Wednesday, February 16, 2011

BOOK REVIEW! NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS GREATEST HITS (The Very Best of the NME) (I.P.FREELEY, 1974)

If I can't have the collected writings of Nick Kent, Charles Shaar Murray and Mick Farren (throw in some of the Chrissies, Salewicz and Hynde that is, into the mix) presented to me in a nice bound leather volume for handy reading well...better I have this book nearby to sate those GOLDEN AGE OF ROCK WRITING pangs o' lust! And frankly, this collection's arrived just in the nick of time to save me from clawing at my collection of BACK DOOR MANs in nervous agitation...heck, I didn't even know that the Fleet Street Beats had issued any collections of their writings in book form until recently, but this best of THE NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS 1974-style does exist and it stands as about a good a comp of seventies rockspeak as the various Lester Bangs reads not forgetting those old ROLLING STONE record review guides which were at least chock fulla nuts like Bangs, Meltzer, Kaye and Tosches even if we did have to wade through the Wenners and Holdens to get to 'em!

And in an age when the seventies-era fanzines are getting harder and harder to find and very little modern wordage seems to fill the bill a book like this is but one thing that stands between me and my upcoming bout with insanity that's gonna envelop me a whole lot more sooner than later! And if this hold me off from my inevitable fate by at least one month, I know that it has done its job.

No Farren or Hynde here which is a shame since I coulda used an eyefulla the former's Hawkwind on tour in Chicago piece and the latter's Eno interview where the he discusses his porn collection in grisly detail, but since I don't wanna subscribe to another year of ROCK's BACK PAGES (which I find not only costly but a gyp when I can find a lotta the stuff they sell for free elsewhere on-line) this nice hardcovered albeit 93-page read will help me save some moolah! And as far as being a nice, varied selection GREATEST HITS works wonders, heavy on the Kent and Murray which suits me fine with some good sidesteps into Roy Carr (a nice enough fave even if he was part of that older generation of "mature" rock writers who seemed to have little connection with the brash upstarts) and Andrew Tyler, who I think was one of the second-stringers at NME if only because he wasn't old enough to be a hippie nor wild enough to be a punk. Even Ian MacDonald (here "McDonald") gets a big spread of his on Todd Rundgren repro'd, and although it's not like I'm a huge fan and follower of the Philadelphian's work especially considering some of his mid-seventies misfires at least MacDonald makes you wanna read on with his hotcha swerve and style which you certainly never did read in any official college paper crankout on the likes of Genesis!

But that's always been the case when the writers were in fact just as big and important as the stars and you read whatever your faves were lucky enough to get published if only because you could live vicariously through a Kent or Bangs just as easily as you could through a Reed or Pop. And hey, you get plenty to fantasize about in these pages, from Kent talking about the "new", married Lou Reed who does more than just walk, talk and crawl on his belly like a reptile (like tell Polish jokes???) as well as a nice update on the Captain Beefheart tale just when the guy was getting signed to Virgin and his career was heading into a freakish MOR hybrid. And there's more Kentish wit extant from his high-larious Slade critique to a fantastico piece on the New York Dolls that really captures a whole lotta the intense energy and mystique that followed the group around but unfortunately never did translate into record sales.(An interesting fact-ette that I was never aware of is dispensed in this piece regarding how none other'n Eno was to have joined the group on their recording of "Mystery Girls", or was that just more toss out demi-truth used to buffer up the legend?) Oh yeah, Kent's infamous Syd Barrett piece appears in its entirety (the CREEM reprint was heavily cut) and it reads better'n it did in the bloke's DARK STUFF if only because this book is laid out like the actual old-timey NME type 'n all which gives it that seventies rock-read paper cool look that sorta got replaced in the eighties when magazine layouts hadda be perky and as shallow as the music that was being recorded at that time.

(And what's with that comment Kent made to Bryan Ferry about punk rock being "last year" [i.e. 1973] after the latter said he ate the stuff for breakfast??? Never thought of '73 as being that much of a p-rock year outside of the various "successes" of the Stooges and Dolls! It makes me scratch my head and wonder...is there something I missed out on???)

Murray gets his share of reprints as well, including some tres readable pieces on Bowie, Mott the Hoople and heavy metal (an interesting history of the form which is inclusive yet not as gnarly as the one Bangs did for ROCK REVOLUTION). Especially strange is Murray's review of none other than an Osmonds live show, a strange assignment to give to someone whom I'd say was one of the more gonzo guys on the NME staff but Murray pulls it off with little effort, in fact giving us the impression that he enjoyed the show just as much as the screaming teenyboppers he was seated amidst while the Toothy Ones wowed the rubes. The piece even ends with a plea to the Osmonds regarding the gestapo-like tactics that security was imposing on these young gals who weren't clearing outta the hall as fast as the management would have liked...it's nice to know that somewhere deep within that body of his Murray had enough of a conscience to address such an issue in what was perhaps a vain attempt to reform the brutal security measures that were part and parcel to concerts for many a year! Heck, if I were there I probably wouldn't have done a thing, or perhaps would have joined in with the bruisers and bopped a few of them gals myself spirited soul that I am and will truly remain.

And hey, if your tastes don't quite run in the same direction as mine there's still plenty of fun fodder for you, such as a piece on walking ball of nerves Dory Previn to a Sly Stone interview where he gets to tell us all about his special relationship with Doris Day! Who could fault anybody tuning in for the Mick Jagger interview where he once again lets it all hang out and shows to the world just how cold and cyborg he can be while still retaining that air of decadent snobbery! A HOLY GRAIL-period Python article is also here for you serious fans, while pieces on Jimmy Saville and Russell Harty will appeal to someone...over in England since their monikers have zilch recognition inna US but then again who in Blighty knows who Brad Kohler and Don Fellman are? I guess that makes us even!

What's really great about the articles collected (and in fact the better moments of what passed for rock screeding in the seventies) is that whether you're reading Murray giving his own personal interpretive take on the Hoople history or Kent trying to make sense outta the post-TRANSFORMER Lou Reed (especially after being an eyewitness to the first of the now-legendary Bangs/Reed faceoffs during his brief Detroit sojourn) none of it reads like they're whoring out for the powerbrokers and moneychangers behind the scenes!!!! This definitely is a wondrous sigh o' relief esp. after being inundated with rock journalistic felching whether it be STONE's creampuff treatment of any Laurel Canyon survivor ca. 1979 or MAXIMUM ROCKNROLL's blind allegiance to various "scenemakers" who could do 'em good by tossing a little positive press their way, filtered through a seamy Marxism that came off more like a death knell than a clarion call. CREEM certainly had it as did a wide array of fanzines that'd probably remain totally lost to time if you hadn't read about 'em on the web and elswhere (hint!), and obviously enough so did NME to the point where I feel like taking a drive up to the Hamilton Ontario Public Library and camping out in their microfilm department just so's I can read all of the NME's that they actually have ready to view for all comers lucky enough to know how to thread a machine!

Were there any other NME collections making their way out to the unwashed rock-obsessives of the seventies? Am I going to search them out as fast as I can to ensure yet another reading filled winter season to chase away the doldrums? Can I think of any more beyond-obvious, idiotic questions to pose to you readers who certainly deserve much better than this slop?

4 comments:

howardx said...

"a seamy Marxism that came off more like a death knell than a clarion call."

haha no shit, who could keep track of all the rules you were supposed to be following? i gravitated over to flipside as they seemed to be more about HAVING fun than the scolds at MRR.

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Anonymous said...

Besides largely being unknown in the US, Jimmy Savile and Russell Harty were both woofters