Saturday, November 17, 2012

How have you been these past few days anyway? I personally can't complain, even with the current dry spell in general kultur taking its toll on my already battered and deep-fried psyche. Sheesh, at this point in time I can only dream about them days when music, and life as a whole was as potent and powerful and conduit to a lardbutt pustule-producing teenage mindset such as mine, and although those days were pockmarked with sorrow and general loathing from all fronts I do recall the easier times with a whole lot more kindness. Y'know, way back '75/'76 way, back when even a kid earning depression-era wages could make out like a bandit a a local flea market or even record shop (remember, those were the glory days of cut out bins!) with only $1.75 in his pocket and that included the Life Savers! But as the old song goes "them days are gone forever," and although I should shut up and acknowledge that my dreams of yore are long-gone and this is the twenty-first century blah blah snooze I believe it is my duty as an outta-time curmudgeon to at least stick up for the good parts of them bad ol' days. The fun I'd get pouring through stacks of records looking for that elusive album or single, or taking a peek at the latest NATIONAL LAMPOON when nobody was looking, or pondering a good place to hide that issue of ARCADE with the Frosty the Snowman story that I wanted to get so bad. Y'know, the crucial stuff that was way more important than studies or knowing what you wanted to be when you growed up! Of course that was before going home and watching the umpteenth rerun of GREEN ACRES before chowing down a dinner of weenies and beans! Ah memories...ah flatulence! It's even come to the point where I am heavily nostalgic for my 1975 Christmas vacation even with the horrid case of gastritis I experienced after eating at a Red Lobster for the very first time (this was the same day I not only saw a copy of CHELSEA GIRLS for sale but pondered buying a Tanned Leather album), and if you think I'd trade re-living that particular day for anything else in the world well...maybe I would only without my poor choice in selecting seafood as well as with passing up on albums I sure could have stood listening to!
The really big news of the week, at least for me, is hearing about the imminent demise of the Hostess corporation, makers of all of those great snicky snacks people like myself used to gobble down after school (Twinkies, Cupcakes, Ho-Hos, Ding Dongs, Fruit Pies, Sno Balls...) not forgetting that ever-popular Wonder Bread, the bread with a shelf life that outlasts Strontium 90! Gotta admit that Wonder Bread was never a staple at our house (mom being a full-bred Italian which means out bread was full Italian!) but Twinkies as well as the rest of the Hostess line of fine pastries were considered special treats by us kiddies who just couldn't gobble up enough of 'em! Of course later on when the purse strings just hadda be tightened it was the off brands for us. Not so many Twinkies anymore but locally baked pies from the Metz Bakery that just seemed more crust than filling, and as you could guess they just didn't fill the bill when it came to lunchbox treats.

The health scares regarding trans-fats came much later, but long before that Twinkies, which were about as much of a part of my growling up years memories as GILLIGAN'S ISLAND reruns and frequent whippings, suddenly became food non gratis in our abode. Dunno why, but my mother began to buy less and less of them and more and more store-baked items for our pastry which, while perhaps the most perfect thing to do budget-wise, just didn't suit me one bit! Of course I would occasionally buy boxes of Twinkies to gobble during my entire adult life, but that was done mostly for childhood reminiscence purposes the same way I would occasionally buy Fizzies (which I was not allowed to have because my mother would tell me I wouldn't want them anyway).

Not-so-strangely enough my tastes had shifted to Nickle's Banana Flips, a cake with a filling that surprisingly enough came close to the original Twinkies Banana creamy center which was interrupted by World War II's fruit shortage and unfortunately never re-instated. But deep in my heart I cherished the memory of Twinkies, which were as bold and as vivid to me as all of those funtime kid recollections which do their darndest to counterattack the horrid, nightmarish visions of growing up that still continue to haunt me years after the fact!

It was probably inevitable that Hostess has taken leave the way it has. After all, their food was custom made for the reams of 50s/60s/70s baby boomer kids who'd rush home from school, knock off their homework and settle down in front of the television to watch AMERICAN BANDSTAND or some long-gone rerun or horror picture (or later on cheapo syndicated cartoon and sixties sitcom leftover) with Twinkie in hand. In these austere, cyborg days where everything has been reduced to an ultra liberal guilt that would shock the old timey progressives of yore, needless self-conscious shame and  health-nut Nazism, in no way could I see a typical eight-year-old enjoying his after school snack (an unhealthy one at that!) while some boffo reflection of a pre-socially astute Ameriga runs repeatedly on the cathode connection. Naw, it's pure kulturkampf these days, and as you all know Twinkies and so-called mindless entertainment have been banished off to the unacceptable ends of herbal tea and whole grain Ameriga if only because such suburban slob items do not fit in with the mode of today's new strong armed enforcement! This really burns me up because it was those Baby Boomer brats who were the ones who gobbled up Twinkies like there was no tomorrow and bolstered rerun tee-vee to its glorious apex and now these same doofs are denying their children the joys of creme-filled goodness and endless fifties/sixties suburban slob television/comic book/Dinky Toy living! Just doesn't seem fair, and pass the bean sprouts while you're at it!

Well, I do hope that the rumors regarding the owner selling the rights to the pastry line to the highest bidder turns out to be true...if so maybe there is hope for the future of overweight pimple pudges nationwide. Until then I'm afraid it's gonna be Dolly Madison and Tasty Kakes all the way, and if I'm that hard up a Little Debbie or two.
ROBERT CHRISTGAU'S WILDEST DREAM HAS COME TRUE! No, Sinead O'Connor did not offer to "peg" him while the strains of Bruce Springsteen play ever so daintily in the air, but the self-proclaimed "Peen of Amerigan Rock Critics" is surely chortling over the fact that the warehouse which stocks the Norton Record catalog (home to all good rock 'n roll for you, the discerning listener) got flooded during the Hurricane Sandy Noreaster that hit the New York area a good two weeks back. Yes, although the personal digs of Mr. and Mrs. Norton themselves (Billy Miller and Miriam Linna) remained high and dry throughout the deluge the tons of recordings, books and whatnot that they offer us for sale has been ruined by the rain, floods and other muck that devastated the Eastern Seaboard. Thankfully some items were able to be salvaged, but a whole hunk of it is ruined and probably headed for the big dumpster in the parking lot which is a sight that obviously will have ol' Crico creaming reams of joy while he thinks up more obscure words unused in at least three centuries to describe his unbridled joy!

Now we don't want Christgau to gloat over the misfortunes of two of the swellest people whom I, and perhaps you, have come in contact with! I mean, I can't think of anything but nice things to say about Billy, Miriam, and their Norton enterprise which has benefited mankind for nigh on a whopping quarter century. And not only that but the pair always treated me nice even though I was never worthy of anything positive, being treated swell-like included, from their own exaulted perch as rock 'n roll tastesetters. They've also sent me tons of records both for spare change and gratis, and (to belabor a point) Billy Miller is such a cool rock 'n roll writer with great tastes and once Miriam gave me a phone call during a particularly dour time in my life and we had a nice chat about things which helped perk me up quite a bit! Don't know what you'd call that, but I call it DIVINE INTERVENTION!!!! I sure have to thank her for that (as well as for offering me a letter Lester Bangs wrote to her which I published in the final issue of my own fanzine), and as anybody who's come in contact with me knows I DO NOT FORGET MY FRIENDS!!!! (And if I have forgotten you, it's probably due the fact that you've fallen from grace in my eyes faster than Lucifer, and if so please do me a favor and examine your conscience...or do you even have one?)

Billy and Miriam are two fine folk who really do need a helping hand in this hour of tumult, and if you're not in the area to assist 'em in cleaning up their warehouse and scrubbin' off the records why not donate some moolah just so's they can get back on their feet and help to continue to make Norton Records the rolling success it's been for quite a long time! The two have done more than their share for the cause of rock 'n roll, and if anybody needs the uplift it's this fine pair so wipe that smile offa Christgau's face, click that highlighted "donate" above and, while you're at it, give to your heart's content like I did (and you all know what a good example I am). Billy and Miriam sure need it, and I'm positive they'll be forever grateful no matter how much you pestered them because they didn't like REM or the Stray Cats and all those eighties groups you thought were the cat's pajamas even though you now (obviously) know better!
Don Fellman once called me up to tell me he was worried about the state this nation was in, especially when basically innocent people could be incarcerated on seemingly flimsy evidence and thus have their lives and maybe even some below the waist parts of the body ruined beyond repair. Seems Don was watching an episode of THE 700 CLUB (which he tells me now exists as a news magazine-styled program with the religious aspects marginalized in order to lure in the lumpen agnostic types) and there was a segment about some guy who's now rotting in jail on what seems to be trumped up charge, yet the Big Boys ain't gonna let him out any day soon because they got the guns and clubs and law behind 'em and this guy sure didn't. It did get me to thinkin' about how, even in these enlightened days when gays can walk around nekkid in San Fran as long as they sit on napkins lest they leave skidmarks all over the place the law can run roughshod over you if somehow you're in their sights and the finger's just itchin' to PULL THE TRIGGER. Nothing that's really new since Paul Craig Roberts has been writing about this very subject for ages, but still this is something which is nonetheless frightening enough to make me fear authority especially since I'm the kind of guy who makes all sorts of slip ups (mostly unconsciously) and you know that the gendarmes like to pounce upon us neer-do-wells like piranhas on a menstruating cow.

Then I read this article on the TAKI'S MAGAZINE site (yeah yeah yeah, you all hate it because they're racist and homophobic and you're multicultural and sanction sex with newborns as long as they don't have a gag reflex) written by the ever-improving Gavin McInnes which really brought home the entire mindset of INCARCERATION USA to the point where Mr. Fellman's fears do not seem as paranoiac as some may think. As usual, the rights of Amerigans are being trampled on left and right (and by the left and right!), and as you would expect NOBODY (not even the bleeding heart types who always seem to make cases for the rights of the politically protected classes yet act nonchalant when tyranny can be used to their benefit) really does seem to care. It's sure nice to see that McInnes has finally gotten beyond his Scots-Irish superiority complex and Crass reminiscences to write about something that really affects us all, and it's ALWAYS refreshing reading about the cold hard truth regarding the fallacy of freedom and justice and all of those buzzwords that have been heard for ages yet seem to have about as much meaning and depth as a fourth grader's class report on watching animals fornicate at the zoo. As the old saying goes, read it and weep!
Anyhoo, here are the revooz for this week. Nothing special I'll grant ya, and given not only my financial straits (Christmas is a-comin', y'know) but the lack of hotcha music on all fronts you can expect more and more of these rehashes and reappraisals with a few meager new items tossed in for good measure. Yeah, it's obvious once again that we're going through one of them dry spells. a spell which certainly seems longer than any of the dry spells of yore we used to have like the one Greg Shaw said we were all in the middle of back 'round 1972 way! And that one didn't seem so bad next to the dry spells of 1983 or 1993 for that matter, and man those were dry... Heck I'll take '72 over today in a least the AM dial wasn't the embarrassment it was only a few years earlier, and a few years later for that matter! So settle back and let's sweat the musical deprivation we're all forced to go through together, and while we're at it let's thank Bill Shute for his nice li'l care packages which have saved me from many an evening with nothing to do but stare at a page from an old ARCHIE comic for hours on end, eyes totally focused on Betty's...well, forget that and just read on, OK?.

Iggy Pop-THE IDIOT CD (Virgin America)

This was supposed to have been the first entry in a post I had planned which was going to re-evaluate albums that I've heard way back when which didn't quite settle with me (or which I had outright hated) upon first listen, but frankly the thought of having to purchase (or download) and re-evaluate everything from LARK'S TONGUE IN ASPIC to BURL IVES SINGS FOLK SONGS FOR KIDS WHO WERE EXPECTING A BOB DYLAN ALBUM FOR CHRISTMAS is obviously about as pleasing a task as wiping with coarse sandpaper so out the window went that concept! But since I mentioned in an earlier missive that Iggy Pop's debut solo outing THE IDIOT was due for a reappraisal I figured why not do it today rather than pawn off the distasteful stuff for future fodder! Anyway this post is rather skimpy* and the more I pad it out with such inanity as this the better I say!

I first heard THE IDIOT back when it came out during the spring of '77 via a borrowed copy that I couldn't bear to listen to all the way through for fear of wasting a good thirtysome minutes of my life in aural purgatory. Dunno if it was the then-current Iggy hype that did me in or the mechano-drool of the music at large, but this 'un came off like a long droning exercise in cyborg aesthetics recorded by a coke-fogged mind who hadda be led around the studio like a pig with a ring through his snout. A dork who lacked the vision and soul to make an album just brimming with the power needed to create music that transcends the dimensions and heads straight for your mind and soul.  Nothing that I really cared about, although strangely enough I did not totally forsake the Iggy credo even at this stage because after I discovered that he and David Bowie were musical guests on Dinah Shore's morning chitchat show during the summer of '77 I was front and center in a vain attempt to catch this piece of classic tee-vee. Really excited in fact almost as much as when I'd tune into CREATURE FEATURE hoping the editor would forget to clip out a bitta bare titty or some nasty words! Never did get to see Iggy coyly deny he was a punk, but a few years later an audio tape did make its way to my ears and it showed that the guy still had some verge and vigor in him even at this point in time where Iggy's creative juices were certainly beginning to run dry.

Thirty-five years later THE IDIOT sounds a whole lot better than I (and I'm sure Lester Bangs) originally stated, and I don't even think that's because in the meanwhile rock music had degenerated into such a sad state of affairs that it's the 2012 equivalent of Dixieland Jazz being listened to by aging Europeans. Maybe its because we all have become cold and robotic to a certain extent, but the dark drones are particularly attuned to my current mental and nervous state and even Iggy's death gasp vocals sound like something that should be plastered all over the airwaves 'stead of the post-post-Madonna lighter than light pop that's infiltrated the music scene these past few decades.

Bowie doesn't get in the way like you and I thought he would, and even the cold Euro drive brings back all of that talk about how much Ralf and Florian of Kraftwerk idolized the Stooges 'stead of the Pink Floydian classicism everybody associated 'em with. Restrained and foreboding, and considering how Bowie was such a pilferer of underground style and swerve all I can say is that at least Iggy's product took his own credo and went for the new coldness which certainly topped Bowie's comparatively weak efforts manyfold. In fact, THE IDIOT comes way closer in construction and presentation to the seventies claim to the Velvet Underground throne than Bowie did on his oft-praised "Heroes" (and HEROES), and on sheer drive alone.

So it turns out that Lester Bangs was wrong and Phast Phreddie was right after all! Of course what does that make me, a pitted pimplefarm who thought this was the most awful brain-dead mewl to make its way to plastic during those disco doldrum days of the late-seventies? Probably your typical beneath the outkids jerk whose parents woulda been smarter to send to a psychiatric ward than trombone lessons, that's what! Sorry, but we all couldn't have been so tres decadent like you back then!

Considering what an unheralded talent Nesmith is, it's about time that more of his under-the-radar sixties material has been made available to the great unwashed even if most wouldn't recognize him outside of the wool cap and long sideburns he wore every week on his long-gone tee-vee show. A great selection it is with rough takes, early single sides, latterday First National Band rarities and even some Monkees trackage including two versions of "Tapioca Tundra," a song that not only enraged my sister but my mother after I kept spinning it incessantly as a pre-pubescent wizeacre. Admittedly some of the more country rock twangin' stuff did bore me silly, but overall its a fine tribute to a guy who never did get his just dues if only because of his "teenybopper" image which he tried so hard to shake off for nigh on thirty-seven years awlready!
Steve Lacy-DISPOSABILITY CD-R (originally on RCA Italiana)

I know that Bill Shute is a humongous fan of Lacy, but I never cozied up to the guy and his at-times feral soprano saxophone. Oh yeah, I swear by his BYG spinner and all, but I couldn't really cozy up to his work with Cecil Taylor (whereas I felt that Jimmy Lyons was born to be by his pianoside for all eternity) and at least one solo record I've heard was more irritating than engrossing the way say, Anthony Braxton's or Joseph Jarman's are. Putting all that on the back burner let me say that the man did play fine on this '65 trio setting with longtime jazzter Kent Carter and some local (this being recorded in Italy) bloke named Alberto Romano on percussion, not quite free but still avant garde enough where you can hear the echoes of the late-bop sliding in with the new change in direction with ease. It also has a strong Amerigan jazz guy in Europe lilt to it that'll have you spinning your entire expat collection with visions of cheated  musicians cursing all over the place dancing in your head.
Various Artists-FEMALE CHICAGO BLUES,1936-1947 CD-R (originally on Document Records, Austria)

Awww shee, Bill's once again trying to shame me into listening to the blues. Actually he doesn't have to do any shaming considering the previous reviews of various blues items which have appeared in these pages (such as those on the obscurer-than-thou Spivey label) over the past few years, and I don't mind a little bit of this once in awhile if only to chill out my beyond frazzled paranoia. Like most of these exhumations go, this collection of Chicago rarities adds a whole lot more to the legend with everybody from the Yas Yas Girl (Medene Johnson), Billie (Willie Mae) McKenzie, Clara Morris and Trixie Butler doin' some fine moaners that sure sound fine after years of listening to shady white guys with five o'clock shadows milking these sounds for all they were worth. Believe-you-me, these recordings are to today's version of the blues what the Kingsmen are to Lady Caga!
Mozart's People-THIS IS... CD-R burn (originally on Orange Records)

There are so many seventies rarities out there I haven't heard, and frankly I don't know where a serious soul such as I would be able to begin. Fortunately a few obscurities do manage to make it out either via the collector's scene or on the web, which is where this sole album from the short-lived New York-area group Mozart's People has miraculously popped up. An obscurity amongst obscurities, Mozart's People certainly weren't what you'd call visible on the New York scene of the day (with perhaps only one CBGB gig to their name...why else did you think I'd want to hear this in the first place?) nor were they typical of any local sound as personified by the more famous names on the bar circuit. Naw, these local boys played a pop rock that came closer to the likes of the Babys or Nick Gilder than anything roughly associated with the CBGB/Max's axis, and although their AM-inclinations probably turned off quite a few trendoid types I find Mozart's People's brand of commercial slop a whole lot more palatable than the budding corporate rock acts of the day not to mention the disco doldrums that permeated 1977 with a vengeance. Judging from Greg Prevost's article on glam rock in the latest UGLY THINGS, I get the impression that he'd like this 'un to the max. Released on the infamous Orange record label, let me warn you that this in no way sounds like David Peel, GG Allin or any of the other acts that Orange deemed important enough to spend their precious lucre promoting a good three-plus decades back.
Redd Kross-CLUB LINGERIE 1/18/85 cassette tape

Rather'n hold this back for one of my all-cassette tape specials, I thought It'd be nice to close out today's soiree with this live recording I got from none other than Eddie Flowers back during the dark ages of the mid-eighties. And in many ways I am surprised that I even plucked this one out from the cassette box considering how I never thought I would listen to Redd Kross again no matter how long I eked out an existence, and if you want to know just why I harbored this opinion towards the group I could sum it up in just two words...CHUCK EDDY!

"What we have here is a failure to communicate." I believe Strother Martin once said that and if a case can be made for the validity of that particular term it can be found within the, er, "communications" between me and that pinhead rock critic who somehow (and I think "on purpose") would misconstrue just about everything I would tell him regarding my own theories, ideas and beliefs in rock not only to show his own superiority in musical tastes but to irritate me to no end. Dunno how Chuck "behaves" now since I try avoiding anything with his byline like a lesbian avoids a penis, but back then Eddy was the biggest elitist snobbish ego that I have had the displeasure to come in contact with, and believe you me this rock world is just fulla 'em especially after the entire industry had devolved to the puerile gumflapping of a select few chosen ones who rewrite press releases and shill away without any shard of thought provoking or probing insight into...well into a music DEVOID of any thought or insight for that matter!

It was the subject of punk rock that really drove the ol' continental divide between us. Mr. Eddy somehow envisioned punk as a music which had long outlasted its shelf life and was, in many cases, never even that important as a form to ponder in the first place. Chuck's big hotcha crusade at the time was heavy metal, a form which had been showing some signs of life in between the hair and the snarl yet even its major practitioners like Metallica were beginning to sound more like Genesis or Yes than an explosion at a boiler factory. As for me punk was a term that comfortably fit into rock 'n roll as it began and would continue, a crazy burst of energy that began with late-fifties teenage combos cranking out tin-guitar cantatas growing with the overflow of mid-sixties maniacs and late-sixties innovators thus evolving into seventies hard-stompers and... Well, you know the rest, or at least should after reading about three-plus decades of my well-informed and potency-packed writings on the subject.

It seemed OBVIOUS to me that punk as a general musical form was certainly still relevant even in the cold confines of the mid-eighties, but as you might have guessed Eddy vehemently disagreed with my opines and felt it more than worthwhile to castigate me as yet another lumpen ignoramus for spouting views that I'm sure many rock aficionados would find extremely valid. Maybe too many television documentaries made by concerned parents and aging FM programmers finally did him in, but in no way could or would he even acknowledge that my opines as punk as a 1971 CREEM term was still relevant even after all of the high profile punkism that has gone on since, and though I continue to believe that my not-so-personal definition (and it application in the then-modern world) came pretty close if not spot on to punk as a musical reality Eddy wanted to have no part of it and spared no expletives to tell me how full of shit I was.

The then-latest Redd Kross album, NEUROTICA, was a strange bone of contention that might have been the back-breaking straw that clinched my eternal loathing (previously it was a strong disliking) I had for Eddy. I believed them to have been a primo example of where punk rock stood (as a still meaningful musical entity) in the mid/late-seventies and even brought this up, nicely yet, to Eddy but the guy just hadda trot out the line "No metal sluts or punk rock ruts for me" from "Play My Song" as living proof that the group was in no wayshapeform punk rock!!! Nice set of reasoning tools you got there, Chuck, which I guess means they're not metal sluts either, eh?

But that was so long ago and I frankly have not been listening to Redd Kross since those days undoubtedly because of this episode in my sorry life. And the fact that NEUROTICA just wasn't that boffo an album. That's probably why the Eddy memories just flowed forth while listening to this cassette, and after a good quarter-century later it's easy to see who was right all along and it sure ain't that bigtime rockscribe who unfortunately continues to pollute the web with his puerile pap lo these many years later!

If anything Redd Kross exude the punk rock credo, at least on this mid-eighties live tape which not only echoes the then-current punk rock stature at its garageoid best, but hearkens back to p-rock in its previous guises with a little bitta metal thrown in. Some six-oh stylings pop up as do later-on SoCal sunshine rock, while the overt approach comes closer to a BACK DOOR MAN sense of aesthetics than it would fact I could've seen a big spread on 'em in even DENIM DELINQUENT had that sainted mag lasted another decade or so! (It'd be too much to envision what a mid-eighties FLASH would have done!) At parts serious, at others high-larious (the piss-take on "Dazed and Confused" had me hoping for an extended bowed guitar solo!), and throughout it all who but the most humorless pretender to the throne of eternal put on "cool" (and considering what "cool" means today, flaming hot is what I'm after!) would deny that Redd Kross weren't in fact punk rock at its mid-eighties zenith, an amalgamation of the best moments of the previous thirty years of punkdom rolled into a neat teenage package that wanted oh so hard to be the Next Big Thing but those scuzzy grunge guys from Seattle beat 'em to it.

Who knows what the McDonald brothers from Redd Kross are up to these days. Somehow I still see 'em plugging away trying to keep the group alive in one form or another playing to an ever-fading fan base but loving it all the while. Then again, who knows what Chuck Eddy is up to (oh yeah I know he has his fans and throngs who think he's the bestest thing to have happened to CREEM since at least their early-eighties nadir, though any change in the mag since those dog-tired days would have looked like an improvement). And yeah, who bothers to know what I'm up to either but then again I've quit trying to suss you readers out long ago and am doin' this for my own happiness and pleasure...if you're in on the trip fine but otherwise I quit caring around the same time I saw my rock hopes and dreams get washed away thanks to the tide of ineffectuals the likes of the one called Chuck. Can't really stir myself up anymore, especially after the guy and his minions helped bury rock and made the whole thing about as vibrant as the strains of Lawrence Welk, a fellow who actually comes off exciting next to the music that Eddy and way too many others were championing throughout the eighties and nineties to the point where...why bother to listen. Why bother to write about it or care for that matter. And ultimately, why bother to live???

Screw those pseudointellectual nebbishes anyway. Maybe if I can divorce the thought of Redd Kross and Chuck Eddy totally I'll be able to dig into the rest of their records rotting away downstairs without those cringe-y pangs overtaking my nervous system. Now that would be a fine trip considering all of the potentially powerful music that would be in store. However, now if I can only divorce the thought of Redd Kross and FLIPSIDE...
*or at least it was until I began adding my own personal thoughts and opines regarding Twinkies and unjust incarcerations making the thing grow like the Dogpatch Ham!

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