Wednesday, February 08, 2012


You bet your booties you know what nearly popped my eyes out when I saw this 'un proudly displayed on a shopping mall book store shelf back '77 way...t'was the very sight of none other than the name of LENNY KAYE, he being not only the guitarist for the Patti Smith Group but a neato writer who was one of the few of whom I could really delve into during those whacked out days we used to call the late-seventies! Yes, back when this book came out (during one of the most fertile times for underground music spewing in fact) I was one who really thought that Kaye was cool...spent loads of time reading his old record write ups in ROLLING STONE long before even the thought of being seen reading any of these became kinda creepy (I mean, how could they be with Lester Bangs and Richard Meltzer writin' for 'em...of course that was before I found out about THE GREAT PURGE), and like I once said if there was anybody on the face of this earth I wanted to look, in fact be, it was Lenny Kaye with his cool long hair and of course the glasses which gave him a sophisticated sixties like punk look thrust forth into the early-seventies! This was at a time when my own listening parameters were starting to shake and shimmy, kinda like being on the cusp between late-sixties experimental accomplishment and seventies hard-edged drive, and people like Kaye sorta fit into my weirdly timewarped musical opines the same way everybody from Mick Farren to Pere Ubu were doing the same darn thang! Didn't know who that Dalton guy who shared writing duties with Mr. Kaye was, but I figured he too mighta been in some cool undergroundy rock act that I'd discover once the right reference to the right act fell into my lap...still waiting for that information to make its way into my cranium, but I know that when I find it it's gonna be a cool revelation!

In actuality, I do know that Dalton had previously written some respected though unread by me bios of Jim Morrison, the Dead and other wonders while working for STONE as a self-proclaimed "rock evangelist". Who knows, maybe he was in some boffo outta-the-loop kinda act that I sure would have enjoyed hearing, but that doesn't make ROCK 100  a better book (other'n as to give it a certain rockist backbone lacking in every aspect of the current "rock press" these days). It's cool because the people who wrote it had that great late-sixties/early-seventies sense of high energy fandom, the same kinda fan as rock critic power that you would have sensed in any of Kaye's CAVALIER columns or his appraisal of the Velvet Underground via the Seeds in the first issue of that tacky underground publication NEW TIMES (which I believe evoled into a mid-seventies "New Journalism" slickie that eventually went kaput). And with Kaye being a musician and collector as well as a writer, it was like he was covering all of the bases that a nobody like me sure wished coulda...after all being a musician, fan and exponent all rolled into one hipster longhair mass that still got the fogies uptight was something that I really longed to be! And true the sixties and seventies were filled with way too many false starts, downright flubs and horrid whole grain granola goodness to a music that was supposed to be known for its tension, but when you extracted the hippie credo and counterculture two-faced nature outta the equation the music was the best thing going for anybody and fellows like Kaye and Dalton sure knew where the might and attraction was coming from!

Great tome here even if the publishers hadda do the obvious and slap a pic of the Rolling Stones onna cover just so's a few hundred thousand teenage CIRCUS readers'd nab it up! It's the innards that really count, and the pair do it just about as well as Kaye did earlier with Richard Robinson in those ROCK REVOLUTION paperbacks that not only did their darndest to make 1971 look better'n it actually was but went outta its way to say that the likes of the Velvets, Stooges and Hackamore Brick were gonna be the big stars of the decade. Well, these groups might not have copped as many toothpaste endorsements as Marie Osmond, but their spawn certainly made quite a bang that was so vivid even the cubes at STONE had a pretty tough time ignoring it!

Of course you ain't gonna get the lowdown on any of your favorite outta-the-back-alley garage bands like we all kinda hoped, and in fact a chapter on the NUGGETS period of mid-Amerigan garage rock is sorely missing perhaps due to editorial restraint. However, amidst the straightforward and thankfully non-hippoid writing (meaning you aren't gonna be inundated with loads of "getting high on music" bromides and other unfortunately common rockscreed straight outta some 1971 junior high rap session)  you're gonna get a more concise history of rock 'n' roll as that fun suburban pastime than you ever would in a demi-Marxist tract such as Robert Palmer's tie in with a rather horrid PBS miniseries book which, after years of pondering, perhaps does deserves eternal damnation. ROCK 100 lays it on you straight from the originators to the early-sixties heroes and fops all the way through the mid-sixties accomplishment on and...hey, this book is so good that they even make the late-sixties and early-seventies come off way more intense and exciting than I'm sure most hard-core rockers remember 'em! In an age when the likes of Melanie and Cat Stevens ruled the roost that sure is one task that I would call Herculean!

In other words...ROCK 100's written as if it's aimed at the clientele who were patronizing CBGB and Max's Kansas City during those times 'stead of the squeaky cleans who tuned into those "rock awards" shows on television and thought of drek like STONE as their bible. Strict historical background for the CREEM and ROCK SCENE gang that's so smooth and constructed with the idea that rock 'n' was an "International Youth Language", fortunately without the sick philosophical trappings that have been so often attached to the concept of rock music for way too long.. I mean, smelly acoustic guitar strumming longhairs were a sickening sight back then and they still are, and their spawn pulling the strings and doing their darndest to make this world one big park where we can all throw frisbees and act brotherly and all might just be even worse! At least the power and stamina of the music that's championed as well as Kaye's own career efforts gave me a reason to stick with the music, and the attitude, excitement and everything that made me wait with bated breath for a new fanzine or collection of sixties garage rarites is to be found here  and bountifully at that!

So from Elvis and Little Richard up through the sixties and into the mid-seventies, the good bad 'n ugly are presented for your approval. And hey, you might even approve of this even with the likes of James Taylor and Elton John mixed twixt the metallics and glitter boys...I mean, if a book can make a group like the Grateful Dead sound good then it really gotta have something good going for it! And really, once you think about it how many other tomes of the times (even those gigantic ROLLING STONE HISTORY OF ROCK tombstones that were all the rage yet were comparatively worthless even if the likes of Bangs and maybe even Kaye contributed) would actually devote an entire chapter to what is referred to as "The Outer Limits" (MC5/Stooges/Velvets/Love...)?

(One final aside, besides being a decent detailing of many of the better and some of the lesser moments of the rock/soul/folkie era this book does make for a good historical brush up on my part. Like in the chapter on fifties r/b nurture and growth I am reminded that it was not Etta James who had the hit with "Dance With Me Henry" but Georgia Gibbs unlike what I had written two weeks back regarding Miss James' passing, and although you'd expect me to take the entire flub up onna chin and start grovelling with "mea culpas" all over the place I will most certainly NOT! Naw, I'm gonna spin it all back on YOU the reader and chastise ya for not catching the error, comin' down on ya with the usual "what kinda readers do I have anyway, graduates from Polk State Hospital?" insults which better shame you all into being more observant BLOG TO COMM readers! Not that I would have acknowledged anybody writing in with the correct answer especially if they did so in the usual snooty, oneupmanship way that many of you readers, troll or not, feel free to do so, but it woulda been interesting anyway!)

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