Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Les Rallizes Denudes-END OF HEAVY GROOVE 2-CD set; MARS STUDIO 1980 4-CD set (both on Univive, check out Volcanic Tongue for availability)

As most of you BLOG TO COMM readers already know I am a man of admission, and right at this moment I gotta admit that five whole smacking years after getting my paws on their LE 12 MARS 1977 A TACHIKAWA double CD set that Les Rallizes Denudes are perhaps my all-time favorite Japanese rock & roll group! And that includes such other whoppers as the Sadistic Mika Band not to mention all of those recent nutjobs that came out in the Denudes' wake no matter how noisily psychedelic they are or how many ex-members (like in the grows-on-you Suishou No Fune) they may have. And it's not only because this aggregate (from the rather controlled confines of Japan no less!) have all of the components necessary to make great high-energy music (rock or otherwise); it's just wild being able to discover a classic underground band of this caliber who not only had a sense of mysticism about 'em to make the Chocolate Watchband blush but remained about as under-the-underground as they could for nearly three decades! And the fact that tons of archival recordings are dribbling out in both legit and bootleg form has certainly sated my post-Velvets drone appetite! The only thing that I could compare it to is if Rocket From the Tombs had dumped about a few dozen bootlegs of their work right into my paws whilst I was just beginning my huge Cleveland First Wave obsession sometime in the late-seventies!

Univive is a label that, legit or not (I dunno), has released a number of Denudes items in small quantities that usually evaporate before the main hulk of fans even know they existed in the first place which is why I consider myself fortunate to have latched onto these two rarities which for all intent purposes are probably sold out by now. Maybe not (check out the usual distribution suspects) so be sure to seek both these wild offerings out before they join such outright classics as 67/69 STUDIO ET LIVE in the eternal bin of long-gone Denudes gems.

END OF HEAVY GROOVE features a couple of class '76 shows sounding better'n the CD-R takes that have been flying around for the past few years. All of the familiar Denudes staples from the seventies are here (y'know, "Night of the Assassin," "Field of Artificial Flower," the downright beautiful "Enter the Mirror" not forgetting that mulch-inducing finale "The Last One"...) complete with that feedback-driven style that at times sounds part early-seventies Euro-take on American garage concerns, part-mid-seventies Debris/MX-80/Rocket From the Tombs "cold wave" and part the bared-wire side of Japanese culture they don't want you to know about. Some neat surprises too like rearrangements and even a new 'un to my ears (title is in Japanese...sorry!) which reminds me of something that should've been the catalyst for the Japanese equivalent of BACK DOOR MAN. Maybe there was one thanks to the heavy metal soul-twist of these stirring trailblazers and if so, anyone care to lay some information on me?

For a change of pace the whopping 4-CD set MARS STUDIO might do you some good. It's the Denudes 1980-style, perhaps a little more professional and polished but still garage enough to sate, doing their familiar numbers in an actual studio. What makes this one different from other sessions I've heard is that Mizutani Takashi and crew, for some maybe not-so-strange reason, decided to utilize such instrumentation as electric organ and acoustic guitar into the usual hard rock mix adding for a rather unique, and perhaps even pleasing sound as in LOADED or maybe even (get this!) Hackamore Brick! (OK, that's hyperbole...whadja expect?) Those of you who only know this band from their previous recordings may be in for a surprise as I was, but the softer and less-metallic moments found herein did make for an experience that sorta reminds me of a Doug Yule-styled coup in the group, at least on a few numbers. Not that MARS STUDIO's a total trip into late-Velvet Underground straight-ahead dance rock since there are some great moments of BLUDGEON here, such as on disc three's opening track "Guitar Jam" which sounds something like a flub-a-dub take on "Blues' Theme" filtered through "Sister Ray." And if this track sounds familiar, it is! For years it was being passed off as a '69 number called "Smokin' Cigarette Blues" on that two-LP set with the wild photo of Mizutani adorning the front (as seen above, nicked off the Denudes' own website!) which seemed strange since the version I have on my bootleg burn of 67/69 was a totally different free-form freakout kinda thing! Oh well, it only makes me wonder all the more as to just how much of this info on Les Rallizes Denudes floating about we CAN believe!

Saturday, February 24, 2007


Ya remember that old saying "when it rains it pours"...well, that's certainly true when it comes to me! And I don't just mean when bad things happen in typical plague of toads fashion either! While it's true that when things go wrong for me in my life (what there is of it) I'm bound to get skewered royally, but oftimes when good ol' Lady Fortune smiles upon me she sure's grinnin' pretty wide and believe-you-me it's those kinda moments that make it well worth being alive and kickin'! And guess what...the lady's been smilin' so much upon me as of late that I woulda thunk the top of her head woulda plunked off sorta like in that cartoon that popped up on the cover of JAMMING WITH THE EDWARD because o'er the past four or so days I've received SIXTEEN (count 'em!) Cee-Dees for my dining and dancing pleasure and you can just believe that the arrival of these platters to my front stoop has been one of the most exciting happenings of 2007 so far! In fact, I haven't been this happy since the time I was accidently locked inside the geisha house overnight so you know this is a momentous occasion!

Anyway it ain't like I dove head first into all of these shiny pancakes at once...gotta save a few for those lean moments next week...but here's just a sample of what I've been grooving to as of late and if you're as anal-retentive hang-onto-my-every-word as I think you are I'll betcha you to'll be buying up alla these compact blitzes sooner than you can say "Hey sailor!"

Afflicted Man-THE COMPLETE RECORDINGS 2-CD set (Senseless Whale Slaughter Australia, or available through Forced Exposure)

Well it looks like THE ARCHIVAL DIG/REISSUE OF THE YEAR has already arrived and it's still February! Really, I can't think of anything topping this classic two-disc excursion into pure sonic bliss coming out at all within the next ten months making this the hands-down winner already! I mean, this one's so great, so high energy, so heavy metal (in the best CREEM sense), punkazoid and all of those things I used to like (still do!) in rockaroll music that I find it hard to fathom than any other blast from the past could excel as great as the Afflicted Man does here! So unless somebody digs up the lost tapes of Lotte Lenya jamming with the Stooges that remain buried in the Kremlin's darkest archives these Afflicted Man recordings are "thee" hands-down winner!

Packaging is a lie (these are not the "complete" recordings as none of the Accursed platters with Steve Hall [the Afflicted One] including their sonic-blaster swansong "Going Down"/"I Didn't Mean It" from '84 show up here) but the music is as pure as can be with all of that wild wah-wah guitar in full force complete with the great dud-crank bass/drums backing harkening back further than the late-seventies punk visage expected well into the early-seventies of classic British thud (Groundhogs/Pink Fairies/CRUSHED BUTLER!!!) that sorta puts all that talk about late-seventies UK punque as a unique political statement where it belongs. Sounding more like that band from down the way you remember from your fetal days in '71, The Afflicted Man lays down a non-stop barrage of distorto guitar one-string solo playing unheard since at least 1969 and "1969" complete with perfect snot-nosed disaffected commoner English attitude and a primal crunch that I think was too much even for the hardest of hardcores at the time.

All three singles and all three albums (as the Afflicted or Afflicted Man...remember my Accursed schpiel a few paragraphs up) are included and even a guy who's been around the block a few times like me can be in for a few mental shakeups. (Such as on the previously-unheard-by-me "142"/"Senseless Whale Slaughter" single which on the "B"-side finds Hall surprisingly showing a bit of ecological concern for the monstrous sea mammal populace!) Not a bum note or duff track is in sight on these wah-wah wowzers that have enough of that repeato-riff hypno-drone to take you into dimensions unknown even if you don't sniff the epoxy that Hall so aptly warns us about on his MUSICAL BAG sides!

And oh those liner notes! Can anyone really get to the heart of the Afflicted matter as the author of those apt and totally "right on" words? Golly, I wish I could write like that!!!

Owing as much to Amon Duul II as the Clash, in fact even more so (check out the guitar on "Sun Sun" and play it next to any track on YETI), THE COMPLETE RECORDINGS might just be not only "thee" acid punk reish of the year but the only bright light for the rest of this not-that-bad decade. One to definitely seek out, if only to prove to your pals just how shallow and worthless a lotta the music the Afflicted Man (and a good hunkering portion of the late-'70s/early-eighties British punk class) ultimately led to is!


Listening to Smegma has definitely gotten me more and more interested in the rest of that old Los Angeles Free Music Society catalogue, and what better place to start'n with this recently-reissued live disque featuring LAFMS stars Airway? Often described as sounding like a DC-10 giving birth to a Piper Cub while YOU act as midwife, Airway live up to their legend with this '78-vintage platter that sorta reminds me of the sonic scrapings that would result from the vacuuming of your ear canal for radioactive earwigs boring their way through your pituitary. (Frankly. I'm not exactly sure where the pituitary gland is located, but the word sure sounds nice!) Heavy duty screech that belies all that blab about El Lay being the zone-out capitol of the world...this, like the rancid rock scene cloistered in the burgh, proves that beneath the glamour and glitz there was a rabid seething undercurrent that would come to a head in only a few short years. And we're still cleaning up all the pus strewn about!


This Orange Mountain label seems to be about as dedicated to the compositions of Philip Glass as his own mother would, and besides issuing rare recordings by Glass proper they're also tossing out disques by other groupage and people who have collaborated with the noted soundtrack composer o'er the years. The wop-a-dago band with the keen name Alter Ego being just one...performing the well-known as well as the unheard, Alter Ego do a pretty good job approximating that patented hypnotic Glass drone, but don't they just sound just a wee too Europeon piazza del square most of the time. I miss the gritty feel of the original Philip Glass Ensemble who always seemed more attuned to what's going on and about Glass' music, and although Alter Ego give it a good try I'll probably be filing this one towards the back of my collection to pull out only when those paranoid moments call for seventies avant resensification.


I know that on principle I should hate Glenn Branca for forsaking the wild and wooly world of rock & roll for "serious music composition" but since I'm probably the least principled person on the boards I won't. Besides, I kinda get a kick outta these crossover no wave/classical avant-garde/free jazz works that people like Branca as well as Rhys Chatham, Jeffrey Lohn and Rudolph Grey (whose "Flaming Angels" remains hideously unreleased) used to perform back in the eighties when the no wave flame wasn't quite burned out en-toto. Those attempts of yore sorta remind me of what that proposed Wayne McGuire "Universal Musical Form" that NOBODY'S had the brains to put towards fruition would sound like! But anyway, this previously unreleased set of Branca tracks sure dredge up that avant-rock mystique that nobody but Weasel Walter seems to wanna know about anymore.

First cut's the title track with (get this!) ten guitarists (including some of the hipper monikers of the early-eighties post-everything scene) and drums, all sounding like a stroll through a raining glass forest (OK, so I got an "F" in Creative Writing!) but what's really wild is the cut which directly follows, an interview with avant garde granddaddy John Cage who in no certain terms gives Branca a tongue lashing for writing and performing the aforementioned title track which Cage considers a totally "fascist" musical work! Yeah,'s not like Cage hated volume, but he sure loathes the dictatorial nature of the piece where nothing is left to chance, sounding surprisingly like a stick-inna-mud on one hand yet you gotta figure that the man hadda've been adverse to the newer tenents of avant sound the same way guys like Kenny Dorham used to spew fire at Albert Ayler! But it is funny listening to the lispy Cage talk about Branca as if he were some jackboot and telling interviewer Wim Mertons that he wouldn't want to live in the kind of world Branca supposedly envisions...I mean, Cage actually came out and said he thought Chairman Mao did many fantastic things for China so just how much credibility (when it comes to political savvy) does the guy have making such an asinine statement as this?!? (It reminds me of the Cage article that appeared in BLACK TO COMM #20 when Bill Shute asked him his opinions regarding the then-recent Tienamen Square riot and Cage responded that it was "tragic" and all but we gotta understand their culture and society and various other situations that are part and parcel to China, afterwards more or less poo-pooing Shute's suggestion that the students shoulda been armed so they could shoot down the evildoers and attain the freedom they so longed for!)

Not that Cage doesn't make some neato points talking about his own anarchistic and ambient chance-operated compositions, but that's Cage describing his own credo and not Branca's, a guy who was operating from a way different plank! And hey, Cage had every right to make his views known even if they were built on a wobbly premise, but most of the time he sounds like some guy who doesn't realize that the parade was over a long time ago!

Closing out the CD is a recording of a chamber piece by Branca which sounds striking in its use of stark and sharp musical form, only this time played on violins instead of guitars. After listening to this and the early "serious" Eno compositions on DISCREET MUSIC I gotta wonder if rock & roll guys are actually better classical composers than the actual composers themselves! It is food for thought, and seems to be the culmination of a lotta that rock/classical meltdown that was going on in the wild and wooly late-sixties.

Virgin Insanity-ILLUSIONS OF THE MAINTENANCE MAN CD (Blues Interaction Japan, available through Volcanic Tongue)

Dunno about you, but despite a few decent layback tracks this Virgin Insanity sounds mostly like the dippy acoustic mellow out sounds that people in Jillery's high school class woulda performed for their very own folk mass. And I thought heavy metal was created to counteract the acoustic miasma of the early-seventies! Now don't worry, it may grown on me, but on which part of the body it does will have me going to the skin specialist in no time!

ALSO PLAYED (even though it is oft-mentioned older stuff!): Can's SOUNDTRACKS CD (Spoon) after reading Hot Scott Fischer's article in EUROCK where he called it a cross between the early Velvet Underground and Space Rock. You could also say the same thing about Hawkwind and Amon Duul, and a three-way blast session will probably send you straight into orbit! Les Rallizes Denudes' STUDIO AND SOUNDBOARD (Box One, Disc Four)-I just got some hot new(ly released) Denudes sides worthy of their own post, but I still can't get over the almost-twenty-minute take of "Ice Fire" that appears here. Fantastic repeato-riff drone that I don't think anyone woulda expected to come outta Japan, other'n perhaps some half-crazed Bataan Death March survivor still upset that his daughter bought a Toyota! And...The Tony Williams Lifetime (turn it over) CD (Verve)...yeah, I know I reviewed it a few posts back but it still has an incredible Vulcan Grip on my psyche. Please, can anyone direct me to a clear and concise history of this incredibly intense "fusion" band, or ANYTHING for that matter other'n the Peter Laughner ref. in a CREEM review as to how Williams thought his band would be great for people who like to listen to their refrigerators turn on and off!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Aerosmith-LIVE BOOTLEG CD (Columbia)

Aerosmith were one of those bands who were...well, just there or at least they were back during my Golden Years of discovering this thing called rock & roll. I mean, I used to hear "Dream On" (before its reissue in '75 to general acclaim) on the old local freeform FM station and when they finally made it superstar-like a few years later (around the time of TOYS IN THE ATTIC I believe) I thought "good for them" and little else, but it wasn't like I liked or hated them at all. I guess hard rock just wasn't my forte back in the days when I was more in-tune with Pink Floyd and Frank Zappa discs, but obviously Aerosmith were sure boffo with more than enough people out there in record buying land for them to have become the stuff of post-Cooper heavy metal legends. And who could deny that these bozoids had a huge impact with the tuff stuff kinda kids who surrounded me back during those wooly mid/late-seventies days! (While I'm at it, mebbe I should also mention that I also remember my cousin [a guy who in my very presence was flipping out in an unbelievably ecstatic delight over their "Big Ten Inch Record" due to the extremely double-entendre lyrics] who, due to a neater-than-usual high school class project which required him to design an album cover [!], created one for a mythical group he called "Arrowsmith" bragging to us all about how he snatched the name from the band in a typically teenage ha-ha sarcastic style totally unaware of the Sinclair Lewis novel from whence Aerosmith copped their moniker! Well, it was a lot better'n Elvis Presley mentioning how he liked that new group AEROSPACE which seemed especially strange considering how I doubt he would even go near an act like them in the first place!)

But after awhile Aerosmith just seemed like another in the long line of dinosaur bands who, along with a number of once-shining-brightly early-seventies wonders, were heaping huge piles of guano on the musical landscape. In fact, given the time (late-seventies) and situation (high-energy local rock) at hand, these guys were way Triassic-ly blandoid enough for a kozmikally kool kinda guy like me to just downright loathe 'em! Of course, given that there was way too much good stuff happening then that made acts like Aerosmith pale in comparison it was like I had the luxury to toss 'em in the same trash heap as the rest of those seventies losers who didn't really cut the mustard next to the likes of Pere Ubu and MX-80 Sound and besides, the people who were cheerleading for the likes of Aerosmith and the rest of the capitulated heavy metal brigades that once shined so brightly seemed like the biggest crop of inbreds one could come across here in the "hard rock" rustbelt where anything even "slightly" outside the scope of "Classic Rock Radio" was looked upon with more than suspicion.

But that was a long time ago and maybe we can't afford the luxury of casually tossing off groups anymore like we used to, especially groups which did have some solid PUNK credentials like Aerosmith. OK, mebbe that should be "punk" as in an early/mid-seventies fanzine sorta fashion, since Jymn Parrett did refer to Aerosmith as being "punk rocking" in DENIM DELINQUENT #4, while the rest of the proto-punk fanzines seemed to be as big on Aerosmith as they were the Dolls and Stooges (groups who, at least in the pages of these metallic/punk fanzine excursions seemed to be getting lumped in with Aerosmith, which come to think of it wasn't hard for a mindset that seemed to draw easy comparisons between the Stooges and bands the metallic caliber of Jukin' Bone). I also remember Tim Stegall telling me about this snap he saw of the group during their early makin' it days which had Joe Perry sportin' a real live MC5 badge! And if yer still skeptical, let me remind you that even during the days of "punk proper" in the late-seventies Steve Tyler was not only producing, but joining local Boston punkers the Infliktors live onstage wailing harmonica to "Milk Cow Blues"!!! So maybe there is a little something with regards to these improper Bostonians that sorta "wooshed" by me worse'n Algebra, and it only took me a good twennysome years to realize it!

In other words: Brad Kohler once told me "You don't have to hate the Marx Brothers just because Dick Cavett likes them!" To which I shall add that I don't have to hate Aerosmith just because Chuck Eddy likes them!!!

So what's on this live disc that Columbia released to milk a few more metallic dollars back in the closing days of the seventies? Well, I gotta say that it does rock out in a rather decent if plain fashion and has some pretty nice mid-energy moments to it. I can see how the guys behind DENIM DELINQUENT and BACK DOOR MAN would've dug 'em easily enough. Still, there ain't enough pure metallic energy here to make anybody wanna ditch their Dictators albums, and Thundertrain and perhaps any of the other Aerosmith emulators of the day (Bonjour Aviators, New York's White Lightning p'haps) coulda whipped their asses any night of the week with one guitar pick tied behind their backs! But still, even with the obvious cheap-o production shovel-out attitude behind this low-budget wonder I can discern a spark of cool funtime rock energy that really does shine especially next to the horrid Epic Records metallic sludge that was being pooped out the langchute to eagerly-awaiting redfreaks at the time.

Of course the hits are here, not sounding much different from the originals if that matters to you. And the general boogie atmosphere won't win any converts from the Blank Generation, or what's left of that. But for a nice mid-energy 1973-styled ruckus and you want a change from Alice and the Dolls this might just suit you at least during your less-inhibited moments. Just be sure to stock up on enough old issues of CREEM and your choice of mid-seventies fanzines to heighten the experience...after all, listening to Aerosmith while reading THE BOB creem reems about REM and U2 can be a rugged experience that just might lead to serious damage down the road!

(A final anecdote...Lou Rone told me about the time Von Lmo played Max's Kansas City way back in January of '80 and an elated Tommy Dean rushed into their dressing room post-gig to congratulate them! Their feat? None other than breaking the attendance record at Max's. The group whose record Lmo had smashed? Who else but today's subject-at-hand, Aerosmith! Well, that is one for the rockism history books anyway!)

Friday, February 16, 2007

SPOTLIGHT ON...FLASH! (1972 fanzine edited by Mark Shipper)

Regular readers of my infamous BLACK TO COMM are no doubt familiar with a running series entitled "Spotlight On..." which has, at least for the past six issues or so, detailed the histories of various classic rock/proto-punk (mainly because they seemed to drool over the existence of the Stooges and Seeds and tried figuring in their sound/style when reviewing musical acts of all sorts in their pages) fanzines which, sad to say, seem to remain all but forgotten here in the digital age. All of the publications reported in this series to date (as well as those mentioned in my general rock fanzine rundown in issue #19) were part of what could in retrospect be called the "Golden Age of Rock Fanzines," a period in time which not surprisingly coincided with rock journalism's/criticism's own Golden Age in the seventies when writers such as Lester Bangs, Richard Meltzer, Nick Tosches and a number of faithful emulators were perhaps as big as the stars themselves, or at least one would get that impression thumbing through a few choice early-seventies issues of such celebrated mainstream rags as CREEM and FUSION where one might be able to see as many pictures of Brian Cullman in its pages as Alice Cooper.

But for all of the "proto-punk" fanzines mentioned so far in this "Spotlight" series, one of the biggest and most influential has been ignored. Not out of malice mind you (it was given its just dues in #19's general rundown) but I just didn't get around to writing anything on it for your own personal knowledge and edjamacation. And since BLACK TO COMM for all intent purposes is in hibernation until I can get enough moolah (and my soiled reputation) back it's not like this history of FLASH magazine is gonna be appearing in print any time soon, so better here in the internet world than ten years later on paper when for all intent purposes the fandom that I have rallied around and cheered on for ages in dead and buried, replaced by a particularly sad spirit of underground musical concerns you can read about on just about every other "rock music" blog extant, but not HERE!!! (thank goodness!).

Anyway, this ambitious project (especially in the ditto days of the early seventies) was the brainchild of one Mark Shipper, a guy who was sending out feelers for people to write to him about their favorite "bargain bin" finds of the day (1972) for a magazine he was putting together that would include such musings and more on past rock wonderment that seemed to have been all but forgotten even five years after the fact. And thus this professionally-printed (offset and worked on at the print shop Shipper was employed at after closing hours) was born, yet another much-needed excursion into rabid rock writing that sure lashed out against the staid "relevant" hippie attitudes that way too many people hadda put up with during those dismal days when people actually preferred drek like Cat Stevens to mad rockers like T. Rex and the Stooges. You may not remember those times, and in fact maybe you weren't even BORN then, but I was and let me tell you that anyone who'd wanna relive those days with all that BILLY JACK and BLESS THE BEASTS AND CHILDREN touchy-feeliness that stands squarely against the mission and aims of rock & roll deserves to have his head caved in. And considering how the late-oh-ohs seem to be turning into the early-seventies on many fronts maybe there are way too many wonks out there who want just that!

And so #1 popped out sometime early 1972, a nice production at that with a
wraparound cover a la the old READER'S DIGEST featuring Keith Richard and Mick Jagger live onstage (the "caption" to the pic reading "Seals and Croft kick out the jams before admiring throngs at L.A.'s Troubadour") and 28 pages of high-energy rock & roll writing within. Shipper himself put FLASH's main reason-for-being to words on the inside cover's manifesto entitled "An Open Letter to the Fantastic Baggys" where he...well, maybe I should just encapsulate for you what exactly he did say either in whole or in part (gee, how I hate editing these things)...

Well, here we are--a littler later and bigger than either of us expected, but nothing ever works out like you think it will. Before I say anything else, I'd like to thank you all for your response and support and thanks especially to those who contributed material. Also I'd like to express my gratitude to CREEM for the plug and to the print shop where I work for allowing me to come in at strange hours during the middle of the night to set copy and do camera work and paste up.

We're calling ourselves FLASH MAGAZINE for a couple of reasons. First, it's a pretty good definition of rock and roll music (and that's all we're about) and secondly, in dedication to the amazing Flash Cadillac and the Continental Kids, a rock and roll band in the truest sense of the term who've been a constant inspiration.

Since the idea for this thing germinated in my mind six months ago, I've decided to make a few alterations in the finished product. We're still basically going to be focusing on obscure albums, but there's no reason why we can't do that and lots more too, so you'll notice in this issue there's a few extended pieces of writing, some rock and roll trivia, some humor, some bad taste, and whatever else you find. Obscure albums remain my main love, however, and will always get first priority as far as publication goes. They also give us a pretty good reason for existence, for as far as I can tell, it's a virtually untouched field and yet their importance in the next few years cannot be underestimated, as we shall see.

Those who claim to know say that this drought we're going through at the present time is to be expected, that it's a part of the pattern of rock and roll to periodically rise and fall. I don't know if rock's been around long enough for anyone to be able to reliably predict such things, but I'm willing to go along with them out of sheer optimism. So, if its true, it means that there just ain't gonna be too much in the way of new music for us to get excited about for at least the next couple of years. Occasionally, in the great ocean of new releases, there are and will continue to be good rock, if only by accident, but if present trends continue, there just won't be nearly enough to satisfy those of us who could barely get our fill even in prosperous times, let alone in the depression. I'm not saying that rock is dead--far from it. Some people will tell you it's better than ever, and they have a point. Over the last five years, every facet of pop music--from musicianship to record quality--has improved ten times over. What I am saying is that it's not fun, and the way I see it, if it's not fun, it's not rock.

At any rate, there's enough good rock in the bargain bins of America to last us all five years; the problem is finding it. As you are well aware of, most of the LP's in the bins are there because they really deserve to be and the beauty of finding a 49-cent gem (and thereby beating the parking lot corporations that currently control the music) is lost if you had to spend $10 for 20 crappy albums to find it.

So that, basically, is the purpose of this magazine; to find the great overlooked stuff (there's so much of it!) and turn each other onto it. Obviously, there's a difference in tastes, but since this mag is limited exclusively to rock and roll (as opposed to a large paper like ROLLING STONE that covers so much more--jazz, country, R & B, and all rock mutations of the same) the spread shouldn't be so wide.

Another way to get around this would be to state up front just exactly what type of rock and roll you happen to be digging. Check Mike Saunders' letter in this issue. You don't have to lay it our in that great a detail (unless you want to) but if you'd name, say, your two or three favorite groups or albums at the moment, it would really help the rest of us to put your reviews in perspective.

For example, if you knew before reading my rantings and raving on the early Raiders in this issue that my current top three albums are BACK IN THE USA, GET YOUR YA YA'S OUT and FUNHOUSE (side one) you might have a better idea of how you'd react to the Raiders.

And don't let my immersion into the depths of reactionary rock influence anything you'd care to submit. I recognize it as a passing phase that I'll be out of in due time (I hope not though--haven't had this much fun for years) and I can dig it all. As long as its got a good beat and ain't too pretentious It qualifies.

I guess I should also mention that we're not gonna take it too much seriously here. To get as political as I ever care to get in the context of this mag, I'd say that rock's a joke* and that the joke's on anyone (performer or audience) who ever takes it for any more than that. To "Change the World," as Graham Nash would say (or "Save the Country," as Laura Nyro would say, or "Stop the War" as Grand Funk would say) is a big job that's going to require a lot of real work, the first prerequisite of which is to turn off the record player. And if it's hypocritical to bitch about pollution if you drive a car, it's just as hypocritical to bitch about the country if you spend your time and money on concerts and albums and anybody who does is a jackoff and should admit it. But since we all are to the same extent, there's no point in feeling guilty about it--that just messes up your rocknroll sensibilities. It's a lot better to be a self-confessed jackoff than it is to be a guilty one; it's the guilty jackoff that makes it possible for people like Chicago to get away with dedicating specially priced double record sets to the revolution, and for Melanie, Steve Stills, Graham Nash, etc., etc., you name it, to thrive and multiply. You can always tell a guilty jackoff--he's the one who expresses his political views vicariously through the music he buys (or you could say "corporations he supports," too, I suppose). So what's the answer? I dunno, but I don't ever expect to find it in as commoditable an item as pop music, that's for sure.

Anyway, the next issue (in a couple of months) will also be free (although your postage stamps are appreciated) and beginning with the one after that, we'll start publishing monthly and cost #4 per year. By that time, we'll be bigger, better, and hopefully worth the money.

In the meantime, I'd like to see your articles, photos, artwork, and especially reviews on your latest finds and opinions on any records here that you've heard or have. And, of course, any comments or suggestions about FLASH. Hopefully the next issue won't be the personal ego blitz that this one was. If you'd like your stuff returned, be sure to send a stamped, self-addressed envelope.

Have a good time.

--Mark Shipper

P.S.-A special thanks to the fab Bunny Baran at the Raiders Hollywood office for her help with the Raiders story and for digging up the old pictures for me.


*Nick Cohn said that in his book, ROCK FROM THE BEGINNING. (Pocket Books, 95 cents) Read it if you haven't already--it's far and away the best book on rock ever written.

Yeah, I didn't bother editing a SINGLE WORD from that above missive or screed if you will, undoubtedly in lieu of had I printed this thing in my own mag rather'n online I would've copied the thing and pasted it verbatum anyway like I usually do and just stuck in on the side for you to peruse after reading my own piece. But, just like all of those other introductory fanzine issue statement of purposes that I have printed (such as for CRETINOUS CONTENTIONS and CAN'T BUY A THRILL) I gotta admit that the above unexpurgated splurge more or less represents some of the better rock scribbling seen by these eyes o'er the past tensome years, especially shining next to the prattle that often passes for blogprose these sorry days.

So you get it all in FLASH #1...punk rock writing/reviews, cheap-o bargain bin reports, hippydippy peacenlvoe putdowns, reminiscences of recording acts past who weren't that long-gone to begin with, but what exactly do these pages contain you might ask! Well, there's Metal Mike (still just Mike) Saunders with his bargain bin finds and similar observances not only giving us a good roundup of some early-sixties faves (Cascades, Neil Sedaka...) but some recent additions to his collection that he ended up deep-sixing (amongst 'em Autosalvage, John Fred, Amboy Dukes and even Skip Spence's OAR). As far as his "fave esoteric raves" went, they consisted of the Beau Brummels' VOL. 2, Bo Grumpus' BEFORE THE WAR, the first Good Rats and the Bobby Fuller Four's I FOUGHT THE LAW amongst others you'll probably pay beaucoup bucks for VG+ copies on ebay any day now.

Saunders wasn't the only big name rising to submit his faves to this premier issue of FLASH since we can also find entries from one Scott (soon to be Hot) Fischer from Florissant Missouri who lists amongst his faves the first Alice Cooper, the first two Amboy Dukes (contrary to Saunders' opines), Groundhogs' BLUES OBITUARY and a whole passel of Love disques amongst such BLOG TO COMM faves as the Velvet Underground and the Stooges' FUNHOUSE. (Shipper retort:" I must've played side one of FUNHOUSE 75 times by now--it still hasn't lost its power--'rhythmic rush' is right--I guess its hip to like side two, but it's probably hipper to admit it stinks--at least they had the sense to keep the good stuff together--to hear that this band had broken up was the most depressing bit of rock 'n' roll news I've heard in years--the Beatles were already useless by the time they parted, but the Stooges were hitting their stride--how do you sleep, Iggy?")

Of course it ain't like the "no names" who contributed were total slouches since their own mini-reviews seemed to capture the great headsmack of early-seventies musings just as well as the proto-punks on board. Take Michael Dean Smith from Chicago Illinois on Edgar Broughton's WASA WASA..."Cross a British blues group with Captain Beefheart in 1965 with a time warp connecting 1956 to 1971 and this is what I think would happen." Couldn't have said it better myself! Bob Grossweiner definitely earns the esoteric-beyond-control award for this issue, listing amongst his faves everything from Boz Scaggs, Black Oak Arkansas and Little Feat to the Velvet Underground and Fanny as his top pix!

Besides the reader write-ins there are also the articles which I gotta admit seem, at least from a good 35 years later to be the spark for the entire punk revolution that overturned a lotta dross out there a few years later. (Maybe not, but it looks nice saying such overused tripe in articles such as these.) Page four features the inauguration of "The Melanie Awards" (later swiped by guess who in the late-eighties as "The Ron House Awards"!), which were to be given to "that person or group of persons who have done exceptionally meritorious and uncalled-for work in promoting the ideals, values and doctrines of the counterculture," (I should let you know that Shipper had the good sense to slap a registered trademark symbol after the word "counterculture.") Readers were urged to submit their own nominations, the winner to receive a six-inch statue named after the famed ginchy folksinger of early-seventies fame probably best known for singing that dirty song "Brand New Key" which seemed to sneak by the usually astute censors of the day. The award was to be given out during Woodstock Week in August, marking the date for "the first annual FLASH MAGAZINE ROCK AND ROLL SLAM-BANG AFFAIR AND CAT STEVENS BONFIRE CONVENTION, highlights to include awarding a six-foot gold Melanie to the "most qualified of our previous winners."

And sure that bit of on-target satire was just what the Doctor ordered, but there was much more in FLASH to either laugh at or read with total starry-eyed wonder. "Esoterica" contributor Larry Keenan also gave us an article on the infamous Bubble Puppy of "Hot Smoke and Sassafras" fame (heavy metal quotient thusly filled?) plus as expected (if you paying attention to the massive opening schpiel above) an article on Paul Revere and the Raiders entitled "Where the Action Was" which gave us a pretty good rundown on the early hit days (little on the Northwest post-Wailers scream era nor the later-on Nehru jacket times) maybe not quite as good as Russell Desmond's piece in CAN'T BUY A THRILL #2 but tasty nonetheless. Topping this nice lookback to the rock scene of six years ago (though through the eyes of 1972 it must've seemed like a century!) was a fantastic Raiders ad for JUST LIKE US done up in that "relevant" early-seventies Columbia "The Man Can't Bust Our Music" style which is really fitting considering the whole anti-youth kultur attitude and pro-high energy appeal of FLASH.

Also for your approval was a rather Nick Tosches-inspired piece entitled "Bangla Desh Confidential," a missive which begins pretty much as a bad-taste putdown of all of the hipster mewlings (Harrison, Russell, Dylan...) for the denizens of that wartorn Asian nation (similar to Tosches' own "The Heartbeats Never Did Benefits" from an old FUSION) which surprisingly enough sorta morphs into a review of the (I believe) sole album by Columbia group the Illinois Speed Press. Given that everything I've heard about this act had me running in the opposite direction (perhaps the involvement of some future Eagles member is what did it) I gotta admit that I still enjoyed the piece especially for all of the relevance-baiting middle-Eastern mystico mumbojumbo krishna kreepies to be found therein. Sure dredges up the memories...bad ones I must admit.

And I shouldn't forget the first installment of "The Liner Notes Hall of Fame" appeared in this issue featuring none other than defeated presidential candidate Hubert Humphrey's note of gratitude to Tommy James and the Shondells for their campaigning assistance, splattered across the back of their CRIMSON AND CLOVER elpee t' boot. Not exactly something that would endear them to the cooler portion of the record buying populace at large, but a nice gesture anyway!

Page 26 (across from the Paul Revere mock up) featured a come-on for the following issue of FLASH, which was to have had a piece on Sky Saxon and the Seeds, "1969's Greatest (and most maligned) albums: The MC5's BACK IN THE USA and LED ZEPPELIN II" as well as other flotsam, but when a now-normally-dimensioned (8-and-a-half by 11 as opposed to seven-by-ten) issue #2 finally did appear (sometimes later on in that very same year) much of the material promised in that blurb wasn't delivered. However, what was in store for a variety of punks worldwide was pretty advanced stuff (in that aforementioned reactionary way) especially for the comparatively doldrum days of '72 when way too much time was being given to a load of sappy folk singers and boring pop stars at the expense of rock & roll (which was still in high-stock as any reading of ROCK ON would tell you). Anyway, FLASH #2 sported a fine cartoon cover dileneated by a Jim Evans featuring some doob-smoking teens evading the police while Chuck Berry plays on the car radio and plenty of high-energy on the insides, not with any promised Seeds piece or Led Zep for that matter, but an article on the second MC5 long-player (written by the elusive Wayne Davis) did pop up along with a Mike Saunders piece on the Dave Clark Five, Richard Meltzer reviewing the latest J. Geils Band album, and oddest of all a surprise appearance by Rockin' Ronnie Weiser (of ROLLIN' ROCK fanzine fame) on Eddie Cochran plus rock 'n' roll in general (this appearance being totally unexpected since Weiser had made it known clear, at least after this FLASH contribution, that he would NEVER contribute to a magazine that wrote about anything but juicy, greasy, bass-slappin' fifties rockaroll!). And of course there were even more pages of cheap-o bin finds and the usual hippoid putdowns that started with the debut blaster.

The sarcasm starts right at the fact it's right there on the inside front cover which sports an spoof ad for an album by the infamous Jim Dippy (a.k.a. Jim Cribb), a purportedly real character who had not only jammed at all night sessions with Sky Saxon but released this "album" entitled SONGS ABOUT YOU (on the Protection label) which allegedly from the looks of it makes James Taylor sound like Iggy Pop (Mike Saunders said that Mr. Dippy was "...even more of what Cat Stevens and James Taylor already are..." though I thought he said that about some other sensitive singer/songwriter whose album he reviewed in PHONOGRAPH RECORD MAGAZINE around the same time!) and with song titles like "Sweet Baby Jesus," "Livin' Off the Land" and "Smokestacks Blowin' (People Chokin')" who could deny that??? Page three's got the table of contents and a snap of Flash Cadillac performing in some high school gym, while the following two pages have an even LONGER opening blab that I dare not reprint lest I pixel myself outta existence!

After you wade through the massive opening segment the fun really begins, with John Denver copping this issue's "Melanie Award" ("...for general grooviness above and beyond the call of duty") and (on the same page!) "The Punk Rock Top Ten" which, along with that do-it-yourself Mad Peck cassette in FUSION helped start off the punk revival that NUGGETS would spread across the planet within a relatively short time. FYI, the following are the records which made it to the top of the slag heap, and your recommendations are still welcome!:

1. "Try It"-The Standells
2. "Pushin' Too Hard"-The Seeds
3. "Talk Talk"-The Music Machine
4. "Psychotic Reaction-Count Five
5. 96 Tears-? and the Mysterians
6. Sometimes Good Guys Don't Wear White-The Standells
7. Double Shot-The Swingin' Medallions
8. Wild Thing-The Troggs
9. Dirty Water-The Standells
10. Gloria-The Shadows of Knight

OK, maybe it is a bit pedestrian, but for 1972 could you do any better???

The major articles themselves are as good as you would have expected during this sainted "Golden Age" including Saunders' Dave Clark Five piece (where he calls them avant garde because they had a sax player and in 1965!), but my fave has to be Davis' MC5 schpiel. The reason this one's a proverbial winner (and top placer in my "best rock articles of all time" list from years back) is because it takes the piss out of a lotta that hideous New Left rigmarole that still seems to be in vogue this far down the beaten path. You know, how these urban snobs kinda look down at suburban peons like you and me because we're so plastic and commercial and like all that so-called hokum culture, or at least we seem to be a few rungs lower on the evolutionary scale next to their terminal hipness I guess. Well, Davis proves to us that the MC5 and suburban slobs STAND TOGETHER and who are the real idiots anyway, the dyed-in-the-red-wool leftists who give lip service to the working guy while cursing him out every chance he gets, or the guys who grew up on old tee-vee shows, great comic strips and MC5 albums who never did fall for that new left hype nohow. But I'll let Davis explain it for you BLOG TO COMM-hating intellectuals anyway:

After three or four hundred plays, one no longer hears (BACK IN THE USA) as merely a brilliantly executed rock and roll extravaganza; it becomes more, somehow. Sort of like the Band's second album, it's a portrait of America, but not the civil-war America that the Band dealt with which nobody alive today can relate to refute, but 1969-70 America, the one everybody lives in. And instead of another "America Eats It" album, this one's a rock and roll celebration of everything that's made us great. It's about McDonalds and jukeboxes, and fast cars, and highschool, and teenage lust, and basically HAVING FUN. You know, all the things that so many intellectuals have been trying to tell you was WRONG with America, that it has no culture, no depth, no tradition, no class. You know, the same type of people who don't dig the Seeds. Well fuck them, Jack, this may be the hamburger culture, but its the only thing we've ever known so those of us who dig it should tell these assholes to beat it--to go read a book or something for crissakes, to just LEAVE US ALONE. We wanna have some fun!

Ok, put a slab of cheese on my burger because I'm all for the cheeseburger culture myself! And all of those decadent slobs like the one in Philadelphia Pee-YOU can go take a flying leap because my cheeseburger culture is a heckkuva lot better than your decadent porno one, and that's the fax, Lax!

You can tell that it's this sorta purebred energy writing that stirs my juices up, and there's plenty more where that came from! FLASH #2, besides containing TWO editions of "The Liner Notes Hall of Fame" (The Challengers and Red Crayola) has all of those great bargain bin writeups that filled up the first edition, and with some additional surprises as well. Ralph Gleason (as "Ralph Kramden") gets his just desserts with a piss-take on his "Perspectives" column from the pre-glitz ROLLING STONE. And in the "Esoterica" section Gene Sculatti (famed CATALOG OF COOL rocksribe also of Vom notoriety) clocks in with reviews of the McCoys and second Left Banke album amongst others, bigwig Ed Ward digs up a variety of late-sixties/early-seventies records both on-target and off the boards, Greg Shaw lists a whole slew of garage bands faves that must've seemed like totally obscure rarities at the time, and besides Scott Fischer and Mike Saunders noted teenage whiz Eddie Flowers adds a few faves including Southern heroes (yet at the time unknown north of Mason/Dixon) Wet Willie (his roots showing, natch!). Strangely enough, "Esoterica" ends with a note from some lass who actually took offense at a joke in the "Bangla Desh Confidential" article which mentions the Raiders' "Hungry" as being the number one song in that starved-out nation!

Needless to say, this was a super-fine issue of FLASH, a definite fanzine hall of fame winner which seems to predate DENIM DELINQUENT by a whole year and BACK DOOR MAN by a good three as far as looks, layout and snotty punk attitude goes! And dig that subscription come-on pic on the inside back cover showing some gal reading #1 while eating a banana in a room fulla record covers mounted on the wall (Elvis, Badfinger, Raiders, Standells, Beatles, Stooges, Seeds, Love, LOADED, LED ZEPPELIN II...)

And although a third issue was promised containing a "Surf Music Special" ("What happens when a reasonably normal human locks himself in a room for seven days with nothing but a record player and a stack of albums by the Challengers, Chantays, Renegaids, Del-Tones, Surfaris, etc? I don't know either, but I'm gonna do it, and you can read my intimate diary of this experience right here next time.") an interview with Jim Dippy (!) as well as the first installment of Mike Saunders' heavy metal column, alas it was not to be. Dunno the specifics of why FLASH went under, but considering the extremely fragile lifespans of the early proto-punk fanzines (especially one of this fine caliber) what would anyone expect? The cover to #3 did get reprinted in COWABUNGA #7 a few years later looking pretty much in the fashion of #2 with the same basic graphics and a whacked-out surf theme also courtesy Jim Evans, but that was it for this nice try at fandom...pffft dead and gone, though thankfully the inspiration lasted in the fanzine world long enough so that a number of spirited reads obviously influenced by FLASH were bound to spring up.

As for Shipper, after his FLASH experiences he ended up discovering a band who were actually doing Sonics covers in the dark reaches of the mid-seventies called the Droogs, eventually managing them and releasing a whole series of their singles and 12-inchers on his own Plug 'n' Socket, one of the first of the seventies independent homespun punk labels. And thanks to his FLASH stint he actually got a column entitled "Pipeline" in the pages of the United Artists-backed/Greg Shaw edited PHONOGRAPH RECORD MAGAZINE where he continued to drop some fine plop regarding what he considered the hot and dire during those seventies days. (Shipper being etapoint at times with his high-larious takedowns of the likes of Paul McCartney's "My Love" ["Prediction: Johnny Mathis will sing this song on THE TONIGHT SHOW within six weeks."] yet off-target at others, such as with his dismissal of the New York Dolls ["Their album does sound good in places, but they're not the kind of places you'd like to hang out"]). And speaking of the Sonics, Shipper oddly enough acquired the rights to the Etiquette albums and released a collection of the best of both (using the cover of BOOM!) called EXPLOSIVES complete with a booklet telling the story of the group where it mentioned things like Gerry Roslie refusing to go onstage at times and other probably heretofore unknown items along those lines. And although Billy and Miriam did a great job with their own Sonics reissues I wouldn't mind seeing the notes of this 'un to see if anything was left out... And, in a strange case of outright conflict of interest, Shipper actually reviewed this disc in PRM which I must admit seems a little too incestuous even for me!

Shipper also got together once again with buddy Saunders to put out an entirely new fanzine entitled BRAIN DAMAGE. Not to be confused with the long-running Pink Floyd fanzine of the same name, this BRAIN DAMAGE was a rag devoted to poking fun at the rock writers of the day including Ken Barnes, Lester Bangs (a high-larious fake ROLLING STONE interview utilizing actual Bangs review ejaculations to good use!), Greg Shaw (an enlightening take off of his old CREEM "Juke Box Jury" column dated five years in the future [1978] which was accurate on some points and totally off the wall on others that I actually reprinted in #24 of my own rag!), Ron Weiser, Wayne Davis on Lou Reed and loads more. A total hum-dinger of a fanzine that showed promise...and although this was originally a one-off it seems as if a second issue was planned though for some odd reason Shipper pulled out of the project, and just about his entire past life, leaving Saunders and the rest (Gene Sculatti) in the lurch so to speak. In fact, Saunders had sent out with some copies of BRAIN DAMAGE a letter printed on STAR TREK stationary a note explaining to the best of his abilities the sudden uprooting of Shipper and how the guy was his "brother" no more! (Note, some of this is "heresay" and parts were relayed to me by people close to the source, if anyone involved wants to add their two centavos they know what to do.)

And even after all the successes and backfires you could easily have seen just how FLASH was inspirational, setting the stage not only for the likes of CRETINOUS CONTENTIONS, DENIM DELINQUENT and BACK DOOR MAN in the 1973-1975 era but Charles Lamey's excellent RECORD RAVES (another two-issue wonder) during the punk-active year of '77 as well as the infamous KICKS and, oh yeah, that snotty little wipe known as BLACK TO COMM even. Todd Abramson of YOUNG FAST AND SCIENTIFIC and BREAKTHROUGH fame even said that if he had never picked up a copy of FLASH you might not have seen any of his fanzines at all! Of course, the anarchic humor, fantastic anti-PC ranting and typically-teenage cooler-than-thou attitude of FLASH would be totally verboten in today's liberal clampdown atmosphere which we all have to stifle in, but as they say what else is old??? But that is to be expected. Especially after reading some of the sordid mewlings passing as honest rock "criticism" these days, after which eyeballing an issue of FLASH is like taking a nice big whiff of pure clean air after being gagged by exhaust fumes all day. And I wouldn't expect you to understand, you with your tiresome intellectual posturings and record collecting mentalities and general "above-it-all" radical chic elitism, but the high energy rants and raves that these FLASHes radiate just make me wanna put out the next issue of my own beloved rag a lot sooner than expected, and with a mad rage that makes me wanna stand amidst the stale hipster fashion and calculated fandom seen these days screaming at the top of my lungs ENOUGH!!!!!, and maybe for once someone out there, for the sake of humanity, will listen. Yeah, that may sound corny to you, but not to me. Listening to a great record or reading a great piece of rockism-inspired criticism will make me do that, and if it doesn't do that to you I can recommend a whole slew of stale bloggage to sate your tiresome thirst. Understand?

Sunday, February 11, 2007


People have complained to me that this blog ain't as uppa date as it could be. I'm sure you know the schpiel by now...lotsa reviews of disques that have been out for ages already and name-dropping of tee-vee shows and magazoons that have been dead and buried by the time we've hit the digital era. I'm sure you know the rant given by a whole load (and I do mean load!) of upper-crust snobboids out there in computerland who like to be up on top of everything as soon as it slides down the langchute and lands all over us eagerly-waiting peons out there. Well, yeah, I could be on top of everything and hot-offa-presses if I wanted to, but frankly there is VERY LITTLE out there in media/internet/kultur-land that's worthy of me getting all worked up, and you know that when something in the here-and-now DOES get me all hot 'n bothered enough for me to WRITE about it, well I WILL BE A JOHNNY-ON-THE-SPOT FOR ONCE and deliver my fresh and honest opinion as to what is going on now and not a hunnerd years back, whether it be something I caught on the boob tube that ain't snatched from that glorious Golden Age of Flabby Suburban Amerigan Brat Living or a song that doesn't have any connections (tangential or whatever) to something from thirty/forty years back that I haven't hitched my star to or whaddeva. Of course don't expect too much of that, but when something of a newsworthy nature does hit the ol' BLOG TO COMM flashlight-inna-brain believe me you will be the FIRST TO KNOW!!!

And believe-it-or-not, but that very moment when I do comment on a current event (and I don't mean something along the lines of "the Indians predict a severe winter" quap that Beaver was trying to find for a school project!) is none other than TODAY!!! Yes, there is something in the news that yours truly would like to clue you all in on, and for once it ain't anything of a politico nature either (though who knows, get me worked up enough and I'll work something in!), but sheesh, I do get so hot-and-bothered about things at times and start flying offa handle at the drop of a hat and believe-you-moi this is just one time I gotta do JUST THAT! So settle down and batten the hatches, because none other than memeME is gonna lay down for you an editooreal that would make Floyd R. Turbo blanch in comparison!

And (if you gotta know, and if not why are you reading this anyhoo?) it's the death of Anna Nichole Smith that's got me worked up to the point of froth! Normally such light pitter-patter doesn't get me all champing at the bit...after all, aren't most if not all (with one or two exceptions) celebs these days nothing but puffed-up pastry who more or less help animate that corpse called Hollywood and the Entertainment Industry long after the fact? Heck, I didn't even know (or if I did, would care) who this blondoid boob-buster was until I started to watch a little more tee-vee after the arrival of a satellite dish at our abode and saw some "reality program" starring this star slut being aired on one of those fancy-schmancy cable nets and Jillery hadda tell me who she was, clueless dolt I am! (OK, call me "behind-the-times," but really, who has the luxury to pay attention to such trivialities when there are WAY MORE IMPORTANT THINGS TO DO like listen to tons of great music and watch REAL tee-vee [you know, the MONOCHROME kind!].) Even after Jillery gave me the lowdown regarding this ditz I still couldn't understand just how Miz Smith could be regarded as being a celeb of any renown...true I could make the cheap-o jokes about here (a la the title of this very piece!) such as that she was two of the biggest stars around, but that was funnier when they said that about Jane Russell. At least that bitch could act!

But the incessant (as could be expected in these "Spill-It!/Confess-It!" days that Steve Ditko so aptly described) coverage of this "tragic figure" (no pun intended there!) as if the broad had cured disease or helped people out even in the slightest is enough to even make a guy like me toss tons of Chinese takeout (that's "takeaway" for you non-Amerigan readers) all over the back seat of my Studebaker. At least Princess Diana was part of British Royalty (which, with a dime, can get you a cup of coffee) and Mother Theresa, although she coulda done a lot more for those people in India if she lined up a buncha businesses to open factories and fast food joints over there, was way more sincere and perhaps even helpful in her own way. But Anna Nichole??? I mean, in these days of being famous for being famous she couldn't even rate as that aforementioned "tragic figure" a tad bit. If she had been around a good fifty/sixty years back she wouldn't have made it outta the yellow journalism/tabloid factory with her non-there appeal and general blanditude. Maybe the slut was born fifty years too late...I do know that she woulda found her niche back in the forties as some gangster's airhead moll, or perhaps even playing one in the moom pitchers...preferably Monogram. Heck, if she did that maybe I'd have some respect for her!

You do know that there's some family out there in the heartland of them thar United States who have suffered terribly, having lost members of their family due to disease and war and hard work, and the father (and his father onandonandon...) has to labor really hard to put food on the table and worries about how he's gonna pay next month's rent, and the whole slab of 'em are probably sniffling their noses over the death of this 21st century martyr the same way they still bawl over the Kennedy Curse and all the bad things that happen to the Big and Nasty while they themselves rot away in the middle of nowhere! But I guess that does figure...and what's even WORSE is that these same kinda people usually take on this outdated Marxist attitude towards the big men in life who DESERVE their lofty status due to success and transcending the "common man" myth to make something outta themselves! But what else is old...people can rise to the highest realms of goodness or sink to the murky depths, but even paying attention to that whole Anna Nichole thing in the first place shows there's some sorta big thirst for SOMETHING (knowledge?, a new hook???) out there and I doubt a jugfulla Kool Ade could quench it nohow!

Of course, it's just the end of the line in that ol' celebrity worship hoohah that's been plagueing mankind for quite a long time. The one where we actually think that the bigname people out there in entertainment land actually mean something outside of their trades, pithy as they may be. You know how people will actually look up to and believe what Robert Redford says as if it had the same weight as a political pundit who is at least in on the game. It all started back when Peter Paul and Mary said that they could actually be a strong political force by campaigning for Eugene McCarthy back in '68 or when John Lennon began using his fame to spout off about a whole slew of societal ills as if he were really qualified to do anything other than make music! Later on it got even more ridiculous, like when it seemed as if the entire populace began singing high hosannas about just about any "caring" and "compassionate" big name lending time and effort to some chic cause of the week or disease as if they were ready to be nominated for the Nobel Prize. I mean...Michael J. Fox??? Christopher Reeve fercryinoutloud??? (I wish I could link up this great putdown of the latter after his death that Thomas Fleming wrote on the CHRONICLES website even though he did hafta take a few pokes at the REAL Superman George Reeves in the process!) It's all pretty ridiculous, as bad in retrospect as if people had looked to Harry Langdon for political advice in the twenties or even Elvis in the fifties. Nowadays we have this strange belief that the stars are as astute as the paid politicos which is why a whole lotta 'em won't shut up and are extremely annoying when it comes to spouting off their asinine rants that I guess are about as sacred as the Dalai Lama's turds once you think about it.

Though frankly, I'd rather listen to the political ideals of Harry Langdon or Joe Cook than I would Bill "Penis Nose" (as Justin Raimondo calls him) Maher or those dykes on THE least those guys were funny! (See I knew I'd work something political into this rant'n'rave!)

But enough could say that I myself am taking on some of the big ones, but really, aren't jokes like that bust??? And quit'cher tittering chaps!(OK, I couldn't resist, but it does say about all that has to be said so don't write in complainin'!)


Now, back to the OLD STUFF, but in this case, I do have a good reason for holding off as long as I have! Y'see, I was going to latch onto a copy of this Noah Howard rarity about three years back when it first hit the Cee-Dee market kept me from doing it with his own review, ass-like as it was. I mean, if I had bought a copy of PATTERNS/MESSAGE TO SOUTH AFRICA some time in '04 only to find out that one of my arch-enemies had also bought the thing and liked it as well...well, you could just BET that my own copy woulda gotten slung onto the "sell" pile faster than you could say "Retract my foreskin Dave!" and that's no jive!

But really, I am a civilized and comparatively couth gentleman, and I don't let mindless squabbles get the best of me like they might others. And with this in mind I purchased a copy of this platter which teams up a rare self-released 1971 side with a previously-unheard '79 sesh, and if such a team-up worthy of a classic Bronze-Age Marvel title doesn't get your juices flowing may I suggest a nice mausoleum where you can spend the rest of time in?

Neat-o sesh in PATTERNS with Howard still under the influence of his BYG recording with the late Rev. Frank Wright playing particularly post-Coltrane whilst his mostly furrin backing (including guitarist Jaap Schoonhoven, who played alongside Wally Tax of all people) are going particularly outre but not quite "out there"...good enough but there is a little something that keeps PATTERNS from being the all-out noisecapade that I hoped it would be. Maybe it's that "thumbs up" that I had previously referred to? Don't believe that for a second! Perhaps the low-fi quality? Ditto. Maybe it's the fact that I was listening to this while reading Don Martin paperbacks? Closer to the point.

I tend to prefer Howard's '79 MESSAGE TO SOUTH AFRICA a wheelbarrow more where Howard and a number of top-name jazz expatriates (including living and breathing [at least then] South Afrikaners like Johnny Dyani and Chris McGregor as well as the under-appreciated Kali Fasteau) do a good moan and blare session partially based on the SA National Anthem (hip people, them South Africans!) that seems to float in and out of your brain. Some good jazz moans and flash-fly to get you into one of those jazz trances where YOU TOO can transcend to higher planes just like the guys playing this do, only without the use of narcotics! An all-out winner you should seek, and maybe somebody should reissue more of those rare Howard albums while we're at it, eh?

William Hooker-SHAMBALLA CD (Knitting Factory Works)

Another oldie that keeps popping up on ebay, and at ridiculously low "Buy It Now!" prices at that. I figured that with so many people trying to dump copies of SHAMBALLA it must be a dog even though it does feature Sonic Youth bigname Thurston Moore on a couple tracks, right? Well, after years of pondering (and with my recent revision of Hooker's career in-and-out of his alternative music slumming) I decided to plunk down my five bucks to see whether or not this 'un was worth a good seven years of thunk, and surprisingly enough I gotta say that I not only played this one TWICE so far but a whopping three times (in about four days!) which must mean it's a winner, right???

The duets with Moore are actually hard-edge raucous enough to please even a jaded character such as I, sounding like some long-forgotten guitar/drums session along the lines of DAILY DANCE perhaps with a more heavy metallic appeal. As Neil Strauss' liners say, this music does transcend categories, though come to think of it a lotta the best jazz of the past twennysome years did so you could say that the two were right on track with the proper avant jazz evolution! The live set with Elliot Sharp laid down at the CB's 313 Gallery comes off even better, perhaps due to the as-it-happens ambience/immediacy of the thing or maybe even because the drums sound even more in-front. Whaddeva, it's a definite keeper.

COMIC STRIP CAVALCAGA! Since I'm on a roll, I thought I'd also detail for you some of the other joys that I've been engaging in as of the past week. And yeah, while a good portion of you BLOG TO COMM readers probably spend your free time engaging in illicit activities I'm not ashamed to say that my interests are of a purer, more wholesome variety. Mainly, besides helping old ladies across the street and being kind to dumb animals, getting my fill of none other than classic-era comic strips! Readers familiar with my BLACK TO COMM fanzine already know that I consider comic strips along with comics of the book/mag variety, tee-vee and music to have been healthy parts of that great All-Amerigan thang we call entertainment sometimes during the past-century's "Golden Age" (whenever that might have been), and although you couldn't get me to read a funny page today the same way you couldn't get me near a top forty station or currently-running television program that doesn't mean the form is totally lacking in fine BLOG TO COMM-approved anti-kultur. Far from it...when I read an old funny page I get that same legal (for now) high I get reading a vintage comic book or watching a tee-vee show created before the hippie generation got in charge, and frankly I gotta admit to you beyond-it-all decadent types out there that I'M HAVING MORE FUN THAN YOU EVER WILL when I settle back and read a collection of boss comics while listening to some hot-and-heavy garage band rock right before I settle down in front of the tube to absorb some great b&w programming (as if you didn't know)! And if that's good enough for Bill Shute it's good enough for you too!!!

The selection of late-forties NANCY strips I recently latched onto were perfect. Remakably I've only read about two or three of them before in one of my old TIP TOP collections now snuggled safely somewhere in my abode, and it's always pleasurable to settle back in my comfy chair and resensify myself with these comics which do their best to zone me back to those great single-digit days when looking forward to the funny pages was just as exhilarating as waiting for your favorite programs to come on or summer vacation when it seemed that YOU were the boss, at least for the next three months. And it's amazing just how many people I've come across who not only remember, but remember fondly the old Ernie Bushmiller-era strip even this far down the line. Most of them are women over the age of sixty, but who sez they're outside the "norm" of society anyway? Let's face it, NANCY's got it all from great, deceptively simple art and whacked-out gags, not to mention an occasional hot shot or two of none other than that eternal comic strip mother figure, Aunt Fritzi.

What was really great about the reams of NANCY Sunday paper clippings I got was, that on the backsides of them were not only classic HENRYs (a comic that almost equals NANCY in 20th century mid-Amerigan doofus living concerns) but DIXIE DUGAN! I never did pay attention to this once-popular strip (to me, it seemed too much "for the gurls" as Beaver would have said), but the humorous Sunday version of DIXIE sure know how to deliver not only with the sexy gal art and gags (like the one where she and her half-there boyfriend Charlie get their clothing mixed up by the clothes checker at the beach and get arrested for cross-dressing!) but with the occasional presence of niece Imogene who sorta acts like a Nancy in waiting more or less. Gotta say that I surprisingly really cozied up to these comics which isn't that much of a surprise given the high artistic standards which have sorta been brushed away in these days of expediancy, but they sure go down smooth. Then again, maybe Dugan has the sexiness intact because she was (believe it or not!) modeled after hot Hollywood silent star Louise Brooks and as any student of the screen can tell you that really amounts to something!

Also big on the comics scene happening in my bedroom as we speak are the Gene Ahern-era MAJOR HOOPLE comics that I've come across. Full page Sundays at that, complete with the "topper" Nut Brothers (Ches and Wal) comics which are guaranteed as many good groaners as at least one Joe Cook comedy. I wish I could repro for you at least one of these great full-pagers I got (circa mid-thirties), but these post-HOOPLE Ahern examples (featuring Hoople knockoff Judge Agustus Puffle from ROOM AND BOARD as well as the proto-MISTER NATURAL "Nov Schmoz Ka Pop" guy from the legendary SQUIRREL CAGE) will have to do until I get my camera outta hock. Anyway, for those of you who've read the old HOOPLE panels and are unfamilar with the Sunday version these full-pagers are just about everything you would've dreamed of (with regards to the high quality and general cartooning capabilitie of the day) especially during that great era of full-page Sunday Funny stripdom in the twenties and thirties, not only with the great Nut Bros. sicko gags but with the extended format in which Ahern could expand on what he hadda do with only a single panel on weekdays! Many of these comics have a Munchhausen/Commander McBragg sense of exaggerated ridiculousness with Hoople telling his nieve nephew Alvin about some unworldly great past feat of his whether it be in war or in some African or South American adventure usually ending with a great bubble burst from battleaxe wife Martha (but maybe not). Lemme tell you, after seeing these comics and in lieu of the past seventy years of what has happened to funnies in general (or at least the past thirty since strips like HOOPLE were given the ax) you can tell where R. Crumb and Bill Griffith got a lotta their artwork and even storyline ideas from!
But what really got my eyeballs a poppin' were the old SALESMAN SAM strips on the reverse of these HOOPLEs, a huge surprise considering how this one (also part of the boss NEA Services syndicate outta Cleveland that gave us HOOPLE, FRECKLES, PRISCILLA'S POP, OUT OUR WAY, ALLEY OOP and many other top-notch comics) was one of the best (and most forgotten) screwball strips to come outta the twenties! Similar in many ways to SMOKEY STOVER, SALESMAN SAM is also top-notch as far as delivering those fantastic groaner gags that would sound horrid had anyone else delivered 'em, and with some pretty advanced cartooning style as well! Unfortunately by the time I ran outta HOOPLEs to read I also ran outta SALESMAN SAMs...the strip went under in '36, and the paper which was running the thing replaced it with a tiresome kiddie comic called HERKY, and if that didn't upset a cartload of unwashed thirties kids who hadda get their thrills some way then I dunno what would!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


Waitin' on a Train-IN THE PATH OF PAIN CD (Bona Fide)

I never was a guy who went in bigtime for this hillybilly bluegrass stuff, not because I'm an uppercrust snob'r anything as chicly elitist as that, but because acoustic countrified sounds just never figured into my oft-bragged about suburban slob upbringing, the same one that raised Standells records, black & white tee-vee reruns and cheeseburgers (threw that one in to get that ol' anti-Chris contingent out there all riled up!) to a special, almost sacred level you just couldn't hope to explain to an intellectual. Naturally, this very same mid-southern sound is part and parcel to other people's trashy rural upbringings which is just as sacred to 'em as SUPERCAR is to mine, so why shouldn't I give these Waitin' on a Train guys a go especially since they have the proud imprimatur of Bona Fide records on their Cee-Dee cover! And really, what more could a guy want here in the days when kicks keep getting harder and harder to find anyway???

Pretty good stuff too NOT from the border states but Eastern Pee-YAY!, with the trio of Tony Staub, Paul Wykowski and Adam Sullivan (rip) doing the bluegrass sound and doing it good. Pleasant enough acoustic folky/driving blasting (not too far off from what a lotta acts who used to play the CB's 313 Gallery used to lay down) which is probably made better because the guys playin' it don't look like a buncha sixty-plus fogies with Col. Sanders bowties and them horn-rimmed glasses with the wire bottoms that were the rage of all the alternative bands back inna eighties!

The Slickee Boys-A POSTCARD FROM THE DAY CD (Dacoit)

I didn't think anybody remembered this seventies/eighties group who straddled the seventies punk and "garage band revival" stratas during those rather confused days when it seemed as if a lotta us fans were kinda forced to hafta take SIDES!!! While most of their brethren and sistren could barely make it out of their particular punk rock ghetto alive, the Slickee Boys managed to easily glide through the seventies punk era into the eighties garage scene without missing a beat, disbanding after over fifteen years and a passel of personnel changes, not to mention a whole slab of independent and self-produced record releases that I'm sure one can seek out with a minimum amount of effort even this late in the fandom game.

This new disque features the early-eighties version of the group (after Mark Noone took over the lead singer/frontman role from Martha Hull) romping it up at a variety of underground hotspots (including such bistros as the Psychedelly in Bethesda Maryland and En Why's own CBGB) back inna day when the the more six-oh aspects of punk began strutting their own stuff and future stars like Greg Prevost and Rudi Protrudi were seemingly coming outta nowhere and beginning to make their marks on the whole glorious underground scene. A wise array of cover material (Sonics, Status Quo, Gizmos {!}) intermingles with a nice slab of long-forgotten Slickee originals, and although the quality is strictly cassettesville it ain't like this sounds like it was recorded up Dave Lang's expansive butt...pretty sleek quality come to think of it and a nice reminder as to what the eighties stood for, at least for guys like me who missed the power and energy of the seventies underground and sure wanted more even though a lotta that stuff was now considered "old" (read an early issue of my rag and you'll know what I mean).

BEFORE I GO I thought I'd post this great Youtube video sent me by none other than Lou Rone featuring "Sugar Daddy," the a-side of his ultra-rare Cross single which I know all you fans of the man (and his boffo CD) not to mention Von Lmo will most certainly want to see/hear. Frankly I gotta admit that I really dig Rone's fine brand of early-seventies heavy metal back when the form was nice and primal, and who knows, if you're the kinda guy who finds a lotta agreement with the early fanzine mentality regarding '72 as a pretty boss year on the AM dial (read Kenne Highland's fanzine musings about just what a banner year for pop radio '72 was!) you should love this one plenty as well. I was hoping that somehow there woulda been a film crew (perhaps on the lookout for the Next Big Ballbuster) taking all sorta moom pitchers of Rone and band in the act of creation, but these pics (all that survives of Cross snap-wise) will have to do. Anyway, as they used to say, listen up and ROCK ON!!!

Friday, February 02, 2007


...the one that went "Monday nothing, Tuesday nothing, Wednesday and Thursday nothing..."? Well, that's the way it's been here at ground zero with living in general kinda stuck in neutral and as frigid as the great Western Pennsylvanian outdoors! Yes, believe it or not, but even with my swinging blogger lifestyle I gotta fess up to the fact that hardly anything of ginchy worth's goin' on down here at BLOG TO COMM central, which is a surprise given the expected flashy day-in/out high drama someone would expect outta a jam-packed life such as mine. Well, sometimes that life just gets stuck inna mud with wheels a'spinnin', but that's not gonna stop me from doing another post because even in the midst of a great sense of nada I can find plenty, 'r at least three items to write up and educate you lumpen lumps out there as to the eternal worthiness of such goods. After all, I gotta do something for you unwashed peons just begging to be as suave and sophisticado as I, right?

Weasel Walter Quartet-REVOLT MUSIC CD (ugEXPLODE)

Everybody in on the rockism trip for the past thirtysomething years knows all about the punk/free jazz merger'n how these musics were made for each other, beginning with the original rumblings popping outta "Eight Miles High" this and Velvet Underground that up through the MC5 and FUNHOUSE, Suicide and the entire no wave "movement" even into the world of today if you can believe that. Well, actually anyone who has read and digested R. Meltzer's AESTHETICS OF ROCK (the part where he critiques a letter to DOWN BEAT where some trad jazz guy makes ample comparisons between the new jazz and that noisy uncouth rock music) coulda told you all about it way back in the late-sixties, and I ain't talking cheap trash like Grace Slick calling Coltrane's ASCENSION his "acid trip" or some other comfy bit of ROLLING STONE-dominated "we are all ONE kultur" flower power drivel either! I'm talking the real-hard deal trip that, like I said, lives on even to this day...the one of Dee Pop's free jazz (with some punk thrown in)-curated gigs first at the old CBGB Lounge and now Jimmy's Tavern where the likes of Freedomland and Radio I-Ching could roam hand-in-hand with John Tchicai and Eddie Gale and now comes this freedom-oriented group led by none other'n Weasel Walter, a guy who spent a good portion of the last decade trying to revive the no wave mantra in Chicago and now he's doing the same thing for free jazz. To which I say "more power to him" and he's gonna need it considering that playing the "new thing" commands about as much reward and admiration as being a low-key blogger or for that matter a butt boil biter in these extremely out-of-it times.

In fact, I don't even think that hometown pioneers the AACM would want to have anything to do with this grouping, and not only because most of the guys ('cept for tenor saxist Josh Allen) are white. I dunno if the AACM have any racial constraints on their members but that may be a moot point because the Weasel Walter Quartet sound way too feral even for an organization that would permit such out-there people as Roscoe Mitchell and Joseph Jarman as members. But whaddeva, this is some mighty fine freedom musings courtesy a guy who i didn't think had it in him (at least judging from those letters he wrote to Tim Ellison's MODERN ROCK MAGAZINE back inna nineties), but then again I think I may have been wrong once about something a long time ago.

It's surprising to hear Walter on drums play total Sunny Murray (cum Milford Graves cum Phillip Wilson cum Andrew Cyrille cum Ronald Shannon Jackson cum Beaver Harris cum...). Maybe he went to the same punk rocker reeducation camp as Dee Pop but whatever, the guy sure knows how to play around the beat and the bend for that matter like the best. And the rest of the quartet (featuring at times two guys on upright bass variations, a variety of tenormen and longtime fogey Henry Kaiser on guitar sounding good for a change!) sure know how to refurbish the old Peter Brotzmann hard attack that seemed to herald as much music mode changing city wall shaking as the Fugs and the rest of those counterkultur wags did way back inna late six-ohs! Plenty of snide asides to not only Chicago experimentalism (heard some good lines courtesy Allen that seemed directly lifted from Mitchell's "Chant" on WILDFLOWERS VOL. 5) but to such wonderful avant explosions from Charles Tyler and Arthur Doyle to (naturally) the Ayler root of it all. A surprisingly brilliant slab of post-experimental soundage put forth by a guy who (only a decade back!) I woulda probably considered the biggest non-entity in what passes for underground farts these days. I better watch myself, who knows what I might be saying about Jay Hinman and Dave Lang (not to mention J. Neo Marvin) a decade from now if I'm able to go topsy turvy over the likes of Walter!

Solar-SUNS OF COSMIC CONSCIOUSNESS CD (Aztec, 579 West 215th. Suite 7G, NYC 10034)

Given their appearance at the over-mentioned (by me at least) Dee Pop-run Freestyle Jazz series I was expecting some mindsearing avant blast from this upstart jazz group comin' outta nowhere atcha. Unfortunately Solar, despite the mental images of blindingly free music their name might suggest, tend to tinkle in a more cocktail, mainstream bowtie jazz club fashion with very little of the avant vim and verve that always seemed to draw me towards this kind of music in the first place. Not bad, but Solar are sorta stuck inna mud for most of the disque despite covers of Sun Ra and even Chaz Mingus (with his infamous stab at politicizing the jazz estab. entitled "Remember Rockefeller at Attica"...a nice if pedestrian gesture mind ya, but I'm more apt to remember Mingus, along with Max Roach and Archie Shepp shedding real tears over the death of famed mass murderer Mao Zedung [no sic] at a concert organized by the Italian Communist Party back in '76---hadda throw that in to prove to you myopics that some of these musical "heroes" can be extremely large jerks even though they get away with their stupidity time after time!). Modern avant garde jazz is producing much better stuff you can read about elsewhere on this blog, so look before leaping (towards your wallet to dish out ten smackers for a disque by some act you know little if nothing about).

THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE SCHMOO by Al Capp (Pocket Books, 1949)

Recently I've been digging through my various boxes of paperbacks mostly consisting of comic strip reprints collected over the past umpteen decades that have been stored in my closet all this time in wait for THE NEXT GREAT MID-LIFE CRISIS TO BEFALL ME, and call me an old soft hokey down-on-the-farm living reincarnation of Andy Devine but it's been a great trip down memory lane thumbing through all of those old DENNIS THE MENACE, MAD and BELIEVE IT OR NOT books thinkin' about how it was stuff like this that helped mold me into the great specimen of manhood that I am today! (I did get a toasty-warm fuzzy feeling re-reading all of those old BELIEVE IT OR NOT paperbacks too, especially reminding myself as to how I used to really like discovering all of those old historical facts about grossout executions [like the time in the Middle Ages when some prisoner volunteered to chop off some condemned man's head after the executioner failed to show up, and it took him thirtysome swings before the head finally came off, or better yet when they'd cut some guy's body up into ten pieces so it could be hung on ten different gallows in ten locations, one near you!] not forgetting the bits on alla those kids in the eighteenth century who wrote ten symphonies by the time they hit six, or were elevated to cardinals at the age of seven and married off to other members of royalty at eight! My sister used to always point stuff like that out to me to prove what a stupid dork I was, as if she wrote any pieces of music herself or made it any bigger in her own life than being a girl scout or reporter for the school paper!!!) But anyway, in the midst of my trawling for Don Martin material and the like I came across this neat little collection of the tres-legendary (and original) "Schmoo" episode of the long-forgotten yet once-infamous LI'L ABNER comic strip from way back during the dawn of the post-World War II/pre-hippie era of high living, and although it's a relatively chopped up and rechanneled for paperback variation of the saga I sure got enough hard-edged entertainment that kept me up a good portion of the night reading this legendary ABNER saga, or maybe it was the two cans of energy drink I had?

Only some real oldsters out there or comic strip historians will remember that in those pre-PEANUTS days LI'L ABNER was perhaps the top publicity-hounding, gimmick-laden and product-churning strip to hit the pages. Maybe that's why ABNER creator, the infamous and controversial Al Capp, after leaving United Features with ABNER in tow back in '64, took sharp aim at his new nemesis in a spoof that for once did not please Charles Schulz one bit! But back in the forties and fifties ABNER was the strip that was getting slapped on the cover of LIFE and written up by the intellectuals in their high-falutin' magazines, while ABNER-related products were comin' atcha left and right to the point where you just couldn't escape the onslaught! Perhaps the first of the big Capp-putsches to hit the stores was that of these very same Schmoos. There were Schmoo items of all sorts from jelly glasses to clocks clogging the shelves at the time, and I'm sure that the kids in school were talking endless schmootalk the same way kids at my lunch table used to gab Flip Wilson and Dean Martin! Well, it sure beat the umpteenth Snoopy doll variations you still see at flea markets nationwide!

If you wanna get philsophical it's not exactly hard to see why the Schmoo would have been such a smasheroo with the Amerigan populace at the time. These mystical creatures (discovered by Abner after he gets tossed on his head into the Valley of the Schmoon by some vengeful Amazon) were the answer to everyone's problems...cute li'l armless creatures who not only made perfect pets, but gladly died so they could be eaten (and they tasted like chicken, catfish, steak etc. depending on how they were cooked) plus they'd lay not only eggs but bottles of whole milk! With schmoos around (and they were all over the place, since when one died two more would pop up) nobody hadda work anymore and from there you can guess just what sorta psycho/political points Capp was making given that the story was bound to twist and turn into one of his typically sarcastic takes on post-World War II living that might seem downright staid in these days of ultra-sophisticado comic stripdom but sure made an impact with more'n a few funny paper browsers back in the day!

Capp naturally shows his old-timey liberal bent (this being well before he not-so-convienently, somewhere in the sixties, turned into what aptly could be called a "neocon") with his depiction of patently heartless Big Businessmen and the local Dogpatch butcher selling rotten meat at atrociously high prices going insane over the prospect of financial ruin thanks to the Schmoo, but Capp was highly contemptable of the "big guys" even during his hippie-bashing days so it's no great shakes. And even a pro-Capitalist like myself can overlook such jibes (considering it part of the terrain more/less) and enjoy this pretty engrossing saga, as good a grabber as any DICK TRACY classic, that not only makes you wanna do a good floor-roll in total comic ecstasy but marvel at the strange plot detours and guffaw-inducing political points Capp is trying to make with this strange morality tale for the middle part of the previous century! And what really is surprising about the Schmoo saga might just be the ending, where an uncharacteristically intelligent and profound Abner tells Daisy Mae, along with the rest of us, that the only real Schmoo we need is the Earth itself, which if used and cultivated properly will fill all of our needs and cure all ills, after which we wouldn't have any use for the armless wonders! Who woulda expected that from the pen of the ever-grouchy Capp some ways it sounds like it coulda come from the lips of some loose-looking late-sixties college radical, one that woulda gone libertarian by the early-seventies that is!

And if you're that anxious after this halfway-there writeup to seek out the original, and UNEXPURGATED saga the Kitchen Sink LI'L ABNER series has not only this one (ferget which vol.), but a whole slew of later-on Schmoo-knockoffs that never went as far, such as the Bald Schmeggle t' boot! Seek 'em all out!

I KNOW YOU WANT MORE so I'll just give you a snappy rundown of some of the things I have been listening to the past few days, complete with pithy comments just like Robert Christgau used to do! HAWKWIND-HALL OF THE MOUNTAIN GRILL CD (EMI) is an old fave I reviewed awhile back. It's amazing how these Ladbrook Grove guys could mix British progressive electronic rock a la a whole slew of bands whose names you do not want me to mention with Velvets/Detroit riffage...and still sound great! THE WEST COAST POP ART EXPERIMENTAL BAND-PART ONE & VOL. 2 CD (Head) doesn't quite hold up as a sixties garage band artyfact as much as the competition. For extremely intoverted moments only...and WILLIAM HOOKER-GREAT SUNSET CD (Warm-o-Brisk)-this guy shoulda popped up in the free jazz post last time, for if any free jazzer went punk it was he! Friend of Sonic Youth, Elliot Sharp and the guys in Borbetomagus, Hooker leads a great quintet on this outing (recorded live at the Knitting Factory though you wouldn't know it) that sounds like the best moments of the post-sixties free scene that seemed to coagulate at the Vision Quest Festival and the (hold onto your britches!) CBGB Lounge/Jimmy's Tavern Freestyle Series. I had an iffy opinion of the guy at one time for reasons I forget (perhaps because noted commie jazz hack the "reverend" John Gensel wrote some brief liners on an early album), but I'll forget this faux pas...for once and seep deep into this forgotten outing that's so good I actually have TWO copies of it in my collection!