Wednesday, March 27, 2013

BOOK REVIEW! GULCHER, POST ROCK CULTURAL PLURALISM IN AMERICA (1649-1993) by Richard Meltzer (Citadel 1972-1990)

Whenever the shameless realities of life overcome my soul, there is only one place for me to go and that is to my bookshelf. And on that bookshelf is a volume that soothes my inner turmoil and reaffirms my place on this planet in a way which no other book can. Yes, in these troubled times when it seems as if there is no hope or reason to exist, there is but one book for us all to turn to for that reaffirmation, that clear bolt from beyond which beckons to us that we are not alone and there is a force greater than us with a master plan for each and every true believer and follower who dares to take The Word and spread the Good News for all creation.

It's no surprise that GULCHER has been thee top bedside reader for me these past few evenings, what with the plethora of inspiration and total energy compacted into mere words that author Richard (then "R.") Meltzer poured into every page of pure atomic might. A total expression of punk rock high energy ideals, ideas and perhaps even a posit or two written at a time when punkitude was mostly in the realm of a handfulla bi-coastal rock pundits still in shock that the Seeds were no more and that Melanie Safka was still among the living. A book that, when read and savored to peak perfection, says more about you (and me) as suburban slob workaday pimplefarm blobs and the world we live in than any ROLLING STONE screed would dare. Articulate, and accurate enough to the point where I can put a lock on my door but I can't put one on my MIND because Meltzer somehow has already gotten there and how he did it I'll never know!

GULCHER is about CULTURE or even KULTUR, but not the same culture you get going to see the symphony orchestra or reading Shakespeare. More like culture in everyday matters that affect you. Stuff like television (back when it was geared towards the t-shirt with dribblestains crowd and not some unworldly metrosex type), food, record covers, radio (ditto re. TV), and stuff (and snuff!) that never mattered to me and probably never will like hardcore drugs, sex and sports but why be picky. There's even a chapter on feminine hygiene for you lady readers out there. In other words, this is as perfect a collection for the BLOG TO COMM trendsetting type as THE PLAYBOY PHILOSOPHY was to sixties baldoid plumps who wanted to "get some" but were too ugly to or perhaps the gals around were ugly as well and who wants to get intimate with an ugly even if you are one yourself?

Of course this is Meltzer in full force, writing in that gonzoidl way which even made all of those budget bin acts he was writing about in THE AESTHETICS OF ROCK (and The Innocence) sound like the most driving underground experience one could imagine. It really could be said that Meltzer writes the same way his (former?) bandmates Smegma play, cutting a total swath through sonic (or in this case printed) matter while clinging to the traditional heart of it all, sometimes at the very same second.

The chapters in GULCHER (with tasty come-on headings such as "2700 Music Lovers Are Dumb Bunnies," "Those Pre-Code Tits" and "Amusement Parkinson's") do read like a variety of "Pumice" and related columns that Meltzer had done throughout the seventies for a nice variety of magazines ranging from CREEM and FUSION to RAUNCHY ROCK, and each of 'em are as powerful and as timely (to you as a suburban slob post [I hope] pimplefarm) here in the jaded teens as they were forty years back. And if you still chortle over the vast variety of Meltzer scribbling atrocities unleashed during the GOLDEN AGE OF ROCK WRITING (not "criticism") like I tend to, such as the one about the three-part GILLIGAN'S ISLAND where Mr. Howell lectures the castaways on the make-up of the lung which continues to stick in my mind like a glob of peanut butter sandwich in the windpipe, then you will most definitely appreciate the solid ins/outs and whythehells that make GULCHER such an important rock 'n roll book. Almost as important as the various CREEM and Richard Robinson histories of rock paperbacks that also tended to take music that we always thought was mundane and give it at least a little energetic backdrop that made us listen to a whole number of bands differently, even though we still thought they were mostly gunk.

Personal fave in this volume just HASTA be "TV's Tussle For Life" (page 61), where Meltzer lists a whopping 32 ideas for a television series starring none other than ex-boxer Rocky Graziano who was then getting into the pizza pie business! Meltzer even offers some mighty fine suggestions too which would top just about anything that prevailing on the tube these sorry times from a quiz show to Rocky as a convict and ex-barber who tries a new and different career each week! "Bebop Confidential" (page 81) is also a stunner if only for chapter closer "THIS MONTH'S JASS QUIZ: Which member of the Pete Jolly Sextet has a daughter who is a retard?" You may have your favorites as well, and if so go get your own blog, OK?

And yeah there are some fair-weather BLOG TO COMM readers who would most undoubtedly be "offended" in the most Victorian/Politically Pious way over some of the opines spewed forth, but then again they were the same kinda people registered shock at my "Funny Captions For Robert Mapplethorpe Photos" bit in a later issue of my crudzine because it ran against their hotsy totsy upper-echelon values so snub 'em while you still can!

Definitely worth (re)reading once a year. You need to get your head re-aligned with the planets, y'know.


Anonymous said...

Do you own a copy of the original edition?
As a recent Meltzer convert I bought this edition just after it was published and found the whole thing rather underwhelming.
Years later I stumbled across a mint copy of the original Straight Arrow edition and bought it just for the hell of it and discovered that the presentation of the pieces was very different.
In the 1991 edition each piece is presented as a separate chapter, but in the original edition each piece runs straight on from its predecessor on the same page. This gives the book a *totally* different feel to the reprint, because it makes it come across as far more free-wheeling, discursive and engaging, whereas presenting each piece as a stand-alone chapter in the 1991 edition gives them a more portentous air which doesn't really do them any favours.
On the other hand, the 1991 edition *does* include an additional piece by Lester Bangs, so I guess it's swings/roundabouts.

Robert Cook said...

Unless you were being ironic, Melanie Safka, btw, is still among the living.

John said...

I am ready to get "re-aligned." I have my original Straight Arrow edition somewhere at home.