As most of you fervent readers already know, I'm not exactly a man of few words! In fact, I love to ramble on ad afanabla about whatever I feel like rambling on about to the utmost excess!!! But today I kinda feel like holding off on the long gab. That's the reason why all but one writeup (which I wrote earlier anyway) that you'll experience this go 'round're what-cha'd'say of the mini-review/CREEM "Rock-a-Rama" variety. I figure that if you can say something in one paragraphs what you'd usually say in ten then those other nine paragraphs are useless! Of course I'm lying (let's just say that it's fun to extrapolate and go off on diverse tangents while reviewing some items that might have meaning to me and me only---makes me feel like the rock scribe greats a la Bangs, Meltzer and Russell Desmond!), but right now I'm feeling a little compact (of an Isetta size even), so...
As for the arm I was complainin' to you about last week, it was a fracture of the radius requiring me to wear a sling. I know many of you (especially those of the San Francisco and Melbourne variety) were hoping and praying that it would be something way more serious, but maybe next time...
Oh, you still curious as to how I'm doing with the DICK TRACY books? Didn't think so, but anyway I'm doing pretty fine if you must know, just having finished with the classic Flattop, Brow and Shakey sagas (this being the height of the deformed villain era in TRACY) and smack dab in the middle of the Breathless Mahoney storyline right when the soon-to-be strip regular BO Plenty's strangling the beauty trying to get Shakey's $50,000 offa her! At this time Gould's art was just getting into that spacey expressionist look (which always added to the overall grotesque nature of the strip) and the stories, as you've probably already guessed from my buildup, are becoming even more twisted and gory...why in just this latest volume there have been two burnt corpses and ten bullets through heads/hands/torsos wiggling off while coming out the other end not to mention the eventual death by freezing of Shakey and the recovery of his skeleton! Sheesh, I feel like an agitated Fred Wertham counting all of the murders and other violent sundries in BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA. only in no way do I wish us all holding hands and singing in perfect harmony like those kidz on that old Coke commercial like Wertham did! (I remember the controversy regarding this commercial as a kid...I think it had something to do with the blond in pigtails standing a little too close to the man from Kenya! Hmmm...wonder if they had a baby and they named it...naw, that couldn't be!)
***Jon King and the Cats-"Oh Oh Oh"/"Show Biz" 7-inch single type thingie (FBN)
This is one of those singles that I remember got a duffoid review in THE NEW YORK ROCKER with the Cats being held up as evidence of a rapidly decaying local rock scene onandonanism. And well YEAH, I myself do recall just how watered-down many of the early-eighties groups springing up from the audition nights at CBGB were compared with the mid-seventies variety, but I ain't gonna lump Jon King and the Cats in with the rest of the pasties despite their rather bland name and the fact that they had that early-eighties new wave look patterned on the early-sixties greasy dago teen idol one down pat. Both sides of this self-produced disc are pretty hotcha straightforward rompers with just a little bit of powerpop tossed into the rock & roll...nothing offensive here even though it was a great change in diet from the avant garde and cute/coy posturings that had overtaken gnu wave at the time. Of course with heavy production and studio trickery this stuff coulda easily been hashed into "Music of the Eighties" the kind now being replayed on radio stations that used to cater to the "easy listening" crowd in the sixties, but we'll worry about that gunch when we come to it!
***The Beach Boys-PET SOUNDS REHEARSALS CD (Yellow Dog bootleg)
You sat through the FUNHOUSE BOX SET? How about that complete LET IT BE session boot where you got to hear Paul talk about how the session was taking on an "oriental influence"??? Well sit tight for this li'l peek behind the scenes at the Beach Boys' PET SOUNDS sesh which'll give you added insight into what was really going on in front of and behind the boards during the height of sunny California pop artcraft. Get mesmerised by the repeated instrumental takes of "I Just Wasn't Made For Those Times" before being driven batty by the endless piano noodling on "You Still Believe in Me"! If you really love to go through your faverave recording artists' garbage heap this is the disque for you!!!
***Changing Modes-A PERFECT DAY CD (Changing Modes)
As most people know, I'm really not that hot on the reams of amerindie groups that have been coming outta the woodwork since the early eighties. In fact, I tend to hold an extremely dim view regarding them because frankly they shoulda known better'n to take snat visionary rock of the sixties and seventies and water it down for the spiritual successors of those introverted college gals who used iron their hair so it's be nice and straight and bangy. Sheesh, I thought Carole King woulda been enough for that type! But hey, this second album from the still-kicking En Why-area group Changing Modes is halfway decent, sounding more like hot late-period seventies underground rock with only a slight amount of twee added (state law y'know). You could still call it college fruit if you wanna, but it won't make my system go into sugar shock. In fact the seventies influences from Sparks (!) to the usual suspects is handled with taste and elan. It ain't enough to make me want to purchase this group's entire backlog but I ain't gonna lump 'em in with J. Neo Marvin either!
***PSYCHEDELIC SCHLEMIELS (more lost sounds from the Britpsych Scene 1966-1969) CD (Wooden Hill)
Haw! Prob'ly wond'rin why I'm still buying up these six-oh compilations which anyone with half a brain (or as Tom Howard used to say, "If you had another brain you'd only have one!") knows ain't exactly up my particular highway (Hershey or otherwise). Yes I'll admit that a few of these PEBBLES/RUBBLE knockoffs for the digital age have way too many repeats of trackage that I've already been inundated with for the past twentysome years, and most of the new upheavals coming out ain't exactly worth the effort to purchase (let's just say that all the good that was gettin' was gotten ages ago!). But, as usual, there's madness in my mission. Y'see, amongst the flotsam and jetsam of unreleased acetates and other sundries that appear on this particular volume of English psych almost-made-its are two tracks by a group called The Velvet Frogs who, thanks to their unabashed faithful following of the Velvet Underground credo, warrant my attention as well as that of those who are interested in the whole Velvet influence flow chart which began inciting more than a few punks in the late-sixties only to snap crackle and fizzle somewhere in the eighties when the message finally dribbled down to limpwrist suburban Doodyville and every trustfund crybaby decided to get in on the act!
But these Frogs had a good thing going for 'em, and that was their awareness of the entire VU attitude and drive back when it was happening as well as the application of this awareness with a music that was succinctly described by their vocalist/guitarist/violinist as being "delinquency set to music". Three acetate sides survive, the first entitled "Jehovah" (inspired by the Process Church...this ain't no Jesus Freak regurgitation!) being touted as a "pastiche" of various Velvets moves and appearing on Wooden Hill's THE STORY OF OAK RECORDS CD, a set which features English psych sides of varying degrees recorded at the supposed-to-be legendary Oak Studios in London:
The Velvet Frog numbers that appear on PSYCHEDELIC SCHLEMIELS 4 are in the same dark psych goth vein; "Archaeology" seems to straddle '66 UK garage/punk concerns and the better moments of the English lysergic scene when it was beginning to waft into progressive aerie faerie gnome bopping. No need to panic though, since the Frogs remain a total punk assault sounding like the Fleur de Lys meets the Pretty Things jamming to "Waiting For My Man". Yeah, I know these comparisons give very little insight into the whys, wherefores and making of the music but hey, they sure read swell!
Even crazier is the Frogs' '69 recording swan song "Wasted Ground" where the group tackles the MARBLE INDEX with rather peculiar consequences. I gotta give these guys credit for paying homage to Nico this way but the results sound like something you'd have heard kids recording on their toy chord organs had that eponymous album made it into more teenage bedrooms! I gotta love it just for the thought behind it and yeah, it is heartwarming to know that such a track even exists even in the still-uncharted archival digging up of these outta-nowhere late-sixties English artyfacts.
As for the rest of PSYCHEDELIC SCHLEMIELS 4, well it's good enough if mostly typical 1969 rock that really doesn't cut a stark path the way the Frogs do. Frankly I could do without rewrites of "The Weight" and Tomorrow did the psychedelic trip a whole lot better 'n these almost-theres. Still I would love to hear more Velvet Frogs if available, and gathering all of their material in one place for instant enjoyment would have been better 'n having to wade through some of the swamp to get to the necessities of life ifyaknowwaddamean...
***IN CLOSING let me present, as a PUBLIC SERVICE (which means that you must read it, of course!) that previously-mentioned in the past few comment sections article by and about Ivan Brunetti, the guy who could have gotten the opportunity to draw the NANCY comic strip back in the nineties but lost out to the Gilchrist Brothers. Really, this is a great slice of comic strip histoire that I know that all of you true blue NANCY fans will appreciate. I must admit that Brunetti, although lacking in many acceptable qualities, undoubtedly dileneated some rather adequate post-Bushmiller artwork (reminiscent of the standby who did the strip in between the death of Mark Lasky and the wretch-inducing Jerry Scott) as well as neat gags and rehashes of old plots...talk about "could have beens"! The fact that Brunetti lost out to the Gilchrists (who began doing a decent if uber-swiped strip before retreating back to their own modern stylings) is almost as tragic as the Bowery Boys' HIGH SOCIETY almost getting the Academy Award nomination meant for the Bing Crosby moom pitcher of the same name way back in the mid-fifties!