Wednesday, January 12, 2005


In the latest PSYCHOTRONIC (or so I'm told), someone or other wrote (in a letter criticizing Michael Weldon's newfound [?] leftward editorial shift) that his magazine is starting to resemble my very own BLACK TO COMM and its "articles and quips about 'fags' and 'Afro-Americans'." (Well, the letter writer obviously meant it in an opposite sorta way, but you know where his heart is!) Funny, I dunno if I ever wrote any huge, page-spanning articles about either group though I will admit "fags" get mentioned on an occasion or two, and I believe the only time I ever used the term "Afro-American" in the pages of BTC was in a review of some BYG-Actuel re-releases that appeared in issue #24. In case you're interested, the context in which the term was used goes like this:

"In BACK DOOR MAN #14 (March/April 1978), Phast Phreddie Patterson referred to free jazz as being 'mostly a bunch of crazy spades honkin' on saxophones with little regard for melody.' Leave it to BDM to make a questionable 'out there' statement such as that, but despite the lack of taste Phreddie does have a point. That is, if you compare the term 'spade' with that of 'dignified negro' (Charles Mingus, Sidney Poitier) or 'African American' (Jesse Jackson, Spike Lee), or 'Afro-American' (note: my emphasis) (Huey Newton) or 'Mau Mau' (Khalid Muhammad) for that matter. I don't think that the guys who started out playing this breed of ultrasqueal back in the fifties considered themselves in the same class as the upwardly-mobile blacks who were the pillars of their fact, these very selfsame jazzbos mighta even been the kind who'd beat to smithereens any member of the upper black class that would just happen to wander into their dark alley..." (If you want to read the entire review you'll have to get hold of issue #24 yourself...just click here for more information. I'm not in the position to be giving out freebies, y'know?)

OK, that's about it as far as any "articles" or mention regarding the term "Afro-American" goes. And in case you didn't know, Khalid Muhammad was the former Nation of Islam leader (or actually second-in-command if I'm not mistaken) who made such lovely comments as the one found here whose demise has surely left a gap in the outrageous remarks made by people who get a pass everytime they open their mouths these days. And frankly, I thought he didn't suffer enough either, but that's neither here nor there. What is is that the cretins keep coming out of the woodwork to make their little derogatory "comments" (yawn) about me and my writings, and frankly I'm not the kind of guy who believes in a mere eye for an eye...I believe in chopping the whole head off given the unnecessary grief I've had to endure as of late! (And if I have any apologies to make, let them be to Phast Phreddie Patterson in case some zilch-dimensional nimnul starts flying off the handle calling him racist! Sheesh, don't you Social Anthropology dropouts have anything better to do???)

Just wanting to put things in their proper perspective.

Anyhow, here are three recordings I've gotten hold of since the last post. I guess there are some "fans" out there who want to read more of my writings despite all of the negative "publicity" I have received over the past year, and to all three of you may I say "thanks" for the support. And, on a lighter note, may I also say that although the year 2005 marks the twentieth anniversary of my humbler than you'll ever admit fanzine it also marks the sixtieth birthdays of a number of people we here at BTC hold near and dear to our hearts, not only the irrepressible Sky Saxon but the irresponsible Richard Meltzer and non-irrythmic Maureen Tucker. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU'INS!, as we say here in Western Pee-Yay!

Rocket From the Tombs-ROCKET REDUX CD (Smog Veil)

This was about as high-energy and engaging as I thought it would be. TRANSLATION: You can't go home again no matter how hard you try to recapture past glories. Like the Velvet Underground reunion of '93, the reborn Rocket slightly pleases but fails to scale past heights of (as Charlotte Pressler so eloquently said) "demonically intense" power. MORE ARCHIVAL MATERIAL, PLEASE!

Pentwater-OUT OF THE ABYSS CD (Syn-Phonic)

Here's a CD I bought more or less out of curiosity, especially after having mentioned Pentwater twice in last issue's New York Rock history totally forgetting that I'd already wrote about them in passing once. The reason for the remarks: Pentwater were one of those local American rock groups that performed not only at CBGB but Max's Kansas City during the first rush of non-local talent to the New York club scene '75/'76, but unlike a lot of the bands looking for a Big City date at these then-hyped Manhattan musicspots Pentwater weren't your garden-variety garage/heavy metal/pop-hybrid or any variation thereof but a straight-ahead, no-bout-a-doubt-it progressive rock group! An' I don't mean prog as in some garage act who might have copped some progressive influences (like the Shirts or Musica Orbis, f'rexample) but downright progressive rock as in a quintet featuring long-haired rockstar lookalikes in starship trooper gear utilizing not only a dozen keyboards that must've cost 'em fifteen thou PER, but a drum set w/huge ka-banging GONGS just like all those import bin groups over in Europe! For years I wondered about what some of those unfamiliar names playing on early En Why See billings sounded like, imagining them to be some sorta wild and too-primitive for even the standard FAN'S tastes bedroom level Velvets wannabes. Well, now I know at least what ONE of 'em sounds like, and I can't say that I'm exactly pleased about it either! Anyway, for VARIETY band booster Fred Kirby's own opinion on Pentwater, click here and skip down a review or two.

As for me, I gotta say that given I don't care for this music one whit, I can't critique Pentwater for you without using such ageworn terms as "pretentious" and "delusional fantasist" or sans reducing my writings to some hatescreed gibberish. However, I can point out that even when compared with their influences like Gentle Giant, ELP and Yes, Pentwater sound surprisingly dull. I mean, even though a band like, say, Yes were about as boring and as stuck-on-themselves as many of these progressive acts came, I knew that Steve Howe was a dynamic guitarist who was deluding himself if he thought that was he was doing in 1972 was better than what he was playing on "Crawdaddy Simone" years earlier...ditto Chris Squire and his "Syn" days. (And come to think of it, I kinda get the feeling that the Schulman brothers of Gentle Giant would cower in fear had anyone even mentioned Simon Dupree to their faces!) As for Pentwater, they just sound tiring enough not only to me but I'm positive to the usual progressive fan into the whole art-rock mummery and flash that those groups delivered to generations of toking boxboys worldwide. Face it, progressive rock for the most part is flat and lifeless music despite the technowhiz and classically-trained performers, but this stuff is downright unmemorable! And it's about as instant-tossout as Pentwater's fellow Midwestern brothers in prog slop like Kansas and Nebraska...all this music proves is that take away the dragons and castles and being close to edges and things like that, and your typical prog fans's gonna need even MORE marijuana to get into this!

The bonus live track entitled "Kill The Bunny," recorded live at CBGB 11/76 (the same month both the Cramps and Richard Hell and the Voidoids debuted there, keeping things within a relative time-frame mind you) seemed a bit jazzier than the rest of the disque, perhaps coming off like the the missing link between Genesis and Weather Report. I'm surprised that the song elicited the polite applause it did, but then again given how all-over-the-place people are with their tastes not only then but NOW (even from rock writers whom I admire!), should I really be surprised?

Henry Flynt and the Insurrectionists-I DON'T WANNA CD (Locust)

Aaaah, thaz more like it. You, me and the bedpost've all read about Flynt, first via the back cover of Brian Eno's DISCREET MUSIC (which must've done for Flynt's "career" what the Lamonte Young namedrop on the cover of METAL MACHINE MUSIC did for his!) and later on knew about him subbing for John Cale in the Velvet Underground almost getting fired on-stage for being too country'n all that (not to mention the tapes of YOU ARE MY EVER LOVIN' flying around during the eighties), but nobody seems to've known about Flynt's 1966 "basement band" at least until this compilation came out last year! And bwah, is it a doozy! Having Lou Reed himself as a guitar teacher sure helped Flynt hone his avantgardities into something cohesive enough to be played in a rock/roll context, and with a band not only consisting of drummer Walter DeMaria (ex-Primitives and later-on bigname sculptor) not to mention keyboardist Art Murphy (whom I'm 1000% positive was a member of the early Philip Glass Ensemble) and acoustic bassist Paul Breslin (no credentials as of yet that I know of) how could Flynt go wrong especially when creating a total rockism sound that comes off like the perfect mixture of trashy swamp/BACK FROM THE GRAVE teenage Southern-Fried warble and En Why See/Velvet Underground urban headsmack! Yes, long before the likes of the Cramps and Scientists and all those latterday practitioners were getting hefty fanzine space for doing the same thing, Henry and his Insurrectionists were creating a totally deep-south meets lower Manhattan country-boogie/trash garage Velvets spree, though given how ordinary he looks onna cover ya just wonder how far he coulda gone with it all!

Still, I DON'T WANNA is a messterpiece of great magnitude even if it's only a little longer'n a half-hour. Every cut's a gem, from the crash-protest numbers like "Uncle Sam Do" (napalm you!) and "Missionary Stew" to the fantastic guitar/violin (probably the acoustic bass!) duo "Jumping," this is totally enjoyable (even for a jaded old turd like me!) bedroom noise rock that actually (along with those 1965 Velvet Underground demos) sorta points the way for even bigger things to come which we all saw come and go by now but that doesn't diminish its beauty one iota.

I may have some more to post this weekend, but then again I may not. Anyway, keep on listening, reading, eating, sweating and please do keep in touch!

1 comment:

Rick N. Backer said...

Loved your comments about our band, Pentwater and CBGB's.
We'd really like to send you the new Pentwater CD, "Ab-Dul" for your enjoyment and review! Just released in March, '07. Drop us a line in the guestbook - so I can mail it out to you.
Prog fans at CBGB's...? yes there were a few, plus a lot of dropped-jaw regulars who didn't know what to make of us. Good times!
Rick N. Backer ( R. Lesaar )