Saturday, September 27, 2008


Like Superman and Fearless Fosdick, me and BLOG TO COMM are so devoted to our SWORN DUTY to dish the plain, unadulterated info your way to the point where we never take any time out to rest, relax or even recharge the ol' batteries even when we need to! No, while other blogs take sabbaticals and vamoose the premises for sandy beaches and Filipino sex tours, I remain devoted to delivering to YOU, the discerning BLOG TO COMM reader, some of the best blogwriting to be found on the pixel prairie! Devoted I am to pleasing you, and if I have for some unforseen reason ever let you down let me just say that it's all YOUR fault because...really, how can anyone hate this blog so perfect as it is? But what is an eager beaver of a blogster to do when he hasn't really gotten hold of any interesting items to write about whether they be recordings, books, Dee-Vee-Dees or new dishes at the local Chinese eatery anyway? Well, ya PUNT man, punt!!!!

Before I do get into two rather recent acquisitions you probably won't care about anyway, let me just clue you into some of the new linkups that I added to the ever-growing list of BTC-imprimatured reading material on the web listed to your very left. PUREPOP is a great 'un I just recently chanced upon, a blog devoted to mostly English/Euro glam rock that's owned and operated by Robin Wills of Barracudas fame! When I call PUREPOP "great" I'm not using some tossaway superlative in the same fashion that had every tinhorn rock critic calling Elvis Costello a genius back inna day, for this particular blog is that good and that exciting, almost as good as getting my paws on a classic seventies-vintage fanzine filled with heretofore unknown info on some group you just gotta hear no ifs, ands or buttz! If you were wondering just what a whole lotta those great early punk rock rarities that Johan Kugelberg was ranting about in his glam article in the latest UGLY THINGS, now you can not only read more about such soon-to-be faves as Mustard and Grudge (both of whom should be inducted into the PROTO-PUNK HALL OF FAME faster than you can say "DENIM DELINQUENT"!), but hear 'em as well since 'most every single that Mr. Wills has reviewed on his site has been archived! And with the flick of a few switches maybe you too can create your own NUGGETS (proto-punk sounds from the first glam era 1971-1975) to take along on that next heavy date! Save yourself a bundle on ebay and tune into PUREPOP as soon as you're done digesting what I have dished out for you hungry hounds, savvy?

Another interesting site that I just hadda link up for you is UHF-TV MORGUE, dedicated to all of those great UHF television stations that flickered their last sign off many moons back. I always had a soft spot for UHF television stations since that's all I grew up with, and even at an early age I could see a big difference between the UHFs that were broadcasting locally and the big city VHFs which looked so professional and ultimately less interesting to a gulcher-obsessed kid as I. And, as many of you readers probably already know, there were many a UHF station that popped up on the dial way back when only to fizzle out after a few years of bitter struggle, usually because the programming just wasn't drawing in the viewers, or the signal just wasn't strong enough, or mostly because people were too cheap to dish out for UHF converters thus signalling the deaths of quite a few promising yet underappreciated stations who hadda struggle to survive at least until the law made it mandatory for all sets to have both UHF and VHF dials back in the mid-sixties.

Some of these UHF stations managed to linger on for years until the advent of the smaller networks finally got 'em outta the red while others, like channel 53 in Pittsburgh (now a bland Fox station but back in the day boy could it crank out the early-sixties rarities!) went off the air until the world was ready for UHF in the late-sixties, while even more just went black never to grace our cathodes again which is pretty sad considering the promise for cheap reruns and BTC-approved television such channels promised. UHF-TV Morgue is devoted to those stations situated twixt 14-83 that may have had the programs we wanted to tune in, but for one reason or another could barely make it outta the fifties alive. And man, it's eye-opening albeit tear-inducing reading about these stations that dame fortune passed gas on en masse, thinking about all the fun I woulda had if I were only near a set that could get one of 'em in complete with a can of soda pop and a bag of pork rinds in tow. If you remember these stations and perhaps, in some sick way, are glad they went off because if they were still on they'd be showing BERNIE MACK reruns, you'll love this site. Gosh, I feel like one of those fat old guys I used to come across when I was like ten who were really hotcha on old thirties and forties radio stations and programs, only now I myself am a fat old guy whose into the early television portion of that anal retentive game!

Anyhow, for a change of pace, here (finally!) are them reviews for whatever you can get outta 'em:



I wasn't that sussed by that BEAT OF THE EARTH reissue from a few years back, so why did I dish out the additional shekels for this "follow up" from Beat leader Philip Pearlman anyway? I was just hard up for something new, thaz why! Unfortunately where THE BEAT OF THE EARTH was more or less drone jamz filtered through a 1967 sense of aw shucks RELATIVELY CLEAN RIVERS is the same Californian karmic whooziz ten years later and you know how dreck-y that place could get! (Lissen, it wasn't all BACK DOOR MAN and DENIM DELINQUENT no matter how cool those mags be!) The hype compared 'em to AMERICAN BEAUTY-era Dead while THE RISING STORM sez Crosby Stills and Gnash, and that does come close enough for discomfort. Definitely not by cup of herbal tea, but given the patchouli leanings of some of you readers you'll probably like this 'un even more than a Sit In at a pin factory!
Marcel Duchamp-THE ENTIRE MUSICAL WORK CD performed by the S.E.M. Ensemble (Dog w/a Bone, available through FORCED EXPOSURE)

Back during my avant garde beret and stale doritos phony intellectual days I was really engrossed in the early compositions of none other than dadmeister Duchamp, as I usually would be given how a team of psychiatrists had classified me as an obsessive compulsive autistic terminal asshole even then. The idea that Duchamp was creating these chance operation pieces as early as 1912 seemed like an incredible feat, and that Finnedar album with percussionist Donald Knaak performing "The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even Erratum" along with a solo John Cage percussion piece was one of those platters that proudly adorned my doo-wah classic bin even if I didn't play it nearly as much as I did Sparks. This collection of every known Duchamp composition (I think they left out one from the thirties tho!) certainly brings back maybe not-so-fond memories of listening to people like Stockhausen and Berio when I shoulda been spinning "Wipe Out" on a daily basis, but, like good table manners and sex I hadda learn about this stuff sometime! These numbuhs are pretty interesting realizations of various open-ended compositions that, given the fact that the instructions could be as vague as possible and that their performance is totally dependent on numbered balls dropping into a toy wagon, sound different each time they are performed. And what's best about it is that if anyone makes a mistake, who'd know?

Pieces for voice (written for Duchamp and his sissies to perform), player piano and ensemble appear sounding as they might have back in the day, and yeah, that is John Cage, who has admitted his debt to Duchamp repeatedly, performing "Sculpture Musicale"! For a guy who thinks that presenting a urinal as a work of art is pure har har genius and painting a moustache and beard on the Mona Lisa a nice li'l slap inna face to the concept of art and aht! (though he has spawned too many bad imitations, which would figure considering his entire career might have been a bad imitation as well!) I gotta admit that Duchamp's musical works are the aural equivalent of a beyond-belief aesthetic outlook that you know works because he still manages to piss off quite a few people! And in a way I find that marvy...rilly!!!
While pecking out the above write ups I had the pleasure of listening to the archived WFMU-FM MAD MIKE RADIO SHOW WITH MIRIAM LINNA, which I must say proves something that many a person would never believe and that is I can certainly do two things at once without stumbling all over myself! Anyway, after all was said and done I must admit that particular program was a fantastic impetus for cranking out a couple of sausages that probably don't taste that well but boy, what fun it was turnin' the handle! I probably wouldn't be that far off sayin' that this show (tip of the toupee to Lindsay Hutton for mentioning this on his blog!) was more or less an infomercial for the three volumes of the obscure until now recs that the equally obscure-o Pittsburgh dee-jay known as Mad Mike (maker of hits including "Hanky Panky") played on his radio show and at dances back during the still-sainted mid-sixties, but no matter the nefarious reasons behind this particular broadcast all I can say is that I really got a kick lending ear to the vast variety of vinyl rarities that have been collected on those shiny platters by Mr. and Mrs. Norton for our benefit! Now that this show is readily available on the web I must give thanks, because now I don't have to BUY the platters and can merely dial up this show whenever I get the hankerin' for that mid-sixties greaseball schmooze! And they say the Scots are cheapskates!

Anyway, this show did conjure up one fine memory when the great Red Rose Tea commercial with the Marquis Chimps miming this mind-boggling r&b snapper graced my lobes after years of wondering wha' 'app'd! I sure remember laughing my socks off at that ad while I was still in my pre-school days because it used to run locally on channel 27 during AFTERNOON THEATER daily thus making a strong impression on my own chimp-esque cranium. I also remember a number of other Red Rose Tea ads featuring the famed primates of HATHAWAYS fame including a golf-oriented one complete with apes in tam o'shanters and knickers, but for my money this particular commercial remains the best of the batch! Hope you aren't offended:

Before we part, I thought I'd link you up to this neat little page which features nothing but episodes from the long-forgotten (I wonder why?) kid series TELECOMICS. (You can probably also find it on Youtube with a little bit of dialing.) Avid followers of the early days of tee-vee might remember this series but I doubt it...for those of you who don't TELECOMICS was a fifteen-minute weekday program (produced by NBC but syndicated to a variety of non-affiliated stations) which I s'pose was to have brought the wonders of episodic newspaper cartoons to the b&w tube of the day but obviously fell short of its rather lofty goals. Contrary to what you might think given your limited knowledge of early television, TELECOMICS did not consist of cheaply-animated imitations of the big-time comic strips of the day created by shifty producers anxious to make fast bucks with flimsy product! Far from that...actually, TELECOMICS was nothing but a series of PICTURES featuring characters based on well-known strips of the day done up in a slapdash style and presented with narration which I'm sure saved those chintzy producers even more lucre than they bargained for! (OK, if you wanna nit-pick there "was" some very minimal animation to be found in TELECOMICS, that is, if you consider a rocket taking off or a spinning barber chair "animation"!) If you thought those mid-sixties King Features POPEYE cartoons were cheap hunks of crap, TELECOMICS will show you just what low-budged children's fare can really aspire to! In many ways TELECOMICS reminds me of those afternoon 15-minute educational series they used to show on PBS in the seventies and eighties where some kiddie story was read as pastels denoting the action adorned the screen, only I doubt anyone would be able to ooze any edjamacational benefits outta these fifteen-minute quickies that are nothing more than pale imitations of DICK TRACY, JOE PALOOKA and FLASH GORDON! Needless to say, I love every second of it!

Not surprisingly, TELECOMICS must have been one of those series cheap enough for the low-rung UHF stations of the fifties to afford (especially the long-gone ones mentioned in the UHF Morgue) since the only reference I can find to any stations running it ever were WICA-TV channel 15 in Ashtabula Ohio and WMGT-TV channel 74 in Pittsfield Massachusetts. I'm sure a more studied search of mid-fifties television listings will prove that TELECOMICS appeared on quite a few more channels during those low-budgeted days, but whadevva here's a slice of heavy duty obscure classic tee-vee that I'm sure woulda made Uncle Ferd wanna hold off on buying a set at least until they started airing travelogues with topless Tahitian maidens romping all over the place in living color!

Well, how did I do for stretching a blog with a coupla measly reviews into one of my typical weekend megaposts? Gimmee some due fer once, willya???

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Yer probably wondering why I'm reviewing this 'un. Especially considering how today's item in question is not only thirty-plus-years old (which, considering the music that has come out since then, is nothing to exactly sneeze at!) and from a group that I have not been known to mention let along write much about (save for a pretty good bootleg I once chanced upon), but ya gotta remember that back when Ultravox! (and ULTRAVOX!) had hit the "new release" bins they were considered just as much a part of the ponk experience as alla those other hefty-hyped acts (me thinking Ramones/Runaways/Blowzie) that were vying for our hard-trust funded monies. Besides, having the Eno name associated with it didn't hurt much at all either, especially considering what an over-worked self-hyping monolith that guy could have been back then.

Being a tightwad at heart and not that rabid an Eno follower didn't cinch it for me...what eventually did was a letter that Ultravox!'s drummer Warren Cann had written to WHO PUT THE BOMP! that got printed in their British Invasion issue! That particular note was (believe-it-or-not!) in praise of none other than Lester Bangs' Troggs article, and in showing what kind of a fan of rock music and Bangs that he could be Cann's missive was dripping in all sorts of brash superlatives culminating in (if I remember correctly) a boast of how Cann himself was more'n willing to become part of the solution not the problem as the member of a band that was gonna toss all of that early-seventies miasma that had been going down during the burnout days of Nixon on its pointed little head! And what's more, the name of the band that Cann was to be associated with was going to begin with the definitive article "the" unlike the reams of Bread and Steams that were going down during those times!!! Well, Ultravox! certainly doesn't have a "the" before their moniker but given the group's love for the Velvets/Iggy/Roxy axis of proto-whatever smart rock I think most of the listening public conduit to such soundscapades at the time were more or less willing to forgive 'em for this noteworthy faux pas. (But that still didn't stop Bangs from having a feh opinion of Cann's group which only goes to show you what a sourpuss Mr. B could have been at times!)

Fawattittizz... ULTRAVOX! is pleasing enough enough, or at least as pleasing as any $1.99 cutout at Mason's would be for kiddoes on depression wages starving for something at least a li'l bit current. Fortunately the electronics (which I guess were a big selling point with this album) don't bog you down like they would once new wave turned gnu wave as Bill Shute would say, and a good portion of the melodies displayed here are downright appetizing, mixing everything from sixties garage rock ro early Roxy Music and British suds into a halfway decent sound/substance mesh. Speaking of early-Roxy, I can hear a bit of that group's debut in Ultravox's, with perhaps a little dab of classic Stooges and old Velvets tossed in helping to make everything a whole lot tastier not only for the fence-sitting punk types but the King Crimson followers who were enticed by the presence of Eno on this 'un. Even the poof-y John Foxx is OK as a frontman especially on the amphetamine-influenced "Saturday Night in the City of the Dead" where he spurt-sings the words in one of the best displays of speedo-delivery since "Subterannean Homesick Blues" or even Debris' "Female Tracks". However, given the artistic pretense (not always a bad thing!) of such a band you just know that Ultravox! weren't gonna make it outta the seventies alive, and like all of those other "Save The World" bands you kinda got the feeling that they and their offspring were gonna create some of the worst dross to ever grace our ears once the decadent seventies segued into the squeaky-clean eighties. But catch 'em while they're alive like they are here and you'll probably wish you didn't pass 'em over in favor of ELO 8-tracks either!

Saturday, September 20, 2008


A certain bunsnitch on the blogging scene (no names, though I shall tell you that our "man" in question's from south of the equator and his last name rhymes with "wang") once made a slightly derogatory comment about my obsession with various rock magazines from the Golden Age of Rock Criticism (or whatever you'd call it...roughly 1969-1976) telling his miniscule following that my critiques of various 1970's-vintage magazines of both a professional and fanzine status is, how shall I say, a waste of a blog reader's precious time. Well, I do know that people have the right to air their own opinions no matter how lowbrow and pithy they may be, but frankly can YOU (the BLOG TO COMM reader who thinks for himself) fault yours truly for clueing you in on all of the great writing on both the pro and fanzine front that has gone down during those oft-ignored days of true gonzo rockism? If ya ask me, I'd say that writing about old rock mags and the people who helped create 'em has just as much a place in this blogosphere as rattling on about the SST roster and a variety of albums on that label that came out long after their prime, or repeating oneself ad infinitum (or is it ad nauseum???) about Mission of Burma (a band that I've mentioned many a time has failed to light my pilot, and perhaps for good reason) to the point where anyone with even a cast-iron constitution'd wanna cry "Uncle!" At least when it comes to these old fanzines and other sundries that hardly anyone seems to remember, who else other'n a highly select few, myself included, is willin' to write about 'em and with masculine gusto anyways???

Here are just a few of the bundle of old rock mags, fanzines and related that I latched onto just this past week at the local paper drive which I thought I'd better rescue from a future of being recycled into paper for the next issue of ROLLING STONE, a fate worse than death in the rock music publishing world if you dare ask me!

First up on the chopping block's an oldie and a rarity at that, the first issue of a fanzine entitled BOOGIE that oddly enough originated from none other than Gulfport Mississippi in the rockism-active year of 1972. BOOGIE got quite a bit of notoriety back in the day not only because it was part of the first wave of rock fanzines that started in the wake of BOMP, but because it came straight outta what most would call a Deep Southern locale which did seperate the mag and editor John Bialas from the sophisticado rock fanzine hubs of New York City and Southern California.

If I were some kinda judgemental stiff-upper-lipped tightass form-follower I would be tempted to call BOOGIE a "crudzine" if only for the extremely slapdash artwork adorning the frontside of the ish (come to think of it, is there such a thing as a "crudblog", and if so would BLOG TO COMM qualify???), but that would really be unfair even if you are the kind of person who likes to judge books, or at least fanzines, by their covers. But just for the sake of aesthetics, take a gander of the front of this particular ish just to see what lows a fanzine could stoop to. At least for me, the cover is supposed to be the tipoff as to what thrills can be found once you open the mag and absorb yourself in the high energy magic of it all, but really, what would one expect from a mag with a pic of an emotion-less smiley face (is this a spoof of the then-current smile craze that overtook the nation back in '71???). I'm sure that editor Bialas spared no expense in paying some highly respected artist to delineate this one!

All kidding aside, any fanzine whose cover took less than one minute to create usually is a tipoff of whatever sad contents might be espied inside, but in this case I'd be dead wrong in calling BOOGIE one in a million of xerox cheapjobs that exist only as a ruse to scame free elpees. BOOGIE is more than that, with good writing from Bialas on a variety of subjects, and as far as these subjects go how can one resist a fanzine which as not just one but TWO MC5 album reviews anyways???

Of course, in the tradition of that New England fanzine wonder SPOONFUL we do get the FM prog mixed in with the metal so expect to see (on the same page as a review of HIGH TIME and the first Dust album) a positive mention of Yes' FRAGILE! Those early seventies certainly were mixed up days, eh?, but I don't mind because mags like BOOGIE and the people who wrote for 'em mean a lot more to me than the bigtime yawn-inspiring bandwagon jumper onners who can be found in quite a few newsrooms and press parties even to this day.

Future issues of BOOGIE look more promising, or shall I say that the cover of an issue that was reproed in SHAKIN' STREET GAZETTE came off like Andy Warhol in comparison. With people like Eddie Flowers contributing an article about Paul Revere and the Raiders and perhaps more of the fanzine mafia of the day putting in their dos centavos worth, one could only hope that BOOGIE just kept getting better and better even though the 'zine was but a mere memory by the time the radical early-seventies clocked over into the drug-addled middle portion of the decade.

The only thing that APPLE PRESS had physically in common with the first issue of BOOGIE was its strange dimension (eight-and-a-half by fourteen!), but it too was a pretty solid fanzine that like most of these efforts stands the test of time unlike alla them eighties-era hardcore reads that come off just as dated as a buncha 14-year-olds trying to do the revolution game in 1971. You're probably wondering why I'm reviewing this mag anyway...I mean, Beatle-oriented fanzines are pretty much a dime-a-dozen and have been for years, and what's worse about 'em is that almost all of 'em are filled with some of the most inane ranting, fan "artwork" and generally vapid flakey peacewar attitudes to hit the boards even this far down the line. Now these kinda fanzines are just fine...if you're a gal who still likes George and keeps a Beatles scrapbook snuggled under your bed just like you have since 1964, but what if you're the kinda insane fellow who likes to spin ELECTRONIC SOUND and YOKO ONO/PLASTIC ONO BAND on a nightly basis??? Maybe a Beatles fanzine for this kinda punk is long overdue, eh?

Well thankfully there have been a few exceptions to the rule like the late Joe Pope's STRAWBERRY FIELDS FOREVER, and APPLE PRESS despite its low-budget look is just as swank a Beatle fanzine as the rest of the cream if not more so! But what makes APPLE PRESS stand out from all the rest? One thing is the smart writing, not only from the staff but such contributors as Richard Meltzer, who does a weirdo review of the Lon and Derek Van Eaton press party at Max's Kansas City! Actually I think this was actually part of a letter that Our Leader wrote to editorette Linda Kratschmann, but it was good enough to print anyway and for historical purposes I will relate Meltzer's impressions of that evening to you as he laid it down for us oh so many years ago lest it forever waste away into the ether:

"Stunk. Bunch of cuds showed up. Food wasn't bad tho: best chili they ever had at Max's, and ribs that weren't half-bad at all! But the same bad chicken as always and no seeded brown rolls this time. Lotta people drank stuff like coffee liqueur & milk on the rocks, and tequila sunrises. One of the Van Eatons was standing around waiting to be recognized, the one who used to have the beard like on the album cover, nobody recognized him because he's so short. Toby Mamis bothered a lot of people at the door, told people no older than himself (and he doesn't even shave yet) that they could not enter. The albums sold for next to nothing 'cause the stores didn't want them at all, they wouldn't even give you 75 cents for a sealed copy!"
Meltzer also contributes a piece in another issue (the first one, the Van Eaton writeup appeared in #2 bassackwards person that I am) entitled "Arthritis?" which soo-prizingly enough is more or less Meltzer's condemnation of the current post-Beatles solo career snoozerama. particularly that of John's. (Sample quote: "Remember the Spokesmen? They did the answer record to "Eve of Destruction" called "Dawn of Correction" on Decca. They wore V-necked sweaters and did "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away"? Well, Johnny L's latest folk posturing ain't fit to lick the Spokesmen's boots." Strong stuff, eh? But its stuff like that, a great surliness that stands in the way of blind Beatle-worship, that makes APPLE PRESS what I would call a true winner in an ocean of Beatle felch-pieces. Definitely a Beatles mag for people who look at the Beatles through jaded seventies glasses.

Hokay, let's get back to the REGULAR (eight-and-a-half by eleven) fanzine output! Earlier this year I reviewed a few issues of SPOONFUL, a neat little pub that, like BOOGIE and a few other self-produced rants of the day sure knew how to toss about a load of cool and surprising musical picks resulting in some pretty refreshing reading that sure got your mind off of other things, like the trouble you're having evacuating that ten-course Chinese dinner you gorged down this afternoon. As you can see from my previous writeups of the mag I am enthralled, if not puzzled, but this mix and match sentiment, but mags like SPOOONFUL sure make for a better evening kick-your-feet-up-on-the-bed read than a slew of current day periodicals that only show how far rock writing has deteriorated since the golden days of Meltzer and his minions. Well, if you knew and liked SPOONFUL you'd probably know and love SUNSHINE just as well. And yeah, with a name like SUNSHINE I'm sure yer expecting a real sloppy hippie dippie read fulla advice on how to "Get High On Life" and other arcane inanties that seem to have come straight outta some early-seventis film strip they showed ya at Camp Hug-a-Bunch, but other'n the name this really is a classic forgotten fanzine read, and if you're put off by the name I don't blame ya but then again don't go cryin' because you missed out on a hot fanzine read such as this! (As if ya can FIND a copy!)

The ish I glommed (#15, Summer '73) doesn't even have a proper front cover, but begins with the results of the "First Annual Rock 'n' Roll Census" where the big gun rock writers of the day get to blab on about their fave raves and dislikes for all of us vicarious types to read...participants include Lester Bangs (fave recordings artists include Iggy Stooge, John Denver and Bread!), Alan Betrock, Richard Meltzer, Jon Tiven and Whitlock, while other ingrediants to this tasty ish include Nick Tosches' booze quiz, Whitlock on bargain bin finds and Meltzer expressing his hatred for Lisa Robinson which only goes to show you how far rock criticking and general rockism jamz have slid down the poop chute o'er the years. After all, compared to the blunberblubs on all (pro, fan, internet) fronts nowadays Lisa Robinson, and her Richard Carpenter lookalike husband also named Richard, comes off pretty "together" in a rockist fashion if you ask me!

By the way, Whitlock's SPOONFUL eventually merged with Metrano's SUNSHINE resulting in the fanzine SPOONFUL OF SUNSHINE!

Oh, and speaking of "jamz" I managed to latch onto the first issue of Alan Betrock's very own JAMZ from 1971, and since I now have the complete run I might as well do a "Spotlight On..." one of these days for your own edjamacation. (Y'see, the only reason I'm writing these reviews and fan-oriented lookbacks into fanzine glory past is to enlighten you ignoramuses out there who believe that rock writing began with Tim Yohannon and fanzines with MAXIMUM ROCKNROLL...believe it or not but indeed there was a prehistory to that punkism music that you all claim to know and love, and educating you louts surely is a thankless task as you probably already know.) For a premier effort (which earned Betrock an article in THE NEW YORK TIMES which even featured a snap of a long-haired and bearded Mr. B holding up this very issue), JAMZ #1 is a whole lot better'n such natal issues of such highly respected mags like BREAKFAST WITHOUT MEAT, MODERN ROCK MAGAZINE and even FUD with some nice enough (though stuff ya already knew) articles on Syd Barrett, cover boy Jeremy Spencer, Roger Corman's rock movies and even the Flamin' Groovies! There's also a hot rock news section with a lotta tidbits that I'll bet passed by the biggie pubs until it was too late. No wonder noted rock & roller Dr. Fredric Wertham mentioned JAMZ and ONLY JAMZ as an example of a rock & roll fanzine in his tome on the entire idiom entitied (what else but...) THE WORLD OF FANZINES back in the day!

Here's a weirdie from the world of specialty fanzines. KILLER (naturally not the same KILLER as Thurston Moore's early-eighties 'zine) was a spirit-dupliated one-sided rag dedicated to Alice Cooper which despite the low budget and fidelity blessed us with some great fannish writing hyping to the gills the talent of the one called Alice (and his band of course)! Kenny Highland, who judging from the number of magazines his stuff pops up in must have been just omnipresent on the fanzine circuit at this time as Meltzer wrote for it, and if you dare read such pertinent Coop pieces as "Alice Cooper -- Third Generation Rock" you will discover some strange facts about the man called Furnier, like how he studied with a hypnotist in Phoenix Arizona to become "three equal parts: male for strength; female for wisdom; and child, for faith." And remember dear readers, you can do it too!

Speaking of fanzines devoted to a particular artist or act, SLADE PARADER is one I've wanted to read ever since I spotted Greg Shaw's review of it in the famous punk rock issue of BOMP! In that particular writeup Mr. Shaw stated that SLADE PARADER was a nice li'l mag devoted to (who else but) Slade, the New York Dolls and glam rock in general and that it was put out by teenaged Lovely Lydia Laske! Best of all not only Shaw, but Our Hero Meltzer contributed to the 'zine which certainly whetted my appetite even that early in the game. Dunno if Laske was one of the gals who was hanging around with famous rock critic Lillian Roxon, who more or less ordered the frolicky femmes to do a fanzine on their favorite rock acts (Natalie McDonald's ELECTRIC WARRIOR FREE PRESS was one of these mags, and I believe so was DAVID'S GIRLS, originally devoted to Cassidy but Bowie and Johansen got stuck in there as well!), but if Lydia was all I gotta say is that we must thank Miss Roxon for small favors considering how she motivated a buncha star-struck teenyboppers to put their fandom into writing!

A great li'l mag SLADE PARADER is, one-sided and xeroxed by Dad @ work during lunchbreak, with all of the great low-budget fun and games such a project would exude. SLADE PARADER is madder than mad about Slade, has a good teenage appeal to it and it's so fannish that Laske was even pictured on the cover of this second ish sitting on Slade bassist Dave Hill's lap! Can you think of a better cover shot for a fanzine devoted to your fave rave rock idols?

Natch the real reason I lapped this one up was for the Meltzer, and as usual his piece does not depress. His contribution to SLADE PARADER was a review of the Ned Doheny album which I will reprint in its entirety immediately below. The old MUSIC CHAMBER blog of Tim "MIA" Ellison's used to have Meltzer reviews reprinted en toto so just consider me carrying on a tradition with both this and the above Meltzer bits:
Ned Doheny

Asylum Records

People on this album: 1. Ned Doheny; 2. David Parlatta; 3. Jimmy Caleri; 4. Gary Mallaber; 5. Don Menza; 6.Graham Nash; 7. Brian Garofalo; 8. Slyde Hyde; 9. Richard Kermode; 10. Mike Utley.

Instruments on this album: 1. guitar; 2. bass; 3. piano; 4. organ; 5. drums; 6. tenor sax; 7. trombone; 8. bass trombone; 9. cabassa; 10. acoustic bass; 11. moog; 12. vibes.

Songs on this album: 1. "Fineline"; 2. "I Know Sorrow"; 3. "Trust Me"; 4. "On and On"; 5. "Lashambeaux"; 6. "I Can Dream"; 7. "Postcards From Hollywood"; 8. "Take Me Faraway"; 9. "It Calls For You"; 10. "Standfast".

Comments on this album: 1. I have not listened to it; 2. I may not ever listen to it; 3. Ned Doheny is on the cover; 4. NOT ONE MEMBER OF SLADE IS PRESENT; 5. NOT ONE SONG BY SLADE IS PLAYED.

WHICH MEANS THIS ALBUMS OUGHTA BE MELTED DOWN AND NED DOHENY OUGHTA BE SUSPENDED HEAD DOWN IN IT & DROWNED -- the nerve of him ignoring Slade on his good for nothing album! They oughta cool the mixture of vinyl and flesh down and a piece oughta be sent to all who loved Ned so they could have a good cry. Buncha crybabies!

No wonder Laske said Meltzer was one of her favorite writers. And who but the most avid Meltzer hater would deny that it just wasn't a fanzine in the seventies if Meltzer wasn't writing for it!

I brought up Jesse Farlowe's BEDLOE'S ISLAND many times before, and ya gotta admit that it must've been one of the highlights of the early-seventies since even Miriam Linna listed it as being an important fanzine read in her NEW YORK ROCKER article on the form back '79 way (a great summarization of just what the fanzine means to you as an ignorant buttplug of a human being). I just got #4 in, and it certainly is an improvement over the previous ones I've seenot only in printing and layout, but as far as general overall contents as well. Meltzer once again shows up with a piece on the Flamin' Groovies (who must've been to the early-seventies fanzine crowd what the Dictators and New Order were to the mid-seventies!) which is a hoot even if there ain't a pic of the band to be found nohow, only a snap of Meltzer on a lost weekend looking like an unshaven John Belushi swigging gin! The stuff on Family and Juicy Lucy as well as the Dave Swarbrick interview didn't do anything for me, but one Meltzer article in my mag tops a whole slew of Jay Hinmans in yours.

I've been collecting old issues of ROLLIN' ROCK for quite some time, and sure feel lucky about it because back when editor Ron Weiser was sellin' these early-seventies wonders for big buck dollars in the early-eighties I thought fifteen smackers was way outta my price line. I really dug Weiser's hot and maniac writing style ever since I read his letters to BOMP!, and even though fifties rockabilly, blues and music in general never really hit me as hard as the sounds from the sixties (or, as Weiser would say, "sicks-ties") and seventies I'm always game for a good rock * roll read. These early seventies issues are more of the same maniac stream-of-consciousness hot rants with loads of contributions from fifties-ONLY fans about fifties-ONLY rockers (no "sicks-ties" fact, an article on the Wailers tells us boppers up front that we won't like their later-on garage band material!), and after reading these issues I kinda get the impression that there must've been hundreds if not thousands of wild greasy manic rockin' people throughout the seventies listening to rockabilly 45s constantly and living their lives like a 1956-1963 film loop. Never did see anyone like that 'round was more like a 1945-1954 loop if you ask me!

Here's one I think I have elsewhere in the collection but I could be wrong. Anyway, I do recall going gaga about RECORD RAVES before but for the sake of those who have no idea what I'm gabbing about let me hexplain. RECORD RAVES was a two-issue experiment in high-energy fandom that noted critic Charles Lamey released back in '77, a bit outside the loop but considering how RECORD RAVES pretty much acted like FLASH woulda had that one stuck around a little longer (or so Gary Sperrazza said in BOMP!) how could I ignore it?
Nice offset job like FLASH true, and the writing is what I would call pretty much punk fandom ca. '72 flash-forwarded a good five years, and reading about groups like Blondie always was fresh in '77 before we knew what pretentious a-holes those NYC new wavers would ultimately become. Nice two-color cover too, and it is too bad that the 'zine hadda deep six after two issues just like FLASH and other similar-minded '77-era funzines like YOUNG FAST AND SCIENTIFIC and NEW ORDER...if those mags had continued for even a good four more years perhaps they would have influenced a a spate of imitators who were at least imitating the good stuff! Lord knows we've had more than our share of CONFLICT and YOUR FLESH imitations cluttering up the late-eighties!

Now onto a couple prozines that really have nothing to do with the fanzine credo delved into above. And first on the list is a mag that really cannot be considered a music rag as much as it is a left wing outlet for the remnants of the sixties/early-seventies young radicals who were slowly but surely being edged outta the picture in favor of capitalistic glam, heavy metal and punk rock along with the anti-"love" (hah!) attitude that went along with it. And as far as capturing certain places and times go SUNRISE really dredges up memories of that old new left stance with more protest the pigs freak flag flying than one could find outside the early-eighties pseudo-anarchist movements both here and abroad. Naturally the politico stuff is not only dated but inherently dangerous, and you can already see the pinkist allegiances beginning to bleed into the Democratic Party system before taking over entirely, much to the dismay of a whole buncha pot-bellied blue collar workers I'd imagine. Of course there's always the praise for the Soviet and Cuban way of life which makes me wonder how the people who were involved with this mag would have taken to toilet paper shortages! But who knows, perhaps these hygenically-challenged types were already used to the itchiness already!

Frankly I'd laugh it all off only you see the same malcontents today romping around all over the place whether it be at anti-WTO protests or young thugs intimidating anything to the right of Stalin on college campuses nationwide while the authorities always look the other way. And even when I may agree with an article in SUNRISE, such as the one where they certainly bleed enough heart about a American Indian woman who was imprisoned for killing a guy who had raped a neighbor's kld, attempted to rape her own, and tried to murder the woman to boot, you get the idea that the only reason they're sticking up for her is because she's a good looking American Indian woman and if the jailed one were some fat bald white guy they wouldn't bat an eye.

So why did I buy a buncha these SUNRISE mags anyway considerin' what a neanderthal (next to all of you haute urban neo-Marxists) that people think me be? Mainly for the music coverage, which consists of a whole lotta good reviewing from the likes of Rick Johnson (who was more or less Lester Bangs' replacement at CREEM in the late-seventies for which I loathed him, but considering the quality of rock writing nowadays maybe I shouldn't've been so picky) and a few other unknowns (like "Beckola") who actually do the rockism game proud with some scribing that would've fit in place with just about any fanzine of the day. And surprises of surprises, even that right winger Mark Jenkins can be found writing a brief negative review of Blue Oyster Cult's TYRANNY AND SUBMISSION doing a 180 from his previous pro-Cult stance! And didja know that Crescenzo Capece of CRETINOUS CONTENTIONS fame even wrote for the rag??? So yeah, once you get past the environmental SLA stuff there is some good to be found in SUNRISE, but frankly you gotta be pretty hungry for some rock reading to wanna chow this one down!

Last one, but certainly not least...I sure was surprised when I found this issue of WORDS AND MUSIC at the paper drive, for if I'm correct this January '73 issue was THE FIRST ROCK MAGAZINE I EVER PICKED UP AND READ AT THE STANDS!!! Yes, you can blame WORDS AND MUSIC for my deep interest in rock writing and magazines in general, but just why did I peek inside this ish (on the mezzanine of Strouss' Department Store in downtown Youngstown, the stand directly across from the same record department where I solemnly read the back cover of ELECTRIC WARRIOR also for the first time!) and not say, ZOO WORLD which I don't think appeared for a good year or so anyways? Mainly because (who-else-but) Marc Bolan was on the cover, and if my memory serves me right I just happened to spot the thing starin' right at me after I was lookin' for new discs (and that's all I was doin', as if I could afford any!) and how could I help but pick the thing up and get an eyefulla the mysterious one called Marc anyway?

The article on Frank Zappa (with a pic of wife Gail modeling high heel sneakers) was undoubtedly influential with regards to my own Zappa fandom a few years later, but really, what was WORDS AND MUSIC like anyways? Well, frankly the mag was a douse, with NO big name writers, a pithy record review section and a generally tiresome approach to rock writing in general that really has nothing to do with the groundbreaking music coverage that was going on elsewhere at the very same nanosecond. You kinda get the idea that WORDS AND MUSIC is no CREEM due to the fact that New York disc jockey Peter Fornatale (pseudo-hip cause early-seventies fake revolutionary) is all over this fact he even reviews the classic NUGGETS set and gets it all wrong actually believeing that it's an updated hits collection, an OLDIES BUT GOODIES five years down the line so to speak! Well, one good thing about my venture to the rock magazine section that day is that I didn't actually plunk down any money to buy the thing, but seeing it again was kinda neet!

ALSO READ: AWARE was a fanzine put out by Steve Kolanjian that was more or less collector's oriented, with Apple Records discographies and reviews of recent flea market finds and the like. However, the ish with Peter Kanze's Cleveland rock band rundown does mention the original Rocket From The Tombs (at this point a five-piece with Laughner amongst the ranks) and how they used to do a stanza from "Louie Louie" after each song. That Kolanjian sure knows about the gritty underbelly of the rock & roll biz too...if you ever see him, just ask him to tell you the story about Tommy James, Morris Levy and Shep from the Limelights! EASY ACCESS is yet another fanzine that I perhaps should give ample space considering how it had such writers as Lenny Kaye and Meltzer contributing. Maybe next time, but at least I should mention Kaye's informative writeup regarding his own (surprise surprise!) NUGGETS and how he wanted to add a whole lot more than he was able to but couldn't because of copyrights and uncooperative labels like Cameo Parkway. Some recording acts and tracks that were being considered for NUGGETS but hadda be dropped include "Talk Talk", "96 Tears", Bob Segar, "I See The Light" (Five Americans), "32-20" by the Charlatans, "Free as the Wind" by the Myddle Class, anything by Bobby Fuller, the Daily Flash, "First Cut is the Deepest" by the Koobahs until Kaye found out it was British, and "Acapulco Gold"! Well, I'm sure any of those tracks would have been fine there instead of the nice yet seemingly out of place psych-pop a la "My World Fell Down" and maybe even the still-boffo "Open My Eyes".
Before I go, I just want to congratulate none other than LOU RONE for getting a nice mention (one whole paragraph) in the latest issue of GUITAR PLAYER magazine! Way to go Lou, and keep up the good work, y'hear???

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Dredd Foole-KISSING THE CONTEMPORARY BLISS 2-CD set (Family Vineyard)

I know how tough it is to be honest with you readers, but I must confess to each and every one of you a little bitta hard-swallowing truth that you just might fine hard to believe yourself. Here goes...when this latest release from Boston-area Velvets-obsessive (right up there with Jonathan Richman and even Wayne McGuire if you can believe that!) Dan Ireton a.k.a. Dredd Foole popped up in the same Family Vineyard package that gave us the Terrill CD and O-Type empty box set reviewed earlier, I had this preconceived notion that I wasn't gonna like the thang one iota. Pretty much outta stubborn principle too, because although I heard and enjoyed Mr. Foole's previous post-Din bashes I kinda felt like I shoulda been giving the guy what for, if only for forsaking the realm of good ol' straight-ahead rock & roll for a music that I have no qualms against, but it sure ain't what the guy used to dish out! Given the lack of high-energy jamz we have to go through these days heads would roll if I have any say!

Unless your name is Karen Quinlan, you probably can tell that I sure long for the days when the Velvets credo was still taken seriously enough to have produced some mighty fine recordings! And I'm not talking about the caramel color drek that has been performed by nerks with coke bottle glasses and neuroses that make Joni Mitchell look normal in comparison, but that grand suburban squall that made many a teenage zitcrop believe in themselves, enough that they too could form their own bands and play their variation on the form and it all sounded great until the entire style tumbled into the abyss of Neo-Marvian copycat dross. So please forgive the vitriol that I sometimes spew forth, but right now if I wanna get any hard-rock high energy Velvet kicks I know where to look, mainly thirty-plus years back when such music was truly the soundtrack for more than a few misguided and confused teenbos out there in ranch house land!

Foole looks a whole lot older than he did in those FORCED EXPOSURE snapshots and old press releases, and with his wire rims and long white hair he resembles the old hippoid postal worker who finally got to retire after thirtysome years only to spend his free time hanging out at the flea market. But hey, looks can be deceiving for the guy can still cook hot zoomba when he wants to. With a band consisting of a mess of acoustic pluckers, jugs, flutes and esoterica galore, Ireton does his bestest in creating a melange that comes off 1966 Stockhausen at one point before meandering off into STARSAILOR density the next, wrapped in a nice ball of atonal glee that owes as much to Mahogany Brain as it does Ritual All 7-70.

It's actually hard to describe the sounds here and peck them out using my under-developed ape-like brain, but I sure can osmose to the way Foole and band can switch around from Sondheim-esque blues and country twang to space-y soundscapes (some akin to Guru Guru on side-two of UFO!) with affected vocals adding an eerie ambience to my already fuzzed-out nerve endings, though the entire shebang didn't interfere with my nightly CD-spinning/fanzine reading one bit. I probably will not be playing this much in the future (not black enough), but it sure does make for that once-in-awhile realignment.

I remember calling Foole's previous effort a "doo wah classic" and KISSING THE CONTEMPORARY BLISS ain't one to deviate from the form. And even if it ain't high-energy Boston-styled Velvet-rock I'm not gonna deny that it ain't a bad effort, and in fact puts to shame a lotta similar-minded experimental quap that's been released over the past few decades. But sheesh Mr. Foole, how about doing some of that old hard-driving rock & roll for us fans just so's we don't starve to death?!?!?

Saturday, September 13, 2008


I've often remarked about just how much of a humongous chunk outta my free time that reality takes, and this weekend is no exception. However, rather than bitch and moan like I am most apt to do about my travails (thus giving you readers a cheap laff at my expense) I decided to pull myself up by my bootstraps and present what I hope will be a half-decent weekend blog consisting of a few reviews and a fine movie picture for you to take in, all of which is guaranteed to make at least 75% of the usual readers scratch their beanies in typical befuddlement. In other words, what else is abnormal???

John Terrill-FROWNY FROWN CD (Family Vineyard)

When I got this Cee-Dee a few months back I immediately pushed it under a pile of chairside disques and, as wont my behavioral makeup, preferred to just fergit it! Y'see, this Terrill guy who rec'd these songs twixt '88 to '98 was also the ozob who was in Indiana's Dancing Cigarettes and if you ask me that doesn't amount to him being Indiana's answer to Brian Sands! I gotta admit that I found the Cigs to be pretty much in that "patented" gnu wave style of the early eighties, the kinda sound that drove me into the arms of KICKS and an active flea market lifestyle with a general approach that reminded me of all of those once-precious "save the world" groups who made it into that sorry decade with a precocious attitude coupled with a watered-down take on the previous fifteen or so years of fringe accomplishment. I guess these groups figured they were doing their job because they were more exciting than the Rolling Stones, but really, was that saying much if anything???

So that's why I find myself surprised that I actually like this neat "reish" despite the double whammy of gnu wave guilt by pomposity that plagued most all of these discs. Sounding little like anything one would associate with the reams of failed attempts to recapture past glories while trailblazing for uncharted territories that clogged up the arteries of eighties underground rock, FROWNY FROWN's actually a hot li'l piece of midwestern introspective personalist music that sounds more like a successful attempt at remolding seventies accomplishment for the new decade than it does rehashing the Human Switchboard's and B-52s' songbooks until it is all rendered meaningless. Terrill still sounds like an earnest enough upstart with this stripped down music that recalls everything from the better moments of solo Richman (I JONATHAN comes to mind) to Skip Spence wandering around aimlessly at the oar house, and danged if the use of harpsichord didn't plum recall that forgotten late-sixties classic BEFORE THERE WAS...TIME and how often are you gonna come across anything that recalls that recent addition to the annals of boffo forgotten sixties goodies as that! For one of those guys that people like me and Bill Shute thought were sellouts who had forsaken the Big Beat for safe kitsch, boy and I surprised! May I bow in your presence Mr. T???
William Hooker-HARD TIME CD (Squealer Music, PO Box 229, Blacksburg, VA 24063-0229)

As of late, I've been wondering exactly what it was that made some of these respected avant garde jazzguys wanna go and slum with the punk rockers of the very late-seventies at clubs like CBGB and Max's, back when concepts like punk rock still seemed to be a fresh concept in the wild and woolly world of rockism. At the time it seemed likea dream come true, with one form of atonal, oft-loathed music crashing into another, but after some thought on the subject I started to ponder exactly why it was that hardened black jazzguys pushing forty were willing to play in groups with suburban-raised whites a music that seemed to clash their John Coltrane with the caucasians' Velvet Underground. But clash on it did and boy am I glad about it, for if these same suburban whites weren't dabbling in their own variations on various post-bop forms and if the black avant garde didn't find some sorta affinity with it would we have a whole slew of groups and records to enjoy this far down the line???

As far as jazzy punkisms go William Hooker was one of the best dabblers in both forms, even moreso than Sonny Sharrock, Billy Bang or Luther Thomas. In fact, the guy was so omnipresent on the underground rock scene at one time that I thought he just hadda've been some new punk upstart on the scene who fortunately latched onto enough positive reviews and notice to rise up the ladder of hipster underground success. Only after I discovered some pretty good early albums of his did I realize that William Hooker was in fact a long-standing drummer who had worked in a number of genres both on a professional and under-the-counter fashion and what I did hear was pretty engaging, even if it probably would've been scoffed at by a good majority of the current-day jazz world. Come to think of it, being a black avant gardist performing in basically white clubs with white musicians taking your energy and ramming it into their would only add up to even more brownie points in my book, iconoclastic poseur that I am!

Not surprisingly recorded live at CBGB, this decade-plus-old disque features Hooker and his mid-nineties band which not surprisingly features Borbetomagus guitarist Donald Miller as well as a number of players who for the life of me I have no recollection of. But they're all fine cogs in a free jazz/rock monster, creating this surprisingly driving electronic sound as synthesizer splatters electrode puke and guitars do their best to create an aural equivalent of Jackson Pollack (please excuse the hippie jargon being is the middle of the night!). WIth the lack of an acoustic bass and only a single horn player (saxist Richard Keene) this still has enough freedom to help snap your brain syntaxes, but think something closer to FUNHOUSE if you dare as opposed to Chaz Parker.

At this stage in the game HARD TIME should be an inexpensive snatch up at the usual big deal ebay stores, or if you're a real penny-pincher just wait for it to go on auction like I did and try to latch onto a copy for even less. It may not make your ears bleed, but it sure sounds like an explosion in Kryten's lower colon and who could pass up a recordings like that!

Sometimes I think that the only reason UGLY THINGS magazine exists is to be in cahoots with a variety of record distributors and bigtime ebay dealers who, in trying to move their enormous back catalogs, pay the likes of Mike Stax and especially Johan Kugelberg to write about certain acts of the past who just ain't pumping up the charts in order that a whole lotta backlog can be moved. Why else would you think that I'd latch onto this Cee-Dee reish of the British SWEET FANNY ADAMS album, the very same disc which Capitol decided to chop shop into the best selling DESOLATION BOULEVARD over here inna states other than because of all the seed Mr. Kugelberg spilled on a batch of old Sweet singles in the current ish of that hallowed mag? Of course long time followers of the form will remember that I blabbed on a good three-fourths of a page on this band (and DESOLATION BOULEVARD) back in issue #24 of my own mag, a copy of which can be obtained if you only dare to click here and dish out the few bucks it would take to buy the thing if you weren't such a cheap skinflint!

Since I rattled off enough in that issue I'll attempt to be brief with regards to SWEET FANNY ADAMS, a rec I remember seeing in the import bins of the seventies on more than a few occasions yet it never occurred to me to snatch one up then. But whadevva, I gotta say that I really enjoyed listening to the songs here again, since my Sweet Cee-Dee collection is buried under about five boxes of tightly-stored disques which will be excavated during my quarterly Cee-Dee trolling session sometime this Autumn.

"Sweet FA" of course remains a heavy metal classic (Kugelberg wasn't the first to draw comparisons between the Sweet and the Detroit energy scene boys have been doing that even when they were sticking the hard rockers on the flipsides of Sweet teenypop singles in the early-seventies!) and tracks like "Rebel Rouser" are so straightforward rock that they surpass a load of the flotsam that eventually appeared in the Sweet's wake!

And true, some may prefer to lump Sweet in with Queen and a load of prissy musique acts of questionable sexuality, but I happen to know for a fact that Imants Krumins is a big fan and considering what a finicky aficionado the man is that surely must rank as a compliment! And besides, does Krumins go around buying froo froo rock records anyway? Only his closet knows for sure.

Because the original album was so short RCA decided to pad it out at the end with some winners like "Blockbuster", "Hellraiser" and "Ballroom Blitz" (not forgetting their equally fine flips!) and they sure sound swank in such lovely company. And rilly, who other than the most horse-blindered post-hippie out there could deny that the Sweet were the LAST of the good AM rockers before the tide turned totally over to the singer-songwriters and hippoid leftovers with only a few "new wave" tidbits tossed in to give the illusion that these young upchucks, er, upstarts were "saving" the music industry. Considering that the thirtysome years since the Sweet stopped having the hits and AM began its steep decline (let's face it, the kids sure aren't being decadent like they used to, and I blame their yuppified parents for raising them this way!) all I gotta say is...WE NEED MORE SWEET THAN WE DID EVEN WHEN BACK DOOR MAN SLAPPED 'EM ON THE COVER!!!!
Before somebody decides to take it off youtube ne'er to be seen again, here's your chance to see SINS OF THE FLESHAPOIDS in all its bohunkus beauty!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

BOOK REVIEW! BETSY AND ME by Jack Cole (Fantagraphics, 2007)

In the once wacky and wooly world of comic strips, the wide variety of obscurities (read: commercial failures) may be long gone and forgotten, but boy do they get a load of attention, at least from nitpicking comic strip fans like myself! Well, at least they get a load more attention than they did while they were still being published, but a day won't go by without some comic strip-oriented blog reprinting examples of strips that were so short-lived and under-the-radar that they may have lasted only for a few weeks at some local paper during the turn of the century, and we're talking nineteenth into twentieth at that! And why not? I mean, we all know about the reams of NANCYs, DICK TRACYs and FERD'NANDs that have wormed their way into our hearts for the past seventysome years, but what about alla them SALESMAN SAMs, FINEHEIMER TWINS and DAVE THE LOG ROLLERs that came and went without anyone barely noticing their brief existence? Were they worth the five seconds or so of time it takes to read a comic, or did they deserve the unkind fate of being tossed onto the slagheap of instant obscurities along with Shake-A-Puddin' and Boil-A-Haggis? I think history would prove that such strips as SALESMAN SAM were excellent on both the gag and artistic levels and perhaps coulda made the upper reaches of comic har-har sensibilities had things only evolved a bit differently and who knows, perhaps if fate had been kinder we'd be sprawled out on the living room floor reading MISS FURY 'stead of trying to find out what the entire appeal of DOONESBURY is anyways.

Anthologies of such long-gone strips are usually rarer'n hair follicles on my scalp, and considering the sad fact that syndicates are now asking a hunkerin' amt. of change for any sorta reprint rights it's not hard to see why many old and/or legendary strips haven't been slapped into neat softcover editions like they should've been long ago. BETSY AND ME is a surprising exception. A short-running (May to November 1958) comic that nobody seems to remember, BETSY AND ME was the creation of cartoonist Jack Cole who, along with Will Eisner, put a lotta that quality into the legendary Quality Comics line with his PLASTIC MAN. Thus the inherent appeal of this strip at least for me, since PLASTIC MAN is a character who double-whammied me not only with his appearance in THE GREAT COMIC BOOK HEROES (hugeoid pre-teen comic influence) but a DC SPECIAL collection of a few of his best within the confines of 64 pages that I sure wish I had kept just for the plain ol' happy memories of an unhappy time its presence would undoubtedly enlighten me with.

Tons of ten-dollar words couldn't describe the art of Jack Cole and PLASTIC MAN adequately enough even though some of the more astute/snobbish comic critics have attempted to over the years, but to that all I have to say is eh, since I figger that "understanding" things such as comic "art" is a "get it or you don't sorta affair. Besides, being a strict student/appraiser of the form takes a lotta fun outta the subject at hand sorta like learning a musical instrument takes the fun out of listening to it. But great PLASTIC MAN was, and rather'n return to my roots of gushy artistic appraisal which certainly clogged up a number of my trying-to-be-earnest writeups of everything from LITTLE NEMO IN SLUMBERLAND to KRAZY KAT lemme just say that I continue to find these stories totally zoned into that same sorta mid-Amerigan Saturday-Afternoon-Barbershop-Kid UHF low-budget tee-vee station suburban lifestyle that many intellectuals continue to scoff at, but the entire idea of it continues to mesmerize me even if those days are by now distant memories.

But as far as BETSY AND ME goes, well Cole always said that he wanted to do a comic strip of his own (he had ghosted some SPIRIT dailies while Eisner was in the service) so it definitely was the culmination of a pretty long and fruitful career. And considering how at this time the funny pages had yet to slide into the abysmal pit of postmodernism I was kinda hoping for this collection to be yet a pretty good chortle-inducing read custom-made for those late-night easy-chair hours that slowly ease me into beddy-bye time. So what do you get with the complete run of this rather tasty strip, which I had gandered would be yet another great attempt at fifties innovation in the Schulz/Walker vein? Well, hate to say it, but BETSY AND ME hardly rises to the levels of a classic PEANUTS or BEETLE BAILEY let alone such stellars as NANCY or POLLY AND HER PALS. Heck, it doesn't even have the sick auto-accident-in-slow-motion appeal of DONDI let alone the scribbling sarcasm of Blechman. If I hadda describe BETSY AND ME in one word (allow me an adjective), it would be "inspired misfire" and who could argue with that after giving this book a read or two?

OK, nuclear family comic strips had become pretty much commonplace by BETSY AND ME's debut a good five decades back, but neither Cole's "modernized" style (simple fine line drawing really not that different from Schulz's style at the same time) and unique storytelling style could save this strip. Oh, it is "fun" to look at and perhaps even to read (the fact that every strip seems to be narrated by patented fuddy duddy daddy Chet Tibbit [inept department store floorwalker] who talks about his wife Betsy and genius son Farley is different from the standard HI AND LOIS fare), but otherwise BETSY AND ME seems to be trying too hard to rise above the rest of the comic flotsam of the day maybe just because it does try harder. Considering the characters who seem to lack a proper "development" and the cluttered humor which seems to be trying for a sophisticado audience, BETSY AND ME ultimately tumbles into a chasm of boring respectibility with only a scant few guffaws to make anything redeeming, which is pretty sad if you ask me because I really was hoping this book would've been a prized winner in my lifelong collection of comic strip anthologies.

Subject matter would seem custom made for the young adult fan of the day, dealing with everything from the courtship and marriage of Chet and Betsy to the birth and growth of Farley, their used 1945 "Huppmobile" as well as a move to the 'burbs. Unfortunately this all takes place within the first four months of BETSY AND ME which only adds to the claustrophobic feeling this strip exudes. And yeah, in some ways it is sad to see a guy like Cole end up turing his life's ambition into this mess which in some ways does remind me of those failed comic strip spoofs that appeared in THE NATIONAL LAMPOON BOOK OF COMICAL FUNNIES , only those were high-larious in their overt ineptitude and general bad taste while this 'un couldn't hold my attention even if Cole decided to dollop a whole load of NATLAMP-approved humor all over the thing in order to give it some non-redeeming value! Thankfully he didn't stoop that low, not that the syndicate would let him, but still trying to find a straightforward laugh in this strip is about as hard as finding one in just about any comic strip today. Maybe I've become hardened, but I don't think all these years of jadedness has dampered my funnybone this much!

The weirdest thing about the entire BETSY AND ME saga is that only a few months into its run Cole, in the tradition of E. F. Small (SALESMAN SAM), Stan MacGovern (SILLY MILLIE) and Wallace Wood committed suicide. You can see a whole load of strange and just plain bizarre irony in this, as both Small and MacGovern were screwball comic creators of the highest magnitude (although Small was, according to CAPTAIN EASY/BUZZ SAWYER creator Roy Crane, one of the dourest men alive!) and Wood perhaps thee post-Golden Age genius/mover and shaker. But Cole, sheesh, he was far from his form on these comics in order for me to even consider lumping him in with the rest and his death seems more like too little too late rather than a greatly sad loss. I dunno, but if he had blown his brains out during the height of PLASTIC MAN's popularity I probably would understand a whole lot more, but then again that's probably just the sarcastic side of me bellowing forth again.

Sunday, September 07, 2008


...that's when I'm gonna post this mess I "whipped up" for your entertainment. Well, what better time to sneak this damaging rot out to an unwary populace than under the cover of darkness anyway? I mean, politicians do this sorta sneaky chicanery all the time singing into laws all sorta disgusting bits of legislative kookery while everyone else is asleep and frankly who am I to argue with such shrewd craftiness????

Various Artists-BOOBS (the junkshop glam discotheque) CD; GLITTERBEST (20 pre-punk 'n' glam terrace stompers) CD (both on RPM, available through Bomp!)

I remember reading the first part of Charlotte Pressler's history of the Cleveland "First Wave" underground in CLE #3-A where she mentioned the glitter/glam rock movement of the early-seventies as kind of being like a sick joke, an embarrassment to the wild and wooly world of rock & roll, or as she wrote akin to a fart at a formal dinner. At the time I read this piece (January 1980) glitter rock was pretty much a dead issue for a good half-decade, with its main practitioners either switching styles, retiring from music or, as in the case of Marc Bolan, dying. And really, from the safe and still-thriving underground rock scene vantage point of 1980 glam rock sure seemed like a long time ago, almost as much a distant memory as early-sixties smart pop or late-fifties innovation. And of course it must've seemed like that to more than a few rockists out there since Ken Barnes' glam overview that appeared in BOMP's "Power Pop" issue, written and published in 1978, came off as far removed from the current day as surf music or folk rock, and that was only three years after the fact!!!

Johan Kugelberg's article on junkshop glam singles in the still-swimming-in-my-memory latest issue of UGLY THINGS (which is to 2008 what BOMP! and PHONOGRAM RECORD MAGAZINE were to 1976 and KICKS to 1985 and don't let anyone tell you different!) spurred me on to picking up these two fairly recent glitter collections in the hope that some of the records mentioned in that article would show up here. As far as I can tell I batted a pretty low average in scoring any of the rarities yapped about in that piece, but at least I grabbed onto some good enough ne'er-before-heard tunes that I'm sure will benefit me and my "blinkered" set of musical values somewhere in the not so distant future.

The first disque listened to's called BOOBS, and although we don't get to see any of 'em on the cover nor in the enclosed insert who can blame RPM for giving this collection of poppy glitz such a naughty title anyway? I mean, they gotta sell disques don't they, but despite the hotsy totsy come on I gotta say that this collection of teen pop slop for English gals who shoulda been spending their time brushing their teeth more is a good enough introduction to the more teenybop aspects of glam. Lacking the bite of the harder glitter acts, the groups on BOOBS do have a certain swagger and style about 'em, and although I found most of this more girly than I had wished I sure got more than a few kicks outta some of the gunk that was included, like Screamer's "Ballroom Blitz" swipe and Iron Cross' remake of "Little Bit O' Soul". For additional laffs, just get a load of Kim Fowley a.k.a. "Jimmy Jukebox" doing outboard motor lip-flubbers on "Motor Boat"! But lacking the inherent punkitude that made up the better portion of glam, BOOBS pretty much displays the more polished efforts that, despite their commercialbility, sunk like I'm sure a good portion of similar bandwagon jump-ons did back in those particulary money-grubbing days.

I much prefer companion disc GLITTERBEST which shows the hard, more punk rocky side of glam as it slowly but surely slid into the beautiful miasma of what would eventually propel all that was good about late-seventies rock. True a good portion of this 'un consists of goodies that can be found elsewhere in your collection, and the inclusion of Ducks Deluxe and Peter Perrett's England's Glory is questionable even if "City of Fun" fits in with the more Velvets-inclined offerings to be found, but otherwise only a turdball would complain about the over energetic programming and general atmosphere of GLITTERBEST which actually comes off instant party even if one or two flops might show up in the mix. You get three Jesse Hector tracks (always a good sign especially since I hadn't heard his '72 post-Crushed Butler outfit Helter Skelter), as well as even more snappy English proto-punkazoid platters from the likes of kiddieshow faves Flintlock and Streak which really helps turn this collection into a nice stomper that'll hold me until I can find my copy of DESOLATION BOULEVARD. GLITTERBEST does play it "safe" a bit, but the overall results are so pure (as in what I'd imagine a good 1976 "party tape" would sound like, if I happened to have been invited to any parties in 1976 that is!) that you don't know what genre you'll be listening to as the six-oh punk of One Hit Wonders has you thinking PEBBLES one minute and the pre-Ultravox Tiger Lily's got you zoning in on sub-Roxy Music smarm the next. Heck, even the Chris Spedding/Vibrators "Pogo Dancing" track appears here and that sure brings back memories of the first time I even heard about punk rock since this was the disque in question being mentioned! If you're nostalgic for import bins, boy will this disc come in handy!

Charlie Feathers-WILD SIDE OF LIFE; HONKY TONK KIND; LONG TIME AGO (rare and unissued recordings vols. one through three) CDs (Norton)

Gotta say that if there's one form of rock & roll music that I don't feel qualified to ramble on about, it's rockabilly. (Certain detractors may say that I wouldn't be qualified to review any types of music, but what do Paul Robeson fans know other than how to mimick that noted communist's inherent pomposity???) Oh yeah, thanks to Bill Shute (who pretty much lambasted me for my total ignorance of the form back in '82 thus shaming me into listening to some choice tapes he graciously made for me) I can still drag out an occasional mid/late-fifties slurpy juicy hiccuppin' rocker (or even ballad!) by one of a million rockabilly greats out there and listen to it with the whole whatziz of music enjoyment firmly intact, but I just gotta admit that rockabilly music just ain't that big a deal in my musical DNA! Once you get down to it, I probably am one of those snoots who thinks that ALL rock & roll music began in the mid-sixties with the original NUGGETS era of garage band mania, and since that music was still current-enough history and relevant to the various moderne-day music I was gobbling up with a passion what else would you expect outta a horse-blindered poseur like myself! Stuff before that...well it coulda been good for all I know, but to this kiddo it was ancient history that perhaps seemed about as interesting to me in a historical sense as memorizing dates and battles in school, as if this stuff was gonna help you get jobs and pay raises and other real life things when you got older!

But, thanks to Shute and the fine folks at Norton, at least now I can tell a rockabilly song from Billy Ray Cyrus which only makes it all the better for me to enjoy this three-Cee-Dee set of rockabilly rarities that were laid down by none other than the legendary rockabilly creator and master of the form Charlie Feathers. A nice chronological collection of familiar and unreleased goodies compiled by Billy Miller (Norton's male half and the one who writes the more scabrous and naughty entries in the Norton catalog), these three shiny silver dollars are one bop ticket to just exactly what this rab stuff was supposed to have implemented in more than a few teenage minds back in the day. Like a good portion of the 'billy music sounds of the time this is low-fi and very unpolished (many of these tracks were recorded in less-than-ECM-quality studios) which of course only adds to the overall excitement. Feathers' singing is of course in fine form, and what's best about it all is that the early-slurpers on disc one and the final recordings on the #3 sound as if they coulda been taken from the same era only with an upgrade in sound quality giving the not-so-big secret away! I'm sure glad that Feathers never bothered to "progress", because in no way could I have seen him stammering the entire Yes catalog while bass-slapping synthesizers oozed on by!

Liner notes are (as usual) veddy informative and shed a whole lotta light (as do the Cee-Dee closer interview snippets!) and while I still think that I'm as qualified to review this music as Michael Musto is qualified to review a Miss Universe pageant, like the old bald coot lookin' at the pic of the nude lady said, "I may not know art, but I know what I like!"
SO LONG, CHARLEY: Not that the news is really gonna make the standard BLOG TO COMM reader shed buckets of tears, but I thought it would make a good post-ender to mention the retirement (after fifty-plus years on the job!) of one of my favorite polly-tickle columnists as of late, Charley Reese. Although I didn't discover Reese until I entered into the age of internet and chanced upon the Lew Rockwell website, since that fateful day I've followed him and his thrice-weekly columns which have been posted on and other sites for the seven or so years that I have been linked up. Too bad I found out about Reese way too late in his career for after all those years of being a "newspaperman" (as they used to call 'em) his exit from the "political journalist" game only means that there's one less good columnist out there to read. In this day and age that pretty much amounts to a dearth, especially considering how few good commentators there are in not only in the papers but on the internet which I thought was supposed to open up the world to a whole passel of new and interesting opinions and ideas that your local fishwrap always seemed to poo-poo in favor of the safe and mainstream mode of editorializing.

Reese was (not that he's passed away, please don't get that idea!) what the lowbrow reader would call "conservative", yet unlike the vast number of modern-day conservative writers who seem to be nothing more than shills for whatever the Republican Party deems holy this week (of which there is nothing intrinsically wrong despite the spiritual deserts both of the major parties have wandered into as of late, but it does make for yawn-inspiring reading) Reese definitely was of another era and very certainly was not a cheerleader for many things which the GOP had evolved into. His take seemed more or less born of the older conservatism (Goldwater-esque perhaps, traditionalist in a sense) that the Party sold out on long beforehand which naturally placed Reese far out of the Party mainstream, but if you ask me that only made him all the more a "maverick" and thankfully not in a safe John McCain sense!

In many ways it seems as if Reese was truly a holdover from the old days of newspaper reporting, at least the days when the entire biz seemed like a pretty rough and tumble career for one to fall into. It would figure, since Reese often talked about his years first as a reporter and then as a journalist and just how much the entire newspaper reporting game had changed (seemingly for the worse) since the fifties. Back then (at least according to Reese) your standard big city papers seemed to be run by editors who made Perry White look like Mr. Rogers with their heavy drinking, smoking and cursing up a storm. Even a fistfight or two wouldn't be out of place in the workplace. These same rooms now come off like day care centers in comparison but whatever, it always seemed as if Reese was somehow still back in those old-time typewriter and bottle-inna-drawer newsrooms with the incessant clicking of teletypes which did lend a certain amount of straightforwardness to his columns that's hardly seen today if ever.

His style was to-the-point yet never smug or self-aggrandizing. In fact at times it seemed like a cross between your standard forties/fifties editorializing and maybe a bit of the Deep South of Reese's heritage tossed in. For some odd reason I am reminded of a bunch of 1970-vintage editions of THE (SHARON) HERALD that I had come across while going through boxes recently (saved for who-knows-what reason other than one edition was the first [non-Sharon] HERALD with a new, slimmed-down look) in which I was surprised at not only the strong establishment take on the radical youth of the day (which certainly held no bars and was beautifully caustic towards the new kultur!) but the simple, straightforward, talkin' atcha style that seems to have vanished from the editorial page right around the time the hippoid generation began taking hold of the reigns in the seventies and turned your local reads into bright and preppy imitation ROLLING STONEs. You could say that the tables have turned, definitely for the worse because the same kinda papers are now nothing but gabswells for the exact kind of cretin that they originally stood against! Mencken certainly wouldn't recognize a newsroom if he were to step into one today, and Reese certainly lived to see the great change right before his very eyes.

Reese never was popular, and I'm sure his column appeared in very few papers (those that didn't drop him due to "controversy" with his syndicate, King Features, thankfully sticking with him through thick and thin). Generally the man was "left out in the cold" when he should have been read by more than the few who did, but let's face it, the whole conservative/Republican "big tent" never felt it a good idea to include the likes of Reese into their open arms (yeah!), perhaps because the man was more or less prone to stomp on the party line whenever he had to. He felt pity for the Palestinians and was occasionally trounced upon for being an "anti-semite" because of it, yet he never said anything bad about the Israelis or Jews as a whole and had great pity for the younger generation of Israelites for what he saw their leaders doing which ultimately will only lead to more grief on all sides. Although he was not a religious man by any means he knew exactly what Christianity (especially Catholicism) has done for Western Civilization pretty much in the same vein as other non-believers such as Wyndham Lewis and of course Mencken, and even admitted to subscribing to THE WANDERER which is a paper which makes most right-leaning religious reads absolutely blanch in comparison. With the continual trouncing on believers by libertines of all stripes I gotta say that is was sure refreshing to read Reese's articles on the subject where he basically told the liberal-leaning "faithful" where to get off in their critiques of "backwards" belief. He also seemed befuddled by, and very hateful towards George W. Bush which I'm sure led to less and less "pundits" quoting him, sorta in the same fashion that radio personalities who used to mention Paul Craig Roberts at every opportunity have deemed him persona non gratis ever since Roberts aired his strong anti-war/Bush streak. And for being a Southerner, Reese never flinched from admitting his love for his land of birth and setting the record straight with regards to black/white relationships below the Mason/Dixon line. In fact, the man even admitted to I'm sure a few unsuspecting readers that he grew up with blacks while living in an integrated area (only certain parts of the South, too many parts but not the whole area, were in fact segregated, as they were up in the supposedly racism-free North), and although there certainly were places in which a black man could get trounced for looking at a white the wrong way it wasn't like that all over and certainly not where he was. Well, it sure is a refreshing change from hearing that same Northeastern White Guilt Trip that we've been inundated with for years on end, usually by political mountebanks who wouldn't go near a black area within a good ten mile radius!

No wonder all of those conservative sites which link up the big guns of the "movement" always stuck Reese's column way in the back of the bus with the "also rans" while pushing to their hearts content the stars, most of them either mooshy neocons who have all the goo of your standard seventies liberal blabbermouths or Press Release rehashers whom I do not bother to waste my time on. These people never did get it right, which is why guys like Reese or Joseph Sobran always received the short end of the stick (I mean, how many times have you seen them interviewed on tee-vee?) but really, what else is old, especially with the general media circus seemingly run by either "New" Conservatives who showed their true colors with their nagging denunciations of Ron Paul this past political season (pardon my continuous dragging of this dead issue, but it does irk me all these months later!), or equally tiring run of the mouth liberal snobs like Keith Olbermann, none of whom could equal the intelligence and wit of Mr. Reese of whom NOBODY really got to know.

(Oh, and I should say that Reese does have at least one fan of note, mainly Russell Desmond of CAN'T BUY A THRILL fame which might just show the higher current of pure political thought that runs amongst certain fanzine warhorses this far into the postmodern age!)

You can read Reese's final column, a more than fitting and perhaps "touching" farewell here, and like me I hope you'll be scouring the links to earlier columns that Lew Rockwell has provided us with on his site. Well, going through those would sure be a far less odious task than to read the collected works of comparatively lesser men such as Don Feder or Ellen Goodman (no pun intended, but really, I'm sure you have your doubts too!), and with Sobran temporarily suspending publication who knows where I'll have to turn to for more of that great paleocon scribing that seems to be in such short supply these days.