Wednesday, February 13, 2008


(Blogschpieler's note: in lieu of the fact that here it is the middle of the week and I have nada that I want to write about in new records, CDs, reading material or visual stimulation...and that the older stuff I am engrossing myself in has either been written about on this blog or isn't quite up to BLOG TO COMM standards, I thought I'd once again reprint a bit of past mayhem from the pages of my very own BLACK TO COMM magazine, this time a piece on the under-the-counterculture mid/late-seventies fanzine CAN'T BUY A THRILL that originally popped up in issue #24 way back in 2001. A nice piece of fanzine esoterica if I do say so myself although a lotta the graphics that had originally appeared in the mag as well as a few other little shards of clip art/reproed covers etc. did not make their way to this particular pixel'd production so if you wanna read the entire thing in its original form [as well as some of the best rockism writing to have appeared in over the past twenty-five years) just click here to be taken to the back issues post where you can chose from a wide array of fanzine wares that'll take your mind off of a lotta the drek that passes for "clear" and "incisive" rock critiques these sorry days. Paypal is accepted...just contact me via the comment box [I "moderate" 'em, so yours won't be printed if you do send me confidential info and request anonymity from this cruel world] and maybe I can unload some of these albatrosses 'round my neck and get back into some real living for a change!)

Past issues of BLACK TO COMM had some really nifty reviews/articles on now-defunct old-timey fanzines that, although lasting but a flea's lifespan in comparison to this hallowed read packed more of a rock & roll wallop'n the last 20-plus years of mainstream AND fanzine rock scribing COMBINED could ever hope to. Yeah, mags like BACK DOOR MAN, DENIM DELINQUENT, TEENAGE WASTELAND GAZETTE and lots of others even I ain't seen have definitely left their pox mark on the face of music with that teenage gonzoid approach to rock & roll NOT as some high-quality reflection of the sainted hippie evolution from freak to West Coast politico, but that of PURE UNADULTERATED SPEED-O TRASH which I can certainly take a lot more'n it being a groundswell for phony revolt like it was thirty-plus years back. And, as Lillian Roxon said, WE (the new up-and-coming delineators of a REAL new post-Youth gulcher) are the stars meaning that I am and Simon Reynolds isn't, which is the TRUE reason these olds rags, although created to be INSTANTLY DISPOSABLE like those old TV shows and cars and comics and records we all love, HAVE MORE MEANING THAT ANY APPLICATION OF THE TERM "ART" (hah!) JUST BECAUSE IT'S TRASH, but fun trash nonetheless. And for being trash, it said a lot more about where I was (am?) here in the middle of nada with only a warped mind to guide me than the entire collected leather-bound fifteen-volume collection of SPIN ever could. Frankly, how can a HIPPIE relate to rock & roll, or trash for that matter?

CAN'T BUY A THRILL fits in snugly w/paragraph #1's application of not only lowly fanzine geek as star but fun trash as the true intellectual concern. And fitting it is, because THRILL editor/chief writer Russell Desmond was perhaps the first if not one of the first true punk/intellectuals on the boards (see the ROCK MAG review in #23 for a deeper understanding I won't go into here), a guy with the smarts and the brains to pull off such a task as creating this fanzine (which, as specified on page two of the very first issue, was conceived soley to impress Lester Bangs into giving him a job at CREEM!). Strangely (or maybe not so?), this was a period when things were picking up even more (in rockism terms...1975 was a crucial year ESPECIALLY in retrospect) than anyone'd hope to expect. A kinda mysterious time filled with progressive rock on the rise, some still bright snatches of AM pop, and a rock press that at times was one of the best to be found with writers who were perhaps even superior to the product that they were writing about.

CAN'T BUY A THRILL was oft lumped in with the usually lumped BACK DOOR MAN and DENIM DELINQUENT as far as being a punk madcap affront put out by a buncha 22-year-olds acting on ten-year-old impulses, but there were plenty of differences from the xerox slap together/computer paper sprocket style of the first four issues to the cheap paste-up layout (similar to BLACK TO COMM #22's only DESMOND MEANT IT!) of the same not to mention the lack of discernable UP-FRONT-ON-THE-COVER features and hype meant to lure in the obsessive and curious. (Front cover pix on all five issues were drawing by 19th century kraut Heinrich Kley, which mighta given this an, er, intellectual air about it, at least for the unwary.) Let's just say that CBAT wasn't some rag meant to compete on the newsstand...if anything, it was a hard and to-the-point batch of opinions and bile spewed forth by a guy who KNEW he was of import which is why you NEEDED to read his opinions. And what's BEST is that Desmond/CBAT didn't come from some major hub of musical activity but from Baton Rouge, Louisiana meaning you can just leave the inside joke professionalism of things OUT OF THE MIX at least for this once and get STRAIGHT TO THE HEART OF THE MATTER.

This first CBAT (dated "WINTER 75-76") was an inconspicuous affair that just happened to find its way out "there", and if it weren't for a review in BOMP! (where the BDM/DD comparison first came up) who knows if ANYONE woulda bought it! OK, the subtitle "A ROCK 'N' ROLL JOURNAL" might've scared off a few people, but I doubt it. However, the extremely personalist nature of this magazine might've been the thing to do a lotta turning off at least for those weaned on puff-piece scribing and not on the gonzoid punk-intellectualism of Bangs and Meltzer. Since I'm a guy who LIKES such personalism if the person has some sorta electrode connections to my own tastes/desires, I'll dig into whatever plane or mode his li'l heart desires. And the electrodes ARE connected...

Mind-zapping no-holds barred electrodes too, all of which is evident from the opening schpiece which I MUST reprint elsewhere in this article's layout scheme because it's p'haps the BEST application of true gonzoid zap-into-your-gourd rock writing THAT LAYS IT ALL BARE re. rock as the International Yourh Language that I even believed in when I was eighteen or so many years back! (Another editor's note: the actual issue actually does reprint this stellar debut issue schpiel, giving you another reason to snatch a flesh and blood issue up for yourself in order to get the ehtire aura of this piece!) 'n within the twenty or so pages of #1 you'll find a whole lot perhaps not a whole lot within the realms of major features and snazzy review columns but plenty within the framework of the reviews that take up the majority of this issue (all written spaz and GUARANTEED to offend English Teachers and Honor Society students with its blatant disregard for propriety and use of slang and a derogatory term that describes people of African heritage which might be used in a Mark Twain sense [back then he said it was used w/o malice, but as school districts can tell you TIMES CHANGE]). 's kinda neat roaming through the "Best of '75" reviews not only because that was the first year I truly became aware of rock/rock 'n' roll/avant as a form to seriously explore, but because Desmond's expertise in telling you WHY 1975 had a hunka good records innit sure reads better'n TROUSER PRESS' similar attempt. And dig the FASHION and ELAN in which Desmond could pull it off like in this excerpt from his review of the Dictators' GO GIRL CRAZY..."Chuck-up the Dolls' stance, verve + vocal inflections, w/the Cult's awesome technique + production, mixed with the spittin' image of Handsome Dick Manitoba ("I don't hav'ta be here yaknow...I coulda been baskin' in thuh sun in Florida, This is Jus' A Hobby Fer Me, y'unnerstan', A HOBBY!"), shades of Sonny + Cher ("I Got You Babe"), three chord lumps + humps of rhythm, tubs of drums, and what must be the most ridiculous ("Well the girls are frisky in ole Frisco") banal ("I still drink my sody but I'm gettin' confused, sometimes I wish I was Black,") absurd ("I drink Coca-Cola fuh breakfast!"), Not to mention subversely outrageous ("We're thuh members a' thuh Mastuh Race, got no style an' we got no grace, sleep all night, sleep all day, nuthin' good on TV anyway,") lyrical approach wince a? the Fugs, b) Roger Miller, c) Annette Funicello, or d) Leave it to Beaver..." WHEW!!!! Could go on and on but then again we mightjust hafta be callin' Mr. Ripley to see if Desmond broke the record for longest sentence in the world. Tried to keep the syntax and punctuational errors (?) as close to the original, but there's NO WAY I coulda duplicated the strike outs/overs! But you get the idea...nothing but non-stop energy written at punkitude levels even when writing about decidedly non-punkdom like Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen (Duke and the Drivers?). Actually it all kinda squarely fits in w/the 1975 mindsets and screech that was going on elsewhere in print (CREEM) and in music (CBGB) at the time.

Mix in a three-page music mag review section (where once again BDM/DD are compared and contrasted), write-ups of current films and books, plus a feature/homage to Patti Smith written in stream-of-unconsciousness Frog symbolist style ("I'd die t be your---------------Gilles de Rais.") OK, Desmond uses a lotta French in this ("Venus dens les Fourres an Loques" [!!] but since he's from Baton Rouge which is a Frog name in itself I guess he can't help it) and you got a pretty slambang debut ish that shoulda gotten around a lot more'n it did, like just about EVERYTHING good that unfortunatey got tossed aside 20 + years back. And just how often do YOU get your psyche raped these days?

By #2, 1976 had arrived marking the transition from mid-seventies fun and games to late-seventies general nausea...'cept for rock and esp. the burgeoning underground stuff that seemed to be snowballing outta control. And CBAT was there to document it all, or at least document whatever Desmond could afford to buy. This one has a nice sorta "thinkpiece" on the US Bicentennial, a "conversation" on the role of this nation and concepts of "art" as it changed because of the existence of this very same country I'[m typing this review in and why Oscar Wilde HATED it, being America set out to ruin EVERYTHING the English aristocracy deemed important. Mixed in with loads of rock & roll ref. pts. re. ROYAL ALBERT HALL and the third Velvets album and why New York 1976 seemed like a hype to many outside the walls. Reviewswize this was pretty much in the heavy metal/punk writesphere that encompassed rock fandom at the time, complete with classic engraving illios to pack a wallop. For the first time we even got some TV reviews (considering that TV was just starting its late-70s slide), featuring a writeup on RICH MAN/POOR MAN (!---remember miniseries?...wait, they still make 'em, right?) and Patti Smith's appearance on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, an awakening to sixties aesthetics redone for the seventies for me but "...well, it wasn't that good" according to Desmond, "not half of what I expected from listenin' to the record and seein' pics of her in action, and, well, besides I was too busy watchin' Patti's over-dressed get-up an silly poses t pay much attention to the music, but I was sort of impressed, tho, by the amateurish flavor of the whole thing, the whole purveyor of punkdom, garage effect which more or less broke NBC's grown-up hippie show right down the backbone... Anyway, then she came on with a corny intro to "My Generation" and this time I COULDN'T WATCH HER STAND THERE WITH A GUITAR SHE COULDN'T PLAY---I JUS'COULDN'T DO IT DAMN IT, THIS ISN'T THE PATTI SMITH I DREAMED ABOUT... Well, then it was over an'a friend asked me 'An you really like that stuff, crude as it is?' and for some reason and for some reason even with all my emerging disgust I felt complied to answer, 'Yeah, that's right/ An that's why I like it...'" Ladies and gentlemen, the preceding quote has just OBLITERATED every shard of bad rockcritspeak uttered in the last thirty-five years. Topping this off, a rock retrospective column featuring Paul Revere and the Raiders where Desmond comes to the conclusion that maybe those later albums are pretty good after all.

#3 (Winter 76-77) was a surprise as in it not only had a nice 1976 roundup but was printed on on 81 /2 by 14 paper making it hard to store with all the other fanzines in your collection but still a nice addition, with the '76 writeup much better'n most seen anywhere else again illio'd w/nice scraps of 19th century engravings etc. (A few sample subs for curious cats out there...Best Reissue-Elvis-THE SUN SESSIONS, Greatest Event-The Wayne County/Handsome Dick Manitoba slugfest, Too Good To Be True And That's Why They're Not-Boston...) Also featured are the hefty reviews (good teaming of the first Ramones and Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers not to mention a beaut of a Flamin' Groovies homage in the form of a SHAKE SOME ACTION review) and 'stead of a rock retro column a piece on an actual live band, this time the Danish group Gasolin', an act with big credentials and a number of albums in their name back in kiddiepornland but one with nil recognition in the USA even tho Columbia had 'em re-record songs in English and ran loads of ads all over the place. Given this must have been Gasolin's ONLY article in a U. S. mag maybe the band (unheard by me) are deserving of cult stature?!?! ("An they play a great, crazed mix pot of rock derivations so typically plagaristic and European you'll never notice which includes great guitar solos that sound like a cross between a synthesizer and a calliope gone berzerk, great STUPID id drums a la Charlie Watts, and weird half-muzak arrangements which're so off the wall they work["Lady Oh Lady" is honestly the most incredible, Spectoresque pop ballad {via mid-Europe melody} I've ever heard]--Larsen's great voice over swirls of acoustic guitar and bkgd vocals an this half-crazed, mad circus dwarf schmalz music--this thing's unreal!!!")

Four reverted back to the standard 8 1/2/11 format but was one mighty BIGGIE compared with the previous ones. Maybe because this one tookd a full year to come out, complete with a '77 wrapup that showed just how far rock and something more'n wild had gone in this period of time. Layout got a little better (tinier, more crammed pages) and now CBAT was featuring GUEST WRITERS like Eddie Flowers, Todd Abramson and one or two of Desmond's Louisiana friends lamenting the loss of Lynryd Skynryd, The effects of the punk rock revival had spoken in these pages, with loads of reviews of the new hot matter that whetted/wetted appetites and pants at the time (tops included everyone from Mink de Ville to the Real Kids, Television and the Saints to the usual midgies Elvis Costello and Van Morrison---nays included Neil Young's AMERICAN STARS AND BARS ["ROLLING STONE said this was his best since HARVEST so you know it sucks"]). Besides the up-to-dateness on a scene unraveling before everyone's eyes, you got live reviews from an on-the-road Desmond (Kiss, Dirty Angels at Boston's Rat, Flamingo Road on a CBGB audition night [!]...) and tons of moom pitchers/mags/books/TV review stuff showing that Desmond could be just as straight-old/tamebo as he could be wild with regards to taste, if some of his pix are to be TAKEN SERIOUSLY (SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER????) Topping the ish off is a retro on Steppenwolf, created just to remind us of how garage punk the band was at one time before giving all the heavy monsters of '69 a run for the Led Zepplin money.

By Fall '78 CBAT #5 came out to surprise everyone, a surprise since this ish was newsprint tabloid and typeset/professionally laid out in part to boot. It actually resembled a lot of those record shop freebies you might've picked up along the way if you were around back then, only this one would (as the cover states) "COST CHA UH BUCK ($1)" and it was well worth it to boot. Besides having an Eddie Flowers "no wave" (!-guess that scene hadn't penetrated Ameriga fully yet) insert w/wild reviews of Hawkwind, Coltrane, Ubu, Doug Snyder/Bob Thompson (!!!!!) etc. and a large long-promised Gizmos piece detailing the third EP session (mighty info packed here) the Granville-delineated cover (note my mistake in paragraph #3---at least Kley got the back) was later used for the front of Flowers' first Crawlspace album which was ironic because when Desmond met up with Barry Goubler years later he knew NOTHING of Flowers' then-current doings! The professionalism mixed with the typewriter hijinx (tho nary a crossout/over) and screened photos/pro layout really made this one tops with regards to small-press fanzinedom, but the newsprint for one thing doesn't hold up too well two decades-plus later. Oh well, if you can read a copy before it disintegrates for you'll also get the unexpurgated truth about Willie Loco, Brian Jones (that issue's "Rock Retrospective") and even an obit of Sandy Denny, something which woulda KILLED me at the time since with all of this new energy and vitality in rock (plus the discovering of past proto-punk forebearers), something like Denny was tres retro to get French about it.

Of course, more on (moron?) that previously-mentioned 1,450th fanzine article on the Gizmos, a tour de force (oh that FRENCH!) telling us about (in a whole slew of pages!) Desmond's trek to the third Gizmos recording session picking up Eddie Flowers along the way (Desmond stopped in Jackson Alabama to tank up the car and ask the attendants if they knew where Eddie lived, and all he got was upset looks!!!) and his run-ins w/the whole slew from Kenne Highland on down plus a brief encounter with MX-80's Rich Stim and wife Angel Ross who was playing bass to RAW POWER FULL BLAST...a copy of Lester Bangs' review of THE IDIOT hung on the apartment wall with corrections and comments in the margins!!! made this issue the top dog it is in fanzine desirability. Too bad you don't have a copy...makes a good read during the umpteenth play of the Gizmos CDs after you've worn your booklet out! (Pant Pant!)

Nice try, but that was the last CBAT to pop out during those oversaturated fanzine days. Not that Desmond exactly disappeared from the scene immediate-like...he did show with a Dave Edmunds article in the first issue of KICKS (editor's third note: since this article was written I discovered that he had previously written a piece for Miriam Linna's Flamin' Groovies fanzine, the cover proudly emblazond "Russell Desmonds BUYS A THRILL!"), but before the decade was out up Desmond was off to another life doing everything from private detective work to a stint in France to a split with his wife, last to be seen (Desmond that is) running a bookstore in New Orleans. I spoke with him briefly (folks were over the day before Easter) about ten years ago and he seemed to be just "getting back into" rock & roll after a decade of real life, actually expressing interest in Theolonious Monster (guess he was away too long!) I suggested the re-start CBAT and he seemed to dismiss that idea. In fact, that was the last I or anyone else asfar as I know heard from the guy. Too bad. Talent's always being wasted and Desmond's is no exception. I mean, Desmond shoulda made the CREEM cut back then, and in hindsight its a shame he didn't at least dish out a few more CBAT's just to relieve the boredom of what has begat rock & roll these past three decades or so! And too bad somebody doesn't put out a "Best of" CAN'T BUY A THRILL just like there should be with EVERY class 70s fanzine fill'd w/brill to-the-point writing 'stead of whatever is out there in funland these days (dunno...ain't read a "real" rock mag ina decade AND DON'T WANT TO!!!!) If only this were to happen we would cure illiteracy IMMEDIATELY! I mean it!

(BLOG TO COMM UPDATE!: since this article was printed Desmond did indeed get back in touch with me, having found out about this very article and expressing his satisfaction with it. Things were working out well between us, with him telling me not only about his relatively new paleoconservative views [he being a typical liberal until spending time living with his grandmother in Mississippi post-divorce and actually coming around to Ronald Reagan's way-of-thinking whilst watching the '80 Carter debates...this came out when I expressed a lack of emotion at the death of the former prez figuring that he was more hot air than actual do, and when he did things he was expanding that same ol' govt. he claimed he wanted to shrink!] He sent me some copies of a few pieces he wrote for CHRONICLES in the mid-eighties as well as some letter he was going to send to a local paper that was getting a little too ashamed of its Southern heritage [Desmond made the rather intelligent clain regarding the War Between the States that while Northern soldiers were fighting to free slaves, very few Southerners were fighting to keep them!], and after promising me a Moby Grape retrospective, the same one that was slated for a future issue of CBAT disaster struck in the form of Hurrican Katrina. Although Desmond's Ffrench Quarter bookstore was probably spared the carnage I felt very iffy, perhaps cowardly in trying to get back in touch with Desmond fearing the worst. Since the man was not hooked up to any internet it's not like I have any other way to try contacting him other than write to the 714 Rue De Orleans address. Perhaps someone reading this would care to pass on the word? Anyone out there care to tell me what really happened? Stay tuned for further developments.)

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