Sunday, July 04, 2010


Lessee...the calendar sez 'tis July. Can ya believe it??? How time flies to coin a phrase. I mean, here we are halfway through 2010 and hardly anything "monumental" has happened in the World of Music (at least that world within my own personal sphere) that's guaranteed to knock myself, or presumably any of you readers out there, for a loop bigger than the one I used to get opening up my latest package from Disques du Monde or Rough Trade circa 1981. It sure ain't like it was back in them olden days when it seemed as if great records on both a mainstream and underground level were comin' at'cha faster than the speed of sound, or at least faster than the speed of Dame Elton John heading for a bathhouse. Not anymore. Sad to say, it looks as if any semblance of raw, uncouth, disturbing and high energy rock & roll music, or any real fan-based support behind it, is finally gone. Nyet nada nohow no-mo. How it lasted so long, dying a slow death since whenever Max's Kansas City closed shop and Lester Bangs died, is mystifying to say the least. But why should I really cry over'll have to admit that rock was a fifties/sixties phenomenon and everything good about it that happened afterward was mere coasting on gas fumes. The International Youth Language has turned into mere babble and frankly if it weren't for the few survivors of the total-eruption crowd who made the past such an edgy place to be I don't think I'd even bother to care anymore. At least I won't be there for the funeral conducted by the Reverend Christgau, with Dave Marsh, Parke Puterbaugh and Anthony DeCurtis amongst the pallbearers. Anastasia Pantsios the paid-by-the-hour necromancer mourner in black veil hiding her face that turned Eric Carmen to stone.

So yeah, let's keep on listening to rock et roll, though right now any releases of worth and might will have to be digested the same way people like Bill Shute listened to Big Band airchecks that were coming out in the late-seventies. Don't expect it to make any great comeback soon either, unless they start having rave-on dance party shows for septuagenarians shaking colostomy bags to the Stooges live from the Brad Kohler rest home. And yeah, we're all heading down that highway to oblivion and who said rock & roll was supposed to last as long as it did anyway. Frankly all I have to say is that I sure wish the majority of it didn't end up sounding so sucky a mere ten/fifteen years into its lifespan.

On that particularly sour note let me wish at least a very select few of you a happy July 4th...hope you're having about as much fun as I am, in fact I hope you're having much more fun since all I'm doing this day is watching DVD's of FERNWOOD TONIGHT and GOMER PYLE, fantastic programs true but frankly I'd rather be out with the rest of you tossing M-80s at kittens! These holidays sure get to be a drag once you get older and your aunts and uncles who used to host these celebratory picnics are either deceased or too old to stoke the barbecue fires anymore, and the younger generation's either living way outside the area or mad at each other to the point where having a shindig like in the old days is strictly outta-the-question!

So, given how most of you BLOG TO COMM readers are a buncha Boris Badenovs anyway I'll keep today's Independence Day post short and sweet just so's I'll have some time to unlax and rewind myself. Here are just a couple to keep you pacified until the next great depression.

The Royal Teens-LET'S ROCK! CD (Mighty Power, European Comunity)

Here's an "oldie" that I haven't spun in quite some time, and after giving it a listen maybe I can see why! Not that the Royal Teens were a lousy bunch really, but even the staunchest fan would hafta admit that some of the material they were writing/performing really had these guys pegged as being "gingerbread-y" as Jerry Hopkins put it in his CRUISIN' 1958 liner notes. Sure tracks like "Sham Rock" (covered by the A-Bones!) and its instrumental take "Mad Gass", "Royal Blue" and of course the big-time hit "Short Shorts" were fantastic representations of what late-fifties punk rock that wasn't Link Wray or the Wailers could aspire to, but many of the 32 tracks here, most with vocalist Joey Villa, do tend to lean towards the early-sixties Philly Pop trend that was beginning to creep into the music scene around the time Buddy Holly was being backed by strings (and if he had lived I wonder just what trajectories his career woulda taken off on!). The omnipresence of Villa makes up a good portion of this disque, which even has a number of 1967 flat-out chart-misses where he does his Chris Montez thing to no avail (calm down Bill!). Let's just say that the avid rock & roller who gets hold of this'll be doin' a lotta skippin' over in order to avoid the cheesier matieral and get to the good stuff.

Still I gotta admit that I do like the majority of the Royal Teens "proper" tracks here, even the vain attempts to try for another post-"Short Shorts" hit by jumping on a failing fad like "Big Name Button" or heading into novelty territory with a nice irritable crankout like "Harvey's Got a Girlfriend". Y'know, those numbuhs which anyone with a brain coulda told ya were destined for the lower rungs of the charts but still had more spunk than the entire Dancing with them Idols styled entertainment being cranked out atcha these days. There's something about 'em that just seems crazy enough to appeal to my own love of pre-PC-shackled teenage doofness that died out around the same time kids began forsaking THE BULLWINKLE SHOW for Judy Blume.

And of course you already knew that Bill Randall from the Knickerbockers and Bob Gaudio of Four Seasons fame got their big break with the Teens, as did sometimes member Al Kooper, right? Like you care!

Lotsa people were dumbfounded over my positive assessment of Living Colour back in the late-eighties. I remember one rock writer whose opinions I obviously more than (ho hum!) "respect" who also liked 'em ribbing me because of their obvious Jimi Hendrix influence (this at a time when I thought about as highly of Mr. H as I did of the guy who canceled GILLIGAN'S ISLAND), but he was missing the point of it all. Yeah, I might not swing to the memory of Mr. Haze like I do the Velvet Underground, but there were many groups who were influenced by acts that I could not care a whit about and worked them into interesting if not downright outstanding pieces of work. And Living Colour were but one of 'em. They reminded me a lot of the mid-seventies En Why See bands who might not have been "punk" as the term would eventually ooze into but were punky nonetheless, plus their ability to mix and match jazz, funk, freak and underground certainly made them refreshing especially in the face of an alternative that was either preachy pious hardcore, lame post-post Jonathan Richman sensitivity music, or tiresome experiments of experiments that were over and done with a good ten years earlier.

Naturally I began to tire of Living Colour after hearing them tackle dreary ballad material along the lines of "So You Want a Revolution" or whatever it was called, and like I said at the time any group that was willing to do a "love song in the age of AIDS" was asking me to hate them! But although I might have just ignored these guys' career after a point it wasn't like I totally wrote them off. And as readers of this blog know I did appreciate some of the other all-black groups (sponsored by the Black Rock Coalition, an organization I won't consider racist in any respect but more "ethnic" minded, like a Polish Club or a cadre of left-handed herniated Melbournians) such as Eye and I (24-7 Spyz were palatable but that didn't keep me from selling their album), and dang-it but even this far down the line I must 'fess up to wanting to hear more of the acts that sprang forth after Living Colour somehow reminded everybody that yeah, black people can play rock & roll (a fact that seemed to have been forgotten as if Screamin' Jay Hawkins and Bo Diddley had never even existed in the first place).

This BRC sampler was a cheap enough affair (one buck plus postage) so I figured, in the best 1977 flea market fashion why not pick it up! Glad I did too even if THE HISTORY OF OUR FUTURE doesn't quite fulfill my quest for the cream of the crop the way I woulda liked. Not that it's bad...I mean it's good enough that even the closing rap-rock number from Dadahdoodahda was sit-throughable, but I found a whole lot of it way too professional and aiming for the BIG BUCKS FROM PACIFIED PUERILES who somehow got to set the stage for the sap music markets of the seventies onwards. Naturally the groups that were more in the Living Colour vein with a more punk-y outlook, the ones who used to perform at CBGB whether or not there was a BRC-sponsored show like the Good Guys and JJ Jumpers, were more to my liking creating a nice hard-rock energy similar to Colour and those BRC groups that were able to record albums and maybe even sell a few. Too bad this didn't contain nothing but the more CB's-oriented local BRC groups since I would have loved to have heard some of the other obscurities on the scene, especially the group that was actually calling themselves "Destroy All Monsters" totally oblivious to the Detroit group of the same name (betcha a lotta people were going to CBGB expecting the others and getting these guys!) until they finally ended the confusion and changed their own moniker out of good sportsmanship more than anything!


Bill said...

Speaking of big-band airchecks, I just got an old CD of Benny Goodman "Camel Caravan" airchecks (there are a LOT of those floating around...I try to remember which I have when at used record stores/flea markets/Half Price Books/etc.) for two dollars at a used bookstore in another city about 2 weeks ago. Johnny Mercer guests on each of the two 30-minute shows, trading odd pseudo-downhome banter with Benny and joining in on a few of his own compositions. He's not as much FUN as Phil Harris would have been, but Benny would never have had Phil Harris on his show! alas...
Happy 4th from south Texas...

Bill S.

Anonymous said...

Hey Chris, hope you is hale'n'hearty! I achully witnessed an all-time great nite of high energy r'n'r in Memphis back in April, namely the Reigning Sound and Jack O & The Tennessee Tearjerkers, at diff venues just a few blocks from each other. So it DOES still happen, just v. diff to find...

That nite, RS whipped out fasties, slowies and inbetweenies aplenty, while the TJs wuz grindy'n'blaring w/much raunch.

So, as them Real Kids said, "shake it hard and it just might happen again."

Keep on doing what you're doing, some of us appreciate it immensely!


PS Excellent! The mailman just turned up with John Einarson's new Arthur Lee bio, a book about Rickenbacker 12-strings and a UK 50s racetrack noir novel, Alexander Baron's The Lowlife! Fuck TV, anyway...