Tuesday, March 21, 2017

BOOK REVIEW BY BILL SHUTE! NAPOLEON COMIC STRIPS, SUNDAYS 1937 (Golden Age Reprints)


Written and drawn by Clifford McBride, the newspaper comic strip NAPOLEON grew out of earlier McBride strips. He introduced a character named UNCLE ELBY in two strips in the late 20s and early 30s and gave Elby a dog named Napoleon. The dog became quite popular with readers and got his own strip in 1932 and his own larger color Sunday strip in 1933. As Don Markstein of Toonopedia writes, “Napoleon was a big, clumsy, ungainly dog, most likely an approximation of an Irish wolfhound. As dogs go, he had a remarkably broad facial range, able to convey surprise, dismay, haughty disdain, grudging satisfaction and much more, as recognizable to readers as the expressions of any human character, and yet completely dog-like in every panel.” His would-be master, Uncle Elby, was a stocky older man, one who was enthusiastic (he was always coming up with projects around the house for Napoleon to spoil and wanting to go camping or boating or on other vacations that Napoleon would disrupt) but somewhat bumbling. If you could imagine a more laid-back Oliver Hardy but played by Wilford Brimley, that’s how I see the Elby character.

Napoleon became quite a comics phenomenon and was featured as a commercial mascot for Red Heart Dog Food in the 1940’s (see ad), with the strip continuing on past McBride’s 1951 death until 1961! That’s a 29-year run (longer if you count his “supporting appearances” before he had his own strip), quite impressive in the comics world.

Dogs often come to resemble their owners--or is it that the owners often come to resemble their dogs? In other situations, a give-and-take dynamic is created between dog and owner, where each plays a role, much like a married couple or people who are forced to work together for years. I won’t say that the dogs in comics and popular entertainment are smarter than their human keepers; let’s just say that they are not as easily taken in, they have a better BS-detector, and they tend to enjoy life more. They are also good at exposing the arbitrary and inconsistent aspects of human culture. Many times Napoleon gets in trouble by making some totally logical extension of one human behavior into another realm and acts accordingly.

Each Sunday installment of Napoleon runs about 12 panels (it varies according to the panel size), three across and four down. As I thumb through this book, I see some sample situations which should give you a good idea about how each page-long strip is developed: Elby goes on a picnic; he decides to go boating; he tries to paint a room; he goes skiing; he buys and tries to use a new shaving brush; he tries to water the lawn; he takes his old banjo out of storage and starts to get back into playing; he tries to get some spring water, etc.

Generally the first 40-50% of the strip involves setting up the situation, and then Napoleon steps in and tries to help or tries to have some fun since he sees his master having fun. Elby’s plans get disrupted, Napoleon does not understand what the trouble is or why there is a problem, and things fall apart.

That’s pretty much the formula, but it’s a winning formula, and when you have a winning comedy formula, you can bring it to many different life situations, and people will still enjoy it--the familiarity is comforting (and comfortable), while they enjoy seeing characters they like in new situations. That’s what kept Napoleon on top for such a long time. Remember, people did not seek out and buy a Napoleon comic book--Napoleon was there for their enjoyment in the Sunday newspaper they already bought and paid for. They would have bought the paper anyway had he NOT been in it (oh, maybe a few super-fans would have cancelled their subscriptions if he’d been dropped, but not many), so his pleasant comedy situations were like the free chips and salsa with your meal here in San Antonio--not what you came in for, necessarily, but an extra that puts a smile on your face.

There is very little dialogue in the strips--sometimes Uncle Elby will announce what they are doing, sometimes he will talk to another human character, but most often, it’s clear what the situation is and no dialogue is used. Napoleon has a VERY expressive face, and like the great human comedians, he is a master of mugging and exasperated eye movements and quizzical glances.

Golden Age Reprints offers a few different year-long collections of Napoleon. I chose this 1937 one because the strip had already been running for five years at this point, and I assumed it would be in its prime by then...and it certainly was.

Fred Basset is mining a similar vein on today’s newspaper comics page, but like society in general, he is more cerebral and ironic than his 1930’s counterpart. I like Fred Basset, but Napoleon is to the 1930’s what comedians such as, say, Andy Clyde or Harry Langdon were to that same Depression era. People who enjoy 1930’s comedy shorts and who are dog-lovers would probably be glad to discover Napoleon comic strips.

The only flaw with this collection is that the Sunday comics were done in color, but this book is reproduced in black and white to save money (comic reprint books in color usually cost about three times as much as those in black and white). That’s unfortunate, but the humor and the subtle artwork--which truly captures the facial expressions and body language of both Uncle Elby and Napoleon--come through just fine in black and white, and I don’t think I would have paid three times as much for this just to get the color reproduction. Should you not want to buy this book, there are a number of free 1937 strips available online--a little Googling of the strip’s name and the artist’s name and “1937 Sundays” should bring some your way.

The affectionate and often comic relationship between dog and human is timeless, so the humor here is timeless too. Check it out!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

I knew it just hadda happen (if only because I have been thinking a whole lot about him these past few weeks--my psychic powers work in strange ways) but r.i.p. Chuck Berry at the r.i.p.e. old age of ninety. Really, what can be said about him that's not already been said by load of snobbish one-dimensional Big City Rock Critics over and over to the point of puke pail time---other'n yeah, he was another one of those fifties rock sickos but he was still fine enough even if his only number one hit was well, about his number one! Not to mention the fact that a whole load of inferior rock 'n roll "fans" had milked his act for eons already including the "duck walk" which was already a hackneyed prop by the time BACK TO THE FUTURE came out. (And considering this time of sorrow I'll refrain from bringing up the infamous "Wee Wee Hours" video not to mention the legendary poop parties where he coaxed young gals into his hotel room and loaded 'em up on Ex-Lax.)  Just keep those condescending raves from the aforementioned Dave Marsh wannabes who can't refrain from bringing up subjects like racism and oppression no matter how hard they try (not to mention that he 'n not Elvis is "The King of Rock 'n Roll" because...well, you know why!) outta your mind and who knows...maybe you too will enjoy his recordings for what they are and shall remain. Mainly some pretty hotcha early rock that has been imitated and ruined by over-emulation since who knows when but then again, so what else is new???
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Life has ground to a stultifying still here at BLOG TO COMM headquarters to the point where even a loudmouth blowhard as I really don't know how to start off this typically traumatic post. As usual "real life" (ech!) tends to creep into my usual fun 'n jamz time with an alarming reality, and come to think of it what I'm subjected to when I do get a few hours of free time ain't anything to crow about either!

Thankfully I've discovered that my idea of having a fun time, when I do get some tossed my way that is, ain't anything that's gonna clear out the wallet which does come in handy for the day when Medicaid will not be covering my colostomy bags. Lez just say that at this point in time I'm happy enough just starin' out the bedroom window (with or without music spinnin' on the bedside box) watching the wind blowing the tree limbs (the more violently the better), at least until I get the energy up to pick one of those great comic strip/book reprints I've been getting hold of  via Golden Age Reprints and read/re-read some crucial saga that will undoubtedly be written up in these pages one of these days. Just doing this (usually in my stocking feet or what passes for my pajamas during the night hours when it's harder to see outside but wha' th' 'eh!) is enough to keep me in Suburban Slob heaven for a longer time than  anyone could imagine!

Also managed to squeeze some good sounds into my off-hours of relaxation, some of which are written about on this very post (look below, dumbkopf!). Thanks to Bill Shute, Paul McGarry, P D. Fadensonnen (or "Totensonnen" in this case) and Bob Forward March for these items, and as usual keep those cards and letters (and parcels) comin'! Give these a read, and as Bill Cosby once said if you're not careful you might learn something, something that I'm sure Bill sure wished you wouldn't have learned inna first place but that's his problem!


Totensonnen-WINTER SOLSTICE cassette (Fadensonnen)

Hey kids, cassettes are back in style! And what better way to celebrate this sacred technology which had recorded millions of C+-quality tapes since the sixties than with this release from Fadensonnen now going under the name Totensonnen who's dished out a couple more winners with this 'un. Side one's "Daybreak" is an acoustic effort featuring a rambling guitar and bongos wailing on and on. Kinda reminds me of Malachi's HOLY MUSIC in spots as well as some of those early Robbie Basho efforts that were all the rage about twenny years back. "A Night Gaunt Stares" features a return to electric guitar which wails on nicely like some of those Bruce Anderson affairs which I might have said about earlier Fadensonnen efforts but SO WHAT! Another nice addition to the Fadensonnen canon which I'm sure most of you readers have been following as intently as I have been.
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John "Inzane" Olson-SOLO SESSIONS VOLUME 1 + STARE CASE/WOLF EYES/STARE CASE CD-r burn; SOLO SESSIONS VOLUME 2 cassette

On the same day I received the above wonder I also got these items for my perusal. Yes, its none other than the LIFE IS A RIP OFF guy himself John "Inzane" Olson doing the music thing with or without the aid of Wolf Eyes, and it's an eye-opener whether you have wolf eyes or not. The Cee-Dee-Are features Olson doing the solo thing  mostly using woodwinds while banging a tambourine or some other item with the other hand making a great (though not joyous, thankfully!) noise. On some tracks it sounds as if some infant is wailing along, perhaps in protest but who knows. I know it's difficult for me to describe such records without mentioning various AACM-related items of the late-sixties and seventies (just read a few of my Kendra Steiner Editions writeups!), but man does this one sound like some obscure Anthony Braxton session that came and went with a flash during that man's brief spotlight in the jazz sun back inna seventies!


The disque runs its way off with some Wolf Eyes and other ensemble recordings that are fuller in sound and will help ease your way back to sanity before you pick up the cassette tape and it's MORE solo John Olson horn, percussion and even kid sounds continuing with the first 'un left off! If you've read the man's writing this is more of the same only transcribed to sound, and I'll bet you'll pass these up as well because...for the life of me these were sent gratis and I don't know if they're even available commercially or not!
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The Brian Jonestown Massacre-THIRD WORLD PYRAMID CD-r burn (originally on A Recordings)

Hmmmm....nice. Pleasant. Really went down well while reading old fanzines on a snow day such as this (Wednesday in case you care). A whole lot of it has that modern-day (which for me is like post-1981) dinginess to it what with the drone electronic sound and vocals to match (which is one reason I can't bear to spin my old Stereolab and Spaceman 3 albums anymore) but I find the whole shebang rather exhilarating. If you can't take your psychedelic music in its original form, these guys might just have the right prescription for your stuffed mind woes.
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The Shamrock-THE MODS ARE ALRIGHT CD-r burn (originally on Smog Veil)

Considerin' that I'm writin' this on St. Paddy's Day I thought I'd drag this particularly Irish-y named band outta the Paul McGarry box. Sheesh, despite their moniker it turns out that the Shamrock are Japanese which really adds to the overall confusion, but I'm not gonna let that stop me from enjoying this collection of early-eighties songs recorded during that big hunkerin' mod revival that was goin' on at the time. However, I will let the fact that this is just more of that pale imitation of mid-sixties accomplishment get in the way, for the Shamrock really don't dig in hard like their inspirations most surely did. Good light listening, and if you were one of those guys who used to ape the whole QUADROPHENIA style 'n swerve you know what to do and I don't have to tell you to do it, right?
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Imperial Teen-SEASICK CD-r burn (originally on Polygram)

Sheesh, with a name like Imperial Teen I was thinkin' this was gonna be some seventies-styled hard rock murderanza knock your socks off album. I mean, how far of a step is it from the name Imperial Dogs to Imperial Teen anyway?  Turns out that this Imperial Teen's just one of those upstart (or at least he was back in 1996 when this platter came out) ameraltie types of guy who deals in the twee-er side of underground pop. Some Velvet Underground refs only serve to remind me as to how that band had gone from being the standard bearer for late-sixties/seventies hard-edge gnarl to something that wouldn't be able to stand by itself even if a faint wind should blow by. I'm sure Paul McGarry had a good reason for send a burn of this my way. For the life of me I can't figure out what it is.
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The Turtles-ALL THE SINGLES 2 CD-r burn (originally on Manifesto)

Mark Volman, Howard Kaylan and company have been subject to more "greatest hits" collections than George Takei has been subjected to Klingons on Uranus (well, actually his), so what is one more of 'em to subject a newer generation that couldn't care less into listening to these one-time hits by these one-time charttoppers. Well, all of the biggies are here as are the almost made its and the losers, but you be the judge as Mark, Howard and company careen from folk rock to Southern Californian sunshine pop and even some pre-Zappa satire with the sleek production standards that were oh-so-common back inna late sixties. You might have to do a lotta wadin' to make it from the pedestrian to the goodies,but it's a good wade and you'll be introduced to a whole load of new wonders if this is your first time around, or be re-introduced to some old familiars if you've been in on the game for quite awhile.
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John Coltrane-SUN SHIP: THE COMPLETE SESSION 2-CD-r burn (originally on Impulse)

Another long-needed release featuring all of the ins and outtakes from one-a-them infamous Coltrane quartet platters that have long reached their infamous status in whatever circles albums like these are considered infamous in. Alternate takes, false starts, Elvin Jones drum tracks, control room to Coltrane patter etc. A nice little peek behind the scenes fly on the wall sorta affair that I get the impression most of you regular readers wouldn't give the time of day to,but I personally find it all to be a whole lot interesting on a variety of levels that I won't bother telling you about because hey, what do you care!
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The Waldos-RENT PARTY CD-r burn (originally on Sympathy For The Record Industry)

It's all you would expect outta some post-Heartbreakers elpee complete with the designated cover tunes and a whole lot more. Really good even if it was predictable. At the time of its release I probably would have wooshed over it considering what else there was available at the time (which wasn't much mind you) but for a bunch of guys who were around forever and still cranking it out long after a whole slew of people on this planet could have cared less I sure give 'em ALL THE STARS IN THE WORLD and I do mean it!
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Various Artists-BLINKY OUTRAGE FASTPACED SNOOKUMS CD-r burn (Bill Shute)

Given there are no notes to this and I have to guess what's on here maybe I should let my imagination go wild and see what fun and clever puns I can come up with. Eh, that idea stinks, though I can tell you that there are some weird avant garde guitar type things that remind me of Derek Bailey, a number of Japanese pop numbers that have such a sparkling approach to 'em you get the idea that most Sadistic Mika Band fans woulda gobbled 'em up, and some radio and tee-vee ads including a couple with Jack Benny battling it out with Frank Nelson and Dennis Day! Heck there are even a couple of song poems here including yet another one dealing with that tragic and fateful day (though I forget the reason why) of November 22, 1963.

But what really got me to pluck this precious petunia outta the garden was the cover snap featuring none other than the comedy team of Tom Howard and George Shelton! These guys did some pretty hot (and a few not) comedies for the old Educational Pictures company in the thirties, and not only that but in the forties both were to be found on that classic radio program IT PAYS TO BE IGNORANT. I don't remember the television revival of this series starring Joe Flynn from the seventies (though I did discover that it ran in our area on Saturday afternoons which is why I missed it!), but it was a fave of none other than Bill Shute who taped the audio portion of it in those pre-VCR days! Hey Bill, if you have any of those lying around howzbout sending a few of 'em my way???

Thursday, March 16, 2017

BOOK REVIEW! HATLO CARTOONS 1956 by Jimmy Hatlo (Avon, 1956)

Another batch of THEY'LL DO IT EVERY TIME faveraves that the old folks chuckled at, the hipsters sneered at, and I certainly enjoyed in that great old mid-Amerigan way that I and only I seem to appreciate this far down the crooked line. Little Iodine, Bigdome and Tremblechin and all of those great olde tymey gags are once again here just custom made to upset alla you fifties haters out there, and like I've said many a time it's always is fun to eyeball the great fine-tipped pen art that men like Hatlo used to bless us with 'stead of the quickie dash-out sans any real sense of ingenuity seen these last thirty-plus (and maybe even more!) years.

It's a witty collection too with Hatlo himself seemingly in on the whole joke that made his comic tick (take the page where he summarizes the same eleven situations that readers constantly bombard him with!) and frankly, this comic remains relevant EVEN TO THIS DAY when it comes to real life situations that everybody seems to poo-poo these days because well, we are kinda backwards in our beliefs 'n all.

Yeah I know that you more sophisticado types just won't be able to osmose these early/mid-fifties comics but I sure can in my own baggy suit and suspenders sorta way. And frankly I get the feeling that more'n a few of you reg'lars might feel exactly the SAME WAY and if you do---please---let your feelings be known. After all, I can't keep up the cause of pre-hippie comic strip appreciation (in an age of BABY BLUES and DRABBLE lionization) all by myself!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017


COMIC BOOK REVIEW BY BILL SHUTE! FIGHTIN' ARMY #133 (Charlton Comics, June 1978)


When I first arrived in Oklahoma, I had a part-time work-study job lined up at the Oklahoma State University, where I took two classes a semester, but that did not give me enough money to live on, so I had various other jobs to pay the bills. The longest-lasting of those—around 3 years—was at a restaurant and club called THE RIALTO. It was a former movie theater which had been converted into a night spot, though it was still primarily a restaurant, as opposed to a bar that served food. It was less than a block from the edge of the college campus, so it was in a prime location. Being a former movie palace, it was quite large, and they somehow were able to convert the balcony into a second floor of seating, for couples who wanted some privacy or people who had a working lunch and wanted to be away from noise and activity while they worked on company books or did whatever office workers do when they take their work to lunch with them. That second floor was on one end of the place, covering about ¼ of the restaurant, and you still had a good view of the dance floor and the small stage from up there. We also projected those primitive 1980-style visuals in sync with the music on a screen behind the stage. We pretty much had music playing all the time, although it was kept low for the lunch crowd and gradually turned up as the afternoon evolved into evening. The Rialto also had a large disco ball on the ceiling (a very high ceiling, since this had been a two-story structure), though fortunately we never played disco music. It also claimed to have the “finest sound system in Stillwater” (although I suppose that’s not much of a compliment!).

We were closed Mondays, and I worked four or five nights a week, five to close (which was 11 on weeknights and 1 on weekends). In the three years I worked there, we had various kitchen employees come and go, but there was a core group working most of the time. The night-shift kitchen manager, my boss, was a lady named Marcy, an art major. She had long straw-like hair which she wore in a ponytail, and she almost always wore military fatigues. The one thing I remember about her more than anything else was a remark she made one night during our chatting while working. We were talking about art, and I must have brought up Norman Rockwell and used the word “artist” in the same sentence, because she stopped the conversation cold, and spoke to me the way you’d speak to an eight-year-old, saying, “Norman Rockwell was an illustrator, NOT an artist.” Yes, ma’m!

I was the unofficial assistant kitchen manager. As we were open six nights a week and Marcy worked five of those, she had it in her employment agreement that she would get either Friday or Saturday off each week (our busiest nights, of course), so on that night, I was the acting kitchen manager. We also had an Oklahoma State football player named Robert who worked with us in the off-season—he was an excellent cook, and as a handsome and charming football player, he would also schmooze with customers and help at the bar. Then we had the four gentlemen I’m going to be discussing here: Yong and his three friends, all from Thailand. I don’t remember the other guys’ names at this point, but all four of them were former college or trade-school students (though NOT from Oklahoma State, interestingly, even though they were in Stillwater) who had overstayed their student visas and were technically “illegals,” as they’d be described today.

As with any small business, everyone pretty much did everything as it was needed. Unless it was my night in charge, I tended to stay at the front of the kitchen only during rushes, though on a Friday or Saturday night a “rush” could run for three hours or more. Otherwise, I enjoyed being in the back doing dishes. No one else enjoyed doing dishes, but I could see what was going on up front and could tell when I was needed. I enjoyed the privacy back there, and I’d often have a little cassette player up above my work station and have some of my own music playing.

Yong was the leader and translator for this group of young Thai men. They were all great guys, worked hard, had good senses of humor, and were very conscientious people in all areas of their lives. Yong’s English was excellent, but the others did not have much English. They tended to communicate through a number of English slang phrases by which, via context and emphasis, they managed to express whatever it was they needed to get across. If there was some specific technical point they had to say, they’d tell Yong, and he would tell me or the other employees.

The four guys shared the bottom floor of an old two-story house which had been cut up and converted into rental units, as often happens in college towns. They would invite me over from time to time, and the one thing I remember most about them was that they were HEAVILY into Grand Funk. At that time there were eleven Grand Funk studio albums out, plus the 2 LP Live album, and they owned ALL of them, and owned them on cassette. Grand Funk had not issued an album in a few years when I knew these guys, and their last album had been the Frank Zappa-produced GOOD SINGIN’, GOOD PLAYIN’, recorded for a new label after they’d left Capitol. Whenever I’d visit them, the guys had some Grand Funk album blasting. I can’t say I disliked Grand Funk—I’d definitely take them in a heartbeat over a pretentious act like Steely Dan, and they had honorable roots in the great tradition of Michigan Rock’n’Roll, and as a longtime reader of CREEM, I knew that Michigan Rock’n’Roll was the best there was! However, there was always a generic quality to Grand Funk, in my humble opinion. I never found much of their stuff distinctive or memorable. They did, however, have those great Midwestern qualities of hard work and sticking to one’s chosen career field, so I had to admire that….and I would not turn off their music if someone else was playing it. A version of Grand Funk is actually still around today (surprisingly, minus Mark Farner)—I saw that they were playing one of my familiar haunts recently, Delta Downs casino and racetrack, near Lake Charles, Louisiana. With eleven albums, there was  A LOT of Grand Funk, and believe me, I heard it all multiple times.

The guys could never really put into words WHY they were so into Grand Funk. I’m guessing that what seemed generic to an American like me seemed solid and reliable to them, and except for a few ill-advised ventures into ballads and/or orchestration, at least Grand Funk tended to stick to the journeyman rock and roll they did best. However, I took it upon myself to turn the guys onto other music that I thought they’d enjoy. In fact, since I could kind of guess at the qualities they thought they were hearing in Grand Funk, I wanted to find them OTHER music that would satisfy those needs even better. I was somewhat successful, though of course they never abandoned their first love. I remember when the Grand Funk “comeback” album GRAND FUNK LIVES came out in ’81, they had that on non-stop for weeks.

As cassettes were their chosen medium for music, and I was able to make cassettes of records I owned, every few weeks when I’d stop by their place for a beer and to hang out, I’d bring 2 or 3 cassettes for them. I remember that they were playing some of those awful post-Mick Taylor Rolling Stones albums like BLACK AND BLUE and SOME GIRLS, so I thought I’d turn them on to some early Stones. I taped for them the first Stones album, when they were still a blues band, and when I brought that tape over, I also brought over two six-packs of some quality beer—at least quality in comparison with the awful Old Milwaukee or whatever they usually drank by the case. They usually smoked this awful ragweed that would not get anyone very high and which mostly caused a headache. I inquired among my pot-smoking friends, and no one else was familiar with this crap they smoked, so I’m not sure where they got it. Anyway, they fired up some joints (I passed on it) of that stuff, drank the Heinekens or whatever it was I brought, and really got into the early Stones. I then taped some of the other early Stones albums (and the great MORE HOT ROCKS compilation) and the Yardbirds and the Animals and the like. I had a sense that they loved the BLUES BASE of Grand Funk, as deeply hidden as it might have been, and I was correct. Soon I had them listening to Jimmy Reed and John Lee Hooker and Roy Buchanan and Hound Dog Taylor and the like. Those seemed to strike some chord within them. I also taped them one of my all-time favorite albums, GOOD GEAR by the Count Bishops—I used that as an entry-way to get them into punk.

I can’t tell you how happy it made me to see these Thai guys, beers in hand, pumping their fists in the air, shouting “rock and roll” or whatever, as they were blasting a Hound Dog Taylor album or FIVE LIVE YARDBIRDS in the living room of the ground floor of their rented house. I also introduced them to THE JAM, and they ate that up too. I would make cassettes of the older Jam things and then of each new release as it came out. One event I can remember as if it happened yesterday was the night THE JAM were scheduled to play the FRIDAYS TV show, ABC’s short-lived attempt to present a SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE-inspired “hip” late-night variety show. I managed to talk Marcy into bringing a small portable TV, and we plugged it in back in the dishwashing area at the rear of the kitchen, and she agreed to let us watch that while she covered for us in the kitchen (she was a classical music person and was not interested). I can still see and hear and even taste the brutal, in-your-face version of "Private Hell" that Paul Weller and crew delivered that night. That performance can often be found on You Tube, though it goes up and comes down, and I’d suggest you check it out. It later appeared on a bootleg LP I owned, and from that LP, I played it more than once on my Canadian “Inner Mystique Radio” shows in the mid-to-late 1980’s. The four guys and I were standing near the dishwasher, eyes and ears glued to the small black-and-white screen. It was the closest I ever felt to the guys…united in love for REAL rock and roll.

It must have been difficult for the three guys who did not speak much English to live in northern Oklahoma, where they did not have much contact with other people from their culture, where they had to stay somewhat under the radar because of their immigration status, working a minimum wage job full-time. While Yong was a man who read books in English (and I remember loaning him STUDS LONIGAN by James T. Farrell and AMERICAN HUNGER by Richard Wright), the other guys did not, but they did enjoy comic books. As the boys were on a low-budget (I didn’t want them spending their beer and ragweed money on reading matter), I would loan them comic books from time to time, usually horror or war comics or even westerns, ones where the action would pretty much be clear and where just getting SOME of the language would be adequate. I’d drop off maybe 5 or 6 old comics at their place, and then a few weeks later, I’d pick those up and drop some more off.

One I remember them enjoying was FIGHTIN’ ARMY # 133, a Charlton war comic. If you had to choose one war comic book to represent everything that’s great about war comics, it would be this issue. It was like the gritty but totally stereotyped B-war movie of your dreams—it’s like the Platonic form of a war comic. All the stories are set in World War II, and the evil Nazis are exactly what you’d expect in pulpy entertainment. When I re-read this issue for this review, during the first story, I thought to myself, “I’m surprised the Nazi commander was not wearing a monocle.” Of course, in the next story, he was. I was also expecting one of the Nazi underlings to say to his commanding officer, “Jah wohl, mein herr,” and sure enough a few pages later he did. And the Americans were called “dirty Americaner schwein,” as I was hoping and expecting they would be. It was almost like one of those straight-to-video action films where you can anticipate the dialogue and recite it along with the actors. You also have another one of those stories—and these are probably one reason why war comics were popular with privates and corporals stuck in the middle of nowhere and wanting something to keep themselves busy with—where the second lieutenant who has book learning but no real-world experience in battle starts out arrogant but eventually realizes the sergeant knows a lot more than he does, and the story usually ends with the officer stating in front of the whole unit how he was deficient and now realizes the error of his ways. Surely, that was satisfying to some E1 or E2 recruit who felt unappreciated. As clichéd as this issue is, it does have some nice little touches (and the story-boarding is such that it moves really well….I can see how someone with a limited grasp of English could totally get what was happening). For instance, the second story deals with the war in Italy, when Italy was still part of the Axis, and you see Italian citizens being abused by the Nazis and Italian resources being stolen by the Nazis, at a time when the Italians were starving. You see how the Italian people turned against the Germans and joined the Allies. It’s not like THAT is a topic one is exposed to very often. Overall, a solid and satisfying war comic.

In their usual manner, the guys used the same limited storehouse of English slang to let me know that they enjoyed this issue. I remember one of them pumping his first in the air and saying “Kick Ass,” while another one did the same and said “rock and roll.” Some things must be universal, and I guess they could imagine heroic Thai forces standing up to the Japanese or the Chinese communists or whoever while they were reading this comic book. I’m glad it prompted the same kind of reaction they’d give to The Jam or The Count Bishops….or their heroes, Grand Funk.

When I would visit the guys, I noticed that they had Asian items in their place which they could not have gotten in Stillwater—they must have gone to Oklahoma City or Tulsa to get them, which was interesting as none of them had a car. They must have gone with friends to an Asian market in a larger city. As I would always pass on that ragweed they smoked, they would offer me tea, and Yong introduced me to something I still drink today—in fact, coincidentally, I’m drinking it this morning as I write this piece--FERMENTED TEA, more specifically PU-ERH TEA. It was compressed into little bowl-shaped pieces, about 1/3 of an inch each, which were wrapped in paper. You would break that up and then steep the pieces. It had a nice kick to it along with that organic “glow” that only tea can provide.

Whenever I drink that tea….or whenever I’m out somewhere and hear Grand Funk, I think of Yong and the crew from THE RIALTO. Seeing this copy of FIGHTIN’ ARMY #133 also brought back clear memories of them fist-pumping their appreciation of it. As we say here at BTC, old comic books (NOT old Grand Funk albums) are your best entertainment value!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Hey, wasn't that previous post by Brad Kohler just the livin' dickens??? Yeah, I thought so too which is why I decided to post his timely and important missive immediate-like rather'n let it wait until whatever Tuesday in the queue it is where I usually publish these "special guest post" entries! I personally feel that this particular edition of BLOG TO COMM piloted by Kohler is that good to the point where I've even postponed my own weekend update (the one you're reading, dummy!) until late in the day (Sunday, that is) just so's more and more people can get an eyefulla Brad's informative and entertaining opinions without having to trudge through my post to get to it! THAT'S how considerate of others I am, and if I were you I wouldn't go 'round sayin' alla that nasty stuff about me that you're most likely to, you half-truth peddlin' liars you!
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Other'n that I gotta 'fess up to the fact that it's getting harder and harder to write these prerambles given the fact that hey, it ain't like there's much to write about life-wise (at least in my life) nowadays. Let's just say that at this point in that decades-long trek alla the good things that were supposed to happen to me shoulda happened a loooooong time ago only they didn't, and what is happening now ain't anything that's gonna make ya wanna rush out a special edition of THE LIFE AND TIMES OF CHRIS STIGLIANO any day soon. The realities of life can get to be a drag, and when there ain't that much good rock 'n roll or free jazz or even classical hoo-hah to get you up 'n resensified then what's a poor fanabla to do?

Of course (despite your dearest wishes) I am not going to give up in my quest to present to you the best in rockism-related blogging so as Jimi Whatzizname might have said to Otis Redding backstage at Monterrey, "Dig my reality".  And with those words, "dig in..." (Freebies courtesy Guerssen, burns courtesy Bill Shute, P. D. Fadensonen and Paul McGarry.)


Requiem-FOR A WORLD AFTER CD (Mental Experience c/o Guerssen Records, Spain)

Here's an early-eighties effort from Germany that reminds me more of a smattering of mid-seventies synth/guitar efforts than they do of your fifth birthday party. And, like a good portion of the electronic moo that was coming out at the time, this seems lost and out of place next to some of the more nightmarish electronic music that was being made at the time as any fan of Chrome or Throbbing Gristle could tell ya. Not as "punk rock" as Harmonia nor as motorik as early Kraftwerk, Requiem still does have a particularly calming effect that should suit fans of a whole load of seventies synth experimentation. Heavily Berlin-infused---in fact if you were one who was known to take afternoon naps to side two of David Bowie's LOW (like I have during extremely exhausting times) then this one just might help you out as well!
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The Thirteenth Floor Elevators-REUNIONS CD-r burn

The Mother Earth tape from 1973 have been floating around for quite awhile but this is the first time I heard it so bully for me! The sound quality is as bad as the tape traders said it was, but who cares given the total energy performance of the more or less reunited Elevators who deliver a pretty good set that equals the likes of the Detroit hard rock groups in terms of all-out energy. Contains a great version of "Rainy Day Woman" which is one of those songs custom made for Roky Erickson to sing just like "Werewolves of London" was and I ain't kiddin'! The '77 show lacks Roky and sounds a little better but the magic just ain't there...after all a Thirteenth Floor Elevators show without Roky would be akin to a slumber party without a vibrator!
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Freddy Cannon-BANG ON/STEPS OUT...PLUS CD-r burn (originally on See For Miles, England)

Maybe I should have a mad-on about Cannon after hearing that story about the time he'n Link Wray were on tour and Cannon was blabbing about just how great he was and that Wray was nothing but a hasbeen, and the famed guitarist actually pulled over and pushed Cannon outta the car for being such a loudmouth! Keeping personal opinions aside 'n alla those things them Big City rock critics were (there ain't any anymore, or so I hope!) supposed to do I figured that I should judge this 'un on merit alone! A hard task true, but I've done it and y'know what...for this music being more-a-that typical early-sixties boy singer stuff that many people hate they do have a nice spark to 'em! Of course there's nothing SPECTACULAR about Freddy per se but these tracks (consisting of the hit "Palisades Park" and a whole slewwa covers) do show some excitement and fun that might have gotten lost in between the more croon-y stuff and the adult Mitch Miller material that was popular at the time. It won't satiate all of those goofs who think rock 'n roll died twixt Buddy Holly and the Beatles, but it sure sounds better'n the stuff they probably were listening to at the time!
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Various Artists-KSE 11TH ANNIVERSARY ALBUM CD-r burn (Kendra Steiner Editions)

Eleven years sure doesn't seem like a long time unless you're twelve, but it has been that long since Bill Shute began his chapbook and music biz which has flourished while lesser competitors have failed. This neato sampler sums up just about everything that label has stood for from musique concrete to jazz to things I'll bet they don't even have a name for yet, and if you want a good encapsulation of what it's all about maybe this is the KSE platter to pick up.  My faves of the batch include Massimo Magee playing a tenor sax that sounds more like the mating call of a jackal with one cojone hanging way lower'n the other, More Ease taking electronic music to an even more whacked-out level than they took it to on their last outing and Fossils doing their best to ape the entire Cecil Taylor experience recorded by some nosy kid next door.
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Paul Flaherty/Randall Colbourne/Stephen Scholze/Mike Murray-CYDONIA CD-r burn

Crazy session featuring the long time team of Flaherty and Colbourne aided and abetted by violinist Stephen Scholze and guitarist Mike Murray, and boy do they create a glorified racket that's bound to break any lease extant! Dunno about you but this music remains "liberating" and alla that old hippie jargon years after the fact what with Flaherty's saxes taking off in a direction similar to those charted by the likes of Ayler and Jarman, while Colbourne does his best to make people forget who Sunny Murray is! (Fat chance it'll work but nice try guy!) The addition of violin and guitar gives an added depth to the proceedings and the results are one record you wish you woulda picked up for a buck in any big city used record shop! I'd use the old capper about playing this one for your standard Chick Corea fan but hey, even that went out with the Edsel!
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Blue Cheer-KMPX, SAN FRANCISCO 1967 CD-r burn

If I'm correct, wasn't this 'un originally released on a side of the infamous CALIFORNIA EASTER ALBUM bootleg that came out about thirtysome years back? If so, it's a shame that these early recordings have gotten to mine ears so late in life because they really are that good of a hard rock listen as well as (yawn!) "historically important". Dunno all of the whys/wherefores and whatevers about these three tracks, but they veer off if only a tad bit from the originals and still sound as good as any overload band of the time (or since) could. That side of San Francisco them hippies just don't like to talk about!
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Cromwell-AT THE GALLOP CD (Got Kinda Lost c/o Guerssen Records, Spain)

I kinda find it strange that an Irish group would name themselves after one of the evilest men to have ever set foot upon the Emerald Isle (and there were many!), but Cromwell did just that which might account to the fact that these guys never did make it humongous either at home or abroad. Not quite the proto-punk hard rock that I thought it was going to be, AT THE GALLOP does come across as a mid-level straight ahead rock album that, while lacking the outright drive of a Thin Lizzy or a number of national acts whose names escape me, might have made a small splash had this one gotten out more than it did. Fans of 1971-72 Rolling Stones might like the lazed groove AT THE GALLOP presents, and as for you...
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Steve Wynn and the Miracle 3-"BURGERHAUS" HEILBRONN (GERMANY) 3.4.2003 2-CD-r set (originally on Blue Rose Records)

Well, not being a fan of the Dream Syndicate (who I shrugged off after more'n a few plays back '83 way as being the latest hipster flash I could do without) it wasn't like I was rarin' to listen to these relatively recent (that is, if fourteen years could be considered "recent") Steve Wynn sides. But soldier on I must and hey, even though I will NEVER darken my eardrums with this 'un again I gotta say that it was a fairly good effort on the part of all involved. The paisley underground-y songs really don't capture my fancy but they are done up in a way where you don't wanna grind these disques up for anal grit, and even the quieter acoustic-y numbers have a nice feel to 'em reminding me of...David Patrick Kelley and Toivo??? Well, there is a striking resemblance in part, and if you were one of those guys who used to comb the early-eighties fanzines for life beyond the great underground fragmentation maybe this will restore your faith in....something... I mean, what is there we can have faith in these sad and sordid days anyway???
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THE SMILEY BURNETTE SHOW CD-r burn

Old timey cowboy fans'll really wanna listen to these fifteen-minute radio programs starring none other'n Gene Autrey's sidekick Smiley Burnette jokin' it up and singing up a storm with the Gay Caballeros and Sweet Georgia Brown helpin' things out. Thankfully the jokes are straight-on cornballus, the music pretty good and Burnette is his good ol' self keeping it all together as the host with his gosh all personality that sure comes off great these sordid days. A good relaxer after being bombarded with hours of assaults on your very existence from people you wouldn't pay to shovel the stuff they're flinging at you left and right.
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Willie Mabon-WILLIE'S BLUES---HIS GREATEST HITS 1952-1957 CD-r burn (originally on Jasmine Music)

Willie "Seventh Son" Mabon did some pretty nice bloozy jass things way back when, and a good smattering of 'em are available on this collection which I would guess is of European ancestry because in the United States of Amnesia who cares!?!  A great tension tamer after a hard day at the orifice, these slow burners encapsulate a lotta the good that came outta that whole blues idiom long before every Tom Dick and Penis got in onna game trying to be more authentic than the rest usually coming off like more like urban ethnic "cool guy in leather jacket" fodder. Dunno if this one has made it into those Borders Book Store listening booths yet, but get in on the action before it does (and you have to idle chit chat about it with more neo-hippies than your poor little heart can stand!).
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Various Artists-ALRIGHT HANGMEN EARTHQUAKE REGA CD-r burn (Bill Shute)

Another impressive collection what with the addition of a number of garage band rarities that I don't think have made it onto any recent samplers, not that I haven't been taking notice. Most of it is pretty decent stuff even if it doesn't quite make it to early PEBBLES stature, but I kinda am glad that I got to hear the Four Dimensions' "That's Life" before I die. Naturally Bill hadda slip a buncha weirdities onto this 'un such as the Rega Dance Orchestra's "The Vamp" (the kinda music that Grapevine Video used to slap onto alla those old Biograph shorts) not to mention a newer version of "Muleskinner Blues" that sounds like a late-sixties vintage attempt to cash in on that old Jimmie Rogers/Fendermen fave just like Dolly Parton did around the same time! Oh yeah, and there was also some chapter from an old radio serial on here that kinda bored me a bit, but then again the heroes seemed like such jerky fanablas that I really couldn't care less about 'em! Give this one a spin and find yourself rooting for the bad guys...I sure did!!!
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STOP THE PRESSES!: a little bit of bad news to report...just found out that Jaki Liebzeit of Can is no longer amongst the living. He was one of the better late-sixties/seventies bred drummers too, up there with Twink, Maureen Tucker, Scott Asheton and a few more. A big drat and a few boo-hoos are in order and yes, I and I know you will miss the guy!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

SPECIAL BLOG POSTING FROM BRAD KOHLER ENTITLED FLOOR SWEEPINGS

Back in the days of the print fanzine, Chris used to review tapes from some VHS company (editor's note: LSV Video). The tapes were a mish-mosh of public domain things and they were sold under the banner of  "Floor Sweepings". Contents varied, but the viewer was sure to come across a pie fight sooner rather than later. I just saw the LITTLE RASCALS short where the gang put on their version of JULIUS CAESAR (the one where Chubby had his lines written in the hem of his gown and his mom kept giving him grief when he'd hoist it up to peek at them) and as we all remember, that short ended in a glorious pie fight. Some of the action was even in slow motion (editor's note again: I wonder if this is where Sam Peckinpah got his idea for THE WILD BUNCH?), which was still a new enough wrinkle in the film world that people couldn't get enough of it.

The pies looked like real pies too, with crusts and a very pie-ish texture. Contrast those pies to the pies wielded in  THE THREE STOOGES shorts which were at best an approximation of a pie. And if memory serves were constructed mostly of shaving cream. It just goes to show you that even in the relatively short time between the production of LITTLE RASCALS shorts and the ascendancy of THE THREE STOOGES, detail and craft were already being fudged for the worse.

Finally no one could be bothered to make even the most phonus balonus of ersatz pies and now we have to watch Ellen Degeneris. When was the very last pie fight on TV anyway? Someone should look into that. (Editor's note one more time: occasionally the early SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE used pie in the face humor such as when Chevy Chase played a cop trying to defuse a bomb or when the assassination of Lee Harvey Oswald was  re-enacted only Jack Ruby threw a pie in his face!) I'm guessing Soupy Sales either heaved it or took it in the mush (undoubtedly during his days on THE "NEW" SOUPY SALES SHOW in the very late seventies), but probably some small market kids show opted for a pie gag after some stagehand took a whiz in the head of the gorilla costume after finding out the host had been nailing said stagehand's wife.

Anyway, like the floor sweepings tapes here are some random things I never got around to in previous columns. A spring cleaning of the brain if you will.

"Untrammeled vistas of pristine tedium" is a description I wanted to use in a record review.

I finally heard the ST  JOHN GREEN LP. If the USS Kim Fowley had captured the Doors in his tractor beam this would have been the result. Some of the lyrics are cringe-worthy, but unlike Morrison's babble, not pie-in-the-face worthy. By the way, the bootleggers who issued this CD wrote in the enclosed booklet that the money due to the people involved is being held in escrow until they come forward. When did bootleggers learn to spell "escrow"??? Actually bootleggers have a higher IQ than the standard issue person and come come up with amusing titles for boots right off the top of their heads, like MORE BERMUDA THAN PIZZA which is amusing right up until the time you remember what you paid for it.

I wanted to write up some a rticle about the messages scratched into the inner bands of records, but I didn't know where to go with it. I even thought about doing a one act play where the dialogue was all inner band messages, but I didn't want to chance any pies thrown my way, even those LITTLE RASCALS pies that really seemed to be a treat to transfer from face to fingers and slurp up. I hope Petey got to lick the pie pan.

Can anyone explain just how those messages are scratched in there? Do you tell someone at the pressing plant what you want written, or do you have to go there yourself and do it?

What if you make a mistake? Is it like wet cement and you can smooth it over and start again? As an example of what I'm talking about, I'll select something from my crates and relay the message therein. OK. This is the double LP MATTER DOMINATES SPIRIT? A TRIBUTE TO JIM SHEPARD! by various artists. Side one..."BRAVE CLOUD". Side two...no message. Side three..."MAKE UP YOUR MIND". Side Four..."FIND AN ESCAPE HATCH". Here's another one, a Crass/Poison Girls split 45. Side one..."REVOLUTION MY ARSE I WANNA DO COKE WITH KEEF". Ha! Just kidding. Side one..."LEFT WING RIGHT WING YOU CAN STUFF THE LOT".  Side two..."FLESH AND BLOOD IS WHAT WE ARE". The sleeve stresses not to pay more than 70 p. for the 45 but I'll let it go for 71. I bought it during a soul-searching fifteen minute window of 1980 when I thought junk like this was "the real punk" but quickly realized that if I had zero interest in being a boy scout and collecting merit badges why would I want to collect the vinyl equivalent?  A heavy decibel purgative of the Angry Samoans directly afterwards was a refreshing brace of reality.

I was also going to do a review of Pink Floyd's THE WALL  as done by Aunt Clara from the TV show BEWITCHED and have her bring the walking hammers off the inner sleeve to entertain Tabitha. The hammers end up crossing in front of the Kravitz's living room window and Aunt Clara is trying to return them to the sleeve..."Oh dear me, uh...Sam?" but it wasn't very funny and you know what? It's still not.

And now, for the first time on any blog, I will tell your fortune by opening the letter "V" issue of OP from 1983 and pointing to a review at Random...MARK HEINEMANN cassettes. The four pieces on SWALLOWTAIL ($5) comprise a lovely, gentile whole, despite a variety of styles and influences... Your fortune: you will buy a Shamrock Shake at McDonalds, forgetting that they have a chemical aftertaste. You will debate if you can get another few months wear out of your socks. I was gonna say you may as well watch the video of that woman with a giraffe mask that has been viewed millions of times than revisit 90% of the hallowed OP, but I just read a review of Jandek where Calvin Johnson called him "wispy" so the court will seek a continuance on this matter. No, wait, here is something called KIWI-SEX. Your honor, the prosecution rests.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

BOOK REVIEW! OUR BOARDING HOUSE DAILIES DARIES (B&W) 1935 by Gene Ahern (Ecomics Space, 2016)

The second OUR BOARDING HOUSE collection from Ecomics Space has Major Hoople surprisingly enough continuing on his 1934 winning streak, this time with racehorse "Dreadnaught" actually comin' in first place right before brother Jake buys him and eventually goes poof. Unfortunately the streak comes to an end what with Hoople's beehive causing more problems than honey, his jumping frog being turned into a delicacy and a couple of rare hens actually turning out to be roosters. Even when you think Hoople's gonna come out on top something just hasta SNAFU, like with the return of Roscoe the boxer who now wants to have a hand at wrestlin' and actually cuffs the local bruiser one good before the expected rematch brings such sad sorrow!

But hey, I really can't crybaby about the Major's run of woe what with Gene Ahern's boffo art (I like to let my eyes linger on the fine detail and patchwork while the boom box whirls on inna evening) as well as the solid supporting cast from wife Martha to boarders Mack, Clyde and Buster not to mention nephew Alvin, neighbor Baxter and alla the guys at the Owl's Club.

Good stuff really, though I get the feeling that if you continue to upchuck at the humor of THE ADVENTURES OF OZZIE AND HARRIET and other old standbys of BLOG TO COMM-approved chuckles you might not want to go near this particular tome. Too bad I don't know what hipster cool tee-vee shows are on these days or else I'd find a way to figure the name of one into this review as an example of what you can rub yourself to while watching (mebbe that recent ABC-tee vee fag history fest) while us REAL PEOPLE handing alla the OUR BOARDING HOUSE comics we can. Fie!

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

CEE-DEE REVIEW BY BRAD KOHLER! Black Bananas-ELECTRIC BRICK WALL (Drag City Records)

Royal Trux were one of the very few bands I'd keep tabs on in the late eighties/early-mid nineties and time seems to have validated my interest in them unlike say, the Amphetamine Reptile output which now has the value of currency with a picture of Jefferson Davis on it. (EDITOR'S NOTE---speak for yourself!)

Neil Haggerty was the driving force behind Royal Trux, and at times he would feel compelled to show he was too smart for rock 'n roll. which he is. and which is not necessarily a bad thing under the right circumstances, but at such times I would feel sorry for cohort Jennifer Herrema who seemed like the younger sibling who was told they could tag along but warned not to touch anything.

When Royal Trux split up, Herrema got to ditch any pretense that she just wanted to do anything but "rock out", though perhaps it was insecurity on her part that she named her band RTX which may have been done to insure her releases were filed near her previous band in an effort to ride the critical goodwill that band had collected. That, or insecurity.

Herrema's streamlined debut got a bit spandax metal for my tastes, but it helped to picture her singing into a hairbrush in her room as Whitesnake played on the radio years ago. After all, this is America and teenage delinquent dreams can come true even if I may quibble with the soundtrack to them.

The graphics on RTX releases showed Herrema in full rock goddess mode, including drawings of her done by young female acolytes (I'm assuming their age) that had the charm of secretive fan-crust fantasies transcribed in the back row of study hall. Or, more likely, detention.

In what was either a Supreme Court ruling that the name RTX infringed on the intellectual copyright of Royal Truc (hey, it could have happened, it not like I keep up on these things) or a sign that Herrema was finally ready to move out of the shadow of Haggerty complete, Jennifer started a band called Black Bananas.

Yeah, terrible name. Herrema must be in her forties by now, and as her career has moved on (if it still exists, Black Bananas not having released anything in some time that I'm aware of) she seems to have adopted more "teenage" trappings in her music and image. Rap stylings, hoodies, skateboards. Song titles that make lunkhead rock seem like something from creative writing class 101. Titles on ELECTRIC BRICK WALL include "Hey Rockin'" and "Give it to Me". (EDITOR'S NOTE AGAIN---I assume this is not the Troggs song!)  In short, she has adopted the mindset of someone she is old enough to be the mother of.

Then again, David Thomas still sings "Sonic Reducer" with the reconstituted Rocket From The Tombs, and old man wailing about not needing no mom or dad. It's not fair to single out Herrema because she is a woman, as the aging of women is always given closer scrutiny. (Hello Hollywood.)

So, what does this, the second Black Bananas album sound like?

Imagine if you tuned a radio halfway between a rap and a hard rock station, recorded the signal as it ping-ponged between satellites, and then had Lee Perry produce from a tape a few generations down the line.

It's a bastard concoction that no doubt wouldn't register with the indie rock crowd or the average youngster. I dunno, what do you make of a song titled "Powder8eeeeeeight" and how long did it take her to decide how many "e"'s to put in the title?

Like children after a divorce, listeners have to decide in their rock n' roll heart which member of Royal Trux they would want to live with. Haggerty may have the smarts, the chops, the pedigree. (And no one is going to point out in a review how old he is.) But if you want to huff some glue to a mongrel re lease that is dumb as a box of rocks while you scribble Black Bananas in marker above the urinal in the men's room, go team Herrema.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Well, like hiya! Nothing much to report social intercourse-wise here at BLOG TO COMM, since in between attending to the various and unavoidable "real life" encounters I have to put up with (like work---yech!), I've been immersing myself with such therapeutic measures as reading collections of old comic strips of which you will be hearing about more as the weeks unfold. Believe-you-me, I really am in suburban slob heaven when I get hold of some old MAJOR HOOPLE or OUT OUR WAY softcover, spin some nice and intense music on the bedside boom box (one of those cheap things that I have to replace every year or so) and kick up my feet enjoying life the way I did when I was twelve, twenty-two and probably will twenty years from now when I won't even have any feet to kick up! And as I've probably said before many times, I feel like I'm doing humanity a SERVICE by staying holed up in my fart-encrusted bedroom reading and listening and generally being my cozy self than I would be engaging in more fruitful endeavors thus GETTING IN THE WAY OF EVERYONE AROUND ME LIKE AN UNDERFOOT TURDLER!

As far as this week's selection of goodies go well...not that many newbies to brag about right now. As usual the record scene just ain't what it used to be back when I didn't have money and thus couldn't afford the records that I wanted which I can now afford but there's nothing around that really gets my third ear stirrups a' tingling like they used to! Thankfully Bill Shute, Paul McGarry and P. D. Fadensonnen have come to the rescue with some pretty hotcha spins that helped keep my head above water when the reality of life has been dragging me down further and further. Thanks for the life preservers, guys!

And so on and so forth and the rest of that dreary rot...


John Coltrane-COLTRANE PLAYS THE BLUES CD-r burn (originally on Atlantic)

I always thought (I know, what's that worth?) that Coltrane's Atlantic albums were comparatively hit and miss as far as being compared with his Impulse ones, but even I won't admit that I'm whatcha'd call an expert on the subject. In fact, I don't think that I'm even qualified to review this platter, so maybe I should just give up on the entire idea and like NOW!

Just kiddin' 'bout that (after all, if it weren't for me where else would you be reading such neo-gonz nth generation fanzine-level rock writing like this onna web?), but I gotta 'fess up to the fact that I really didn't care for COLTRANE PLAYS THE BLUES veddy much. Oh yeah, the thing does get into some rather down-there Coltrane grooves that equal his top-notch efforts which unfortunately seem to cater to the intellectual fancy coffee crowd these days, but these deep down into the jazzy blues tracks don't exactly gnaw into my inner third eye or whatever the hippies used to say about these things while tripping out. Not pedestrian mind you, but still not anything that curries any high energy jamz around here. Still tops the pathetic light jazz that seems to have accrued a following that I just don't want to know about!
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Chris Pitsiokos-OBLIVION/ECSTASY CD-r burn (available here)

If there still actually is whatcha'd call a new free jazz generation/scene brewing somewhere on this orb of ours, I do get the feeling that Chris Pitsiokos is at the forefront of the new squeal realm. This '15 recording is a pretty durn good sampling of where this man is with regards to any new avant jazz urges that may be present in the here and now. Armed with only an alto sax (and perhaps a little overdubbin') Pitsiokos stretches out the possibilities re. his chosen horn sounding like everything from one of those old AACM solo recordings that used to cost an arm and a leg to strange musique concrete tape experiments that were comin' outta a whole load of college room dorms back in the sixties. If this is what passes for cutting edge these days I hope I don't bleed to death! Fans of the Kendra Steiner Editions releases better download this gem before its way too late!
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Patrick Sweany-CLOSE TO THE FLOOR CD-r burn (originally on Universal)

The best thing I could say about this one is...well, at least it ain't Neko Case! Who would have thought that the "singer/songwriter" fashion of the mid-seventies would continue on this late in the moozikal game but  as in the case of Case  and Sweany it has, and like the former the latter really knows how to milk that genre for all its worth. Has a few moments of interesting spark and dash but for the most part CLOSE TO THE FLOOR sure had me there since this thing sure did put me to sleep!
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THE LONE RANGER CD-r burn (originally on Peter Pan Records)

It really does warm the cockles of my heart knowing that this album had come out in the late-seventies, especially since everything about it just oozes fifties-era ranch house fun and jamz that I thought had pretty much fizzled out by the time the Jimmy Carter era rolled into Anytown USA. I mean, other'n Dennis the Menace what kid inna late-seventies was hi-ho on westerns anyway? Maybe out west the kids were still whooping it up cowboywise, but here in the east that kinda kid growing up was what they used to call passe.

But still, THE LONE RANGER was still being rerun Saturday and Sunday afternoons around here so maybe there were some kids tuning in along with the old fogies getting their lost youth kicks up at least one last time. And for those kids both old and young a record like this really would help out...four hotcha adventures of the Masked Man and his Indian partner including the infamous origin saga as well as three other tales which include one where the lynching of an innocent man is halted, Indians stampede cattle through town only they really didn't, and the Ranger wins back a livery stable that was lost to a local shark by doin' a li'l wheelin' dealin' himself! Brought back memories of my crib days swell, though the sunny and quiet Sunday afternoon did help out quite a bit.
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Rico  Rodriguez-MAN FROM WAREIKA CD-r burn (originally on Island Records, England)

Rock steady kinda instrumental reggae recorded right around the time intellectual white kids worldwide began picking up on these Caribbean creepers in order to look hip 'n with it. Not bad, though this music always did tend to grate on me what with its repetitive "ooh-chukka-ooh-chuk" rhythms that didn't really translate into something that would speak to a suburban slob kiddo such as myself. And I LIKE repetition in my music which only goes to show ya somethingorother! If you want a music to get yourself lost in while reading a book, doing the laundry or even letting go of your bowels this is the one to do it all to!
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The Underneath-SUN OF '67 CD-r burn (originally on Rockadelic Records)

I'm always griping about how many of these "sixties revival" or whatever ya wanna call 'em bands just don't sound as authenticistic as the real deal. I can say the same thing about the Underneath but man, this group is just too WILD to be tossed in with a buncha watered down psychedelic pansies who have been getting a whole load of attention since time immemorial, or at least 1986. Total hard rock late-sixties psychedelic sounds here done nice and primitive-like, sorta sounding like the Thirteenth Floor Elevators in spots yet doing the "heavy metal" (in the purest CREEM sense) riff drive the next. Although your parents may disagree, I'll bet you wish that these were the guys down the street makin' all that racket round '69 way.
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BILLY THERMAL CD-r burn (originally on Omnivore Records)

Many of these new ruckus rollers that have come out o'er the past thirtysome years really don't pop the cork the same way many of the old timers have, but once in awhile there comes some upstart who does a pretty good job at it. Dunno much about this Thermal guy's history, his whys or wherefores or even if these recordings do date to 2014 like Paul McGarry sez or even further beyond, but he does put out some great straightforward seventies-styled rock on this platter. And by seventies rock I mean the good stuff that at times even got onto the AM dial when nobody was looking. Smart pop, though unfortunately there's a whole load of mid-buzz pedestrian music here that sorta cancels out any of the spark this guy might have produced on the top notchers.
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Various Artists-TENSION TELLER SETTER DRUID CD-r burn (Bill Shute)

Another one that, other than the Diddley, Supremes, Merseybeats and a few other entries would have made at least a boffo mid-eighties garage band compilation extended play. At least one of 'em (the Live Wires' "Love") was on one of those great PEBBLES samplers (forget which volume offhand) and the likes of the Tidal Waves (who I assume are the Detroit batch), the English Setters and High Tensions really do this body good ifyaknowaddamean.

The rest of it ain't bad what with Bo Diddley being so good as usual to the point where I even forget he coulda been a real sicko (well, that's what the rumor mill sez!) and the Supremes doing a fair take on Barrett Strong's "Money" lacking the punk rock drive of the original but eh, what else would you expect. Capping it all off is a wild live on the air commercial from the old Fred Allen program where he and Harry Von Zell push some laxative and otherwise miracle drug called Sal Hepatica which for the life of me I can't find in my medicine cabinet!

Oh, and Bill also snuck some old commercials and other trashy ephemera in between the tracks which of course really got me all hot and bothered! Best one was the audio track to the Roy Rogers Quick Shooter Hat which, on the video portion, was demonstrated by none other than Stanley Fafara a.k.a. Whitey from LEAVE IT TO BEAVER!

Thursday, March 02, 2017

BOOK REVIEW! JAGUAR RIDE, MEMOIR OF AN ELECTRIC EEL by Brian McMahon (Hozac Records)

I would start off this review by trotting out some old 'n decidedly trite canard about how I never thought I'd live to see a book such as one about the Electric Eels, or maybe even something more sinister like how I can just hear Anastasia Pantsios' teeth gritting all the way from Cleveland Heights to Western Pee-YAY! I'll dispense with such frivolities for now but really, who would have thought that a book such as this would have ever been written let alone published, and I sure hope that Ana's dental insurance is all paid up.

Founding Electric Eel rhythm guitarist McMahon's eel's eye view of the band ain't anything that's gonna suit the crazed obsessive out there in BLOG TO COMM-land that's for sure! After all, there are none of those weird and intricate details about 'em that you got outta books like that one that told us all about the day John Lennon met Paul McCartney giving out verbatim dialog as if the author was actually in the same room with the two the whole time and had a perfect memory to boot. But I happen to think it's TOP NOTCH, a read gives us a whole buncha fun information regarding the silent Eel and although you're probably gonna be disappointed regarding the lack of back and forths regarding the guys in the band and who got beat up by who (though that is touched on) I think any true blue fan of the Eels would be more'n lucky to latch onto a book of JAGUAR RIDE's sonic stature!

'n even though this ain't exactly the "tell all" that you 'n I thought it would be it's sure good enough to sate my own curiosity, detailing some of the more important aspects of McMahon's growin' up 'n cummin' of age days from stool boy to full-blown Eel with a lotta road covered in between (like, who woulda thought McMahon went through his own hippoid drop outta society phase? Not me!). Most of the stories are pretty bright and funny too, and even though there seems to be a whole load of Eel mystique that I thought should have been touched upon left untread we do get some interesting sagas about the time that other big-time mid-seventies underground band (and pals of the Eels) Mirrors walked into a Chinese restaurant and Mirror head Jamie Klimek actually gave the head cook a heart attack after ordering a cheeseburger! McMahon spends time on how he got Mirrors to do his now infamous and on the lips of every true rocker composition "Jaguar Ride", though nothing really beats the stuff of his association with Dave E who comes off as the archetypal uberpunk in his own suburban slob-ish way.

Too much here to detail clearly but you'll enjoy the whole book which I think might infuriate a few people who were up front on the local doings. Dunno how John Morton'll react to this, but given how he and McMahon are currently at loggerheads over the whole Electric Eels domain name I'm sure there will be more'n a little friction brewin' within a week or two. Ditto Charlotte Pressler who also comes in for a berating due to some allegedly false information she gave regarding an Eels to-do that was mentioned in her classic "Those Were Different Times" piece in CLE where Morton might or might not have beat the living dickens out of Dave E. But whatever the case may be all I gotta say is that JAGUAR RIDE was a top read of the week and only serves to revitalize any dormant Eelisms I might hold in my soul and boy could I have used this 'un back 1979 way I'll tell ya!

And while I'm at it another thing I gotta mention is...sure can't wait to read Morton's rebuttal! That oughta be one wild Jaguar Ride in itself dontcha think???