(Editor's Note: famous and well-respected rock fan/fanzine editor/novelist [PAPERBACK WRITER] and all around good schmoe Mark Shipper sent this to me over the weekend with the hopes that I could do something with it, especially considering how he had previously flung it on down to Ken Barnes @ some Greg Shaw Tribute Site (probably BOMP!) and the bloke did nothing but sit on it. Well, I could go on about how listening to disco and boosting some of the lamest singles of the eighties can do strange things to certain rock critic types, but since I liked a lotta things Barnes had written throughout the seventies (and still do!) I will refrain with the snarkiness for now. Anyhow, here are some of Mr. Shipper's recollections regarding the now-deceased mastermind behind the incredible BOMP! empire, and if you don't think that I'm tickled pink that a man of Mr. Shipper's stature would find this blog worthy of his personal thoughts and musings then I'm afraid you don't have me pegged as the anal-retentive geekoid fanboy that I most certainly am!!!)Well, I can’t stand it anymore. Deep in the back of my head I have this Karmic debt I owe to Greg Shaw for setting me on the path that has led to the perfect life I live now. No, I’m not Mitt Romney, but I live at the beach, still write every day, never have to commute, and no boss stands over me telling me what to say, or editing one word of my copy.
It’s a long story, but when I was down and out in the late ‘80s (I mean flat busted broke), I had the great fortune of running into Scott Shannon when he was launching Pirate Radio here in LA. It was the time of Guns N Roses, and Poison and Warrant, all that crap, but it was starting to happen in a big way. And that's the kind of music Pirate Radio played. Scott needed a writer to do the scripts for a weekly Countdown show he was doing. Although we’d met in the past, this was the first time I ever worked for him. And he taught me how to write for radio (in other words, to write words that would be spoken, not silently read. It’s a whole different discipline. You’re not allowed to use the personal pronoun “I” (editor's note: shades of Crowley at Thelema!) Sentences have to be short, so the jock can take a breath every minute or so. All kinds of crap which, I admit, took me a while to learn. But that’s what I do now, write about these bogus 2-bit “celebrities” we’re forced to endure today. And I do it in the same excoriating way I did with my rock writing. But this is easy. Like shooting fish in a barrel.
However, this isn’t about me. It’s about, who set me on the path of becoming a professional writer. United Artists Records sent me a copy of “Who Put The Bomp” along with their promo releases one month. Not only did I love it, it opened up a whole new world to me. It was like “You don’t have to beg a magazine to print your stuff, fuck that, do it yourself”. And I had the added advantage of working at a minimum wage print shop, deep in the San Fernando Valley. The point is, I had all equipment at my disposal to put together my own fanzine.
I knew it wasn’t going to be my career. But it allowed me to put out a fanzine of my own, all typeset and professional-looking, which I called “Flash”. Although I no longer have a copy of either of the 2 issues we put out, the mag did its job, putting me into the fraternity of rock writers (like Ken Barnes, Gene Sculatti, Don Waller, Jaan Uhelski, Mike Saunders, all those talents, still good friends to this day).
By then Greg had moved down to L.A. and he was instrumental in PRM. It was Greg who gave me thumbs up to do a monthly column called “Pipeline”, which helped me get to know the rest of the heavyweights at the time (Marsh, Marcus, and certainly Lester Bangs. I don’t know about the Dave or Greil, they usually appeared in Creem. But I know Lester’s work was in many, many issues of PRM.
I still remember going over to Marty’s house and meeting Lester. He was banging out some magnum opus in Marty's garage. Such a sweet, down-to-earth guy, the total opposite of his persona. They say it’s always a mistake to meet your heroes, but Lester was the exception that proved the rule.
By now, Greg and I were so close, when he and his wife Suzy moved from Northern California down to LA, he somehow enlisted me to help them lay the carpeting in the home they had rented in Burbank.
People used to say he had no sense of humor, but that was wrong. He was just so obsessed and passionate about spreading the word about the music he loved, he almost didn’t have time to sit around and crack jokes. But I have a vivid memory of Greg, Suzy and me driving down this freeway in a pickup truck, a huge rolled up carpet in the back. Suzy asked Greg “What off-ramp do we take?”, and Greg told her “Pass” (meaning “Pass Avenue”). Somehow I felt like a Game Show host, so when he said “Pass”, I said “Okay, Suzy, the question goes back to you.
Not the most monumental joke, I guess you had to be in the front seat with us, but Greg just lost it, he was laughing so hard. I always loved to make him laugh, it wasn’t easy but you knew you’d hit a home run.
Lotta, lotta, lotta water under the bridge since then, but without Greg, and without Bomp, I honesty don’t know where I’d be today. And Suzy, damn, she couldn’t have been more of a sweetheart. She was Sunshine On A Cloudy Day, to quote the world’s greatest poet.
What I remember most about Greg is his generosity. In Bomp, he used to rave about The Sonics, who I’d never heard of. Not only did he loan me their first two (essential) albums, but, later, when I met Kent Morrill, owner of Etiquette Records, I talked him into letting me press a new album, combining the greatest songs from those two records. Once again, Greg was happy to lend them back to me (and they were very very rare at the time), to do my compilation. My reissue (called “Explosives”) just sold and sold and sold, and Kent Morrill got a nice little royalty check every month. And since the Sonics were virtually unknown outside the Northwest, my album introduced them to all the rock critics of the day, who had access to print, and wrote lavish praise about them. Today, the Sonics are finally getting their due, they reunited a few years back, and have since played all over the world. Type in “The Sonics” on Youtube, and you can see their long overdue success. But, again, everything started with Greg.
I was devastated when I heard of his early passing (same as I was about Lester).
And when I heard there was a tribute site to Greg, I wanted to contribute. But you know how writers hate to write, and the subject matter was just so unpleasant, it’s taken me til now to do it. There are 200,000 more stories I could tell you about Greg Shaw and how crucial and great he was. But I hope you get the point that he—maybe more than anyone—helped push the pretentious overblown music of the 70s off a cliff, and bring us back to real Rock 'n Roll.
My happiest memory of Greg was when we were in Memphis for some crazy “Rock Critics Convention”. Everybody was there. Lester was in his full Lester persona, drunkenly walking the halls of this hotel with a bottle of Jack or something like that. But we heard that the little-known rockabilly legend Charlie Feathers was playing some roadhouse outside of Memphis. So a bunch of us piled into a car and journeyed into the middle of nowhere. To watch Greg finally let himself go, dancing wildly with himself, overcome with joy, that is the mental picture I carry with me to this day.
I guess I just want to tell anyone who doesn’t know that Greg was The Man. He was the Greatest.