Sunday, November 20, 2016

It's kinda hard for me to start this week's post off with such bad news, but since we last "spoke" two big names in the rock 'n roll fanzine (and dare I say "rock journalism"???---NAW!!!) world have passed.

As I assume you've probably heard by now, noted rock 'n roll fan/writer/singer and general entrepreneur Billy Miller has died after a long battle with cancer this past Sunday. And naturally, anyone who has been in on the BTC game these past few decades should know just how much of a debt the entire rock 'n roll fandom world owes to Mr. Miller, he not only having been the frontman for the Zantees and later on the A-Bones (two bona-feed fifties-oriented monsters of the realm) but one of the two big brains (the other being longtime wife and drummer Miriam Linna) behind the massive Norton Records empire. And hey, if you aren't aware of the plain fact that Billy and Miriam were the ones who have given us not only the boffo KICKS fanzine not forgetting a whole line of records that have, unlike some of the competition, held up rather well over these past few decades then may I direct you to a blog that might be more suiting to your tastes like perhaps maybe RESEARCH INTO THE DIMENSIONS AND CAPACITY OF THE ADOLESCENT MALE IBEX COLON???

First the Zantees and A-Bones. Sheesh, what can you say about either group that hasn't already been said in a variety of hotcha fanzines these past thirtysome if even longer years. Well, for one thing the Zantees were one pretty hefty rockabilly band that, compared with the competition on the much-heralded New York Rock Scene of the late-seventies and eighties (some of which was good mind you but those were few and far between) delivered on the authentic real deal sounds  'stead of some glitzed up modernized version of that seemed to fizzle out once seventies-era nostalgia and rose colored hindsight ruined those memories for more'n a few of us. Now I am one guy who's gotta say that a good hunk of what was goin' down in En Why See in the seventies was pretty much conduit to my own listening waves, but the Zantees (and of course later on the A-Bones) were one act that really stood out amid the various art projects and more-decadent-than-thou attitudes that might have seemed interesting in 1978, but sure came off pretentious and self-conscious a good decade or so later. And for their staying power boy did they do a body good!

Secondly KICKS. I know that more'n a few people out there thought the LAST thing anyone needed in the late-seventies was another fanzine, but if it hadda be another fanzine at least KICKS was one that stood out even more'n the batch of reads that were pouring their way into quite a few mailboxes of the day.With an attitude that stood out against the prevailing underground trends (undoubtedly to their own detriment and more'n a few readers just happ'd to tell me off the record), those early (1979) issues really must have alienated quite a few under-the-counterculture types what with Miller's badmouthing of just about everything that came out from the late-sixties onward other'n the Dictators and precious few others. But I'm sure more'n a few people out there eventually got it through their noggins that KICKS actually was a "punk rock" fanzine, only they were talking punk in a rather broad 1972 fanzine/CREEM magazine sense of the term before people who shouldn't have been left around a turntable unguarded got hold of the language and mangled it to their advantage. Well, maybe not as broad as when certain CREEM-screeders would refer to groups like Ashton Gardner and Dyke as punks, but close enough for comfort.

By the eighties there might have been a plethora of fanzines vying for your attention and precious lucre, but only a few really delivered on the rock 'n roll goods! KICKS was one of the better of these what with those awe-inspiring cover stories on everyone from the Trashmen to Bobby Fuller and other acts that really seemed to fit into my post-new-unto-gnu wave (copyright 1983 Bill Shute) listening patterns. Ya gotta admit that this was at a time when I hadda keep searching more and more for the same throb thrills I got listening to some Flamin' Groovies record in 1978 but by this time had just seemed to vanish! Those issues of KICKS really did something to me, other'n help empty out my billfold buying up a whole slew of records I probably would have otherwise never knew existed.

And of course there's the Norton empire to contend with. Miller put so much effort into building this record company cum book imprint up that you kinda wonder why he hasn't received some big award from the industry complete with his pic splattered all over an issue of BILLBOARD. Maybe he woulda if he hadn't been such a stick-to-himself kinda guy who wasn't "offending" the special snowflakes of his day with those wild and dare-I-say "offensive" articles of his but otherwise sheesh...those Norton paperbacks on Bobby Fuller (and by the likes of Sun Ra and Kim Fowley) were nothing but pure energy put into wordage, and you tell me what other label out there would have a roster as bright and shiny as Norton's what with the likes of Hasil Adkins (who owed a huge hunkerin' debt to Miller and wife Miriam Linna for the re-boot of his career) to Jack Starr and Link Wray and Rudy Grayzell and the Dictators and Ramones and Figures of Light and other acts that come to think of it were punk rock in its purest distillation but don't tell Robert Christgau that.

Should also mention Billy Miller the person behind the image. Boy was he a nice guy which is a change from the usual runna the mill bigshots inna music 'n fandom world (myself included, though I would say that I am about as far from being a "bigshot" as one could get) who might get a little too big for their britches and uppity for anyone's tastes. Not Billy. Sure he thought my musical faves were way outta whack what with me digging Von Lmo (a def. Miller no-no!) 'n wasn't afraid to tell me in a nice if confused as to my tastes sorta way, but it wasn't like he was out gunnin' for my hide like I'm sure a whole load of others out there in fandom land woulda had I made some major poor taste in music faux pas. In all of my contacts with Mr. Miller (which I must admit were few and far between) the guy was nice 'n cordial just like he was to Tim Stegall (who actually has the honor of having contributed to KICKS!) when a braver than I would ever be Tim mentioned to Miller that his favorite rock 'n roll band of all time was the Sex Pistols! But did Billy do his Sonny Liston impression and whomp Tim one? Naw, all he did was say well, many people nowadays say their favorite group is Marillion so wha' th' 'eh! Now that's what I call class!

Let's face it...Billy Miller has done more rock 'n roll living in one second that most of us (including me!) have done in our entire lives, and if it weren't for him what would you be doing right now, other'n reading this pithy excuse for a tribute that is???
Also sorry to inform you that BACK DOOR MAN's own Don Waller has passed on (I believe) this past Thursday. Yet another rock 'n roll crusader par excellence, Waller was, along with Phast Phreddie Patterson, the Punk, the Underwoods, the Fayes etc. one of the guys who made BACK DOOR MAN one of the premier fanzines of the mid-seventies. True, before the grand entry of BACK DOOR MAN, TEENAGE WASTELAND GAZETTE, FLASH, NIX ON PIX, CRETINOUS CONTENTIONS and DENIM DELINQUENT, but after came TEENAGE NEWS, RECORD RAVES, YOUNG FAST AND SCIENTIFIC, CAN'T BUY A THRILL and other mad ravers that really lit up the decade not only with the groups that were covered in their pages, but the gonzoid way they were covered! And as you might surmise, each and every one of these mags owed a big debt to BACK DOOR MAN in one bad taste way or another!

And when it came to "bad taste" it was like these guys were pretty much looking for a fight which I gotta say is cool by me! Remember the article on the Dictators where Handsome Dick and company seemed to go out of their way to be racially/socially offensive? Nothing that would earn them free memberships to the George Lincoln Rockwell fan club mind you, but tasteless enough that I'm sure that there were more'n a few whiny bitch types who were all discombobulated over things like Ross the Boss mentioning one of his hobbies as "chasing Negroes out of my neighborhood"! Back then things like this were more the norm what with the likes of NATIONAL LAMPOON selling millions and things like PUNK magazine getting written up in all sorts of chic magazines without people gagging up phlegm over that mag's over-the-top anti "we are all one people" attitude! Not like in more recent times when I've been raked over many a coal doing pretty much the same thing, so you can bet that I sure find these meta-Bunkerisms rawther pleasant next to the white/straight scolding that passes for comedy and commentary you just can't escape anymore!

And hey, wasn't BACK DOOR MAN just the kinda 'zine you wished their were more of even when you acted all high-falutin' offended after reading some offhand comment from the likes of Waller? After all, these guys were covering the dying remnants of the great sixties past while plugging away at the upstart underground and heavy metal ("Do not be mellow, be metal!") future that I don't think anyone coulda predicted at the time. They put Iggy on the cover of their first (Feb. 1975) issue back when such an act might have been considered commercial suicide and wrote about Patti Smith on the strength of her "Piss Factory" single as well as a surprise concert in Los Angeles long before the gal signed with Arista Records. And when it came to the new spate of self-produced singles that were beginning to come out with an alarming regularity it was BACK DOOR MAN (and sometimes Waller) who was the first to tell you about 'em.

Of course there were the Imperial Dogs as well, Waller's high energy band that helped push the punk aesthetic at a time when I'm sure a huge amount of the youth populace was too blitzed to care one way or the other. These guys really must have stuck out like a sore thumb (or sore something else considering the time Waller's pants once split at the crotch during an appearance) but the Dogs really did set a trend in the El Lay area that continued on for quite some time what with their sado-faena image and toying around with forbidden festoonery. Thankfully a number of records and a DVD survive to show us just how exciting these guys were live and who knows, maybe if they did get signed the Imperial Dogs woulda given us that 1979 bargain bin classic that woulda cost us the $1.99 most if not ALL of us could have afforded on our depression-era wages!

And man, was Waller a rock scribe of the highest order! I consider a whole slew of articles he did for BACK DOOR MAN to be of the best music-related scribbling to appear anywhere including the mainstream rock mags. Up there with Bangs, Meltzer, Saunders, Farren, Kent, Murray and need I go on??? Certainly tops anything I've seen on the web o'er the past few years considering I haven't picked up what passes for a rock mag in ages. I still love his infamous takedown of the El Lay punk scene in "Looking for a Hook" not to mention his Phil Ochs obituary which says more about the actions of the nuevo left beautiful people type than any of us could imagine. Such good writings make me wish I had read more of his pieces for not only THE NEW YORK ROCKER and mid-eighties fehsville-era CREEM but his book on Motown among other long-forgotten subject matters. Not that I actually have the money to pursue all of this...
And so you have it, two greats of our time plucked from our midst long before we woulda thought any of 'em woulda left the carbon cycle. A big too bad, even though as things stand here in 2016 the general doofuses who make up the population could care less which is something that really does have me fuming! Of course the real question remains, with bad things happening in threes who is the next person in line to leave the premises once and for all? I really don't know who the Grim Reaper has in store to visit next, but one thing for certain is that I hope it ain't gonna be none other'n the one 'n only me! After all I do have something to live for, even if it is some heretofore unknown garage band rehearsal tape, a fanzine that has avoided my collection or perhaps even an early metallic wonder that's bound to be uncovered more sooner than later! And believe-you-moi, I'n gonna hold on to sweet life as long as I can in order to hear, read and see it ALL so when it comes to life support time don't pull the plug just yet...
Pardon the brevity of that previous paragraph. I just thought I hadda end it all on a happier note the same way that ultra-sad episode of THE HONEYMOONERS where Ralph and Alice had to return their adopted daughter Ralphina to her real mother finished off on an awkward gag despite its rather depressing outcome if only to keep the audience from crying their eyes out. (Besides, if you wanna stretch the three-dom theory a bit you could include Mose Allison, a pretty hotcha jazz/blues guy who I have only begun to appreciate in later years. Interesting enough I remember seeing him on PBS back in the late-seventies and I thought he was Larry Tate! As for Leonard Cohen well...) Anyway, now that we got the well-deserved tributes to two men who are greater than any of are or will ever be outta the way, here are but a few of the things gracing my waxed-up ear canals this past week.

Various Artists-TOUGHER THAN STAINS CD-r burn (originally on London Fog Records)

Yeah you I and the rest of the fanablas into this sorta rot really weren't that thrilled by a whole number of garage band compilations (and there were quite a bit!) that were comin' out back inna nineties. Some of 'em like a few Texas-oriented platters were total winners true, but many had a load of draggy b-sides and various geek-oriented tracks that just didn't cut the old moostrick. But when a good one did make its way onto a Disques Du Monde list boy-oh-boy! TOUGHER THAN STAINS is but one of these rare finds...sure a few tracks might not quite grab you by the psyche but most of these spinners are top-notch garage band wowzers that have more in common with the Sonics, Kinks and Raiders than they do the Doodletown Pipers. Hear alla the wannabe Jaggers you can imagine playing Voxed-out cantatas with patented "Gloria" riffage mutated the way only a seventeen-year-old Winky's employee could! Some familiar names (the Spats, Sounds Unlimited???) with a whole batch of heretofore unknown acts that just might have consisted of some guy you yelled at in line at the supermarket yesterday!. Now aren't you ashamed of yourself???
BLUE CHEER CD-r burn (originally on Philips)

Naw it ain't heavy metal. It ain't even punk rock or garage if you prefer. In fact it's kinda professional and even a tad laid back, with piano, organ and harmonica t'boot! Blue Cheer always were a group that kept you guessing, and I discovered that whatever the guessing was the guessing was gonna be good. Just like it is with this platter which, true, does take on a tad of the heavy but not hard attitude so common at the time, but it sure does rock 'n roll out when it dad burn feels like it! If you like the post-Yardbirds hard rock murk of everyone from UFO to the Stooges you might just cozy up to this one as well. (Should  this have appeared in my year-end list of "familiar" platters I have spun in 2016? Maybe so, but since I never HEARD this before let's just say it was pure epiphany!)
Various Artists-BACK FROM THE GRAVE PART 3 CD-r burn (originally on Crypt Records)

Another one that maybe shoulda been in the year end collection of old and familiar, but given there just ain't been that much new and unfamiliar headin' my way as of late I guess why not do it up now and do it up good? Those BACK FROM THE GRAVE samplers that were springing up from the early-eighties on were quite a wake up call as to all of the good sixties garage band rompers that had yet to be discovered, and this third edition featuring a whole buncha tracks from the mid-period of that series really is swell. Of course I don't got the fun liner notes to read while these tracks are spinnin', but given how EACH AND EVERY ONE OF THESE NUMBERS are downright winners it ain't like I'm being totally deprived. You know the rap, now once again swoon to the savvy strains of a whole load of post-Diddley daddies the likes of the Keggs (Detroit under-the-wire high energy) and the Hatfields, not to forget local non-legends the Treytones (Warren Ohio) who I swear had a now-retired local tee-vee reporter in their ranks!
Tom Crean/Matt Robidoux-BLANK SPACE CD-r (Kendra Steiner Editions, see blogroll at left for more info)

For a guy who really needs more mesmerizin' these days this one really does help ease the ol' nervous system. The duo of Crean and Robidoux present a platter of calm if eerie instrumentals performed mostly on acoustic guitars and banjos making the same kind of ethereal space sounds that Loren Connors or Derek Bailey often got out of their guit-boxes. At times the acoustic intertwanglings remind me of something that would have fit perfectly on an Alan Sondheim recording. BLANK SPACE is one platter that really fits in swell when it comes to unjangling those real-life nerves, yet thankfully this is about as far from gnu age as you can get so please, be thankful for once!
Elephant's Memory-TAKE IT TO THE STREETS CD-r burn (originally on Metromedia)

I dunno why most of the Elephant's Memory albums have not been reissued (the only one that I can recall offhand, not counting various ones they did with John Lennon, being their debut on Buddah). Those I've heard (other'n their goodbye for Muse Records which was a sorry instrumental lounge 'n cheese affair) were fairly good and stand up to repeated spins, this effort being no exception. Contains the group's big enough I guess hit "Mongoose" from '70 as well as a buncha jazz rockers that for once don't make you think of the big horn rock putsch that was going on at the time. Of course you also get the obligatory country goof but that doesn't last too long (it actually ends in a hail of gunfire!) and you have heard it done a lot worse on a whole number of hippie releases throughout the seventies so why not give this a go!

Various Artists-RAINY ETHEREAL GARDEN RUMBLE CD-r burn (Bill Shute)

As usual this one jumps from a variety of styles yet seems all together (and I don't mean nude!). The foreign instrumental music does have that cheap import film kinda feeling that makes me wanna open up a can of tamales, while acts like the Peanut Butter Conspiracy show that they were pretty hotcha late-sixties kinda pop acts who were much better'n the hipster types of the day made 'em out to be. I particularly liked the garage-y pop of Linus and the Little People's "Lovin La La" (which starts off just like an old T. Rex hit!) not to mention the Vandals' "Ballad of a Loser" which I'm sure we all can relate to. Of special interest is the bubbling under avant garde but still avant garde enough for you "Insect Song" by a Reid Harris, a man who I get the idea is not noshing on little weenies wrapped in dough at some swanky gathering like I assume Philip Glass is. Big surprise---a whole side of the Ethereal Counterbalance album which takes psychedelic mewlings a la Hawkwind and sets the to a mid/late-seventies cold wave beat! Gotta do some research on those way outta the loop guys one of these days!

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