Wednesday, February 20, 2013

BOOK REVIEW! WIRED UP!, GLAM, PROTO PUNK, AND BUBBLEGUM EUROPEAN PICTURE SLEEVES 1970-1976 by Jeremy Thompson and Mary Blount (Wired Up Media, 2012)

Sheesh, I usually don't dish out the megabux for books such as these, but WIRED UP looked soooooo enticing with its promise of a bevy of rare single sleeve snaps and besides, the latest editions of DICK TRACY and NANCY reprints are months away and I'm sure you do understand.

If you're looking for another "final frontier" of rock & roll to immerse yourself in, the early/mid-seventies glam/proto-punk scene that was transpiring in England and on the Continent is one that I'm sure you'll want to (re)-discover.  Naturally I ain't talking about the already well-known commodities who've been thrilling us for ages, I'm talking about those groups and records that had people like Charles Shaar Murray tossing the ol' "punk rock" tag about a good four years before the Sex Pistols emerged on the British Weekly Music Paper horizon. Y'know, the days when it seemed as if just about every hotcha and worthy rock group out there was a closely guarded secret, and this was especially true among the throngs of kids like myself who really coulda used acts like 'em and many more back when we were ten! No "Kumbaya" touchy-feely Nazi enforcement here...we're talking downright decadence for overipe kids who just graduated from SPACE ANGEL 'n wanna try out somethin' a li'l different!

Even a brief stroll through Robin Wills' highly recommended PUREPOP blog (see linkup on left) will show you just how much punk rock there was happening long before Mr. and Mrs. Front Porch found out about it on the ABC Evening News, and although we all knew about Iggy here and the Flamin' Groovies there and various points in between it seems as if there were plenty of other groups with names like Stud Leather and Grudge of "When Christine Comes Around"/"I'm Gonna Smash Your Face In" fame that were so under-the-radar that they slipped by just about anybody who couldn't afford an overseas subscription to the NME, and even those who could as well!

Naturally all of the groups who get their pic sleeves plastered all over this book aren't punk, but there is a nice cheap attitude behind WIRED UP! that suggests the same bargain basement attitude that clung onto a lot of the punk produce that was coming out in the late-seventies. And since the connections and correlations between the early-seventies p-rock pathfinders and late-seventies clingers has been trotted out over and over I shall refrain from any more speculating, but I will say that thumbing through this book is perhaps the next best thing to having had a brother stationed overseas who was sending you alla these records with an alarming regularity! Too bad you were too stupid to know what you were getting so you clipped all the sleeves to use for an art class project!

Some pretty neato examples of European artistic abilities abound, from surreal T. Rex sleeves (the Italian issue of "Jeepster" featuring a guy with tits for cheeks!) to New York Dolls items that are so obscure that I've never seen before and probably won't ever see again. A few strange inclusions do pop up (like, what's so special about an Osmonds "Crazy Horses" or Fanny pic sleeve if it's taken from the actual album?) but we do get to see some interesting items such as the French version of the Sparks' "This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both Of Us" single which shows big brother Ron Mael with a decidedly non-Charlie Chaplinesque mustache! Maybe this snap was used because France was hit so hard by the Nazis and we all know just how much social significance mustaches can have!

Now don't get me wrong, WIRED UP! ain't filled with nothing but big names...there are literally hundreds of obscuros floating about here whose wares have been released with covers that I'm pretty sure you'll all want to cast eyes upon*. Some legendary if obscure proto-punk sleeves do show up (such as the one for the fantastico Ning single not forgetting a couple by the promising if forgotten Streak), though I must admit that the vast majority of never weres who ended up in the tome looked interesting enough that I wouldn't mind givin' 'em a listen even if they might not aspire to my particular/peculiar sonic tastes. I mean, I sure do get the feeling that a platter like "Trucking Song" by Skin might not exactly be a top ten spinner here at BLOG TO COMM central, but deep down inside I get these impulsive messages from some uncharted area in my brain sayin' that the single's gonna be a much better ride'n all of those late-eighties promo packets I used to get from all of those aspiring indie labels that turned me off to indie rock with a passion combined!

So have a whole load of fun with this book whether it be marveling at the commercial and cheesy yet pleasing artwork that adorns the covers of groups with names like Tiger, Zips and Gang, or by staring at Dana Gillespie's boobs on the "Andy Warhol" single for that matter. And when you're done with all that you'd be wise to read the text including Robin "Barracudas" Wills' preface not to mention some previously released interviews with the likes of Chris Townson (John's Children, Jook) and Jesse Hector of the Hammersmith Gorillas among many more! And if you're still on the edge wondering whether or not to dish out the filthy dinero for this book (which, at least when I last looked, was still available via Forced Exposure) just tell you self that you can do worse with regards to what you've purchased over the years, and more often than not you have!

*Of course more'n a few of the acts pictured on these sleeves look about as corny as UP WITH PEOPLE with a few LAWRENCE WELK SHOW audiences tossed in, and if you wanna give these geeks a listen to you must really be hard up!

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