Saturday, November 04, 2006


Cute enough title for you??? Actually I'm surprised that I didn't think of this 'un a lot earlier (nor did I think of utliizing the old MAD standby "The Saturday Evening Pest"), but anyway here's an earlier-than-usual weekend missive that I hope influences more than at least """one""" child out there because if only a single young 'un is somehow "enlightened" by this post, or this blog for that matter, it was all for naught!

The Gizmos-LIVE IN BLOOMINGTON 1977-1978 2-CD set (Gulcher)

Crawlspace-THE SPIRIT OF '76 (Gulcher)

I've written a whole lot about these Gizguys before both on and off this blog (for an example of the former, just click here), and y'know what??? So did a thousand other fanzoonie wannabes both during and long after the big punk rock revival of the mid-seventies! Of course even a Helen Keller would be able to tell you why these Indiana "nobodies" were getting a whole load of under-the-counterculture exposure during those misty days located somewhere between the debut of the Dictators' first album and the advent of the British punk-as-punque movement...because back in those dark ages there was hardly anything else to write about so it's no wonder the Gizmos were getting plastered all over a whole batcha fanzines along with the likes of the 'tators, Blue Oyster Cult and Ted Nugent! Heck, it was such a mysterioso time for what was then known as "underground rock" that even Pere Ubu and fellow-to-the-Gizmos Bloomington band MX-80 Sound were more or less relegated to brief mentions in the back of CAN'T BUY A THRILL's review section along with the rest of the Fox Pass and Bonjour Aviators singles, but frankly those times really were thin as far as this underground rock making itself known even within the fanzine circuit and (for a guy who remembers) it all seemed kinda secret, though there was an excitement brewing in the air that even appealed to a prog(?)/Zappa(!)/Eno(.....) freak like myself.

So as far as underground scrunch went, the Gizmos were pretty much on the top of the underground heap managing to release three (count 'em!) EPs during their original lifespan not counting the one they did with Giz co-leader Ted Niemiec at the helm of an ALL NEW!!! band plus an elpee side done by the same group (sans Niemiec) who had the brazen audacity to keep the name thus fooling a lotta neophytes who, after dishing out hard-earned for these records, came to the conclusion that this version of the band sucked. But hey, those first three Gizmo EPs were pretty hotcha stuff not only because of their "mature subject matter" but because, as everyone from Greg Shaw to Bernard Kugel could tell you, the Gizmos encapsulated a lot of what was hot and crazed about the Amerigan underground rock of the day with hefty references to the likes of the Velvet Underground to Stooges and Dictators and maybe the Dolls thrown in for good measure. A pretty good track record especially considering how most (if not all) of the "non-essential" members of the Gizmos were more or less bar band progheads who were tagging along for the Big Punk Rock Bandwagon Jump that was about to take place across the land within a few short months. (Don't believe me???? Just click here!)

In celebration of the 30th anniversary of Gizmo Consciousness, Gulcher Records (the group's original and only label) released this new 2-CD set of the Gizmos live throughout their scar-studded career (I was gonna use that for an Iggy review but thought I better use it now before I forgot about it for good!) and as far as a live set goes I don't think you could do much better unless you somehow could affix yourself to the backbrains of the key Gizmo members (besides Niemiec, Kenne "Gizmo" Highland, Eddie Flowers, Rich Coffee and Davey Medlock) sorta like those flying pieces of Egg Foo Young that got to Spock on some long-forgotten episode of STAR TREK

Disque #1 consists of the Gizmos proper at that same Monroe County Public Library Sunday PM live onna radio gig from whence the live MX-80 Sound CD (also on Gulcher) came. John Cougar Mellonhead (who reviewed the gig for Flowers' VULCHER mini-fanzine insert snootily dismissing MX-80 in tit-for-tat revenge for Rich Stim's earlier negative Cougar writeup) gives the band a rousing radio welcome before the guys break into their classic "Gizmos World Tour," obviouly a TUBES rip. (And fer Sons of the Garage they sure knew how to steal from "mainstream" rock carrion, back then a huge punque no-no!) Flowers was sick in the audience (and still earned the ire of the one called Cougar!) but the band played on anyway and did a pretty good job even w/o the efforts of one of their key members which only goes to show you what troopers they are, starship or not!

The performance is slam-bang hot mid-seventies great, sounding like (to use an oft-mentioned story) some outta nowhere band you used to see down the street made up of the "older" kids who'd blast forth from the two-car garage with all the power and primitiveness that a rudimentary knowledge of hard rock would imply. Of course the Gizmos do a good hunka the well-known EP numbers (and do 'em pretty snat) although they hadda change the words of "Muff Divin'" for radio consumption but that's OK because in those days of Larry Flynt and porn court cases clogging up the system it's nice to know someone was keeping things clean! The "new" material is swell as well featuring not only TWO COUNT 'EM TWO Kiss covers (inna row!) but a raving "Gloria" for a finale! Yeah, nowadays that doesn't sound like any great shakes but back then something like this woulda helped Lester Bangs to keel over a good half-decade before he did!

Disque #2 is the Niemiec-helmed version of the band when everybody else bailed out at the prospect of a live, functioning Gizmos. Soon Niemiec himself would abandon ship as well but at least a disque-fulla live goodies survives and y'know what??? Contrary to whatever qualms I might have harbored regarding this release the Niemiec-based Gizguys are just as good as the original multi-headed Gizmo organization who were so legendary that their EPs were going for big money even in the early-eighties! Of course there are new Niemiec-penned Gizmo numbers to adore (such as the aptly-titled "Tilt-A-Whirl"), but the man also dishes out the classic Gizmo sides as well as some great covers to keep people on their toes (The Modern Lovers' "Astral Plane," Roky's "You're Gonna Miss Me" and Alice Cooper's "Eighteen" amongst 'em!) and really I can't say enough good things about these "new" Gizmos who have all of the energy and stamina of the originals long before the spectre of "gnu wave" permeated the eighties self-produced rock scene.

(By the way, if any of you are interested in reading any more about the Gizmos from the days when they were alive and kicking, I'll let you in on a little scoop! Eddie Flowers will be selling extremely rare copies of Russell Desmond's old CAN'T BUY A THRILL fanzine on his Slippytown site this coming Monday, so if you're a guy who likes the wild gonz-styled seventies fanzine style of writing, or wants to read more about the budding underground and mainstream scene of the day or just wants to edjamacate himself and see firsthand what good rock & roll writing is supposed to be all about, I suggest you shell out for one or maybe even all of the issues [#1-4] that Mr. Flowers will be shipping off to the first lucky monkeys who dare write him to reserve these precious pieces of seventies journalism at its best! Unfortunately the final CBAT with the humongous Gizmos saga is not up for sale, but most of the earlier ones have Gizmo reviews and news scattered about, and the general un-PC attitude and intellectual-punk style of this fanzine should clue you in on all of the wonders and awestruckness that seventies rockism held and CONTINUES to hold at least for living-in-the-past wonkers like myself, written as it happened which is always a cool thing!)

As you might have surmised, the oft-mentioned Flowers is nowhere to be heard on the above release (unless there's a gag of phlegm from the audience somewhere), but he's all over this new recording by his current-day aggregation known as Crawlspace that Gulcher had the good sense to release for the sake of r&r rejects everywhere. As the title suggests, THE SPIRIT OF '76 is a fitting tribute not only to the nation at large, but to the decade known as the seventies, back when underground creative juices (and Eddie Flowers for that matter) were at their undisputed height. And true, with seventies nostalgia pretty much dead-and-buried and the eighties (yuck!) the next big rose-colored lookback, a disque like THE SPIRIT OF '76 is about as "relevant" as a BILLY JACK film festival but Flowers and band at least can pull off such a stunt without looking like just any seventies retro rehash! And they do an excellent job serving up such a Herculean task bringing back hefty memories of the sleaze-side of seventies turmoil more than a spin of JOE'S GARAGE could ever hope to, but this ain't no old Zappa tossaway, this here be CRAWLSPACE!

Lessee...punk rock was a big part of seventies rockism, so we get some of it with a take of O. Rex's "Califawnia Gurls" that's every bit as whack-o garage band as the original. There are also cover versions of "obscure" punkisms from Patti Smith ("Hey Joe [Version Version]"!) and the Saints to the C**ts (name censored because this is a family blog) that are worthy of the proud badge of underground rock STRENGTH but that's not all...heavy metal was pretty giganto in the seventies as well so we get a sample of Flowers and co.'s attempts at the form via Paul Revere and the Raiders' own stab at the metal market with "Just Seventeen" which almost tops Deep Purple (represented by a cover of "Space Truckin'") at their own game! Hmmmm...what else was big in that decade as well...oh yeah, arrogant lefty ranting was HUGE which is probably why Crawlspace had the plain audacity to cover noted folkie/commie Patrick Sky's "Fight For Liberation" which sounds like something all of those red-diaper booby Amerigan "Freedom Fighters" in 1936 Spain woulda sung around the campfires (and amidst the decomposing bodies formed into kama sutra positions for that matter) before Franco thankfully "pasaraned." Definitely the worst track on the disque if only for the sake of armchair activists who don't realize that their pseudo-academic theories as to how men should live can cause the bodies to pile up even if they can't see the heaps from their lofty and tenured academic high horses!

Enough soapboxing...there's a lotta stuff that Flowers left outta his seventies trib from gas shortages to gay lib and (best of all) the real GOLDEN AGE OF TEE-VEE (on the network, syndication, and PBS levels), but we can't have everything!!! In all, THE SPIRIT OF '76 (complete with a "patriotic" [or was it the acid?] cover painting done by Kenne Gizmo Highland in the early-seventies!) is a top-end winner with loads of surprisingly high energy rocking, snide fun stuff (the "Rag Mop" rewrite "Rat Fink") and you can bet I'll be spinning this one more than some of the other Crawlspace items that have been tossed out at us over the past twenty years because this is everything that I would have expected from a fanzine pioneer who fortunately hasn't taken the easy way out. But Eddie, which tracks here have that "Black to Comm" riffage ripoff that you mentioned in your note to me? I played it frontways, backways and even used a broken-tooth comb, but somehow have missed it! Gaah!

Anyway, that's it for now but don't despair, for if you say your prayers and eat all your veggies maybe I'll have a mid-week posting telling you about even more wonders in the wild and wooly world we call BLOG TO COMM. Until then stay cool, be safe, and please remember that SHAKE SOME ACTION (recently reissued!) is an album by the Flamin' Groovies, not Michael J .Fox!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey there...longtime old time PHFUDD/BTC fan, long out of touch, but recently clued in to your blog, and v. glad indeed to see you still sending out missives from your Sharon gulcher bunker, the fine writeup of the amazing new Gizmos salvage effort being but the latest.

Used t'live on East Coast, now in No. Cal, and still as then writing about music - even managed to get notes onto recent vinyl reissues of both MARQUEE MOON and ADVENTURE.

Also have a piece out in Cyberspace on some undeservedly obscuro NYC favorites from back in the day:

In fact, seeing as how you are in the midst of squirreling away vintage zines, I would like to suggest a potential barter situation, involving some copies of a 70's D.C. punk zine I used to do and perhaps some of your recent CDR finds like that Marbles set.

Get in touch...