Saturday, February 21, 2009


Yes, despite anemia, writer's block, lethargy and gale-force winds emanating from my backside due to an overindulgence in sugar-free candies (Brad Kohler and Don Fellman have noticed growing rectal-oriented concerns not only on the blog but in my everyday conversation...have you???), I continue to soldier on to give you what I hope will be a halfway decent weekend post that might enlighten a few of you dear do WHAT I do not know, but enlighten you it will. I must apologize for my generally dour mood but it has been rather mediocre around here as of late with nothing totally inspiring crossing my eyeballs or earlobes for that matter, so for the most part I've had to dig into my eons-old archive of fanzines/books/music to help lift me outta whatever Winter doldrums/ennui I've been thrust into as of these past few days. Even then I haven't totally been successful...por ejemplo the recently-arrived volume of PLASTIC MAN reprints that I have been reading thanks to a revived interest in the old Quality Comics line (eventually to be absorbed by DC) just didn't light my buns like I had hoped it would, though at least the arrival of a number of old ROCK SCENEs (see below) have. Which is why I am writing about the latter and not the former today, but hopefully once I get outta my not-so-grand funk I'll be able to "get back into the swing of things" the same way a twelve-year-old boy gets into a recently found cache of NATIONAL GEOGRAPHICs with pix of hula gals.

Before I ramble on with the rest of today's proceedings, let me clue you in to a nice li'l website I discovered recently. JUNK SHOP GLAM (se link up @ left) is the name of this obsessive site which is dedicated to a lotta the same glam rock weirdies that people like Robin Wills of PUREPOP fame have been plugging for quite a long time, and for a guy who kinda grew up thinking that, like Charlotte Pressler once said, glam was more or less like a fart at a formal dinner (there I go again with the rectal remarks!) and nothing much to get all hot and nostalgic about, I've finally discovered that the glam slam bams that were coming out of England at the time were pretty much up to my rock & roll standards of snuff if not at-times downright knockabout. And, like the Stoogies, Electric Eels and sundry others over here inna US of Wha'? many of these bands paved the way for the onslaught of crankout cheapazoid aggregations in the late-seventies making that era so exciting especially in the face of such kultural turds as John Travolta and Melissa Manchester. If PUREPOP or Johan Kugelberg's own glam rundown in the latest UGLY THINGS ain't enough to satiate your savage boobies, give these guys a try. Of course, after scrolling down the page and finding a whole buncha writing having to do with KRISHNA CONSCIOUSNESS I was kinda having second thoughts about adding this 'un to my list of recommended sites...I mean, Krishna????? Well, if Che Guevara can make a comeback I guess anyone can.

Enuff o' the free plugs 'n onto the meat:

SLAPP HAPPY-SORT OF CD (Voiceprint Japan)

Here's one that brings back memories...maybe some no so pleasant memories but memories nonetheless of the 1982-1986 rock & roll season back when it seemed as if alla those great seventies rock kicks that I never did wash outta my system were getting harder to find and I certainly was the poorer for it. Anyway what drove me to pick this "rock in opposition" album up, and at a time when most any form of what would have been considered "progressive" or "Import Bin" music was a strict no-no, was a come on via THE NEW MUSIC DISTRIBUTION SERVICE catalog (the edition which had the Soviet Realism-styled painting of a couple of Young Pioneers, probably used to express solidarity with the Sandalistas) which pegged SORT OF as having a distinct Velvet Underground flavor about it. I don't recall exactly what it said since said catalog got dumped in one of my many bedroom cleanup purges o'er the years (perhaps some of you still have it and could forward me the exact quote) but during a time when Velvetisms in rock were slowly but surely degenerating into pallid suburban mewls I needed to get my fix any way I could and in the strongest doses imaginable which is why I promptly sent for SORT OF amongst a bevy of hot underground rock and jazz wares that would probably cost me quadruple the money I poured down a rat hole for 'em back during those rather misspent years. And y'know what? I was let down, in fact way down hoping to have latched onto another WHITE LIGHT WHITE HEAT and getting what I considered a fluffy Euro arty-fru fru platter in its stead. Really, if I wanted to hear the Velvets filtered through artistic sentimentality and uppercrust-class consciousness there were tons of amerindie singles to choose from at the time, and at a lesser cost at that!

Shows what a stoop I coulda been, because a long time after this purchase a Mr. Jon B of Bumfink California actually wrote in to BTC central to tell me so saying that elpee opener "Just a Conversation" (or was it side two opener "Blue Flower"?) was perhaps one of the best usages of the Velvets template in 1972, a year where very few acts were acknowledging any sort of Velvetisms in any way/shape/form which was really saying something. Fine enough impetus to thusly grab my copy of SORT OF I must say, and spin it I did pretty much agreeing with the man even if the platter lacked what I considered the pure mid-Amerigan punkitude of a Hackamore Brick or especially Mirrors. And as time lurches on and we've seen way too many superficial and sewing-thread-thin applications of the Velvet Underground "influence" under the guise of alternative and just plain midclass precocious stylings, these early VU piss-takes and downright homages seem to have even more relevance and meaning now that onetime rarities like Mahogany Brain are now readily available and I can finally see that all of those claims about the Velvets being the most influential group of the seventies weren't just wishful thinking at the hands of a load of frustrated rockcrit wannabes who seemed to speak for all of us frustrated rockism weirdos, at least way back when.

So it's 2009 and while I'm not gonna go out on a limb and say that you NEED this album, I will say that it sure pleases a lot better than it had especially after being hit with the ravages of time and loads of bad music being passed off as "innovation". Thankfully a good portion of SORT OF does sound like an attempt at the Great Amerigan Rock Album seventies-style perhaps thanks to Peter Blegvad's uberwrought singing while Dagmar Krause sounds better'n she did on those later Lotte Lenya imitations she was doing. Anthony Moore fits into the overall Slapp Happy mode as well even if I think that "I Got Evil" sounds like Herman Munster's rendition of "The Foot Bone's Connected to the Leg Bone" but I guess it seemed like an OK idea when he was recording it. At times SORT OF sounds Velvets by way of early Roxy Music, at others by Faust which would obv. figure considering their involvement, and although it doesn't quite hit the higher echelons of pure rock & roll pleasure the way I hoped it would I sure find myself spinning this 'un a good twice nightly. And I rarely do anything like that especially since I'm trying to cram as many different styles of soundscapading into my brain before it all goes down via the Next Great Purge. A nice surprise, especially when the band suddenly skips back ten years into English instrumental rock on the title track which I'll bet startled more than a few space heads back inna day!
ROCK SCENE MAGAZINE (newstand rag circa 1973-1982)

Here's another one of those mags that I used to peruse at the racks back when I barely had a few dimes to rub together and a trip to the local shopping mall with at least five bucks in my hands could get me a couple cut outs and a roll of Certs, not to mention a lotta edjamacational time leering at alla those import albums that I couldn't afford no matter how many pennies I was able to scrape up from between the davenport cushions. But it was always fun to get an eyefulla this particular periodical amidst the CREEMs and CRAWDADDYs that were calling out for my hard-begged, and looking back from a good thirty-year-plus vantage point I can just see how special and high energy the seventies really were despite the presence of boring hippoid singer/songwriters and disco because ROCK SCENE really knew how to present the concept of rock music (as this high-energy force in our otherwise drab lives) for even the pimpliest of mid-Amerigan blubberbutts just begging to appear in some upcoming photo spread with the likes of David, Lenny and Cyrinda.

Jeff Jarema's long-gone HERE 'TIS fanzine had an excellent rundown on ROCK SCENE (complete with a Lisa Robinson interview!) in one of his final issues back in the distant nineties but until you can latch onto that at least bear w/my heartfelt passion re. the wonders of this oft-tossed about rag (see CRETINOUS CONTENTIONS for Crescenzo Capece's acrid denunciation). Believe-you-me, ROCK SCENE was a real doozy to lend orbs to back in those depression-era wages days for not only did it feature loads of pix of those groups that most of the big name publications seemed to lend patronizing off-time to (ROLLING STONE obv. comes to mind), but it made these young up-and-comers out to be just as big as stars as the real life hitmakers whose photos got to rub shoulders with the likes of these brash upstarts in ROCK SCENE's overtly-biodegradable pages. It also presented rock & roll not as this communal spiritual reawakening to some of the more baser emotions in man (like wallowing in mud and seeing God in every scam artist perusing the sidewalks of Haight-Ashbury) but as this sleek teenage-decadent suburban brat decade-long party that was going on at CBGB or Max's or wherever your new fave band was recording their debut album soon to hit the racks and bargain bins at your fave local record hole. Real teenage stuff, or at least teenage as in this honest ideal and not the school/homework/extracurricular activities life that parents push upon their progeny because they think it's "healthy" when the healthiest thing these kids coulda done was form some band that made a racket to put "Sister Ray" to shame!

I sometimes get overwrought about things like this, perhaps because I spent my teenage years looking up to the prime movers of music rather than try to be one no matter how much ridicule might have been bestowed upon me for doing so. But enough of that...the reason I like these ROCK SCENEs is because they represent everything I like about the seventies from those hot new and exciting bands (who at the time seemed like one of the highest, most noble concepts to be bestowed upon the music listenership of this world) to the club scenes they worked and the energy they gave us with their latest forty minutes of prime popping power. To some the seventies will always be a decade of bland music and tiresome gulcher, but for me it represents an era of television in its second Golden Age, movies that were pretty bared-wire and rock & roll music that seemed to be teetering on the edge of some precipice just waiting to tumble over into infinity, the ultimate extent of the promise the Velvets gave way too many of us back in the sixties come to fruition. And, like the best fanzines of the time and the thousands of punk records that existed even before the punk name became part of the vocab, ROCK SCENE documented it in the brightest, fullest way possible.

True you get the usual bigstar plugs and whatziz that you got elsewhere and continue to get in a wide array of glossy egostroke mags, but at least when you see someone like Dame Elton John backstage at some ritzy gig there was a good chance that ROCK SCENE perennials Patti Smith or Cyrinda Fox (not to mention chief brains behind it all Richard and Lisa Robinson) were lurking about somewhere. And that's good enough for me because there's no other way you'd get me to look at that flitzy goon's face other'n if Patti was in the shot! But hey, what better way for us peons to get a taste of the bigtime than watching the guys in Kiss at some party chumming it up with Lenny Kaye, or the (usedta be New York) Dolls celebrating the bicentennial at Max's live onstage with...Mick Ronson?

One of the more "informative" portions of ROCK SCENE was their new band section where up and comers just barely out of their knotty pine basements would send their snaps to the mag in the hope of getting some national attention and maybe that elusive recording contract! Dunno how many of the groups who did get their mugs printed in this section actually got a call from Clive Davis himself in request of a demo tape, but you kinda get the feeling that those hefty bearded guys from the wastelands of Ameriga who lucked out and got into the pages of this mag were just anticipating that all-important phone call just any second now! Naturally I like reading this portion of the mag to get a look at the bands more up my alley who got their fifteen minutes, and perhaps a few more as time went by. The Harlots of 42nd Street got not just one but TWO snaps in the new bands section (as did at least one spinoff, Lollipop), while Frankenstein and the Dead Boys (the pre-bass guitar quartet version) got the double treatment as well. As for a top fave such as Crime...well, they got their snap in there as well with a caption that tells us that they come off a lot like the Tubes! A lotta those groups whose monikers you used to see on old CBGB and Max's listings also pop up frequently, and not surprisingly enough they all looked average runna-the-mill which I guess proves that some groups weren't on the lookout for the outrage, which is good in its own way! Heck, I even recall seeing a snap of no wave obscurities the Communists who sported Amish girl turned punkette Iolsa Hatt as their vocalist (she later of Kongress before Marilyn took over the vocal spot), and it seems as if even Byron Coley and Thurston Moore weren't aware of this bit of info when they were doing their no wave book so you can expect to come across some real obscuros if you peruse even one lowly issue of this rag!

Unfortunately by the time the rowdy seventies had well crept over into the timid eighties it was easy to see that the party was over, and with once-innovative groups either disbanding, going into hiding or hitting the big time with generally subpar sputum perhaps a magazine like ROCK SCENE would have been an anachronism. That's probably the only reason the mag went kaput around the same time that Max's Kansas City folded and Lester Bangs deep-sixed himself giving credence to the concept of "era's end". Funny, I coulda used a mag like ROCK SCENE tremendously during those rather pallid times, only I coulda used an actual music scene conduit to the continuation of such a publication which is why it was perhaps best for the thing to fall by the wayside the way it did lest they cater to the generally squeaky-clean, rock-video-bred music that era is known for. But in other ways it really was too bad that such a good over-the-counter periodical got the ax while horrid reads like the execrable ROLLING STONE continue on and on to corrupt impressionable dunces, but worse things have happened in this once wild and woolly world of rock & roll and the fact that it hasn't all fallen into the ocean must serve as some sorta testament to the form's ultimate staying power, no matter how weak that may seem at times.

So if you wanna know what rock & roll was really about just latch onto a buncha old issues of ROCK SCENE and CREEM pre-'76 issues as well as just about any good fanzines from the era you can find, and I'm sure you'll get a different view of just what r/r meant to more than just a few teenage maniacs out there than you would reading any issue of STONE or its myriad assortment of imitators. And if ya go broke buying up all the recordings these groups put out don't come crying to me...I'm still trying to figure out a way to categorize my entire magazine/book collection in order to gain easy access in case I need to find out something regarding Savage Rose at the drop of a hat!

A recent review of GOD BLESS THE RED KRAYOLA AND ALL WHO SAIL WITH IT on the RISING STORM blog had me digging out my copy of that longtime "minimalist" fave, which in this case had been coupled with the group's debut International Artists album which is no slouch itself. Naturally (for sure, absolutely, without question) both of these albums are so ingrained into the canon of underground rockism that writing about them yet again would merely be beating a dead lang into the ground, but a word to the wise should suffice when I tell you that you might wanna opt out for the Spalax reissues of both disques separately considering the rather dull sound quality (sounds like they got their "masters" straight off some late-seventies Radar reissues which sounded positively better than this 'un) plus the fact that the first album was truncated from here to Bizoo and back in order to fit both albums on one platter. I don't have that much more hope for the domestic Collectables two-on-one either. If someone out there can tell me whether or not it's worth the import prices to get the Spalax digipacks or not please let me know in the comment box provided, because both of these proto-whatever psychopunk platters are deserving of more than just another slapdash reissue that sounds about as clear as a cheap cassette job dating back to 1980!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yeah, ROCK SCENE! I wish someone would publish a book of just the "New Bands" pages...I dig all those mid-west lumberjacks trying to look like The dolls!