Saturday, November 01, 2014

As some of you wide awake readers might have guessed by now, obsessions have ruled a major portion of my sad 'n sorry life. When I was a kid I was all agog over dinosaurs 'n Matchbox cars (soon to spread out to all of the major manufacturers from Lonestar to Corgi) to comic strips and then books, and eventually rock and related music even if it only meant listening to some of the AM dial and shuffling through department store record bins never even dreaming that I'd ever own any of the wares that were being pushed on grade stool kids during those more action-packed days. Surprisingly enough a whole lotta these youthful free time wasters never did exit my system like so much caga, for I must admit that even in my advanced age I continue to enjoy a whole lotta the same kultural kravings that helped make me a straight "C" student during my formative years.

And I am proud to say that comics of the strip and book variety continue to be as important to me as they were back when I was first buying issues of WHERE CREATURES ROAM hot off the press liking the pre-FANTASTIC FOUR Jack Kirby art in 'em even more'n I did the stuff he was doing in MISTER MIRACLE not to mention JIMMY OLSEN. By the time comics began morphing into something more'n just teenage fun 'n jamz I knew enough to bail out and sell the entire collection off, but who could deny that there certainly were more'n a few moments in my life when I had just as much of a passion for an early Steve Ditko-drawn SPIDER-MAN saga that I later would for some heretofore unknown early-seventies Velvet Underground-emulation! 'n true, I eventually "grew outta it" and certain medications can help the compulsive behavior trends but dagnabbit if I still can appreciate digging into the slew of comics I've snatched up o'er the past quarter century enjoying 'em all as much as I did back when I was in eighth grade 'n awaited the weekend just so I could devote more hours to my favorite pastime. And it sure wasn't pubic hair weaving I'll tell you that (mainly because at that time I didn't have any!).

Now that even the comic reprint biz seems to be going down the tubes it's sure nice getting some of those four colored 'n hard covered DC and Marvel collections at depression-era prices! Well, not exactly that cheap but I sure do enjoy reading alla those long-loathed 'n forgotten stories that I coulda only dreamed
about reading back when I was swallowing alla them stories my dad usedta tell me about those Golden Age heroes he really went nuts over. True some of those sagas just ain't as juicy as I thought they would be (hadda struggle through some of them early DC stories because quite a few of them heroes were just too goody two shoes for even my galvanized stomach to handle, even to the point where I felt like rooting for the Jap-a-Nazis!) but when a certain series clicks in the right suburban slob way settling back with one of these books is perhaps thee best way to spend an afternoon next to being marooned in yer room with a stack of old CREEM and GULCHER magazines to keep you occupied.

My current comic book obsession lies within the realm of the aptly-named Quality Comics line, and before being gobbled up by the DC monolith in the mid-fifties this company certainly churned out more'n a few good heroes who unfortunately ain't getting the reprint treatment like ya know they oughta. I guess with the lagging interest in these early good guys there just won't be any of Quality's own SPIRIT ripoffs liks MOUTHPIECE, 711 or MIDNIGHT stories for me to peruse in my advanced age, but at least the Quality biggies have gotten somewhat of a red carpet treatment which certainly does this guy's free time much good. But then again, if the entire run of both THE SPIRIT and PLASTIC MAN were to be ignored by the comic publishers at hand all I could say is just how STOOPID can yez guys be treating your past as if it were something to be loathed (like today's simp-ified PC-metastasized characters represent a zenith in ranch house fun 'n jamz) while you drool all over some latterday SPIDER-MAN saga as the height of komik kulture???

Although the reams of SPIRIT imitators that Quality cranked out (hey, they knew a good trend when they saw it!) aren't going to get reprinted other'n in some anthology or on-line blog at least the original masked guy in a suit has been given his just dues. And yeah, the LAST thing I want to read in MY comic books are "comics that virtually sang and danced, laughed and cried. and that could fly..." (didn't know Anna Quindlen wrote dust jacket come ons for DC), I can still appreciate these stories even if they aren't the ones particularly drawn by cartoonist graphic novelist Will Eisner. Even though they all seem somewhat attuned to the more "sophisticated" comics dabbler no matter who's doing the art, a spiritual tardo such as myself can like 'em just as much as some enlightened hippie fanboy, and that's even without sacrificing any of my own mid-Amerigan sense of values and morality (remember that word?) like one has to do when reading just about anything passing itself off as post-postmodern entertainment these sorry days.

A quickie assessment: earliest stories are the best (I hate to say this, but there seems to be a sense of doom to the series even when Eisner dragged in Wally Wood to add some of his EC space style to a space epic) while later on sidekick Sammy just doesn't cut it the same way the oft-ridiculed Ebony White had (though I thought it nice when Ebony made a few guest appearances during the final days). The brief run of SPIRIT dailies were rather enticing almost in a DICK TRACY sorta way while the various sixties/seventies revivals came off just like that (the special one regarding the mid-sixties Lindsey/Buckley NYC mayoral race was mildly entertaining, even showing a now-grown Ebony who looked more like a young Al Roker!). And most surprising of all, the early-seventies "underground" version courtesy Kitchen Sink was not pornographic at all...always thought it woulda been a huge t&a bash because of the "Adults Only" come on but ironically it was mostly palatable material with a slight "hip" edge, but you can let the kids read it w/o worrying about their moral caliber being reduced to that of yours.

Like with THE SPIRIT, too much has awlready been spurted regarding PLASTIC MAN and although it took some time for Plas creator Jack Cole to be considered as much of a craftsman, storyteller and comic legend as Eisner why did DC have to pull the plug on THE PLASTIC MAN ARCHIVES after only eight volumes??? Just when everything is getting really hot the folk at National have to drop the series, and I really don't know who to blame, the company or the lazy comic ass readers who are probably more content with their STEROID MAN and BODY-MOLDED POLYETHYLENE BABE titles than the hot 'n cookin' stuff.. But at least they were able to crank eight of these out and like, every word 'n panel of 'em is what ya'd call "indispensable". Violent, funny, sarcastic, downright snat and with stories like these its no wonder that even Harvey Kurtzman called these stories an inspiration for the old MAD comic book. And hey, did the Kinks ever write a song about you (unless you wanna count "Ape Man")???

When you have books like these handy who needs things like human companionship and other outdated modes of self-serving niceties anyway? Gimme a cold and rainy autumn day and some SPIRIT and PLASTIC MAN along with some Savage Rose on the bedside boom box and I'll be happier'n a math teacher in a room full abacuses. Well, it's a whole lot better'n being so altruistic that you actually believe that going through the motions of voting reallty changes things, and Ayn Rand was right at least some of the time dontcha think (just ask Ditko)???
Another week, another half-there ho-hummer of a post. As you will see, I hadda rely on a coupla old collection finds to pad this 'un out to a respectable length, and then again I don't think that the overall quality of this 'un (along with those I've popped out these past few months) are anywhere near the peak perfection that would have been found even a good year back. But then again all I gotta say is "so %$#@*& what", because once ya get down to it I'm not writing this blog for you, but for ME.

Al Caiola-TUFF GUITAR CD-r burn (originally on United Artists)

Lez jus' say I've heard tuffer. The MAGNIFICENT SEVEN stringster comes off even  gloppier on these covers of various mid-sixties faves than he had before, and when you get down to it you kinda wonder exactly who was this album recorded for anyway? It's too wild for your Aunt Flabby, and even your pop who's man enough for alla them tee-vee westerns will think this is more hippie jiz for the teenage peace 'n love crowd. In other words, a perfect one for the perennial 1965 pimplefarm nerdo high school freshman with the pocket protector, and I do mean you!
 Amon Duul II-LEMMINGMANIA CD (Captain Trip, Japan)

Cee-Dee reissue of one of those Euro-only single side collections that you used to see cluttering up the import bins back in 1975. Only I must admit that I don't recall having seen LEMMINGMANIA in any bins I've been able to peruse at least until my 1977 venture into the record shops of Southern California and even then I didn't buy the thing. Good faves from the group's early days intermingled with a few non-LP b-sides that later on ended up as "bonus tracks" on a number of reissues, and even if you have the originals this makes for a good sampler for those times in your life when German Expressionism sure means a whole lot more to you than the gunk that came out in its wake ever did!
Curtis Eller's American Circus-1890 CD (

Back when I used to watch the CBGB cybercasts with a voracious appetite trying to discover new and exciting groups attuned to my own strange sense of rockist elegance, I must say that I really enjoyed the sounds being coaxed forth from my speakers that were being made by quite a variety of acts nobody seemed to have heard about before and nobody would undoubtedly hear from since. And nowhere was this phenom more present than via CBGB's "sister" stage next door at CB's 313 Gallery. Acts like Lucky, Third Stone Collective, Kleiner's Kalabah Syringe and many more played there more often 'n not and what I had heard from these acts was rather encouraging what with their definitely stripped down style and approach that in many ways evoked the CBGB of 1974-1975 more than many of the current acts that were playing there could ever hope to.

Unfortunately most of these outfits never did record or if they did their releases got lost in a wash of amerindie alternative schmooze, but the ones who did sure put out some rather neet-oh recordings that still sound exciting and against-the-grain as much today as they did when I first got to hear 'em. And Curtis Eller's American Circus is no exception. Eller's a classic singer/songwriter (even if you wanna dig up the oft-loathed Joni Mitchell def. of the term) whose modus opporandi comes off just as much Holy Modal Rounders as it does the eighties breed of "anti-folk" practitioners who were taking up mucho alternative rock press space back inna late-eighties. Quite rustic in fact, yet with a whole lotta that urban broken tooth yodel that somehow reminds me of some novel about a displaced hillbilly fighting his way through a depression-era Bowery comin' up against local street toughs and five o'clock shadowed gangsters alike. Would make a good movie if it hasn't been done awlready.

If you like acoustic banjo pluck with some accordion tossed in you'll probably go for this in a big way. And even you anti-rootster types might find it a tad enjoyable although I will admit it does get kinda hard washing alla that Boone's Farm Apple Wine hippie commune imagery usually associated with latterday acoustic folk jamz outta your system.
Fats and the Chessmen-LET'S DO THE TWIST CD-r burn (originally on Somerset Records)

Once again we hit the cheapo side of hi-fi frolicking with this '63 twist cash in available at all respectable supermarkets nationwide. A beautiful rip off it is too not only with the eye-catching yet suspicious candy-stripe cover but with the music which boasts a rather good Chubby Checker impersonator and a hot enough backing band. And hey, once you get alla those cash-in ideas outta your sophisticado mind you might just like this crank out just a tad bit. Of course it ain't anything I would call "earth shattering" and listening to a half-hour of "twist" themed music just doesn't evoke the better memories of the early-sixties the way a good LEAVE IT TO BEAVER rerun does, but for a crankout it ain't that bad and if you find a copy at the local St. Vincent's maybe it would be worth snatching up along with alla those Hello Kitty tossoffs your wannabe daughter of a son keeps begging you to buy.
Various Artists-STRAWBERRY BOHEMIAN SAKI MADNESS CD-r burn (via. Bill Shute)

Nice-o sampler courtesy Mr. You-Know-Who, with TWO Pigmeat Markham sides (LAUGH IN lost a real talent when they let him go!), a rare Hasil Adkins track, some low-fi/budget soul ravers and some early garage finds from the likes of Jimmy McConville and the Dawnells (who do one of the more anemic versions of "Little Egypt" I've heard but wha' th' hey!). My personal fave of all these tippy toppers just HAS to be the infamous Jim Backus single side entitled "Delicious", a boff bit of fifties sophisto humor gone haywire and although it ain't as kneeslapping as "The Dirty Old Man" I still crack up listening to the future Thurston Howell III and his galpal laughing it up and making all those funny wisecracks you'll never get outta any of them dyke comics ya see all over the place in a millyun years! Somebody shoulda chained Robin Williams to a chair and made him listen to this over and over until he realized what real comedy is!

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