Wednesday, April 07, 2010

PUNK, Volume 1, Number 1 (fanzine published by Billy Altman, 1973)

Dunno how you readers feel (nor do I care), but I've always considered Billy Altman to be a major league schlub when it came to rock & roll writing or "critiquing" if you will. Well, maybe I didn't always feel this way since I didn't even know who the guy was when I was three and besides, although his name really didn't STICK OUT in the pages of those mid-seventies issues of CREEM that I was reading at the time the way Lester Bangs and Richard Meltzer's did, his complicity in the downfall of that mag and it's limping throughout the entire eighties (ferget about the latterday imitation SPIN revival) is enough to make any true Third Generation rocker's blood boil. But then again, like such notables as Paul Morley, Russell Desmond and Chris Stigliano, Altman was a soul ingenious enough to create his own fanzine in order to coax the Powers That Be in the rock scribing game to give 'im a job in the BIG TIME, and like Morley and unlike Desmond or Stigliano the ruse actually worked which is good for him. But as far as the general state of rock screeding goes...

And brother, did Altman's insidious plan work wonders for his livelihood! Not only was he writing for CREEM but that granddaddy of kountergulcheral sway ROLLING STONE published his professional wankings as well! Yes, Altman became such a big player in the rock movers and groovers game that somehow-or-other he even became the executor of the Lester Bangs Estate meaning that if you wanted to publish any posthumous rankling from the primo gonz rock writer himself you hadda go through none other than Altman. Not Meltzer or Saunders or someone who at least thunk in the same direction which is why I think that putting Billy Altman in charge of the Lester Bangs Estate is like putting Larry Flynt in charge of Mother Theresa's, and yeah the story was out that all of those Bangs collections contained his "nicer" and "Politically Correct" material because of Altman's "judiciousness" which is why very little if any of his racial slurmongering and infamous misogyny is to be found via the two Bangs readers that have appeared since the late-eighties. And there was plenty of that, only you'll be hard-pressed to find any of it TODAY unless you happen to be the fortunate owner of an old issue of DENIM DELINQUENT or HYPE

So therefore all of Bangs' less "scabrous" and "caustic" opines are to be forever left to some small fanzines rotting away in my closet while Bangs at his NERDIEST gets the royal carpet treatment thanks to the likes of Altman and his spiritual brothers in the whitewashing of the past. And I should know since I wanted to reprint some Bangs item (which was since been circulated on the web and can be downloaded with ease and without Altman's OK) in an issue of my own crusty crudzine and wouldn't you know it but the guy wouldn't even respond to my note, not even a pithy rejection slip was to come my way which only proves to all of us what a real stuck-up this man could be if he would dare to ignore the torchbearer for the new underground breed of writing that I was (and shall remain) in the late-eighties.

So you see, I do hold a seething grudge against Altman and for a good reason, but I will not let that color my review of this obscurity, a fanzine with the title PUNK that actually predated the better known mag by a good two years (of course by the time that one upped this one was dead 'n buried so it's like no lawsuits would incur). You may have remembered some gabbin' 'bout this particular mag on THE HOUND BLOG posting regarding Bangs late last year, and for awhile there was a lotta speculation as to what this mag was about and what kinda innards it sported since most of us weren't privvy to having a copy of this in our possession. Which is how it stood with me, at least until the here and NOW!!!

So better-late-than-never I can now actually claim fame to owning the very first ish of the original PUNK, a tabloid (dated 7 May 1973) that physically reminds me of the last issue of CAN'T BUY A THRILL not to mention a variety of freebee mags that can still be found at Cee-Dee supermarkets even today. And hey, despite any previously-held (or currently-held for that matter) grudges I may have against Altman I gotta say that this is whatcha'd call a pretty snat Solomon/Jay Gruberger creation or DENIM DELINQUENT mind you, but a very good virgin endeavor that stands the test of time or has rock writing really degenerated that much since the birth of the gonz back in the late-sixties?

One of PUNK's greatest assets is not the writings of editor Altman (which are good if par for the course early-seventies college kid dabbling) but the presence of none other than the coulda been infamous Joe Fernbacher. Y'know, I used to think that Fernbacher was just about as much of a problem at the post-Bangs CREEM as Altman and the rest of the newer breed who began writing for 'em during the days when they seemed to eschew the late-seventies underground for arena rock cash in, but his contributions to SHAKIN' STREET GAZETTE had me reconsidering his overall statute in the annals of rock scribedom as does his work here. And thankfully Fernbacher does his share of beefing up for this otherwise well-intentioned yet missing a little "something" effort with his boffo writing which I'm sure still rankles some furs out there in "what constitutes 'good' rock critiquing" land. I guess that's why you can read Parke Puterbaugh all you want to these days and not Fernbacher!

Take his cover story on none other than the Seeds. It's nothing spectacular especially compared with stuff that Jymn Parrett or Ken Barnes wrote about 'em at the same nanosecond, but it's sure a wonderful appreciation scribbled from the heart of some guy who grew up hot and heavy for the early-sixties and "came of age" right when "Pushin' Too Hard" was saying more about teenage drive-in Ameriga than UP WITH PEOPLE tryin' to tell us that the color of God's skin was black, brown, yellow, red and white when everyone knew it was chartreuse. And howzbout his page-long tribute to the one called Iggy and the recently-unsheathed RAW POWER, a writeup that true, might not measure up against the likes of Lenny Kaye's or Mark Jenkins' opinions on that famed longplayer but prove that it wasn't only the rock underbelly intelligentsia who liked the thing but REAL SLOBS like he. (BTW...I've yet to read a duff review of RAW POWER anywhere...if someone knows of one could you please direct me to the nearest source because I haven't been angered in quite awhile.) Perhaps Fernbacher was the only reason why this magazine shoulda been called PUNK inna first place, and you better believe it!

Fernbacher also clocks in with an article on good old pre-WWWFFFE or whatever it's called now wrestlin' with a hep rundown on the sixties scene even including a snap of the young Joe with some long-forgotten grappler named Bill the Brute that looks like it was taken in the magic year of 1963 and don't let anybody tell you different! Fernbacher's contributions to PUNK sure make the paper a winner making me wonder whatever did happen to this guy anyway even if I don't think his CREEM material at least after '76 measures up to his initial outbursts. But next to what CREEM eventually did wrought (Chuck Eddy anyone?) Fernbacher might as well have been Bangs reincarnate.

As for the rest...Altman does the Beach Boys' HOLLAND album right with a writeup that makes comparison to the current BB sound being a weird fusion of Don Ho and "Telstar"! A piece on avant garde jazz written by a Norman Salant is a nice touch, but I felt something essential seemed to be missing from it like a reason as to why the doofs reading PUNK should buy any free jazz elpees in the first place. The sports section is pretty humdrum (just like sports generally can be) 'cept for the aforementioned wrestling story, while the record reviews mix old and new with a rather neet early-seventies twist on the jaded teenage lament. The review of the Jerden Sonics album (uncredited but probably Fernbacher) is priceless, especially the line where the mystery crit compares their sound to "eating p***y with lockjaw" which seems revolting in itself until you realize that this was writ in 1973 and the insidious government plot to assassinate Lester Bangs was only a good nine years away! So ya better get your punkitude while the punkitude's good because frankly, it's NEVER gonna come back.

Overall I would give PUNK a "C", but Fernbacher clearly raises the property values quite a bit. Layout is fine and attitude is there, and although the entire foundation this magazine is built on seems wobbly they do show good taste in choice of material plus had the insight to publish a two page comic dealing with "Dr. DeFriesendorf" and his evil efforts to turn Marc Bolan into the same kinda zomboid that he made outta Bowie and Reed (Bolan being miraculously rescued by Flo and Eddie, who even toss a few funny Zappa refs our way in the process). So how shall I rate this 'un anyway? Howzbout a "B"? Next ish got some good contributors like Meltzer so I'll bet that one'll tickle my psyche, as we used to say.


The Hound said...

Ah, you've found one on your own! I can stop digging through the piles in the basement now. You can understand why I didn't mind giving the thing away, as you say in the posting, it wasn't so great. I still think Teenage Wasteland Gazette was the best of the overlooked zines, they're impossible to find and years ago I lent mine to someone to copy and never got 'em back. There's an unpublished third issue that's been in Manitoba's closet for 40 years now. Of course they're embarrassed by it all, which is why it'll never get reprinted but if I ever get my hands on them again I'll post them as pdf files. BTW the Easy Action label is putting out some sort of Iggy (I think solo unfortunately) set w/reprints of Natalie Stoogling's Popped zine, the voice of the original Stooges fanclub I also have a zine from a weird European Iggy fanclub circa '74 w/two crazy Germans that's mostly a guy taking naked pix of his girlfriend.

Anonymous said...

Hi Chris,

I met Joe Fernbacher a few times, as he lived in Buffalo NY.

Apparently he died a number of years ago.

Cheers, Imants.

Christopher said...

Hound-There were way more than three issues of TEENAGE WASTELAND GAZETTE...I've counted nine! Someone should gather them up in book form from well-produced originals (I'm sure that the "masters" are long gone) and reprint them. I would like to read Bangs' "White Light/White Bonusburgers" article in its entirety since page two of mine came from the tail end of the spirit duplicating print run and is totally unreadable!

Imants-Glad to see that you can put two words together given your recent travails! Too bad about Fernbacher though...didn't know he deep-sixed one bit! (BTW happy birthday...I guess this one puts you in the upper-fifties right, and I'm not talking about your golf game!)

Dee said...

Yes I am glad, Chris, you came upon an issue of Punk Magazine from Buffalo. I just dug mine out the other day!!!! I know I have some Teenage Wasteland Gazettes too (although I got drunk and left a couple at Crenzenco Capece's house!!!!)

doorag von zarkoff said...

"...or has rock writing really degenerated that much since..." har har you need to ask this? (i mean - *YOU* need to ask this?/you need to ask *THIS*?/you need to *ASK* this.......etc)

Christopher said...

Me perhaps, you definitely.

Herm said...

where can you find PDF files of 'Teenage Wasteland Gazette' online? I know i've looked at them before and thought there was a link somewhere on your blog but can't seem to turn it up now!