Saturday, September 17, 2011

Ehhhhhh, the end of one week and the beginning of another. Gotta admit that at this point in time I feel lower'n a pair of NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC titties and flatter'n a veteran beat cop's feet, so's I guess that old age is finally catching up to me after all of these years of me playing dodge ball with it. And between the fungus that has caused the space between the last pair of toes on both sides of my feet to crack 'n itch like a mofo as well as the ringworm that's appeared on my inner right thigh I feel like a walking petri dish! I blame it all on stress from work (which has been piling up on me worse'n the time I passed out under that St. Bernard)...let's just say that I can sure use a nice long vacation away from it all, but then again if I take one I have the feeling that when I return not only will I be a new man, but I'll be seeing a new man, in my previous  position that is!

Well, at least I got a few new items inna mailbox o'er the last few days that are guaranteed to at least brighten up my evening pre-beddy bye time hours. Y'know, those precious minutes when you're supposed to forget the strain of the day and settle back with some soothing Les Rallizes Denudes feedback-drench to wash away all of that tension. And although I'm not exactly the kinda guy who feels any nostalgia for the early oughts I actually took out an order from CD Baby which consisted mostly of groups that I remember seeing (or reading about) via the CBGB website...mostly those relatively obscure acts that either played the main club or the sister spaces next door who really didn't have much to do with any current attention-grabbing trends (in fact, many seemed like a throwback to the various acts of the mid-seventies who played there when the more-popular groups on the New York scene were too busy posing for Bob Gruen!) but seemed to have enough interesting ideas not to be ignored like they've mostly been. Also splurged for an order from Forced Exposure which has brought me many a tantalizing item just begging to either hit a laser light or be dragged around a turntable. It's not like I'm gonna go hog wild and listen to/review everything at once either...just gonna take it all piece by piece and spread everything out within the span of a number of these weekend posts, information-conscious blogster that I am and most certainly remain.

PERHAPS I SHOULD MENTION THIS OR PERHAPS I SHOULDN'T, but I will anyway. Just wanted to mention the discovery of a blog entitled HEART FULL OF NAPALM (which I linked up on the left, stoopid!) featuring the writings of one Tim Stegall, a name you might remember from eighties rock et roll fandom as well via a variety of groups that he had been involved with o'er the past x-some  # of years. Tim always was a pretty good rock scribbler, and although it seemed as if most of the snobbish crustier-than-thou big time movers and shakers of the eighties (no names, but you probably know who they are by now) loathed the kid with a passion I always thought that Stegall had more on the ball as well as a real get-go attitude that certainly did not reek of put on decadent smarm like way too many others out there in the eighties fanzoonie world. Some of the entries on HEART FULL OF NAPALM are straight on target while others seem to miss about as much as a drunk at a urinal, but hey if you're gonna read personal thoughts and opines better read 'em by a guy who at least has some smarts 'stead of your average blogskateer who just goes online, jots a few meaningless memories into the box and leaves it at that. Well, at least there's another good 'un for me to look forward to, and given how a lotta my fave blogs are either posting rather erratically or seemingly have given up entirely let's just say that we can sure use a lot more napalm in our lives, and maybe even our hearts.

ANOTHER EPOCHAL DISCOVERY MADE VIA THE MIRACLE OF INTERNET!: my Al Capp review last Wednesday got me to ponderin' 'bout a whole load of long-forgotten LI'L ABNER storylines that he was layin' about when I was a mere single-digiter, and naturally amidst the ever-fading memory of "Patrioats" and "Icky" (his Twiggy sendup) I suddenly remembered his spoof of none other than PEANUTS that was done at the height of Charlie Brownmania. For years I wanted to read these particular Sundays again if only because of the mini-controversy they caused at the time (I guess Chaz Schulz was not too pleased with the ribbing he got), but then again since Capp was a pretty controversial guy himself it's not like he was doing anything out of the ordinary, especially with campus radicals swearing out vendettas against him and various New York mayors and governors muttering every time Capp's name was brought up in polite company.

Well imagine my surprise when, while just chancing to see if any reprints were floating about on the internet this particular blogschpiel should appear! Yes, the three Sunday strips featuring the PEANUTS send-up entitled "Peewee" are now available on-line, and not having read these since I was a peewee myself I must say that I sure remember things being a li'l different. But it's great to give this series a go again because hey, it was stuff like reading ABNER sprawled out on the living room floor that made me the blob that I am today! Maybe if you spent more time reading old comics and connecting with a 20s/30s/40s culture remnant that was still vital years later you wouldn't be the smarmy decadent excuse that you most certainly are!
 
Sure it ain't no FEARLESS FOSDICK, but then again none of Capp's other comic strip spoofs really lived up to that long-lasting DICK TRACY burlesque. It's sure a gagger though, especially in the way Capp digs into not only his old syndicate (you must remember that in 1964 Capp, wielding enough power to do so, left United Features Syndicate for the Daily News without missing a beat or losing any newspapers for that matter), but into a comic strip that had pretty much overtaken ABNER in the marketing if not popularity department (although Capp's venerable strip remained popular for quite awhile, at least until the early-seventies when the quality pretty much tanked almost overnight). Whatever, I got a huge kick reading these comics again, and if you too have a snide sense about 'cha maybe you'll be able to ooze a giggle or even a chortle for whatever reasons you may so desire!
 
Hokay, time for the reviews...the usual mish mosh of old, new, borrowed and burned which just might inspire someone out there to...I dunno, just tank out in their gaseous quarters and revert to age three like any good BLOG TO COMM reader would definitely know enough to do w/o me tellin' 'em!
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The Velvet Mafia-CHEAP BUT NOT FREE CD (http://www.velvetmafiatheband.com/, or you can order it with a buncha other platters via CD Baby like I mentioned I did in the opening blabathon above!)


Not that I would know first-hand, but some say that there is a "Velvet Mafia", a gay cabal if you will that permeates the structures of various businesses and social circles in the more chi-chi areas of commerce. From the high fashion industry to the world of art, one must be of the sweet set to make any indent no ifs, ands, but with plenty of butts! Otherwise, one would be doomed to total failure as either a fashion designer or "respected" post-whatever there is to be "post" about artist on the up 'n cummin' scene, and we certainly don't want that to happen! This Velvet Mafia is reported to be legendary and perhaps as vile and throat-slashing as the mafia from whence they copped their name, and woe be to the unaware newling who dares to enter into such a world totally void in the head of what will be in store for him in his attempt to climb the ladder to suck Sess! For many a ruined life, as well as a ruined rectum, is what's in store for the man fresh off the bus from Moline coming to the Big City with a song in his heart, a tear in his eye and hopefully plenty of Vaseline in his shaving kit.

This rock group, which I discovered via an archived cybercast that was once available on the CBGB website, might have nada to do with the sickening tactics of a select few horny homos out there but they sure had a lot to do with the sickening tactics of a lotta whacked out under-the-gutter rock acts who played the En Why circuit from the early-seventies until rather recently. Led by the tall, bald and gruesome transvestite Dean Johnson, the Velvet Mafia were a straight ahead punk (as in 1974 CREEM/Lester Bangs punkspeak) group that seemed more like a flashback to past accomplishment rather'n future schlock, and given the mix of freakshow tactics and straight (?) ahead rock 'n roll screech that cybercast had me thinkin' Max's Kansas City circa 1975 (tail end of glitter's last gasps) filtered through the muck and mire that made up En Why consciousness in the eighties and nineties. Something totally out of place yet pretty meaningful in its own special ways.

The presentation was actually quite enjoyable considering how the Mafia seemed to be borrowing most of their schtick from various seventies accomplishments from Wayne County to the Sensational Alex Harvey Band with their mix of various stylings and typical fru fruness all packaged in a load of heavy duty smarm. It was entertaining, engaging and perhaps not that different than anything that could have transpired in the New York of the Mercer Arts Center or Club 82 when freakazoid acts of questionable sexuality were shrieking atcha left and right all hoping for that BIG BREAK that everybody with a mind knew would never come. The only real comedown during that set was Johnson's showbiz heartfelt rap regarding how he's HIV-positive but it ain't full blown yet (highly reminiscent of some aging comedian reminiscing about the old days in pathos-riddled sentimentality) not to mention the dykoid bass guitarist returning to the stage post-set giving us this LBGTQ pep talk that came off like something along the lines of  Joan Baez announcing to her captive audience "this is your Woodstock". I guess once you get down to it, homos are just as sloppy drooly oldtime soft schlubby as the squares they they always seem to ridicule!

But since I was gettin' homesick for some of those rare under-the-underground acts (many of 'em highly reminiscent of various seventies rocksters that didn't seem to get their fair shake---and if you have any recordings by Lucky available please get in touch w/me asap!)  I decided to latch onto this, the Mafia's once-rare and perhaps only recorded output and hey, I found it to be a pretty EXHILARATING experience. Not that I exactly go for 6' 5" trannies and freakshow dressup garb, but the Velvet Mafia were actually quite successful in their abilities to scrape up the best of seventies New York glam rock and present it in the late-nineties/early-oughts w/o losing more'n a little bit in the translation. You could have easily seen the Mafia sharing a bill on the mid/late-'81 stage @ Max's Kansas City with either Another Pretty Face or Hibiscus and the Screaming Violets, only I wouldn't use any of the restrooms if I were you (hold it in!).

Many obv. late-seventies ref. pts. can be discerned...por ejemplo disque opener "The Girl From Planet Muff" does tend to owe a little more to the B-52's "Planet Claire" than perhaps most new mutating into "gnu" wave haters would care to acknowledge. The way I look at it the Mafia did a vast improvement on the original template to the point where the driving thud beat does put those Georgian pretenders to shame. And while I'm dredging up past new wave "accomplishment" the rap section (sung by the femme backing vocalist whose name I don't know if only because the credits are vague) sure does recall the early Debbie Harry rap swipes that actually had a few people thinkin' her's was the first disque of that genre, and I do not lie to you one bit!

But putting all of the extraneous stuff aside I found CHEAP BUT NOT FREE a whole lot more palatable'n not only the patented underground gone mainstream dribble that had me rushing towards the latest SST catalog but an artyfact that came perhaps twenny-three or so years too late, the last gasp of seventies En Why See ideals that sounded quite revolutionary in 1971 but perhaps a little outdated if still intriguing a good decade later. And yeah, even I could see that the mode of the music was changing and we had to progress on to newer pastures to graze, but then again why was I so hungry for loads of seventies thud once the mid-eighties and all the squeaky-clean musings that doth wrought started rolling in?

As far as Johnson goes well, he ultimately came to an untimely end due to some pretty strange circumstances while in Washington DC where he was arranging a "party" for some Middle Eastern potentate whom I assume found a loophole in the Koran regarding what type of behavior he would be permitted to engage in. Considering that Johnson didn't make it outta that party alive all I gotta say is, that potentate must have found a PRETTY BIG LOOPHOLE, if you know what I mean.
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STEVE WEBER AND THE HOLY MODAL ROUNDERS B.C. CD (Fredericks Productions, available through CD Baby)

Got this one, along with the recent reissue of the Holy Modal Rounders' INDIAN WAR WHOOP, in my latest CD Baby package. The WHOOP was even better'n I had remembered (although given the dearth of in-depth liner notes nothing new was added to the Rounders' mystique) and ranks with MORAY EELS as prime examples of late-sixties all-out freak folk rock, but this recently-discovered live set from a Stampfel-less Rounders was, well not exactly what I was hopin' and hungerin' for...

Don't get me wrong, it's good, but not as good as the Rounders radio sesh that Water Records released awhile back. And with Stampfel pounding it out with the Unholy Modal Rounders back in En Why See Weber is more or less left to his own devices. It's there, but something is lost with the absence of the group's co-founder, and besides Weber's voice is ragged beyond reproach makin' this a li'l too hard on the ears. Performance is a little loose as well, but that didn't really bother me. Maybe the Clamtones set is better. Maybe this was an off night. Maybe Weber and crew should have done a real classic like "Fucking Sailors in Chinatown" which remains unreleased to this day and perhaps stands as one of the best numbers Weber ever performed outside of "Half a Mind". Oh well, there's always the next exhumation.
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The Christian Astronauts-BEYOND THE BLUE CD-R (originally released on Gospel Crusade Records)

Doggone that Bill Shute! Here he goes sending me some Cee-Dee-Are burns, and what should be in the package but this back of the flea market bin spin! At first I thought the Christian Astronauts were gonna be a religious space rock group...y'know, Hawkwind interprets the New Testament or something like that, but all I got here was a buncha cheezy religioso fluff that comes off like Barney Bean and Sherwood meets Clem Humbard in the studios of channel 33 during the off hours some time in 1963. Only without the natural low-down entertainment value that I used to get from both of these old hands, but it is a chortler in itself from the extremely lo-fi takeoff sounds (Joe Meek was definitely not at the controls on this 'un!) to the typically unfunny ventriloquist dummy routines and especially Sister Shoup's singing which could peel the protective coating off of any space ship! Put 'em all together and what else can I say but that Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris and that palsied guy in the wheel chair have got a pretty good case for their side.
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The Electric Eels-"Agitated"/"Refrigerator" single (the usual anonymous job)

It's not that a platter like this is exactly mandatory...after all, both sides appear repeatedly in my collection and in a variety of formats as well. But I sure like the look of this one, done up in classic nineties amerindie style just like every other flush in the john record that some young, daring, precocious and just bubbling with talent group would inundate you with back during the golden age of precocious pout. Ah, but at least this is a hotcha package complete with a rear cover that was "adapted" from the infamous John Morton "Extermination Music Night" ad which actually appeared in Cleveland's freebie SCENE magazine 12/74, a recut 'n paste so good that I decided to reproduce it for you on this very blog in order to SHARE with you the tingly underground beauty of the entire effort at hand. Surely something I would have longed for had this 'un made it out during the closing days of the seventies back when the underground was still running on hi-octane 'n the eighties seemed as if they were gonna be even brighter still!

Like I said, nothing new...these tracks are the same ol' "Agitated" 'n "Refrigerator" that were taken from
the Paul Marotta sessions that made up a good portion of the various album and disque reissues we've seen these past twentysome years. And yeah, I could have saved a few precious dollars that should have gone towards either my old age pension plan or better yet towards some new and previously unheard juicy item that just might be wallowing about out there in the great big storage bin we all call the internet, but then again I thought man...wouldn't this 'un look great in my collection? And it does, snuggled up there right on top of a pile of seven-inchers that includes a whole number of platters that have made me a very happy if functionally autistic rockscribe these past XXX number of years.

But then again, what good is a collection like mine, even if it isn't quite as awe-inspiring nor as dollar-tilting as say, Greg Shaw's, especially if there's nobody around to actually show it off to and brag about? Like I said, the recs I have, if placed in some vintage bins in alphabetical order, might resemble the corner of one of those cut-rate flea market record concessions you used to see in nearly-condemned buildings complete with buckets catching rainwater from leaky roofs, but still they're all MINE and I guess that's all that needs to be said! You could say that maybe I feel more like some ol' coin collector or better yet model railroader who likes to putter away in the basement after a hard day on the loading dock, and if you think that is something to loathe may I call you an elitist douche?  But really, do these kinda people still exist, or did they die out only to be replaced by a new eon of soul-less, interest-less walking vegetation that has forsaken the simple interests of the past for a future of instantly gratifying nil? I would like to think that there still are people like this around, and if I am to records what your Unca Cedric is to stamps well, so what???

Still, it's a nice li'l tidbit to have around and I do say so in my typical anal-retentive way. And if you want to do a little clenchin' yourself maybe you can dig up a copy for your very own somewhere. Try ebay, like I did.
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Various Artists-CONNECTION 1963-66 CD-R BURN (Bill did it for me but if you wanna know what label it's on bad enough just do a google search)

Never was one who used to think that the Rolling Stones were "The World's Greatest Rock Group" even if at one time maybe they might have been just that. It's not that it really matters this far down the line...it's only that when the Stones were hitched with that particular tag they were already old fogies who were already  re-rehashing the same rehash they swiped from people both black and white for years on end. In fact, I gotta admit that at some point in their career the Stones became lousy, and please don't give me any of that crap about how their 2002 album was pretty good or that on some bootleg these guys almost equal the MC5, because since I already have the MC5 and loads of worthy competitors why would I want the Stones inna first place?


But if yer talkin' early Stones well, I will sit down and listen, and these sides featuring the Stones either as backing musicians or with Jagger/Richards credentials will keep my attention held longer'n I would sitting through a Chuck Eddy dissertation on Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam. Some surprises here (kinda/sorta enjoyed the Cleo Sylvestre take on "To Know Him Is To Love Him" with Stone backing even if her voice is thinner'n my hairline) and some familiar territory that got the bootleg treatment years back, but it all sounds better'n anything that I would have associated the entire Stone industry to have been involved with at least since the arrival of "Angie". Great collection and great sound, but the best thing that I like 'bout it's I got the thing for free, and who can beat that!
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SURPRISE REISSUE OF THE WEEK; COPERNICUS' NOTHING EXISTS CD (Nevermore)

If Ritchie Unterberger was put on this earth for a good reason, it was for tipping a whole load of mid-eighties upstarts and established folk alike about this New York hippie poet who had (gasp!) already pushed the big four-oh and hitched up with a local underground act called the Major Thinkers (y'know, that had earlier wallowed around the New York club environs as Irish folk-rockers Turner and Kirwan of Wexford before being discovered by Hilly Kristal). And a good twenty-seven or so years later this debut (and best) platter from Copernicus and crew holds up a whole lot more'n I would have guessed back when I first gave it a spin during those semi-promising days of the mid-eighties. The overall feeling of this album is akin to Brother Theodore sitting in with an above-par New York underground act of the v. late-seventies strata adding his crazed monologues to a sound that is reminiscent of a freer Roxy Music with pre-smarm artzy overtones. Unreal, and pretty rockist in its own way especially on the recorded live at Max's Kansas City number "Nagasaki" which sounds like the best of Hawkwind doing their best Velvet Underground-inspired space dirges. This is one record that would have fit in well with my closing days of 1979 holiday time off when underground rock was of such a sensory overload that once 1980 clocked in I felt totally awash in musical denouement. And who knows, after a spin or three you might feel the same way too!

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

You probably dealt with this in an old blog post or in an old issue of BTC, but what was the deal about this Copernicus fellow? Didn't he have some odd or unique backstory that made his music more interesting than it seemed to be on the surface? Was he a wall street trader or a felon (those might be interchangeable), or a pediatrician or something? Don't remember...
Bill S.

Christopher said...

Not too cued up on the entire Copernicus story, though I do remember reading that he had been a poet for many years prior to performing and that he even did some readings on the early-sixties beatnik scene in NYC.

Anonymous said...

yeah, that I remember...oh well, I must be confusing him with someone else...it's hard to keep straight offhand remarks overheard 25+ years ago about subjects not really of much interest to me, y'know? keep up the great work!!!

Bill

Christopher said...

"Keep up the great work!!!"

What kind of crack is that?

Anonymous said...

a better crack than "keep up the mediocre work"...

Christopher said...

Yeah, but wouldn't you say that was closer to the truth???

timnapalm said...

Chris, thanks for the plug, and for linking to "A HEARTFUL OF NAPALM." I certainly have kept you in my blog's blogroll since I inaugurated this version of it back in November, once the now-disintegrating MySpace proved a shitty platform for anything. Interesting, you plugging me in the same post as you do that Al Capp Peanuts parody. That guy was a brilliant satirist in his time, but for my taste, he became like Kerouac at the end of his run, turning rather bitter and veering rightward. That Peanuts parody just struck me as rather mean-spirited, and certainly lacking the hilarious heft of Fearless Fosdick, as you noted. Speaking of satire, have you ever seen Gerald Nachman's great study of '50s and '60s satirists, Seriously Funny? It really hits the nail on the head, about a strain of comedy that was so vital and healthy in the mid-century, unfortunately lost as modern comedians trend more towards "attitude." *rolls eyes* Ah, but as usual, I digress. Thanks for the plug, again. Good to know you're tuning in, pal. Get ahold of me sometime, willya? And please give Bill Shute a howdy for me. - TIM STEGALL