Tuesday, February 28, 2017

COMIC BOOK REVIEW BY BILL SHUTE! ATOMIC MOUSE Vol. 3, #12 (January 1986)


Early 1986 brought the last few rounds of releases—all reprints—from Charlton Comics. By this point you couldn’t really say they were running on fumes…..the fumes were long gone, and they were coasting, winding down, slower and slower. The Charlton train would come to a complete stop with the final few comics dribbling out in February 1986.

Collectors and comic book guides usually refer to this last round of Charlton reprints as “short run”—I certainly don’t remember seeing them being sold in my area in central Virginia when new. I do remember seeing them surface in the secondary market six months to a year after their release, being sold for a quarter or fifty cents, and that’s where I got this copy. There was a comic store in Roanoke where I’d stop by maybe twice a month to get the latest copies of DICK TRACY WEEKLY and check out the used comic boxes. They had Marvel boxes, subdivided into many different sections; they had DC boxes, subdivided into many different sections; and they had some “Other” boxes, where Charlton and any other indies were kept. Charlton Comics were treated with the lack of respect you’d see given to a Larry The Cable Guy movie at Sundance. It was just accepted by the folks who hung out at the comic shop that Charlton Comics were second-rate and gave comics in general a bad name. Oh, they’d grant you that Steve Ditko had worked there, and they’d make some respectful reference to Blue Beetle, but like people who look down their nose at DIY punk rock or low-budget B movies or genre films as too crude and unsophisticated, they just didn’t “get” what Charlton had been doing. However, that’s THEIR loss…and also the reason why even today you can pick up Charlton comics cheaply, compared with the comics of other publishers, especially if you are (as I am) satisfied with “reading” copies.

The issue of ATOMIC MOUSE under review came out in January 1986, yet the comics inside (and the front cover) were OVER THIRTY (!!!) YEARS OLD at the time. I wonder if that sets some kind of record. These were NOT being presented as an archival release or even a “classic” edition, as Charlton did with their reprints of Hercules product. No, these were 30+ year old funny animal comics being presented to compete in the contemporary marketplace. With children and adolescents being the majority of the comic book buying audience, one wonders who this reprint was aimed at. The “comics history” folks were not as numerous then as they are today----kids are not into “nostalgia” as much as older people----I’m guessing that the only real market for this might be jaded, ironic stoners who were into Pee Wee Herman and the 1980’s Mighty Mouse re-tread. I was thinking that the “new” Mighty Mouse might have inspired this reprint, but a quick internet check shows me that the new MM show came one year AFTER this Atomic Mouse comic, so I guess there was just something in the air in terms of cartoon-mouse superhero parodies in the mid-1980’s.

The stories in this issue all date from 1954 and 1956. On one level, it took real chutzpah to issue 1950’s comics in the 1980’s marketplace (and you wonder why Charlton died)…or is it a “what the hell does it matter” approach. I see some parallels with the final days of Republic Pictures, in the 1957-1959 era, when they’d stopped making anything new and were existing on 1) foreign pick-ups, 2) independent films looking for a distributor (some of which were WAY below Republic’s standards of basic competence), and 3) reissues of the studio’s back catalog (sometimes re-titled) they already had the rights to in order to fill out their release schedule. To misquote Gertrude Stein, there was “no THERE there” anymore. It’s similar to what you feel when you enter a K-Mart store today----you know it’s over, it’s just a question of when they are going to turn the lights off and padlock the front door.

I was broke during this period, newly married and with a child on the way and existing on multiple low-paying jobs, none of which had any permanence or security. We’d moved across the country to Virginia (from Oklahoma) looking for new opportunities, and they’d yet to happen. I don’t think I ever paid full price for a comic book during this period, other than the DICK TRACY WEEKLY series of reprints, which were chock-full of quality material and well worth the money. I bought a lot of used Charlton Comics in this period because they were cheap, and thus an excellent entertainment value. I could read them while working the various security guard jobs; I could read them while on lunch break at Food Lion; I could read them while I was babysitting my infant son once he was born, etc. The proprietor at the comic shop which I frequented was a stocky man with a Van Dyke beard who wore oversized, worn-and-soiled turtle-neck sweaters and had a large Ankh hanging down from a leather cord necklace. He was a nice enough fellow but he projected a kind of disgust with humanity as if he had chronic indigestion, which he may well have had….because I bought the Dick Tracy reprints, he presumed I was a higher class of more-knowledgeable customer, and he did not hide from me his contempt for the comic-nerd types who were into superheroes but who basically kept the store afloat. When he got to know me and my tastes, he started to offer me “package deals” on used Charltons that no one else was really interested in, so I could get (literally) a stack of 70’s/80’s Charltons for maybe $2.50. Some of those I gave to friends over the years; some I sold or traded; some got damaged or water-stained. However, I still have some of them today, including ATOMIC MOUSE. I can’t believe that 30 years later I am still getting enjoyment out of a throwaway kiddie comic which was 30 years out of date when it was published 30 years ago, but you take your enjoyment where you find it, and if you’re adventurous at all, you find it in the most unexpected places.


ATOMIC MOUSE first appeared in 1953, the creation of AL FAGO, who was previously responsible for FRISKY FABLES (see pic). The “funny animals” genre of comic book is not that much discussed today—superheroes get all the historical attention—but I for one would rather read a funny animal comic than most of the adults-in-logoed-onesies superheroes. If you have a problem imagining why anyone over 8 would read such a thing, just think about how classic cartoons have animal protagonists—Bugs Bunny to Tom and Jerry to Porky Pig to Woody Woodpecker, etc. It’s just a comic book version of that, and as with cartoons, if it’s done well, then it’s really for all ages.

As explained by Don Markstein’s Toonopedia, “Atomic Mouse got his super powers by ingesting U-235 pills, provided by Professor Invento…. and they did enable him to protect the citizens of Mouseville from the evil Count Gatto and his inept sidekick, Shadow.” So, as with a Road Runner cartoon, where you have Wile E. Coyote as the nemesis, or when you have Tom constantly going after Jerry, here you have Count Gatto and Shadow trying to sabotage Atomic Mouse.

As this is a kiddie comic, the stories tend to run three or at most four pages, rather than the usual seven or eight, and the issue is padded with some one-page filler comics, one featuring “Professor Invento”, one featuring Count Gatto himself (although it’s basically another Atomic Mouse story), one featuring Atomic Rabbit (another Al Fago creation), and another featuring Happy The Magic Bunny. Count Gatto is a blowhard who always has a trick or a scam up his cat sleeve (he wears a top hat and a kind of purple cape/shawl, so he affects a kind of elegant conman persona), and his job is to thwart the do-gooding of Atomic Mouse. For instance, in the first story here, LOCUST POCUS (reprinted from a 1956 issue….see pic), Atomic Mouse is attempting to save Mouseville from a plague of locusts (!!!!), while Gatto and his flunky come up with various outrageous and over-the-top schemes to encourage the locusts and paralyze Atomic Mouse. Al Fago has a witty and attractive style of art, which has the zest and brightness of an MGM Tom and Jerry cartoon and also the quirkiness and absurd qualities of later Hanna-Barbera creations as Quick Draw McGraw or Huckleberry Hound.

When you think about how a Tom and Jerry cartoon is timeless, the same qualities exist here, so I guess it’s not too surprising that Charlton could reissue this in the mid-80’s….at least, that must have been what they were thinking when they rationalized putting this out.

On the downside, though, there are a number of elements in the issue that show evidence of a WTF attitude toward quality control: some of the pages are in the wrong order, and one of the ads is for “Marshall” (sic) Arts supplies. Also, I don’t count ad pages in a comic book, but whatever the standard count is, I’m sure this issue has more than the usual.

I can just picture myself, sitting out back on the loading dock behind Food Lion on my lunch break….drinking a can of V-8 vegetable juice and nibbling on some animal crackers for my meal, having a Camel cigarette and trying not to get tobacco ashes on my uniform shirt, wondering if I’ll get enough hours on my various jobs to pay the rent that month, wondering if the fuel leak from the engine block on my 15-year-old Ford Maverick will cause the car to blow up on the way to/from work some day and leave my wife a widow and my unborn son fatherless, watching the guys I work with bet two-to-three times their forty-hour salary each weekend on football and basketball pools and then being broke and in debt because of it. Somehow, an absurd kiddie comic book about a mouse super-hero thwarting a florid cat villain who wears a tophat and a purple cape, and then saving his mouse village from a plague of locusts, seemed to make perfect sense after four hours of bagging groceries (many of which I myself could never afford to buy) and making conversation with customers, and then another four hours of moving the older produce to the front of the displays, putting new produce in the back of the displays, making sure all the code numbers on the plastic cards in front of the produce matched what was in the bins, keeping the product moist and attractive, and putting back into their proper place any produce items which were moved by customers. And then repeat each day, every day.

I wish I could have flown away, soaring over the city like Atomic Mouse----but if I couldn’t, at least HE could, and that was good enough

Saturday, February 25, 2017

As I often say sometimes, "Another week, another week". But I'm glad I made it through and I get the feeling that maybe you should be glad as well or otherwise there ain't gonna be anything for me to write about this time! But as you will see I sure had a hefty week just chock full of recordings to write about as well as other funtime adventures that really don't fit into the scope of BLOG TO COMM so why even bother bringing 'em up. And, as usual, I have the likes of Bill Shute, Paul McGarry and P. D. Fadensonnen to thank for the booty and I do mean it!
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Y'know, but even though the guy did bite off more than he could chew, I am saddened by the fact that Milo Yiannopolous not only lost his book deal (not that I was gonna ever read it) and a prospective tee-vee series (not that I was ever gonna watch it) but resigned from Brietbart News (not that I ever read that either unless it's linked up 'r somethin') because of some comments he made awhile back about his fellow gays and their penchant for what is known in the trade as younger meat.

For being a former "Fag of the Year" here at BTC  and saying a lotta things that most normal people have been shutting up about as of late re. today's untouchable crowd (y'know the types, wimmen, college brats, spiritual Stalins...) that's a mighty big comedown even though you could say that Milo was "asking for it" with his most welcome provoking ways. And asking for it in probably more ways than one considering how them homos go for the young teen type of boys which is hey, like something we all knew for ages even if we're supposed to think of gays in that sitcom tee-vee harmless lovable kooks sorta way 'stead of what they really ARE!  Of course the REAL surprise is the faux shock that is being registered about a gay guy telling the whole world what a good portion of the population supposedly has known for eons already, and that is that these homosexuals like their prey underage the same way those hillbillies used to go for the just flowering gal type if those old moom pitchers can be believed!

Yeah it is a shocker par excellence to see this otherwise straight on Milo get the shaft like this but sheesh, don't you think it's kinda goofy that a whole lotta big name gay activist types could BRAG about their hubba hubba lust for the young 'uns and get praised for "speaking freely" about the gay experience and being so forthright and up-front about their "natural" urges! I mean, didn't Sulu himself George Takei brag to Howard Stern about this one summer camp he was a guest at that was just brimming with a whole slew of freckled and tanned Huckleberry Finns in training, describing his experience using a whole slew of glowing terms that were akin to him having died and gone to heaven??? And while I'm at it, howzbout that Lena Dunham chick who actually admitted (whether true or not---I do have my doubts) that she used to stick pebbles up her turdler sister's taco, and to practically nil social shame t'boot!

Those accolades and free passes sure didn't apply to Milo that's for sure, and I'm not even sure if he actually came right out and said he himself  actually went for (instead of just fantasized about) the adolescent Beaver Cleaver type of kid  a whole slew of genderbending types would definitely wanna seek out but what he did was certainly bad enough! (I didn't see the video but from what I read he seemed his usual roundabout way unclear about his deep down inside true intentions.) But given his controversial nature, it was enough to lower the ol' boom which somehow circumvents the same kinda guy who's on the "right side" of current hipster political mores.

Whatever the case may be regarding Milo and the teens all I gotta say is...don't you think there's some strange double standard goin' on where one guy can get his career tossed like a salad because of a year-old interview while others of the same persuasion (or of equal sickness like Dunham) can schmooze it up on tee-vee while well-known hosts perform their own special brand of analingus? Something sure smells, and it ain't the sex act these guys're engagin' in that's for sure!


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RIP GEORGE "THE ANIMAL" STEELE, perhaps the only wrestler from the sixties trashy UHF tee-vee wrestling years who deserved all of the notoriety and fame he got during the horrid "rock and wrestling" fad of the late-eighties. And besides, were you ever mentioned in a Half Japanese song like George was???
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And now here's what's up for this week, which I would call a winner because I didn't have to spend a penny for any of it!!!!!

The Flamin' Groovies-VALLENCOURT FOUNTAIN CD-r burn

Yet another hotcha live recording of the Groovies during the late-seventies days of power pop when their career got a second wind of new found popularity. There are a whole buncha tapes like this 'un floatin' around the trading lists and a few even got the legit Bomp! treatment, but I gotta say one thing and that's sheesh, these shows sure do all sound alike! But eh, they all sound "good" alike instead of "bad" alike and that's what counts when I slap one of these Cee-Dees on! Hotcha originals appear amidst the reams of boffo sixties covers from the likes of the Rolling Stones, Moby Grape, Byrds and of course the Beatles, the guys who got the whole Groovies ball rollin' way back '64 way if Cyril Jordan's UGLY THINGS articles are to be believed (and why not?).
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Iggy Pop with the Sonics Rendezvous Band-TV EYE TOUR '78 LIVE IN COPENHAGEN CD-r burn

Hey, this is a pretty hot recording of Iggy with the Sonics Rendezvous guys doin' the old Stooges hits and a few newies back during the days when I'm sure a few people thought that the Ig was gonna make it big in no time flat! Of course the musical situation at the time was pointed towards total bland-dom to the point where the mere thought of Iggy making it big was nothing but a big laugh, but I'm sure there were more than a few hopeful fans out there who thought that Ig'd be hosting SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE and yukkin' it up with the Coneheads in no time flat. Great performance and the SRB guys are so perfect that you kinda wish that they became a permanent fixture on the Ig-wagon. Pretty good sound quality too, if you're into things like that.
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John Coltrane Quartet-COMPLETE AFRICA BRASS SESSIONS CD-r burn (originally on Impulse)

A definite keepie here, the entire AFRICA BRASS recording sessions which previously had been scattered amidst a variety of albums as part of Impulse's milking the Coltrane legacy for all it was worth. Might not be the kind of platter you fans of ASCENSION and other out-there free excursions will go for but I find the entire hard-edged drive of tracks such as "Africa" and "Song of the Underground Railroad" quite exhilarating if I do say so myself! Spin this for your typical unaware newbie kid hip hop fan and show him what the real "Great Black Music" is!
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The Fleshtones-AT THE HURRAH CLUB 1980 CD-r burn

Here they are, the Fleshtones right around the time they began getting even more and more popular as a local entity than they had been those past few years, playing at New York's infamous "rock disco" Hurrahs that I understand was one of the glitzier places to play in the 'burgh back during the 70s/80s cusp. An' it's a great show too featuring just over an hour's worth of sixties-styled organ-based rock and rollers that sounded so authentic unlike some of the retrogarde acts of the day who never did get the true feeling of mid-sixties rock into their systems. Like what more can I say other'n maybe it was music like this (hard-edged mid-Amerigan high energy suburban slob wails) that really spoke to us rather than the Bob Segar schmooze it seems everybody was buying up during those worst of times/even more worst of times days. And I do mean it!
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The First International Sex Opera Band-ANITA CD-r burn (originally on Sexclusief, Holland)

Like, wha's this??? Some weird space rock/prog thing from Holland '69 (no jokes) which tries to capture the whole sexgeist of the time via a hotcha cover and the promise of erotic thrills galore but just goes plop with nothing but a whole lotta moaning that I guess is supposed to turn us on or something. The music does achieve some mighty heights such as in the opening which has a strong free jazz avant-guitar-driven sound, but most of the times this comes off like the soundtrack to a porn film starring Fred Travalena and Ruth Buzzi. Still I like it in all of its corny back alley guy in raincoat thinking he's gonna get the thrill of his life sorta way and who knows, you might too!
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Neko Case-THE WORST THINGS YET CD-r burn (originally on Anti Records)

Paul McGarry, knowing that I gave Neko's other recording a duff review, for some reason or another decided to burn another one of her albums for my discernment or whatever they call it these days. So in the spirit of masochism I decided to give THE WORST THINGS YET a go and y'know what? It still ain't any good albeit it is less mid-seventies patched jeans and cocaine karma singer-songwriter and more nineties amerindie alt. singer-songwriter which come to think of it ain't that big of a step up. I get the feeling that this Case gal is related to McGarry and that he's "testing" me and inevitably one of these days he's gonna come down real hard on me because of these writeups!
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Canned Heat-LIVE AT TOPANGA CORRAL CD-r burn (originally on Wand Records)

Yup it's the Bear and the rest doin' up those old blues standards back during the big late-sixties boom and really (and I can't believe I'm writin' this but), they're doin' a pretty good job of it. That is, if you like to listen to late-sixties white groups doin' those old postwar blues standards and gettin' a whole lot more attention doin' 'em than the original artists ever did. Really I gotta say that it ain't what'cha'd call offensive to anyone's sense of rockist propriety, but sheesh, how can anyone want to listen to an entire album of this kinda ruckus without getting at least a little bit bored with it all?
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Various Artists-SONGS DMZ TAUGHT US CD-r burn (originally on Wax Records)

Sheesh, I sure hope that the guys who were in these groups are now REAPING IN THE REWARDS (money and status-wise) for recording hotcha records inna past that they probably got nary a cent for during those cash-strapped days. The theme of this six-oh specialty is a collection of songs that the mighty DMZ had covered, and as far as collections go this packs the same punch and power that you got back when the Sire edition of NUGGETS finally hit the cutout bins and you got to hear the likes of the Thirteenth Floor Elevantors and Standells for the first time and they seemed just as mystical as all of those groups that were popping outta Underground World at the very same time.

The Elevators and Standells are on here as art the Kinks, Sonics (three times!), Stooges (ditto!) and the Chocolate Watchband (two, including the ultimate punk rock song of all time "Are You Gonna Be There") amongst a whole buncha bands I've heard about before like the Beatles and Rolling Stones! And you know these guys were the ones who really knew how to put the rama lama in that ol' fa fa fa and make life a little more bearable for alla you pimple farm adolescent suburban slobs whose main joy in life was the arrival of the latest Sears catalog. 'n sure you have these on a whole buncha other platters that have been moiling in your collection for quite a long time but they're all here and all together and they sure make for one bright musical bash if I do say so myself! Worth the trouble to find, burn or even steal if you just happen to have nil moral fiber (and who reading this doesn't?).
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Various Artists-HER NAME IS DIFFERENT CD-r burn (Bill Shute)

The notes to this 'un are rather sparse so I assume that these tracks are nothing but more of them "song poems" that have become so hip with the creme-de-la-snooty alt-youth type who liked to look down their noses at ordinary folk because they're so...you know...small town 'n all. Of course WE here at BLOG TO COMM aren't such snoots and well, we can like 'em just as much as we like Aunt Flabby's banana bread or the way cousin Ferd's kid can do "Milk, Milk, Lemonade" with relative ease. An' hey, some of the lyrics that were set to various moozikal styles really do fill the bill, and I'll bet more'n a few fanablas out there are still wond'rin' why their mother's poem didn't become a big hit back 1951 way!

Of course Bill hadda stick on those fantab radio and tee-vee ads in between songs and they of course do dredge up the old and fond memories of a pre-hippydippy world. At least one of 'em dredges up some special memories in me, and that's the one where Captain Midnight pushes Ovaltine on a buncha brats who drank so much of it they became "Oval Teens"! Y'see, when I was laid up with a broken arm about two decades back I was watching a lotta old CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT videotapes and strangely enough I was drinking a whole lot of that chocolaty drink mix while watching trying to not only get my mind off the excruciating pain but to osmose some of those good straightforward times. Sort of a multi-media experience where one could not only watch and hear the action, but taste it as well. Hmmm, maybe I should go to the store and pick some up if only so I can have one of those Olan Soule "Tut Specials" he instructed us lumpen lumps to indulge in!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

BOOK REVIEW! ANGEL FACE 1957 by Gene Hazelton (Ecomics Space, 2016)

As I can tell you, as Bill Shute can tell you, and as John Cage certainly could have told you, many times the cheap imitations are better'n the original real deal! Even if they're so low quality in some fashion that in the long run your purchase might have seemed useless there usually is some sort of "redeeming value" to 'em that in many ways might surpass the original in many respects.

As far as these rip-offs or whatever you call 'em go, you might know that I have written about many of them over the years whether they be automobile styles, breakfast cereals or especially comics. Archie Publications' PEANUTS imitation SHRIMPY has been mentioned in these "pages" quite a few times, and of course who could forget my piece on various DENNIS THE MENACE knockoffs in past posts like Marvel's PETER THE LITTLE PEST and Archie's PAT THE BRAT (well, the latter one by mere mention). They're all good and worth your time and effort to latch onto, but in no way was I ready for this particular DENNIS swipe which is none other than Gene Hazelton's ANGEL FACE!

There was a similar panel that NEA Services ran inna fifties featuring a gal doin' the Dennis shuffle 'n jive (who even earned her own paperback), but I forget her name even though she was mentioned on THE FABULEOUS FIFTIES blog though for the life of me I can't find any particular posts devoted to her. But from what I do remember this gal was a much meaner character'n the McNaught Syndicate's ANGEL FACE, yet another entry into the precocious turdler realm that was created by none other than noted animator (Disney, Hanna-Barbera) Gene Hazelton.

You can see the Hazelton/H-B connection swell considering how ol' Angel does kinda/sorta look like a prototype for Pebbles from THE FLINTSTONES (it would figure that Hazelton not only gave us the famed Flintstone offspring but also created Bam Bam!). That's where the connection ends, for ANGEL FACE is a pure DENNIS swipe akin to most of those comic strip rehashes done by moolah-mad syndicates trying to get in on some of the hot trend with their own version of the same model. Only there are plenty of differences twixt the two that perhaps were strong enough to prevent the Hall Syndicate from comin' down and hard for copyright infringement.

Oh yeah, ANGEL FACE's got the same kiddie trouble and dog messing up the house gags just like DENNIS. It's even got the frazzled parents albeit with a nifty switch since Dad's now the blond and Mom's got the dark hair and eyeglasses.  But sheesh, is this 'un a lot lot cuter. Maybe "tamer" would be the right word, since I can never see Angel punching out the drywall while standing in the corner or walking into the house with the skull of her elderly next door neighbor! The gags are sweeter and the violence is definitely toned down (in fact, nonexistent) as is the sexiness that Hank Ketchum used to sneak into a whole lotta the earlier DENNISes around the same time Mort Walker decided to do the same with his own creation! So don't look for any gals in bikinis here (though Dad does get caught with a girly mag!), and come to think of it don't look for any gut shaking laughs dealing with Angel Face using a prop toilet at a hardware store or hanging out with horny sailors either!

Ah but it still runs rings around anything to be found related to humor these days...an interesting document of a long-gone comic that I get the idea I woulda champed at the bit to read way back in my comic strip infatuated days. Nothing super-duper, but if you wanna spend ten smackers for thirty panels ya can't do better'n this!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

MAGAZINE REVIEW BY BILL SHUTE! TRUE FRONTIER (March 1968)

We love knock-offs here at BTC. From the PRC films of the GAS HOUSE KIDS (rip-offs of THE BOWERY BOYS), to the knock-off versions of popular perfumes and colognes found at dollar stores with ever-so-similar names to the originals, to those “Beatles albums” (see pic) with four of the Hamburg tracks backing Tony Sheridan and eight unrelated tracks by other artists...to the “mock-buster” films produced by The Asylum which are low-budget, quickly-made features with similar titles (but far enough away to avoid a lawsuit) to big-budget studio epics, hoping to cash-in on the other film’s fame, and usually the knock-offs wind up being far more entertaining than the originals, with a wit and a lack of pretension that the originals could have used! Yes, it’s a great American tradition and one that rarely gets the tribute that it deserves. After all, it requires a good amount of cleverness and creativity (and chutzpah!) to imitate something, keep enough difference from the original to stay out of court, and eventually create something which is of value in itself.

In the world of Western History popular magazines, the two dominant brands were TRUE WEST and FRONTIER TIMES. With circulations of 200,000+ during their respective heydays, they offered a wide variety of popular-history articles: stories of various Old West towns and settlements, journals kept by those on the frontier, legends of hidden treasure and gold, life histories of lawmen or in-depth studies of particular cases, narratives of homesteading and ranching, stories of Native American culture and their interactions with settlers, and the biggest draw of all, sensationalized “imaginative histories” of outlaws both famous and obscure. A picture of Jesse James on the front of such a magazine is the same kind of bait for the western reader that a pic of the newest celebrity-of-the-month is for PEOPLE magazine. There was a kind of “family” feel to both magazines, and publisher Joe “Hosstail” Small always had a significant presence in the magazine, doing a regular column, talking about upcoming stories he was editing or commissioning, talking about the responsibilities of running a magazine, responding to readers’ letters, etc. He seemed like that colorful uncle you loved but didn’t get to see as often as you should. You also got the sense that you could call him up, if you had his number, and shoot the bull with him, and he’d probably be happy to hear from you....and then entertain you with an hour of anecdotes which you’d then tell others for the next forty years. He was a good ole boy, in the best sense of that term--a raconteur, a larger-than-life presence. I always enjoyed him, and even at this late date (he sold the magazines to someone else in 1979 and passed away in 1994) I still miss him as if he’d been a personal friend.

A circulation of 200,000 is nothing to sneeze at, so perhaps it was inevitable that someone would come along and want to take a piece of that market with a similarly-titled knock-off. There were a lot of amateur historians of the West and people who collected western artifacts and ephemera who would enjoy writing articles to share their discoveries and collections, probably a lot more than could ever be published in TW and FT (and of course, a home was needed for the articles rejected by those magazines), so a steady flow of copy could probably be guaranteed. Also, I remember hungering for a new issue of TW and FT before the next one would come out, and I’m sure others did too, so if even ¼ of those who bought TW/FT would buy the knock-off, you’d have a very successful mag which could perhaps then grow its own audience. Who knows....with the vagaries of magazine distribution, the knock-off could probably wind up being sold at outlets which did not stock the original.

Now....what to call the imitation. Hmmmmm.....you had TRUE WEST and FRONTIER TIMES....how about FRONTIER WEST? No, that sounds repetitive. TRUE FRONTIER? That’s it! It echoes both titles and sounds appealing on its own. You couldn’t get sued over it, either (there was also a knock-off called REAL WEST, but we can discuss that some other time).

Issue #1 of TRUE FRONTIER appeared in 1967, and the latest issue I can find online reference to appeared in 1978, by which time the western magazine market had declined. Still, 11 years of bi-monthly issues is a pretty good run.

Growing up in Golden, Colorado, in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, I did not have to go far to find ghost towns, abandoned old-west buildings, etc. I can remember as a youngster sitting in (or at the front of) abandoned buildings in a ghost town and trying to soak up the vibes and imagining what might have gone on there on a typical day in the 1890’s or whenever. Also, I grew up watching the poverty row indie westerns of the 1930’s, the kind which starred people like Buddy Roosevelt or Reb Russell or Bill Cody or Jack Perrin (see poster) or Bob Custer, and those tended to be shot at existing locations, and those locations tended to be similar kinds of run-down and/or abandoned western-looking buildings within a few hours drive of Los Angeles. You could still find semi-active small towns of that sort in the early 1930’s. So I grew up seeing B-western scenarios being acted out by cowpokes who’d gravitated toward Gower Gulch and low-budget western films, shot on locations similar to the old buildings I’d seen on so many occasions in the mountain counties on the eastern slope of the continental divide. You can imagine how my young imagination flourished in such an environment, and how these western magazines could fuel that flame.

To give you an idea of how I used to fantasize about the frontier....as a child of 10 or 11, I wrote to the tourism offices in Canada’s Yukon and Northwest Territories, explaining that I was hoping to come up on vacation with my family (I did not state that I was the CHILD in the family....I’d figured they’d assume I was the adult WITH the family) and asking for travel info. I received kind letters from the persons at the tourism offices up there (I’m guessing they did not get too many such inquiries, so they were probably happy to hear from anyone) along with maps, brochures, thick magazines that told about what was happening in each small town, etc. I was very excited by these and dreamed about homesteading in the Yukon, with images in my mind undoubtedly taken from the low-budget 1930’s Kermit Maynard films where he played a Mountie.

Coincidentally, the issue of TRUE FRONTIER under review actually includes a VERY long article (which is part one of a multi-part series) “Exploring The Upper Yukon,” taken from the journal of an army lieutenant who went on an expedition through that country in 1883 and kept a detailed log.

Take a look at the front cover of this March 1968 issue of TRUE FRONTIER. It pretty much pushes all the buttons of the western magazine fan. You’ve got someone in a buckskin shirt shooting a buffalo--there is a sensationalistic Jesse James headline at the top of the page, calling out to you--the legendary Doolin outlaw gang are involved in a shoot-out--there’s a hidden treasure story--there’s a novelty story about a tough, cigar-smoking woman gambler who beat the men at their own game. And it’s 66 full pages of three-columned small print, so there’s a LOT to keep you occupied. Did Jesse James REALLY attend his own funeral? My inquiring mind wants to know! How could you NOT spend 35 cents on that when you are already buying things at your local market. Heck, that’s pocket change!

Those of you who know me know that I enjoy taking my yearly vacation in small towns in the South and the Midwest (I live in South Texas) and I enjoy visiting old buildings, historic homes, tiny local museums devoted to local culture and artifacts, etc. The thrill of being IN these places is not unlike the thrill I get from vintage music. I hear a scratchy jazz 78 from Kansas City 1928, and I’m there in my imagination. I hear some small-label rockabilly 45 from Memphis 1956, and I’m walking those same streets as Billy Lee Riley or Eddie Bond.

When I was in New Iberia Louisiana last year (the home of the great early Jazz trumpeter Bunk Johnson), I had the privilege of visiting the Conrad Rice Mill, dating from the late 1800’s and still operational. I visited on a weekday before noon, so when I requested a tour, I was the only one there, and when the lady giving the tour could sense how interested I was in the specifics of the operation, based on my questions and the way she saw me observing, she shared a lot of its history and day-to-day operational details with me and slowed down the usual tour quite a bit, taking a lot of time. They have kept the facility the way it was in the early-to-mid 20th Century and thus were given a Historic Building designation. This grandfathers them on some OSHA requirements, but at the same time they have to keep the original technology to keep the historic designation, so this thriving company, whose products are available at stores everywhere here in Texas and Louisiana, must run the rice mill in the OLD way yet still remain competitive in today’s marketplace. That tour was another window into the past, the kind of thing I enjoy when traveling. In the decades between Bunk’s initial career as a musician as a young man and then his re-discovery as a relatively old man, among his many jobs in New Iberia was as a truck driver for a rice mill--so I would imagine Bunk backing his rickety 1930’s truck up to the same grain elevator I was standing next to, and somehow I had an even stronger connection to him than the strong connection I’d gotten from decades of listening to his trumpet playing, this man whose playing was rooted in an age even earlier than, say, King Oliver or Freddie Keppard, a man who’d actually played with Buddy Bolden.

An old historic house in some small town, dating from the 1800’s and with the original furnishings, somehow captures the spirit of the people who lived there 100+ years ago. When I see spread out on the bed the actual quilt someone slept with every night for decades, when I see the flour containers and pie tins from their home cooking, when I see the worn-down sections of the carpet from their walking from room to room for decades, when I see the old sheet music near the piano in the parlor and think of the popular songs of the day which they played and sang along with to keep themselves entertained in that pre-radio age----all that provides me a link with the past, a link so strong that I can almost take its hand and form a kind of continuity with the past, with the people who died long before I was born, and somehow have an overlap between my daily life and their daily lives. In today’s world full of hucksters and asshole tech billionaires and war profiteers and robber barons who drink overpriced soy-milk lattes, drive BMW’s, eat fifteen dollar appetizers at trendy bistros, and have never worked a minimum-wage job (or who have forgotten their roots if they did), a link with REAL people in the past who lived happy and fulfilled lives yet who made it through struggles which would kill so many people today, people from a period without air conditioning or the internet, provides a satisfying “grounding” for me. It provides me a bridge to the past, and perhaps I in my own small way can then provide such a bridge to some fellow seeker from the future.

TRUE FRONTIER may be a knock-off, and something which sits for years with a 50 cent sticker in a junk store or flea market--not wanted by collectors of TRUE WEST or FRONTIER TIMES, unwanted by comic book collectors, and not really “collectible” in any way--but through our imaginations and our window into the past, it’s cheap and fulfilling entertainment that’s informative and provides us a useful contrast with today, a contrast that can provide the distance and perspective we need to view our present selves with detachment and objectivity.

Yes, even at the time, I knew on some level that TRUE FRONTIER was not really as good as what it was imitating--it lacked a certain something. If you’ve ever seen the SHAFT TV movies, made after the feature films, they were solid TV-movie crime shows, and of course, Richard Roundtree--the original Shaft--was as cool as ever. But they were not the movies. Alas, they weren’t making any more of the theatrical SHAFT films in the old style, so the TV movies would have to do, and there was a lot that was good about them--they just weren’t the real thing. The same goes for TRUE FRONTIER.

Maybe it’s like a Coca-Cola Classic (or better yet, a Mexican Coke in the bottle) versus a store brand cola.

The Coke is better by any standard, but when it’s 100 degrees out and you just mowed the lawn, and the store brand cola is ice-cold and ready to drink, it does the job just fine, and you aren’t making nit-picky complaints that it isn’t the real thing, are you...It’s wet, it’s carbonated, it’s cold, it tastes vaguely like cola, and you’re thirsty.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

As the Monkees once said (actually Mike Nesmith)...so how's by you? As for how's by me well, I'm havin' a fun time here at BLOG TO COMM central listenin' to loads of music and generally engaging in tons of sinful pleasure, which for me is plowing through old BEETLE BAILEY paperbacks (the same box of 'em I got a few months back!) not to forget the occasional MAD collection of yore. You may think it's nothing but evil sloth that I'm engagin' in, but I say it's just me living up to my calling as a proud suburban slob and you better believe that I'm doing the best to honor my heritage!

Since this was a slow week, and you don't want to hear about the, uh, grittier aspects of what was goin' on like the insidious toilet float caper or my befuddlement over the instructions for the new paper shredder, let's just get down to the true reason for the treason, mainly the following record and cee-dee reviews!

GR-PROPEL TENSION ON POLYESTER BASE LP (Tapes Archives...available here)

This Gregory Raimo fellow's come up with another hot top notch winner with this album featuring nothing but music performed by him and him alone! I know what you're thinking, that this is probably one of those jagoffs where some guy struts out alla his classical edjucashum and shows it off for all to see, but Raimo ain't one of those post-hip Todd Rundgren types at all for this record is (really!) a hard-edged "experimental" rock album that won't let you down one bit!

Some of the tracks sound like those old Bruce Anderson solo tapes he was pittin' out back inna eighties, while others have a bit of the This Heat late-seventies experimental electronic feel that really knew how to fray them nerve endings. But no matter if GR's doing the hard-rock instrumental or avant garde trips he's doin' 'em well, and I can't think of many (if any) down sides to this particular outing which thankfully retains that home-production flat sound that sounds oh-so great in these digital doodle days.

If you're still enthralled by some of those better cassette culture home-cooked offerings that were so prevalent in the eighties this might bring back a few fond memories of tape jams and dropouts. Only I somehow doubt it because well...it's good ol' vinyl here and all you'll have to worry about are skips!
***
Wally Tax-LOVE IN CD-r burn (originally on Philips, the Netherlands)

Would you have ever thought that the (Dutch) Outsiders' lead singer Wally Tax would have done a soft rock middle-of-the-somethingorother album that certainly would have not appealed to the hard rockin' Pretty Things kinda guys who made up his fan base? Me neither, but he, just like Sonny Geraci who sang with the Amerigan group with the same moniker, went slo-mo teenage gals and middle aged men tryin' t' be hip on this particular album that sounds like it was recorded with Bert Kaempfert rejects during their off hours from the local army base club. Lousy late-sixties cling onto alla the tropes available music here with Tax doin' his vocalizin' through a megaphone (or so it sounds), but one thing I would REALLY like to know is...does Tax actually sing "your teats can make a grown man cry" or something very similar on track #2, "Let's Forget What I Said"???
***
Various Artists-THE BEST OF ROCKABILLY INSTRUMENTALS VOL. 2 (Folkline Entertainment Ltd., England)

The title's kinda misleadin' since a good portion of these platters really don't fall into the "rockabilly" category, but if you're a fan of the late-fifties/early-sixties rock instrumental like I am this one should do ya just fine. Of course a good portion of bonafeed chart toppers like "Rumble", "Red River Rock", "Last Date" and "Green Mosquito" show up and for the love of me I never even heard of Rex Qual or Dorothy Donegal (and to be really nit-picky about it, how in the world does an instrumental version of "When a Man Loves a Woman" get classified as "rockabilly"???), but the track selection is top notch for those of you who don't look your noses down at those "backwards" days when women/African Americans/gays/left-handed herniated Hopi Indians were being oppressed from here to Bizoo and back (don't laff---some wag actually accused me of lovin' them days just because of that!). If this happened to be some 1981 flea market find stuck in the old album racks you'd bet I'd be snatching this 'un up faster'n that woman who broke some nylon zipper on a pair of pants skedaddled after the peddler caught her.
***
Kazutoki Umezu/Seikatsu Kojyo-IINKAI CD-r burn

Dunno any other whys.wherefores of this particular album, but as far as free jazz rarities go this might be one of the tippy tip top of the iceberg. Alto saxist Kazutoki "Kappo" Umezu and pianist/bass clarinetist Yorituki Harada are joined by some of the hottest loft/free players from the En Why See scene on this '75 session that once again proves the fruitility
of what was happening in the avant world during those times. Hot playing from such familiar names as Rashid Shinan (always thought that was "Sinan") and William Parker merges pretty well with these Japanese visitors proving that if jazz is a universal language then many uninformed listeners'll need more'n Berlitz to figure out what's goin' on here. Definitely worth the engine searches you'll need to pull this one up.
***
Mandell Kramer in YOUR'S TRULY, JOHNNY DOLLAR CD-r burn

Sure he ain't Bob Bailey, but Mandell Kramer does a really good Johnny Dollar on these early-sixties radio dramas which rank amongst the last of this particular breed, not counting various revivals which were more nostalgic rehash'n anything. It's kinda strange to think that these kinda shows were still goin' on as late as '62 but they were, and if that is the case this series helped bring the genre to a hotcha end with two great episodes, one dealing with the pilfering of a rare painting and the other these two lookalike guys who years after the fact are kinda/sorta involved in a new insurance payoff scheme, one involuntarily. As they used to say, your mind is the only visual theatre to contend with, and hopefully the stage hands won't go out on strike!
***
The Staccatos-INITIALLY CD-r burn (originally on Capitol Canada)

These are the same guys who later on became the Five Man Electrical Band and had a socially relevant chart topper called "Signs" back '71 way. But back inna sixties these Staccatos weren't into the hip youth plight groove yet, preferring to crank out soft rock that was too raucous for the old folks but too tame for the Rolling Stones crowd. And they sure did a good job of it producing material that some could call "wimp rock" yet doing a good enough job with their chosen style to the point where you don't feel like flicking it off. Sunshine-y pop numbers abound, including a cover of Steve Stills via the Mojo Men's "Sit Down I Think I Love You" slushed up for maximum adolescent girl schmooze effect.
***
A TRIBUTE TO LEX BARKER---63 TRACKS IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER CD-r burn

I mean, WHO ELSE but #1 Lex Barker fan inna world Bill Shute would even think of compiling various brief soundclips of Barker dialogue and slapping it on a disque totaling a little over six minutes anyway??? You try to guess which moom pitchers these dialog snips come from while the whiz by you faster'n Bill himself trailing down the street after an old issue of Charlton's DR. GRAVES that blew outta his mitts, and be surprised if you actually do recognize one or two of 'em! As for me, I think this woulda sounded grand if some noise-cut up act like Smegma got hold of it and added their variety of squeaky toys and oscillating whoops to the entire thing, but don't tell Bill I said that.
***
Various Artists-MIRROR FATTY SPINACH JUNGLE CD-r burn (Bill Shute)

This one has been moiling in the CD-r stack for quite some time so I thought it the right and proper thing to give the thing its proper spin before ignoring it for all eternity. As usual this is a super collection of rarities including (besides an obscure Wilson Pickett track) a great early-sixties garage thumpin' instrumental from the Pastels, good 'n fruity slush pop from Pinkerton's Assorted Colours, creepy cheap "song poems" from Johnny Williams, hot 'n lowbrow blues jazz from the Three Sounds and a whole load of things I'll think up about once I get to hear this (I am typing while the platter is playing, time saver I am and shall remain!). I doubt that the Spades here are """thee""" Spades of Roky fame (I also doubt they're the NYC group goin' under that name inna eighties!) but they sure play good late-fifties instrumental rock as do Shoestring, the Beas and of course Dick Dale. Pretty good selection ya got there Bill...do you take requests by any chance???

Thursday, February 16, 2017

MOOM PITCHER REVIEW! DR. MABUSE VS. SCOTLAND YARD starring Peter Van Eyck (Germany, 1963)

Yeah, I used to have the same feelings about furrin' films as you do, having been inundated with cheap English and French flickers on Sunday afternoon UHF tee-vee ever since I can recall (two that particularly stick out in my mind are the ones where some people escape to West Germany on a train that busts the barricade that was set up to stop it, and another where some Eyetalian youth with a gun shoots someone else and there's this cop going around asking the street urchins of Rome who they think it was), but dang if this one is pretty tops in and out of its own low-budget class.

I first encountered the DR. MABUSE films back when some of the Fritz Lang silents popped up on PBS in the late-seventies, and to be honest wasn't that thrilled about 'em they being so Teutonic cold and all to the point where Nico woulda come off like a warm electric blanket in comparison. However, this particular pelicula's one that I gotta admit really kept me glued to my seat, and no it wasn't because of the suction my rectum (in consortium with my crack) had created after eating all of those refried beans for dinner!

Yes the cagey criminal mastermind Mabuse didn't die in the previous flick at all, but is alive and well and out to gain control of the whole world (a thankless task!) with this new invention where a ray (usually in the form of a camera) zaps the will of whoever it is pointed at making them do all sorts of crazy things from bashing in the heads of unsuspecting scientists and hanging themselves instead of the condemned on the gallows. Its up to Peter Van Eyck to get to the bottom of this, and it does look as if the handsome leading man's gonna have his work cut out for him considering that not only a good portion of Scotland Yard is under Mabuse's spell but so is Van Eyck's own mother, an elderly lovable who seems to be in the film mostly for comedic relief sorta like Aunt Harriet on the old BATMAN tee-vee show.

And yeah, the film is action-packed 'cept for a few li'l luls and easy enough to follow even if you don't understand any of the German you see via signs or newspapers (guess at it like you did in German class!). There's nothing to lose here (especially your lunch) because it's all done top notch in that crank-out way we can all appreciate and the jazzy soundtrack keeps your heart pumpin' at a pretty fast pace that once again'll have you holdin' your bladder in, even if you know enough to put the dang machine on "pause" and go relieve yerself!

Oh yeah, and watch out for none other'n future cult figure and rather deranged individual Klaus Kinski as a police detective who gets zapped by the camera and attempts to trick Van Eyck and his partner into a pretty nasty murder-suicide!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

COMIC BOOK REVIEW BY BILL SHUTE! MYSTERY TALES #16 (Super Comics, 1964)

Here’s another marginal comic book from the I.W. Publications/Super Comics empire of outsider publisher Israel Waldman. We’ve discussed his operation (kind of like a comics equivalent a budget record label, one which re-issued in exploitative and deceptive manner older material which it may or may not have had full rights to release) in previous BTC reviews. I should point out that the release numbers (according to Toonopedia) of these Waldman comics are NOT indicative of how many issues of something have been released. This would not have been the 16th issue of MYSTERY TALES. Remember, IW/Super was re-issuing existing but forgotten comics under new names, and one of their Super Comics magazine titles could be used for material from various older source comics for which IW/Super had printing plates...so different issues of MYSTERY TALES might have been taken from different original comics. No, what “16” indicated was that it was in the 16th round of releases from IW/Super. They could start a new magazine title, and if the first issue came out around the time of their 16th round of releases, then it was issue #16. According to the Grand Comics Database, MYSTERY TALES had only 3 issues: 16, 17, and 18. I’m lucky enough to own all three.

Interestingly, while the IW/Super magazine contents were pillaged from earlier comics, the covers were often new, and often do NOT depict scenes from the story. I’ve read about how Waldman hired comics artists to draw new covers, but in some cases, he must have just given the artists the story title, and maybe a brief verbal synopsis, and not had them look at the actual story. In any event, he certainly had a gut feeling for what sells comic books to adolescents....just take a look at this cover. Can you imagine how excited a 12 or 13 year old would be with it? Why, this would look even more exciting than any of the 50’s sci-fi or horror movies they showed on the local UHF station on Saturday nights!

Fortunately, the stories deliver the goods...and then some. All the contents of this issue were lifted from a 1952 comic called TALES OF HORROR (see scan of that cover), undoubtedly influenced by TALES FROM THE CRYPT, which began in 1950, from the legendary EC Comics. TALES OF HORROR was published by the obscure indie Minoan Magazines initially, then seems to have been reissued two years later by Toby (by the way, I’d LOVE to own some issues of Toby’s JOHN WAYNE ADVENTURE COMICS, which ran 31 issues! I notice that some of that run has been re-issued by Golden Age Reprints--guess what I’ll be ordering next payday!). However, I can’t imagine anyone who bought this in 1964 (and they might well have bought it in 1966 or 1967, as Waldman did not date his comics, so they were never out-of-date and could continue to be sold) finding it dated, anymore than they’d complain in 1964 about a 50’s giant-insect sci-fi film being ‘dated.’

With this being an offering from IM/Super Comics, we should remember that no one would have paid full price for it. It would have been part of a cheap bagged multi-pack sold at a low-end department store, or the individual comics would have found their way into the discounted marketplace or sold with “used magazines,” which at one time were available in small neighborhood markets, off-brand gas stations, and the like. So kids would have paid a nickel or maybe 2-for-15 cents for this. Also, even today, most of the IM/Super Comics offerings can be gotten relatively cheaply, if you are willing to get an ungraded “reading copy” (as it’s called in the trade). I’ve seen this one online for as little as $2.

The budget-label record business model always relied upon quantity sales, and the “budget comics” model probably did too. As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, the Charlton “Modern Comics” line of budget comics, sold in cheap multi-packs by low-end retailers and markets, were printed in large qualities, one reason why you can still get them cheap today. Why pay $6 for the Charlton copy of something when you can get the exact same comic with only minor revisions for a dollar or so in the “Modern” version.

The 50s were a Golden Age in horror comics in the TALES FROM THE CRYPT tradition, so it’s no surprise that every story here is a winner. The art style is functional enough to provide a kind of realism, but exaggerated and grotesque enough to provide a frightening horror experience....as much as, say, an AIP or Allied Artists 50’s sci-fi/horror B-movie would....and really, these kind of magazines (like crime comics) are pretty much delivering three or four mini-movies for the mind in each issue.

THE THING IN THE POOL has a creepy and mean home-builder who lusts after his secretary, but she announces she’s getting married to someone else and he flips out. However, once he regains his composure, he offers them a fancy, modernistic new home as a wedding present--one problem, though....that “thing” in the pool. THE HAND OF JAO TZE has a sleazy seaman in Asia who pretends to fall in love with a young lady whose father controls some ancient jewelry with spiritual significance, and of course, anyone who’s ever seen a MUMMY film knows where that’s headed. The only question is HOW the ancient spirits will get their revenge on this infidel. In THE RIPPER’S RETURN, there is a rest home where the patients are given some kind of potion--the kind you find only in comic books and horror movies--which makes them think and act like historical characters....Napoleon, Plato, etc. Unfortunately, one of them starts channeling Jack The Ripper. Finally, LOVE FOR A PLANT, the story depicted on the cover, offers a serious version of the murdering-plant set-up later used for LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS. In this one, a horticulturalist with a nagging, shrewish, overly-demanding wife starts to create a fantasy world in his hothouse and creates a plant which he comes to fall in love with....and let’s just say that eventually even the plant becomes a little too demanding.

If you have a taste for vintage comic books and for horror anthology TV shows (even something like the 1989-1996 TV version of TALES FROM THE CRYPT, which was aspiring to re-create this kind of model), give this a try. It’s perfect for a cold, rainy night....a few of the stories even have some variation on the crypt-keeper as a “host” in the first panel of each story, although that aspect is not really developed in this issue.

We love budget labels here at BTC....and we love budget comics too!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Shee-yucks---we're only into February and boy am I dreadin' this new year more'n anything since the 1979-80 tee-vee season! Of course a lotta the dread is due to them ol' "real life" situations 'n all, (y'know---work??? as Maynard G. Krebs woulda said) but still the lack of any real stimuli to keep a feller such as I on the up 'n up is contributin' to the overall woe that has been encapsulatin' me these past few weeks. It's like, at this point in my rather sainted life, I really couldn't CARE about anything other'n tryin' to keep up my "status" as a blogger of renown which is why I keep doin' alla this "writin'" rather'n chuck the whole BLOG TO COMM concept out the ol' window. Well, it does keep me occupied the way tootsietoys did when I was three and NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC did when I was twelve.

But to add another dimension to my---I sure hope it ain't ennui---is that I am sorta jungered out given my general lack of pep, vim vigor and other old time breakfast cereals over what good there IS available out there. And that's a real bum-bum-bummer since these days I can afford a lotta the items that are being made available given that I'm a man of wealth and means and could buy out the penny candy store which had alla 'em goodies I wanted back when I was six, only it's probably all stale by now.

Take those hotcha LAST OF THE GARAGE PUNK UNKNOWNS platters that Crypt is now unleashing onna public this very moment...like, do you think that I'm savin' up the shekels and pining away like a teenage gal with the hots for Michael J. Pollard to get these particularly potent platters? No way---what woulda got me up and runnin' to sneak some twennys outta my dad's wallet a good thirtysome years back doesn't even make me wanna turn the used toilet paper to confetti in addled joy these days. You call it old age---I call it old age too.

Now it's obviouser 'n all heck that I'm more apt to plunk down the precious sheks on some old comic strip or book reprint title, but maybe that's just me getting back in touch with the happier portion of my youth. Either that or I never did escape the overwhelming influence that these comics (and more!) had on me back when I was still in the single digits and my emotional threads weren't quite as frayed as they are now. Besides, I gotta admit that reading these old DICK TRACY comics might be an entirely better option in life than listening to a good portion of the music being made anywhere these days, if only because Chester Gould never thought of his creation as being an "art project" 'r anything like that!

But at least I have these Bill Shute, Paul McGarry and P. D. Fadensonnen burns to keep me up and runnin' musicwise, and good for them because if it weren't for these I'd probably be spending my free time volunteering for hospital bedpan duty 'stead of curled up in my cozy shack listening to these deep-fried disques. And so without further adieu (it's a joke, no "sic" here!), here is this week's batch of reviews which I do hope you deserve to read about.


More Eaze-wOrk CD-r (Kendra Steiner Editions)

Marcus Rubio is back with this crazoid bitta electronic spew that might make the weaker amongst us wanna run to the nearest "safe space" for pampered petunias who can't face the bitter reality of free sound, but I get the idea that most of you readers are MAN ENOUGH to take this right between the full frontal lobes. It's mostly electronic sound with some clarinet thrown in, parts of this sounding like the Electric Eels' "Jazz Is" (really!) with a whole load of what comes off like a stereo channel on a This Heat outtake with some Controlled Bleeding in there somewhere. The sound of the future for the past fiftysome years true, but that's future's gonna finally be a 'comin' a lot sooner than any of ya's gonna imagine!
***
Hank Ray-COUNTRICIDE CD-r burn (originally on Devil's Rain)

Last week I reviewed an earlier album...er...Cee-Dee-Are burn by this newer'n ever country rock sorta guy. This one's from a good six years later and is more indebted to that ol' original pre-frilly country sound that sorta got axed from the scene around the time HEE HAW got canceled. Y'know the country I'm talkin' about...the hard-edged stuff that was promoted and performed by people who sorta had that heavy set of snarl to 'em that just ain't allowed in todays castrati culture anymore! Good enough renditions of old and maybe even some new tuneage that sates even if the production is way too modern for my own personal suburban slob tastes. If you're the kinda he-man type of guy with hair on his chest who misses the smell of diners with cigarette smoke embedded into those Naugahyde chairs you might just cozy up to a platter such as this.
***
The Troggs-LIVE IN POOLE, ENGLAND May 23 2003 CD-r burn

Gotta say that I didn't even know that the Troggs were still up and about this late inna game! But obviously they were, and y'know what??? This set and performance is almost identical to all of those Troggs Max's and elsewhere tapes that have been floating around for years, and naturally the performance is straight on powerful just like you would have expected from these long-time professionals. If this indeed were the Troggs on their "way out" (if they ever really were on their way out!) then man, they went out in high fashion! Features particularly spidery version of such true Troggs faves as "Night of the Long Grass" and "66-5-4-3-2-1" that are just as good as the originals!
***
George Harrison-THE ALTERNATE WONDERALL CD-r burn (originally on Pear Records)

I never saw the moom pitcher nor heard the original WONDERWALL album figuring it was gonna be more of that twangy sitar and veena drone I've experienced enough of through my George Harrison travels/travails, so let's just say that this burnt offering was something I thought would be an interesting enough spin at least once before it got filed away somewhere. As I expected, THE ALTERNATE WONDERWALL is what I would expect from a Beatle-related outtakes bootleg recorded at the time, with shards and fragments of all sorts of exotic sounds mixed in with weird cornball incidental music and mellotron whoopie that probably wasn't good enough for the real deal. It's sure hokay enough for a Beatle-related educational romp through their late-sixties musical leftovers, but if you think this is gonna make me wanna seek out the movie or the original platter you are sadly mistaken.
***
Charles K. Noyes and Owen Marecks with Henry Kaiser and Greg Goodman-FREE MAMMALS CD-r burn (originally on Visible Records, 2511 Ellsworth St., Berkeley CA 94704 USA)

There are so many of these experimental music platters with the likes of Henry Kaiser floating around that its sure hard to sift through 'em all. Well, considering that I never was that much (if any) of a fan of Kaiser that would be one of the last things that I would consider doing, but I did get this particular platter featuring some other big names on the 80s-on improv scene and actually I found this a bit interesting even for my more rockist-attuned tastes. Nice atonal free sound that doesn't grate on ya like rubbing balloons but kinda goes through you with interesting enough intricate guitar parts that actually get your brain to perk up and analyse for once! It's nothing I would actually fork over precious coin to purchase myself, but I'm pleased enough that I got to hear it at least this once.
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The Soft Machine-WONDERLAND LP (Secret Records, England)

I think a whole buncha the tracks that appear here have not made their first appearance on vinyl or any other format, but smooshed all together they make for one mighty nice encapsulation of the early Soft Machine days. My personal faves on this 'un are those with Kevin Ayers singing up and front, though if you were one of the few who got onto the Machine bandwagon via the Hendrix tour and followed them well into their import bin days I'm sure you'll find a whole lot of interesting jazz rock to enjoy here. By the way this was but one of the Christmas gifts that Brad Kohler scooted my way a good two months back...good choice you made there Brad!
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The Twilights-ONCE UPON A TWILIGHT CD-r burn (originally on Aztec Records, Australia)

If you care, some fanabla who later on ended up inna Little River Band was in the Twilights, and somehow I can easily believe it. Typical late-sixties anglo-ish pop here, the kind that got Alan Betrock all hot and bothered during his JAMZ days complete with lush orchestration and interesting arrangements that woulda fit in fine on the Amerigan radio scene had this one been lucky enough to make it north of the equator. Psychedelic yet sunshine-y---definitely as good of a neo-Beatles take as the Move were. I guess if you like the Antipodean pop strains of the late-sixties/early-seventies Bee Gees you'll go for this pop swell.
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Various Artists-HEIMATLICHE KLANGE VOL. 153 Cd-r burn

I dunno about Austria...it kinda reminds me of Germany without the sick stuff. It doesn't know whether it wants to be Germany or Switzerland either, and it's just stuck there right in the middle of Europe sorta flopping about. The music on this sampler is pretty much in the same vein, what with these watered-down covers of the big US 'n British hits made for (I guess) the local market. Not that it's all bad, but there seems to be a hefty lack of spirit and energy to these tracks that really don't make me wanna get up 'n dance those weird interpretive dances I did age eleven to Elvis Presley. And sheesh, I like cheap knockoffs too!
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Alabama Shakes-BOYS AND GIRLS CD-r burn (originally on ATO)

These rootsy things sometimes tickle my fancy and sometimes they don't, but for the most part they kinda wobble somewhere in-between hey it's good stuff and hey it's good stuff but I don't think I'd wanna listen to it ever again. The Alabama Shakes are kinda like that, with some pretty nice retro-early sixties moves that appeal to me stuck in between some typically entertaining country rock moves that just don't make you wanna go "aah!" Take or leave music that might appeal to your sense of propriety if you liked those old Rolling Stones Muscle Shoals records, but I do get the feeling that I'm gonna lose this one in that leaning tower of CD-r burns that's just about to topple all over my bedroom.
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Beck and the Record Club-THE VELVET UNDERGROUND AND NICO CD-r burn (originally on Fan Club Only Records)

Sheesh, just what I wanna hear...one of the better rock 'n roll albums of the sixties done up post-post-POSTmodern-like by a guy who I spent most of the past twennysome years or so trying to avoid. Beck's version of that olde standard "Waiting For The Man" does crank out with the same pace and stamina that a hundred or so local rock groups mighta worked it out way back when, but the rest is nada but eighties-onward precocious rose-colored rear view mirror'd takes that a whole bunch of those loathed synth bands managed to cook up much to my disliking. About on par with most post-seventies Velvet worship (they as the grandaddies of cloistered bedroom amerindie wannabes everywhere) that has been making its way out of bedrooms and remedial studies centers with an alarming regularity.
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Various Artists-UNKNOWN RAGAMUFFIN SITAR CD-r burn (Bill Shute)

I dug this one from deep inna pile so I don't know just how long ago Bill sent this to me. But despite the age all I gotta say is that it ages like a fine wine rather'n one of those cheese hunks that rolled under my bed and I didn't find it for ten months what with the fine selection of hotcha sound that can be found therein. There's too much here to discuss with the fine-tooth needled detail this blog is most known for so I'll just skim over...high points include the two Charlie Feathers versions of "Look Up" which was co-written with none other than the Elvis himself, Azusa Plane's pee-take on George Harrison which really deconstructs things for ya and the infamous Beatle swipe by the Fut which actually got stuck on a buncha old Fab Four bootlegs it was that convincing. Also tops are Ken Colby's instrumental pop which sounds like the music you woulda heard in one of those dirty europeon films that you weren't allowed to go see, vanity performer Dora Hall doing some lullaby that would never have gotten me to sleep lest she whacked me hard onna head with a hammer while singing it, and the underrated Homer and Jethro who somehow have been airbrushed outta country and western history in favor of the likes of Miley Cyrus. As to just why this happened I do not know.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

BOOK REVIEW! REMAKE/REMODEL, BECOMING ROXY MUSIC by Michael Bracewell (Da Capo Press, 2007)

I'm sure that after the reams of comic strip and book collection reviews you have been reading in what ostensibly is supposed to be a "rock 'n roll blog" you might be surprised to find a book such as this up on the critical appraisal chopping block. Well yeah, I will admit that there are some books dedicated to the musical form floating about out there that are worthy of scrutiny here at BTC, and this particular read is one of the few I've come across as of late that deserves exposure to a wider audience. And that's even if the darn thing is nigh on ten years old (and now available cheap...why'd'ja think I picked it up inna first place???) but you do need to be made aware of it.

Sure there have been many a book dedicated to Roxy Music and I'll bet some of them are even good reading goin' beyond the usual Bryan Ferry's favorite color cheap teenybop coverage that one used to see in adolescent-girl-aimed mags world-wide. Well, at least until the brave souls at ROLLING STONE created rock journalism and we eventually got to find out what Bryan Ferry's favorite sex device was! But how many books really delved into the roots of Roxy, discussing the influences and kultural/artistic backgrounds that made the group what is was at least to a whole slew of backwards suburban slob mid-teens deprived of rock energy so much that the local record shop became like a meeting place for those who wanted to scam at least a li'l high energy in their otherwise drab lives.

REMAKE/REMODEL is remarkable enough in this respect...I mean for years we've heard about the art school backgrounds of Ferry along with Andy Mackay and Eno but this portion of the chaps' lives were always passed over in favor of the big fame days. Well, this book remedies that great hunka missing gap inna Roxy saga, starting with the early upbringings of the boys inna band (well at least the major ones...Paul Thompson is ignored as usual) well into their coming of age edjamacation days when they were soaking up all of the hip new moves in art and music which, combined with the head-on pop and rock of the day, eventually made the Roxy Music machine the most hotcha musical move of the early and mid-seventies that it most certainly was!

Monikers familiar and not like pioneering multi-media artist Richard Hamilton and avant garde composer Cornelius Cardew pop into the mix along with the various artist cliques that had surrounded these fellows during one of the more fruitful times in art as energy. And true, there are some points that have been written about into the ground are covered and I wouldn't have minded more info regarding Eno's tenure with the Scratch Orchestra amongst other details, but there's still a whole lotta info regarding those early days that's thankfully delved into bound to sate even a crazed nitpicker such as I.

Surprisingly enough there's a whole lotta history and insight that I never knew about before brought up here that in no way ever thought would be disseminated to the public and really, if you were one of those boys who used to leer at the cover of COUNTRY LIFE at the record shop starin' at them gals' see-through undies and bellybuttons then man, this is the kinda book you sure wish you had back '75 way!

Not only that but it's got a whole slewfulla good snaps not only of some of the Roxys themselves during their up-and-coming art school days but those of their mentors and their definitely Warhol/Rauschenberg-inspired pop-art productions. Unfortunately the oft talked about but never seen snap of Ferry posing by his Studebaker (the same one mentioned in "Virginia Plain") is not here, but somehow I get the impression that we'll never get to see that 'un! Also there's no mention of the Scratch Orchestra spinoff COMET who preceded Roxy as far as electronic Velvetisms go, but then again I get the feeling that their material's gonna come out the day I die which would be typical timing considering the life I've led!

But if you were...well...one of those guys who ears perked up back when those old albums were coming out and perhaps picked up some beat up John Cage album or old library art book to get a li'l more background on it all then well,  you might just like it.