Spent the past few weeknights re-reading an old fave, Jim DeRogatis's LET IT BLURT; THE LIFE AND TIMES OF LESTER BANGS which I must say conjured up a whole load of latest rock-related feelings that have been hidden deep inside my well for way too long. Yeah, this tome for the times certainly helped settle some of the pangs I've had for the lack of third generation sounds and ideals long gone from the public scene, and like a solid collection of 1971-1976 CREEMs or any choice concurrent fanzine run (I recommend either BACK DOOR MAN or DENIM DELINQUENT), BLURT made for some rather pleasant reading if only to sharpen my own memory as to why the entire proto/punk snide under-the-counterculture period in life (roughly 1966 to 1981) was a period that was custom made for what we like to cheerfully call "rockism." Or maybe just "teenage culture" or better yet "mid-Amerigan suburban slob living" but whatever, it sure dug up a whole slew of emotions which fortunately did not remind me of my own past transgressions (which were usually the transgressions of others laid upon me but that's another post) but brought back them still-vivid memories. Y'know, of what it was like living on depression-era wages during a rather lonely and skewered youth when you sorta knew that adults in general and the kids who surrounded you loathed you with a passion but there was nothing else for you to do so you hadda roll with the punches and suck up to it at least until you came home and took out all of your aggression on the dog (TV wrestling hammerlocks and lip twists included). Of course that was all before settlling in for a side of a record you felt so proud of when you first plucked it from the record bin at the music store or flea market of your choice which made you feel you were making a decision as important as your parents when they went to vote. And really, in many ways it was more crucial 'n all that grown up "civic duty."
True there's a lot to be said that wasn't in the book (just go here for more) but I sure can get more'n enough mid-seventies/early-eighties CREEM-powered throb thrills from reading what DeRogatis wrote about a guy who, believe it or not, rearranged a whole lotta ways I thought about and heard music than I can outta the entire printed output of Greil Marcuse and Robert Christgoo combined. Of course it's more'n common knowledge that Bangs also whammied it out to a few million other suburband pimplecrop blobs other'n myself, but who could deny that the guy (along with Meltzer, Saunders, Kent, Farren, Kaye...) sure knew how to deliver on the high energy goods via print at a time when everybody else was tellin' us doofoids to settle back and kick yer country feet up. And although you may disagree, I gotta say that I think we should get down on our knees and be thankful there were some smart souls out there willing to tip off us from nowhere beyond-the-outkid types that there was something out there in life that was gonna rescue us from total whitebread boredom and loathing whether it be via books, mags, music, tee-vee or even comix and it wasn't as obscure as we all thought it would be!
Yeah, reports say that Lester could be ornery, rude, insulting, antisocial and worst of all had this sick humanist streak in him, but for once I gotta overlook the bad side and remember him as the REAL "consumer guide" scribe whose choices always made me wanna give it a try no matter how many 180's he did or Grateful Dead and Allman Brothers albums he championed. Kinda the same way that Eddie Flowers would at least pique my interest when he'd bring up some Carole King or Judee Sill platter as a top spin for the week, and y'know I'd go after either one of 'em the same way I'd go for a plate of peas and asparagus. However, considering all of the hotcha things people like Bangs have turned me onto back when I certainly was looking for a hook maybe it would be smart if I at least "branched out" a teeny weeny bit'n try something outside of the usual brainstrain. Lord knows I've tried even though the thought of it sometimes makes me feel like the real "schmorgasbord schmuck," a Chuck Eddy doing the seventies schtick for an eighties rock scene that he didn't realize wasn't copasetic to his roots and ideals just as much as they weren't to mine.
Like I said, you could poke and probe at this book like a gynecologist on a post-menopausal leg-swelled housewife drearily looking forward to having her soon-to-retire hubby home all day, but even though DeRogatis spelled "Sapphire" (Kingfish's long-suffering wife from AMOS 'N ANDY) the same way you would the former Nixon speechwriter and dipshit NEW YORK TIMES columnist's last name I ain't chidin' one bit. And maybe you shouldn't too. At least this Bangs project wasn't being helmed by the likes of people who really hated his guts even though they spoke proudly of his public persona, jealous that they weren't as flippant or as cruel as Bangs being so comfy in their hippie thoughts and dreams which look particularly rancid a good forty years after these schmucks finally gained the power they once said they eschewed for all.
DeRogatis really did a good enough job telling about the early days and the original success, not forgetting the back-stabs and tons of book proposals gone nowhere (rejected by the same blokes who'd nowadays would be more'n glad to publish PARKE PUTERBAUGH'S FORESKIN RETRACTION TIPS FOR SWINGING STUDS). And although the book does make you remember just how fun and wild the entire late-sixties to early-eighties coulda been if you only looked hard enough to find your particular jollies, you will feel sorrow upon reading about his death, or angry at all of the betrayals that not only were pulled on Bangs but which Bangs pulled on others, and just generally making you long for them old days when you coulda easily enough drowned your sorrows in either booze or a variety of chemicals both over, under and far away from the counter but just goin' to the record store seemed to do the trick.
What really got me amazed about the book was not only the saga of Bangs the rockscribe but Bangs the PROPHET! The guy sure knew what was happening and what the entire mess would turn into, not only regarding musical trends and the eternal power of the Velvet Underground and how they were the real movers of seventies music as opposed to the standard Beatles/Stones/Dylan line that was overhyped by the prissies at ROLLING STONE, but about the entire mode of the business he helped put on the map as well. Bangs knew that most of the writers (or "critics," a term I have used with disdain for quite some times) popping up at the time were only using rock 'n roll as a stepping stone into bigger bux bonanzas. In fact, the very same mags that Bangs had "put on the map" to be so coyly cliched about it were not as true to the musical ideal as they always wanted us to remember with a passion. The evolution of STONE into a glossy uberlib chic publication mulling around with whatever shards of teen music is left these days prove he was right about the rock press in general, and the fact that the vast score of eighties scribes were nothing but future television/mooms/theatre sophistacados just getting a foothold in the entire mess of it all gives one more'n a few thoughts to ponder considering how Bangs say the shit coming down long before anyone else! It didn't take long to see how correct Bangs was in sussing the entire corporate rock scene, and it does kinda drive me batty that in no way since his death would any major magazine print a Bangs, let alone a Meltzer, Tosches or any of the other greats who transcended the usual shillscam and wrote uncannily as if they were able to sneak into your brain and plug their own credo into your own personal tastes and values as if you 'n they were one 'n the same.
Of course the most shattering things this book revealed to me (must've been so painful that I forgot about it lo these many years later) was that Lester actually died while listening to the strains of the Human League's DARE album. Now, that was something which must have been the most agonizing, painful way for anyone to go next to Joey Ramone spinning U2 during his final seconds which really must have prepared him for an eternity in you-know-where. It's kinda like God was calling on Lester, but before the guy gave up his ghost the Almighty was gonna at least stick it to him good for all of that rabble-rousing and self-abuse (both kinds) that he engaged in his short 33 years. And although I must say that I haven't been as wild 'n wicked as Bangs was, the mere thought of passing into the great unknown to the Human League makes me do nothing but shivver...for me it's gonna be Rocket From The Tombs and Rocket From The Tombs ONLY, y'unnerstan'?
But Mick Jagger aside, with the chillier weather and shorter days we're now having here in Western Pee-YAY it's pretty much natural that my thoughts turn to happier (at least during the weekends) times of childhood pursuits, and none could be more childlike than the funny papers. At least they were childlike and funny back then, with a wide array of high-larious and downright intense comics that seemed to appeal to just about everybody in the family and a few neighbors to boot. Digging into boxes of comic anthologies collected over the course of a lifetime certainly help out, and even latching onto a few new books or clippings also revive them old pangs of single-digit happiness that certainly meant a whole lot to me back when I was a kid and things were pretty tough. And the more I read of these old strips, the more I appreciate the wholesome yet bared-wire intense world that my parents and grandparents lived in and the strength there was which seemed to dissolve once families started drifting apart and the world began looking more alien and foreboding with each passing day.
I acquired this first volume of LI'L ABNER dailies (the Kitchen Sink Press edition from the eighties) quite awhile back, and re-reading these early strips was yet another fine way to occupy my pre-beddy bye time or at least get my mind off the fact that this fruit 'n yogurt diet the doc recommended makes me feel like an acid-reflex crater is being bored right in the center of my stomach. I gotta marvel at Al Capp's early style on these strips which has that fine late-twenties quill tip look and is quite different from the artwork best associated with the strip, and even at this early stage I can tell that ABNER was bound to develop into something so big it would practically overtake the entire comic strip industry in such a vast way that its popularity would only be eclipsed by PEANUTS sometime in the sixties. But these early strips have a nice, plain yet powerful style to 'em with artwork that only goes to show how slapdash the entire newspaper comic strip industry has become o'er the years, and with the continuity and the character development strong even in these early ABNER's you almost get the feeling that this comic could have been syndicated by NEA Services (who seemed to churn out many quality titles until King Features lured their artists away for three times the money) 'stead of United Features.
Is my lifelong comic strip obsession bubbling up to manic intensity once again? Of course, and although my wish of being able to read every pertinent comic page since the twenties (and maybe even earlier!) until the early-seventies deep six is never going to be fulfilled at least when I settle back with these old ABNERs I'm once again that fat eight-year-old pudge plopped right inna middle of the parlor floor like a bear skin rug readin' the daily travails of everyone from NANCY, BUGS BUNNY and yeah, even an ABNER that the sophisticated New York intellectuals quit reading long ago after Capp began making fun of them, and I'm all the happier for it!
***Just gonna do a few quickies this weekend especially since I'm not exactly inna mood or mode to do the usual bloviating that has kept this blog afloat for the past eight years. (Actually I've done enough bloviating to keep this blog pumped up on helium for the next ten milleniums.) Most of these are the usual freebees that have been sent by various acolytes for wont of a better term, and I will say that these gifts have at least some redeeming quality/social value that warrants a mention in these "pages." But whether or not I'd go out and purchase any of these with my hard-begged well, that's another question. Of all the discs and "disques" reviewed below I think there is only one I would actually want to part with my moolah to get (not counting those that I did part with the hard-begged for), and I'll leave it up to you to guess which one it is. First one with the correct answer wins a special no prize, or at least might get some of the overflow I've been receiving to review for this very blog...now how hotcha can that be!
"You may need an insulin shot, but I like this band." Some fanabla actually put that on the paper sleeve that came with this burn. Don't know who, but whoever did write this probably thought that someone/myself for that matter wouldn't like this SoCal "Sunshine Pop" band best known for their work on the original BRADY BUNCH theme song. Frankly I gotta say that I enjoyed this 'un even though late-sixties teenage gal bedroom giggler pop music ain't quite my beat...nice enough emotive pop melodies (sorta in a New Colony Six vein) fill your fart-encrusted bedroom with sonic slush that'll reduce you to amoeba viscosity as the harmony vocals and neo-Left Banke arrangements actually seem to transcend the usual teenybop trappings. Nothing that I would call crucial, but fun nonetheless.
Well whaddaya know! A NEW album from snakeoil lounge act Gary Wilson, or shall I say a vinylization of a recent (2008) cassette-only deal which I will admit passed me by the first time around. Time has not changed this man one iota, and the overabundance of mid-seventies mainstream jazzoid tracks done up in an analog synth style lay proof to the fact that Wilson's mind operates the same way today that it did a good thirty-five years back and I am one goombah who was raise a fine and hearty "huzzah!" to it all. Michael Franks in orbit, or perhaps Bobby McFerrin circling Jupiter (you thought I was gonna say Uranus...c'mon, admit that I ain't as obvious as that!)
Japanese Beatle devotees doing the British Invasion ramalama a good fifty years after the fact. If you go for all of those seventies facsimiles you'll probably also go for this over-the-top performance, though the slurred singing and Japanenglish might be a little too much for Western ears and that's no occident. Bonus audience banter'll also go over some heads, like mine esp. when the people at Majestic Sound found it worthy to bleep out some of the words being said on-stage. I mean I can't understand a word being uttered, but I wanna know what was being bleeped out, the context of it and just what the audience was laughing at!!! Drives me crazy just thinkin' about it!
Wonder what possessed Dr. Shute to dribble this one my way. Maybe this flick held some special significance for him, but frankly I never went for a lot of those NBC SATURDAY NIGHT AT THE MOVIES kinda features that seemed custom-made for people who looked like Dennis the Menace's folks to settle back 'n watch since they were too cheap to go to the mooms to see films like this when they came out. The music is "there"...OK stuff that registers in a mid-sixties "music that grown ups listen to" sorta way, and it did serve to relax me at least a little bit. But otherwise all it reminds me of is growing up in a clime that was switching from 40s/50s/60s postwar fun and jollies to Johnson/Nixon-era sophisticado, and that just don't settle well considerin' all of the pain and turmoil I hadda go through just to make it through Phonics class!
Lessee..."the only band that snoozes?" Naw, howzbout "a garage band that should have been playing while stranded in the middle of the motorway during a steamroller contest." I think Charles Shaar Murray said something to that effect but all I can add is that next to the better honed mid-seventies English punk acts of the day from Dr. Feelgood on down these demos and live tracks don't quite hit that rockist g-spot we're all searching for. Last resort stuff, after you've finished listening to all of your Feelgood, Groovies, Ducks Deluxe, Roogalator, Downliners Sect, Loose Gravel, Tyla Gang, Motors... records about fifty times over.
I listened to this while re-reading the Bangs book mentioned above and y'know what? THE RICH RECORD STORY sounded just as tuned to the printed page in front of me the same way a late-seventies New York underground production or blaring free jazz session would have suited the same situation. I guess the potent power of Bangs had overcome me to the point where I could appreciate music that might not exactly be the kind I've championed as A #1 uno these past thirtysome years but sure had this inner turmoil to it that belied its "party time" roots or something equally rockcrit BS. I never loathe all musics outside of my own personal "realm" unlike what many a twat has opined, but it ain't like I'm gonna spend time singing the praises of the same quap every other scribe with a keyboard 'n screen has pumped up with seedy valor ever since the birth of "rock journalism" as another opportunity for people to prove just what kinda assholes they could become if they only tried hard enough.
Anyway, this is an interesting collection of single sides from this early-sixties Nashville label that's probably best noted for having Bobby Hebb in his pre-"Sunny" days. He clocks in with six sides of mid-South soul while other labelmates such as Lattimore Brown and Jimmy Church do their darndest to cop everyone from James Brown to Sam Cook and get away with it! Strangest tracks of all are John R.'s various talkovers over cheezy funk organ that certainly'll make you wanna utter the all important phrase "hunh, what was that?"
Lennon/Ono-ALTERNATIVE TORONTO MIX AND MORE CD (Goblin bootleg, Australia)
I gotta admit that it was ironic that I actually listened to this one while reading the LI'L ABNER book mentioned above! I'm sure "Al Crapp" as Lennon referred to the erstwhile ABNER cartoonist must be spinnin' in his grave knowing that a good forty-three years after their fateful meeting John Lennon is still being listened to as much as ever, even if it's by a guy who thinks the Lennon's solo career contained some rather pale and tres introspective musings that seemed to reflect the attitude of a jaded pop star who was so filled with contempt he'd toss anything at his hungry hoards! At least Capp would be pleased that people are still reading his long-gone strip, but he'd probably shudder that some of his fans are also fans of the mop topped one and at times the twains do intersect, at least a little.
But I will give LIVE PEACE IN TORONTO its dues Eric Clapton and all, if only because of the primitive pallor of the entire throwtogether affair as well as the extended Yoko feedback finale which really must have confused all the oldies fans in the audience! And this original mix with Lennon chastising the audience for not appreciating his genius and Yoko wailing in top form is what the official release should have been, something even more primal (and primed) with all of the roughness and edge left in. Sure it ain't gonna be a top of the stack spin (which is why I ain't played the thing in a good decade or so) but it does put the rest of the Lennon love 'n peace hucksterism catalog to shame.
Filling out the platter's some tracks from the YOKO ONO/PLASTIC ONO thingie as well as FLY which have since been reissued all legal-like, but ya gotta admit they sound good in the company and if you don't have that but you have this you're pretty much all set anyway. Well, you're set at least until you find the late-nineties Ryko editions going for mere pennies on ebay which they certainly are worth, and a whole lot more considerin' how Yoko was proving with ease that she was the queen of the slag heap at least until she started taking on airs of Carole King-esque singer/songwriter schmooze!