Y'know, unless you're a total Karen Quinlan type or even a casual peruser of this blog, you should be able to notice the hefty vibes o' lust that I have for the higher energy moments espoused by various sixties/seventies rock concerns. And when it comes to the more New Yorkian aspects of this undertow they call "bared-wire" rock Max's Kansas City does figure in on a variety of levels. Yes, like many other seventies beneath-the-outkids types I used to read rock magazines at the newsstands and of course the aura surrounding Max's Kansas City was a pretty appealing thing especially for such an way-out-there nonentity like myself. To this maladjusted goon Max's seemed like heaven on earth...I mean, the place was just brimming full of even MORE impeded types (I was not alone!) only they weren't getting detention after school or ridicule from all quarters daily but THEIR PICTURES IN THE PAPER just for being wildly askewed beautiful in their own special way. It kinda made me finally realize that everybody else was marching to the wrong beat and that I was the only real normal, throbbing individual in the bunch so why should I come down so hard on myself anyway? To this butthole, Max's Kansas City seemed like thee place to be and rather I go there to catch a group or look outrageous than spend any time at the Grand Canyon that's for sure!
There have been three books written about the haunt to date that I know of; the first, MAX'S KANSAS CITY STORIES, contained nother but old Max's recollections written from the then-standpoint (early-seventies) of the passing Warhol era as the epicenter of the decadent sixties. HIGH ON REBELLION came out in the early oh-oh's, a fantastic overview of the club as a hipster hangout and music showcase with more of an emphasis on Max's proto-punk rock reputation as a back room hangout than for the music that emanated from its upstairs quarters. Now comes this hardcover addition to your rock & roll library via Abrams Image which tries to at least fill in some of the gaps left by your old NEW YORK ROCKER and ROCK SCENEs, and even though it's about thirty years too late all I can say is (in typical Aunt Jemima fashion) what took you so long?
(A brief aside/digression restating points I've made repeatedly for years on end...please be patient): when Max's closed up shop for the second and last time during the final days of '81 its passing was ignored by all but a few. Let's face it, by the time Max's finally went down for the last time the straight press, rock or otherwise, wanted nothing to do with rock & roll preferring to dull the masses with safe classic "rock" that couldn't stand the test of a two-and-a-half-minute single side let alone these three decades since. Rock of what used to pass for an underground variety was pretty much either fizzling off into Madonna-styled new wave or a soon to decay hardcore punk, the latter which seemed to be the most threatening force against the bastions of whitebread values if the opinions of many people who I thought should have known better can be taken at face value. The underground rock concerns of a more seventies variety were either becoming less intense (Pere Ubu) or were dissipating (MX-80 Sound). Whatever interesting was coming out of this stew like, say, sixties garage band revivalism was being treated as a mere aberration that would go away if all good men would only ignore it. So maybe now you can see exactly why something like the seventies mean more to me than you'll ever know, and why books such as MAX'S KANSAS CITY are very important with folk like myself who just hated to see the fun and energy slowly fade from view kinda like a strange dream you had years ago but really just can't shake.
Nice layout and good contents here, and if there are any qualms I might have it would be that many of the snaps were also in HIGH ON REBELLION and frankly I could use more free space in my household to host fresh images 'stead of all these repeats! Still this one's the charm, not only divided into three sections ("art, glamour, rock & roll") but loaded with pix that you might have seen in the rock press way back when but at least the paper this is on ain't gonna yellow within six month's time.
The art section's good if you're the kinda guy who likes sixties New York avant splat, and the pix of the artists who used to gather in Max's front room are pretty priceless as well especially if you wanna get an eyefulla what a drunken Larry Poons or Willem de Kooning look like. But hey, the art world can get to be a drag and you're probably more in gear for all of the snaps of the beautiful people who used to hang there like Paul Morrissey and Taylor Mead. There are plenty of those fine folk here acting just as decadent as you would like, with the mighty mingling with the geeks (Vince Aletti? Joan Baez???) proving that maybe in the future even that scrawny nobody you went to school with would be famous for fifteen minutes just like Max's kingbee Andy Warhol said!
Of course the scandalous nature of Max's does rear its ugly head here/there like on the pages where, on the left side you see a snap of Joe Dallesandro wearing his leather jacket with nips clamped by clothespins, while on the right none other than Rene Ricard was photographed blowing some guy (head[s] cleverly hidden in darkness) who also has his milk-milks clothespinned! Makes me wonder if this in fact is yet another shot of the erstwhile Warhol superstar who is better left uncredited due to fear of a lawsuit because, why else would the two pics be appearing next to each other the way they do! They OBVIOUSLY were juxtaposed because the publishers didn't wanna say outright that it was Joe getting the bee-jay but tried getting the message across in the safest way possible by doing all but say that Dallesandro was on the receiving end, if you know what I mean. Kinda like when Kenneth Anger used those pix of Cary Grant and Randolph Scott in his book and didn't say anything but...well, we ALL got the hint, right! Pretty scandalous stuff here if you ask me!
Frankly I didn't buy this book to see a bunch of pervos but for the musical aspects of Max's. Thankfully we get plenty of that not only via a Lenny Kaye article that's done in his great seventies-bred talking-to-you style which makes me miss his regular scribblings all the more but loads of pix which kinda make me wonder why some were used while others left out and vicey versey. (I know they only have a limited number of pages to work with but I sure would have dug seeing pix of some of the outta-the-way groupings that appeared there from Sorcerers and Junior Birdmen to Master Radio Canaries and even Sandy Bull and his tape recorder band.) Still it's great seeing a new-to-me pic of Iggy live along with an old one natch (howcum no Velvet Underground?) not to mention a shot of the old pre-fame Patti Smith group when they were more or less a ragtag avant-punk trio merging Patti's Burroughsian voodoo poetry with a wonderful proto-no wave music that deserves a legitimate issue along with Richard Robinson's Man Ray or even that one act of Kaye's with Robert Palmer (not the English geek, the critic geek!) which was doing a no wave thing long before the fact as well!
And, as always, seeing a snap of a pre-Norton-era Miriam Linna back when she was doing her best to carve out here own niche in the late-seventies New York underbelly before turning to Billy Miller and fifties/sixties rock via. KICKS is a wonderful thing to behold, as is the photo of Robert Gordon during the days when Link Wray was in his band playing his own particular brand of new wavicized rockabilly that makes me wonder where those CDs that Dave Laing was supposed to send me are this very minute. Yeah I know that Robert Gordon had about as much to do with rockabilly as Liberace had to do with heterosexuality, but given the numbered amount of days I have left on earth (which could go into the decades but hey, they're still numbered!) I need to hear new sounds in my abode and need to hear 'em now!
'n yeah a book about Max's with pix of Devo and Klaus Nomi and none of Von Lmo might be enough to get this kettle boiling but like, it's not like I'm a particular sort of fellow now, am I?
Anal retentives like myself would of course wanna pour over the occasional faults this book has (like in the rather subjective gigography where the 1976 heading mentions two acts, "Mongo" and "Santamaria" having played there which only goes to show you that maybe those people who used to go to CBGB to see "Suicide" and "Commandos" might not have been the only ones who couldn't put two words together!), but hey, it's not like maybe I have made the occasional minuscule fox pass these past twenny-nine years! If I would have any beefs about this book maybe it's the way the Silver Apples, who as Lillian Roxon said in her ROCK ENCYCLOPEDIA were playing Max's in '68 before the upstairs had a regular booking policy were once again ignored. Or howzbout the Sidewinders who were another one of the earliest (1971) repeat offenders at Max's who probably got booked there as many times as the Dolls yet don't even rate a howdy do? I guess I'll have to wait another fifteen years for this error to be corrected in the next Max's book to come down the line, eh?
***Speaking of Lillian Roxon, maybe I should run a review of this already ancient but now remaindered book considering how much of a star this Australian-bred (but I won't hold it against her!) music fan was in the back room during her New York tenure. Unfortunately LILLIAN ROXON: MOTHER OF ROCK ain't exactly the kind of biography I was hoping for though I really don't know if this is supposed to be author Robert Milliken's fault or not. Y'see, the book is written in a fair enough uniformly manner and delivers the facts and the stories with all aplomb, but maybe the entire story of Lillian just doesn't read as well as I thought it should. True I think Roxon was great and one of the few big city rock crit types who was worth her weight in salt and that just about everything she wrote from her ROCK ENCYCLOPEDIA to various newspaper and magazine ventures had that great zip and energy just like it was some awe-struck teenage girl discovering the Stooges for the first time, but it ain't like everything that happened to her growing up and starting out in the newspaper biz was stop the press material. The book does cook when intelligent minds the likes of Lenny Kaye and Danny Fields get into the act but otherwise MOTHER OF ROCK lacks the excitement and warmth of Roxon's own big sister style. Fortunately the index does contain some of the lady's better writings including a few of the better extracts from her encyclopedia; unfortunately none of the pieces by her I would have loved to have read from her assessments of the Stooges and Modern Lovers to her raves regarding Spiro Agnew's sexual magnetism are included.
***And to top this post off I decided to put up this pinup like snap of the Dragon Lady of the New York Scene herself, Anya Phillips, which was lifted outta the Max's book for obvious reasons! Why put it up you might ask? Well, ever since I ran that one pic of her cavorting with the Fast at CBGB in an earlier post I got the thank you's galore from many a man who has a taste for female pulchritude you just don't see in these days of LGBT nausea! And hey, in light of this sudden wave of affirmation I figure why argue with success? At least now we get to see a little more than her "cute Taiwanese knees", and anyway who ever said this blog was one for the milquetoast teetotaler types anyway? Naw, BLOG TO COMM is for men with hair on their chests and liquor on their breath and we don't go for this sissified namby-pambyisms nohow! So look on but don't touch and for all you elderly baldoid fatsos who have turned in...EAT YOUR HEART OUT GUYS!!!! (PS: I know STUPEFACTION scooped me with this particular pic even though I've had this post ready to go long before they got theirs up but really, don't you think that it was just too good for this li'l ol' blog to ignore??? Just don't call me a Johnny-Cum-Lately and for that matter, don't call me Jay Hinman either!)