Sunday, October 05, 2008


Gee, was it only last week when I was musing that since I already heard that WFMU Mad Mike Radio Show with Miriam Linna I wouldn't have to dish out the bigguns to buy my own copy of these rock & roll mysteries that were being hyped that very night? Well, no sooner did I make my feelings known about my natural cheapskatedness that all three volumes of this set wound up on my doorstep gratis (praise be to Norton Records and the pow'rs behind it!), and although I didn't have to pay for 'em I sure do feel like some inner occult harmonic convergence o' mine is what made these platters magically pop into my life! I guess this proves that I don't know my own mystical strengths! Talk about kismet, and talk about what a wild ride these tea coasters have been for me these past few days!

I dunno if there are any nit-picky readers of BLOG TO COMM out there, but if so they'd probably pee all over this series of Mad Mike platters because a number of the tracks that show up here have been readily available on SCUM OF THE EARTH and a variety of other sixties garage/r&b samplers o'er the past few decades. Well, that's obviously true, and if you're a feller who needs to save space in your collection so's you can house all of your precious Ten East CDs I'd recommend that you not buy MAD MIKE MONSTERS. You wouldn't understand it anyway, but for people who live for the big beat and never fretted about how many copies of HERE ARE THE SONICS you have and in what configurations you'll appreciate this three-disque trip to the proverbial utmost.

These Cee-Dees'll prove to you just how free-form and whacked out mid-sixties teenage radio could get, and we're talkin' 'bout the AM band long before tight industry rules and regulations turned everything from music to tee-vee and "culture" in general into one big generic mark of fluff. And yeah, it might be hard for you to conceive of just how wild and open the general mass media could be, but in the beginning such things as local hits and radio shows with their own unique personality and flair could exist without the spectre of some "programming consultant" coming in and recommending immediate format changes and ultra-strict playlists like you see today. And taking advantage of such free and open-minded programming were different wildmen deejays across the fruity plain, amongst 'em being the likes of Pittsburgh's own Mad Mike, a guy who, as these platters will attest to, created his own high-energy playlists and skewered musical "aesthetics" by airing nothing but the same insane, pumped up low-fidelity anti-PC offensive rock & roll and rhythm & blues that fanzines like Norton's own KICKS have hyped for decades! What's more, Mike was aiming his radio program at a clientele that probably bathed in Vitalis t'boot, a market I'm sure most broadcasters would have avoided like a good many of you readers avoid wiping!

Looking back from a good fortysome year vantage point it's clear to see that Mike's whole trip was a lot more rockin' and relevant (to those oft-loathed mid-Amerigan teenage concerns) than a buncha folkies singing songs about freedom and such while acting like some of the most boring assholes to have hit the face of the earth! And who knows, but if it weren't for people like Mad Mike the world might have been brimming fulla Peace Corps volunteers 'stead of motorcycle gangs, so we sure have to be thankful to Mike fer SOMETHIN'!

Mad Mike Metrovich was one of the last of the real deal zonked out deejays, working outta Pittsburgh's WZUM where he discarded a whole lot more than the usual rules and regs w/regards to the entire biz and what was "proper" for radio at the time. While the bigger stations had their own local hits niche to rake in the cabbage with, Mike was playing the obscure rockers and local movers and shakers as if The Music Scene 1963-1967 didn't even exist, creating a local hub-bub in the process that had him ruling his own li'l kingdom of teenage fun and jamz for a good four years. In a world where soft schmooze could rub shoulders with protopunk screamers, Mike's show ditched the schmoozers and it rocked as if the British Invasion didn't even happen! His preferred sound was the same hard screeching vocal style of the early days of rock, and you can bet that more than a few obscurities would have graced WZUM's airwaves thanks to the open-minded Mr. Metrovich and his quest for tons of vinyl obscurities that probably would remain obscurities even to this day if it weren't for the hard work of the folks at Norton digging up the rarities and slapping 'em on this pretty ghostly trio!

And to add even more mystique to the legend, Mike never i.d.'d what he was playing either on the air or during his many live deejaying gigs leading to a whole lotta curious cats almost getting killed, amongst 'em none other than Mick Jagger and Keith Richard who once strayed too close to Mike's turntables during the first Rolling Stones appearance in Pittsburgh and almost got decapitated for their efforts. (Not surprisingly, the Stones' early r&b instro "Stoned" was a Mad Mike spin which must've been as far into the Brit Invasion as the guy got!) Such a strange programming move actually paid off since it kept the fans tuning in for more of the recs the other stations were ignoring! And it got the kids, the greasers, the suburbanites and the "cake-eaters" (which oddly enough was a local slur used against Catholics...) packed into the various teen spots where Mike could spin the records with the usual frolicsome teen results (like stabbings) accompanying the mutual glee.

The popularity of Mad Mike's show even led to the local National Record Mart chain issuing a series of Mad Mike albums collecting the "hits" (with only the spurious "names" of the songs listed on the sleeve!) which I believe I may have actually spotted at some local flea market bins back in the early-eighties. If I had only known what these albums were I would have snatched 'em up, but I suspect that those copies have been purchased long ago by some astute record fan or perhaps are in some landfill as we speak, as are all of those ? and the Mysterians and Yardbirds albums I also passed on because I was afraid to gamble the fifty cents to check them out! And they say Lindsay Hutton's people are tightwads!

But thankfully second chances now seem to be the norm for Norton has pretty much reshaped and remodeled those old MAD MIKE MOULDIES onto these shiny tea coasters, and what I had stupidly passed on during an uninformed youth can now be mine to have and to hold. Naturally each of these volumes is a gem, not only with the now-expected high quality sound and professionally-printed booklet, but the info-packed notes courtesy Miriam Linna really help put the proper rockism spin on the entire shebang. I dunno about you, but when I read Linna's various scribblings regarding teenage life in the sixties I feel like I'm some Noxema-laden twerp who's fortunate enough to have lived in the middle of one of the bestest times for teenagers EVER surrounded not only by the boffo music that Mike spun but by hours of wonderful television, fantastic films and other teenage amusements that seemed to fade away once fun gulcher turned "serious". Of course I probably would've been dead in a few years, but at the time I'll bet I'd've had a swinging ball liatening to Mad Mike in between indulging in Great Shakes and watching TELECOMICS!

And if you are concerned about too many dupes in your collection don't panic just because such now-obvious tracks as the Sonics' "Psycho" and Ronnie Cook and the Gaylords' "Goo Goo Muck" pop up in the mire, because for every well-known (at least amongst the BLOG TO COMM anti-intelligensia) tune you come across here there must be at least ten obscurities that'll remind you oldsters about the days when rock & roll radio was willing to take chances with the wild sounds and no prissy Parent's Groups were around to give them what for! Some of the loco hits that struck me upside the head include the Instrumentals' "Chop Suey Rock" (which I believe has appeared on another Norton-related platter, perhaps one of those BIG ITCH longplayers, but I'm not complainin'!), the Premieres' "Firewater" and the Del-Mars' "Snacky Poo" which I think wouldn't pass the Legion of Decency's sharp scrutinizing skills if they were out checkin' records 'stead of moom pitchers! Heck, even the "Red Rose Tea" ad with the Marquis Chimps, the 45 version where they doubled up the one-minute ad, ends up on volume two and still works wonders without the visuals in case you wanna slip this one into the ol' car player to impress some hot gal you just met! At least I coulda seen Jethro Bodine trying to woo some nonplussed curvaceous cutie with it and who knows, if life were more BLOG TO COMM-oriented maybe it woulda worked on one of those Kitty Kat Klub gals Jethro was trying to impress with his Sophisticated International Playboy moves!

Of course Miriam Linna's previously-mentioned booklet notes are extremely edjamacational (in a fun, affects you inna groin way!) making me wish to High Heavens that another issue of KICKS would make the scene sometime before I check into the Old Fanablas Nursing Home. In typical Linna style this bio of Mad Mike covers all of the bases from his youth and early record spinning days up through to the bitter end, and by the time the entire saga clocks out you kinda get the feeling that you too knew Mike personally enough to have tried to snatch one of his Archie comics labeled singles from his very grip. I was particularly wowzed about the time when Mike spun his records in my very own home town of Sharon Pee-YAY, flipping out Youngstown station WHOT-AM deejay (and dance show host on both WXTV and later WYTV!) Boots Bell because he was expecting a live band to appear! It's funny, but I and about a few thousand other local boobs knew Bell ever so slightly back when he was a local fixture on and off radio, and in fact the guy once gave me a ride somewhere which I thought was nice of him even if it weren't necessary! And I'll bet that if I knew about this particular story and brought it up to him, he would have stopped his VW Rabbit and promptly kicked me out on my ass! These local personalities could get touchy sometimes!

With MAD MIKE MONSTERS exuding quality on all fronts, of course its worth the filthy dinero to latch onto even if you can listen to the archived broadcast on WFMU! And maybe you should get it not just for the "rock history lesson" (though Linna's take on teenage fun and thrills past sure has got the ROLLING STONE version beat all hollow...Miss Linna is definitely the anti-Christgau!), but as an example of just how exciting youth and its "culture" for wont of a better term were back in the real sixties! Not the patented sixties of peace creep marches, racial unrest, rampant venereal disease and all those things VILLAGE VOICE types wax nostalgic over, but the one that presented to us hot television on all levels, drive ins and the lack of phony intellectuals going out of their way to tell you what a creep you are for listening to the Kingsmen! The real deal sixties which have sadly been yanked away from us thanks to a bunch of social planners and do-gooders who always pretended to know better than the rest of us and to them "better" always means Cat Stevens. Not that buying MAD MIKE MONSTERS is gonna change the social clime overnight, but latching onto 'em would certainly be a slap in the face to the likes of Jann Wenner and his ilk! And how often have you wanted to do just that?

No comments: