You're gettin' another ramble-on this week. Chalk it up to the economy drive (which I'll get around somehow, so don't worry Kyoko) and a general yawn-inspiring existence that's typical of this 21st century miasma we're now wallowing in. If you think that I'm a particularly slothful person the rest of the year you should see me now...I think it all has to do with the change in the weather and the impending lack of sunlight that gets those ol' brain syntaxes snappin', but I've been wrong before and could be again. Whatever, right about now all I'm doin' is flashin' back to this rainy Saturday in October a good 39 years back and to the surprisingly happy memories I have of...reading a 35-cent DC WORLD'S FINEST special in my uncle and aunt's sitting room while my mother and said relatives were holding a garage sale and of course doing miserably considering the horrid weather.
I actually re-purchased the exact same copy of this WORLD'S FINEST ish about a decade back and recall that it pretty much consisted of those oft-reviled pre-new trend Batman sagas (before they put the yellow bullseye around the bat on his chest) back when the dynamic duo would tangle with aliens and indulge in other by-then worn out sci-fi plots. Only this time the Dynamic Douchebags (which is what a few anti-Batman snides were callin' 'em way back when) were doing it with the help of Superman, a superhero who would have been better off playing hide the kryptonite with Lois Lane back in Metropolis. Nothing that would get you excited, but just thinking of those joy-filled memories and eyeballing that particular issue feeling warm and secure as the rain pounded away sure ranks with the rest of my budding comic book obsessions that would grip me throughout my pre-adolescent days and even well into my later high school years! (My reading of the final issue of the Avengers' Kree/Skrull War saga around two-thirty AM towards the end of a rather potent New Year's Eve party at our abode also rests well in my cranium not to mention a whale of a lot of flea market and garage sale finds that sure have me zoning back to the days when 20 cents really meant something!) You can bet that I'll be scouring through boxes of offal to find that particular issue because...well, there just might be a rainy Saturday left in this Fall season and why waste it?
Hey, it's HALLOWEEN too! Now that's something that really doesn't send an electrical jolt through my spine the way it did way back when, but like in the case above those memories sure bring back loads of funtime feelings, good 'uns that is which I must admit were in short supply during those growing up days where really were the best and worst of times. I remember when we kids took Halloween real serious-like, not only in the selection of our costumes but plotting our trajectories and then (after hitting a good ten or so streets) trekking back tired yet happy in the thoughts of wallowing in all of that sweet booty we had received out of the goodness of our neighbors' hearts. Yeah, Halloween was a serious holiday to the point where I recall reams of kids scouring the neighborhood well into the dark of night (long after I had retreated back home due to exhaustion) just swarming all over the place having fun and maybe getting hit by a car or two which seemed the norm. Kids back then really canvassed a whole slew of areas both familiar and foreign, and in fact I recall loads of youngsters from the black neighborhoods hitting our pad knowing that they were going to be leaving with more candy and other junk food thrills than they'd see for the next 364! Yeah I am sad to see this youthful pastime relegated to just a handfulla brave souls thanks to the creeps and fear-filled out there just like I shed a tear at the demise of a whole lotta things that have vanished from my life o'er the past few decades like funtime television. sleek automobiles and high energy rock & roll. And really, I don't think it was black magic that did 'em all in but something more nefarious, like the spiritual successors to the moral uplifters and Werthamites who thought we'd all be better off holding hands while singing "Kumbaya" (while elevating the worst aspects of our society to the forefront at the expense of everything that was good and just). It only goes to show that we never shoulda let these nebs get the upper hand in the first place and that those old time fogeys who were railing against 'em and their reforming ways were right after all!
I could go on and on (to the point of onanonism) 'bout all of this (and more) but I won't lest I end up sounding like one of those guys I remember when I was a kid who think the world went to hell in a handbasket back in 1964, only to be topped by even older people who said it was 1919! But hey, why should you lumpen lumps be denied of my regaling you with tales of funtime late-period baby boomer activities even if I was on the peripheral edge of it all? Sure beats some of those tepid eighties underground rock memories that one can find easily enough with the sleek click of a mouse!
***Since there ain't been any new material scooting its way to my door thanks to the self-imposed depression here at BTC HQ, I've been digging further and further into the archives for tasty treats that I've somehow let slip to the back ot the bus. And considering the hefty Flamin' Groovies homage paid last post I figured why not dig up a few more of their platters which I must admit to having ignored these past coupla years, rockism ingrate that I am. A shame too, since the Groovies were just as important to the early-seventies bubbling under the surface hotcha rock scene as the Stooges and Dolls, and the fact that most wonks out there don't rank 'em up with those acts only goes to show you what short shrift the Groovies continue to get even from the kinda folk you thought would be front and center cheering on the lads like they did with every other outta the garage combo of the seventies and onwards! And hey, some of those groups weren't even worthy of the slightest "rah" let alone their own cheerleading section, and that gets me blood boiling mad!
It's as important to define the difference between the early Flamin' Groovies and the latter variation just as much as it is to do the same regarding the Velvet Underground. The early Groovies were born of mid-sixties San Francisco at its best with a heavy influx of Detroit high energy and perhaps some Velvet Underground for good measure. The later group was a return to the British Invasion roots which yielded a number of highly entertaining albums which also made for wondrous late-seventies cut out consumption. And yeah, I guess we can argue from here to Odessa and back as to which version of the Groovies was the best'n all, but right now I'm concentratin' on those early recordings where the Groovies were doing a three-way teeter between fifties homage, mid-sixties goodtimeyness and late-sixties high energy. Quite a combination to mix up there, and believe it or not but the Groovies were able to do it all with relative ease 'stead of ending up looking like a doof cross between Sha Na Na and the Jefferson Airplane'r somethin'!
Although it may seem like heresy to some of you regular readers I absolutely positively did not cozy up to FLAMINGO when I first gave it a spin way back in that transitional in more ways'n one year of 1978. Looking back from a gulping thirty-two years it's hard for me to understand why considering how this sleeper really said way more 'bout rock as an up-and-throbbing entity than anything hitting the airwaves but I gander it was my own nebbish nervousness combined with a lack of direction (after all, I was feeling out music of all sorts by myself on my lonesome w/o any sibling or peer guidance unlike the vast majority of you) which eventually led to a whole number of stupid gaffes and other goofs especially when it came to picking the right records to pick up at flea markets. Excuses aside I can't see how FLAMINGO would fail to satisfy a great many rock & roll maniacs of the day who sorta got their teeth cut on old instrumental rock 45's and came of age with the Stones and Byrds then got left in the dark with the hippoid upheaval of the late-sixties. Just what Doc Rock ordered stuff here with an overall mood that was pretty alien to the mode of the music changing to Melanie in the earlier portion of that decade. With a rockabilly base shuffled through the Stones and strained through the best that San Fran was offering. Served up on a Detroit-inspired platter too making me wonder how those legendary gigs with the Stooges, Alice and MC5 went over with the teen polloi of the day.
The Big Beat reish I'm spinning also has a flurry of bonus tracks including a take of "Walking the Dog", "Louie Louie", "Rockin' Pneumonia" obviously laid down a few years prior to the United Artists waxing and even Eddie Cochran's "Somethin' Else", a deed which seems pretty reactionary considering that this was recorded in '70 and not even those Sha Na Na types'd think of covering anything as radical as that!
Seventy-one's TEENAGE HEAD's the album that did it for me...still remember starin' at the cover in the cutout bins of '76 (which is, due to financial restraints, a place where I spent a whole lotta time) wond'rin' what these guys with the teenybop name sounded like. That cover shot was the eventual selling point and probably thee single most important pic that relayed to my bean what punk rock was all about regarding its look and overall snot teenage pout...that I do remember. I also remember being warned not to buy the thing because it was nothing but a load of primitive and puerile palpatations created by a buncha bozos who thought they could play their gear after one free lesson won on the local AM station. And if that wasn't enough to get my juices flowing then NOTHING was!
The entire platter's a winner natch and quite a surprise from a guy who had spent the previous few months spinning SHAKE SOME ACTION expectin' the same thing. (At the time I was unaware of the early/later Groovies dichotomy mentioned above---hey, it wasn't like I had every issue of ROCK SCENE at my disposal!). But hey, I loved this 'un from the first spin on and continue to for many a reason, the nice crunchy feel amongst 'em. The loose atmosphere also helps and the fact that R. Meltzer himself post-Blue Oyster Cult/pre-Vom and pre-pre Smegma helped out on background vocals helped even more (I was looking for hooks regarding reasons to dig the music even back then!). And the fact that TEENAGE HEAD mixes and matches early-seventies underground rock ideals with fifties accomplishment filtered through mid-sixties attitude also made this a platter that, along with ELECTRIC WARRIOR, stands as one of the shiningest examples of what rock & roll could have aspired to in the sometimes doldrum year of '71 back when all of the good gunch was being ignored and the best way one could up their status at school was by flaunting the Carole King, James Taylor and various CSN&Y platters in their possession.
Gee, if I really wanted to be on the outs maybe I shoulda picked up a Stooges album to parade through the grade school halls, that is if I could afford to buy one let alone knew who the Stooges were at the time!
The Big Beat version also includes a slew of additional tracks, some of which I believe ended up on the b-side to the STILL SHAKIN' '76 cash in as well as a number of Eva albums that came out in France in the eighties. Whatever, it's nice hearin' 'em in this context and I must admit that their version of "Rumble" is just as good as Kim Fowley's and even Smegma's, but then again who could ruin a cover of that Link Wray classic unless some lame amerindie band did it or maybe even a buncha hippies joking around after downing a bottle of Boone's Farm?
***Wonder how I'm doin' with all of those DICK TRACY books eh? Well, rather swimmingly if I do say so myself. Right now I'm about 1/6th of the way through volume four smack dab inna middle of the "Purple Cross" story (the one where Tracy's fighting this crazed secret society crime club whose members have purple Maltese Crosses tattooed on their tongues!) which I happened to read a few months back via one of the Tracy reprint magazines but it's not like I'm cryin' about it. In fact I remain engrossed even if I know what's gonna happen after Tracy's bound, gagged, and ready to be dumped into the deepest part of the ocean loaded with weights...I mean, he's gotten outta worse predicaments with flying colors y'know!
Of course it's kinda startling seeing all of those "stereotypes" (I put that word in parentheses just to nudge nudge the pottery and dream-catcher crowd who might have tuned into this blog by mistake) that Chester Gould got away with back when the sensitivity levels weren't as high as they are now. And considering my own strong constitution which usually doesn't flinch at these things I gotta say that Gould's depiction of various types at times even made me shudder! F'rinstance, in the previous volume there was this rag pickin' wop-a-dago in the mix as well as a Jewish tailor who looked like he coulda been in a NATIONAL LAMPOON comic "spoofing" anti-Semitism (yeah, right!), and more recently in the run Gould introduced to us Memphis Smith, a valet who makes Willie Best look like Sidney Poitier which should give you some idea of what kinda direction we're heading into! (Tracy shows his best side in these strips when he refers to Smith as "Big Boy" and "Snowball", and like I said even I was feeling uncomfortable!) The frequent use of the work "chink" during an episode featuring a Chinese opium smuggler is also a bit of a surprise, though oddly enough Gould seems to have nada antipathy towards Mexicans considering how one of his earlier villains was gun moll sexy Texy Garcia, a gal who I thought was might hotcha stuff even if she was a badski! Of course in his various forewords current TRACY scribe Max Allan Collins constantly reminds us that Gould should not be judged so hard given the tone of the times and that the entertainment biz in general wallowed in such characters that were more'n apt to play up on Mr & Mrs Front Porch's fears regarding their nation being overrun by furriners. Fair enough, but will anyone apologize for Gould's portrayal of homos in his strip? I mean that Vitamin Flintheart was about as three-dollar bill as they come!
***While digging up the aforementioned batch of Groovies wares (of which there were more...check a future BLOG TO COMM for some patented added insight) I managed to come up with the following two rarities which sorta fit in with the Groovies aura so to speak. Well, at least they do for me because both of these acts were more/less worming their way into my psyche around the same time the Groovies did whilst both also made a strong imprint on my general late-seventies music make up as well. And both of these platters were released on the Punk Vault label which I think might have connections to that series of seven-inchers that were circulating in the late-eighties under an imprint of the same name (rumor has it that they were manufactured by a certain under-exposed rock scribe who never did get the proper accolades rewarded to lesser lights, a typical story natch but only to let you know that I wasn't the only rockster on the writing scene getting the ol' screw!).
I gotta admit that the Modern Lovers were one group that fit in with my v. late-seventies musical mock up just as much as those old Velvet Underground albums and various mid-sixties flea market finds had. Just about everything was right about 'em, from the name (I remember mentioning 'em to my cousins around the time the first album finally came out in '76 and my aunt telling me that with a name like that they just HADDA be dirty!) to the fact that Jonathan Richman had short hair too which was a consolation to a kid like me who woulda been SPLATTERED by the folks if the hair even remotely touched the ears or the back of my collar. (If dad only knew back then that anyone under forty with short hair was a faggot he'd probably reconsider, but then again I doubt it him thinking it was still 1947 fair and square!) And best of all, this everykid Richman guy was one who really zoned into my own frustrated teenage existence singing about his own horniess for everyone to hear...like is this guy speaking for me (cloistered suburban pimplefarm) or what? Yeah you could say that Richman was the spiritual father to all of those puerile kitchy-koo namby pamby "amerindie" dweebs and if J. Neo Marvin was breastfed from Richman's very own natties I wouldn't be surprised one bit, but for me that guy was singing about being young 'n Amerigan and fifties-loving (in the truest sense) and wholesome yet hotcha for the femme gender which makes him the real seventies correlation to Chuck Berry's understanding of the fifties teen and I ain't lyin' one bit, pod'ner!
This collection entitled SONGS OF REMEMBRANCE gathers up those toasty ol' seventies memories and does 'em up special for people like me who hadda live vicariously through a whole lotta bubbling unders that held oh-so-much promise. Great cover (with snaps taken outta various issues of ROCK NEWS, the primo mid-seventies French fanzine doin' it all up for you and on slick paper t'boot!), and even greater selection of Modern Lover rarities here including some early home solo recordings showing future faves soon to be fleshed out (and there's even a snippet of "Waiting For The Man" in case you still wonder where Richman was deriving his energies from) and other outta-the-way surprises that I'm sure even the staunchest fan wasn't aware of 'til this 'un showed its face. One real eye-opener (amidst the various Cale demo outtakes and early radio sessions) are some tracks that were recorded at the Mercer Arts Center's New Year's show back 12/31/72 way when the Lovers shared the stage with the likes of the Dolls, Magic Tramps, Suicide and a variety of other local decadent wowzers! Sound may be typical cassette quality but the feeling and oomph are there, and given the importance of this show the entire gig as well as the other sets oughta be made available to the public pronto! I mean, I am sick of waiting five years between each and every underground wonderment that dribbles from the teat of inspiration. (You can tell that I'm in a real lactatin' mood today with two whole breast milky jokes. Not literally, of course!)
If the Modern Lovers were but one recording act that piqued my electrodes then Pere Ubu were another that sorta drove me into total obsessive abandon. Like some of you I read every li'l mention of 'em in Jane Scott's PLAIN DEALER column as well as reviews of their early singles in a variety of rags (the one in GIG of all places sticks in my mind with the Hawkwind comparison), and those early single sides along with the first two albums were like holy grails especially with their avant-rock inclinations that appealed to a doof like myself who was mixing his rock & roll with a li'l bitta John Cage. UBU UNCHAINED is a great distillation of exactly what was so appealing and soul-searing about those very early Ubu sides recorded when Peter Laughner was in the group and they really seemed to be forging a new direction which...like all of those other forward-looking new direction outfits seemed to fizzle out into nothing once the eighties rolled into gear but let's not forget the original high intensity of it all.
Rocket From The Tombs fans will be glad to know that a good portion of the May '75 WMMS-FM broadcast recorded live at the old Agora appears, although the "Down In Flames"/"Search and Destroy" finale has been lopped off meaning DON'T THROW AWAY YOUR ORIGINAL TAPES JUST YET!!! It's not surprising just how spontaneous and high energy this stuff remains over 35 years later, and even I have gotta burn at the fact that there's even more Rocket in the vaults waiting to be released only Crocus Behemoth is sitting on the entire cache for reasons we can only ponder! C'mon, the world is waiting to hear songs like "Gasoline" and "Remake/Remodel" done your way, not these new tracks which reflect little if any of the original Rocket intent!!!!
The appearance of tracks from the second Ubu gig, also at the Agora, was quite a surprise tp me back when I first got this disque back in the late-nineties since I hadn't heard about this tape circulating like I normally would have. Well, Johnny-Cum-Lately Me is still knocked loop-like by this discovery featuring Ubu doing their soon-to-be legendary numbers sounding a little clunky in their efforts but still satisfying. Note the slight differences between songs like "Cloud 149" and the way they would eventually appear vinylized as well as soak in the between-song patter. Makes me wonder when somebody is gonna release that tape of Ubu at Max's that future Information guy Chris Nelson supposedly has hidden somewhere in his boudoir?
Closing out the set is "Heroin" and yeah, it's the same one from the Mistake show that's been legitimately released awhile back and can probably be downloaded somewhere (as can both of these disques in case you are curious). But back when this came out it was probably about as alien to the reg'lar Ubu fan as wiping is to Melbournites so why quibble especially since this Laughner-vocalized number was perhaps one of the better takes on that infamous numbuh ever to be warbled, and by a guy who probably lived its inherent message to the fullest extent.
Speaking of Laughner, just dig that great snap of him on the cover alongside the one called Behemoth. My guess is that this shot was taken at the April '76 Max's Easter Festival where Ubu performed at the top of a bill featuring Harry Toledo, Suicide and the Great Mystaque (featuring daughter of Lenny Kitty Bruce...Talking Heads who were originally billed copped out for a Connecticut gig). If I'm not mistaken, this was the gig where Laughner got photographed sitting next to Richard Hell who swapped notes and the chord changes to "Blank Generation" with his Cleveland-based fan. It's kinda hard for me to fathom just how much good publicity Ubu got out of this particular gig not only with a New York radio interview but a nice piece in THE PLAIN DEALER where former Viking Saloon owner/Rocket drummer Dick Korn regaled Jane Scott via telephone just how important a place like Max's was and remained at the time, probably influencing a ton of rabid young 'uns at the time to take action and follow the lead of the ones called Ubu! Seems so long ago, and the fact that three-plus decades down the line the entire shebang is so mummified it might as well be in a museum is enough to make a huge lump form in the throat. I mean, back then there were things to look forward to from catalogs to fanzines to even raw rumor. Now all we have to live by is UGLY THINGS, and frankly I could use a whole lot more!
***Maybe I should mention a li'l something about the new Keith Richard autobio entitled LIFE, a plain enough moniker for a book I guess but it sure does sound better than WHEATIES. Given the amount of coverage this book has received as of late with Richard himself being interviewed about it as well as a variety of reviews not only on THE HOUND BLOG but elsewhere I pretty much already know what the entire book entails so I can save myself a good hunk by not buying a copy greedy sod that I am. I gotta admit that from what I've heard this book does seem like a cover-to-cover expose that even outdoes all of the other Rolling Stone tell-alls of the past thirtysome years...for example, it sure is heartening to know that Richard hates Mick Jagger with a passion (which you would expect after forty years of marriage; I mean look at your own folks whom I'll bet you'd wish would be carted to the city dump and left there!) and that Marlon Brando of all people propositioned Richard and Anita Pallenberg for a three-way which Richard must have been sober enough to decline or why else would he remember this at all! How could I have lived so long not knowing such intimate details into Keith's life! Naturally I'm more interested in some of the more intricate details of Mr. R's mindworkings, like f'rexample his memories of singing backup with Mick on the Downliners Sect's "Hurt By Love" or perhaps a few words regarding his friendship with none other than Nick Kent. I doubt any of that'll be in there. After all, do you think all of the people who were interviewed for this autobio'd even remember, let alone care???
***Hey, if there are any readers left after today's bore-a-thon, I'll see you sometimes mid-week for a small review-like get-together and really, I will attempt a weekender with some reviews of fresh mozzerella I'm sure you can sink your teeth into (or tooth into if you happen to live in Melbourne). Happy trick or treating, and watch out for the pins!