Saturday, December 05, 2009

'TIS THE SEASON FOR THE LACK OF REASON (no jokes you lousy atheists you!)

Sheesh. I remember when I was six and I wanted to play a Christmas record on December 2nd, and my mother blurted out a definite "no" to that because that was way too early to do so and one wouldn't want to look like a doof now, would they? Hadda wait until the tenth or so (and I did!), though that didn't stop my sis and I one July when nobody but us were home from spinning a whole buncha Holiday albums on the hottest day of the year creating our own "Christmas in July" so to speak! (When you're a kid, that's considered "living dangerously"!) How times have changed...nowadays it seems as if the X-mas season starts in earnest the day after Thanksgiving at the latest and by this time of the year I'm already sick to death of whatever's left of the "Holiday Spirit", usually washed away to nothing thanks to the real-life scrooges who seem so miserable that they want everyone else to be just as they are!

But I still do have those great memories of Christmases past, especially spending a whole lotta that gift money on albums while hitting the shopping malls and record shops during the days twixt December 25th and New Year's. The Christmas buying season of 1976 seemed like perhaps the most fruitful, if not memorable year for record shopping...I mean, the buying season started off on a good note with the acquisition of MUSIC TO EAT the Sunday prior, but after more of that filthy lucre ("dosh" to all of you pseudo-socialist Britishers) greased my palms I recall snatching everything from the live Monty Python album (the import version on Charisma complete with a "Peters International" sticker still emblazoned on the front) to AN EVENING WITH WILD MAN FISHER (which at that time was an out-and-out rarity and a dream-come-true to find!) amongst a few others whose names escape me now. Probably because within a few years they ended up in the big "sell" pile heading towards the record trade-in stores in Cleveland Heights but I digress. I also remember when the local Radio Shack had suddenly acquired a great number of rare cutouts and I was pondering whether or not to buy that cassette of the Association's WATERBEDS IN TRINIDAD not to mention both of Savage Rose's American releases which I hadn't seen before and probably would not see for quite a long time. Passed on all which even to this day kinda steams me a bit!

But enough of my joyful recollections of Christmases past (if you have any good 'uns yer free to write in!)'s just that compared to what passes for a holiday season today the old-time Christmases were pretty hot celebrations where a kid had a lot to look forward to as far as sating his unquenchable desire for cookies, snack foods (I was especially partial to cold pack port wine cheddar spread thickly on Triscuits) and of course those good old consumerist items the holiday is supposed to strive against! And yeah, I also miss those crappy syndicated Christmas specials and even the occasional showing of Laurel and Hardy's BABES IN TOYLAND (which I hope WGN decides to air this year after forgetting about it for quite some time) and naturally I miss all of those great toys (which my father would repeatedly refer to as "cheap plastic junk"!) that sorta represented what it meant to be a pudge suburban kid with a strong materialistic streak.

Of course the thing I don't miss is that depressing down and out feeling of having to get back to school...frankly there's nothing as defeatist as returning to the local dungeon during the ice-cold days of January after having a good two weeks of fun and merriment sans the typical stress and strain of having to associate with teachers or even those assholes that are being passed off as students. Yeah, I know you can't choose your family or your classmates or even your teachers, but thankfully you can choose which kind of pill will make you forget the degradation of the past six (eight or more if you are dutifully employed) hours.

Why did I write the above ramble-on revelations of a past that you could care less about and even I would like to forget at times? To pad this otherwise pitiful post out, that's why! But still every word is (almost) true, and even though I am well past the age where Christmas is a magical time of year for families to get together for parties with kids causing trouble (fave prank, turning on all the lights so the fuse would go out!) all I gotta say is...sure could use a few Corgi Toys (even Dinky Toys, which I fact prefer!) in my stocking this year, and I know you can too!

As you can see from the rest of this post there ain't that many pickings to choose from right now. I might just splurge on an order from FORCED EXPOSURE once I get my Christmas shopping outta the way, and hey Bill if you're reading this yeah I did get a new Cee-Dee player so any burns you might want to send my way would be more than welcome! Otherwise I'm gonna hafta wait for a few ebay winnings to roll in if only to sate your thirst, and I do have a few interesting shards of reading material you might be interested in (not enough for a "Fanzine Fanabla" but still worthy of mention at least on my blog!). Until then suffer along and just hope that somehow the Christmas Spirit will zonk me into throes of unbridled goodie goodkins as the days roll on!
The Big Fat Pet Clams From Outer Space-A WASTED LIFE PART ONE (1978-1989) CD (available through CD Baby)

I guess that when all is said and done someone's really gonna hafta do the ultimate in-depth history of underground punk concerns in the late-twentieth century, and when they do they're probably gonna denote the end of the seventies p-rock era to (more/less) be not January first of 1980, but perhaps a few more years down the line. I'd ponder that the seventies punk era was truly dead right around the time Max's closed up or when all of those seventies punk groups began breaking up and/or getting boring, and although it wasn't like there was some great defining moment that cut off punk era #4 from #5 or so you could say that the creeping encroachment of not only the hardcore punk movement but the transformation of new wave into gnu wave as Bill Shute put it. Of course we better not forget that the garage band/psychedelic English fop revival also more/less helped kill off the same movement that all three of these genres sprang. But for a guy like me who in 1982 could easily enough remember 1979 I sure could see the change happening in front of my ears, and although I knew that things hadda change and we are supposed to evolve and move on I sure wish that the seventies sound and style had stuck around a little longer...without pussying out like it did that is!

In many ways the Big Fat Pet Clams From Outer Space seem to typify the kind of groups that were still running of seventies underground gas fumes who were proliferating the underground clubs of the early/mid-eighties. Y'know, those bands that were still around playing in a seventies mindset in an eighties world and getting wooshed over by the press and fans for their troubles. There were a number of bands like them around most not making any relative sort of splash, though thanks to the kindness of CBGB owner Hilly Kristal the Clams were getting a load of gigs at his dive and he even went as far as to produce some tracks of theirs that appear on this retro collection of long-forgotten Big Fat Clams material! It's a platter that's not only for the merely curious but even the downright rabid aficionados would probably want to give at least a cursory listen to it because A WASTED LIFE's sure better than the bar band rep this group had tagged on 'em by some downright "effete" rockcrits and what do they know about rock as a low-fidelity dunce thud form of expression anyway?

Yeah, I remember a few people out there putting the Clams down in print and when I tuned in to see 'em perform during the closing festivities at CBGB they didn't exactly light my buttocks, but rock crit Rick Johnson of CREEM fame (OK, not exactly my favorite of the batch probably made worse by the way that mag tried to make him their replacement Lester Bangs) actually had a nice thing to say about 'em, I believe in the course of a Flesheaters review so perhaps there was some redeeming value to whatever brand of rock & roll they were slapping up! And although these guys will never win over the serious upper-crustier-than-thou crowd I like 'em the same way I like the groups on those various CBGB live compilations that seemed like instant douse to all the crits but kinda down-home and basic enough for me and my naturally simpler tastes!

Hailing from Asbury Park NJ, I guess that you could draw comparisons between the Pet Clams and both Springsteen and Southside Johnny, but only if those two acts were as true to their supposed sixties roots as they would want you to believe and didn't use 'em as a springboard for their various blue collar tough guy poses. Def. smart refs. re. "Harlem Nocturne" and the Young Rascals/Long Island sound with a few 1980 underground hard-pop moves not uncommon to the terrain tossed in, and its all sung by a vocalist who might have the working class tough guy feeling a la Springsteen down but does it in a way that you know he's gotta get up five tomorrow morning to go to work! No cocaine and champagne for these New Joisey toughs nohow!

OK, so it might be nothing special to you but I find that these Clams from Outer Space sure belie their gimmicky name and drummed up some sounds that, while not part of any early-eighties vanguard in rock & roll, are way more interesting, more engaged than what that same vanguard eventually devolved into. The Clams far surpass whatever reputation that's preceded them, and they might just be good enough a reason for me to give their other wares (also available via CD Baby) a try, though for some reason I doubt I'll be able to...there's a recession going on y'know!

UGLY THINGS #29 (okay, so maybe it still is a fanzine after all!)

Boy did I make out like a bandit in today's mail haul! Look what I got...three vintage issues of HELP magazine (with Tom Poston, Will Jordan and Jim Hampton, the last one obv. from a post-Gloria Steinem issue, on the covers) and oh yeah...the latest issue of a certain magazine that's just happened to be called UGLY THINGS. Now which shall I read first, those classic early-sixties issues of what was perhaps Ameriga's funniest magazine (even more so than MAD at its prime or NATIONAL LAMPOON at their more scabrous?) or this UGLY THINGS 'un. Now which of the pair is more important....hmmmm? Talk about a dilemma to end all dilemmas!

Well, I waited forty-eight years for those HELPs so I guess I can wait a little while longer! So it's YOU I'm devoting my evening funtime hours to UGLY THINGS! And what a better way to while away the hours while listening to everything from seventies loft jazz to seventies Velvet Underground emulations than pouring through an issue of what has to be the only (forget MOJO) magazine (SHINDIG could use a few dancing lessons!) that's worth the time and effort (is ROCK & RAP CONFIDENTIAL still being published and should anyone care???) this late in the evolutionary cycle.

If you think I read through the entire shebang in one sitting and will thusly give a detailed report of what's in store you are mistaken...actually I'm still reading issue #3 for pertinent bits of info that will be debunked by the time I get to #10 so I'll just breeze through this and fill you in on what I would consider to be the juicy bits you'd probably want to know more about before laying your hands on a copy. Cover features the Masters Apprentices who were a boffo band as anyone who can remember the underground hype when their albums were originally reissued in the early-eighties can tell you, and the story enclosed would make a good novel only Stax is too KIND to let us suffer like that. Can't wait until I get to that part where the bass player receives a special treat from an overanxious fan when he strolls a little too close to the end of the stage!

Not only that, but there are heaping hunks of stories on the likes of the Fenmen, Wildflowers (the San Francisco band, not the pre-Soft Machine bunch with the diff. spelling) and a tasty bit on the group Stepson who sound like they could be another hard rock winner even if I suspect they're just more early-seventies metallic fluff (though I am willing to give 'em a chance!). The Imperial Dogs piece was so good that I'll even go as far as to say that all of those twats who used to slam author Tim Stegall back in the eighties are just a buncha jerkoffs (as if any of 'em are still around...), and the Sky Saxon obit (and massive rundown of his solo recording days) was a nice sendoff to a man who never did make it as big as he thought he was. I only wish that Stax would have mentioned that interview he did where Sky implored him to change the name of his rag to UGLY AND BEAUTIFUL THINGS! I still chuckle at that all these years later.

Other highlights include Phil Milstein's article on the creation of that Nico "bootleg" EP from 1980 and his personal involvement in dealing with the "Ice Goddess" (better yet "Ice Bitch") in securing the rights, as well as a page of those one-line toss off reviews that Greg Prevost did for his FUTURE fanzine which were good, but not as good as the ones BACK DOOR MAN did around the same time (I mean, where do you think Prevost got the idea for 'em anyway?). No disrespect meant to Prevost, but BACK DOOR MAN really went over the top with their toss-off dismissals of the then-current hack music that was so in demand!

And talking about reviews must I tell ya once again that all of 'em, whether they be of DVD's, books, fanzines (what's left that is!) or recorded sounds are tantalizing enough to make me forfeit at least a good month's pay just so's I can lend ear to just a small portion of the things (though I won't due to personal restraint...drat!).

One thing I would like to know...wha' 'app'd to magazine prime mover Johan Kugelberg? His absence sticks out worse than a chancre on a whore's lip and I for one sorely miss his twice-yearly attempts to educate us hoi polloi with various under-the-carpet rarities we've seemed to miss lo these many years. I'll betcha he got into a fight with Stax and left the rag post-haste! Sheesh, and I thought I was the only one petty enough to do something like that! Or maybe he was too busy with that Velvet Underground book of his which I might snatch up one of these days, like when it's remaindered poor boy that I am!

Oh and btw if you're wondering why I didn't contribute anything to the current issue it's because I felt that whatever I could do for this magazine would ultimately pale next to the hard work and effort everyone else involved pours into this labor of luv, and besides my contributions have been utter crap anyway. I don't want to soil Mr. Stax's utmost efforts with my piddle and besides, the only reason that I was doing the little bitty things for the mag was because I wanted to get my issues FREE!!!! Turns out that even though I didn't do anything for this 'un Mr. Stax, out of the kindness of his heart (I guess he has one!) sent me one gratis anyway to which I say "THANKS MIKE!!!" Either that or Mike sends them to me if I don't contribute in the same fashion that farmers are paid not to grow rutabagas by the government and if that's so then I am the recipient of welfare of the most fandom-oriented variety of which I am not proud!

But anyway, this is my prima facie opinion of the latest UGLY THINGS, and if I hadda write it a month from now it'd probably read a whole smokin' lot different. But first impressions usually are the best, and going by that you have another winner here Mike keep it up and don't forget to write, except if you need money!
Before we part here's a real blast from the past! Remember the big blasting cap/explosives scare of the v. late-sixties when grade-school English class magazines, teachers and television personalities alike were telling us to avoid picking them up lest we get a few limbs blown off, and that if we do happen to see any lying around the school yard to call the authorities post haste? I sure do, and I always wondered how these things got loose into the general public to the point of them being such a nusiance, believing that perhaps they were bizarre acts of God that just magically sprang from thin air pretty much in the same fashion Cher thought Mount Rushmore was a natural occurance! I was sooo confused! Anyway, here's a PSA which I and presumably you vaguely remember featuring "baseball great" as they say Willie Mays who warns us that whatever we do, don't "taste" those blasting caps! Call a policeman, or a fireman, whatever it is! Have fun with these (baseball equipment), and not with these (blasting caps)!!! Remember, don't taste them!

(As you can see, this video has only recently been taken down for whatever reasons I do not know. I will strive to replace this with an up and working one once it becomes available, but let me tell is a whale of a PSA!)


Jeremy Cargill said...

Stepson is worth'uh spin, Chris! It's not solid-gold, but the guitar tone alone is worth admission. Some decent tunes too...

If yer in'ta such'uh medium, you an DL the album here:

I'd be remiss if I didn't do'uh bitta self-congratulating, as this UT was the first issue I served as Assistant Editor on and it's brimmin with killer kontent. More Masters goodies'ta come. I'd hafta ask Mike, but I presume Johan's been busy, he contributed sumthin'uh and issue er two back on Glam obscurities if'n I recall...

Anonymous said...

I can take or leave the Savage Rose albums (although they might sound better on cassette on a cheap portable player than they did/do on my stereo), but WATERBEDS is not worth owning, so you did not miss anything there.
For me, JK was always a weak link in UT. When he strayed away from punk, he was not as knowledgeable as he believed he was...And the patronizing, asshole-ish tone did not help matters any.


Gary said...

Can I link to the clams review? I pretty much agree with what you wrote. We put out "Wasted" pretty much for the reasons you describe.
If you really want to hear some other stuff, I'll send you some cds
if you tell me where to ship them.
Gary Applegate

Gary said...

Can I link to your Clams review?
I think you nailed it pretty good. There is not much I would argue with.
If you really want to hear some more Clam stuff, I'll ship you some cds if you tell me where to send them.
I must say, that in those few paragraphs, I got a sort of spooky deja-vu for the lower east-side in 1979. It's wierd to read someone else writing about something that you lived through as well I guess.
Anyway thanks for the article,we put out "Wasted" as a kind of historical document... to say "hey we were there too!"
Good Job
Gary Applegate

Christopher Stigliano said...

Gary, thanks for the boffo words. Glad you appreciate the writeup, and if you wanna send me anything here's where to drop it off...701 North Hermitage Rd., Suite 23, Hermitage PA 16148!