IF A HERO AIN'T NOTHIN' BUT A SANDWICH DOES THAT MAKE A PO' BOY NOTHIN' BUT ME???
I guess that my Little Orphan Annie routine has really worked wonders because o'er the past week I received not just one, but TWO parcels containing music in the form of Cee-Dee's (burnt offerings and otherwise) that were sent to me totally gratis, like just because I am me and thus deserving of indulging in these platters of total sonic eruption! I guess that the spiritual implications of a person of such a lofty standing as myself lending ear to the cacophonous embedding therein was just too powerful for these people to ignore. Just like Lester Bangs was sent just about every bit of underground recording and fanzine flotsam during his final days in En Why See, people feel fit to honor ME with copies of their own wares and other such musics which I guess does show all of you naysayers and BTC-haters exactly as to what my standing in this thing we call the musical universe just is! The only difference between me and Bangs is that at least I will acknowledge such gifts (if they are worthy of being acknowledged that is) and I sure smell a heckovalot better'n that stinkpot who always reeked as if he were still flinging the manure onto the pile like his dirt poor ancestors had been since the beginning of Bangsianism itself.
I mentioned Serena WmS. Burroughs last week...he's the guy who sent me this big hunking humongous package of stuff that'll take me a good month-and-a-half to rummage through including things such as late-sixties hot funk CD-R's, the next-to-last issue of CLE and some fliers/freebee newspapers which I guess have items pertaining to himself, the Cleveland music scene or both in 'em! But right now it's this little gem that I'm paying attention to, an actual Cee-Dee of Burroughs' mid-eighties band Death on a Stick, an act that were so good and exciting back in them dayze that I actually did a small article on 'em in one of those early issues of my own not-so-defunct fanzine when the thing was actually stapled from single sheets of paper and I had to do all the correlating and stapling myself in order to cut down on the costs of being a proud self-producing publisher!
Actually Death on a Stick wasn't exactly Burroughs' group because he wasn't there from the get-go, but his Clevo avant garage fingerprints are all over this strange release which, mainly because the internet address of local alternative music magnate Jimmy Clevo is not valid anymore, might not be available at your local emporium no matter how hard you look. But if you seek hard enough you might find a copy in a ten for a dollar bin at some Dubuque drug store and if you do SNATCH UP A COPY because Death on a Stick is a Cle experience you really will not want to forget to the point where you will be rattling off lyrics and melodies from this thing while wandering around in your underwear as you slowly drift from the Old Folk's Home of whatever making that your "estate handlers" stick you in.
INDUSTRIAL STRENGTH JAZZ 85' 86' 87' is a fantastico collection of this relatively short-lived group's recorded output (most if not all which appeared on the band's cassette-only release which came complete with a plastic skeleton on a popsicle stick as a promo device!) that does have the whole eighties mind-addled free splat down pat. I ain't talking about that rancide post-gnu wave stuff that cluttered up the fanzine pages (mine included!) either, for this shebang says more about what promise the eighties had than a good portion of the SST and Homestead catalogs combined! The soiree begins with a cover of the Led Zeppelin "chestnut" "Cashmere" which sounds as if it were sung through the same bullhorn the Butthole Surfers used and it's so transcendental in its approach and appeal that you don't CARE if this is supposed to be a scathing putdown or humble homage to the ones called Zep. The rest ranges from free-spat attack with whacko vocals and recitations to great crazed twist-o/change-o's and supposedly "immature" singsongy things that somehow seem to lay down perfectly the entire DIY ethos more than an entire leather-bound run of SOUND CHOICE could, and throw in a few issues of CONFLICT and maybe Patrick Amory's collection of BLUE BOY t'boot! Best crack-up material; the cover of Jan & Dean's "Popsicle" done as "Deathsicle" (the original also gets the tape-loop distortion trick at the end of the disque) and Burroughs' "Pumpkin Pie" ("I'll cover it with cream and I'll stick it in your eye"...Joni Mitchell could never come up with lyrics like that!). And of course "Jerry Lewis/It Always Rains in Downtown Cleveland" is what I would call a magnum tour-de-fartz of a le petomaine level and can you think of a better closer than this? Truly exhilarating material here from a group that I don't think ever woulda made it onto Anastasia Pantsios' list of truly relevant and safe Cleveland underground groups of a felchable nature (both ways).
***Also in the mail came this slim parcel emanating from the mystic mire also known as Grangemouth, Sterlingshire, Scotland...it looks as if none other than one LINDSAY HUTTON has decided to send me a few Cee-Dee-Ares of old En Why See material that I had pestered him about (after reading about this stuff in his old and essential THE NEXT BIG THING fanzine) nigh on over a year ago. A nice surprise natch, though the arrival of this small package of worth that has arrived does has me worried...y'see, as you all should know the Scots are what people in the civilized world would call "tightwads", "stingy" and "penny pinchers"...why do you think Queen Elizabeth is wincing on all of those pennies over there? I've heard all the jokes about 'em using the same rubber over and over again because it wasn't worn out that much, and all this makes me do is wonder exactly what does Mr. Hutton want in return from me anyway, like perhaps my first born or a pound of flesh or something that you know will result in my instant death. I guess the constant ingestion of animal innards will do strange things to you.
But all kidding aside (after all, Mr. Hutton can take a good joke about himself and his ethnicity as long as I lay off the cracks about his countrymen who transplanted themselves to the USA only to leave a legacy of broken down automobiles in front yards, bad teeth, poor hygiene and an excessive use of white sheets and burning timber) I really do appreciate the platters that the man has winged my way. And outta the batch I really really really liked the one by the Erasers, a group that I guess warranted so much attention back then that Hutton actually reviewed this very recording (live at the Village Gate!) back when it was recorded in...gawrsh, was 1977 that long ago??? A lotta hair has gone down the drain since then, but these recordings still sound as fresh and as punkified as the day they were laid down which should be a lesson to all of you new music types out there who always seemed to mix your Lou Reed with Mister Rogers.
Not having heard this group of three missies and one guy (led by guitarist/vocalist Susan Springfield) in "excess" I was wondering exactly what was gonna be in store, and quite concerned about it at that. Y'see, from what I'd gander the Erasers might just've come off as yet another 197X punque clone group aping the same hooks used by all of the precedents and to nauseating effect as well. But I sure trusted ol' Lindsay especially when he dredged up that old "early-Velvet Underground" comparison that always perked my obsessions up esp. when intoned in hallowed late-sixties/seventies whispers. And, as you already should know by heart, I really detest the bantering about of the "early-Velvets" comparisons by mealy-minded rock critics and sycophantic fanboys (myself included to a certain point) who would tag some of the most precocious bands who sound like lotus leaves floating onto delicate limpid pools as having a credo even remotely sounding like the Velvets, but in this case it's much different since we're talking back when being a Velvets fan/listener or having even the remotest interest in them was certainly a sign of inner-strength! And hey, I'll take my Velvets filtered through the likes of the Erasers or Modern Lovers or the Krautsters over some of the pallid puke pretending to be Velvet-informed that came out of the "alternative" scenes of the eighties and onwards, with a few notable exceptions of course.
The Erasers have that bountiful late-seventies Velvets-appeal and more, reminding me of everybody from Television and Richard Hell to the Heartbreakers and all of those grittier En Why bands that people like Hutton cut collective yellow teeth on for ages on end. Recording quality for this show ain't that snat, but the message gets across as Springfield and band (including one-off Red Crayola drummer Jane Fire) approach rock & roll in that high energy late-seventies way somewhere between the mid-seventies punk style and the oncoming no wave crunch. A great sense of punk history is revealed not only in the use of VU soup-base but with a song that actually borrows the riff from the Unrelated Segments' "Where You Gonna Go" and you KNOW that the Erasers probably never even heard that song before which only goes to show you how great minds run in the same direction no matter how far separated they may be!
Also recorded @ the Gate were the Helen Wheels Band, an act that I had great hope for until hearing their POSTMODERN LIVING 12-inch EP which was seriously brought down by the intentional new wave production that belied the group's whole late-sixties hard-rock attack that drew me to 'em in the first place. Thankfully the erstwhile BOC lyricist and weight lifter holds more'n her own on this set which comes off like Dictators redux as she rips and tears through some great hard rock that I'm sure had the phonus balonus fakes on the "scene" runnin' for cover with hands firmly pressed upon ears but the more real amongst us knew differently. Really, the Wheels band did have more in common with 1969 than 1977, or at least the good portion of the tail end of the sixties which is evidenced by their closing covers of the Kinks' "Til The End of the Day" not forgetting "7 & 7 Is" which some clod faded out before the big exploding climax. Let's just say that the Cultsters should have been shamed unto eternity for not getting Wheels and band a recording contract with Columbia before the energy fizzled away, but in those anti-innovative times what else could one expect? Can anyone out there tell me if the Skeleton Crew CD with Robbins is worth the effort to snatch?
And finally on the Hutton hit parade's a recording from Steeltips, a bunch that seems more notorious in death (a good quarter-century of it) than life. You may remember this bunch that actually acquired a recording contract with Electra and at a time when the major labels were pretty much fed up w/anything remotely resembling punk rock...they had an antisocial finger-biter for a lead vocalist, outsider artist Joe Coleman and the guy who eventually wrote a book on cartoonist George Herriman and draws the MUTTS comic strip in their ranks, and with an assemblage like that (and more!) you really are in for a punk treat New York style. Nothing fluffy like what you were likely to come across on the same turf in 1981 as opposed to 1977 and pretty gosh-should-I-say-it??? good ol' homey Amerigan garage band rock in its own psychotic way. In fact so En Why as in pre-Sex Pistols/Clash influx that you are positive that knowitall critics like Julie Burchill and the equally feminauseous Caroline Coon were gonna call it heavy metal and with a straight face too!
This particular set rec'd at CBGB on St. Paddy's day '78 has Steeltips sparking on all cylinders, or is that sound at the beginning really someone setting off firecrackers?!?! From there the set weaves and bounces through everything from a "Papa-Oo-Mow-Mow" re-do to this creep-crawl lurch that sounds soooo familiar that I'd swear the same riff had been used many a time and for many a year. Great psychosis music that rivals Lester Bangs' own stabs at New York punk from around the same time, all ending with a cover of "96 Tears" that just goes to show you when these punks' roots were showing. Fortunately a few groups of the latterday En Why See stratum were able to capture the energy and fun of groups like Steeltips, though I'm positive you went out of your way to ignore 'em as well.
***So once again thanks guys, and if you want anything in exchange for these goodies you'll probably have to wait until I hit the lotto, or at least sell some of my clogged up back-issue-ware that I've been trying so hard to turn into cash for hash!