Saturday, July 07, 2012

Guess it's time for a middle of the year assessment, and in this hot 'n hazy July all I can really say is that 2012 HAS SURE SHAPED UP SWELL AS FAR AS BEING ONE OF THE MORE EXCITING  ROCK 'N ROLL YEARS IN RECENT MEMORY!!!  OK, its true that almost all of the years that we did have in recent memory were not only downright dullsville but stridently anti-rock, but at least there have been enough good releases comin' out these past six months that warrant a hale 'n hearty all's well in the wild world of rock 'n roll. Now, I'm sure even you will admit that there aren't that many new 'n exciting groups comin' out like there were a good thirty or forty years back, but I must admit that a few of the upstart groupings out there are as good as some of the better underground rockage that we've been spinning for quite some time. Of course many of the old standbys can still kick it out, as I'm sure the hundreds of acts who are playing the various CBGB and Max's Kansas City festivals in New York this month can attest to. The "experimental" music coming out today, whether it be Fadensonnen's deep treks into electronic guitar soundscapades or the current Kendra Steiner Editions offerings, has been just as engaging, awe-inspiring and total envelopment as the entire Columbia Records "Music Of Our Time" series back in the sixties and more personal to boot! And naturally the reissues and downloads continue to enchant, from the Rocket From The Tombs 12/74 wonder (a current car-spin fave) and Rotomagus collection to such outta-nowhere delights like MICHIGAN MAYHEM and of course the new Can boxset (on Mute Records) which has just arrived to save me from yet another grab for the straight razor when all seems lost.

You can bet that I was religiously preparing for this 'un by spinning all of my Can bootlegs incessantly night after night, but even what I was playing in anticipation didn't prepare me for the onslaught to be found on these three shiny platters of pure perfection. Fortunately THE LOST TAPES concentrate on their hotcha late-sixties to mid-seventies years meaning you don't have to worry about those latterday platters that flopped about making people like Carl Mack from FUTURE wonder why they even bothered in the first place! And given the plethora of primal early Can to be found all I can say in typical Aunt Jemima fashion is like, what took you (read: Irmin Schmidt) so long?  For this set is one of the hallmarks of just what German expressionist rock stood for back when various NME critics were looking toward Der Fatherland for signs of rock life and even dorks like Sid Viscous were learning to play bass while MONSTER MOVIE was spinning endlessly in their fart-encrusted boudoirs.

Malcolm Mooney does get more than his fare share of trackage which is fine by me considering how his more DELAY 1968-ish sense of surge (as opposed to his nice if quieter moments) are firmly on display, "Waiting For The Streetcar" and "Deadly Doris" being just two of the primer examples to be found. (Other Mooney-era pieces range from a bizarroid "Your Friendly Neighborhood Whore" to "True Story", a free association monologue to horror organ backdrop which surprises me no end especially when Mooney actually drops the name of famed fifties television space ranger Rocky Jones!) And hey, even if you don't think the post-Mooney years were quite so tip top this 'un'll make you change your mind with the fine choice of rarities which seem to capture the TAGO MAGO feeling to a certain extent while concentrating on a more EGE BAMYASI atonal sense of elegance. Believe-you-me, if this don't give BAMYASI cheerleader  Eddie Flowers a hard-on more'n his Candy Samples photo album then nothing will!

Hopefully the springboard for more legendary Can releases, THE LOST TAPES is one reason that 2012 might be one of the better years for reissues and exhumations. And given just what a dour, anti-rock 'n roll climate we live in I guess this is all we have to bank our booties on right now, pod'ner!

Given the intelligence and fine taste you readers have procured (mostly from reading this blog), I'm positive that you already know just how much the death of Andy Griffith this past Tuesday induced the same ol' cringe-y effect of impending doom that I got after hearing about the recent passings of everyone from Dick Clark and Frank Cady to GRIFFITH co-star George "Goober" Lindsey. Now it ain't like I was crying all over the place about it, but like I said earlier this sorta news does kinda hit me "there" (pound edge of fist into chest right where heart is for emphasis) considering that the likes of Griffith et. al. have been with me ever since my earliest flickers of memory and how things like watching THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW on Monday nights was a weekly ritual that helped my learn the days of the week as well as a whole load of things they just don't teach you in school then or now for that matter!

Definitely one of the top twenty series of all time, THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW obviously remains a personal fave and it is nice knowing that the series still continues to reverberate on the cathode connection lo these many years later. Who knows, perhaps the show, even in these jaded and unfunny times, will influence yet another generation about Ameriga and its nicer, funnier nature. That's something you just can't say about many of those great shows of the fifties and sixties which sorta got jettisoned from our lives about ten-fifteen years ago when even cable wouldn't run this stuff on a bet. At least you can still find GRIFFITH somewhere on the dial whether it's via the flaccid TV Land or your local outlet, and the thought of knowing that does make me feel a little better inside, for OBVIOUS reasons naturally. And hey, even though I've seen 'em all a good what, fifty times throughout my entire life I find the series remains fresh and vibrant no matter how many times I set my jaded self in front of the idiot box with can o' pop and snax in hand hopin' for at least a moment of revitalization...

Before THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW entered into our lives the guy wasn't exactly alien to the public what with a string of feature films ranging from NO TIME FOR SERGEANTS and of course Elia Kazan's oft-praised A FACE IN THE CROWD (the famed howling image from the poster even earning a reproduction courtesy of Bill Elder in HUMBUG's boffo spoof of AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY DAYS). And really, what fifties comedy fanatic could forget Griffith's infamous "What That Was, Was Football" monologue about a backwoods boy discovering the famous game for the first time and describing it in his own addled way? That was so popular it even got illustrated in MAD during the late-fifties when this once-satirical magazine was getting top comedians like Ernie Kovacs, Bob and Ray as well as Danny Kaye to either write new material or have their old classics illustrated by "the usual gang of idiots"*, an idea which sorta went by the wayside once 1960 rolled around and most of the comedians skedaddled over to HELP! Of course Griffith's own show was a hoot which perhaps showed to all of those cloistered Northern urban types that Southern people were well...people too. It's like in that rarely seen pilot for the series which ran on THE DANNY THOMAS SHOW where Danny was being held in Mayberry for some traffic violation and insults Griffith by calling him a hayseed and a hick, only to be eventually shamed by Griffith who lets out that maybe Southereners don't like being called those names any more than blacks or Polish or other ethnicities like being ridiculed by people who love to feel superior to others. Somehow I feel as if lessons like this one has been lost on the extremely cloistered upper-crust armchair radicals of today, but hey I might be wrong.

After GRIFFITH more or less ran its eight-year course well, even I had a hard time tuning into THE NEW ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW like I'm sure most of you did though for some strange reason I was perhaps the only one who watched Griffith's stab at youth relevance via HEADMASTER because, unlike on ROOM 222, the kids on this show were all spoiled brat mid-class goofballs (even that poor student who couldn't afford underwear) and the writers were older generation curmudgeons who sure knew what sorta havoc those pampered hippies would spread once they got into power. And as we all know, they were right all along! By the mid-seventies when Griffith was appearing in just about every variety show and TV Movie that would cast him I must admit I shrugged him off, but then again I felt most of the fifties/sixties innovators had pretty much lost it by the time Gerald Ford was rolling into office. I mean, Ford certainly did send this universe off on some weird tangent it never really did recover from.

(By the way, I missed HEARTS OF THE WEST with Griffith as an aging cowboy star on TCM a few weeks back...managed to tune in right at that scene where [I believe] Blythe Danner was doing a topless exotic dance dressed in cowgear complete with sheriff badge pasties for a buncha dirty old men hootin' and hollerin', and since my pop was in the room with me I switched over to something innocuous mighty fast! I recall the boffo writeups it was getting back '76 way, and considering how the early-mid-seventies seemed such a brief renaissance in films I figured this 'un'd be worth a little more of my time. Any recommendations out there?)

Hokay, one funny if self-deprecating ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW saga you might get a chuckle or two outta. And considering how I can now talk about these once-devastating experiences from my childhood which surely warped me with ease, why not this was early June, perhaps the first full day of Summer vacation, and a couple of my female cousins who used to live up the street from me came over to visit my sister and talk girl stuff. Well, while they were there what should happen to pop up on the tee-vee screen but yet another ANDY GRIFFITH rerun, the episode where Opie and his friend discover an abandoned baby on the courthouse steps and try to find it a home...y'know, the one with the high-larious "Miss Crump, do you want to have a baby?" line! Well, right after the second segment (where Andy gives Opie the birds and the bees talk which of course is neatly circumvented and Opie tells his pal he already learned that in school but didn't want to disappoint his father) my own mother says to me, and in front of my sister and cousins..."Chris, I'll bet you were wanting to find out where babies come from, weren't you?" as they all laughed and I cringed at the thought that my mother would even dare make a crack such as that. I mean was I that lowly a specimen to deserve such treatment from my dear own mother??? Recently I reminded her of this incident and she even apologized, which is about as meaningful as modern day politicos doing the mea culpa for eight-hundred-year-old transgressions, but I took it all in stride!

And hey, all who say that the episode about Andy having to eat three spaghetti dinners is the best of the latterday and oft-dismissed color GRIFFITHs (the aforementioned baby one being #2 and the filming of SHERIFF WITHOUT A GUN with Gavin MacLeod as Andy #3) please raise your hands, er, mouse!

A recent basement excursion had me digging up quite a number of oft-ignored booty, including the following three cassettes which really zoned me back to the dark, dank days of the eighties when nothing seemed to go right and I should know given the hassles and problem I had getting my writings out to a disinterested public. Anyway I'm sure many of you avid followers of this blog remember the humongous hubbub (at least in fanzine circles) that arose regarding Halo of Flies and the entire Amphetamine Reptile cadre of under-the-underground groups which I playfully referred to as being the "new era" of atonal bliss. I must admit that many of the Amphetamine Reptile groups haven't exactly withstood the battering of time and longevity (then again, I must admit that I haven't been spinning the likes of Vertigo, the God Bullies and Pogo the Clown for at least two decades), but flagship group Halo of Flies, led by AR head Tom Hazelmyer, sound just as hotcha as they did back when I was scrambling to snatch up the last copies of the group's rather limited edition singles which I'm sure are prized possessions amongst the more "in-the-know" fans and followers of eighties underground rock extant.

This collection of single sides sure comes in handy in case you want a quick Halo fix and can't gather up all of your originals or if you're too cheap to buy the Cee Dee compilation easily obtainable on ebay. Kinda sorta punk rock in the 1971 CREEM magazine sense on one hand and perhaps heavy metal if you use the same mag's definition from approximately the same time, FOUR FROM THE BOTTOM's got all of that sonic screech that helped save us from the eternal flames of Van Halen singles and enlightened us to a much better way. Personal fave: the inspiring, faithful yet all-out original take on Creation's "How Does It Feel To Feel" which I gotta say flashes back to the pop op haze of that group better'n even the Television Personalities or the Times, and those Englishmen even had a head start on it!
Another eighties cassette find that popped up on my recent field trip was this wonder, a compilation of the first two Celebate Rifles albums that was released on the tail of the group's massive success down Australia way (though from what the Mad Peck says you only have to sell 100 records in Australia to be a success). After listening to the Rifles' fair post-Radio Birdman approach (Detroit metal with a little local angst thrown in) I was wondering why I haven't been paying more attention to this act's admittedly powerful music for so long. After some thought the answer came to me and boy was it obvious...there's just too much "eighties" in here when it shoulda been seventies all the way! Not that it was exactly easy to transpose seventies intensity into an eighties variation, but sheesh if most of these acts which just shoulda had that hard-nerve drive back then didn't get wooshed over by the giddy 'n cuteness of the times, and no matter how hard some of these acts tried they just didn't succeed in transcending the kultur just like you thought they shoulda!

Still I gotta credit the Celebate Rifles for coming up with about as good a variation on the MC5 form as anyone else could have, without looking like total doofs as more'n a few extant recordings would prove. Of course they were doing it all in Sydney Australsia which was heavily Detroit-oriented at the time (thanks to the influence of a certain Deniz Tek and his local cult). Not only that, but the group had a good repertoire cranked out by vocalist Damien Lovelock (who was more Tyner 'n Ig but that's cool) and guitarist Kent Steedman, both of who might as well have been the Jagger-Richards of the group or at least Pop-Williamson. Can't really complain about it even if the dinge of twentysome-year-old concessions do take away from some of the majestic nature of it all.
Finally on today's cassette trip's this self-produced strangity, the first ever solo release from former Death of Samantha/Cobra Verde/Mice etc. (and I do mean etc.!) Cleveland-area guitarist Doug Gillard. COVER SONGS WITH BIG HEADS is the name, and the contents are nothing but Gillard playing his favorite old timey sixties/seventies songs all by himself just like Todd Rundgren used to do in sort of a PIN UPS fashion. However, instead of seventies rockers remembering their sixties roots this is an eighties rocker remembering his seventies (with some sixties) roots with the same sorta rose-colored rear view mirror fascination I hope we all like! Quality is feh but the performances are unique enough even if I don't quite appreciate listening to well-established musicians do covers the same way I like to hear 'em do their originals. And the fact that this is mid-eighties Cle does detract if ever so slightly---but for me the entire Cle underground might as well have deep-sixed 1/1/80 given how the local media treated the young and creative groups as mere aberrations while pushing to the hilt the worse "local" sub-bar scuzz as being the most creative and illustrious music to eke outta that once-vital city. At least the fact that Death of Samantha singer John Petkovac worked for THE PLAIN DEALER meant they'd get a little more publicity outta that rag than Jamie Klimek ever did!

But hey, I'll take Gillard performing versions of "Jean Genie" and "Needle in the Camel's Eye" over a good portion of the WMMS-FM (are they still around?) playlist anyday. Y'see,  I like my music with a whole lotta heart 'n vigor w/o the horrid schmalz that Cleveland rock (of a mainstream variety) had infused into it. Y'know, back when rock 'n roll was comin' in for another de-balling that was just about as bad as the one it got back when the likes of Bobby Rydell, then Donovan, then Cat Stevens etc. came onto the scene to show the teenagers of the world a more righteous, squeaky-clean way. COVER SONGS has the same spirit that a good portion of the late-seventies Cle groups oozed from each and every pore, and you know that if this had come out as a vinyl EP '79 way I woulda been flipping over it the same way I would cherish all of those Styrene Money Band singles as if they were precious moon rocks or somethin'!
That Bill Shute sure is a strange guy. Yeah, we both boycott Chick-Fil-A (but for different reasons---I happen to think their food is gunk!) and we have both been known to "pinch more than an inch", but if you must know (and I know you do) I wonder about this Kendra Steiner Editions label he's been running for quite some time. I wonder, because frankly I thought that if the guy would've ever started up a label it woulda been devoted to something along the lines of an International Artists type of thing with Texas psychedelic groups playing in "the tradition" filling up its roster. If anything, KSE is kinda like a new Obscure label only without the more fruity aspects of a Harold Budd nor the high-flying avant garde ideal of Carla Bley and Robert Wyatt performing 1940's vintage John Cage pieces. Though they do have a much better cover scheme, dontcha think?

The three latest entries into the KSE canon continue on the same fine path of earlier issues, all in those neat modern jazz-kinda sleeves and limited to practically zilch copies. Unmoor is a duo that creates rather kraut-y like spacial sounds that make you feel like you were floating on air, as Greg Prevost once said about Cluster. Matt Krefting is a strangeity as well, also making the same kinda slow, dirge-y yet deep sounds as Unmoor yet at times coming off like Thomas Tallis writing a sequel to "Spem In Alium". Not to mention that weirdoid opening track where he sounds like some six-year-old trying to play his chord organ by numbers while letting the air out of his pop's tires. What really gets me all nutzoid is Massimo Magee's SOPRANINO SOLO, a platter whose title says it all. Not only does he have one of the weirdest inter-ethnic names in jazz since Giuseppe Logan, but this Magee guy plays the sopranino sax'n nothing else other'n electronics and radio on "Confusion", and not only that but he has a weird enough sense of distortion so that the platter's closing track is (get this!) a playback of a VCR-recorded performance! Comparisons to Braxton might be in order (tho actually I was thinkin' Steve Lacy), but once you get down to it Magee is playing his own trip and doing a skewered enough job at it which I get the feeling will turn off more'n a few of your bow-tied "light jazz" friends who couldn't tell a Roscoe Mitchell from a hole in Chick Corea's butt!

What's really weird about this 'un is track #2 entitled "Pickled". Now frankly I thought that maybe Magee had recorded this one totally soused, but in fact he (probably) was straight sober...y'see, what he did was marinate a reed in malt and lemon vinegar for four months and used it on this particular piece which I guess really puckered his puss! Dunno exactly how this affected his playing, but in some ways I was reminded of that LITTLE RASCALS short where perennial bully Leonard Kibrick played "My Wild Irish Rose" on the trumpet while Tommy Bond and some freckle-faced compat sucked away on lemons! Hmmm, maybe this is the newest trend in playing, and considering some of the jazz I've heard recently perhaps a whole cartload of lemons are in order!

Anyway that's all there is, there isn't anymore as the old song said. Will try to crank out another measlie for ya midweek before whipping up a biggie for next weekend's midsummer's night scree!

*I remember Griffith during his "down" years in the seventies when he was grabbing just about any job he could lay his hands on doing this hoary old routine on that new SMOTHERS BROTHERS show on NBC and bombing almost as badly as the time Stanley Myron Handelman was on the same short-lived revival. Even a less-than-astute teen such as I did at least a little cringing myself, though considering how Griffith was apt to do everything from plugging Ritz Crackers ("things taste good when they sits on a Ritz, but some things taste even better with Ritzes jammed way up them, if you know what I mean") to appearing in about half of the TV movies being made and dressing up like Karl Marx in a Hudson Brothers Marx Brothers spoof, I guess he was there to take the money and run just like all those other comedians. But the thought of him reviving that old and out-of-date skit in the seventies was surely someone's bad idea of television, even at this stage in the game when variety shows were ruling the roost with some of the worst comedy and musical skits imaginable!

And before I forget, do you remember when be was hosting a syndicated broadcast of NATIONAL VELVET around the same time and gave us this downhome talk about women's liberation and how back when this movie was made men thought women couldn't do things as well as they which is why Liz Taylor hadda do what she did??? Considering Griffith's three marriages I'd think he'd be the last guy who'd ever give a speech regarding the libber movement of the day, but I guess if you dangled enough moolah in front of his nose...

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