the dreaded group Kongress! And what a trash and treasure conglomeration this site be, for it consists of a whole slew of rare of seldom-heard tracks by "The Weirdest Show on Earth", some even dating back to the '78-'77 version of the group featuring Von Lmo on the drums as well as the mysterious magician himself, Geofrey Krozier. It's this period of Kongress that got me all hot and bothered, especially with those Can-esque electronic musical interludes which call to mind all of those rants we used to read about those guys being Germany's answer to the Stooges, Velvet Underground and the Rolling Stones at their most scabrous all rolled into one throbbing mess! I'm still trying to figure out how to download these tracks, some of the later ones featuring the late Sky Saxon on vocals, onto disque for my own private pleasure, and when I do compile my own personal Kongress disque neighbors beware!!!! If you ever wanted to give this unheard/underrated group a listen to well here's perhaps your one and only chance because I don't think that double-disc sampler is gonna be comin' our way any day soon!
***IMA (Intense Molecular Activity)-NOW AGAIN FOR THE FIRST TIME CD (phOn)
Like I've been saying for the past decade or two, these archival digs sure seem to be coming out at a grand pace, and to that I say "whoopee!" because a lotta the stuff that's coming out in the here and now is about as up to snuff as Chuck Eddy is up to reviving his flagging rockcrit career. Here's one that came out last year but slipped by my radarscope, a release from the duo of Don Hunerberg and Andy Blinx going under the name of IMA (Intense Molecular Activity) who, although playing it pretty under-the-covers during the very-early post-no wave scene in En Why, did manage to release a flexi-disc during their short lifespan as well as make their only live appearance at the famed White Columns "Noisefest" in '81 of which you can hear a track from said appearance on the tape that came out in its wake.
Interesting twosome these IMA guys, who at one time can sound just like any OP magazine "Cassette Culture" electronic noisemakers and at the other a pretty full group playing in some kind of punk rock vein that doesn't make you think instantaneous crank out. Yes it is early-eighties electronic music yet it doesn't fall into that chasm of cutesy and poised. There's still a whole lot of fun and energy here that doesn't come off in that patented pretentious mode that ruined an entire scene, and whether IMA are going for the New York underbelly or just plain bashing it out they never offend your sense of musical propriety. In fact they come off pretty swanky even if a track like "Get Happy" somehow brought back memories of the less-appealing early-eighties Residents (and it is a much better effort than anything the Residents could whip up after 1980 or so)! But then again I have worse memories of the early-eighties to occupy my time so I wouldn't let it bother me. Maybe IMA could be described as an even loopier Cabaret Voltaire? A comparison like that wouldn't hurt them, or their sales for that matter!
***Gunter Hampel-QUASIMODO CLUB, BERLIN, 11/08/68 2-CDR set
Who knows where you can get it, but I got mine from Rick Noll after he used this two-Cee Dee burn to entice me into buying a whole slew of albums from him for the whopping total of $100. I couldn't resist the offer, and whaddayaknow but besides getting this tasty set in question along with a buncha platters that'll be up on the chopping block more sooner than later I also got a free Waiting on a Train Cee-Dee as well as a DVD-R dupe of NAKED ANGELS! Talk about bargains, it's almost as good as the time Wally bought that rusted out motor scooter from Tooey for seventy-five cents!
What makes this Hampel side pretty tasty is not only the date, but this renowned reed/vibist's choice of sidemen from Pharoah Sanders, John McLaughlin and Sonny Sharrock (perhaps THE hotcha selling pt. for these sides) backing Hampel up particularly snazz-like. Sound quality is slightly mudsville but still make-it-out enough even if it all seems awash in Hampel's particularly up-front vibraphone. Sharrock plays exceptionally well and even adds slide whistle to the proceedings, and while it's hard for me to distinguish between which is Hampel or Sanders sax-wise (unless the vibes are in the mix) I must marvel at these sides of free rave that really know how to envelop you in their massive walls of moving sound! It's too bad that Sharrock is no longer here to bask in some of the posthumous fame he has garnered and Sanders has been making rather lame albums for the past twentysome years (though the Sharrock/Sanders reunion on ASK THE AGES remains a jazz milestone), at least Hampel is still with us and continues to perform despite being at the age when most men would rather plop in front of the television and watch cartoons. Support him and his Birth label even if his website is pretty useless with regards to obtaining a whole passel of Cee-Dee rarities that I'd sure as shootin' kill for!
***Bruce Anderson-THE INHERENT BEAUTY OF HOPELESSNESS CD (no label, available through CD Baby)
As they used to say in the seventies this one was a "mother" to get hold of, but thanks to the efforts of one Lindsay Hutton and another Angel Ross (known as Mrs. Rich Stim to you) I got hold of this solo guitar excursion disque that MX-80 leader Bruce Anderson has just released! Huge thanks goes two the two for going out of their way to send humble me a copy of this rarity, and frankly I'd KISS the two of you for your hard work and efforts in doing so only it wouldn't be hygienic, y'know. I mean, who knows where those people have been...
Having been a fan of Anderson and MX-80 back when they still had the "Sound" tagged onto the end of their moniker I was really excited to hear what this master of heavy metal mongering was up to on his latest avant garde guitar excursion. But what a surprise would await me once I applied said disque to my laser launching pad and heard what but...AN ACOUSTIC GUITAR coming from the speakers of my cheapie Emerson mini-box! I really was, and continue to be, extremely startled and disturbed at hearing Anderson play an acoustic axe because I always had a really strong affinity for Mr. Anderson, not only for his natural guitar abilities but for his adamant refusal to pick up an acoustic guitar throughout his entire life as if it were an evil tool used by the weepier of the seventies introspective folkie brigade! And now I hear the man has picked one up and played the thing after what...sixty years of going nowhere near this instrument! Frankly I am aghast at the KNOWLEDGE that Anderson has gone acoustic, even if it is for this sole solo guitar excursion.
Naturally there are no massive feedback wails and intricate guitar lead lines on this one, but you do get this admittedly beautiful disjointed sound not that all akin to an acoustic O-Type which makes for engaging listening, perhaps something akin to those new avant acoustic guitar players VOLCANIC TONGUE is always hypin' yet I feel insecure enough not to get. I wonder if Bernard Herrmann had dreams like this.
So in all this is a MUST HAVE not only for MX-80 followers but for all of those moderne-day snoots who like adventurous and experimental music but tend to find it only in the safest places imaginable. Could be a contender for the year depending on how it shapes up and dare I say I find it quite beautiful and mesmerizing like the best late-summer music has always been and should remain. But an acoustic guitar? I don't think I'll ever live that one down.
***PAPERBACK WRITER, a book by Mark Shipper (Morship Publications, 1977)
Avid followers of the seventies Golden Age of Rock Criticism genre would undoubtedly be familiar with the writings of Mark Shipper, he not only being the creator of FLASH which is perhaps thee definitive early-seventies proto-punk fanzine outside of TEENAGE WASTELAND GAZETTE and DEMIN DELINQUENT, but as a writer (both as a columnist and album reviewer) for PHONOGRAPH RECORD MAGAZINE where his pithy sense of humor must have "put off" a rather large fraction of the readers who were tuning in for reviews of Dory Previn albums. Shipper also jumpstarted the career of the Droogs as well as collaborated with Mike Saunders and Gene Sculatti to create BRAIN DAMAGE, the fanzine that existed only to spoof other fanzines before he pretty much left Saunders and Sculatti to head onto what some would call bigger things (in the music industry one would surmise)! Bur most of all Shipper is the man responsible for writing what is perhaps his magnum opus and crowning achievement, namely this particular hunk of writing prowess going under the moniker of PAPERBACK WRITER, a book which purports to be a written history of the Beatles but reads like the best of Shipper's FLASH/PRM critiques jammed into a totally (but not wholly) facetious history of the Fab Four and what didn't, but more or less could/would have happened had kismet been ever-so-slightly different...
And that's exactly what PAPERBACK WRITER is, the history of the Beatles as told through some of the most distorted funhouse mirrors one would dare come across, and if it's Shipper who's doing the distortion who knows what levels of mirth and merriment one can come upon while reading this book! PAPERBACK WRITER happened to hit the target (target readership/sales) relatively big at the time not only because it was published at the height of "Bring Back The Beatles-mania" (which probably goes to show you just how vapid music had become on the mainstream level) but because within the fastplaying with facts/dates/personalities this book probably tells you more about what rock & roll was and how it played into the whole International Youth Language and hip means of expression game than an entire leather/hidebound collection of ROLLING STONE ever would.
If you thought Shipper was pretty knee-slapping highlarious during his rock criticism days you'll probably head off for rocket roll heaving after reading this pisstake on the Beatles saga which puts similar Beatlespoof endeavors like the Rutles to absolute shame. Facts are given the ol' twisto-changeo to the point where I could easily see one of those "serious" hippie-minded Beatle lovers we still come across here and there rend tie-dye over the abject "blasphemy" of this tome. Kinda like "Strawberry Fields" where nothing is real...Brian Epstein is a plumber who not only discovers the Beatles but gets George Martin to produce them after fixing his leaky faucet. Yoko Ono is a flapjack cook in New York who eventually falls for Mick Jagger and becomes a r&b fanatic in the process before hitting on John years later. George is a devout Christian who leaves the Beatles in a huff after John makes his remarks about the Beatles being bigger than Jesus (after John explains that he meant that the Beatles were actually taller George returns to the fold). Get the drift? And while I'm at it, SGT. PEPPER it turns out was actually a socially conscious effort to get the British Army to use the same grade of pepper for every rank and not just special spices for the higher ups! It may not sound too yuk-inducing when you hear it from me, but Shipper has that special style and verve that'll have you doing a few double takes and cracking up in that great seventies satirical way that seems to have been washed away by too much stodgy seriousness and PC intimidation.
So, it's a comedy book right? True, but like most satire there's a whole lotta truth in PAPERBACK WRITER that is nothing but a nicely veiled indictment against a whole load of blue meanies out there from the record industry, the rockstar mentality and ultimately you and me, the geeks who followed the Beatles and tended to look upon 'em as some wondrous role models and spokesmen for our generation. Well not exactly my generation if you know what I mean, but that generation that spawned fans who saw great prophesies in every Beatle move and utterance as if it were being directly sent to the new youth tribe from You Know Who up there via the vessel of rock music. This kinda mindset gave us every one from Chaz Manson to those loopy older girls I remember from my youth who used to write poems using titles of Beatle songs between making necklaces out of Juicy Fruit wrappers, and for the most part all of 'em could take an intercourse trek through the woods because once you look at it what is the end result of the sixties peace 'n love trip other than a whole bunch of automatons wallowing in human feces at some rock concert?
Actually, I think the book gets into high gear and really delivers on its ultimate message once Shipper gets on from the then-present of the mid-seventies and into the then-uncharted waters of the latter portion of that decade with that Beatles reunion that so many had longed for finally getting off the ground. And yeah, what Shipper tells us """""might""""" have happened and what actually did may seem miles apart, but like in that "Reg Shaw" spoof of "Juke Box Jury" in BRAIN DAMAGE there is so much truth to the heart of it that it does speak loads in the face of an ever-decaying seventies music scene. Y'see, after a good decade of flopping around in their respective solo musical careers the four finally decide to succumb to fan pressure and get back together, and after they sign to Columbia they record their album GET BACK and hit the road to promote it. Unfortunately for them the reviews are dire (the ROLLING STONE spoof written by "Meyer Dindapast", actually once hotshot critic/future disco zombie Ken Barnes, is an excellent example of that entire STONE Jim Dippy mentality that pretty much ruined seventies mainstream rockwriting), the record is rotting on the shelves and a gig at Dodger's Stadium with Peter Frampton headlining and the Sex Pistols opening is pretty much a total disaster at least until they start doing their old material and finally get the crowd hopping and dancing. Then it suddenly dawns on them...the vast majority of Beatles fans did not care about the Beatles for their overall musicianship and what they could offer, but for the warm and fuzzy memories regarding what they once stood for a good fifteen years back. The Beatles had become to the teenagers of the sixties (now the grown up moneymaking consumers) what Bill Haley had become to those of the fifties and Kay Kyser and Sammy Kaye to the forties...a symbol that exists only to remind their aging minions of times they felt were more exciting and entertaining. Realizing that they could not allow themselves to continue on as a nostalgia act playing their hits while ignoring their current endeavors no matter how non-commercial they may be, the Beatles once again decide to disband.
And that's pretty much where this book ends, and on that sad note a whole lot is said not only about the state of music as it was in the seventies (and believe-you-me, it has gotten worse) but the entire flimsy house-on-sand premise which the more hippified adherents to "the sixties" continue to hitch their star to. You know, the more superficial aspects of that decade from which such one-dimensional and vague notions as peace, love, flowers and saving the world sprang which most definitely hid a very dark side that came to the forefront years later, and I don't mean Altamont and such comparatively insignificant occurances. The same people who cried for the Beatles to get back together are the ones who merely yawned when they finally did, and once the Beatles fulfilled their fans' ultimate fantasy one could easily say "the dream is over". Thus the Beatles themselves were reduced to about as much disposable matter as Beatle wigs which sure does say plenty about the entire "baby boom" generation and what they doth wrought.
Weirdest thing about this book is that despite all of the obvious faux Beatles references to be found and the fast and furious playing with the facts, people have fallen for various portions of this book taking its satire and obvious kultur-poking as the real thing! For example I remember a kid who swore that Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme actually released an album entitled SMOKING CIGARETTES AND STARING AT THE CEILING, a reference of which can be found on page 120 in regards to various couples who decided to release full-frontal nude covers in the wake of John and Yoko's infamous WEDDING ALBUM (yeah, it was TWO VIRGINS where the duo decided to bare the hair, but not according to this book!). And hey, even I was "punk'd" way back when after seeing an "alleged" example of Yoko Ono's artwork on page 117 entitled "Milk Bottle In a Blanket of Snow (Aerial View)" which at that tender young age I took as being an actual and neat example of minimalist art on the part of the famous Fluxus member! After all these years I must admit to you readers that I am not proud of the fact that I was so gullible as to take this shoulda-been obvious jibe at Yoko as fact, but I guess that if I could fall for the stories about Robert Christgau being the "dean" of American Rock Critics I could fall for anything! But the oddest backblast from this book has gotta be the REAL LIFE "cover version" of Harrison's contribution to the '79 "comeback" album, a ditty entitled "Disco Jesus" which some enterprising souls actually "covered" as a Gregorian Chant in the early eighties using the lyrics that Shipper had supplied on page 214! As that ol' sayin' goes, you can't make this stuff up!
But Shipper sure made a lot up, and as far as any good discussions of the Beatles and what they meant to the music scene of the sixties and beyond go PAPERBACK WRITER must be included even if it would be only to add a little jolt into the proceedings. In the words of David Keenan, highly recommended.
***WEIRD RECORD COLLECTING-ORIENTED DREAM MAYBE YOU CAN INTERPRET!: from part of a larger, even more muddled than the above review dream comes this, my chancing upon a reissue of the early Polydor-era Beatles material on the Vertigo label (!) that was released circa. the mid-seventies! I think this must be some strange after-effect from reading PAPERBACK WRITER given how that book played fast and furious with the facts, but I find this strange enough to warrant a mention on this blog! The cover sported some unique b&w photos of the group in their greaser garb with a stylish design that looked pretty good in a mid-sixties way even if the large Vertigo logo was emblazoned on the upper lefthand corner of the sleeve. (In the dream I did not take the album out of the sleeve so I don't know if it had the "swirl" label. I assume it's a Roger Dean-vintage label anyway so all you collectors calm down!)