Tuesday, August 14, 2018

BOOK REVIEW BY BILL SHUTE! A MARTIN KANE PRIVATE EYE TREASURY (Gwandanaland Comics #1596)


The early TV series MARTIN KANE, PRIVATE EYE is considered the first television detective show and was quite a hit, running from 1949-1954, and for the first few years featuring the acclaimed radio and stage actor William Gargan as Kane (he left after a few years, with others such as Lloyd Nolan taking over but still faithful to the character as Gargan had created it). This show was not syndicated when I was growing up, and now that I’ve seen a few episodes, I understand why. Many shows such as THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW were sponsored by cigarette companies and featured ads with the cast talking up and puffing away on Kent Cigarettes or whatever, but those ads were separate from the show and could be edited out for syndication. In Martin Kane (note the pipe in his mouth in the show’s logo, which we’ve reproduced for you here), the tobacco ads were worked INTO THE SHOW. Yes, he would go into a tobacconist’s shop during the action and talk about the sponsor’s brands of pipe tobacco!!!! Though the first TV detective show, it was shot live, so it does not look like what most people expect from a 50’s cop show. It’s all studio-bound on a few sets, so no car chases, violent shootouts in urban alleys, etc. You can find some of the Gargan episodes on You Tube, and sampling a few minutes can give you a good idea of how they play, looking more like a soap opera than a HIGHWAY PATROL episode.

Another first is that the Martin Kane comic book was supposedly the first comic book adaptation of a television property! Fox Comics, best known for BLUE BEETLE and MYSTERY MEN COMICS, issued two 36-page issues in 1950, during the show’s heyday, and Gwandanaland Comics has released an attractive volume with scans of the complete books, from cover to cover.

Gargan’s name is all over these books, billed as “star of stage, screen, and radio,” so either he was a big star with a devoted following at the time or he had a good agent.....or both. The pipe-smoking character looks more like someone’s uncle than like Mike Hammer, but that just adds to the charm of the show and the comic books.

One odd quality about these comic book stories is that in a number of them, Kane does not actually appear in the core story itself....he is TELLING some colleague or acquaintance, or some group of rookie cops, a story in a detached narrative frame, and after a page or so we cut to that crime story--which may well have already been in the can at the publisher’s!--which goes on its merry way and then concludes with no further involvement from Kane. It’s almost like those 60’s TV shows such as Boris Karloff’s THRILLER or DEATH VALLEY DAYS, where Karloff or Ronald Reagan give a short intro and then step aside to let the show play out. Kane is “hosting” his own comic book! Not all stories are like that, but the fact that even some of them are has me scratching my head.

Whether or not Kane is the hero in the stories, they are all solid, violent, gritty crime comics which deliver the goods to any fan of the genre. And they are not stage-bound and dialogue-driven like the TV show, at least in its early years (when the comic was issued)--change the name and it could be any generic late 40’s/early 50’s crime comic, and I mean that as high praise as that was a golden age in the crime comic. How excellent it must have been in that era to have many hard-boiled crime shows on the radio, have a steady flow of noir and crime films at your local B-movie theater, have lots of paperback detective and crime novels at your local newsstand, AND have dozens of gritty crime comics to choose from each week/month. I would have been happy and satisfied with that situation.

In addition to the Kane stories (or should I say, the Kane-hosted stories) you also get a two-page filler crime short story in each of the two magazines, and both are good examples of the quickly tossed-off pulp crime mini-story, and there are also a few one-page filler comics on crime-related subjects (Devil’s Island, etc.). Overall, each of the two issues is a satisfying package, well-worth your 1950-value ten cents.

An entertaining and historically significant collection, filled with colorful (and well-transferred), action-filled crime stories from the Golden Age of crime comics--highly recommended! Just Google the title and Gwandanaland, and you can find out how to order. I’ve already read MY copy of this book three times!

Saturday, August 11, 2018

SINGLES (AND OTHER RECORDS OF A SEVEN-INCH NATURE) STILL GOING STROONAD!

This 'un shoulda been out March-way but (as usual) it got delayed, waylaid and filleted to the point where I thought I'd just save the blasted thing for one of them busy times in my life where I wasn't able to produce a power-packed weekend post for your enjoyment. Anyhoo, more of those platters, both old and new, that I've had the---pleasure???---of not only listening to but writing up for your own benefit (and karmik awareness) these past six or so months!


Mark Beer-ISOLATIONS EP ("Finks Jinx", "Litany"/"Other Doubts", "Song For a Public Man") (Waste Records, England)

Who knows, you might not have but I've pretty much forgotten about this English underground artist who Greg Shaw once compared to Marc Bolan trying to record a sequel to "Catch the Wind" in an echo chamber, or something along those typical rockscribe reviewing style lines. Beer did a whole number of records that I can keep track of but I believe this was his first, and it's a snapping good one at that what with this under-the-underground kinda guy evoking the English traditional music artist syndrome filtering it through the haze of the late-seventies avant garde coming up with some nice smart pop results that people only seem to hit upon once in a blue moon (I am reminded of Brian Sands for obvious reasons).

Beer has a strange enough voice to make these tracks the unique ear-pleasers that they are, and the songs recall a folk rock that might have been sung either on Deneb 3 or an 18th century public house. Overall results have this 'un coming off like the kind of music that would naturally flow from the creative juices of someone who came of musical age with everyone from Bolan, Syd Barrett and Nick Drake to the Velvet Underground and Eno. A nice (and extremely successful) attempt at the mashing together of various past musical accomplishments, and the fact that Mark Beer is not exactly the name heard from the lips and keyboards of self-proclaimed tastemakers who claim such an allegiance to the history of rock 'n roll only goes to prove something that I don't want to exactly get into right now.
***
The Star Spangles-"I Can't Be With You", "Get You Back"/"The Party", "Science Fiction-Science Fact" EP (Munster Records, Spain)

These guys were one of the last hoorahs on the last-days-of-CBGB scene right before that tumbled into the musical graveyard, and as you'd expect me to say it's not hard to see why they were getting the huzzahs if only from a small portion of what we know as "rock fandom". The Spangles recall all of those great mid/late-seventies punk rock moments from the Heartbreakers and Marbles to the Ramones with their straight ahead high spirited sound, and although a whole lotta that stuff happening that late seemed like too little too late it was sure great to hear in light of what else there may have been out there vying for our listening time. Dunno what happened to 'em, but they certainly were the last of a breed most of us thought died out at least by '79.
***
The Rolling Stones-"Stoned"/"I Wanna Be Your Man" (Decca Records, England)

It's legendary not only because the thing got banned for the "a-side" but because of the number of bootlegs (at least Amerigan ones) it showed up on. The early Stones at their best back when they were still wearing matching suits and looking a whole lot more clean-cut than their image let on. As far as "I Wanna Be Your Man" goes...well, considering the love/hate relationship twixt the Beatles and Stones you kinda wonder why the Stones'd cover their main competition inna first place. Maybe it was akin to something along the lines of what was going on between the Jamie Klimek camp and the folk living at the Plaza Apartments, what with the Styrenes hating the latter bunch with a passion yet performing "Final Solution" and sharing many a gig for years on end (not that there was that much of a choice I guess). I never understood these weird associations between various so-called warring camps I'll tell ya.
***
Luna-"Hollywood"/"Dumb Love" (Titanium Records)

The Orchestra Luna remnants trying to keep on keeping on to ill effect (within a year they ended up stuck on the cover band circuit before it all fell apart). But they did go out with a nice flash as this single would attest to, an effort that had Rick Berlin and company pulling out some of the better aspects of Queen (their more clear pop orientation) along with their worst (the irksome choir) with a tad of Sparks and a heap of Cheap Trick tossed in to sweeten the pot so-to-speak. Hard pop that actually perks ya up in a late-seventies sorta way and not bad one bit once you get the hang of it all.
***
Paul Thornton-"I'll Be Around"/"Give a Damn" (Fowl Records)

Former Godzman Thornton went the early-seventies relevance route just like everyone else you used to like (or maybe didn't or maybe don't want to admit to!) as most of the tracks of GODZUNTHEIT or PASS ON THIS SIDE will prove. The flip-side of this solo effort is actually the exact same one that appeared on the GODZUNTHEIT effort while "I'll Be Around" falls into the same rocky folk terrain that softened many an already soft head during those bell bottom and headband times. Do I give a damn? Frankly other'n for the neato collectible nature of it all I'd generally say no.
***
The Downliners Sect-"Colour-Coded Red"/"You Ain't Doin' Me Right" (Inner Mystique Records)

Rough and tumble mid-eighties issue of some previously-unreleased 1980 recordings from this long-lived band that were so hated that there actually was a contest goin' about to see who could swipe Don Craine's deerstalker cap and pee in it. A-side has this hot "Sweet Jane"/"Max's Kansas City" riff and a low-fidelity bounce that reminds me of some forgotten Stiff Records release circa. 1976. The flipster could also pass for one of those pub platters that were so craved by the same people who discovered rhythm and blues after the advent of Graham Parker...people like myself I guess. I hope I don't get into more trouble with this review, but for some strange reason I get the feeling that I will.
***
Hoy Boy and the Doys-"Two Kinds of Tears"/"Keep on Tryin'" (Knotty Pine Records)

Whenever I see this group's name I am reminded of the final days of Max's Kansas City when bands like Hoy Boy were playing the stage perhaps oblivious to the fact that their particular era of underground rock was coming to a maybe not-so abrupt end. However while other "Max's" acts like the Smithereens and Zantees actually had lifespans lasting well into the eighties I dunno what became of these guys, not that they had anything special goin' for 'em! Actually Hoy and his Doys played a more-than-palatable form of pop rock which had a tinge of early-sixties feel to it yet eschewed any blatant copping of the pre-Beatles form, and for being one of those outta-nowhere acts that almost immediately fell into the memory hole they did a good enough job of it so like, who's complainin'?
***
Mark Beer-"Pretty"/"Per(version)" (Rough Trade Records, England)

By the time Beer got signed to Rough Trade he (alas) also fell into the slick if still underground-y early-eighties new-unto-gnu wave style that was unfortunately taking shape at that exact same nanosecond. This still has a spry sense of bright pop spark to it, but the reggae bounce and bright outlook seems to point in a direction I wish these acts most certainly didn't go in. Still wondering---whatever did happen to Beer once the years rolled on and the music became way less relevant to our highly-wired suburban decadent pose lifestyles?
***
The Who-"Anyway Anyhow Anywhere"/"Daddy Rolling Stone" (Brunswick Records, England)

This one is probably etched into your grey matter after eons of spins, but dad blame it if still doesn't sound all hot and exiting a good fiftysome years later which is more than you can say about the whole Journey/Foreigner/REO Speedwagon cadre that supposedly "replaced" this raw and primitive music. Oddly enough, the scratches and nicks resplendent on my copy only add to the overall rage of the thing, which should teach you sound-savvy technotypes a thing or two.
***
The Doors-"Wild Child", "Touch Me"/"Frederick", "Light My Fire EP (Lizard Records bootleg, France)

Not being a Doors fan by any stretch of the imagination, I wonder why I bought this 'un way back during the mid-eighties or so. Must have had a brief lapse of judgement there, but still I find this platter fine enough if only to present to me a slice of the whole Morrison mystique without making me sick. Good sounding taped off the tee-vee versions of "Wild Child" and "Touch Me" from SMOTHERS BROTHERS, "Light My Fire" from ED SULLIVAN and the ultra rare "Ode to Friedrich Nietzsche" recorded live in Saratoga Springs, New York. That free-form spat does go down well like prime Patti Smith did, and the rest of it ain't that vomit inducing even if my ears keep telling me that "Touch Me" still sounds like rhumba. Insanity must be spreading faster than I first thought.
***
Lou Reed-"Walk and Talk It"/"Wild Child" (RCA Records)

Before I dig into the first Lou Reed solo album (scorned by many but enticing enough my by standards) I thought I'd give this oldie a spin. The "Walk and Talk It" heard here is supposed to be a more spiced up version than the one that appears on LOU REED, and no matter how you take it you can't deny its overall punkiness and early-seventies snark attitude of it that drove many away from, and naturally many to the "sound". Of course "Wild Child" is a winner that every Reed fan should know by heart and it sure woulda been swell hearing this on the radio back then...I could see it mixing in perfectly with the brief AM renaissance that was displaying itself at the time courtesy a number of spinners that even in retrospect sure sound better than the glitz and snooze that was to befall the realm within a few short years.
***
John Lee Hooker-IT SERVE YOU RIGHT 7-inch jukebox EP with a strip to prove it! (Impulse Records)

Sometimes I need these blues if only to variate my listening modes, and this one did its job well. Pretty deep and dwelling material from the legendary bluesman who at first shocked me when he did that album with Canned Heat...I mean, could I take an album with the title HOOKER 'N HEAT home with me? I should say NOT! Contains a down blues take of Barrett Strong and everyone else's "Money" that might just make you wanna shred your Flying Lizards records in total regret. (And don't get me wrong---I am reconsidering that one as an outright avant garde hits the radio dial classic!)
***
Burt Ward-"Boy Wonder I Love You". "Orange Coloured Sky"/Bob Guy-"Dear Jeepers","Letter From Jeepers" EP (US Ltd. bootleg)

I probably reviewed this one onna blog a good decade or so back but a hale (or is that hail?) and hearty so what! to that! On the a-side the infamous Zappa-backed single presents the idea of what would have happened if none other than Robin the Boy Wonder joined the Mothers of Invention, complete with enough campiness to stick this one into every homo record collection of the day right smack dab next to "You Turn Me On". Sheesh, the producers of the tee-vee series weren't exactly trying to hide the whole gay aspect of the true relationship as they say between the Dynamic Duo, and here this song comes along pushing the whole schpiel into territories even Fredric Wertham would fear to tread! Flip's got some local horror host reading cheapo ghoul gags to some early-sixties Studio Z backing that has a good r&b/"Wipeout" vibe. This Guy guy probably was snoozeroo next to the big names like Zacherly, but considering the early Zappa involvement you better give him some slack, willya?
***
Swell Maps-"Dresden Style"/"Ammunition Train", "Full Moon" EP (Rough Trade Records, England)

Like a good portion of the Rough Trade cadre I've had a love 'n hate relationship with Swell Maps. Now that the pendulum seems to have been stuck on "love" for quite some time lemme say that it's sure good to give these guys a listen considering how their v. early-eighties approach was about as radical yet firmly garage/traditional as some of the better acts making themselves known at the time. Fantastic primitive quality production and all around performance makes this one that sorta stands out regarding everything that was good about the seventies/eighties cusp before it all seemed to get tired and trite (mostly through no fault of its own) seemingly overnight.
***
Rosie and the Originals-"Angel Baby"/"Give Me Love" (Highland Records)

The a-side remains one of those eternal oldies that remind me of flea market fanablas in the seventies looking for those old hits that just weren't hittin' no more. And anyone who just can't get into the slow trance mood of this number might just be lacking a heart, or more likely be a member of today's cyborg act-on-faulty-instinct action committee, or most likely both. I found the flipster to be the real surprise tho, a gutzier r&b romper that sure didn't deserve its fate being hidden on the other side. Sheesh, I now sound like one of those dipsy doodle gal types I went to school with who PRIDED themselves (and let everyone know it!) on how special they were because they played the other side of  those big hit records which obviously proved their natural superiority over dim bulbs like myself!
***
The Rockin' Rebels-"Wild Weekend"/"Donkey Twine" (Lost-Nite Records)

Late-fifties/early-sixties instrumental rock remains a faverave music of mine, and this legendary track is whatcha'd call no exception. I believe that "Donkey Twine" on the other side got some action as well which would figure since that one's a ballzy bloozy effort that sure fits in with the deep groove mode of the genre. And like most of the solid instrumental sounds these numbers hold up extremely well which is something I couldn't really say about the likes of "The Boys of Bandstand" (well, I do have a soft spot in my head for Fabian!) and some of the gunk that was getting played not only during those "wimpy" as they say early-sixties, but the reinvigorating mid-sixties which had its share of grown up schmoozeburgers as well.
***
David Ackles-"...about 'Subway to the Country'"/"Subway to the Country" promo single (Elektra Records)

Radio station promo featuring Ackles on the topside discussing this particular song and how the kids in the city really didn't know what winter was like because by the time the snow hit the ground it was all grey! You're probably gonna write the guy off as a dunce after hearing this side but the actual song is pretty good in a new folk rock singer/songwriter fashion. Only a bit of annoying string glop mars what I thought was an otherwise neat enough if perhaps over-emotional number. Sorta akin to what Harry Chapin woulda come up with if someone sewed his gonads back on and maybe got him an Elliot Murphy album or two. Not bad really, and I'm surprised I said that!
***
Television Personalities-"I Know Where Syd Barrett Lives"/"Arthur the Gardener" (Rough Trade Records)

I dunno if the entire group is on here, but I assume it to be a Dan Treacy solo effort given how stripped it is. The a-side's a surprisingly interesting cop of some DARK SIDE OF THE MOON/WISH YOU WERE HERE Syd Barrett paen to madness with "Grantchester Meadows"'s insect buzz added for pure homage effect. The other side might be a weird twist on the "Arnold Layne" tale only with Arthur the Gardener being a paedophile, but don't quote me on it. Like a good portion of the Rough Trade stable these guys seemed to get more and more boring once the eighties progressed but I can stand this pixie charm well enough. A glycerin test may be recommended tho...
***
The Rubinoos-"I Think We're Alone Now"/"As Long As I'm With You" (Beserkley Records)

I know there was nil chance that this Tommy James and the Shondells cover would hit the charts back then, but it does stand as a true testimonial to the poppier aspects of rock 'n roll that fortunately hadn't died out entirely by this time. The flip has a load of Southern Californian feel that of course would have been great to have heard at the time, only songs like "Chevy Van" and "Undercover Angel" seemed to be cornering that particular market with a laid back vengeance. Sure it sounds like piddle when played up against any of your favorite all-out high energy rock groups, so don't play it up against any of 'em and it just might work out fine.
***
Tragic Mulatto-"The Suspect"/"No Juice" (Alternative Tentacles Records)

Yeah they sound like an "art project", but if I were the teach I woulda given Tragic Mulatto a nice "A". Well, that is more than I would many of those bedroom-level college acts that seem to have been populated by the forbears of those precocious petunia types you see cluttering up the campuses and high schools of Anywhere USA these sad and sorry days. Nerdo adolescent voice screams atop a sax/trumpet/bass guitar/drums backing that kicks out something you might call "neo-funky", but ONCE AGAIN it works! Eighties art music that you kinda get the feeling was being played by balding guys wearing wraparound shades dressed in ultra-modern suits, but in this case I don't think so.
***
The Poles-"C.N. Tower"/"Prime Time" (Nimbus 9 Records)

Bruce Mowat will probably shudder in fear upon reading that I am even giving this Toronto group the time o' day, but then again ever since he moved to Saskatchewan and joined the Doubhokers I doubt he'll even read this in the first place. Which I guess it best for me because I really do go for this act who, besides getting a good thumbs up from John Cale, managed to mix the better aspects of 1973-76 punk rock with all of the good things that were happening during the torn shirts and bad taste days that immediately followed. "C.N." has a fairly good Velvet Underground oomph riff while the flip sounds particularly contempo---and it's all held together by the rather girly-girl voice of Michelle Jordana who certainly doesn't sound like the world weary femme seen on the cover.
***
The Moving Sidewalks-A BAND FROM TEXAS! EP (Moxie Records)

This 'un has been made obsolete by subsequent issues but the cheap aspects of it all, from the old car on the cover to the definitely home-pressed aura, draws me closer and closer to it. Perhaps its the memory of seeing this at the old Drome up Cleveland way dangling amidst a whole slew of records that were tasty but way overpriced for my depression-era waged budget is what kicks it in for me. Whatever, a fine collection of two non-LP singles from future Z.Z. Topper Billy Gibbons and his gnarlier than ever band recorded long before he discovered that beards and MTV glitz were the best ways to get into those money-filled teenage pockets.
***
CHRISTOPHER MILK EP (United Artists Records)

John Mendelsohn might have a good enough rock "critic", but to me he never was part of the upper echelon of scribes like all of those guys (and occasionally gals) I continue to name-drop even this far down the line. However judging from this particular collection clinger I can say that Mendelsohn was a purty good group leader, singer, lyricist and even toon-writer while he was a member of the legendary Christopher Milk. I never did get to hear their Reprise album but this earlier United Artists EP does point the way to a lotta things that would make it big and boffo in the record-buying world within a few short years. Humorous lyrics and bright piano-laden melodies recall what Sparks would be up to once they headed over to Merrie Olde, while even the slower Beach Boys-y ones kinda bring up memories of some of those feh singles that popped up on the charts summer of '76, only done with a lot more backbone and intent. I might dish out for SOME PEOPLE WILL DRINK ANYTHING once I get a few bits of scratch together...I get the feeling it's still going for the same sorta flea market prices that it probably was a good forty or so years back which definitely would be a break for my wallet for once in my life!
***
Charlie Burton and Rock Therapy-"Rock and Roll Behavior"/"That Boy and My Girl" (Wild Records)

That Burton guy might have been one of the lamer rockcrits to hit the pages of the original ROLLING STONE or any other turn-of-the-decade rockmag extant (even though I do kinda/sorta like his skewered review of FUNHOUSE), but he sure made up for any lacking in the rock writing department with this killer rock group of his. Don't have the other single (yet), but if it is any good as this retro-yet-still-rooted-in-seventies-trash-aesthetics slab it's gotta be a good 'un. Rhythm and blues not to mention rockabilly get the trash garage band update here. A tinge of Kama Sutra-era Flamin' Groovies helps the sound out as well. For those of you who liked that part of late-seventies "DIY" rock that wasn't so self-conscious of what it was "supposed" to do, or mean for that matter.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

BOOK REVIEW! "GAG ON THIS" BY CHARLES RODRIGUES (Fantagraphic Books, 2015)

I dunno about you Bunky, but at this stage in my life I don't care if humor is funny. And, judging from what is passing as comedy these days, neither does anyone else. Right now I'm laboring under the perhaps not-so-strange delusion that in order to appeal to my own sense of values (or lack thereof), a joke doesn't have to be guffaw-inducing anymore, but it does have to be RACIST, ANTI-GAY, TRANSPHOBIC, SEXIST, DOWNRIGHT BIGOTED, XENOPHOBIC, ANTI-HANDICAPPED and even a few more niceties that you just don't see on the tee-vee set or the funny pages anymore. Yeah, I'll be laffin' my pitted butt off even if there ain't that much outright funny about these sources of jollies in question, but then again I'd be wettin' myself silly if I ever got to see any garden variety choice of late night "jokester" hit in the face with a pie. A poop pie, that is!

Anyhoo getting back to more palatable things, some of you might remember back when I reviewed one of these Charles Rodrigues collection of legendary NATIONAL LAMPOON cartoons (the RAY AND JOE one...search this blog if you so desire to read the thing), and darned if this 'un's even better with regards to giving bad taste an even WORSE name! Yes, in this day of Big Mother Watching Each And Every One Of Us So SMILE, getting a hefty dose of these tasteless, offensive and downright negative cartoons really is something that gets my juices flowin'! And if you are of the opinion that being funny is something that doesn't pertain one iota to the moralist highbrow rants and post-Carrie Nation lectures that comedy has become over the past few decades well then, you probably need this book just as much as I do!

Yes, almost nothing was beyond the realm of bad taste when it came to Rodrigues, and this collection, mostly culled from LAMPOON, serves to remind us just why issues of that mag were flying off the shelves back when we were living in some sort of post-racial/gender/Nixon land where even the radicals could poke potent fun at themselves. Ya gotta remember that the likes of Bill Griffith's and Jay Kinney's (even R. Crumb's) better work of the day pretty much satirized the entire underground milieu from which they sprang, and ya also gotta get through your head that seventies attempts at humor from NATIONAL LAMPOON and BLAZING SADDLES to the original SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE would never be allowed in the grim clime of modern day what passes for entertainment. These cartoons by Rodrigues (not to mention his LAMPOON partner in bad taste, the superbly named Sam Gross) really do remind me of the times when envelope pushing did rattle the ire of more'n a few blue haired old lady and budding feminist types, but then again many of 'em were probably laughing their own pockmarked behinds off before being able to mutter...."that's not funny".

The targets of Rodrigues' humor might be considered "easy" enough, but then again it wasn't until the likes of LAMPOON that he or anyone else would have had the chance to make fun of the things he did. Sheesh, only a few years earlier gag cartoonists couldn't touch anything along the lines of snakes or bare titty, and here Rodrigues was rollin' around in the taboo and making some pretty high-larious cartoons in the meanwhile. And (in case I haven't beaten this dead horse into prime chuck throughout this very review) I gotta say that it is a BLESSED RELIEF to see others being given the royal razz considering just how much people like myself and the rest of go to work and cut the grass Ameriga has for the past few decades. Reading GAG ON THIS is more or less my way of telling all of the narcissistic soyboy gay-loving updates on the old D. W. Griffith-loathed reform types seen these days HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE ON THE SHIT END OF THE STICK FOR ONCE, YOU NANCY BOY YOU!!!!!! And like, does it feel good!

Yes, everything from tampons to catheters, colostomy bags, club foots, bedpans, saggy tits, death row inmates, assassins, sex changes, iron lungs, Thalidomide babies and cerebral palsy get the laffaminnit treatment here. And frankly, if you can't laugh at transvestites or amputees who can you laugh at anyway?

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

MOOM PITCHER REVIEW BY BILL SHUTE! SAVAGE PAMPAS (1966), STARRING ROBERT TAYLOR!


SAVAGE PAMPAS is an original and complex and gritty and well-acted and visually striking Argentinian-Spanish-American co-production, shot in Spain, from 1966. It’s usually considered one of those Eurowesterns with an asterisk next to it, in that it’s not a solely European co-production and it’s set in the pampas frontier of Argentina.

Director Hugo Fregonese is well-known to fans of 60’s international co-productions, having directed one of the OLD SHATTERHAND films, the downbeat spy drama LAST PLANE TO BAALBECK, and the final entry in the 60s Dr. Mabuse films, THE DEATH RAY MIRROR OF DR. MABUSE. He was originally Argentinian, but went to Columbia University, and was married to American actress Faith Domergue. Since he had worked in Argentina, Europe, and the United States, he would seem to be the perfect choice for this Argentinian-Spanish-American production. When I think about those three films mentioned above, I remember how visually creative and memorable each is. With the OLD SHATTERHAND film, the incredible panoramic vistas of the faux-West (probably Croatia, then part of Yugoslavia) are breath-taking….in fact, that film was issued in 70mm in Europe, and SAVAGE PAMPAS was also filmed in 70mm and exhibited in that format in Argentina (one wonders if the producer of this film gave the gig to Fregonese based on his work in SHATTERHAND?). How I wish that in this lifetime I could actually see a 70mm theatrical screening of either film (or both). Alas, I doubt that will ever happen. If I had Jeff Bezos money, I could make it happen, but I don’t. I guess the best I can hope for realistically is a quality Blu-Ray viewed on a large TV screen (I have 27” presently, so I’ve got a way to go there).

The amazing cast—the kind of cast you find only in these off-shore productions, bringing together people you might not expect to have seen in the same film, in roles you would not expect them to be in—is headed by the great ROBERT TAYLOR, in one of his last roles (we’ve reviewed a few other 60’s Taylor items here—the feature THE DAY THE HOTLINE GOT HOT and the TV series THE DETECTIVES). I love Taylor’s 1960’s work. Some people criticize him for looking older, looking tired, looking uninterested, etc., but he used his age very well, never attempting to look younger, and bringing an understated gravitas to his roles. Taylor understood how much he could communicate with his face and his body and his mannerisms. He’d been a major star for 30+ years at this point, and he knew exactly what the camera would do with every blink of the eye or hand gesture or slight curl of the lip. Taylor plays an Argentinian military officer on the massive frontier, the Pampas, who is faced with inadequate supplies, not enough men, Indian attacks, and rampant desertion. He’s beaten down and burned out, but has an inner toughness and strength that radiates from within. When a new officer, a graduate of the military academy, is offered to him to replace a deserter, and the new man is praised as being “the 2nd in his class of 48 at the academy,” Taylor barks out, “why didn’t I get number 1?” Watching the 50’s and 60’s Robert Taylor, especially the post-1955 work, is to me a master class in acting....and his cigarette-scar
red voice gives authority to anything he says.

Pitted against Taylor is Australian-American RON RANDELL (presumably, no relation to Buddy Randell of The Knickerbockers!), who had an interesting career both in films and on the stage. B-movie fans might know Randell from being in the last Lone Wolf feature, THE LONE WOLF AND HIS LADY (1949), replacing Gerald Mohr in the role—a film I have always enjoyed and have watched 4 or 5 times in the last 20 years. Randell is having a blast as the over-the-top outlaw leader of the deserters—strutting and delivering his lines with the gusto of a Richard Burton or Orson Welles. I can imagine how entertaining Randell would have been on stage (he had some fine roles, including two Terence Rattigan plays). He even played Cole Porter (!!!) in the film KISS ME, KATE (which I have not seen). Hmmm, I’d love to compare that with Kevin Kline’s quirky performance as Porter in De-Lovely (which I have seen). Randell has allied himself with the local Indian tribe, figuring that they are united in their hatred of the Army forces (the Indians, especially their older leader, quickly realize what a slimeball they’ve allied themselves with). Obviously, that alliance begins to unravel.

If that’s not enough, former TV western star and future Eurowestern star TY HARDIN plays an anarchist (!!!) journalist who is embedded (as they said during the Iraq War) with Taylor’s military unit. He’s quite convincing and charismatic, and he and Taylor build a kind of strange alliance as they are both principled men, but with very different principles. Still, each sees something he recognizes in the other.

The plot, which I have not really mentioned and which by today’s standards is somewhat distasteful, deals with marginalized women who are given the choice of going to jail or “comforting” the soldiers….and Randell’s outlaw crew also have their own “comfort women.” To say that the presence of the women on the frontier affects the men’s behavior would be an understatement.

When you take the female element, the fact that there are multiple sides in operation here, each with differing agendas, that Taylor’s men are close to deserting at any point (and a number do), and that you really don’t know what is going to happen or who is going to survive, and then at the end you get quite a surprise, I’d have to say that SAVAGE PAMPAS delivers the goods. The three leads all give it their best, the Argentinian element should be a breath of fresh air to most viewers, and there is a fatalistic tone that rings true. And I can’t stress enough how impressive this film looks, with the endless and dry and ravaged Pampas plains so beautifully filmed in a desolate part of Spain. If you can find a copy, or watch it online, you should do it.

Perhaps what connects with me most about this film is that you have burned out but professional-in-spite-of-it-all characters (Taylor) and idealistic-but-beaten-down characters (Hardin) against a crazy power-mad psycho (Randell), all having to continue to fight battles which were started by previous generations and that nobody, save the power-mad psycho, want to fight and would give anything to not fight, but they all have their pre-ordained roles, and they have to play them. And in the end, there will be no heroes, many losers, and no one will win. Just like life....

Sunday, August 05, 2018

THE CHRONIC ILL-LOGICAL HIS STORY OF KONGRESS

by Otto von Ruggins


The first Kongress event took place appropriately at the Brooklyn War Memorial on Friday, November 6, 1975 (I believe that predates even the first Sex Pistols performance). My father’s VW open back truck transported my Hammond organ and Leslie Speaker cabinet along with VON LMO’s drums and an amplifier for Grok’s guitar. In the echo laden open interior space, we were told to lower the volume successively after each song and so continued the recurring tradition of Otto von Ruggins, Master of the Unheard Øf.

That Christmas Eve, our club debut at CBGB’s was reviewed by Variety. Kirby quipped, “Kongress is a defiant rock combo who expect a lot of auditors.” Well, a dozen years later in August, 1987, I received an invitation by the IRS to fulfill the prophecy, but back to that snowing Christmas Eve. That night, we got to meet CBGB owner Hilly Kristal for the first time and I must say I was impressed by his Christmas spirit as he chased a bum out the front door and pushed him on the ground off the curb, defining the demarcation line not to be crossed.

Next stop was up the block on Bleecker Street, a short lived basement firetrap excuse for a club boldly called Brave New World. It was the first week of January, 1976 and the last Kongress gig for Grok. Ironically, that night Robert Crash made his first appearance in my life, but since I did not foresee our later collaborations, it wasn’t until he put an ad in the Village Voice advertising ‘guitarist with 150 years experience…’ that I took him seriously and established contact.

During this period, I met Gaea Hawkins, a keyboardist extraordinaire, who with her modified B-3 was able to follow me down to some spectacular depths of sound. In improv sessions, we continued exchanging riffs long after the guitar, bass and drums had given up the ghost. Unfortunately, a few months later, she left on a short tour of the east coast, never to return (where are you Gaea?)!

Our next appearance at CBGB in February revealed myself on synthesizer and Farfisa with Von Lmo on drums – no guitar or bass. Hilly’s reaction was that we should find another place to rehearse. Then along came E. Paul Schnug, with his XES guitar synthesizer and a 15 year old roadie named Joe. We played CBGB on Mother’s Night that May and, conveniently, Hilly was in the hospital recovering from our last appearance. It was more than a rehearsal, but it was only a warmup for the following week at Zeppz, another venue with a short life for renegade bands, this one on 14th Street. We opened for the Dictators and the place was packed. This was right after Handsome Dick had been involved in an altercation with the soon to be altered Wayne to Jayne County. Apparently, no other group would play the date because it would mean being blacklisted as the Dictators were. Such risky business meant nothing to us back then, because no one was booking us anyway.

We played our first set, which ended in an exchange of profanity between Von Lmo with his rented drums and some members of the audience. As we left the stage, the hippest looking dude in the place came up to me declaring how great we were. I knew that my father’s Sam Ash amp was distorting the Farfisa/synth combination and Schnug’s guitar was out of tune with my synth, but I was pleased at the rave review nevertheless. Then the Dictators took the stage and the audience was theirs. After they finished a set (which did nothing for me) and abandoned the stage, the crowd stomped for an encore. This went on for some five minutes without their reappearance and, as the noise died down, I singlehandedly picked up my Farfisa and placed it back on the stage, anxious to begin our second set in tune. One of their crew, Steve Shrank, came running up to the stage shouting at us to get off and Von Lmo roared right back. Eventually, my organ was removed without physical violence and they came back for another forgetful performance. This time, after they left the stage, we were told they didn’t want us to do a second set. The next week in the Voice, James Wolcott described the scene, “A rowdy bottle smashing night…earlier in the evening there had been an altercation with a satanic occult band named Kongress that played music that sounded like a Concorde drone with Aleister Crowley lyrics. They abandoned the stage only after threats of violence were unfurled like vampirish cape flourishes.”

At this point in time, I made a deal with my wife with child. I could no longer agonize over the distorted sounds of my father’s antique amplifier, so I got to purchase a SunnConcert amp with a Cerwin Vega speaker cabinet and she got to name our third daughter as well – Dana (I managed the middle name – Sidonia, and five years later, Dana Sidonia’s vocals appeared on my collaboration with Robert Crash – an EP titled ‘Movie Viewers’, but back to the birth).

It was the bicentennial and I had plans for thee bicentennial birthday event – my wife on stage giving birth inside a see through sterilized plastic bubble to the strains of Kongress on stage (I even thought of having Charlotte Moorman violin bow the umbilical cord). I tried to contact then legendary promoter Bill Sargent. He had talked about bringing the Beatles back together again and having a man in a cage with a shark. He wasn’t talking anymore, as his phone was disconnected and my wife, Celia, would only go through with this for $10,000, so it became another one of those unrealized concepts. A similar event would have been the first Kongress performance at an Artist’s Day celebration the previous fall at the band shell in Central Park. I wanted to perform on stage while having my blood transfused to another person as theirs was filtering into mine. The concept was to have government nurture art and have art provide culture for people, completing the blood loop. I called the Board of Health to find out the requirements. They started freaking out, telling me I would have to have matching blood types and have an emergency crew on hand in case people in the audience started fainting from the sight. I offered the alternative of taking blood from one of my arms and transfusing it to the other. Again, the doctor cautioned that this would be dangerous for my blood pressure. In the end, it rained that day and the event was cancelled!

It was June, 1976 and we got our first gig at Max’s Kansas City. It was also Schnug’s last appearance. For a first time, the booking power, one Peter Crowley, seemed sufficiently impressed to give us a return engagement the last week of July. In fact, Peter showed Von Lmo and I some pictures he had received from a magician named Geoffrey Crozier. Instantly, my reaction was that I’d love to make soundtracks to his visuals. I got an address where he worked and in mid-July I made my first contact with the man from Down under. Coincidentally, From Down Under was the name of my first performing band. The name had nothing to do with Oz, as I was referring to the ‘Underground’ (which didn’t even exist back in 1964). My vision was music coming up ‘from down under,’ trying to be heard, hence I became the ‘Master of the Unheard Øf!’

Meeting Geoffrey for the first time in New York City must have been anti-climactic for both of us. After seeing him in the pictures in full costume, at the poster shop where he worked, he seemed relatively harmless and I was in an executive suit on my way home to Brooklyn, looking like a Congressman more than a musician. He indicated he had been out of performing for about a year, that I was the best offer he had had and he shouldn’t let me slip away. I arranged for him to come down that night to a studio in Brooklyn with Von Lmo, Robert Crash and a bass player who wound up writing an article about the experience for the Aquarian, Steve Mecca. I still have a cassette of that magical initiation (‘We Arrive’ and ‘Presence Known’ on CD two). It was the first of many incredible improvisational moments we shared. I remember Von Lmo singing my words to ‘Berlin Merlins’ and hearing Geoffrey comment, “There’s only one Merlin in here!” Poor Robert Crash – he didn’t know what he was not getting into. He had never played such free spirited music and, while I had no complaints about his playing, he kept haunting me about the rhythm section not defining the bottom.

The next day was my birthday, which I spent quietly with my family, but Von Lmo went into a rage and attempted to drop kick one of the local inhabitants of his neighborhood from on top of a car and when his leg was grabbed in mid-air, it broke and I visited him in Coney Island Hospital. With Von out of action and the Max’s date days away, I quickly began rehearsing with Robert Crash, the bass player from the studio session, Steve Mecca, and a replacement drummer, Joe Alexander (who was actually the drummer from my first group ‘From Down Under’). Geoffrey indicated he wasn’t quite ready for the stage with us, but we managed to put on a decent show, all things considered. Peter Crowley of Max’s was especially impressed at how my keyboards kept playing when I left the band on stage and walked through the audience to the upstairs dressing room (it was the ancient rite of the antique echoplex). At the end of the night, as we packed our gear, I discovered my new magical friend, Mr. Crozier, sprawled on the floor by the front tables. Apparently, he’d been working too hard!

The following weeks, I rehearsed with Geoffrey and his band of local youth, the Stokes brothers – Frank on bass and Chris on drums – and Bobby Burns on guitar. Later, they would become Geof’s Shanghai Side Show group, after a few gigs as Kongress, before Von Lmo came back on drums.

We had a few dates at Max’s lined up and the next time we played, the audience went wild. It was unbelievable how the visual antics of the magical ceremony, driven by a less than distinctive musical edge, resulted in such a strong and positive reaction. Again, Peter Crowley, commentator on the scene, offered his observation – “Nobody, not even Alice Cooper could have followed that act.” As for the audience’s approval, he described it as being, “…better than the N.Y. Dolls.” Those were heavy accolades, which unfortunately were not written about at that point in time, or lived up to live in the future.

The next Max’s date was on September 21st, the Equinox. I played my synthesizer at a Parks department event during the day with Geoffrey in attendance until he wandered off. That night’s show at Max’s lacked the spirit of the day and failed to bring the crowd to the same excited state.

Being musically unsatisfied with the sounds of the Stokes brothers and Bobby Burns, I had been bringing down other musicians to jam with. Among a mostly forgettable stream of musicians not fit for Kongress, some standout names were John Greaves, former bass player with Henry Cow, and Marc Bell, soon to be Ramones drummer. They actually played together with Robert one afternoon and it was a disaster.

The next stop was Halloween at Max’s and we were headlining with the Dead Boys opening for us. I still remember the crowd crying for ‘Kongress’ during the Daed Boys set. This would be the last performance with the Stokes brothers and Burns lineup for quite some time, with Von Lmo on the mend. The gig was marred by some excessive smoke from the cauldron which included Geoffrey’s sacrifice of a putrified dove. The stench was awful and I wondered why I had to stay on stage, as the crowd retreated. Someone from Max’s opened the door to let some air in during the performance and without missing a beat to the music, Geoffrey snarled, “Close that door! You’re ruining my ceremony!” A videotape was made that night by Bob Gruen and a week later at his apartment, we watched distorted lines grace the TV screen (video was still at its infancy, unfortunately).

A little over a year ago, I contacted Bob Gruen and he unveiled a Kongress Tape 2 from that Halloween performance. He transferred the old reel to reel video recording onto a DV tape. Then I was able to load it into my Mac through a firewire interface and view the black and white remnants of the episode etched in my memory, but elusive to being documented heretofore. All I can say is I can't wait till the DVD is made available and an unsuspecting world is able to see the only existing tape of Kongress with Geoffrey and myself on stage together. Just this week I pressed Bob again to look for the Kongress Tape 1 of Halloween, 1976 with the hope that maybe there is more to consider releasing on the DVD before I begin the critical task of putting this exceptional performance and documentation of a Master at his best on stage. I can only promise that it will be the epitome of what you expect from a Halloween performance. By November, Von Lmo was wearing a short leg cast and he began coming down to Geoffrey’s storefront to play with Robert Crash on guitar and Frank Stokes on bass. The music picked up where our first studio session with Geoffrey had left off. We would go on for hours, non-stop, but subtle mood changes and dynamic intensity swings were orchestrated around Geoffrey’s improvised vocals. Sometimes he recited set pieces he had written, but each time it was different. Thankfully, I made about a half dozen cassettes from this period, some of which is found on these two CDs. These tapes genuinely surpass anything we ever did live. Throughout this period, Robert Crash’s uncertainty about the direction was made known.

One night, a week before a December date at Max’s, after the most guitar dominated tape was recorded, Crash announced he was ‘cutting himself out of the project’ with a symbolic slice in the air. It was a hard blow and left us without a guitar, but the show went on, even if it wasn’t what it could have been. In fact, that missing Robert Crash guitar ingredient from all of the live Kongress shows with Geoffrey is responsible for the fact that the studio tapes sounded better than anything we did live. About that time, I convinced long time associate Renate (female German lead guitarist extraordinaire) to come down to Geof’s rehearsal space and play with us. In the strange environment and because of her rigid playing background, she was a bit stiff and tentative in her playing. During the final piece for the night, Geoffrey grabbed her guitar from behind and started rocking her body to build the intensity and as she resisted, they fell to the floor rolling together. The rest of us began dropping out until there was just the feedback of the guitar, at which point Geoffrey jumped up and exited through his beaded doorway. Renate was still in shock, not knowing what had just happened or what to make of it when Geof slid back into the room and announced, “That’s the greatest thing that ever happened in rock ‘n ‘roll. Don’t look at me like a fuckin’ freak! It happened!” With that, they embraced, albeit she was still visibly shaken by it all. A recording of this event exists and will, hopefully, be released at a later date.

As I watched the whole scene unfold, I thought to myself, “That’s the last time Renate is going to come down here to play.” Amazingly, she and Geof hit it off. She added an air of discipline to the chaos and eventually made it onto stage with us at CBGB’s on December 26, 1976. That was a night Hilly would long remember. He was particularly fond of Renate, but for what took place on his stage that night, Kongress was barred from playing at CBGB’s for 13 months, and by then both Von Lmo and Geoffrey had passed through the band and moved on. So much took place that night that I was unaware of, I can only recount some events in a legendary fashion. The evening began with Geof drinking cognac backstage while the road crew prepared the stage for the ceremony. The electric chair was brought along for the event and the first row of tables was cordoned off with chairs placed on them to discourage front row seats, in view of the fact that the perimeter of the stage was rigged with flashpots. I remember seeing a crucifix attached to a microphone stand, the usual cauldron of hot coals, a water basin, some flares and a huge spear that later whizzed by Von and stuck in the back wall of the stage Lmo (Von was back playing drums with a leg cast). After we hit the stage, things happened so fast, it’s hard to sequence the events, but all of the following is related to have taken place. I saw a picture someone took of Geof flipping the water basin. It captured the water in the shape of the vessel while it was in mid-air – a very magical instant on film. I actually saw Geoffrey pummel the crucifix on the microphone stand into pieces on stage, but I missed his putting his fingers down his throat and the ensuing regurgitation. I remember one of the flares, which were in holders standing upright, falling to the stage and facing the audience. Hilly came up to the side of the stage and grabbed it, nervously holding it over his head like Lady Liberty (more like the Statue of Tyranny), not knowing what to do with it. One of the roadies took it from him and wrapped it up in a wet towel and went relay fashion racing out the back door. It must have been about then that the flashpots were detonated, because the story I heard was that Hilly was sent barrelling back from the force of the explosions. Another report alleged that cables were burned on stage and the next group couldn’t go on for over an hour. The club was full of smoke and, while it wasn’t a sellout, there were crowds of people both moving up front to see the spectacle and retreating from the battle stations by the stage. When most of the damage was done, I saw Hilly waving his arms at me indicating ‘ENOUGH!’, so I abandoned the stage, but not before I turned up my amp and switched on my echoplex which continued to air my keyboard sounds. I was not in control of the rest of the stage, but eventually, they all stopped playing and left the stage.

Hilly was pretty upset, but I pressed him for his reasons, to which he asked me, “Why?” I responded that I wanted to know what made him tick. He stated the facts, “I don’t like your music and I don’t like your attitudes!” About a year or so later, Hilly welcomed the Plasmatics to CBGBs and they used flashpots and smoked the club worse than Kongress, but they were not barred because, apparently they attracted a larger crowd and made it worth his while.

At the end of that Kongress December gig at CBGBs, John Holmstrom, Editor of Punk Magazine, walked in and heard what had happened. Eventually, the legend of that event surfaced in a paragraph of a future issue describing us as, “Kongress, the most dangerous band in the world…”

While CBGBs was off limits, Max’s was a welcome home for Kongress and we returned with yet another guitarist, a Frenchman named Jacques Limage, who was gone by the next show. I think this was the night a band called ‘Bitch’ opened for us. It was indeed a ‘bitch’ of a night, as even though we had actually made a decent profit (I got paid some $70), it had rained so heavy that night that after dropping Geoffrey off at 3AM, I then proceeded down a dark winding road to the highway to take Von Lmo home. I remember Von declaring, “It looks like we’re driving to the unexpected…” or something of the sort. Sure enough, at the bottom of the hill, at an underpass, we encountered several feet of unexpected water, which wet my ignition wires and as soon as we hit the highway, I lost power. There I was with Von, foot in cast and a carload of equipment. I walked off the highway and made my way to a phone booth, but along the way I encountered a pack of wild dogs by the booth. One of the dogs was chewing on a sneaker, probably from their previous victim. It’s strange how our fears are often realized in reality, as I was thinking about the previous week and how when I visited a prospective Kongress guitarist from an ad in the Village Voice, he introduced me to his pet Doberman stating ‘Make friends Caesar’ – and the dog proceeded to take a bite out of my favorite velvet shirt and the arm underneath. So, it was as if some divine source was reading my mind’s worst fears and conjured up a pack of wild dogs for me. Anyway, when I finally was able to make the call, no one would come and get us and I returned to the vehicle not knowing how the night would end. Then, along came a samaritan, whose car smelled of herb, offering us a ride. He pushed my car off the road and we moved the equipment into this stranger’s car. He drove Von home and, thankfully, I made it home, as well. Thanks to the kind person for that ride, wherever you are.

The camp was getting divided into what would become the Shanghai Side Show (the Stokes brothers and Bobby Burns) and the musicians I chose to play with. Around this time, Frank Stokes was replaced on bass by Kip Kuba. While it was music to my ears, Geof had this thing about loyalty and wanting people who were into the ceremony to work with. The next event was with Kip at Copperfield’s, a basement hole of short lived duration. Von Lmo still had his short leg cast on and the power was surging and throwing my synthesizer and Farfisa organ out of tune. Kip, in his excitement on stage, knocked over a brazier with incense, much to Geoffrey’s displeasure, but when Von Lmo couldn’t get the beat going, he tore down the back curtain and kicked over his drums, finishing the set in under 10 minutes. This widened the chasm between my Kongress troops and Geof and his road crew who were outraged at carrying all the gear for what amounted to a non-performance. If the bad blood between Geof and Von hadn’t started back in the studio with the lines from ‘Berlin Merlins’, it was certainly boiling now.

The next time out, at a midtown nightspot named Le Cocu, we played as Kongress, but the lineup was back to the Stokes brothers and Bobby Burns. Then we had an audition for the grand opening of a gay disco, Starship Discovery I, which was on 42nd street. I had contacted the reigning queen and shown him photos of Geoffrey from his pre-Kongress past. They were enough to secure a 7PM Thursday night showcase at the Gilded Grape at 8th Avenue & 46th street, run by the same crew. When Renate attempted to catch the show, she was denied entry (no unescorted females was the reason, I believe), but the place was packed with transvestites and other odd sights. The queen sat perched on his throne with his court jesters surrounding him and we set up to perform what amounted to a ballet in a bathroom sized space (the stage area was very small). Geof had the cauldron flames fanned nicely, but about 10 minutes into the set, some Clarabel with his fire extinguisher seltzer bottle sprayed out the flames and bodies converged around my keyboards. Geoffrey had the club employee responsible by the throat and I didn’t think we were going to make it without a brawl. Somehow, Geoffrey got back by the microphone and announced to the crowd that if they wanted us to continue, we would, otherwise we were going to split. They roared their approval and we entranced them for another half hour with water tricks and glitter dust, propelled by some powerful musical accompaniment.

As expected, we did not get the gig (we were too much of a spectacle for a grand opening to showcase a new club), but that Saturday, the front cover of the Daily News contained a black and white photo of the purple canopy of the Gilded Grape being removed by the traffic department because they did not have a permit. I’ve always wondered how this rated as a cover photo. Apparently, nothing else of importance was taking place in NYC, so it was with karmic delight that I accepted the front page synchronicity.

Soon after, in May of 1977, we found ourselves in the Elgin Theater on 8th Avenue at 19th street for a two week period during which we helped fill the theater with sound and smoke. Geoffrey took up residence in a room in the basement and Frank Stokes reappeared on bass. We also had a new guitarist, glamour boy Louis Rone who more than looked the part. He is hidden in the bottom corner of the CD label, as the main photo is from the Elgin’s back alley. In all the years I’d known him, Rone never sounded as good as he did for his brief sojourn with Kongress that spring of 1977. There was one night on stage when Geof, in a state of exuberance, pulled Rone by his long hair. Afterwards, Lou had talked about getting a baseball bat and going after Geoffrey!

During one of the rehearsals in the Elgin basement, I got word that my sixteen year old roadie Joe (born 6/6/60), who hadn’t been seen for a month or so, had been found dead in upstate New York with rope burns around his neck (an ironic twist as Geoffrey would later find out). The bearer of these ill tidings was none other than E. Paul Schnug, who introduced Joe to Kongress, and that was the last time I saw him as well.

One of the last nights at the Elgin, Rod Swenson was in the audience with Wendy O. Williams. This was pre-Plasmatics and, as we didn’t go on as scheduled, he was running back and forth to another club to see some other band, as well. Finally, we took the stage, Geof sporting a Mohican haircut and coordinating his pyrotechniques with road crew detonations, all no doubt registered in Rod Swenson’s memory banks for future reference. At a later performance by Von Lmo’s post Kongress Red Transister at Max’s, Rod was also seen observing Von’s chainsaw style, but it doesn’t matter who does it first, it’s who has the most eyes see it done first (or read about it being done first). Still, it was satisfying to hear Lenny Kaye’s description of our Elgin Theater period when I showed up for an audition for the Patti Smith Group, “It reminded me of Berlin during the war!” I didn’t realize Lenny Kaye was such an old soul.

After the Elgin, I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue dealing with the disappointments of the live performance end of the music business. It was time to document the madness, put out a record and stop running around till four in the morning for no pay and little glory. An instrumental acquaintance for later developments, Rick Rosenspire, arranged for some ‘free’ eight track recording studio time and on my 29th birthday (July 24th) we were in Studio 29 on 29th street. This was the summer of the Son of Sam and I had penned an account of the events to that point, titled “Sam Son.” When we got in the studio and the engineer heard the title of the song, he commented that he had a black labradour retriever by the same name. Ironically, a few weeks later, after David Berkowitz was captured, it came out in the papers that he claimed to be receiving orders from his neighbor’s dog, a black labradour retriever! I expressed the desire to take a picture of the dog sitting in Geof’s electric chair for the record cover, but not only was the tape never released, later I was informed that Sam Son had died, having been run over by a priest!

If this sounds eerie or strange, after awhile you’ll get used to this type of phenomena because this sort of stuff has continually been a part of my life. I tend to categorize these events as some kind of synchronicity, with occasional glimpses of precognition. At this point, I’ll try to give some examples of this, out of chronological sequence, as many times these occurrences have had nothing to do with musical events.

One night I had a dream that John Denver had hung himself. The next day I saw his picture in the NY Daily News with a caption “Happiness and then Sorrow,” detailing how he had been at some charity event and received word that his father had died of a heart attack. Another time, I had just missed a train and was so annoyed that I was tempted to walk through the tunnel to the express station two stops away. I mentally listed the logic against this as a) the third rail and where would I go if a train came, b) the sludge built up on the track beds and c) the presence of rats. The first two reasons were enough to deter me and so I waited for the next local and got off two stops later at the express station. As I was waiting there, I was still thinking about how I had never seen any rats when suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I spied some swirling objects down by the tracks. Indeed, what I saw was two rats darting about!

Around this time, I received a complimentary subscription to the Berkeley Barb. One issue had a review of Robert Anton Wilson’s classic on synchronicity and related fields, The Cosmic Trigger. I purchased the book and somewhere in the middle read about how Aliester Crowley had discovered that all the important words in the Greek Cabala had the numerical value of 93, hence Crowleyans to this day speak of their work as carrying the 93 current. My own Aleister Crowley connection was cosmically triggered and I proceeded to check page 93 of the books I was reading at the time, starting with The Cosmic Trigger, on which I discovered the term ‘cognitive dissonance.’ Wilson described this phenomenon as the complete reversal of one’s reality model. As an example, he cited two supposedly rational detectives in Pittsburgh who witnessed a dog bark and disappear into a puff of green smoke. I made note of this term as an appropriate description of the intended effect of my music. The next week, the Village Voice had an article about David Bowie’s first LP produced by synth wiz Brian Eno,‘Low,’ and the closing statement was ‘cognitive dissonance’ still lives!

I bought a copy of The High Times Encyclopedia of Recreational Drugs and immediately turned to page 93. At the top of the page, much to my amazement, appeared the following verse –

 “For this you;ve my word and I never yet broke it

 So put that in your pipe my Lord Otto and smoke it!”

In September, 1982, after the release of my first recording, an EP titled ‘Movie Viewers,’ a friend advised me that he’d seen a review of it in High Times Magazine. I stopped at a newsstand and scanned the index of the latest issue. Not surprisingly, it contained an excerpt from Aleister Crowley’s pamphlet on cocaine. I turned to the music reviews, but didn’t see mine, however, there was a continuation on page 93. When I opened the magazine to page 93, there I was, cropped from the EP cover over the space where the number 93 should have appeared! I was already familiar with Crowley’s Cocaine pamphlet, having discovered it in the Warlock Shop in Brooklyn Heights around 1974. I had just conceived the title for a song – ‘Chinese Laundromat,’ the night before. Imagine my sense of purpose when on the train ride home, after purchasing the pamphlet, I read about how all sorts of drugs were readily available in the early 1900’s at the local Chinese laundry. Eventually, this inspired the recording, ‘Vietnamese Laundry.’

Saturday, August 04, 2018

Yet another ho-hummer this week. Do yourself a favor and read YOWP instead. It's a much better blog---really!


Gaea-FUTURE UNIVERSE CD (Gaea Records)

Otto von Ruggins' mention of Gaea Hawkins in the interview I did with the man a few weeks back really got me interested in giving this former Guardian keyboardist a listen to, and wouldn't you know it but the lass actually has not only this but other recorded wares out and about. And from the look of FUTURE UNIVERSE is sure looks swell especially in that whole OvR/Kongress/LMO fashion...I mean, take a gander at that garish outer space cover...seem familiar to you? Howzbout the title...FUTURE UNIVERSE...compare that 'un to another infamous album if you so dare! But does FUTURE UNIVERSE rank as an unheralded musical classic up there with all of those others we all tried finding to no avail back in those pre-internet hit and miss days?

Well, the answer to these and many other pressing questions is YES. this platter is a bonafeed rock classic that ranks with all of those other undiscovered efforts that seemed to moil about in the waters of indifference which only I seemingly find more than a shard of value in them for some not-so-strange reason or another.

The best way to describe this home made job'd be to call the thing electronic punk rock. Not that punk as in "punque" that many of you "aficionados" have given more lip service to than Harry Reems, but mid-seventies hard-edged blues-y neo-metallic gutter street sounds punk. Kinda like the early punky Giorgio Moroder sound with some Irmin Schmidt keyboardry ca. EGE BAMYASI complete with all of that gear that Gary Wright used on "Dream Weaver", only with a hefty does of pop styling tossed in. If THE IDIOT came off like this maybe Lester Bangs wouldn't have loathed it so much. A surprisingly refreshing effort that conjures up various mid-seventies feelings that we all shoulda had, and what's even stranger is that this disque came out in 2000, a good quarter-century after the whole underground hub bub regarding rock 'n roll as a under-the-underground effort was being birthed at a time only a few urban-encroached fans knew what was goin' on!

Makes me wanna know more about the gal and her other musical endeavors. Hey Gaea, if yer readin' this and wanna get in touch feel free to do so, even if yer probably gonna remain just as obscure as ya were before I pecked this particular write up!
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Phew-LIGHT SLEEP LP (Mesh Key Records)

Since I liked her work with and without various members of Can, I thought I'd give this particular Phew platter a look-see. Hmmmm, seems as if I was RIGHT again, for LIGHT SLEEP is what anyone with half-a-braincell to rub together would deem a BEYOND THE CALL OF DUTY AMAZINGLY DRIVING ALBUM that I sure wish I heard way back when instead of in the here and now because...like I would have been alive longer to give it even more spins, ifyaknowaddamean...

On this debut platter recorded right smack dab inna middle of her own apartment, Phew manipulates electronics, mostly by herself with minimal synthetic assist, while she makes a whole bunch of those slyly askew gurgles and moans which fit the synthesized buzzes and blurs even more potent as she pants, talks Japanese and basically creates a strange cough syrup dream mood with her mere voice. The backing sounds though are what really adds the potent power to this platter, recalling various experiments from the likes of Nurse With Wound and Throbbing Gristle as the riffs repeat themselves creating atmospheres that are can be hypnotic, relaxing AND nightmarish all at once. Overall this captures the whole synthetic/electronic spirit of 70s/80s cusp electronic rock-oriented sounds a whole lot more'n those casioclowns that ended up owning the entire sorry 1980s once passion and terror were replaced by giddy goody feely music.

Definitely one to break the bank for what with the driving patterns that for once stir up those long-hidden reasons as to why one might have gone for this truly liberating experimental music in the first place. Forced Exposure had a bunch but I guess they sold out. Best to try again in case they do get another shipment in hopefully more sooner than later.
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Josh Max's Outfit-MAKE IT SNAPPY CD (Swipecat Records)

I first came about this bunch while combing the CBGB cybercasts 'round 2000 way. Shrugged 'em off as something that wasn't quite conduit to my own rock 'n roll sense of sound-as-tension (the group was performing the Desi Arnaz classic "Cuban Pete", which also appears on this platter). However, this Cee Dee dos have its merits even though the rock unto boogie unto forties sounds Josh and crew make can be considered akin to a stripped down Manhattan Transfer churning up more than a few bad art deco memories. Yet the rockabilly track does elicit some smart moves while the tributes to various Tin Can Alley clanks of the past don't reek seventies nostalgia like too many similar efforts have. Not bad at all actually, and they ever manage to crank out a decent Merseybeat soundalike at that.
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The Radiators From Space-TV TUBE HEART CD-r burn (originally on Chiswick Records, England)

Not bad Irish punk rock from a group that fortunately still remembered what punk rock was like in the mid-seventies before it began evolving into a creature that was nothing more'n the worst aspects of hippiedom with a demeanor that made the original ROLLING STONE look positively pallid. For one thing this is actually BRIGHT and KINETIC music that's a far cry from some of the woe is me doom 'n gloom sounds that was permeating England and perhaps the rest of the Isles in the mid-eighties. The playing's great as well, not that it always mattered but when it works, well it works! A boff reish complete with new material, b-side, singles and cassette-only rarities not to mention some live material that add a few more nuts on the top of this punkazoid sundae of a sesh if you do ask me!
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Various Artists-SYDE TRIPS VOLUME SIX CD-r burn

I never knew so much commercialized yet vital psychedelic rock came outta England back inna late-sixties! Although I'm sure none of this would have rocked the Ladbrook Grove types I must admit that the quality of these records, recorded by acts I never heard about before, straddle the fine line between mere pop and honest enough for me psychedelia that might have been as canned as corn, but ya gotta admit IT SURE SERVES ITS PURPOSE! All of it has varying degrees of rock magnitude, though some tracks by the likes of acts with the typically psych pop names as Tropical Fish and the Phoenix manage to capture the late-sixties situation more than people with names like Grace and Jorma ever did, ifyaknowaddamean. Highlight of the set's most definitely Solent's fairer than fair cover version of the Sagittarius classic "My World Fell Down".
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PRESENTING THE LINKS CD'r burn

Straight from three fantastic days at the Des Moines Holiday Inn, the Links are just as innovative and as exotic as the chicken croquettes one would have been downing whilst listening to their groovoid sounds. And if you really like hearing such hits as "The Sounds of Silence" and "My Way" done up on a Hammond B-3 and sung in perfect three-part harmony before you trek back to your room to catch the late-moom, you can always get hold of this platter that's bound to bring back those vibrating bed and calling room service for extra towels days faster than you can say "Kit Kat Lounge". Not bad if you want to conjure up memories of some of the gunk that was goin' 'round in the seventies which did make all that punk and hard-edged music we liked sound all the more better.
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Gary Schneider-JUST FOR FUN, JUST FOR FRIENDS CD-r burn

When the Links move on to Holiday Inns unknown you can just bet that Gary Schneider will be there to keep those traveling salesmen well and happy. With his Hammond (well this time it just MIGHT be a Wurlitzer) and perhaps some other keyboard wizardry, Schneider sings double-tracked (with little regard for his voices matching up, or did he intend that?) on a variety of old time faves that not only got that nostalgic glimmer for the senior citizens amongst us but that cha-cha rhythm that'll really getcha goin'! If Suicide were a lounge band they woulda sounded like this. But in all, don't YOU think it's rather disturbing that Schneider got to make an album and all of those great mid-late seventies groups we've never heard DIDN'T?????
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Various Artists-ENVELOPE STUFFING MAMBO SYMPATHY CD-r burn (Bill Shute)

Not as much of a zip to this Bill burn as usual, but still a nice way to pass an afternoon. Which is much better than passing a kidney stone I would imagine. A variety of cheap soul jazz recordings, the typical country and western toss off, some krauts thinking they're doing mambo, slushy tit-squeeze pop and cheapo "song poems" permeate the disque making for some funtime sounds I would imagine, though it's only when Jimmy Witherspoon and James Brown work their black magic that this kicks into hi-gear and becomes one mighty entertaining spinner. The ads that Bill snuck in were fine...especially dug the old Esso ones because I remember when I was an early teenbo and here in the USA Esso became Exxon with that new seventies-styled box-y logo which did not appeal to me one bit given how much I liked the old, more streamlined one! I hear that you lucky Canadians still have actual Essos up there which is cool because you can still see that old glorious sign which has remained little unchanged (other's being given a wind-swept look) while traveling the roads. I'd move up there just for that, only with Justin in orifice I think my bank account would run out in a mere few days.
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"We'll get right back to DECADE OF THE SEVENTIES NEW YORK CITY ROCK after this break. The chick peas served at Max's Kansas City may have been cheap, but the days of modestly priced buffets are gone... Won't you help Chris when he occasionally wants to suspend his diet by buying some back issues of the fabled BLACK TO COMM magazine? Pledge now and get a FANABLA coffee mug!"