GALE STORM STRAIGHT AHEAD WITH NO ZASU PITTS IN SIGHT!
Boy how situations can change in a week! I mean, just a good seven days ago I had to struggle to crank out even the measilest of posts, and here I am presenting what perhaps is one of my biggest, longest runoffs-at-the-keyboards to ever grace these here, er, pages. No early-winter doldrums for me!...and if I must toot my own horn 'n letcha know why I'm suddenly feeling as fit as a Dutchman in a kiddie porn bookstore all I will say is that I credit my new found energy to a revived interest in a buncha old disques and reading material that just happened to pop up while looking for other items, not to mention a heaping bowlfulla one of those sweet crackly oat cereals for breakfast which really get me moving and in more ways than one! Plus the recent upping of the thermometer sure makes me feel glad that spring is just around the corner, or at least it will be after about a dozen more heavy snowfalls and ice storms making mobility even harder than it was during that last blizzard which had me snowbound! But most of all, for once in my life I am in a good enough mood which may change at the drop of a hat, so dig my reality (even if, after re-reading this post I've come to the conclusion that it's probably one of the biggest piles of shit that I've had the misfortune to dump on you)!
I do get the feeling that I'll be doing a lot of "scrubbing" w/regards to the various spelling, grammar and opinion errors that will inevitably show up at least on my radarscope as the weeks progress but hey, it keeps me out of trouble and it's all for a good cause. But whaddeva, I hope that you'll find some magnitude of information, entertainment and perhaps downright philosophical appeals to the intellect here, and if you wanna borrow my microscope in an attempt to find any I'll be more than glad to lend it to ya.
***Here's something I only very recently unearthed via the web after years of curiosity and engine searches, none other than the NATIONAL LAMPOON MAD magazine spoof from 1971! Discovering this semi-legendary piece after hearing about it for eons on end sure did help sate a lotta the "mystique" regarding the thing like, how can a satire mag make fun of another satire mag! Well, I was a pretty naive kid to ponder such an obvious question like that, but after years of knowing that the article existed with little if any hope that I'd actually get to read it I gotta say that I found this 'un to be a pretty har-de-har-har and cutting piece of work. Thankfully it didn't sink too deeply into the realm of bad taste like many of those LAMPOON pieces could, and yeah I gotta say that this takeoff just about skewered everything about the rag I didn't like, or at least didn't like years later when I was old enough to discover that all these guys were handing us readers was a lotta gross out demi-shock and recycled formula disguised as satire which you can get for free watching SNL every week.
The Don Martin ribbing wasn't too keen (which is strange since I thought he'd be the easiest one on the staff to mimic and hold up to tasteless ridicule!) but the SPY VS. SPY one did bring a smile to my face (the spies join forces to kill Che Guevara!) as did "The Lighter Side of Dave Berg" which would figure since just the other night I dug out one of his old paperbacks and thought its contents devoid of anything other than that typical middle-class lily-livered humanist mush the kind that Berg had been shoveling out at us for ages. Anyway, let me go on record saying that this takeoff was a guffaw and cutting enough rip into "the usual gang of idiots" (or what was left of them at the time this one made it out alive) and although I have the sinking feeling that you won't feel the same way too (somehow or other!) I gave up reading you losers' minds long ago so why should I fret. Not-so-strangely enough, many of the same cliches and pratfalls that NATIONAL LAMPOON would fall into are strikingly similar to the ones they accused MAD of lingering in, once again proving that things like this usually go 'round full circle as many of my enemies eventually found out, or at least will soon enough.
***Before we get into the "fun" portion of this post let's get down home serious for once. And please, you better be sitting down when I tell you this piece of shocking news which I'm surprised has passed us by for so long, but none other than Connie Hines, better know to you as Carol from the MR. ED television program, died last month at the not-so-ripe old age of 79 (and considering how people are living and operating well into their 100s these days 79 is a kinda young age to pass away!). For someone whose career seemed to be MR. ED and nothing but, Hines sure made a big enough impression on a lotta "coming-of-age" boys who were starting to think about femmes as something more than Judy Hennsler-styled irritants not only back then, but in the years since. Heck, I even remember a cousin of mine coming over to the abode, stoked on the then-current airings of MR. ED reruns on the ever-decaying TV Land cable network, wanting to use my search engines to locate sexy photos of the show's venerable co-star (as if she would ever think of posing unclad with the title character, but boys will be boys!). And as far as I recall, our very own Bill Shute confided in me that he had an actual little boy crush on Hines during the show's original run along with one for none other than Betsy Palmer, which only goes to show you the good taste that my readers have for members of the fairer (at least they were then!) s-x!
Although not much of Hines can be seen outside of ED other'n perhaps an M-SQUAD, she did show up on a FRACTURED FLICKERS interview segment which surprisingly enough poked just enough lighthearted fun at MR. ED to be snide but not cutting. (FLICKERS later on razzed the series with MR. FRED, a talking rhino using footage from some silent-era big game in Africa film!) Hines was just perfect in this segment with its surprise ending (she mistakenly presents host Hans Conried with an award for an FBI-themed television program believing that he was actually J. Edgar Hoover!) proving that she could handle "hip" comedy along with that of the usual sitcom variety kind, something which I'm sure would befuddle big city newspaper critics and the dolts who read their swill alike!
Gee, I thought that the Obit Man himself Lindsay Hutton woulda posted something about it. (I had to find out in some strange retiree monthly paper myself!) He (or I) probably missed the thing during the excitement of the Christmas Season but really I thought this would be like late-breaking news flash material the kind they pre-empt television programming for! What a loss!!!
And now, for those of you readers who stuck it out this long...here are thee reviews!
***The 39 Clocks-PAIN IT DARK CD (Bureau, EU)
ANOTHER ALL-IMPORTANT BLOG TO COMM WARNING!!!! THE FOLLOWING REVIEW, WHILE REGARDING A MUSICAL AGGREGATION WHICH HAS NOT BEEN COVERED ON THIS BLOG PRIOR, DOES CONTAIN SENTIMENTS AND OPINIONS OF THIS AUTHOR WHICH HAVE BEEN EXPRESSED MANY TIMES IN THESE "PAGES" SO TO SPEAK (MOSTLY REGARDING THE STATE OF UNDERGROUND MUSIC AFFAIRS IN THE EARLY-EIGHTIES...SEE MY BIG FAT PET CLAMS FROM OUTER SPACE PIECE FOR A MORE RECENT EXAMPLE) SO IF YOU BELIEVE THAT I HAVE THE TENDENCY TO RE-REPEAT VARIOUS MUSICAL TREND-RELATED THEORIES ALONG WITH PERHAPS-IRRELEVANT PAST EXPERIENCES REGARDING MUSIC TO THE POINT OF NAUSEA MAY I SUGGEST YOU SKIP THIS PARTICULAR REVIEW, OR BETTER YET SKIP THIS ENTIRE BLOG BECAUSE IF YOU WANNA BE RUN INTO THE GROUND WITH THESE VARIOUS PERSONAL REMEMBRANCES MAYBE YOU CAN FIND YOUR JOLLIES AT ANOTHER ONE MORE SUITED TO YOUR OWN PECULIARITIES. JUST A FRIENDLY HEADS UP HERE, THAT'S ALL!
Do you remember the great punk rock crack-up of the early-eighties? I sure do since I was living right in the middle of it an lemme tell you it was not a pleasant experience! OK, for the sake of argument (not that any of you would want to do that with me) the 1975-1982 generation of punk/garage/underground rock, the one that was marketed under the very vague rubric (copyright 1985 Robert Christgau) of "new wave", had perhaps not-so-suddenly come asunder...not that it was some sort of one big happy and united new wave we're talking about, but somewhere around this time many of the early fans and followers of the form began to disgust at what this music had become (talking the various reactions to the underground scene of the day that were to be found in the 1979 issues of KICKS) and with the permanent closing of Max's Kansas City followed by the death of Lester Bangs (12/81 and 4/82 respectively) it was clear that the energy and downright magic that was beginning to show up on vinyl as well as the stages of various rock haunts in the middle portion of the previous decade had mutated into something quite contrary to what the sound and vision had originally stood for. As if this stuff "stood for" anything in the first place but that's besides the point but arguments aside, the original icons and upstarts who seemed like such out-there visions in '75 were either broken up or making duff records, while many of the more original movements that had been operating under that big new wave tent were fracturing off into various sub-stratum like hardcore, garage revival, post-no wave (which was sorta like the original stuff w/o the strident rock & roll energy) and who knows what else...British new wave of heavy metal perhaps??? It was a rather duff time especially for me considering how a lotta the groups that I had been listening to were either in hiding (MX-80 Sound) or putting out albums that really didn't stand the test of time even if you removed the needle from the vinyl a good second ago. I sure could have used more of that hot, Velvet Underground-y sound and energy that got me interested in this stuff in the first place as well as the hot new groups that were coming out in their wake, but even those new groups like say, the Babylon Dance Band, couldn't hold a candle to most of the most under-the-covers outta nowhere group of the seventies to claim eternal allegiance to the drone.
For people like me who were greatly put off by this current state of affairs there were the hardcore and garage band revival groups to look forward to. Hardcore would quickly burn itself out to a frazzle to the point where by the middle portion of the eighties it seemed like nothing but another soapbox for the tired radicals of the sixties to cling to. In contrast the garage revivalists, for all their hard work and neat coiffures, couldn't hold a candle to the likes of the Seeds or Sonics no matter how hard they tried. It was kinda like watching HAPPY DAYS and seeing seventies actors playing at being in the fifties, or THAT 70'S SHOW seeing nineties people play acting at the seventies. Nice but not totally convincing. That left discovering old fifties and sixties chestnuts which made fanzines like THE NEXT BIG THING and the aforementioned KICKS all the more important at least for a fellow like me whose knowledge of the early rock development remains rather infantile. And when a group that seemed exciting and worthy of my attention did pick up on my antenna like f'rexample, the Raunch Hands or A-Bones, you can bet that I would be making a bee-line to the post office with a money order firmly placed inside my trembling envelope!
The 39 Clocks do figure into this review somewhereorother...considering that they too were a product of the early-eighties music scene and sorta made themselves known to me during that duff year of 1983 (perhaps the worst year for existence not counting 1987, 1997 and a good portion of 2002-04), they certainly were at least one musical aspect of the day that caught me totally by surprise. And besides, their avowed love for the 1967 mad Velvet Underground rush is what really suckered me into giving a whit in the first place. True the fact that they were a duo and used a drum machine had me thinking Echo and the Bunnymen, but a certain kraut (who shall remain nameless) told me otherwise and in fact sent me their SUBNARCOTIC 39 CLOCKS album to prove it! I played it once, then twice, then threw it on the sell pile because I felt it was just more of that music that fell into that hotcha smart set new Velvets category that such groups as the Dream Syndicate and a number of the up-and-coming Paisley Undergrounders were filling up many a fanzine page with. No matter how hard I squinted my ears I never could immerse myself in any of those even newer new wave sounds because the times they were a 'changin', and they were changing into something that really made me miss the grubby, gritty and downright disgusting beauty of what the seventies stood for at their best!
Over the years I have been thinking about my actions, perhaps coming to the conclusion one minute that I had behaved rashly in dismissing this duo then remembering just how unimpressed I was with the whole shebang and how my trade off of this for some rare free jazz college radio discard was all for the better. But hey, maybe it is time for me to give the 39 Clocks yet another try given how attitudes and tastes "grow" with maturity. And now that I'm a wizened old man perhaps I can finally see the 39 Clocks for what they are in their spacious Velvet Underground glory? C'mon, do any of you people think I've "matured" in all these years? I'm still as addled, as jaded and as downright cocky as I was back then, and don't let Brad Kohler tell you any different!
Well, I gotta say that here in the teens a good thirty years after the original thrust of it all I find the 39 Clocks to be...good. Nothing spectacular as far as these post-VU hard-edged under-the-covers groups go. Kinda sparse considering how the duo of J.G. 39 and C.H. 39 handle their guitars and organ leading to a quite thinner sound that I would have hoped for. Maybe if they were from En Why See and had a sleeker name and more of a swinging attitude they could have released something along the lines of the early Comateens back when they were Max's Kansas City regulars, but I guess these krauts woulda been about as out of place in En Why See as the 'teens would have been playing for the remnants of the Baader-Meinhoff gang eh?
Yes the sound is thin (even with the addition of various guest musicians), but the Clocks can tick out (cute huh?) some halfway-decent melodies that sound like perhaps a more Teutonic Metal Boys while roaming around in the same early-eighties miasma. Of course I would be too obvious mentioning early Suicide, and oops I just did! I blame the general fluffiness on the production, as well as the fact that these guys were somehow trying to fit into that "neu deutsche welle" or whatever it was called and purposefully were attempting a somewhat original sound, but even with the general lightness of the proceedings I gotta admit that the Clocks' attempts at re-doing old VU songs with slight chord changes rivals some of the better attempts that many an overtly Velvets-inspired group has tried for years on end. Not only that, but they cover "Twist & Shout" which somehow in this starkly primitive form seems to encapsulate just about everything that was strange and perhaps ennui-filled (at least for me!) about those rather dank days of musicality.
I think I'll hold onto this one, only because I have the feeling I'm going to need to listen to it thirty years from now. I can't wait!
***David Bowie-BOWIE AT THE BEEB 2-CD set (Virgin)
Me and God are watching Davey grow. First he's this mid-sixties English pop foppish fellow going for the big production sound then he's doing the introspective Donovan folkie thing and before you know it the guy's trying to out-Lou Lou with an Iggified hard rock romp. Fortunately Bowie stopped doing BBC sessions before he got into his pale ale James Brown mode, and that was before he became a bona-feed kraut automaton but that was way before he...well, exactly what has he been doing since then?
I really didn't care for Bowie's legit early material that was issued on THE WORLD OF DAVID BOWIE and I find ZIGGY STARDUST more or less watered-down Lou-cum-Bolan, but I will go on record saying that I agree with Nick Kent when he ranked THE MAN WHO SOLD THE WORLD with FUNHOUSE as the two best albums to come out of the year 1970 (and can you name any longplayers other'n perhaps BACK IN THE USA or EASY ACTION that would also qualify????). But it's all here on this classic collection of BBC live and studio tracks which only goes to prove that what the bootleggers could do with ease in 1975 the legitimate labels would eventually release a good twenty years after the furor had died. Two extended platters taking you from '67 to '72 with all of the fast curves, surprise changes and forgotten moments these tracks will rip out of your long-jaded memory hole.
***Tiny Tim-CONCERT IN FAIRYLAND LP (Bouquet)
You may not have guessed it given my general live-and-let-live sense of values, but around here the subject of Tiny Tim and his general air of flitziness for wont of a better term really used to strike it sour-like with many of the older generation people I used to hang around with. I don't know whether it was Mr. Tim's shoulder-length hair, his falsetto, his outlandish garb, his ukelele, his shopping bag or his general demeanor that really rankled the oldsters at the time, but I suspect it was a combination of all of the above that did it. Somewhere in the dark recesses of my mind I would have believed that the generation-in-charge would have loved Tiny because he was singing the songs that they grew up with in the twenties and thirties, but that didn't cut any ice considering what a freak these very people saw him as. Anyway, I remember my mother being especially irritated by the entire campy 30s/40s nostalgia craze thinking that these gals wearing old timey nightgowns and granny glasses along with Cass Elliot singing "Words of Love" were nothing more than MOCKING her growing up years, and come to think of it maybe they were.
And even though the "underground" and the radical types tried claiming Tiny as one of the flower power freaks he certainly was his own kinda guy for whatever good or bad that might have entailed. Remember that time in the early-seventies when Tim was on I believe THE MERV GRIFFIN SHOW or perhaps it was THE TONIGHT SHOW, but anyway this was all happening during the height of student unrest and although things were still nice, quiet and peaceful in this area out there it was getting to be a madhouse with riots and shootings at Kent State and what seemed like a full-scale tactical assault on everything and everyone. In the middle of all this Tim appeared on late-night television wearing a hardhat complete with a US flag sticker emblazoned upon it, and although it might have been a surprise to see the usually flamboyantly-dressed Tim decked out like a hardhat giving a listen to him sing some old patriotic number from the World War One days to general boos and catcalls from the audience was another thing entirely! It sure was a switch from the time Tim was singing Irving Berlin's anti-war classic "Stay Down Here Where You Belong" supposedly to butter up the antiwar crowd, and amidst all of the negative response Tim was of course admonishing the studio audience for their lack of patriotism in his usual overzealous, apopleptic fashion prompting guest Dick Shawn to utter something along the lines of "Uh Tim, can you get a little more emotional?" If you would like me to relate what happened after that I'm afraid I can't tell you because that's where the story ends, at least for me! I do remember my father having extremely mixed emotions about it, hating Tim for his long hair freaky fag looks on one hand yet seemingly admiring him for standing up to the trendy political opportunists I would guess. Talk about confusion...kinda reminded me of the time my dog Sam was barking bloody murder at me while I was in the kitchen, and as a fun experiment of sorts I decided to get some food off the counter and started eating doing my "oooh, yummy yum" act as Sam's mind began conflicting between rage and food-thrills not knowing where to settle emotion-wise resulting in this weird bark/anxiety gasp on his part!
(A strange aside---both Tim and Shawn would die in strikingly similar ways...while performing! Well, not exactly since Tim had his heart attack on stage yet was rushed to the hospital where he passed away while Shawn actually expired in the middle of a performance with members of the audience thinking that he was reviving his old schtick where he'd keel over on purpose only to come back to life for the next set! Another strange aside is that both Shawn and Tim had graced the stage, at one time or another, at that famed New York City beer garden Max's Kansas City: Shawn in '74 and Tim for a night in June of '76 where his opening act was none other than former Stiletto Rosie Ross.)
Of course Tim, being the operator that he was, would try to do anything to stay in the spotlight and managed to stay visible by clinging onto whatever grasp or current affair he could find even if it was AIDS (re. his Christmas ditty "Santa Claus Has Got the AIDS This Year"!). I remember a mid-seventies appearance on THE MIKE DOUGLAS SHOW where Tim came out without his trademark ukelele doing a Beatles medley as a nonplussed backing group played from their charts. Definitely a new change in direction for the guy. I also remember Tim consciously slurring the word "breast" during "Lady Madonna", and later on while Dr. Alex Comfort was plugging his book THE JOYS OF S-X Tim asking him that if...and get this, he couldn't bear to even say the word "s-x"!, how come there were so many divorces in this day and age if the gettin' was supposed to be so good! It was all done in this very sheepish and puritan way only Tim could come up with, and perhaps I empathized with him perhaps because I was so mixed up about these things myself! Famed midgie Paul Williams was cracking up over Tim's inability to utter that three-letter word, but from what I've heard (especially about the time record producer Jack Nitzche, high on cocaine, walked in on then-wife Carrie Snodgrass and Williams in bed and tried to satisfy her with a handy revolver with Williams attempting to calm the guy down ever-so-patiently) I'm sure the famed songwriter knows a lot about the subject to give Tim a few good lessons!
But back to the grownup's impression of Mr. Tim. Their feelings against him sure continued to run deep for years on end, like that time I was working my way through some stacks of albums at the Hartville Ohio flea market during the summer of 1982 (the same pile netted me the first SRC album) and some septugenarian guy who looked as if he was of Eastern European factory worker stock pulled the GOD BLESS TINY TIM album outta the pile and for some reason asked me if I wanted to buy it with this smirking joking look on his face like haw haw! Yeah, I gotta say that Tiny Tim was one of the major bugs-uppa-ass for the old Silent Majority crowd, or at least until the arrival of Mister Rogers. Now that guy really got the old folks into a tizzy with his general namby pambiness I'll tell ya!
'n what does all this have to do with the CONCERT IN FAIRYLAND album? Not much other than to give you an idea of what kinda of an atmosphere it was growing up with Tiny Tim, as well as with those who hated him, all around you to the point where even to this day I feel kinda creepy purchasing this album or at least being caught with it. And I know that if I had gotten hold of this album back when it was released during the throes of Timania then my father really would have thrust his girly-boy into the manly world of athletics and outdoor living...y'know, all of those things that made Jack Kemp the homo he was but just try telling that to someone who equates manly stuff with a heterosexuality that dares not speak its name! Though really, I kinda enjoyed these 1962 sides even with the horrid audience overdubbing and typical crank-out cheap studio quality in my own peculiar, fun loving way. Some of these numbers (such as on that old standby "On the Good Ship Lollipop") feature Tim's trademark falsetto and ukelele while others have him backed by an actual cheezoid orchestra rehashing thirties Tin Pan Alley tuneage (sometimes with Tim doing his famous baritone/falsetto Nelson Eddy/Jeanette MacDonald duets) with an appropriate enough smarm to match Tim's seediness (if that's the right word). It's kinda like you too are at the old 82 Club in the fifties and Tim and band are entertaining during some TV stage production to a typically smashed crowd. It does let on to a certain atmosphere that Tim was working in during his pre-fame days, sorta like that scene in Jack Smith's NORMAL LOVE where he walks about playing his uke and seems startled at the sight of a topless and very-preggo Diane DiPrima dancing. Well, I'd sure be startled if I saw her like that too!
Before I split with the Timtalk today let me clue you in to a boffo photo of the guy along with longtime rockonteur Brian Sands that I found on the latter's myspace page some time back. It was taken one afternoon when Brian got out of school early so he could meet Mr. Tim who was then appearing at a Cleveland radio station for an interview. Pretty soon Brian would be getting out of school permanently, smart fellow that he was, in order to start up a career in rock that should have gone somewhere but somehow didn't despite the best efforts of ineffectual fanboys like myself. Reportedly the two exchanged rare 78 rpm records which I'm sure the Estate still has in its archives somewhere, and I'm sure a good time was had by all!
***The One Hit Wonders-"Hey Hey Jump Now"/"Goodbye" (CBS Germany)
Boy that Robin Wills really knows how to make a living! All he does is go to record fairs in both the UK and Holland, buys up all the rare glam/freak singles he can get his hands on dirt cheap, then he auctions 'em off on ebay after praising these groups to the hilt calling 'em "proto-punk" and all other sorts of superlatives guaranteed to get starving rockist maniacs like me bidding up a storm! Well, it's a living I guess, and if I could sucker enough people into bidding on the loads of Polka and one-off religious albums that continually pop up at flea markets around here then maybe I could make a killing too!
But at least these records Wills promotes and auctions off have a lotta taste as does this one from the strangely enough non-hit group going by the name of the One Hit Wonders. These limeys brightened up an already-bright GLITTERBEST collection with the b-side, a track that sounded like 1965 mid-Amerigan garage band basement crank out sorta updated into 1973 English pop glam credentials. I should say that it does remain a winner as does the plug side which is as garage-bandy as the "b" and rocks on kinda like if the Bay City Rollers were not only as punk rock as PUNK magazine made 'em out to be but recorded their own version of "Hey Little Girl" for the tartan whordes! A double-sided wowzer that I know everyone reading this over the age of fifty wishes they coulda heard back when it first came out because...at least this stuff was a valid alternative to the AM charts not only of the seventies, but the eighties and nineties as well!
***Well, after all this garbage maybe I won't see you sometime midweek but tune in anyway!