Wednesday, December 31, 2008


I know that I may be letting off airs of a particularly vile curmudgeon-ness, but as we drive further and further down this toll road we call life I for one for one am pretty glad to see the year 2008 in my rear view mirror. Not that the year was particularly bad, and on some levels it was one of the best years I've lived through in recent memory if the wide array of old fanzines and rare recordings that have made it to my portals will attest to, but in most respects 2008 has been one of the most cringe-inducing and unpleasant ones in my life since such dog years as 1983 and even 1997, a year that I'm surprised didn't end with my committal to the nearest booby hatch considering all of the mental upheaval I hadda go through. Really, the way '08 turned out with all of the high anxiety it poured forth from its vile bowels it's a wonder I even survived at all. Despite all this I did put up a pretty good front, eh? Really, I broke my own record for the yearly number of posts on this blog and only the snootiest of anti-BLOG TO COMM zealots would not agree that as far as upturning some nice rock & roll stones goes, I sure flipped over a few beauts (of which I dutifully am proud of...see entries below). But then again during this past year there were so many downright sad, disturbing and tension-enveloping periods that I'm surprised I survived with my sanity intact. Most if not all of these things happened during the late-winter and spring which much account for the massive blogging I did during those times, probably in order to blow off the pressure that was building inside me. I'll tell ya, I didn't feel this bound and gagged since the spring of 2004 when Dave Lang, Jay Hinman and their minions (some of whom I considered close enough "pen pals") decided to do their little sucker punch not only exhausting my own sense of well being, but squashing any serious attempts I had a selling a load more copies of BLACK TO COMM #25 than I had ever dreamed I would.

Enough moaning and boo-hooing and other forms of self-pity (a virtue which I must say I find healthy for all...after all, how far would the Music Machine have gone without it?) and onto my much-admired and awaited BLOG TO COMM BEST OF 2008 YEAR-END WRAP-UP AND RITUAL BARBEQUE where I get my time-honored chance to lay down the law as to what exactly was worth your while and not quite so during the past 366 days of pressure-cooker-induced everyday living. As usual I will tell you, the ever anxious BLOG TO COMM reader, just exactly what it was that made this particular year either so ginchy goochy fantab or worse than a weekend in Brad Kohler's laundry hamper for that matter and remember, if you read about it anywhere else it just ain't the proper year-end roundup that you've been waiting for. You have been warned.

ALBUM OF THE YEAR!: A hard one to call considering a number of non-reissued goodies that I've had the pleasure of hearing during '08, but as far as the bestest of the best go the hands down WINNER of the year just hazta be The Figures of Light's SMASH HITS on the ever-popular Norton label! True a small portion of this release is made up of archival material from the group's early-seventies existence, but for the most part this reunion disque is top notch hard-rockin' fun and games that goes to show ya that maybe guys in their late-fifties have more of an idea as to what rockaroll is all about than some of those multi-pierced ding-dongs you see all over the place. Runner up award goes to Simply Saucer's HALF HUMAN-HALF ALIVE via Canada's Sonic Unyon, an album that I do continue to drool buckets about only there's something fishy about this release that kept it from hittin the numero uno spot this past solar rotation. Maybe it's the cover???
SINGLE OF THE YEAR!: Not that singles really have that much of an impact as they did say...twenny/thirty/forty years back when some pimple-encrusted teenage goof could pick up his fave at the local five 'n dime for a mere ninetysome cents, but at least they still actually have the nerve to make 'em! And as far as this year goes, the hands-down winner just hasta be the Ruth's "Mon Pote"/"Mescalito" wowee-zowee that kinda took us all (or at least us smarter than the average blogger types) by surprise! OK it was recorded in '78, but these Gallic gosharooties really had the electric eurobeat down pat and, like classic Pere Ubu, knew how to mix the new electronic music with the standard punk drive of the times to create a sound that sure stands for everything good and high energy that the seventies really were. It's what I'd call a top spin at least here at BLOG TO COMM central, and who knows, if more records like this came out of France back then maybe the fallacy that the French play lousy rock 'n roll would have gone down the proverbial chute along with a lotta other false assumptions regarding that at least once-noble nation.
BEST PACKAGE OF THE YEAR!: Remember the days when album covers were just as important as the goodies that were stashed inside, with peelable bananas and zippers and spinning things galore making for scrumptious eye candy even if the record inside might've been the dregs? Well, as the old song says "those days are gone forever" but at least we still have things like box sets with posters and extensive booklet notes as well to jump right into! This year the winning award for Best Package goes to the Suicide 1977-1978 Five-CD set, which I think will keep more than a few kiddoes out there quiet for at least a few hours before the next archival rush hits the market.
BOOTLEG OF THE YEAR!: Lotsa good boots popped up this go 'round including the Can four-CD box set that is easily enough downloadable if you have the technology and the smarts (unlike me), not to mention a gaggle of Pink Floyd longplaying albums including a live pic disc featuring Frank Zappa sitting in with 'em for a side-long "Interstellar Overdrive" which is boss enough even for a guy like myself who hasn't cared about Zappa since ZOOT ALLURES. However as far as I'm concerned the best bootleg of the year just has to be THE VELVET UNDERGROUND LIVE AT THE GYMNASIUM release that's available in a number of formats best suited for your own personal hell while you snuggle up in the low-rent hovel of your choice. It was downloadable and still may be, but I cherish my green vinyl take with the professional cover that reminds me of the days when bootlegs started goin' upscale in the late-seventies in an attempt to look like the real deal, usually upstaging the real deal in the process! As usual, these classic Velvet tidbits only make me hunger to hear more, which is why I ask when in the name of Sam Hill is someone gonna start releasing all of those reel-to-reels of those 1965 Falling Spikes/Warlocks rehearsals we've all heard about??? What are they gonna do, piecemeal this stuff for the next bazillion years to the point where it's nothing but archival gunch for brainy college students to dissect like some dead rat???
ARCHIVAL DIG OF THE YEAR!: Lotsa good unpchucks gone 'round in '07, but I gotta say that the best reissue out of a sea of millions (well, at least seven) was the SOGGY album from the wilds of France circa 1981. High energy rock has been in pretty short supply over the past few decades, so it's sure a wonderful, resensifying experience listening to these French guys do the heavy metal game without succumbing to the trappings and tastes of the time. Plus they rock out a whole lot more than any of the alternative quap of the eighties on and if you think "rocking out" is some sort of detrimental quality in rock music (as one decidedly anti-BLACK TO COMM Latin major opined in a late-eighties article on yours truly!) then may I point you towards your Cat Stevens albums which you and your significant other can listen to in the solemnity of your hot tub? Runner ups! Anything Norton released this year, with hefty salutes to the MAD MIKE collections which makes me wish I was smart enough to know what was what in the flea market bins of Western Pee-YAY back in the day!
JAZZ ALBUM OF THE YEAR! Not that many to choose from this time, so the award goes to a disque of "questionable" legality, mainly the TONY WILLIAMS LIFETIME LIVE VILLAGE VANGUARD '69 one that you'll have to do a little effort to search out considerin' that Amazon ain't exactly gonna have this one in stock. Great pounding, nerve-twisting intense jazz cum rock with the classic three-piece lineup, and if even a doof like Ralph Gleason could acknowledge the greatness of this group what more can I say?
POST OF THE YEAR!: Back when I was doing my fanzine in the eighties and nineties (and beyond) I tried to uncover some major rockism mystery that has bugged my beanie for a much longer time than I can imagine as often as I could. It might not have mattered to any of my readers, but if I could get the low down on a rock acts of the past that drank from the same well of Velvets/Detroit energy as I did I sure felt like I had accomplished something very important. Sure it would've been better if you readers actually PAID ATTENTION to acts like Umela Hmota and Lou Rone, but at least I made their existences known and if you're too stoopid to take the bait, what else could I do?

Well, just this past month I finally got some of the hardcore facts straight with regards to the ultra-elusive Titfield Thunderbolt, a group whose lone single "Born on the Wrong Planet"/"In The Can" has finally graced my ears after twenty years of deep addled mystery. And you can betcha that I am proud of my little writeup on this act that I published on this blog only a mere two weeks ago. Excuse me if I do a little self-back-patting on this 'un, because I'm sure someone will reference this when they write a history of underground rock music a good fifty years from now.
DEATH OF THE YEAR!: Hard one to call here...I mean, was it that of Bo Diddley. or Jim Jones or perhaps some celebrity whom I personally could care less about, like George Carlin??? (He being the guy who spent a hefty portion of his career posing as the outside-the-establishment maverick while, as one astute commenter on the TAKI'S TOP DRAWER site noted, he was every much as part and parcel of that same dreaded establishment as the moaxes he was supposedly railing against! At least his was a death that I could really rally around!) Maybe it was William F. Buckley's or Klaus Dinger's or Jimmy Giuffre's or even Forrest Ackerman's, who had the good sense to die twice and thus throw everyone off!

Naw, if you must know, the real honest-to-goodness death of the year was that of none other than Bill Harris, better known to the kids of the channel 33 viewing area as BARNEY BEAN who passed away this June even if I only heard about it via wikipedia this past Christmas Eve.

It probably doesn't mean much to anyone born outside of the tri-county area nor would it mean anything to people born after at least 1967, but for the baby boomer gang (and I mean "baby boomer" in the most suburban ranch house fun and garage band games way possible!), THE BARNEY BEAN SHOW was thee afternoon draw in these parts, unless you count the z-movie/sci-fi flicks that channel 21 ran opposite him for a few years. And yeah, some of you locals probably heard all the stories about the guy swearin' at the kids before goin' on the air as well as his "old tricks" as it was put to me, but I gotta admit that I was one bozo who was more or less front-and-center for the BEAN show every weekday at least until I got older (age 11) and 21 began a long string of GILLIGAN'S ISLAND reruns, oddly enough a staple at 33 throughout the seventies and early eighties. But despite the stories and rumors that were flying around everybody's neighborhood during the day it's pretty obvious that Harris/Bean, or at least what he represented on the tube, made up a big part of my growing up sense of cheapazoid television tastemongering along with Saturday afternoon JD flicks and tornado warnings, and learning about his passing was...well, another indication about these changing for the worse times yabetcha!

Fortunately his YOUNGSTOWN VINDICATOR obit didn't mention any of his personal troubles, but it didn't go into his role on local television that much either. Of course you wouldn't expect such a writeup to go into how he would make drawings out of kids' initials for their birthdays and mail 'em out, nor how he would use the same ol' joke book humor week after week while doing his ventriloquist routine with Sherwood the City Slicker (one oft-used joke had to be the one about how Sherwood bought stock in an underwear manufacturer, but the bottom fell out) nor even how Bean would always pronounce Wednesday "Wed-nez-day" which is how my Italian-Swiss aunt (born and raised in Cairo) does as well. He was 79, and the obit said he worked in the sales department at Gordon Brothers (water softeners) until 2004 which means he probably was still in contact with his former employers at channel 33 for quite a long time after his show went off the air which must've been painful for him trekking back and forth to the station which gave him the heave-ho so long ago. Funny, nobody I knew who was connected with the Youngstown-area media seemed to have known his sure would have been great if he opened up and told us about the old days of local kid shows and television in general as it was back when it was actually a fun experience to turn on the dial!
ROCK MAG ON THE YEAR!: Best "new" mag...UGLY THINGS of "archival dig"...that issue of HYPE with the New York Dolls on the cover and the Stooges on the inside. SIGNAL TO NOISE also made a very good impression on my already-impressed head even though their latest didn't quite gel with me like a thick junket of a rock read should. Maybe it's because some of the more "modern" stuff they write about gets in the way of the old faves I like to read the mag for. Very disturbing, just like when I'm watching a classic 1958 YOGI BEAR cartoon and all of a sudden some modern graphics appear ruining the great mid-Amerigan suburban UHF feel. DAGGER is always worthwhile to look into even if most of these new underground groups they cover seem to have as much name recognition in my beanie as Jan Garber. Other'n that, it all tumbled into the abyss long long ago...
BOOK OF THE YEAR!: Lotsa good reads this past 366, and although the promised TRUMP collection was canceled and HUMBUG delayed I found myself more'n satisfied when it came to my usual late-night reading sessions, usually accompanied by the soothing strains of some early-seventies Velvet Underground wannabes. However, I must admit that as far as '08 goes the ultimo hands-down winner of the best book category just has to be Byron Coley and Thurston Moore's history of the New York underground rockin' no wave movement. Don't get me wrong, Mark Master's own no wave histoire was what you would also call essential and necessary, but Coley and Moore, being at the heart of the matter for a longer time than anyone could imagine really deliver the meat and inner guts truth about this late-seventies En Why phenom that dishes out a whole load of previously-revealed facts in a totally new way, then tops it off with more information on such obscurities of the scene as Terminal and the Gynecologists that makes you beg for moremoreMORE!!!! Like a good rock article that creates an instant obsession for a certain group's style and substance, NO WAVE answers many old questions only to create new ones, and for that we should be thankful that even this much of the story has been told at all!
BIG SURPRISE OF THE YEAR!: Yes there were many big surprises bound to make even the stodgiest of BLOG TO COMM readers sit up and take notice including the return of none other than Hackamore Brick to the one-off Mirrors reunion in Cleveland, but after all is said and done it's just gotta be the re-discovery of the Titfield Thunderbolt (which also made my post of the year choice above). With something this monumental, you just can't honor it in just one single category!
LETDOWN OF THE YEAR!: That Dave Lang, Jay Hinman, Ken Shimamoto etc. and so forth didn't do the right thing and off themselves like any good blooches should. Sorry guys, the Christmas magic just wore off.
POLITICAL COMMENTATOR OF THE YEAR!: Jack Hunter, The Southern Avenger, who is one of the few political commentators on the right (forget the left!) worth paying any attention to these days. Other than the usual Taki's Top Drawer/CHRONICLES/"paleoconservative" crowd whom I've been mentioning on this blog for quite a long while, I could care less about what the usual conservative commentators who've sold out more than they'll ever realize have to say these day (but I will listen in at times!), while the left remains as evil (though for a "good cause") as ever, playing race-based political games and getting even more "touchy feely" in their quest for the elusive "we are all one"-ness than ever now that Barack Obama is going to be the US of Whoa's next president. (Expect to see more than a few people dismayed by the Obama administration but too afraid of being called "reactionary" to admit it.) So amidst all this it's sure good to read (and watch) people like Hunter as well as other smart pundits like Justin Raimondo and Clyde Wilson give forth with the real deal while everyone else seem to be stumbling all over themselves trying to see who could bob for the most turds outta the toilet. And you know the Avenger is effective since most of the comments left on his CHARLESTON CITY PAPER column are the snittiest of precious liberal pearly-goo one can see in any comment section anywhere on the web, including my own!
LAFF OF THE YEAR!: Jay Hinman apologizing for using a photo of George W. Bush "out of context" on his political blog. I mean, if any guy knows about taking things out of context, it's Jay himself!
BLOG OF THE YEAR!: Hands down fave has to be PUREPOP where Barracuda Robin Wills presents for us singles-ignorant proles some of the best glam-unto-punk rarities that most of us would pay $15 for on an annotated Cee-Dee collection, but here we can get it free! Now if I only had the smarts to know how to download these songs and slap 'em on a shiny pancake so's I could go driving around while these obscurities blare from my speakers just like it was 1974 and these songs were miraculously being played on the local top forty stations!
'n so THAT'S 2008 which you could have taken or leaven, but if you didn't do either too late because it's over, and good riddance! Unfortunately who knows what bedevilment lies ahead in '09? Not me but I don't care right now...gotta run and watch some TELECOMICS, which come to think of it was probably the most IMPORTANT television show of 2008, or at least it was for Bill Shute!

Saturday, December 27, 2008


Frankly I made it through Christmas Day with flying colors...actually it was like just another day off, only around noontime Jillery came over and we all exchanged gifts that were nice yet nothing along the lines of the stuff I used to get when I was nine. Fortunately there were no Charlie Brown shampoo or Hai Karate aftershave bottles in the batch. Then I went back into my cubby hole of a room and messed around with the computer for the rest of the day. I also spun a real Holiday Classic on the Dee-Vee-Dee, none other than GLEN OR GLENDA which came as part of the Ed Wood Box Set that Lou Rone sent me for Christmas (I gave him a box set consisting of the entire television run of STINGRAY, a show I don't particularly care to watch because that one big fish in it with the mean face is rather scary looking and will probably induce four-year-old nightmare reruns inside my fragile brain!). I also eyeballed some old Warner Brothers cartoons on youtube as well as ordered myself a Christmas gift that I really wanted for some time, none other than the first three volumes of THE SPIRIT DC Archives reprints which are rather enticing yet cost-prohibitive. I should correct myself...actually I want THE ENTIRE RUN of THE SPIRIT, but this is all I can afford to dish out for at the time so rather bit-by-bit now rather than the whole kahuna when I'm aged but could afford it! Didja know that a movie based on this infamous character has just been released and is probably playing in some concrete bunker near you? Only hope it bombs so his legend (and that of creator Will Eisner) can rest in peace...I mean look at all the bum jobs they've done on everyone from Superman to the X-Men these past twennysome years making these once-admirable characters out to look more or less like super-putzes!

OK so it wasn't exactly a good ol' top notch Christmas where the floor of the entire parlor was awash with presents, but it was nice enough for this old pooperoo. And besides, if the folks were to dish out the money for all of those toys that I wish I could have had back in the day (in mint condition just like they came straight off the shelf!) it'd cost 'em millions so it wasn't like I was expecting that Kenner's Give-A-Show Projector, Dick Tracy Detective Game or Vac-U-Form to be nicely snuggled under the tree this year. But it sure woulda been a fun Christmas if they were. (Howzat for my annual dribble-on remembrance of commercialized Christmases past anyway???)

Glad to see that a number of you "allegedly" avid BLOG TO COMM readers are voting in my fanzine poll that I posted on the left. Hmmmm, some of you have better taste than I would have ever admitted when it comes to the Golden Age of Rock Fanzines, or the eighties period that immediately followed for that matter. However, I must apologize to the editors of both KICKS and FUTURE, two fanzines that were on the original draft but inadvertently got axed by the time the poll was published, for my error in not including 'em amongst the vast array of fanzine classics. Since both of them (as well as a few others who I should have remembered but didn't) were what I would call "important" and "essential" fanzines of the day such an omission is inexcusable. Tell ya what, if you readers wanna vote for either one of these mags howzbout you vote for 'em in the "other" category and then tell us all about it in the comments section below while smugly and defiantly berating me all the more!

As you probably gotten the gist of already, this post ain't gonna be one of the usual reviews of the latest items to grace my eyes/ears/nose/throat, but more or less of a plain ol' ramble on akin to some of my more obtuse rambles seen here and elsewhere o'er the past twennysome years. Not that there's exactly that much new and exciting for me to clue you readers in I said a few posts back the proto-punk offerings I really dig just haven't been coming out as fast as I would like 'em to, and it really is getting hard to score those classic early/mid-seventies fanzines like I had been for awhile. However, with the recent Titfield Thunderbolt and ARTIFACTS dig-ups I probably heard more than my fill of pre-punk avant musings for a good long time and for that perhaps I should be thankful. But if only someone would unearth a tape of Man Ray or perhaps even more Umela Hmota 3 live tracks then and only then would I be the complete human being.

Anyway, thanks to those aforementioned TT/ARTIFACTS reviews which I guess woke up more than a few brain cells, I've received a couple of rare Richmond Scene snaps thanks to ex-Big Napter member Bill Altice that I thought I'd share with you, and if these don't win BLOG TO COMM some sorta humanitarian award for enlightening you lumpen proles regarding the true state of local rock scenes in the early (and surly) seventies, then nothing will! This first snap is of none other than that of the original two-piece version of the Titfield Thunderbolt with Key Ring Torch on the left and Stymie the Hermit on the right. If you're wondering why Torch looks like he's getting ready for a high school yearbook photo session it's because he's on his way to a court hearing after being arrested during a post-Allen Ginsberg lecture which led to a riot at Virginia Commonwealth University! Yes, that's a short-hair wig he's wearing, just like the kind those reservists who wanted to keep their long-locks in the early-seventies would wear through muck and mire in 100-degree heat! The next snap is that of half of Richmond's Big Naptar, yet another band that snapped my crainium via the ARTIFACTS album, taken in 1971. L to R, Michael Garrett (sax 1), Bill Altice and Frank Daniel. Garrett and Daniel went on to play in the group Single Bullet Theory whom I remember as being some new wave-y alternative grouping of the time (mid-eighties), but I might be wrong (then again, I might be right!).

And, if that isn't enough, the following is a repro of the insert notes to the ARTIFACTS sampler (missing from my copy) that should give you some added information as to what the whole early-seventies Richmond Scene was about (click to enlarge unless you want to suffer from even more eyestrain than reading an early issue of my fanzine!):I know you do want more information regarding the Thunderbolt and the rest of the Richmond-area early-seventies underground scene therein, so may I present this note that Altice wrote to me regarding the goings on during those long-gone days of rage which should help fill in a few gaps while creating perhaps even more questions?!?!?:

Thanks again for all your belated coverage, but before you get too far astray, I feel compelled to remind you that, as the Artifacts sampler well illustrates, the Titfield Thunderbolt was only a part of a larger off-beat music scene here in the Capital of the Confederacy in the late sixties/early seventies; a scene that in turn, metastasized into a still larger nexus of inspired and eccentric artists over the following ten years. Isolated as we were from the larger centers of alt-culture in those days, from the beginning, we felt like we differed from other regional scenes because of our abiding interest in and exposure to outside jazz, experimental music and ethnic folk musics.

When I first arrived in Richmond in late 1966, the city was full of folk singers and beatnik jug bands (Duck Baker and Bryan Bowers, who both have gone on to bigger careers, were already performing regularly). The initial British Invasion was over and instead of succumbing to the influences of West Coast Flower Power pop, pasteurized folk-rock, or white-boy blues, most of us were already living in a parallel universe influenced by the Velvet Underground, Syd Barrett's Pink Floyd, Sun Ra, (yes) the AACM, Ornette Coleman, Captain Beefheart, Albert Ayler (hell, everything ESP released), the entire BYG/Actuel catalog, Pierre Henry, Harry Partch, Lothar and the Hand People, Moondog, Insect Trust, Edgar Varese, Tony Williams Lifetime, Third Stream Music, Silver Apples, the Nonesuch LP of the Balinese Kecak, the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, Iannis Xenakis, Robert Wyatt and Kevin Ayers and on and on and on.

If nothing else, we were record collectors and we were even competitive in our constant search for the "edge." Here, in this sleepy jerkwater hamlet, we were defining our own "culture" and we worked hard at flavoring it with every possible kind of esoterica. Was there, for instance, another place in America so influenced by Gunter Hampel's "The 8th of July 1969" (Flying Dutchman FDS-126) LP?

That said however, almost all of us were artists, not musicians. And no one among us was a virtuoso of any stripe, though most of us were not absolute beginners either.

By 1968, Bruce Springsteen's early bands Child and Steel Mill were playing here on regular excursions from New Jersey. The "big" local rock bands were called Mercy Flight, Morning Disaster and the Bosom Blues Band, but they all played note-for-note covers, almost exclusively -- something we never considered attempting.

Our thing was seriously "tribal" and was usually based on group improvisation. My band, Big Naptar, was the only song-structured lineup in the Artifacts crowd and in those days I was hellbent on creating rock music with avant-garde sax players -- something like, say, Count's Rock Band or the Free Spirits.

We were, in fact, sometimes trending towards what the Lounge Lizards, ten years later, would call "Fake Jazz", but we didn't call it anything -- and not one of us ever used the word "psychedelic" seriously.

Imagine then, how we felt nearly a decade later when the No Wave craze surfaced in the Lower East Side and was suddenly a big deal in the the NY music press?

While collectors in cities all across America are still uncovering and re-releasing lost, self-produced 45s and LPs from that era, we were all too poor to ever even consider actually going into a recording studio. Everything we did was recorded on cassette tapes, all the way through the two Bomis Prendin flexi discs.

The Titfield Thunderbolt single was pressed somewhere out of town from selected cassette recordings in order to fulfill a Commercial Art class assignment and was the only piece of real vinyl produced here until the following generation's Single Bullet Theory and Orthotonics records were made later in the seventies.

In late 1972, restless and ready to see the world, I abandoned the band and my job laying underground power cable and and left for Europe with my girlfriend. Stymie the Hermit had by then already moved to D.C. to work and I would join him there seven years later in the experiments that led to the creation of Bomis Prendin.

The first generation of bands gave way to the Tom and Marty Band, Idio-Savant, the Orthotonics and other shape-shifting exploratory ensembles and X-Breed morphed into skinny-tie New Wavers, the Single Bullet Theory.

J.W. Burke, Jr. (Key Ring Torch, Montserrat, Muskrat) remained in Richmond, in a room over Mrs. Morton's Tea Room, where he slowly immersed himself in alcohol, guns and conspiracy theories.
Well, I think that's a good start for you budding rock entomologists out there. Hopefully more will come sooner than later, though would a Five-CD box set with hardcover book be asking for too much?

Onward and upward...lessee, right now I must admit that I'm dwelling on obsessions past which is probably why I bought the first four Black Sabbath albums on CD, and in Japanese mini-sleeve editions complete with the bonus lyrics sheets and even innersleeves just like the real things only without the plastic insides just like you used to get in imports! They're so nice too, kinda making me wish that I could shrink myself down in order to enjoy the things at the proper scale! I naturally dig these little platters to the utmost because first off, these Sabbath disques were released on the original Vertigo label which I must say I do prefer to the domestic Warner Brothers issue because I like the Vertigo logo a lot more than I do Warner's which looked better on celluloid than on album covers. Vertigo's logo is certainly very late-sixties/early-seventies austere, kinda like the Mitsubishi three-diamond design (which dates back to at least 1917 even though it looks seventies-derived!) or the RCA block-lettering style that I must say was pleasing to the eye at the time. Of course the music is no slouch either, and discussing this stuff any further would just be more lip-flapping in the wind unless I'm really hard up for new material to write about. Besides, I already reviewed the first two Sabbath albums either in print or fact, counting both formats, I've reviewed PARANOID a grand total of three times in my career which really is belaboring a point! However, in order to satisfy some sort of hidden musical desire deep within my soul (as well as somehow put the money spent on these disques to good use) I will give short, concise mention to each of these Sabbath platters which you can take as you will: BLACK SABBATH: taut and tense with heavy references to various late-sixties punk points mixed with post-Cream degeneration; PARANOID: metallic electricity raging into dark chasms to even more unbelievable heights than the first; MASTER OF REALITY: a continuation on the path started by first two with the slow encroaching of acoustic twaddle and progressive inclinations probably learned while on tour with Yes and VOL 4: a bit of a return to earlier aesthetics although featuring one sappy ballad with piano and mellotron backing (!) and two aimless proggy instrumentals. Sure doesn't sound as loud and nerve-bending as it did when I first heard it age 13!

Lessee what else is on tap for this informal edition of BLOG TO COMM hmmmmm? Well, I gotta admit that I've been digging through a number of old items and playing the bejabbers outta 'em including the Cee-Dee reissue of the first Fleshtones album on ROIR which I gotta say remains their bestest of the best! Funny, a group like the Fleshtones shouldn't've lasted as long as they did and if so shouldn't've been as prolific in their output as they were, but I kinda like to think of the idea of an ongoing and working Fleshtones to be a rough equivalent to as if some other boss seventies band like, say, Hackamore Brick, was continually functioning this late in the game as well! Be thankful these 'tones are still here, and I gotta admit that yes, I do feel some remorse for all of the bad stuff I said about 'em back in the eighties when Peter Zaremba was hosting that alternative rock show on MTV and I believed they were selling out their inherent punkitude for the big break!

Also getting hefty spins here at BTC central is the Sandy Bull RE-INVENTIONS disque from 1999 which collects some of the best from the guy's Vanguard years and puts it all on a shiny pancake for your listening pleasure. Not to be confused with a later Bull collection which is also available for peanuts on eBay, this 'un is undoubtedly the beat bargain of the two if only for the appearance of his 1963 version of "Blend" with Ornette drummer Billy Higgins in tow playing a music that you'd swear you wouldn't have heard being played until many years later. Y'see, the newer collection substitutes this for the "Electric Blend" take offa 1965's also wondrous INVENTIONS (also with Higgins) which is already available en toto on Cee-Dee while debut FANTASIAS remains to this day unavailable in the here and now unless you wanna dish out double digits (first digit beginning with at least a "2") for an original, so let's just say that having a good hunk of that debut on this disque does help out a little. DEMOLITION DERBY from '72 also remains unavailable and is deserving of a reissue as well but at least one track, "Carnival Jump", shows up right at the very end and is a fitting close to an important rock/folk/whaddeva musician's stay at a pretty fruity label (I mean, JOAN BAEZ????). Funny, when Richard Meltzer mentioned watching James Taylor on SNL and wrote that he looked just like Sandy Bull and how hard it was to tell these sensitive junkies apart, I kinda shook my head in disbelief. At least Bull put his opium usage to good use while Taylor was born withered, if you know what I mean!

Speaking of Meltzer, one item that's continuing to get me all hot and bothered is the relatively recent arrival of some xeroxes of Meltzer and Meltzer-related material that I happened to latch off some guy in Canada who was auctioning 'em off on eBay. A good selection of stuff too including a ton of things that have somehow missed my own radarscope (as well as that of the crucial Meltzer collection from awhile back entitled A WHORE JUST LIKE THE REST), many of them concentrating on Meltzer's mid-seventies stay in Montreal covering the budding Frenchie music scene that was getting ample rock press space at the time. In fact, Meltzer's presence was so well known there that he even warranted a fairly lengthy newspaper article on his stay, that's how much people, especially Quebecois types, thought of him! Besides various scribed remnants of his Montreal jaunt there are examples of Meltzer's work from the long-gone ZOO WORLD which must've been a lot cooler than I thought since I hear they even published Eddie Flowers once, and other things that I might have seen before in CREEM but I'm not complainin' one bit! A day without Meltzer is like a day without severe weather, and considering that there's so much Golden Age of Rock-era Meltzer out there that I haven't been able to read I only hope that before I clock out of this existence I get to eyeball at least a hefty portion of the stuff or else I won't be the complete man.

If I get near my turntable within the next few days you might see another post more sooner than later. If not, see you Wednesday for the year-end wrapup.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Yes, I'm so full of it...the Holiday Spirit that is, that I'm even wishing a Happy X-mas to these aforementioned heathens who certainly have done me wrong as well as to you, the doody-ful BLOG TO COMM reader. Hope you all have a cool yule, and may your stockings be free of stool! Anyway, howdja like the Christmas ornament that I got from none other than champion blogster Lindsay Hutton? I was expecting him to send me a nice haggis but I don't think he had the "balls" (geddit?) to do so! Though I do wonder if the person pictured on the bulb is none other than the NEXT BIG THING editor hisself, but until I find my stack of back issues which are stashed away who knows where I guess I'll never be able to find out! (Nice toupee you got there Lindsay!) Anyway even though it is Christmas 2008 (gleep!) and the future we all dreamed about as kiddies just ain't as JETSONS as we had hoped I'm sure that you, me and the kitchen sink can still ooze some pleasure outta this Holiday Season just like you did when you were still in the single digits and it seems as if everything out there was seemingly made specifically for you and your own mere whims and fancies!

Anyway, while you lucky bums are chomping down your turkey and stuffing here are a coupla reviews that I thought would help your repast go down rather smooth-like. And in order to be "inclusive", may I wish to my pagan readers a happy Winter Solstice Virgin Deflowering Festivities Day???


There was a time in my life (which never did die down come to think of it!) when I wanted to know just about everything that was going on in the New York underground rock scene whether it was of the seemingly distant past or the ripe and ready for picking present. Of course this was during a time when rock music, at least on an underground, gut-wrenching level, was perhaps at its apex with bands of a variety of genres (punk, garage, metal, no wave or any variations thereof...) creating a vivid sound that, although pretty much invisible on a mainstream level, was sure kicking up a pretty big storm in a variety of clubs that had sprung up across the lower Manhattan scenery. Being a reader of the rock mags and follower of the goings on oft pictured in rags such as CREEM and ROCK SCENE, I was a pretty obsessive/compulsive type regarding this music scene which seemed to reek of an excitement only I could dream of stuck in my suburban Sharon bedroom...and I dunno about you, but o/c me used to live to read THE NEW YORK ROCKER not to mention the music pages of the once-useful VILLAGE VOICE whenever I had the opportunity in order to see which bands were playing at CBGB, Max's Kansas City or any of the imitations that popped up in their wake.

Y'see, I had this strange sneaking suspicion that these haunts were booking nothing but top-notch quality underground rock & roll bands comparable to the over-ignored groups that were performing the Cleveland/Akron/Kent area, and if that area could lay claim to having at least two dozen or so of the best acts ever to hit the area just imagine all of the crucial acts that just hadda've been playing in En Why See on a nightly basis! As you can tell, during this time I was stoopid enough to actually believe that every act that graced the stages of CB's or Max's was some sorta punk garage band real deal not aware that many of these groups just weren't up to BLOG TO COMM standards, but just the fact that they were up there and playing seemed to be fine enough to give even some worn-out heavy metal band who I would have jeered at had they come from these parts at least a shard of underground respectability.

As time went on so did the mode of the music, and many of those bands that seemed to have sparked some sort of fire in my brain at one time were not only becoming famous, but losing a lot of the original energy and ideals in the process. Unfortunately the new bands that were popping up to take their place on the stages of these clubs weren't as innovative or as original as one would have hoped, and worse yet it seems as if the "rock press" that had once jumped on the bandwagon every time a new and exciting act would roll down the runway could have cared less anymore with more'n a few "New York Rock Critics" (and say that with a sneer) going back to their old games and singer/songwriter origins.

Really, if I had a fanzine in that town back in '82 I would have been covering the reunions of groups such as Manster and the Planets as well as writing up some of the more exciting bands playing in that mid-seventies underground style, but it seems that if so I would have been perhaps the ONLY one doing just that! And maybe I was getting wary of it all. By this time I began peeking into the VOICE less and less. Not that it mattered...I mean, the hippydippy politico bent of the rest of the paper began seeping into their music pages where it was tough enough to get into a review without reading a reference to Nicaragua or sodomy laws, though I still wondered about what exactly was going on at CB's that late in the game, Max's having died a slow and under-reported death right around the time the music was heading into a decidedly non-seventies direction anyway.

I remember once while in a certain record store 'round '88 or so when someone happened to mention the group Bitch Magnet having just recently played CB's, telling me that member Sooyoung Park told him that CBGB had "gone heavy metal" pretty much based on the fact that all of the other groups on the bill that night with the Magnet were of a decidedly metal persuasion. That didn't surprise me any considering not only the slight strains of difference between what had become of the punk and heavy metal movements over the years but still, with that late-seventies fire still a-flickerin' in my musical soul I was curious as to what kind of metal was being performed at the club during those rather dim days for the old underground rage. Well, with the release of these Nasty Savage albums I get at least a little glimmering twinkle of exactly how far into the metallic lore CBGB was willing to go, and frankly I find the spirit and energy displayed on these two clear vinyl offerings just as attention-grabbing and over-the-top as many of the groups performing their stuff in a more "alternative" setting if you know what I'm talkin' 'bout.

These Savages (who hail from Florida making me wonder how many gigs they were able to latch onto down there!) sure do the heavy metal game right as you can tell by their singer's leather gear in the pic to your left. And as you see from the studded self-defiant pose struck on this cover Nasty Savage ain't exactly no metal sissyboys akin to those hair bands you used to see all over the place during the mid-eighties. This ain't brainy metal like early Blue Oyster Cult or MX-80 Sound either nor is it fluffweight metal or commercial metal or even what most acne-riddled boxboys of the day would have considered "their" metal! Nasty Savage go for the all out throttle style of heavy metal, not that far away from the various late-seventies Motorhead-styled hard rock excursions yet with a pace about one step behind the "speedmetal" of a Powertrip or even Metallica pre-progressive inclinations. Sound quality is typical club portable recorder, and the singer in his 'tween-song patter seems to be so happy to be playing at CBGB as he pants and recovers from the mania of the previous number.

It's atypically good enough mid-eighties HM with enough dunce-thud to satisfy the older metallic crowd yet it's chock fulla all the energy and dare-I-say innovation that helped rescue metal from the hands of such hideous showoffy bandwagon jumpers as Andy Secher of HIT PARADER "fame", a guy who certainly didn't want to know about the real power and might that heavy metal could aspire to preferring to stick with the lightweight moneymaking glop. And it's funny, but I remember about a year or so before this very show was recorded when me and some guy were having a discussion about heavy metal and me asking where all of the hard and truly metallic bands were in this sea of relative snooze. Little did we know that it was happening and in places we never woulda guessed about in a millyun years! LIVE AT CBGB'S only makes me wanna hear not only more of these hard-flash acts that fizzled out without a trace, but some of the other groups on the CBGB scene during those dark days of underground rock who mighta missed out on the real deal, but they probably had about ten times the interest and stamina of the big-name alternative acts they were undoubtedly forced to open up for at that long gone dive.
The Red Crayola-SOLDIER TALK CD (Drag City)

Gee willikers, has it really been a good 29-and-a-half years since I picked this shoulda been by now infamous Red Crayola "reunion" elpee up on a shopping trip to Cleveland? And while I'm at it, has it really been a good 27-and-a-half years since I began tiring of that whole British/Amerigan underground avant garde rock music, probably spurred on by a reading or three of KICKS #2 which I latched onto around the same time??? Yeah, I gotta admit that I, along with a nice portion of of what passed for the Underground Music Listeners of Ameriga at the time, went hog wild for the under-the-counterculture rock groups that were spurting forth from all corners back in the seventies, and with a nice portion of these same kiddoes I also began to wary of the direction these once-forward-looking reactionaries had been lurched into once the entire underground seemed to be falling into one massive hunking burning pit of pure CAMP.

So surprisingly enough I find myself liking SOLDIER TALK after way too long an absence in my life even though it has the makings of very-late-seventies "Rough Trade"-styled artitude and occult political schpiel, two marks agin it in my book. Thankfully the music, while angular and jarty (a word I just made up for the occasion, as in the sound just jarts all over the place [from the ancient Danish jahrk meaning "to dance about the room as if to have been corn-holed by Sven the houseboy with a glowing red fire stoker"]), also has more of a seventies underground avant-attitude about it which differentiates it from eighties post-avant miasma, the same attitude that made RADIO ETHIOPIA, NO NEW YORK and undoubtedly the Debris album such winners with their mix of underground rock and avant garde stylings that seemed to "turn off" the standard record buyer of the day though this stuff always seemed to strike a chord with the more addled amongst us.

Just goes to remind you that before these people began to take themselves way too seriously and see themselves as "vessels" for new social constructions and the like, they at least could kick up some mighty fine (and time-withstanding) rock & roll music. And although the overall quality of Mayo Thompson's various Red Crayola revivals seemed to ebb and flow almost with the tide his work for the Radar label is much to be admired. However, why did Drag City leave the "Wives in Orbit" single off here anyway? That would have been most necessary, along with that flexi-only remake of "Hurricane FIghter Plane" that did end up on a Texas 60s psychedelia compilation about a decade ago come to think of it!
THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT by Will Eisner (Kitchen Sink, 1994)

I have little doubt that Santy won't be giving me a complete bound collection of SPIRIT comics come Christmas Day even though that is one gift that certainly would make me almost as happy as I was during the great Corgi Toy Christmas of 1968. And with those DC bound volume SPIRIT reprints costing quite a penny (and believe-you-me, I have been tempted!) I doubt that I'll be reading many of these classic titles at least in the near future. Well, at least I have this collection of Christmas-themed SPIRITs that Kitchen Sink released in a softcover a good fourteen years back. Nice enough "timely" reading and the stories are naturally good in that Quality Comics style, plus if you strain your eyes hard enough you'll be able to tell that Harvey Kurtzman actually drew the final story presented here, a particularly good enough wowzer that packs power and pathos in a way most Will Eisner imitators have been failing at ever since. (For a boffo SPIRIT story drawn by Wally Wood in his also oft-imitated EC style, click onto this recent POTRZEBIE post and get an eyeload of a particularly strange science fiction saga which only makes me all the more hungrier not only for THE SPIRIT, but the rest of the Quality Comics line of masked crimefighters in flashy forties suits!)
BEFORE I GO, I thought that I better remind you that there are still a lot of those water-damaged issues of BLACK TO COMM that I told you about before available in case you're looking for a bargain, albeit a crinkled one. The ones that got the soaking are #'s 14, 17, 21, 24 and 25 (and that one comes with a thankfully un-drenched Cee-Dee!) which can be had for the ridiculously low sum of three smackers each (plus postage). To be honest wit'cha, you are getting a bargain considering that some of these mags might only have minor stains and are wrinkled only in the slightest, but I did find a copy of 25 which really got a soaking and should adorn the gaps in your BTC collection to the ultimate max! If you ask me kind enough, I'll actually reserve this one for you! You know what to do if you want one or many of these soiled issues...just write me via the comment box with your email, and I will do the rest!

Saturday, December 20, 2008


Have any of you even once-in-awhile BLOG TO COMM readers ever noticed that, as time goes on and we all get a little more edgy around the gills, more and more of these rock & roll mysteries that have been floating about the fanzine-o-sphere have slowly but surely been getting demystified!?!?!?! I mean it...remember how things were (well, at least for a obsessive/compulsive sort as I) back in the eighties when "we" seemingly all wanted to hear what Rocket From The Tombs' original version of "Sonic Reducer" sounded like? Eventually it got released, even with ten seconds of that pithy bitta organ-drone opening that differentiated the song from all other takes, but man it was NOTHING like the version I heard in a dream back in '84 with the song pounding all distorto-rock-like from the speakers of my old boom box. I could go on about the various occult factors that have surrounded many a group that was considered untouchable or perhaps even unfathomable back in the not-so-distant past and here we are in 2008 taking these once-obscure groups' recordings for granted just like we now take for granted those early Velvet Underground demos that each and every one of us would have murdered for back when all we really had were a few live recordings and that 22-outtakes offering that cost us an arm and a leg even thought the quality was zilch compared to what we would eventually get to hear once this stuff came out legit!

So with great pleasure I take this opportunity to help clear up yet another long-unsolved rock & roll mystery as to just who were these Titfield Thunderbolt guys that I've been hearing about for well over twenty years anyway??? Well, these guys have been a mystery to me ever since I got hold of a copy of JAMZ #5 which had the should-be-by-now infamous Meltzer review of their "Born on the Wrong Planet"/"In The Can" single which certainly got my interests piqued, especially with Meltzer's provocative exclamation that the band considered themselves "the MC5 of Virginia." I've already written about the Thunderbolt's appearance on the ARTIFACTS ten-inch flexi-disc as well as published ex-Thunderbolt Stymie the Hermit's almost three-decades-old reminiscences, and for a guy who has tried so hard to get the hard-core facts on this group for so long things finally fell into place like I hoped they would and voila!, what appears in my mailbox courtesy the Hermit himself is not only the ultra-rare Titfield Thunderbolt single but a booklet on the band that this former Titster published on his lonesome which came out back in the day (1970)! Not only that, but there were also a few compact disques enclosed featuring music by none other than Bomis Prendin, a group I could say sprung forth from the loins of the Thunderbolt but that might be stretching points a little too far. After receiving this 'un I could say that I felt like I had died and gone to Heaven, but I think I'll save that for whenever I get a package of recently unearthed Master Radio Canaries tapes.

OK, by now we all know the spurious nature of Meltzer's MC5 reference (maybe he was led on by the power-salute drawing of the group I've reprinted above), but that doesn't mean that the Titfield Thunderbolt aren't unworthy of your time and effort to track this single down whichever way you can. Too late for PEBBLES and too early for HOMEWORK, the Thunderbolt do their best to survive in a punk-free zone with this single, a double 33-rpm spin that's got such a low-fidelity quality that it makes "Green Fuz" and the Germs' "Forming" sound positively half-speed mastered yet makes up for it with more teen-energy than even Tommy James coulda whipped up at the time. Far from being a "sellout" as Meltzer opined, a-side "Born on the Wrong Planet" just oozes that down-home knotty-pine basement rehearsal feeling perhaps with a touch of garage band pop '69-style here and a tad of the theme song from SCOOBY DOO, WHERE ARE YOU? there as the Hermit himself sings lyrics that wouldn't be too out of place in the Twinkeyz's live repertoire. Come to think of it, the Twinkeyz guys themselves would have been more'n apt to stick "Wrong Planet" into their set as it does have the same sense of teenage alienation re. sci-fi allegory as their opus "Aliens in our Midst" albeit on a totally hetero level. Typical sub-bedroom band approach and playing sure help this number achieve the proper levels of addled teenage dunceness that always makes these platters a lot more tasty than we would have ever given them credit for in the first place.

If you think "Wrong Planet" is typically teenage you'd be right, but just ready yourself for the flipside, mainly the 6:37 "In The Can" which like I said is not the same track as "On The Can" from the flexi but a live workout featuring the Thunderbolt doing their best to violate the hearts and minds of the angry college student clientele with a free-form freakout that not only resembles the "noisy Albert Ayler workout" Meltzer mentioned but an entire AACM-ish attempt to re-do Ornette's FREE JAZZ while the local ROTC firebombs the entire student union building that housed the art show the Thunderbolt were playing at. I can see how Meltzer would get excited over this side as it does predate the whole Smegma/LAFMS scene by a good three or so years, and it would seem as if the Thunderbolt's idea of free rock does rub elbows with some of the other experimental rock work going on in other burghs across the globe even if these bozos didn't know what was going on elsewhere until much later. The music surges and seethes pretty much in a Smegma-esque style, and best of all it still plays itself white which ain't sayin' that playing it black would be bad, but it adds another refreshing dimension to the sound having white college kids attempt the free sound with their own suburban consciousnesses in tow rather'n attempt to sound like urban blacks doing the same soundspew. Doesn't seem kosher having people try to be what they just aren't, y'know?

Good luck finding this single (only 200 pressed!), and even better luck trying to latch onto THE REVENGE OF THE TITFIELD THUNDERBOLT, a professionally-printed (and on glossy paper too!) booklet detailing the history of the band just chock-fulla wonderful snaps and non-upchucking early-seventies graphix that are sure to clear up certain questions regarding early-seventies garage band activities while creating new ones. Reminding me of everything from a poetry anthology all those sissy geeks used to write for in school to a pretty decent proto-punk fanzine that somehow got lost in the shuffle, THE REVENGE OF THE TITFIELD THUNDERBOLT is more than just another self-promoting history of a band written "in progress". It was a college project of Stymie the Hermit's making true, yet the resultant shebang doesn't come off anything like what you would consider a college project to be. But nor does the Thunderbolt come off like anybody's idea of "college rock", at least these days. Not that I could see any of those guys with Peter Asher specs who used to pop up on THE G.E. COLLEGE BOWL listening to them. Whaddeva, the story of the band from their formation to the first gig with Key Ring Torch and Stymie the Hermit playing "Go Fish" over the PA system onward and upward (complete with member bios and photos where they get to act all goofy) is sure an inspiring read and I only hope that Stymie got a really high mark for this project considering how some of these college prof guys'll fail you if you forget to dot an "i" or something equally ridiculous. Like I said, just attempt to find this one at the local flea market even though I would suspect that a copy might turn up somewhere between a few old BETTER HOMES AND GARDENS on some old coot's folding table down Richmond way!

Much better known than the Thunderbolt are their more or less physical if not spiritual spawn, Bomis Prendin, a bunch probably best known to the avid "new wave" catalog hustlers of the late-seventies for their two flexidisc releases of the day. You probably remember the PHANTOM LIMB one which seemed to have appeared in more than a few Systematic and Metro Music fliers over the years, although the first, TEST, seemed to vanish without a trace probably because only 500 or so were pressed up. As you'd expect, Bomis Prendin with their free form (some may say ambient) soundstew owe about as much to the Thunderbolt sound as my rockscreeding has to do with Robert Christgau's, but even if these guys ain't the MC5 of Virginia either (or shall I say by now the MC5 of Maryland) their ability to create some rather interesting avant garde (within what was being called the American Underground scene) music sure ranks up there with a number of similar-minded aural crankouts from both here and abroad.

My fave of the three available Bomis Prendin releases has to be the TEST/PHANTOM LIMB reish which slaps both of these now-obscure wobbly platters on one shiny disque capturing the electronic face of late-seventies underground music much better than the lowliest cassette culture upchuck you used to read about with pleasure back in the day. The TRAP D'OR collection, despite the spiffy title, didn't quite light my buttocks the way the flexis did, though an additional disque of goop specifically made for your mp3 player (whatever that is!) might help open up some other doors of perception. I prefer PUT ME DOWN AND SPIN ME AROUND, another smattering of mid-eighties to late-nineties numbuhs that seemed more or less engaging, at least enough not to interrupt any late-night comic reading sessions to the point of mental exhaustion. True it at times does bear a strange resemblance to more of those early-eighties basement recordings that more than a few people with brand-spanking-new casio keyboards were sharing with similar-minded nerks, but at least Bomis Prendin have the good sense to mix a little life and whimsy into the usual cyborg gunch creating a work that is every bit as professional if not as "obscure" as a variety of acts who got signed to the Ralph Records label back in the day. Fine, but frankly I'd prefer hearing more Titfield Thunderbolt...maybe a Cee-Dee reish with the previously-released tracks plus alternate goodies would be in line at this time? Whatever, please don't go and have Titfield Thunderbolt reunion...after all, other'n the Stooges have any of these recent babyboomer get-togethers been successfull even one iota???

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Nah, I don't wanna write about anything special today. Besides, I'm resting up for a major, information-packed eye-opener of a post this weekend and don't wanna run myself ragged. Instead, I thought I'd print (with kind permission) the following note from none other than longtime Boston scenester John Hovorka, more or less a response to my review of his recent 2X4's and solo CDs a month back. I hope Mr. Hovorka's note is informative enough so that rock historians of the future will cite this particular post when writing the ultimate Boston underground rock history in the next century of so. Of course, considering the general lack of interest and hostility directed towards this particular blog I kinda doubt it, be we can always hope, can't we???

Hi Chris,

I was going to write to you a while back just to ask how you liked The 2x4’s CDs. But I didn’t get around to it. I was also going to let you know why I included that additional CDR of my newer stuff. The main reason for this is although some people are interested in The 2x4’s and the Turbines, hardly anyone has been interested in my newer stuff for the last few years. I’m getting ready to record some more new stuff soon so I figured it might be a good idea (for me anyway) for people to know about that stuff.

Last week a friend of mine said I might want to look at a blog called BLOG TO COMM, that there was some stuff about The 2x4’s in it. So I managed to locate it. I didn’t know it was yours. (even though it was right in front of me in your email address) Anyhow thanks for writing about The 2x4’s and about me. I appreciate it. And I’m glad you liked some of the new songs all right too. By the way, I’m still hanging out with Rolfe often, and still see Erik around sometimes. As for Joe Viglione I have a lot of memories of playing bass in Aastral Projection, including some good ones. Musically what I liked best was recording Foggy Notion and also the Oedipus Show radio spot, and one of the other ones on his first album also really sticks in my mind but I can’t remember what it’s called; it has a long guitar solo ending. My favorite shows with Aastral Projection were at The Paradise Club in Boston probably in 1977 and at Circe’s which was a club in Worcester, MA, also around that time. Going back to the beginning of this sequence of events (although not as far back as the first band I was in, in Geneva, NY in 1967) I remember jamming with my pal McGregor McGehee who had just bought a bass guitar, in 1970. Then months later he introduced me to Fred Pineau. I could be wrong about this but what I recall is that he found Fred by means of an ad in The Boston Phoenix that said something about liking The Velvet Underground. Anyhow we started a band with Richie Johnson on drums, and that’s also when I met Richie’s cousin Rolfe. We crammed into a small apartment in Boston and played for about 45 minutes before we were told to stop. But before that Richie put on some records that I hadn’t heard before, the first Black Sabbath album, Fun House by The Stooges, and Love It To Death by Alice Cooper. I liked these ominous sounding new bands. Anyhow the band I was in with Fred, McGregor and Richie which was called either Ozone Shirley or Chrome Rat did about 2 shows, and (if I remember to attach it) here’s a picture of the one we did outdoors in Cambridge, MA. That was also, coincidentally the day that I found out who the (I thought) weird kid with a crewcut was who I saw about a year before that there, singing in the dirt with his acoustic guitar about going to high school in the suburbs, specifically, in Natick. He was Jonathan Richman. And then I saw his band a few times. I thought they were very good, and different from other bands. Incidentally, years later I taught him how to play Foggy Notion, after someone else taught it to me, for whatever is worth. In 1973 Fred asked me if I wanted to join a band he was in called Automatic Slim, so I did, on bass guitar. We did various rock and roll, rock-a-billy and blues songs, not all that exciting to me but not bad. That went all right for a while but at some point we needed a new lead singer. Soon we found Joe Viglione. He needed a band. We were it.

I just figured you might be interested in this stuff…

I’ve got to say about how this 2x4’s stuff got done, it was not very calculated. I wrote the songs fast because I hated most things in late 1978, including just about all music, and especially going to clubs to see bands, so I stayed home all the time when I wasn’t working and wrote some songs, like about 30 of them in a month and a half. I didn’t know much about writing songs so I just used the same chords that everyone else used, except sometimes fewer of them. And I didn’t pay any attention to the style of this band except the simpler the better. I didn’t know what was gonna happen since I had never done anything like this before so it was totally experimental that way. I didn’t figure I’d last long as a singer because I didn’t know what I was doing, maybe for one show, then hopefully somebody else would show up and take over on the singing. But no one did, ever. My constant goal in The 2x4’s was to somehow manage to do one more show. And more generally I just wanted to get the job done (and when it was done, leave, which is what I did). Meanwhile if anyone said we were playing like robots I took that as a compliment. The 2x4’s output of music was good for awhile although it declined soon after I left the band.

Pere Ubu. I liked that band. They cheered me up when I felt bad. I don’t know about The 2x4’s/Pere Ubu comparison. For one thing, I couldn’t get the other guys to listen to that stuff. But I’d rather hear The 2x4’s be compared to them than to Devo.

The Velvet Underground. I saw them at The Boston Tea Party 3 times in 1968. Seeing them changed my point of view about music. They were different from all other bands. Also they were better than all other bands.

Uh oh. I’d better get back to work…


Saturday, December 13, 2008


And you can tell that this has been a slow week here at BLOG TO COMM central if I have to rely on one of these old standbys to getcha through the weekend doldrums! Well, it hasn't been that slow, and I do have more than a few irons in the fire w/regards to some pretty IMPORTANT and LIFE-SHATTERING posts being readied up for the near future, but for now I guess I'll just have to fill you in on just a few of the things that have been flibbin' my jib as of the last week or so in order to do my duty and try looking "important". Some of these things admittedly are reruns of previously-mentioned wonders that continue to orbit my pleasure dome while others are totally new to not only this blog, but perhaps every other blog from here to Kalamazoo and back, but anyway no particular order or ranking and stuff like that even though these are numbered in order to look "neat"...


When I was a kid I used to get scared silly when, right in the middle of my favorite afternoon cartoon program or whatever was being aired that my mother had put on to babysit me suddenly a conelrad test would appear on the screen proceeding to get eyes a' cryin' and perhaps pants a' wettin'. I'm sure you older readers of the blog will remember these tests that seemed to pop up on television screens nationwide after the Cuban Missile Crisis sorta jetted the collective blood pressure of this nation up a few notches, at least to the point where even Bob Dylan had nada faith in any sorta future so he wrote "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall" with each line representing a subject matter he felt he would never have time to extrapolate on considering the pending doom. And really, who could forget the sudden appearance of the then-familiar Civil Defense "logo" filling up the screen and the ominous announcer telling us gathered bomb freak kids "this is only a test", followed by that ear-piercing shriek which was enough to make any toddler scream bloody murder all heck!

I remember once when I was lying on the couch with a bloody nose perhaps caused by too much deep-picking and naturally the tee-vee was on, and what else but a conelrad test once again interrupts all programming frightening me to no end! Worse still. I couldn't exit stage right because I was told by mom to lay on my back whilst holding a moistened washrag held to my schnozz lest I get the braided family rug all soiled with blood! Sheesh, even the severe weather announcements of the day, usually with a cracked glass slide shown backwards and upside down, weren't as doom-laden as those surprise conelrad tests! Neither were the special bulletins telling us such pertinent factors about various space shots and Kennedy getting killed in Dallas for that matter!

Pretty soon though conelrad gave way to the Emergency Broadcast System and the fancy mid-sixties-style full color EBS logo which was a big part of television viewing until the relatively recent introduction of the Emergency Alert System. (I remember when they first came out with EBS and I thought it was going to be a new television network that was going to be filled with interesting, dangrous types of television viewing dealing with national!) After the Cold War started to creep to a snail's pace EBS began to be used for the same weather emergencies that those old cracked slides once did, and even this far down the line it's heartening to know that at least the spirit of conelrad lives on whenever a severe storm is spotted over some trailer park and it's time to head on down to the basement before your ninety-year-old aunt calls you up to tell you to do the exact same thing like she has for the past seventysome years!

Searching for conelrad on youtube, I found the following two mock-takes on what would happen if it wasn't a test but the real deal schpiel! The first one seems accurate enough even if it is in color, complete with that authentic-sounding voice of doom that I would have imagined some nameless authority complete with a butch cut and pockmarked face to have boomed to us had there been an actual emergency in 1963:

This second one is equally unnerving, and to add some sort of authenticity to the proceedings it actually sports the call letters and frequency of Zanesville Ohio's WHIZ-TV channel 18, perhaps created by a loyal fan of the station who wanted to pay tribute to his early-sixties viewing days with this bit of nostalgic shock:

Both of 'em do have that real-life high-intensity ability to strike fear into youngsters and the squeamish and I'll bet that if these had somehow gotten around in the early-sixties they would have induced more than a few scary nightmares in the minds of aw-shucks freckle-faced kids nationwide! And dontcha think it woulda been great if some snide Eddie Haskell of a kid back then got hold of these and somehow had the technohow to break into Aunt Mabels' tee-vee while she was watching QUEEN FOR A DAY and make like Kruschev was actually getting ready to nuke Podunk Iowa? Imagine the panic, especially when said kid hadda call the paramedics to help revive ol' Mabe! That'll teach her for finding those NATIONAL GEOGRAPHICs under your mattress!

2) SNIFFLES CARTOONS (Warner Brothers, circa late-30s to 1946)

Not having seen many of the old Warner Brothers cartoons in what seems like eons (and surprisingly enough, soon as the abode got hooked up to a satellite dish after years of UHF and nothin' but both the Cartoon Network and its subsidiary Boomerang had dropped all of the Warners cartoons either believing that the Bugs Bunny audience had died off or that they could rake in more cash with the umpteenth rerun of MIKE, LOU AND LU) I find myself tuning into youtube to see these shoulda been branded into my skull by now classics all the more. Of course I seem to be watching my childhood fave THE DOVER BOYS AT PIMENTO UNIVERSITY more often than not plus the early Warners-era Tex Avery cartoons are great especially after getting inundated with his MGM=period 'toons every night on Boomerang, but it's sure great to see those SNIFFLES cartoons once again, especially after havning not seen 'em since the seventies around the time when local television started dropping its fifties/sixties roots and began modernizing with boring talk shows and other decidedly anti-fun and games programming.

I'll betcha that most of you staunch self-consciously masculine BLOG TO COMM readers think that Sniffles was a sissyfag character solely for that turdlers and those amongst us who sympathize with 'em, but I gotta admit that, thanks to the genius of the Warners' animation department these Sniffles cartoons hold up pretty well even when they're getting into a cuter-than-thou frame of mode. Of course the boss animation and general Warners style helps out more often than not, and really, if Bill Shute could claim that he could howl himself silly while listening to Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll read the telephone book in their AMOS 'N ANDY dialect then I can easily enough claim that I could watch any classic-era Warners cartoon and enjoy myself, even if it is one of those FANTASIA swipes Chuck Jones was doing before he started to get on the ball.

Anyhoo here's what's supposed to be the final Sniffles cartoon from '46 which also doubles as a neat spoof of the old DUFFY'S TAVERN radio/TV show. By this time Sniffles began to affect the motormouth stream-of-consciousness speaking style of Florence Lake in the Edgar Kennedy comedies to the point where you'd almost expect a fat and bald mouse to start saying "Sniffles...shut up!" and his character began taking on this surprisingly crafty demeanor sorta like a miniature Bugs Bunny himself! Too bad the Sniffles series had to fizzle out like it did, because at least HUSH, MY MOUSE showed that the character still had the potential and charm and all of that other gunk that goes into making long-lasting commercial property:

3) Le Stelle di Mario Schifano-DEDICADO A... CD (Akarma Italy)

Click here for the original review of this VELVET UNDERGROUND AND NICO homage/swipe, but I for one think it was a whole lot better to swipe ideas from the Velvets, and in the late-sixties, than it was swipin' 'em from Jerry Garcia! Next to PTOOFF! one of the best mergings of pop art ideals and high energy rock that, like its inspiration, seemed to foreshadow everything good that would happen in rock & roll for the next ten to twelve years before it ALL fell into the ocean!

Not the slim jim processed shards of fat soaked in pork grease being sold nationwide, this is the real-deal stuff selling in the meat department at various outlets across the tri-city area. Tasty beefy sorta mini-salamis only without most of that nauseating white fat and with a nice smokey flavor, these make a great chaser to the spinach salads I've been eating for lunch in order to upgrade my bowel movements from concrete to sludge. Other than for the once-in-awhile hunks of gristle that catch you by surprise, a nice addition to any overtly green meal.
5) HYPERION fanzines circa 1972-1975

Read here and here for earlier opinions on this long-forgotten fanzine that never did make it to the upper echelon of fine self-produced rock screeding like it shoulda, and that's even despite a great Lester Bangs plug in a 1975-era "Rockarama" which you thought woulda generated a lot more attention than it ultimately did! With rock writing having long hit the skids (just see what kinda bozos have been getting the press space and accolades since the eighties while the real geniuses go on starvin'!) to the point where it's even hard enough to find that much good even on the internet for FREE, it's sure great diving back into the oft-loathed past to read Mark Jenkins and company's smart appreciations of what was passing for youth under-the-counterculture during those halcyon days of the early/mid-seventies long before everything hadda be dumbed down to a vulgar political statement. Plus it's sure great to cast your eyes upon articles about such things as the Velvet Underground, reruns of THE PRISONER and unabashed singer/songwriter loathing long before it became the hotcha thing to do and everybody started jumping on the cheap-chic bandwagon!
6) Camberwell Now-ALL'S WELL CD (ReR)

Not exackly my cup of tea, but I find this post-This Heat group's music a good enough mix of (pardon the irritating term) "post-punk" and rock in opposition-styled prog to even keep a curmudgeon like myself at least partly comatose. Not as feral as the original well from whence all that English experimentation spouted, but it's good enough for those of you who used to listen to Robert Wyatt in the seventies, and kinda felt embarrassed by it by the time 1980 hit the calendar.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Mothers of Invention-TIME SANDWICH CD-R (Head bootleg)

Perhaps there is no need to get into the idiotic levels I would go to singing the praises of Frank Zappa and the Mothers during the last two years of my high school experience (or the time I blasted WEASELS RIPPED MY FLESH for the family during a Christmas party), but maybe I should remind at least the last few faithful souls who tune into this blog as to what a fool am I with regards to such musical obsession I may have had! After all, BLACK TO COMM #18 with my Zappa/Mothers "consumer guide" is long out-of-print, but for those of you who were too lazy to pick up a copy of that when it came out back in '91 and I really needed the money let me lay it all on the line for you again...y'see, when I was in my mid-teens and was suddenly allowed by my parents to buy records other'n flea market scraps I got hooked really fast on these Zappa/Mothers albums that at the time were anywhere from five to ten years old. While the other kiddos were spending their supposedly "self-earned" moolah on Elton John and Ted Nugent records (they being just two of the bigger teen heartthrobs in my particular school) I was pretty much going to the shopping mall every week picking up an old Mothers of Invention disc and bragging about my purchase to just about anyone unfortunately within earshot, and that included the kids who out and out hated my guts! You might think this strange considering my current "tastes" so-to-speak as well as the generally substandard sputum that Zappa was known to dish out to his audience throughout the seventies and eighties, but at the time his off-kilter take (some might say "swipe") of everything from Los Angeles Folk Rock (via FREAK OUT) to sarcastic "social satire" (WE'RE ONLY IN IT FOR THE MONEY) to avant garde ripoff (UNCLE MEAT, WEASELS RIPPED MY FLESH) was totally new to my virgin ears and listening to this stuff was sure a rebellion against the staid, formal music that I had more or less been forced to listen to whether or not it was against my will. It's like GILLIGAN'S ISLAND've seen 'em for a few decades and tired of 'em true, but every so often there's a new generation of suburban doofs comin' up who haven't and it's a new and fresh to 'em just like it was to you when you were tunin' into your local UHF outlet sometime in the eighties.

After awhile, or pretty much as soon as I left the hallowed halls of lower learning, I began to tire of Zappa. In fact I tired of him pretty fast if you must know. I dunno if I was "maturing"...I never really did mature until much later in life, but for some maybe not-so-obscure reason Zappa's entire foundation came off so hollow and shuck. Once you got down to it (and saw Zappa's fame grow to superstardom with the release of such records as JOE'S GARAGE), he was nothing but a guy who did have a flare for the guitar true, but who was more or less pushing certain buttons and trying to get reactions from his audience while tossing in a whole lotta the whole Lenny Bruce social content that Zappa undoubtedly crammed into his Sicilian beanie during his own formative years. The dark, more feral aspects of my listening pleasures were beginning to come to the forefront, and although I certainly was aware of and was championing the Velvet Underground, Patti Smith, Eno and whatever other spizz acts that I might have been aware of even with the depression-era wages I was earning they seemed to have more in common with me (as an alienated, disaffected ugly mid-amerigan kid) than Zappa and his ever-revealing self-oriented genius put-on schtick ever could. I did continue to play Zappa records on scant occasion, but merely for cheap amusement.

Still, I gotta admit that even though Zappa was a phony intellectual self-important guru of the Los Angeles "freak" scene who also fancied himself a "serious" composer, conductor and whatnot, I could never deny that his music had more than a few interesting zips and zings to it. Even with the guy's so pointed put downs of the up-and-coming underground rock of the seventies what could you say about a man whose first trip to CBGB was to see the Poppees in 1975??? And a guy whose band, at least in part, influenced such underground upstarts as MX-80 Sound, Manster and the Plastic People of the Universe? Besides, if Charles Shaar Murray can admit to liking him, maybe I shouldn't be so shy about saying that I do (at least a little smidgen bit, and only on a nostalgic level) as well!

I wrote up this Zappa/Mothers bootleg in one of those latterday telephone-book-sized issues of BLACK TO COMM...forget which one, but since even I haven't read that review in ages I thought maybe a new one for the digital era would be in order. Spanning the "classic" MOI years (1966-1973), TIME SANDWICH also has great sound quality especially considering these tapes' age and a nice deluxe kinda cover not only with a centerfold fulla MOTHERMANIA outtakes but a snap of Zappa with the good looking enough GTO's. No GTO's here, but the selection of material and performances is enough to have this once-Zappa maniac shriek about why it took so long for this stuff to come out because I sure woulda loved to've heard this racket back when I was a lot more interested in Zappa and his chain of command (which I am just as interested in now as I was then...Beefheart, Buckley, Alice...) to the point of incomprehensible obsession!

FREAK OUT standby "I'm Not Satisfied" recorded at the Fillmore in May of '66 showcases the original Mothers band making me wonder if that's actually Elliot Ingber doing all of that great guitar playing 'stead of Zappa. Vocals do not sound like Zappa nor Ray Collins for that matter. Maybe the tape was sped up a bit but even with the misfire self-pitying lyrics the song does "satisfy" in a mid-sixties West Coast kinda way, almost sounding like one of those early Grateful Dead numbers from the same period before success and other things began frying the group's braincells to the point of worthlessness.

Two years later the Mothers were back at the Fillmore for a strange HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL spoof vaguely dealing with incest (I wasn't paying attention that hard) and "Call Any Vegetable" which sounds a lot like the Flo and Eddie-period take on JUST ANOTHER BAND FROM LA than it does the ABSOLUTELY FREE original. Always thought that one was just a toss off anyways and a great target misser when it came to any legit form of satire. But that stuff always did sound better at age 16 than it did 17, which is probably another reason why ABSOLUTELY FREE hasn't exactly been getting top spin time here at BTC central.

The rest of TIME SANDWICH is taken up by tracks from the third Mothers incarnation, the jazz rock one that pretty much pushed Zappa to the forefront of the DOWN BEAT polls and got him on tee-vee a lot more often than he had been. By then a lot of the original fans of the group seemed to have dropped off by the wayside or so I would get the impression. I do recall Phast Phreddie complaining about how Zappa went jazz in the first issue of BACK DOOR MAN, though Jymn Parrett was still impressed enough not only to create that spiffy Zappa drawing for the back cover of DENIM DELINQUENT #1 but positively review LIVE AT THE ROXY AND ELSEWHERE for the fifth issue of his hallowed rag (complete with a live snap taken from a local show!). As for me...well, I really liked the Roxy album and these tracks reminded me of why I did. After all, the jazz rock thingie was pretty big during the day and I, ever on the lookout for new listening experiences kinda took to this period of Zappa's music because it still had a modicum of energy, jazz flash and even some high-larious moments. (Take Zappa's preamble to "Cheepniz" on ROXY regarding the same kinda z-grade sci-fi movies that have thrilled Saturday Afternoon Barbershop Kids for nigh over fiftysome years now.)

Hokay, I thought the take of "BeBop Tango" recorded somewhere in Canada was a dull "audience participation" number filled with way too many in-jokes like the original, but this new band (filled with some of the wankiest wienerdogs who would go off to smooth fusion and disco before the seventies were over) actually cooks well enough on the various "Dog Breath Variations" and get into an interesting-enough funk-rock groove on "The Tango" which is not "BeBop Tango" revisited but sounds like a Funkadelic concept of the Processiest Order. Closing out the festivities is "Dupree's Paradise Lounge" which is totally different than all of the other versions I've heard legit or not...this one's about some rank-y hangout where the jazz guys go and try to jam to "Bye Bye Blackbird" only it all comes out an atonal stew! Gotta say that it all sounds professional enough and even without the overdubbed studio gimmickry of ROXY AND ELSEWHERE it holds up well, maybe even better. Though I have to admit I sure missed that whacky effect that they stuck into the legal version of "Penguin in Bondage"...Zappa may have liked live albums, but he knew when to fancy 'em up a bit!