Lester Bangs-LIVE AT CBGB 6/12/77 cassette
This 'un came directly from the infamous Charles Ackers collection. You may remember Ackers, he was this guy who had recorded a number of shows on the New York Rock Scene from '77 until about '79 and was sellin' or tradin' dupes of 'em via ads in the likes of TROUSER PRESS and a few sundry other papers that catered to the New York crowd more or less. Some of his tapes actually made it onto bootlegs (the Talking Heads WORKSHOP IMAGE double set and the Devo live at Max's album come to mind) though many remained quite the rarity and remain so even to this day. As for my role in this sordid story...well I recall ordering a number of tapes from Ackers during the spring of '80 only to wait about a good nine or so months for them to arrive (rumor has it that Ackers was a special guest of the government for a short spell), but as soon as I did receive my first package overanxious I jetted off another order (requesting the Mars live at the CBGB Theater 12/27/77 gig amongst other things) only to hear nary a whimper. I still have my money order receipt somewhere in the abode and Charles, if you just happen to read this howzbout sending me my order pronto!!!
Here's but one of the tapes I got (the other being a recording of the original three-piece Talking Heads live at CBGB 1/77...wish someone'd taped the Fans set that opened it) featuring none other than template for an entire generation of bad rock writers (including me) Lester Bangs. Bangs was recorded live at where-else-but CB's in June In The Year Of Our Ig 1977, back when he was breaking out from his rock writer ghetto and dabbling in the not-so-new but daring anyway punk rock realm. And yeah, I will admit that I got hold of this one strictly on NAME RECOGNITION alone given how I along with a few million other outta-the-loopers were readin' his might appealing scribing in the pages of CREEM and elsewhere...I mean, what else would you expect?
Y'see, ever since I was really immersing myself (instead of dabbling) in the whys and wherefores and genetic breakdowns of underground music I developed quite an affinity for the rock writers (pro or otherwise) who had advanced from the printed page to the stage. After all, as Lillian Roxon once said the writers and fans were the real stars once you got down to the bare necessities of it all and seeing the former dabble in the realm of the latter was pretty encouraging if you ask me. Unfortunately Roxon never did have her own band (neither did Mark Jenkins!) but Patti Smith, Lenny Kaye, Miriam Linna, Richard Meltzer, Don Waller, Mick Farren, Nick Kent, Charles Shaar Murray, Mike Snider, Greg Prevost, Adny Shernoff and Jon Tiven did just that so why not Lester Bangs, the guy who pretty much set the pace for the whole idea of rock writer as honored gulcheral icon even if for the most part all of the dimpled doilies who gathered at his feet couldn't stand a note that came outta either him or his various aggregates.
This is Lester with a snat throw-together backing band that artistically and even gosh-it-all aesthetically suits his gulps and hollers to a 't'...Robert Quine and Jody Harris of Contortions fame take on twin guitar duties while post-George Scott Contortion/Chinese Puzzle/Freedomland member David Hofstra handles the bass guitar. Patti Smith's very own Jay Dee Daugherty does the drum doody, and the four of 'em play so spider-y together whether doing Little Milton's "I Feel So Bad" or one of Bangs' original compositions that I'd kinda hope that each of these guys woulda left their "real life" bands and stayed together as one of those off-the-edge and falling down all the way New York groups. Y'know, the ones that seemed to do their best to recreate the panic and tension that the Velvet Underground were creating in that burgh a good decade or so earlier.
Not that Bangs is a slouch, far from that in fact as he bellows from his cavernous self everything from Iggy yelps (on "TV Eye") to off key sentimentality (set opener "In My Room", an original which actually begins with a quote from the Beach Boys hit) and at least to an appreciator of fine sonic mulch like myself it all sounds marvy. Hokay, I know some of you neophytes (and even wizened professional Big City rockcrit types) might be reminded of an over-rambunctious adolescent goofing off for the equally imbalanced kids when listening to Bangs' braggadocio vocalizing, but "personally" I find it about as on-par as many other similar screechers of the day and in fact adding to the overall illusion of knotty pine basement suburban punkitude especially when Bangs tackles the Doors' "Five to One" or even the material eventually to appear on his very own single which sounds way better on this TDK C-60 because it was live and nobody was out there producing it. And hey, where else could you hear Bangs singing "Bonie Maronie" hmmmmmmmm???
Other noteworthies of mention include a paen to the Sex Pistols with the rather witty title "Anarch of the Covenant" as well as this untitled-at-press-time number that's slAnd yeah, how could I leave out yet another newie entitled "I Sold My Body (By The Pound)" that really does soak up this mid-seventies deca-lounge feeling that I'll bet a whole buncha bands in En Why See were just oozing from their pores. Sound's surprisingly high-quality for an audience tape of the day (with a li'l work I'll betcha it could come off almost pro) and although a few low battery squeaks and squeals can be heard on the b-side this remains a solid tape of a solid performance created especially for people like me who have solid heads. The music is so off-kilter at times that this almost ranks as proto-no wave (which would figure given the participants) at times while at others it comes off like...real 1975 CREEM magazine suburban decadent, y'know?
Any chance of a legitimate release of this somewhere down the line?
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Lester Bangs-LIVE AT CBGB 6/12/77 cassette
Saturday, June 26, 2010
BLOG TO COMM SURVEYS THE COMPETITION UPDATE!
Well yeah, they are the competition cuz if you ain't reading my bile you're gonna be reading theirs! Anyway, it's been awhile since I've done someting along these lines, and in order to pad this post out a li'l I figured that maybe I should mention something noteworthy on a few of the recent blog additions that've been to the special BTC-approved self-published link-ups you can find over on the left of your screen. As you can see, there have been quite a few blogs of note that have been coming to my attention as of late, and it would be pleasingly punch-y of me to say that each and every one of them are (like the bestest fanzines of yore) worth the time and trouble it would take to read 'em! After all, they have that down-home hits you right where you live way of communicating, talking to you and not at you just like you wished your parents and teachers woulda had they thought of you as being little more than a member of the shock troops for the future generation. Well, that's something Gary Sperrazza wrote when he was reviewing an old issue of TB SHEETS, and it seemed so on-target then so why not recycle it a good thirtysome years later?
Many of you Cleveland underground rock scene followers will recognize the name CENSORED as not only a member of X-Blank-X, Four Rung Jeller, Death on a Stick, Red Dark Sweet (not in that order) and solo star in his own right, but he's also the guy who goes under the name "Serena William Burroughs" (not "A. K. Panda") whose comments on BLOG TO COMM always lighten up the leaden scenery around here. Well, in order to outdo people like myself at my own game it looks as if Mr.CENSORED has created not only one, but THREE blogs all with relatively similar monikers of "Bug Me Later", "Bug Melter" and "bgmltr", and they all have that certain "genesee quah" that gives you a good idea of where this fellow's mind, taste and overall insanity comes from. CENSORED posts everything from youtube vids of avant splurge or perhaps gives some sage advice that some would consider a Zen riddle (but we know better), and whatever this guy does it sure seems OK by me! I kinda like the one where he said he found a DNA tribute band in his sink..."Little Ants"! His tribute to the recently-departed Peter Quaife of Kinks fame was also punch-pleasing, especially since he hadda throw in the Kinks mention from "Life Stinks" into the stew to Clevelandize the thing! If you miss the Pirates Cove and Peter Laughner whipping his gun on the bar, you'll like these blogs.
Now that I got satellite tee-vee I can watch things that I haven't eyeballed in ages. At least once in a blue moon I can view these long-forgotten items because cable, just like broadcast, has settled into its own crevice of tepid sameness that I predicted would permeate this world of ours a good three decades ago. Sheesh, if anybody out there wants to latch onto some really entertaining fifties/sixties programming their best bet would be to live in an area that has one of those low-budget UHF stations like the one I picked up when I was in the Canton area that was running DOBIE GILLIS, ONE STEP BEYOND, IRONSIDE (eh!), MIKE HAMMER (the one with Darren McGavin) and a horror movie slot on Friday nights at eleven (hosted by some chooch-y arrogant Italian couple!) which was running THE MANSTER last time I was there.
But when it comes to tee-vee period the only thing I try to be front and center for nowadays are the old Hanna Barbara cartoons, especially those that were produced during the Golden Era of Television in the very-late to very-early sixties. Now the TOUCHE TURTLE/LIPPY THE LION-period of H-B from around the '62/'63 cusp doesn't really excite me the way you'd think they shold (of course I would be able to judge better if they were only being broadcast somewhere!), but the HUCKLEBERRY HOUND/YOGI BEAR generation of cartoons really seems to be making an impression, probably because those particular titles (as with the rest of the characters that popped up on their shows) zone me back into my pre-school toddler days, a time when I must admit I had the most fun that I ever did as well as suffered the most frightening experiences that one could unfortunately live through without being scarred for LIFE!
Strangely, "back in the day" it wasn't like I was watching these cartoons at all. Or at least I can't remember anxiously awaiting any of the Hanna Barbara titles the way I used to wait for the end of AFTERNOON THEATER for one of the King Features-era POPEYE or BEETLE BAILEY cartoons they'd use to pad the time out. But as we all know the images of Huckleberry and Yogi were so imbedded into the kiddie mindset of the day and really, you couldn't escape their likenesses whether you were going to an amusement park or grocery store. Heck, the two of 'em might as well have been to the fifties/sixties baby boomer kids what Nicolai Lenin and Josef Stalin were to the Soviet Union in the thirties and forties!
I guess this is why YOWP has become a new blog fave of mine, for this 'un (run by the very same hunting dog who used to go "yowp!" in the old Yogi cartoons) details the whole early Hanna Barbara scene with not only interesting enough bios and behind-the-scenes flotsam but even a few in-depth descriptions of specific cartoons complete with Yowp's commentaries regarding the writers, animators and whatever Warner Brothers cartoon they swiped their ideas from! Well, since many of these guys were old hands who were pretty much forced to churn out television animation why not steal from past successes anyway?
Really, YOWP thrills the socks offa a stunted-growth mental midgie like myself with its vast resources as well as ability to download the old stock music that was used on the early, pre-Hoyt Curtin-era cartoons. (Some of which also turned up on the Howdy Doody cartoons and OZZIE AND HARRIET.) And hey, where else would I have learned that the name for the pre-Yakky Doodle duck that was appearing in a variety of Yogi and Mr. Jinx cartoons was going under the name "Biddy Buddy"?
PAPPY'S GOLDEN AGE COMICS BLOGZINE is another new fave, one of those blogs that reprints old comic book stories from the forties and fifties just so's you don't have to dish out $$$$ to buy the originals! Thankfully it's not like they're gonna be reprinting all of the stories that are so popular that even non-fans know what they are, for a good portion of this blog seems to be reprinting some of the ultra-rarites that seeemingly had fallen into the cracks of the general comic book fandom memoriy bin. Loads of what wuz that??? entries and other strange items pop up here, and between PAPPY and THOSE FABULEOUS FIFTIES there's no reason why any of you should have to dish out the megabucks to read a long-forgotten comic book saga again! More Heap please!!!
And finally, you may have noticed an old familiar name listed amongst the blogs on the left, that of none other than DENIZ TEK. Yes, the famed Radio Birdman guitarist has his own blog that's out to destroy all of the sissified rock screeding that is goin' on out there in blogland, and his various posts have been really fun-packtus informative and a joy to read as well proving that rock & roll guitarists can too be literate. And I gotta say that I really do have quite an affinity for Mr. Tek...after the badmouthing at his expense thanks to the guy from Skyhooks and the smear campaigns directed at me by Dave Lang (the one from Coburg, Sphinctoria), Jay Hinman and Ken Shimamoto amongst others the two of us do have something in common dontcha think???
So w/o further self-gratification via airing my martyrdom in public here za reviews:
EARLY WORKS OF SATOSHI SONODA 1977-1978/MEMORIES OF YASUSHI OZAWA CD (PSF Japan)
Other'n the occasional Les Rallizes Denudes spin I gotta admit that I'm not as keen on Japanese underground rock as I had been a good four or so years back, but this one seemed so promising that I just hadda snatch it up into my grubby paws. This album, purportedly a tribute to the late Fushishuta bassist Yasushi Ozawa, consists mostly of early "avant punk" recordings made by sometimes collaborator Satoshi Sonoda in a variety of groups sporting names like Free Music Revolt and Anarkiss that I know really would have appealed to me at the time these were being laid down since my tastes were then veering twixt John Cage, Ornette Coleman and Pere Ubu. Frankly it's a delicate-sounding music which, while retaining all of the underground experimental punkitude of the time, has this reserved politeness that only the Japanese could dare to ooze. Actually, when stacked up against the other experimental rock of the day this holds up rather swell-like. Fans of the TOKYO FLASHBACKS and NIGHT GALLERY series of Japanese u-ground, not to mention any of you who will snatch up tons of rare recordings if there's even at least one former Rallizes member performing, will undoubtedly wanna look into buying this obscurity.
***Arcesia-REACHIN' ARCESIA CD-R burn (Alpha)
Bill Shute must love this album so much because not only did he burn one, but two copies of it for Brad Kohler. Ever the gracious one, Kohler decided to give me his spare just so's I'd be enriched by this "outsider" platter recorded by a former Big Band singer gone acid (!!!) during the ultra-sensitive year of 1971. For those of you who didn't scour the web for info, this Arcesia guy was in reality a John Arcesi, another one of those Eyetalian guys who could sing good and had some success during the Big Band era before fizzling out in the fifties. However, while other members of his generation were doing their darndest to rid their presence of the chaos of the early-seventies by becoming deeply engrossed in thirties/forties nostalgia, Arcesi was re-inventing himself as a rock singer, a pretty strange way for a guy in his mid-fifties to behave in the face of Helen O'Connell pitching Longines Symphonette Big Band collections on UHF-TV.
Hitching up with what must have been the cheeziest local teenage band he could find, Arcesi recorded REACHING ARCESIA, a disc that was pressed up in a quantity of 300 and pretty much faded away until the incredibly strange music people rediscovered him years later. And yeah, this pretty much is what some would call "outsider" music considering the backing band's capable yet faltering playing and Arcesi's strange tenor warble which I'll bet would've gotten the guy laughed off the stage of any rock festival he would dare hope to perform at. Well, I must admit that it is all a bizarre set of affairs, especially considering that this is a well-over thirty member of the establishment trying to turn on and drop out like kids way younger than he is (a fact that I know would have gotten a good portion of my rabid hippie-hating relatives livid with anger knowing that this onetime crooner went over to the OTHER SIDE!!!).
You might find this surprising, but the first person I was reminded of when listening to this platter was Tiny Tim, or at least Arcesi's high-pitched tone reminded me of Mr. Tim's when he would do some of those Nelson Eddy (any relation to Chuck?) impressions on that phony live LP I reviewed sometime back. The backing group, whoever they may be, are competent enough with stylings that remind me of a slightly energetic prom band, or maybe even a toned down Association-cum-Doors. Whatever, their Farfisa-organ driven trackage is more than adequate for Arcesi's bold attempts to bridge the Generation Gap with his relevant paens to expressionistic lyricism.
A good spin actually, and about as entertaining a find as many of these garage band albums that were being self-produced and released straight to the flea market bins back in those rather fuzzy times. If you can't find a flea market near you, this can be found easily enough on the web via FREE DOWNLOADS!!! Rapidshare has it, and other places might have hold of it as well!
***Laura Nyro and Labelle-GONNA TAKE A MIRACLE CD (Columbia)
OK, so maybe Nick Kent's recommendations weren't convincing enough. I mean true, I do listen to what the man has to say even if he is singing the praises of musical acts which I would normally laugh off the face of the earth, but ya gotta admit that his championing of some of those early-seventies Southern Californian singer-songwriter types like Joni Mitchell (OK she's Canadian, but her soul's in the Canyon) really ain't what I would consider a more admirable part of Kent's legacy. But Don Waller...well that's another story since he's a guy whose tastes do seem to veer closer to mine when it comes to music and its place in my sphere even if I don't quite follow his Motown logic the way that I probably should.
As you can tell, I'm not one of those kinda guys who believes that Motown was "The Sound of Young America" even if that was a catchy enough motto...naw, the real sounds were those hot and bothered loud rock groups coming outta the knotty pine basements of suburbia at least until the hippoid replaced the punk somewhere twixt '66/67. But I can still have an appreciation for soul and in fact have developed a nice appreciation for a number of the more "mature", non-screaming Motown numbers that topped the charts throughout the boffo sixties. So yeah, maybe I ain't the horse-blindered narrow gnome that many a "critic" has tried to portray me as in whatever occult attempts they have to besmirch my good and even sanctified name, and you know that's true.
But do I have an appreciation for an entire elpee of Motown covers performed by LAURA NYRO???!?!?! Really, she's not only the personification of the neurosis-laden "talent" oh so common in the early-seventies but she's a dago to boot, and sheesh have I come across many a bitch on wheels as her during my early stool days when I was just surrounded by these human crustaceans from the nation that looks like a boot (they ain't all like Annette!), some of who even looked like her which only adds to the misery! Now Labelle, I don't mind that part of the bargain at least for their hotcha '75 hard soul gal group numbuh "Lady Marmalade" which had many a French Class patron sent to detention for the seemingly safe duty of translating the tantalizing "Voulez vous" line!
But even with an above-average, nay, perhaps best backing vocal group available GONNA TAKE A MIRACLE fails to ignite. True it is better than the shaggy dog Carole King/Roberta Flack inward-bound singer/songwriter musings of the day but that really ain't sayin' much. And even if this soul version of Bowie's PINUPS might seem like a good concept (wop gal from East Coast who wants to be black does black covers with black singers just like those wop boys singing on the street corners) I don't think it quite translates into hotcha listening material no matter how hard I squint my ears. After all, getting a kitten and putting a li'l fur mane on it doesn't make it a lion, and getting some frail li'l introspective singer no matter whether or not people like Peter Laughner liked her and having her do covers of good even if not up my psyche soul classics ain't gonna make her Martha and the Vandellas!
Maybe it's one of those sixties things which affected the generation of rock writers who were of the age where a mature appreciation of the music was fermenting with them via the radio and TV. Naturally that wouldn't work for me since when Motown was in its golden age I thought it was music for the more grown up type of people in their twenties (with the mop top groups being for teenagers and the Sinatra/Dean Martin music for the oldsters)...by the time I was old enough to have an appreciation for teenage pop music forms all that was left was horrid disco musings and this extremely tepid AM music which even I can't categorize which reflected the sappy underbelly of Amerigan living just as bad as the TV movies these songs showed up in. Really, if it weren't for my interests in the free jazz and avant-classical motifs as well as that budding Amerigan underground punkism scene I would have given up on music altogether! But really, all that GONNA TAKE A MIRACLE reminds me of is early-seventies neurotic music that I will admit made good background (radio playing in the other room) for my comic book reading. Maybe if I set the volume really low and dig out my Kree-Skrull War issues of THE AVENGERS???
***FRONTERA (Majutsu No Niwa)
If the Sonoda Cee-Dee above was the last Japanese underground disque that I have at least a smidgen affinity for, FRONTERA's the last one I believe is just more of the same ol' that has been cluttering up my collection for well over a half-decade. Nothing that surprising here even if the electronic rock and Rallizes-derived guitar spree does engage at times. Still, most of FRONTERA reminds me of the less-settled Japanese rock that's been heard on those various series featuring the bubbling under groups from the Land, pleasant and overpowering, yet nothing out of the dank and depressing Japanese ordinary.
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 9:00 AM
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
The Rolling Stones-SUMMER RERUNS 2-LP set (Berkeley bootleg)
This ain't the original TMOQ issue but a knockoff from onetime competitor Berkeley, who thankfully did not reissue this in one of their cheap foldout covers but with an exact repro of the original William Stout-rendered artwork! That's probably the only reason why I even bothered to pick this 'un up in the first place since I've had the early-eighties Beacon Island version (that one had a stock color cover snap of Jagger playing guitar) ever since it was issued way back when. And hey, it is great to once again enjoy bootleg great Stout's always hilarious Mick Jagger renditions as well as the rather funny TEE-VEE GUIDE spoof that also serves as the track listings (click the up close image on the bottom for a good guffaw and maybe a chortle or two!) that has me drooling up a storm just like it did way back when I first espired this in the bootleg racks and was so laughed out that I even called Jillery over to take a look at it (she was nonplussed as usual)!
Your exposure to mop top rock & roll may have been the radio but for me it was tee-vee front and center. That's probably why this album containing nothing but early Amerigan boob tube appearances has a whole lotta meaning for me...y'see, when I was a wee kid groups like the Stones were just about as part of the tee-vee landscape as GILLIGAN'S ISLAND and GOMER PYLE, and enjoying the Stones in this particular format sure makes those decadents look a whole lot brighter than their usual rock star image would have them. After all, hearing them in a television context makes me associate 'em more with Mr. Green Jeans than it does Marianne Faithful which might be all the better as time marches on.
Sound quality ain't as good as the Beacon Island variation, a bit flat and distant AM-sounding, but I like it because it does represent a good 1960 b&w Philco sorta cheesiness. Y'know, the kinda set with the rabbit ears on top that were held together with cellophane tape you used to see at your Aunt Petunia's complete with a stack of ancient BETTER HOMES AND GARDENS in the magazine rack underneath. No song separation makes it hard to pick up the needle when necessary, but that may be no problem because it's fantab listening to the Stones as they appeared on your Amerigan tee-vee screens twixt the years 1964-1974 cranking out the hits and even misses complete with rousing introductions from Dean Martin (HOLLYWOOD PALACE), fuddy-duddy bore David Frost and of course that old putty-face himself Ed Sullivan. Kinda wish their appearance on RED SKELTON was included if only to hear the famed comedian make his crack about their hair being so long that they make the Beatles look like Yul Brynner!
Lotsa fun moments galore like the tape mangipulation censoring of "Satisfaction" not to mention the fambly-friendly versions of "Let's Spend Some Time Together" and "Honky Tonk Women" that I'm sure had a buncha 12-year-olds pestering each other saying "see, I told you it was dirty!" Of course we have to put up with a whole side taken from their DON KIRSHNER'S ROCK CONCERT appearance but hey, it's not like you have to listen to Jagger wrap his tonsils around "Angie" if you don't wanna! I guess the inclusion of these tracks will remind you of the dilemma you had about either watching this 'un or Johnny Carson schmoozing up to Buddy Hackett oh-so long ago.
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 8:33 AM
Saturday, June 19, 2010
RETURN OF THE SON OF THE FANZINE FANABLA!
Scuze me if this post don't look, feel and smell exactly the way like it should. The lack of cohesiveness all boils down to my having a bad time of it (really!) with my Pee-See, first with it shutting off indiscriminately making me think that some dreaded and incurable virus has inflicted it, and later (after sending my "tower" to the local Staples to have them remedy the problem) for some unspeakable reason have to endure the mutha running slower than a rancid syphilitic discharge. Not only that, but I had to spend the entire past evening (6:00 to midnight) on the phone with some guy from iyogi trying to get my Norton in shape (the antivirus people, not the record label) only to wake up this AM finding the computer running even slower and the Norton still not engaged! Finally I got the antivirus downloaded but the computer has pretty much gone to a standstill, giving me about as much frustration as I would have talking to an Alzheimer's-riddled octogenarian having to repeat myself over and over before getting a halting answer of sorts.
Let's just say that this particular blogger ain't quite the happy camper that he usually is. I'm a very exhausted, frustrated guy who feels more worn out than a prophylactic that's being shared by all of the Scotsmen at the lodge but (as usual) I am not gonna let that get in the way of presenting for you a great, info-packed and socially redeeming episode of BLOG TO COMM which is the obvious reason you tuned in inna first place (I think)!
Now that I got the introductory mood-setting jiz outta the way let's get down to the brass tacks of it all. Following are some reviews of a buncha fanzines that I have laid not only eyes and paws upon but full frontal lobes as well o'er the past few weeks, and rather'n let this weekend post go to rot w/o any creative juice flowing from my fertile brain I figured hey, why not? True I could, maybe even should be writing about fanzines that are closer to the BLOG TO COMM taproot of it all but hey, the likes of NEW AGE let alone more issues of INITIAL SHOCK are very few and far between so we'll just hafta make do with what some of you readers might think are "slim pickins". But as the old saying goes "if life gives you a yeast infection then MAKE BREAD!" And this go 'round we've got enough yeast on hand to supply an entire bakery or hey, maybe we can get some hops and barley and brew some beer!
***First up on today's fanabla's an English fanzine that I purchased if only outta sheer boredom. Even the most myopic follower of the form's gotta admit that the UK breed of self-published 'zines were never as good as many of the Amerigan or Canadian ones usually filled with old news, fashionable opinions and a general lackluster approach to an at-times lackluster subject at hand. Only THE NEXT BIG THING, BAM BALAAM (both of which were actually Scottish) as well as a few earlier stabs at the English fanzine genre were really of any consequence. Does ZIG ZAG count? I guess if VIBRATIONS could promote themselves as being a fanzine in the same fashion and manner as a TEENAGE WASTELAND GAZETTE or CRETINOUS CRETENTIONS then hey, why not Pete Frame's brainkiddie?
SHEWS was but one of the many fanzines that plummeted out of England during the big p-rock explosion over there and hey, I gotta admit that this particular entry into the self-publishing sweepstakes was not one of those cheaply cranked-out ten-page excuses for SMART STREET PUBLISHING CREDO you used to see all over the place, especially the kind that were being put out by outta-nowhere jerks just like me. Nice saddle-stapled actual print job here, with fantastic layout and good writing skills to make this something a lot more than some four-paper staple PO Box affair. Looks like this ain't gonna be one of those sorry excuses for rock criticism/writing/journalism or whatever it's called these days, and hey it's a neat read t'boot!
A slim package true, but quite digestible. Perhaps a little misguided as the opening schpiel would lead me to believe since SHEWS begins their primo issue with a rather run-of-the-mill disdaining of big guns NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS complete with a pat putdown of Charles Shaar Murray. Naturally it's all done in that typical "let's dethrone the old fart to make way for the new fart" tradition, but whoever wrote this does "reckon (Julie) Burchill's o.k." which is a comment that I must admit sets this magazine off on the wrongest foot possible! Not that I should necessarily judge fanzines by their opening editorials, but it just goes to show you just who the English punks (and those on the periphery) thought were "the enemy" and who were their friends, and the results as they say just might surprise you!
Naturally I won't let this slice of fanzine snobbery ruin my opinion of SHEWS. Maybe I should, but there still are a few interesting items here that made for some good reading. Page two (more or less) not only has a rundown of the recent goings on on the London punkitude scene but a July '76-vintage Max's Kansas City listing, run probably to "illustrate" the Heartbreakers information that was being disseminated in the nearby vicinity. It's nice to know that I wasn't the only one running old CBGB and Max's gig listings in order to beef up my page space, and this particular 'un's a doozy because it shows us just how encompassing these so-called punk clubs were, at least between the time punk was on the way up and way down. For example I never knew that blues legend Louisiana Red played there, not to mention the fact that the strangely incongruous Suicide/Pezband/Kongress show was held at Max's on July 30th of that rock-active year!
Some interesting tidbits...when the Damned were caught shopping for records Captain Sensible was seen purchasing LED ZEPPELIN II and the Soft Machine while the rest were gobbling up the predictable MC5, Stooges and Ramones. Even more surprising was the admission from whoever was writing this that he liked the Slits' bassist because "she looked like a Runaways type" which not only shows you exactly what kind of differing opinions could be found in these fanzines but that the bathtub amphetamine that was going around London at the time was bound to cause blindness!
As for the rest...well, it does seem to stumble about in that same English fanzine sameness way that I really never did cozy up to that much. Nice enough two-page Damned photo spread, a Wilko Johnson bids farewell to Dr. Feelgood piece, Jean Jacques Burnel from the Stranglers getting on his anti-Amerigan soapbox...actually nothing that different from what the competition was doing but you gotta give SHEWS all credit for at least getting this out even if it is more than obvious the editorial board could have used a subscription to BACK DOOR MAN and DENIM DELINQUENT. SHEWS made for a few good minutes of diversion but frankly it, perhaps like some of the music being paid attention to at the time, comes off nth generation been there done that which is fine in itself even if some of the intensity seemed to be lost in the process.
***And now for the "serious" portion of our program, mainlly the sci-fi/comic book fanzines! As I've stated many a time, when I can't get my fanzine kicks rock-style I just settle for getting 'em comic book or sci-fi-wise! And, as anybody who's cruised the ebay fanzine listings can tell ya there are PLENTY of these fanzines up on the auction block just waiting to be bid on which is good for the comic book and outer space nuts but kinda frustrating for rockists like myself because...hey, these early-seventies rock 'zines are getting scarcer than virgins in Melbourne, and who knows if I ever will be able to score copies of many of these obscure wonders that I most truly desire!
Anyhoo the following two reads have a few things in common; both have that late-sixties/early-seventies youth ideal energy to 'em that seemed out of place once the altruistic sixties morphed into the snide seventies. Another thing of even more importance is that both of 'em decided to stick pix of topless gals on their covers perhaps as an expression of artistic freedom or better yet cheap thrills, to which I say "nice try guys, but your chicks ain't anywhere as sexy as the antenna'd alienoid that shows up on the cover of GRAPHIC ILLUSIONS"!
Not exactly being that overt a fan of science fiction, there has to be a good reason for me to want to pay upwards of ten smackers US for a classic-era fanzine dealing with said subject matter. Thus, the only reason that I even thought about picking up an issue of the English 'zine STARDOCK was for the article not on Michael Moorcock or 2001 but on Steve Ditko, who as anyone faithfully following this fanzine knows is one of my all-time favorite comic book delineators of SPIDER-MAN/DR. STRANGE/HULK you-name-it-he-drew-it fame. I always get a kick reading articles about the guy both pro and con considering just how hard Ditko continues to go out of his way to be controversial 'n all, and although I just knew that this particular Ditko article wasn't exactly going to be a positive assessment of his work I, trying to be the well rounded-out Ditko fan that I am, decided to purchase it anyway just to get the other side of the Ditko coin more or less. After all, even the staunchest pro-Ditko articles I've seen did take him to task for various issues...nothing wrong with that as long as the tone of the piece is well thought out and balanced, but unfortunately this particular piece was so ill-conceived and executed that I must admit that it didn't exactly make for an informative, fun-filled time.
The title alone sets the tone..."Why The Blue Beetle Voted For George Wallace" (written by a Michel Parry) lets us know right off the bat what the writer thinks about Ditko and his views, and as you could guess his opines are not exactly positive. Strangely enough, the ire of Mr. Parry's tome was not directed at Ditko's "moral avenger" MR. A. (the character who during the late-sixties was pretty much upsetting the Marvel Age readership who began getting even more comic kicks via the fanzine circuit) but his post-SPIDER-MAN Charlton-era hero Blue Beetle and specifically two sagas appearing in issue #5 of that character's short-lived title. Not having read this issue I'll have to summarize from Parry's piece exactly what the two stories in question that got the man so enraged were about...in the first entitled "Blue Beetle Faces the Destroyer of Heroes", Blue Beetle's alias overhears an art critic at a museum lecturing some typically shabby Ditko youth regarding a sculpture entitled "Our Man", a piece of modern art that this critic considers the perfect distillation of the human condition in today's (or to be more succinct, 1967's) totally messed up and phony world. "Our Man" is a wreck of a statue, a formless hunk of clay riddled with failure and neuroses, and compared with "The Unconquered", a sculpture which Blue Beetle considers Man at his Best the modern glop just seems to wither into a mass of frayed nerves. Of course this does not stop one of the hippoids named Hugo to create his OWN anti-hero, or villain if you will, based on "Our Man" and soon Hugo/"Our Man" sets about to destroy the rival statue for what it represents only to be thwarted by the Blue Beetle at which point Hugo sorta withers away from sight, the true representation of mankind symbolically surviving yet another attempt to be toppled by losers.
The second story in question has, no pun intended, "The Question" as its lead character. You may remember this guy as Ditko's own knock off of Mr. A. created to be more suitable for the comic book industry. You may also remember the Question for an issue-length saga that many consider one of the best to come out of the at-times lethargic late-sixties non-Marvel scene. I guess that's why Charlton copyright holders National Periodicals reprinted that particular mag as part of their end-of-millennium collection of the best DC (and related) titles of the past sixtysome years. Surprisingly enough, this story seems to have almost the exact same premise as the first and in fact features the same art historian from the lead saga, Ebar, as a main character. This time Ebar's singing the praises of a hilariously concocted painting (containing a foot and an opened up soup can amongst other pop arty spoofisms) dealing with "Man's Inhumanity to Man", which is (as you'd expect) countered with Sage and his female assistant's idea of mankind portrayed in a more positive light via a painting of a muscular man with hammer in hand standing amidst a jagged mass of rock. Ebar is somehow haunted by this presumably counter-revolutionary painting to the point where he, like Hugo in the previous story, wants it destroyed even going as far as to hire some thugs to have the questionable painting done away with. Finally the poor guy loses all control over himself and becomes a simpering ball of emotions because after all, he can never be the man that the painting he so loathes represents.
I'm only going by what Parry wrote so if the actual stories are quite different don't blame me. However, the guy's reaction to these two pieces are extremely annoying even if they are not totally unexpected. Maybe it's the mis-reading of Ditko that gets my goat here, and although Parry is allowed to have his own prejudices just like the rest of us this author seems to twist what Ditko is saying as a basis for Parry's very own defense, acceptance mind you, of the man of clay feet and imperfection as if it really is a representation of the typical human being. Yeah, I know many of us are in fact representative of this kinda fellow, but gosh-it-all, that doesn't mean we have to be like him let alone honor him in any way.
Some of Parry's comments are so downright hilarious in their youth culture righteousness that they only reinforce why the love generation was held in such contempt by the establishment at large. In the Blue Beetle story, a hippie steals a policeman's gun and tries to kill the superhero, to which Parry muses that perhaps the hippies turned to New Left violence because of the "distortions" against the peace movement presented in stories such as this one! Of course I can forgive the Englishman Parry for making a few errors in his piece regarding Amerigan culture, like confusing Joe Pyne and Johnny Carson as I'm sure a number of those who were not familiar with television in the USA might have, but as for the main gist of the thing all I gotta say is NO, the Blue Beetle would not have voted for George Wallace! After all, these libertarian/objectivist types were never too crazy about the idea of populism (Southern or otherwise) and had very low opinions regarding those whom they considered racist in even the remotest way categorizing them as being just as irrational as the violent youth and simpering politicians of the day. Sure it might have broken Parry's entire premise if he had only researched something along these lines, but as the blogmeisters and political/social commentators of today can tell you, why let facts get in the way of a good smearjob?
Even the ending summation stating that none other than arch comic book fiend Dr. Fredric Wertham would approve of the Blue Beetle is entirely wrongheaded. I guess Parry does not comprehend the fact that Wertham was a man whose ideals were closer to his own than to Ditko's for he was a Marxist, not a card carrying communist or anything along those lines but a believer in the cause for whom comic books were just another form of the capitalist stranglehold on all of us mindless boobs at large which needed to be policed by right-minded eggheads such as himself. Such opinions could easily enough be found not only in Wertham's infamous SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT but in other tomes where he seems to put the blame on everything wrong with our society not on the individuals who were causing the problems, but on the society itself. A reading of Wertham's early seventies THE WORLD OF FANZINES where the doctor glowingly rambles on about the variety of comic fanzine stories that portray various anti-war and anti-prejudice opines in the sappiest 1971 neo-hippiest fashion imaginable was ample enough evidence of this supposed scion of the "repressed" fifties' true colors. If Joe McCarthy had gone after Wertham, the wrongfully-disgraced senator would be a hero today. It's no wonder that the same fanzine cadre that tried to divorce Ditko from his beliefs oh-so-hard-like were more than ever anxious to eventually claim a camaraderie with Wertham when his Old Left sense of social planning ultimately collided with their New Left spine of jelly.
I'll have to admit that there was one miniscule claim in Parry's piece that I did agree with, and that was when Sage's galpal held up the painting considered to be representative of the Positive Man. Parry did mention how that piece of work looked more like a Stalin-era proletariat poster and I certainly can see his point. (He also remarked that the sculpture put forth as an example of the true human spirit in the first story was more representative of Steve Reeves than anything Apollonian.) Of course what Ditko intends and draws does not mean that the viewer will observe and translate into his mind the message that Ditko is transforming into print, which is I guess the whole point of this article whether Parry himself intended it to be or not.
The rest of STARDOCK is taken up by sci-fi rumblings and the aforementioned Moorcock piece not forgetting the usual artwork which this time ranges from "eh!" to "feh!" The nice slick paper and effort put into the publication of such a fanzine can't hide the fact that it's nothing really that spectacular, and for science fiction/comic book maniacs who tend to hold the same personal points of view while held up in their hobbits.
***About a year or so ago I reviewed what I believe was the final issue of SENSE OF WONDER,a fanzine that was published by comic fanzine chronicler Bill Schelly between the mid-sixties and early-seventies. Since that time I've chanced upon this particular issue which I must admit is a good 'un even in a field where there were plenty of good examples of top notch comic fanzines, but still there seems to be something missing that keeps this issue from being a real A #1 winner. Can't put my finger on exactly as to why this is right now but...
There is much to love about this issue (#11). F'rexample, the print job is immaculate and a real come up from the fanzine's xerox roots back when SENSE OF WONDER could clearly and honestly be categorized as a "crudzine". I could only wish that my old BLACK TO COMM would have turned out looking as immaculate as this 'un. But as we all know, ya can't judge a fanzine by its outward appearance and it's what's on the inside that really counts, just like with us human beings!
And what is on the inside does...well, vary. The ish starts off with an actual Steve Ditko MR. A. saga (a story that was originally slated to appear in the more fan-oriented STAR-STUDDED COMICS but was axed due to space, or that title folding, or something along those lines) that has since been reprinted in one of those recent Ditko exhumations that I've been telling you about over the past few months. Kinda surprising to see SENSE OF WONDER handling this story especially after the way Ditko ranted and raved about the previous use of his work in that title, but as Schelly said in his autobiography not-so-surprisingly titled SENSE OF WONDER the publication of this particular story went off without a hitch. The text on SPIRIT creator Will Eisner was particularly pleasant mainly because this was written (1972) before the cult surrounding Eisner got so big that even little outta-the-loop folk like myself knew who he was. Schelly's writeup on that hard-covered EC HORROR LIBRARY collection that was going for like a whopping $12 back then was also one worthy of the best descriptive cliches, perhaps because that particular book was one of the very few sources we had for EC comics back in the early/mid-seventies unless you wanted to dish out a buck each for those "East Coast" reprints or could still find those mid-sixties Ballantine paperbacks at a flea market somewhere.
As for the rest well, this issue withers and flop about just like a fair portion of the rest of that comic fanzine work of the day which, despite the best of intentions and talent, seemed aimless and too in-joke/referential for outsiders like myself to really appreciate. I mean "Captain America Bunny"...cuh-MONH!!! That one doesn't work either as homage or satire of funny animal titles or the good Cap himself being totally devoid of humor, pathos, energy or just plain fun! "Rites of Man", the collaboration twixt Schelly and artist Robert Sanborn, also lets down bigtime especially after the way Schelly mentioned it as his own personal pride and joy creation in a variety of comic book fanzine histories published over the years. What I thought was going to be a powerful drama in the tradition of an old Harvey Kurtzman war comic was just more warmed over early-seventies melancholia and quasi-humanist bleating sans any soul-jarring power. Y'know, the kinda stuff like BILLY JACK that might have wowed the iron-haired gals back in 1971 but was rendered totally obsolete once 1973 rolled around and the likes of Alice Cooper and Marc Bolan made those fiber-laden folkies look like total stroons. Better CAPTAIN AMERICA'S BEST RED-BAITING COLD WAR STORIES than this!
But in all I like SENSE OF WONDER when it gets off its high hippie horse and settles into a good fanzine groove similar to the other big titles of the day. It could be easy just to write the whole thing off as one big error in the art of fandom, but despite the dated stories that backfire there's much good about this issue that's not gonna stop me from trying to find more of this "Hamster Press" offering once they hit the ol' ebay auctions.
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 6:43 PM
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Tono Bungay/Tower Recordings-RULES OF THUMB 10-inch LP (Squealer)
Yes yes mother dear, I know that I have been giving a lot less space to, paying a lot less attention to much of the newer underground rock that has been coming atcha these past two or so decades. But (as usual) I do have a good reason for doing so. It was just due to a fear of getting burned, as I have been repeatedly, wasting money (and time opening promo packages) on new hip flashes that never did pan out with their half-baked concepts that were getting praised as "new" and "innovative" by alternative labels and hip-pocket critics alike. But hey, I still do fall for a few of these groups who are claiming to cut the edge as if it has never been cut before and yes, maybe I have been a sucker for even the latest u-ground aggregate to break outta the garage if, God willing, they somehow conjure up enough hot sixties/seventies ideals and reference points to make me think that they truly are the latest in the evolutionary line which began with the likes of Link, Bo and Chuck that sorta solidified itself with the mid-sixties Brits and got an image with the late-sixties punks and grew on and on until...well, you know the dealschpiel by heart now, dontcha!
Maybe that's why after about two decades of their existence I've developed a slight interest in the En Why See-oriented group Tono Bungay even if they did cop their moniker from an H. G. Wells (noted eugenicist and spiritual father to all that is evil in this world) novel. This act does seem like something more than willing to sneak up my alley, and reports had 'em as yet another one of those new groups aping an early Velvet Underground force and style w/o coming off like cute cherubs or anything remotely revolting to my own sense of rockism. Their myspace page was engaging without making me want to puke, with these ozobs devoting a nice portion of their page listing a whole slew of influences ranging from the best of krautrock to Amerigan underground '69 worthy of Nurse With Wound! And frankly, if anyone is going to tread the same path of atonal righteousness as those early pioneers did 40 years back THEY BETTER DO IT RIGHT, as noisy and as antisocial as possible w/o coming off like the next piece of produce off the conveyor belt. In udder words, Tono Bungay sound promising especially in a world where I couldn't bear to listen to something recorded after 1990 even if Lindsay Hutton fercryingoutloud said it was safe to do so.
But still, I did have my doubts if only because of the presence of a Mr. Bob Bannister in the ranks of Bungay. Y'see, I gotta admit that I do know who Mr. B is, and have had for quite a long time ever since the days of the late-eighties rabble rock underground and frankly the feelings I have towards the fellow aren't exactly rosy. They're not as vociferously vocal as the ones I have towards Dave Lang, Jay Hinman or Ken Shimamoto but it's not like I'm gonna send him a get well card should the need arise. And I know that I'm not supposed to divorce my feelings about the artist and the artist's work or else I'd never listen to Lou Reed or Iggy Pop again (let alone 99.999% of the music moiling in my collection) but, well, when you've had personal contact with said artist and things have gone south twixt points a and b that really can change the way you think of and listen to the creation at hand.
I must give you at least a little background as to why I have such feelings directed against Mr. Bannister. In the beginning we were getting along rather swimmingly when he was sending me the latest issues of his publication ON SITE in exchange for my own screed of the day entitled BLACK TO COMM. I forget who instigated the idea that we get in touch, but we did and soon we were corresponding with each other with me pumping him for various bits of information I desired and he vicey versey I believe. Whatever, it was two guys who were clinging to the lowest rung on the ladder to instant fanzine recognition and all the records you can get for free who just happened to get together more or less, just like in the days when science fiction and comic book fans would connect via their own personalist fanzines and heavy-duty long distance phone bills.
At the time Bannister was involved with what I would call an under-the-counter New York rock group called Fire in the Kitchen (also featuring Bungay cohort Robert Dennis) who were a shall-I-say "talented" bunch that I believed distilled some of the better elements of Television and the mid-seventies En Why See bands along with a good hunk of the Velvet Underground and some of the lesser-appreciated local acts like Band of Outsiders amongst others into their surprisingly unique sound. Fire was a group that really did need a kick-start, kinda being stuck playing small outta-the-way dives as well as the old CBGB Canteen, rarely if ever playing the main CBGB stage next door. A shame since their original material, songs such as "Madame Curie" and "You're Not Alone" (if that was the correct title) were on par if not better than much of the music coming out of what was left of the NYC "underground", a scene that had seen some of the better acts there getting ignored in lieu of instant commercial flash ever since the original era of bands fizzled out somewhere between the demise of Max's Kansas City and the birth of Danceteria. These guys even did a cover of Eno's "Third Uncle" which sounded like something Verlaine and boys mighta whipped up around the release of TAKING TIGER MOUNTAIN if they were that keen on doing any more covers in their rep.
True this was happening a good fifteen years after Lisa Robinson amongst others discovered the NY scene and about seven after many rock fans pretty much forgot it, but Fire were a refreshing group, a spirited change from the alternative doldrums of the day and I thought it was a shame that they were kinda stuck playing on bills with dingbat new folkies and the rest of the brood that seemed to reflect more or less the eighties New York City "woe is me" attitude that really had nothing to do with anybody even remotely outside of our gene pools, as if any of us really were as twisted with hate like these new radicals were by any stretch of the imagination.
So for the sake of SAVING THE MUSIC WORLD (something which I never thought I could accomplish but, being so altruistic and all why not chip away?) I decided to do what any big name publishing mogul would and feature an entire page on FITK via a short yet sweet enough interview in issue #14 of my rag. Thought that would be a good way to get the ball rolling, and while I was at it I figured that reviewing the handfulla Fire tapes that I received from Bannister was another way to spread the word. Nice guy that I am huh, and even given my efforts to go outta my way to help not only a good group but I guy I considered a "friend" as much as we could be given the distance between us its not like I was expecting much in anything in return. Maybe a few records and more tapes y'know, but nothing humongous, y'know?
Well, for my troubles it was nice to see the band get an album out thanks to Darran Wells over in Las Vegas, a record which got FITK some international publicity as well as more chances to play the major CBGB stage and perhaps even other venerable hotspots, but then again it's wasn't exactly a happyhappy experience when I opened up the next issue of ON SITE only to read this mention of me where none other than Bannister attacked me personally mentioning how yeah, I do like black people and I'm no racist, but my opinions regarding gays and women are so neanderthal that it's such a mystery how someone with my societal/political beliefs in this day and age can not only listen to underground rock music but the kind that the all-knowing Mr. Bannister dares to release! Oh, such a dichotomy!!!
Not surprisingly it wasn't like I was exactly cozying up to many of the opinions that Bannister himself was spouting off in the pages of his own mag. His own personal outlook seemed to be more akin to the radical bent coagulating in New York at the time, the very stringent radicalism that magazines like the VOICE and others including the biggie NEW YORK TIMES were mouthing off which condoned violent ACT UP protests and public funding of art that went out of its way to offend the beliefs of the people who were funding it with their tax dollars in a strange form of sucking off the system. Naturally in this case "the system" was midwestern lower class day laborers but I guess they deserved it, being so STUPID as to ignore the Big Brother helping hand of the modern-day equivalent of those turn of the century "uplifters" who plied these "downtrodden" types with all the compassion and birth control they could afford.
One bit of Bannister brilliance that really set me off was in his review of local poet/wannabe punker Emilio Cubiero's spoken word album entitled DEATH OF AN ASSHOLE which mentioned how the views expressed on that album such as how people who engage in non-procreative sex for total pleasure were not responsible for their actions if they contracted AIDS and that children experience sexual pangs could be found in any liberal paper around which only goes to prove to you why liberal newspapers are dying. Speaking of the children, the part of the album Bannister was referencing referred to a vignette where Cubiero espies a man having sex with his five-year-old daughter in some bushes and the daughter was enjoying it so how could this be wrong, and please tell me, am I really that much of the prude to find this sort of thought totally repellent and worthy of universal condemnation? In a world of things being "beyond the pale" I found Cubiero's views to be quite in the extreme, and really it is hard to figure out who was worse, the decadent chic poet spouting this manure out or the wishy washy liberals who were defending such views!
Now, I must admit that Bannister seemed rather, I dunno, not exactly apologetic 'r anything but he wanted to remain in touch and he did enclose a review of Patti Smith's HORSES written by Greil Marcus which dropped the name of Hackamore Brick (a group that I had been championing in my own gosh-darn retrospective way at the time), but I was shall I say a bit miffed over this act of political/personal oneupmanship and what some might call downright back-stabbing (mixed in with Bannister's expressed delight in ideas that most people should consider abhorrent no matter what the gals on THE VIEW may think). I told him so, in perhaps a not-so-subdued manner as I'm wont to do via a letter of response and Bannister wrote back again taking me to task for my overall political views which were so outside-the-(New York City)-mainstream that I was in need of serious rehabilitation. (He really seemed to be taken aback by some of my "vile" comments regarding gays that I wrote in YOUR FLESH, a magazine that expressed many a vile view that I'm sure Bannister would agree with!) Maybe a gander at some gay porn would help, advice which as you'd expect really turned me off and made an irritable situation seem totally ghastly.
This is probably what finally made me come to the conclusion that Bannister indeed was one of the same overbearing sort of Modern Day Social Planner types who wants to mind your business and save the world (for whatever abstract definition of "women" and "gays" they adhere to) at the same time. And for his troubles all I felt like was some ethnic outta-the-beltway blue collar worker with my own life and ideals as to what my place is in this mess we call earth is once again being lectured by someone who "obviously" knew the righteous road to love and understanding that has made this world such a lovey-dovey place for the past forty years. And when I mean lectured, I mean TALKED DOWN TO the same way you see syndicated Big City columnists repeatedly say just how much they really love Southerners, uniformed day laborers and middle Ameriga, no doubt about that, but they sure hate their ways of life and beliefs and if we could only be like those SOPHISTICATED VILLAGE VOICE READERS who were still rooting for Castro and teaching children proper dildo usage and care (remember CHILDREN OF THE RAINBOW?) oh how great this world would be just like that old Coca-Cola commercial with the United Nations trying to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony. Naturally, I wasn't buying any of this, and the fact that Bannister was penning a book on the merits of progressive rock (!) at the time didn't quite help that much either.
Of course this doesn't detract from Fire in the Kitchen or even Bannister himself, after all, he has a right to mouth off his well-gestated New York Radical mutated into late-eighties Liberal opinions just as much as every other New York Radical cum (no sic) Liberal even if my right to pontificate contra seems beyond the pale to some. It's just that being treated like some errant Dennis the Menace with the hand in the cookie jar, or at least its 1989 equivalent, wasn't something that I was about to take lying down so I pretty much dropped all contact with Bannister feeling like there was such a dinge on me I needed to take a bath in Lestoil for my efforts. There were more important things to worry about and listen to, and given the amount of stress and strain I have had to endure for quite some time it wasn't like I wanted to add any more of it, if you know what I mean.
But twenny-one years later maybe the coast is clear and I can once again enjoy Fire in the Kitchen without pangs of prior angst abounding. In fact, I have been on the hunt for those early (and best) tapes and heck, if I find them I might get someone to put 'em on disque so I can enjoy 'em one stretch at a time!
But what does that all have to do with the album? NOTHING really, just some all-important background. But this '96 effort on the still-active in you can believe that Squealer label does remind me of something that would have gotten the ol' heave ho during the creation of some of the latter issues of my very own fanzine. Back then this kinda stuff was perhaps the last thing that I wanted to listen to, much preferring obscure early-seventies garage proto-punk offerings from German teenagers we never heard of before and never would hear from again, and frankly this "new" material wasn't exactly the kinda thing a fun listening experience down at BTC hq would quite entail.
Flash forward a good decade-and-a-half and guess what? I find RULES OF THUMB a quite pleasing and dare-I-say entertaining bitta underground flaptrap that doesn't even dare to bore the bejabbers outta me. What it is, is a selection of freeflow free rock that alternates between the Bungay boys and the Tower bunch (of whom I know practically nothing about) trading off shards of tracks and riffage in a way that reminds me a whole lotta that Smegma/Guided By Voices TROPIC OF NIPPLES EP/CD that was making the rounds about a good decade back. TRANSLATION: you get the outta-sphere noise and incomprehensibility true, but then again just when your brain is about to hit the coma level some discernible rock riff will churn you back into the land of the living. It all works its way into being a glorious whole, which will really please many of the glorious holes that I know tune into the blog from time to time.
I don't detect very many strong early-Velvet points anywhere here, unless you count the very Klaus Schulze-ish pulse ca. CYBORG that takes up a good portion of side two. I believe that 'un's from Tower Recordings, an extended li'l ditty entitled "Swarm Cha Cha" that does mix the more brainaddled specters of late-sixties psychedelia with the standard eighties-nineties post-industrial cassette culture squeal that has been in vogue, at least amongst antisocial tape snortchers like the kind who used to read OP. Tono Bungay fare pretty snat well on their numbuhs which sound first-time basement rehearsal and even English folk whimsy, three in all but like hey, it's their album as well and they figure into the rock as noise credo just as strongly on "Vortex Burger, Medium Rare", "We Cut Glass" and of course the ever-popular "Tell the Bees". It's sure nice to know that abstract expressionism lasted well into the nineties rock world in at least some capacity.
Verdict here is straight ahead free-form rock LIVES!!! and hey, both bands did proud making this total slab of incongruous bleat that fortunately lives way beyond the stale "freak rock quotient" that has given us too many musical jackoffs presented as honest and unrelenting artistic expression. Am I going to head for ebay to see what other wonders I can extract at budget prices? You bet I am! Am I going to forget about Mr. Bannister's posthippie neo-communist credo where only the enlightened New York subculture radical elements will RULE THE LAND at the expense of the knave-ish traditionalist-credo base? Well. I dunno about that...
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 8:31 AM
Sunday, June 13, 2010
NICE DAY FOR NOTHING!
Which is pretty much what you're going to get with this particular weekend post, since the ball-me weather's been so enjoyable and I've been preoccupied with more important things to do (yeah, what can be more important that rock & roll???) like mowing the yard and generally being a regular Suzy Homewrecker (well, somebody's gotta wash the dishes and vacuum the rug, and it's always gotta hafta be me!). Don't worry, I'll make it up to you somehow, like maybe with an extra-long in-depth midweek post or maybe a scrounge around so's I can do another "Spotlight On..." fanzine history review one of these days. But right now all I'm gonna do is toss out a few meager bones atcha and take it e-z for the next few days just like I used to do during my grade school years when June-August was like a stretch of addle-blissed freedom I wished would never end, even if by the time late-August rolled around I was getting so bored that I couldn't wait to go back to school, misguided and confused sod I was and shall ever remain!
***Marc Edwards/Weasel Walter Group-BLOOD OF THE EARTH (ugEXPLODE)
The third (and last) disque in the recent promo package sent my way courtesy of Weasel Walter, and tis no coincidence that this 'un once again features the very same percussionist of renown along with fellow drummer upper Marc Edwards, a gent who has appeared on a number of other Weasel Walter releases on the ugEXPLODE label which is no small coincidence. 'n what can I really say about it...both tracks appearing here hover around the half-hour mark and are bee-youtiful expressions of the free atonal anger that has manifested itself in what we used to call the "avant garde" ever since the decline of the loft era and its minuscule yet vocal rebirth in recent years.
"Red Stream" is a total wipeout, kinda reminding me of something Alan Silva woulda whipped up when he was recording for BYG which I know is an overdrawn comparison but let's see how freely they flow from your fertile mind. Really hot playing from all hands (besides Edwards and Walter, Forbes Graham on trumpet, Darius Jones on alto sax, Elliot Levin on tenor sax and flute, and Adam Lane on double bass) that continues on that high-strung tradition of music as kinetic tension that began somewhere between Ornette's FREE JAZZ and ASCENSION and fortunately never did get buried underground en toto. "Black Earth" comes off more slow burn building with rage, reminding me a lot of some of the things I used to catch Freedomland doing on the old CBGB Lounge cybercasts back in the early oh-oh's.
I'd like to say that Walter and Edwards and the rest have a real future, that they're going to go places and all of those supposedly clever bromides that big city rock critics just love to heap upon their unsuspecting readership, but I won't. Because if I did I would be lying. Really, these guys have NOWHERE to go and if it weren't for me and a few other reactionary visionaries you would be reading NADA about these guys anywhere. Lucky for you if you ever catch 'em live. Yeah, Walter, Edwards and the rest are so high energy good and way beyond the ken of the average citizen that they will NEVER succeed, which I must admit is good for their own personal sense of trust in themselves. As for their pocketbooks, well I guess they can do weddings on the weekend.
***Rudolph Grey/Sumner Crane-"The Real Evelyn McHale?"/"4 Hands Is Better Than None" 7-inch single
Arthur Doyle with Rudolph Grey-"Ghosts II (part one)"/"Ghosts II (part two)" 7-inch single (both singles are on the Foreign Frequency label, available thru FORCED EXPOSURE)
It's been soooo long since Rudolph Grey has blessed us with any recordings or live gigs, and if it weren't for the fact that his close personal friend Don Fellman calls me once in awhile to give me an update on The Cranky One I wouldn't even know that the guy was still living. But he is and hey, two brand spanking new singles with his involvement have come out via the mysterious Foreign Frequency label not only giving me hope that the better moments of 70s/80s underground rockism gulcher lives on but that 45 RPM'S ARE NOT A DEAD ISSUE LIKE WE ALL THOUGHT THEY WOULD BE especially after the introduction of the Cee-Dee into our lives way back in those tainted eighties.
The first platter in question's on gosh-it-all blue colored vinyl, a fact which sure brings back hotcha memories of 1978 when you could actually walk into the local chain record store and buy the Deviants reunion single and a whole lotta Stiff Records/English p-rock product snuggled right next to the latest disco hit and for a mere $1.99 t'boot! Not only that but the b-side features Grey's close friend, the late Sumner Crane of Mars fame, who also delineated the mystico drawing on the flip of the sleeve which looks just as surrealistically twisted as all those things he did for KILLER. Talk about a long-needed no wave revitalization of your internal juices!
As for the a-side, "The Real Evelyn McHale?" is a newly recorded ditty with Grey (engineered by Kongress' own Otto von Ruggins) reinterpreting the track he originally did ages ago regarding the famed Empire State Building suicide victim, transforming the original into this beautiful mad atonal blare that sounds neither guitar nor synthesizer, but electronic in the purest Velvet Underground sense. It's one of those drone-ons that you kinda wish would never end as it works wonders with revitalizing your frayed nerve cell endings. The flip, "4 Hands Is Better Than None", was laid down in June of '80 at a Chinese laundry on E. 4th Street in En Why See and it sounds it because either Grey was making more than an ample clanking with his guitar or else they were recording during peak office hours. Maybe Grey works there...who knows? Nice cavernous hand-held cassette sound with Crane doing his best Cecil Taylor impression while Grey puts forth appropriate guitar power and screech.
The rilly big surprise tho is the Doyle single which, if the sleeve notes are to be believed, was originally intended to be released on the Milford Graves-related Ak-Ba label way back in the still no wave hot days of 1980! Sure coulda used that one then, but at least I got it now to resensify me as Doyle plays his sax-o-net in even more sub-Roscoe Mitchell-esque toneage while Grey amply plays support on his guitar making for an overall effect that comes off so bared-wire encapsulating that most of the loft jazz that was ruminating in the burgh at the time sounds like Return to Forever in comparison. Those of you who've been following not only Grey but Doyle ever since the Blue Human days (and before) don't have to be coaxed into obtaining this, y'know...
I guess Grey is in need of the long green if he's finally deciding to issue this archival material. Hopefully his "poverty" spells MORE GOODIES FOR US considering the backlog of material that the guy has just begging to make it out into the open. And this booty consists of not only all of those old Red Transistor tapes but some of those early Blue Human live shows pre-Doyle like the one with Rashid Bakr 12/78 not forgetting the second show with the Arto Lindsay/Alan Vega lineup that sure sounds tempting even if Grey seemed to poo-poo the entire idea afterward sayin' that it didn't work out the way he woulda liked. Hey Rudolph, let us peons be the judge of that, hokay? And how about the Flaming Angels gig which featured more of the best of the no wave and free jazz players making one massive wall of avant splurge that sounded like Wayne McGuire's Universal Musical Force come to life. C'mon Grey, empty out the vaults and get yer stuff out to us starving minions! You need it, we need it and what else needs to be said????
***IT SURE IS A SMALL WORLD, AIN'T IT? DEPT.: Hokay, one of the real reasons this particular post is comparatively skimpy is because I've been helping the folks not only get ready for, but exhibit their salable wares at the Burton Ohio Antiques Show which was being held at the Geauga County Fairgrounds yesterday. It was a nice if sweaty time (un)loading the van and doing other sundry work for the cause, and naturally when things were slow I decided to take a few walks around the fairgrounds to not only get in a little more exercise but to do some shopping as well (all I managed to latch onto was an old Dinky Toy model of some late-fifties Austin...pickings were obviously slim). During one of my trips around the racetrack where the exhibitors are set up I noticed a man, sixty-ish or so, sporting a t-shirt which read "The Black Keys" and, for no apparent reason other than cat-like curiosity, asked him if his shirt was indeed in reference to "the" Black Keys, blues-rock duo, who have been making a bit of a racket on underground turf over the past ten or so years.
The man responded that yes, he was sporting an official Black Keys t-shirt and that in fact he was the father of Dan Auerbach for the very same band! Even stranger still, this guy knew me from awhile back since he used to buy quilts from my parents (and since I had nada memory of him you can bet that I felt about two inches tall), after which he regaled me about his son's band and how they just had a new CD out proud pop that he most certainly was. (I mentioned to Mr. Auerbach that I liked his son's group even though in my review of their debut CD found in the latest BLACK TO COMM I did write on as to how much I was really beginning to dread blues music in general, a malady I think I am overcoming slowly step by step, but of course I did want to be courteous to the man!)
Anyway, things were going smoothly between us and all until I brought up the subject of Robert Quine, Dan's uncle and Mr. A's in-law, when the mood changed drastically! Auerbach Sr. did not like the man one bit, saying that his encounters with Quine (including a few dinners) were not exactly pleasant and that his opinion regarding the famed Voidoid guitarist was very low. He did admit that Quine was a fantastic musician, but regarding his associations with the guy (something having to do with a situation regarding Quine's 90's-ish parents) Auerbach totally disliked the man, calling him a junkie amongst other expletives that you can dream up yourself. But despite my obvious faux pas, Auerbach was still gracious and all to me, and told me to tell the parents that he said hi.
And that, dear reader, is how I spent my weekend. How was yours, hmmmmmmm?
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 7:19 AM
Wednesday, June 09, 2010
Kim Fowley-THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL LP (MNW, Sweden)
While looking amidst my ever-aging record collection for long-ignored favorites I pulled this forgotten classic outta the pile and voila, my actions immediately transported me into strange musical vistas that I don't think I've traversed in quite some time. Yes, I must admit that even though I still swear allegiance to and honor the glory of Fowley as laid down on his Norton Records collection of rare and offbeat single sides, I have been ignoring his "proper" releases to the point where I even had ANIMAL GOD OF THE STREETS pulled out and ready to play only to pass it up once again just like I always seem to do whenever an MC5 album catches my eye. And yeah, I know that the entire subject of Mr. Fowley is one to get even the most faithful BLOG TO COMM reader all frothy and foaming at the mouth with blasphemous utterances of "lecherous carpetbagger", "phonus balonus no-talent" and other epithets of that nature so akin to the meek and gentle amongst us but hey, have I ever been the one to shy away from controversy or hold my tongue in the face of a raging tide of anti-BTC sentiment? Have I? HAVE I??? You bet I have!!!
But not this time, because THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL is whatcha's call a true underground rock masterpiece, another winner from a guy who was always there on the sidelines developing and nurturing budding talent but never really in the spotlight himself. Recorded while The Master was holidaying in Sweden (probably on the lookout for those loose women over there I've always heard about), THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL ranks amidst Fowley's best, a record that only proves to all of us that the man was (and probably still is) capable of taking whatever move and groove there is on the scene at the time and twisto/changeo-ing it in his own seedy image. Throughout the years Fowley has been in on the teen pop, garage, surf, glam and punk games and although his takes on such seemingly disparate styles have never really made any true inroads with the record buying populace they have captured a certain fun, enjoyable aura that's part teenage exploitation, part serious observation and part obvious put on. That always made for a strange magic in the man's work in which, even when he is attempting new terrain in rock that go all over the boards aesthetics-wise, his special imprint remains, an imprint of quality that tells ya this ain't just another cheap commercial ploy, it's a FOWLEY commercial ploy!
But better he, than onetime colleague Zappa f'r'example, to act as the snide satirical jester of rock & roll. From the late-seventies on Zappa was just floating from one feeble album to another and his disco and punk spoofs weren't anything to sneeze about, making him come off like just anudder snide old hippie who put his subject matter down without giving us a good explanation as to why. And for a guy who defended (more or less) his generation from the elders who did JUST THAT you'd think Zappa woulda learned something about satire like the kind we all used to think he produced! Like DOONESBURY Zappa was way way out-of-touch with any new goings on since his heyday, and perhaps obviously confused about them just as much as any member of the "establishment" was confused about the sixties generation.
Nothing bad about that natch, but the music Zappa was releasing sure reflected a puzzling dismay that almost ranked with Joe Pyne's bewilderment over the same era of youthful exuberance that Zappa sprung forth from. (An aside, I've heard that Zappa's infamous "you have a wooden leg so you must be a table" comment on the Pyne show was never uttered, and for that matter Zappa was never even on the Pyne show! Can anyone [dis]prove any of this?) In contrast, Fowley seemed knew how to take whatever was young, fresh and exciting from sources such as Iggy to the late-seventies El Lay punks and pretty much did his best to osmose it and soak up all of the good influences into his work. That's probably why I can come back to an album like THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL while Zappa reminds me of a disapproving prude no matter whether "Mudd Club" or "Disco Boy"'s bellowing forth from your long-suffering speakers.
THE DAY THE WORLD STOOD STILL proves that Fowley's antenna were perked up and that he was more that rarin' to go with regards to making his opinions on the twisted state o' America 1970 political/social affairs known. Thankfully for all of us, Fowley didn't succumb to the vulgar sloganeering that was oh so common nor did he go the folkie introspective route of a James Taylor or Carole King. Fowley was beyond all that so you don't have to worry about feeling like some Red Book-toting bomb maker nor some confused rich kid holed up in a mental ward while you're listening away!
And let me say, even if this makes me sound like an immature sixth grader that big city rockcrits obviously sneer at, this album ROCKS! What else could you say about a platter that opens with a cover of Vince Taylor's "Brand New Cadillac" and goes through such wild permutations (with or without the help of Skip Battin) detailing Fowley's thoughts about Current Events in a oh-so-straightforward way. Fowley even makes Jim Morrison sound inarticulate, while "Visions of Motorcycle" sounds more or less like what Steppenwolf shoulda been laying down (thanks to the appearance of one Mr. Mars Bonfire?) at the time 'stead of the lazy crank out that made up that group's latterday material. Maybe not but, at least through my jaded ears Fowley captures this time and the mood much better'n most of the dated rabble rousers who were making their opines known with volume and perhaps a little bit of ultra-violence back during the 60s/70s cusp.
Much of THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL's straightforward 1969-era punk rock, the kind that was being cranked out in suburban garages across the nation with metallic voracity while parts come off smart, perhaps intellectual and a definite downer with Fowley the hip youth commentator telling it like it was as the old canard goes. The country riff of "I Was a Communist For The FBI", with its great punny vocals, Fowley doing Jagger doing a western twang, puts to shame 99% of the cheap antiwar expression that you couldn't escape during the very early-seventies with one deft swing. In fact all of the lyrics on THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL are actually poetry anthology worthy (and I'm even talking good poesy, like I'd expect Kendra Steiner to put this stuff out!) and power-packed whether Fowley's talking about rock & roll or "revolution", and sometimes I wonder if the man's detractors are really that venomous, or are they just jealous of his deft way with words or his neverending train of thought for that matter.
My two favorites tracks (if this had only gotten out maybe it woulda fought it out with FUNHOUSE and THE MAN WHO SOLD THE WORLD for best elpee of '70!) are the title track and platter closer "Is America Dead?" The former shows an especially tender side in the midst of all of this raucous punkitude, with ol' Kim uttering some of the most heart-wrenching lyrics of his career which I would love to see reprinted anywhere as a celeste-driven dulcet melody (not unlike "Sunday Morning" or "Stephanie Says") underline one of the few pleas for peace in this world that doesn't make me wanna upchuck. More dramatic, but no less mandatory comes "Is America Dead?", a track so good that it even re-appears on ANIMAL GOD OF THE STREETS which deserves a post in itself dontchaknow... A free-for-all encapsulating more of the radical rumble of '70 (and doing it a lot better'n the Guess Who with their baiting "American Woman"), Fowley rattles and angsts on and on about the sorry state of USA affairs that he's observing from afar as a temporary expat, rambling on about the Generation Gap and whether or not there will be an America when he eventually gets back. Fowley's final take on the entire matter, after musing about and singing his way through about seven minutes of twisted social commentary is that yeah, they like Fowley over there and well, there ain't any toilets or vitamins or stuff like that, but eh, like that's OK! Brilliance that I know will swoosh past a good 75% of anyone willing to devote their time to this album so pride yourself for not being DENSE at least this one time.
Oft chastised as a charlatan, pervert, exploiter of scenes and general about town loudmouth, Fowley has been able to survive using his wits and talent and yes, he has succeeded (at least aesthetically) these past fiftysome years while many others have flopped about even if they have been commercially successful. And an album like THE DAY THE WORLD STOOD STILL only goes to prove, especially after a good four decades of studious hindsight, that it wasn't all of those strange peaceniks and pseudo-Marxist America-haters who really had a handle on what it was to be a teenage American blob cum sacrificial lamb but a guy who I guess was closer to the taproot of it all than any of us would have believed. When it all came down to the bared wire truth those people couldn't care squat about lower-class midwestern farmboys getting blown to bits overseas. In fact, do they really care now? At least Fowley along with the Stooges and dare I say even Lou Reed had more of a thumb on these kids' pulsebeat, and a rec like this 'un sure proves that undeniable fact.
(PS-If you wanna read another hotcha take on this album pick up Bill Shute's article-length writeup which appeared in the twentieth issue of my unfortunately capitulated fanzine BLACK TO COMM. That particular issue, as we say in the publishing business, is long gone but if you don't have a copy you can always find somebody who does and rip if off them if you so desire! If you can't maybe they'll let you borrow theirs, that is after a few swift kicks in the groin! But all kidding aside, any similarities between that review and this one just might not be coincidental since I do have an active backbrain and well, sometimes certain bits of information buried in my cranium does tend to surface to the top leading me to believe such facts, opinions and whatnot are of my own but creation! Later on I usually recall the original source of my various opines which doesn't always lead to catcalls of plagiarism mainly because the doofs I ripped off have forgotten they gave me the ideas in the first place! How lucky can an uncreative sub-hack like myself get anyway?
Not having read that particular ish in quite some time I might be treading upon some of the same territory ol' Grampa Shute had a good seventeen years back [I do recall his comparisons twixt Fowley and Zappa as well as some commentary regarding the closing lines of "Is America Dead?"] so Bill, if you do read this and think that I basically ripped off your old review please don't whomp me! Sue me perhaps, but you know how I abhor physical violence, especially when it is directed against ME!)
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 6:34 AM
Saturday, June 05, 2010
SUMMERTIME'S HERE KIDDIES, AND IT'S TIME TO TAKE A TRIP WITH BLOG TO COMM!
It looks as if the summer season's finally in full-flung gear as we speak thunderstorms and all, and as you already know by now SUMMER MEANS FUN! So expect less and less posts from me while I enjoy the great outdoors like any good red-blooded Amerigan kvetch and spend less and less time huddled around my stinky computer in my stinky boudoir cranking out these pithy posts for you. After all, even a fearless blogger such as myself has to commune with nature and get my inner child gyroscope rotating at proper velocity in order to become the complete human that I so strive to be.
And if you believe that hippie jargon flowing from my keypad then you certainly don't have a BLOG TO COMM sense of humor!
All funnin' aside, I'll bet you're glad that I managed to scrape together this "one for the archives" post even though nothing totally earth-shattering or life-changing has been happening these past few. Haven't had that much free time due to the weather and Salt Mines, but at least in those evening hours I can settle back and relax a while as the music gracefully flows from my chairside boomer thus soothing the savage boobies, a good way of preparing them for a nice eight hours of solid (hah!) sleep. Haven't had the opportunity to spin any of the plastic longplayers I recently got via FORCED EXPOSURE, but I have been osmosing not only old faveraves but newies, opinions of which I will be sharing for you if you'd only bear with me for awhile.
If you really must know, I had been heading into this weekend feeling lower than Anastasia Pantsios' titties for a variety of reasons (most notably the low cal diet my doctor put me on which is zapping my unrevitalized life energy forces, no Reichian he), but a couple of soo-prise soo-prises did cheer me up to the point of virtual (at least as much as I can hope for in 2010) ecstasy. The greatest of these epiphanies is most definitely the discovery I made regarding a number of rare and downloadable tracks recorded by none other than the infamous proto-punk band Death! This bunch ain't the Detroit rockers who have been getting the critical rah-rah's o'er the past year or so but that very same group from Milwaukee that had none other than one James Chance, then known as "Dr. Sax", doing the Steve Mackay thingie towards the end of one of their ultra-few sets back in the way pre-Contortions days! Ya gotta admit this is the only reason anybody would care to remember Death this far down the line, since these guys were analogous to the rumpus that was going on in Cleveland and elsewhere in the early/mid-seventies midwest, an "occurrence" which spawned a whole slew of late-seventies underground stars who still seem to light up the lives of hopeless post-adolescents such as I. And given Death's primitive sub-Green Fuz sounding approach to the whole Velvets/Stooges underground homage of the day these recordings fit smack dab in the middle of anybody's pre-punk primer and certainly will satisfy even the stodgiest amongst us for, well, you can get 'em for practically nothing, y'know?
Group history is kinda sketchy, but gathering from a number of sources including the link above and the recent Clinton Heylin book reviewed earlier, Death lasted from '71 until roughly '76 in a variety of formations with the only constants being vocalist/growler Brian Koulnik (going under the stage handle "Sterling Silver"), rhythm guitarist Chuck Meyer and Fender Rhodes-master Jack Stewart, a tinkler whose stylings sound slightly similar to those of Bob Sheff during his brief Stooge stay. One source has them playing only one "real" gig opening for Dr. John (the others being parties and various local frat hoots) while another (the boffo-like 70s Invasion linked up on the left) says that a single with the hotcha numbuh "Depression" on the a-side was actually released in all its low-fi glory, something which should get a number of you flea market hounds in the Milwaukee area scoring the bins this weekend ravaging through piles of scratchy Andy Williams singles galore! And to add some special oompah to the group's moniker, shortly after Death broke up Koulnik/Silver was either murdered or committed suicide so take all of that and make what you will (other'n that when James Chance finally hit En Why he thought that his former group coulda whipped 99% of the groups he was coming across on the local scene which oughta say something about Death's sting!).
The '71 date given for these recordings is slightly fishy considering that the Modern Lovers' "Roadrunner" is reportedly being mulched through during the snippet of "Sister Ray", though the '73 date that the folks at '70s Invasion slapped on the "Depression" single does "seem" closer in time to when these various rehearsal tracks extant were laid down. Whatever, for all of the Flintstones glory exuded these recordings are pretty much a godsend, showing Death to be working a good Electric Eels/Umela Hmota/Figures of Light/RAW POWER-era Stooges cross that was perhaps a few years away from "coming of age" but still manages to enthrall ln these definitely anti-punkism times. Definitely the "find" of the year, and with the proto-punk high energy digs becoming rarer and rarer as time rolls on stuff like this is what I would call like, essential.
***So what else has been interesting me as of late anyway? Not much, though I must admit that I have been doing an inordinate amount of reading and youtube scrounging on none other than George Lincoln Rockwell, a guy who seems to be fascinating me the same way that Charles Manson lit the collective asses of a number of misguided seventies teenagers (y'know, the ones who made him one of the most popular icons of that decade much to Ann Landers' dismay) or Andy Warhol loads of effeminate high school geeks for that matter. 's funny, but I never really knew about the Cult of Rockwell until I was practically preached to him incessantly by two people out there in BTC-land whose names I will not mention if they keep paying me off (one who is of Jewish extraction and whose mother in fact spent some time in one of Adolf's camps) who say that yeah, the guy was atrocious and all, but he had some good points. (The rationale the Jewish member of the Rockwell Fan Club gave for liking him was that Rockwell claimed that if he got into power he'd only exterminate the unpatriotic Jews and since this particular guy's a true blue flag waver he had nothing to worry about!) As to all this well, I could say that many people whom I might loathe have been right twice a day just like a broken clock, but that doesn't mean that I'm going to be slappin' on some swastika and goosestepping my way into your bunker 'r anything! As far as despicable people go, at least this Rockwell guy sure made for an interesting diversion, at least from the usual despicable people that I've been reading about for quite some time, ifyaknowaddamean...
The Youtube offerings I've been perusing are mostly of an audio variety with a few snapshots tossed in to keep your eyes a-tinglin'. Amateur stuff, but enough to give you a good taste of what this guy was rabble rousing about back when he was standing out like a sore middle finger amidst all the love-one-another philosophy going on. Most of these vids were posted by admirers and other pseudo-nazi types which only goes to show you that if you're trolling in the internet there's no telling what view or soapbox you might come across! (And gee, but does it give me hope that when I pass on to the big record shop inna sky some maladjusted nuts will be keeping my memory alive!)
The most interesting offering here, at least for me, was the excerpt taken from none other than Joe Pyne's radio show ca. '64 where Rockwell shows off his oratory skills and pretty much dominates the show keeping Pyne more or less in line (and perhaps intimidated, hopefully not spellbound). And if Rockwell could get a guy like Pyne, he the inspiration for everyone from Morton Downey Jr. to Michael Savage and Mark Levin, to shut up the way he did I guess Rockwell certainly learned a thing or two in speech class!
Any response to the above, especially from the "usual suspects", is going to be predictable but hey, let it come on. Anyone who can't even read between the lines can tell that I'm not saying that I love the guy; I'm just observing him from a distance without having any of the prejudices of a David Duke or SPLC blurring my view. In all, Rockwell is on the same level of disdain as a Jerry Rubin or Diana Oughton, a fact which I know get all of you tweedy intellectual readers cackling like a bunch of indignant hens (hee!).
***And now, for the serious portion of our program...
NO MOR MUSIK CD (ugEXPLODE)
The second disque from the recent ugEXPLODE pacakge to grace mine ears. Weasel Walter appears playing some weird-looking six-stringed bass guitar while a coupla of guys with names that would raise the brows of the INS pop up on drums and guitars and horns and stuff like that. Music ranges from eighties post-no wave stylings (done really hard) to heavy metal jazz all scrunched up inna huge ball with these weird grumbling vocals underneath it all. Throw in a little Iggy ca. FUNHOUSE noise grovel plus some Amon Duul I clang churndrone and I don't blame you if you book yourself in at the Brad Kohler Convalescent Home for a good three year rest. Scarier than a weekend in Dave Lang's hot tub and bound to revolt those with weaker nervous systems. Bad mid-eighties HM cover might fool you, but this ain't the tepid hair pop of the past but something extremely frightening and perhaps downright negative. Engaging and even enveloping to an extent, but frightening!
***The Thirteenth Floor Elevators-HEADSTONE (THE CONTACT SESSIONS) CD (Charly, UK)
Remember when all we hadda rely on was some shoddy nth-generation bootleg or faded copy of the Elevators? Well thank goodniz that nowadays they're actually issuing these Texas psychodockic rarities digitally mastered and in fancy booklet covers with pix galore! It's nice that Roky is finally getting the royal treatment and he's worth it, not only because a whole lotta people from Billy Gibbons to Michael Stipe are singing the praises of Roky's psychotic prowess but because the guy's a SURVIVOR well beyond the cliched mainstream rock definition of the term which always tended to make heroes out of the likes of those guys from Journey and REO Speedwagon!
Most of this is familiar territory, but it's sure great listening to these early-'66 rumblings sounding so pristine for once! I'm not what you'd call an audiophile by any stretch of the imagination as my review of the Death numbers above will tell ya, but it's good to know that Charly gave this package the utmost care and handling. And it's also pleasant hearing some of that bogus "live" album here w/o the manic screaming obliterating just about everything in sight.
The first album material sounds wonderful in its original state without the murk of the Radar reissue I so lusted after for months until I finally broke down and bought the thing for a whopping $9.99 back in the very early days of 1980. And the alternate takes with the obligatory ear-perking differences will really knock collective socks offa those of us listening in for nigh on forty years!
Who could forget those tantalizing extra tracks both of a studio and live nature? I was particularly struck by the live rendition of the Animals' classic "We Gotta Get Out Of This Place" with Roky taking that song into his own special web of abnormal psych. Really, who woulda thought this stuff'd ever get released back when NUGGETS was first hipping a generation of punks that they weren't the first ones.
Now I dunno how much of this stuff is on that ten-CD Elevators collection that came out last year, and actually I don't really care since I'll never be able to afford that massive collection no matter how many aluminum soda cans I cash in. But this package does satisfy my Roky cravings at least for now, and with the informative booklet and nice hardbound packaging it might just tickle your tootsies too!
***Bobby Fuller-EL PASO ROCK (EARLY RECORDINGS VOLUME 3) CD (Norton)
Finally on today's upsettathon's this recent arrival at BTC headquarters, the latest installment in Norton's Bobby Fuller series highlighting even more rarities from the rising upstart whose career was, as the old saying goes, tragically cut short under circumstances that would look suspicious even to Heap O'Calorie. Nice snap on the cover showing Bobby trying to ape the British Invasion looks with long hair, but other'n that there's very little English influence on the entire Fuller oeuvre as his entire sound and style is something that would have developed and matured the way it did even if the Beatles and their minions hadn't made it big over here inna mid sixties!
Twenny-eight winners here, with a lotta different versions of the hits like "I Fought The Law" and that all-time rouser "Let Her Dance" as well as the expected covers they threw in to placate the bozos inna audience. Two versions of Eddie Cochran's "Nervous Breakdown" pop up as do a whole piledriver load of wonders both old and new to my ears which truly make the Bobby Fuller legacy even more potent as the days roll on and music gets worser and worser (if you can believe that!). Fine liner notes from Miriam Linna, a name that rings a bell somehow. In all a set of recordings that work wonders for your mid-sixties sense of propriety, and good enough to make you forget John Cougar Mellencamp's feeble attempts at trying to keep Fuller's legacy alive in his own cheap music.
Posted by Christopher Stigliano at 1:25 PM