Sunday, November 28, 2010


I must admit to you, after all these years, that at the time it was all happening I really wasn't up to snuff on the "first wave" of underground Cleveland rock groups as I shoulda been. Not that I didn't know they existed; after all names such as Rocket From The Tombs somehow stuck to the back of my beanie because I was a faithful follower of Jane Scott plus I do remember the surprising "Do You Remember Milk?" featurette that she wrote a good four years after their demise complete with an outtake from the photo session where the group posed amidst various advertising props and placards, but it ain't like I wasn't there soaking it up first hand like I sure wish I woulda. (Not that it was possible since well, at that time I hadda be home by dark and Cleveland is a good two hour drive away. And if one couldn't drive well then one was out of luck!)

What really got the first wave firmly embedded in my psyche was an article appearing in a Summer '79 issue of the old COVENTRY SHOPPING NEWS picked up at the just-as-old Drome in Cleveland which just happened to be penned by the former Stella Rayon herself Charlotte Pressler. It was an inspirational piece at that, all about one Serena WilliamS Burroughs where, as a pretext to a review of his then-unreleased EP for Mustard Records, Pressler detailed his own small but substantial part in context to the Cleveland first wave group Mirrors. In this page-long piece (which I sure wish I had in my possession now because that particular issue didn't survive the BIG BEDROOM CLEANING PURGE OF 1980!) Pressler mentioned how BurroughS used to sit in (age twelve) on Mirrors jams playing stylophone and echoplex as well as how he made his own guitar from the discards of the Japanese copy axes that Mirrors used (something which Craig Bell denied since he played a real-life Mosrite and the rest of the band's gear was supposed to be authentic) not forgetting his strumming on a toy Donnie and Marie plunker in yet another attempt to be further retro-garde. But what really grabbed my cajoobies about that particular piece was Pressler's dismay at the current "new wave" scene both in Cleveland and abroad which she felt was comparatively staid and lackluster compared with the first wave of groups which she dubbed "demonically intense"!

Wow...and I thought that the underground rock of that particular strata was pretty abstract and perpendicular in itself...after all this was a time when the Contortions were ruling the New York underground (and creating a legend for themselves even outside their own burgh) and clubs like Max's and CBGB were just brimming with underground acts of all stripes that seemed to have a certain streak of intensity that seemed unsurpassed, and if the rest of so-called civilization wasn't going to acknowledge that the spores of creativity and high energy that the Velvet Underground had splattered about hadn't finally come to fruition well I guess it was my duty to do so even if that meant having to drag my woeful generation to the banks of enlightenment by their permed 'dos if necessary! I used to be really rabid and missionary in my zeal regarding this low-fidelity fire music, and if you think I'm over the edge these days you shoulda seen me as a young upstart blabbermouth!

By the time the reality of the DEATH of late-seventies innovation began hittin' me somewhere in the early/mid-eighties (it seemed as if just about all of the fun and energy that was promised to us via rock & roll as that UNIVERSAL YOUTH LANGUAGE just vanished. Overnight in fact. Like there were still some new flashes like the hype (righteous or not...'s up to you) surrounding the Dream Syndicate and the Australian underground groups f'rexample, but the rest was more or less watered down substitutes for the real thing that might have been worth a attention only because there was nothing else there. That's where the Cleveland first wave comes in...these groups were working in a relative vacuum and at a time when the concept of original music groups was rather alien if not suicidal, but their fortitude and forthrightness made for something that I must admit was totally honorable! I know that might seem way too "gosh-it-all" Pollyannaish to you, but there was something about these groups playing sixties-derived rock for a seventies audience that really aspired to my sense of honor and propriety, and although you probably couldn't find less noble denizens in these groups their vision and guidance is something that helped pave the way for late-seventies atonal nihilism and for that maybe I should give 'em a salute, and not the New Jersey kind these bandmates have been given for nigh on thirty-five years already!

And maybe it is time somebody gave these groups their proper huzzah, and if nobody out there in the ultra-sophisticated and cliquish internet world is willing to do so then just leave it all to dear old me! But anyway to swipe a late-seventies cliche these were the only groups that mattered, at least in the Cleveland area and in the mid-seventies even if enemies of the rock like Anastasia Pantsios would want you to believe differently. They had the moves and sound down pat, and what's best distilled everything you and I like about rock & roll into one high energy throbfest that continues to have meaning long after the recent hoopla regarding spanking brand new flavor X has fallen out of fashion. And no, I think that nobody will be listening to recordings of these groups in whatever technological breakthrough arrives a hundred years from now, but then again do you think anyone will be champing at the bit regarding the latest Jay Hinman blather in a month let alone next year?

ROCKET FROM THE TOMBS (photo by Helen Linna courtesy Miriam): The only Cleveland First Wave act that at least got the publicity they deserved thanks to the kind heart of Jane Scott, a woman who did her duty for the cause of First Wavedom (and a good portion of the Cle Underground Upheaval) at least until Anastasia Pantsios told her to cool it lest she corrupt a generation of up-and-coming rockers away from the sainted strains of the Balzer Brothers and Berlin. Well, it sure seemed as if that's what happened and besides I've heard talk saying it was pure unadulterated FACT but really, Rocket From The Tombs were a group that was perhaps too good for the Cleveland clientele given their unabashed Christmas Tree-fueled high energy rock which certainly seemed out of place not only locally but in just about every other foxhole as well. Really, who else was playing high energy Detroit rock with heaping helpings of early-Velvet fury and drone in the mid-seventies anyway unless you wanna could Umela Hmota 3, and let's just say what chances had you to sneak behind the Iron Curtain to give 'em a listen?

Seems as if everybody out there knows diddly about the original "comedy"-period of the group (roughly June-November 1974), and in fact this very link might give you more information on 'em than has ever been disseminated before. From what I'd guess the original Rocket From The Tombs weren't that funny or maybe even that interesting for that matter but I'd rather discover this for myself. (After all, how many times have these pundits been dead wrong?) But this version is notable for having future country singer/comedian Charlie Weiner in it (he quit when the group started getting serious) and eventually a three-guitar line up with Peter Laughner, Glenn Hach and Chris Cuda, the latter who made his living in a Moody Blues cover band called City Heat in the mid-eighties.

The second version with the future Dead Boys Gene O'Connor and Johnny Madansky not forgetting bassist Craig Bell is the one which really flibbens the jib, and it is rather distasteful that this group has yet to be adequately eulogized on record given how both the bootlegs and legit items pretty much hop-scotch all over the place. Recommended are the extant WMMS broadcasts which I'm sure survive in a few thousand collections hovering in a closet near you complete with Peter Laughner's pre-DIY scene comments and Darwin Layne's yelp of "that's right!" What's NEEDED is a thorough scouring of the Crocus Behemoth vaults for examples of both versions of Rocket presented chronologically with detailed notes and (most of all) NO REPEATS other'n different takes on already guaranteed classics. I think we've all waited long enough to hear the likes of "Gasoline", "Rich Bitch", "Remake/Remodel" and of course "Redline" for that matter, so what's keeping you Crocus?
MIRRORS: Talk about dark and guttural urban sound scrank! Although denizens of the early-seventies these Cleveland aficionados of the form certainly helped set the stage for the under-the-underground shades and dark clothing hard-drive of the late-seventies that seemed to permeate the lower echelons of what was known as punk rock (in the best 1970 CREEM definition) before it all fluttered away into new wave silliness. The unfortunate thing about Mirrors is that what is known about them today's from their more structured sixties pop-influenced repertoire whilst their feeding from the font of the harder musics of that time, the Velvet Underground circa WHITE LIGHT/WHITE HEAT, Hawkwind, early Eno, avant garde Stooges etc. is mostly shoved to the back. You've heard the stuff that passed the censor, now it's time for the real deal.

The only really indicative piece to get released at this point which captures the aforementioned "demonically intense" descriptor would be "She Smiled Wild", the flip of the group's posthumous single for chief enemy Pere Ubu's Hearthan label which really drives the group's hard-edged message home in a hail of metal splinters and guitar effects. Remaining unreleased are the group's 1971 tape which has 'em rushing through three Velvets standbys ("Run Run Run", "Ferryboat Bill" [which Imants Krumins remarked sounded more like the Velvet Underground than the Velvet Underground's original which to him sounded like Van Der Graaf Generator), "Foggy Notion" and the original "Sideways". There's the October '72 take of "Sweet Sister Ray" which has been circulating for quite awhile not to mention some live and rehearsal scrunch that captures Mirrors the way we like 'em. Keep an ear out for their cover of Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters' "Ejection" as well as the particularly atonal "Van Der Walls" which has the same riff the Electric Eels (see below) would later cop for "Flapping Jets".Not that the "legitimately released" Mirrors catalog is to be ignored, it's just that it doesn't reveal the group's true intentions to their fullest. Still they are a fine distillation of late-sixties teen pop and hard rock mixed together in a unique for the times brew with an influx of not only the Velvets at their straightest but the Los Angeles Sound (Love, Byrds, maybe even a li'l Buffalo Springfield) before that all went to hippie heaven. Beautiful music, but hey, does anybody out there know the truth about their "Blue Cheer-inspired" cover of "Louie Louie" that sent me on a wild phone call goose chase back in 1984? Even various ex-Mirrors members were totally blank about that one leading me to think this was nothing but an aural mirage...or was it?
THE ELECTRIC EELS: As far as the "proto-punk" group with the best foreshadowing as to what was going to happen re. the punk rock revival of the late-seventies goes, the Electric Eels had 'em all beat almost as much as Mirrors. Maybe even more. Not only were these guys a huge influence on everyone from the Dead Boys to Pagans but they retained a hefty nervegrate artistic punk outlook that would come into fashion with the arrival of NYC no wave and various other sundries that, oddly enough, were a reaction to the New York punk rock that was brewing around the same time the first wave groups were starting to play out. And although there were probably a dozen or so groups around the globe who had the same avant-punk snarl and approach as the Eels (Death come to mind) it was these Clevelanders who really put hard-edged snarl on the map, probably because they weren't anything one would want to mess around with given their penchant, gross bodily harm!

Thankfully a good portion of the Eels canon has been released on a number of vinyl and compact medium and although more than an "idea" of the sonic barrage can be discerned a lot is waiting to be revealed. I hope the archivists are still looking for a copy of "Razor Blade" which mesmerized Peter Laughner so, and the 1976 Eclectic Eels rehearsal tapes (outside our time scope since the first wave officially ended 9/20/75 with the final Mirrors/Eels concert which coincidentally debuted the Polistyrene Jass Band), with covers of the Sonics' "Strychnine" amongst various Eels favorites and John Morton doing a TROUT MASK REPLICA-inspired "In a Pig's Eye" deserve to be made available to more'n just an idle few. And Ex-Blank-Ex of course need to be revisited other'n on a HOMEWORK volume. Perhaps as the years roll on and the desire for such high energy rock grows beyond proportions these and many more will eventually rise to the surface but for now well, we can always grit our teeth in frustration!

MILK (photo by William Kinchey):Of course these guys never did get lumped in with the other three and for a good reason. In many ways Milk were part of another Cleveland scene, that of the power pop battalion which was getting some national press at the time thanks to the success of the Raspberries and a number of success-minded power pop people in the area. (It's no accident that Milk's first gig was at a high school opening for Circus of "Stop Wait and Listen" fame.) However, Milk-man Brian Kinchey soon to be Sands' musical vision was rather wide-ranging picking and snatching from everyone and everything from Tiny Tim to Frank Zappa to Marc Bolan to Bowie, which resulted in Milk's entire oeuvre being something that might have been a little too esoteric for a good portion of the kids who paid a good buck to go see 'em in a high school gym!

But what is important is that Milk, in their early incarnation as Moses ca. '69, were the first all-original music band to come outta Cleveland. Of course that would change when songs such as "Great Balls Of Fire" and "Instant Karma" were introduced into the setlist but it was Sands who had the vision and wherewithal to create such an act in the face of an ever-growing indifference in original sounds. And what is available re. their music from a low-fi cover of "Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat" to a medley of "Getting to Know You"/"Whistle a Happy Tune" (sung by bassist Dennis Carleton, the McCartney to Sands' Lennon or was it the other way around?) at least gives an idea of what else great was happening in the Cleveland rock underground in '73/'74 in case you need MORE.

One important function of Milk regarding the growth and development of a Cleveland underground scene was the fact that they were responsible for nurturing a couple of brothers who would make their mark on the scene within a few short years. Back when Milk had won a residency to play weekly at the Willoughby Ohio YMCA the Hudson Brothers, Brian and Michael, would come along and ask Brian and Dennis if their own group could use their instruments and perform during the Milk break, so to speak. This was all recounted in an interview with (I believe) Brian that was on-line a good five or six years ago but is now lost to the ether, but from what I can recall it was a hot story which ended with a gig where the brothers' group did something horrendous thus earning the ire of not only Milk but the folks at the YMCA...wish I could dial it up for you and while I'm at it wish I could remember what this group's name was because they too deserve a place on the first wave screech of approval and perhaps an archival album of their own!

An aside, one of the Milk shows at the YMCA survives in its entirety...Sands told me about its existence a good thirty years back and had been promising to "maybe" dub me a copy, something which had me palpitating from here to Parma and back to the point where I was acting especially eagle-eyed towards the mail box for a good portion of the year until I finally figured I was deluding myself! Oddly enough, the last time Brian and I were in touch in '97 he mentioned having finally found the tape and hinted around to him perhaps dubbing it for me, but I was kinda steamrollered over at that time to respond enthusiastically enough to prod him into dubbing this like maybe I should've. Hey Brian, I know you have a ton of your own records to sell before you can make any more, but howzbout doing something like making this tape available for download or pressing up a few CD-R's? I mean, I think the world has been more than anxious to hear the original version of the soon-to-be Pagans classic "Boy Can I Dance Good" for quite a long time already!
ALSO RANS: Do Cinderella Backstreet or any of those early Peter Laughner groups count? Given Laughner's insecurity over performing his rock numbers these cover acts might not quite fit in to the theme of this article. Or at least I get that strange feeling that they don't, so you be the judge. Still, I only wish that group he had planned one evening with Paul Marotta that would drink from the font of the Velvets and Mozart would have materialized, at least to produce some recorded evidence! I'd be tempted to include Tin Huey with these groups just for the fact that they were squiggling around in the same underground strata as Mirrors and Rocket From The Tombs, only they were stationed in Akron and once opened a show for Caravan at Case Western Reserve University which might disqualify 'em off the bat. The Paris Dream Band with Sue and Debbie from Cinderella's Revenge, Cindy Black from Cinderella Backstreet and Scott Krauss would also qualify if they only played out, and while I'm at it has anybody out there heard of Sublime Heat? Saw them mentioned once in a brief article whose author and source remain unknown which bemoaned the "sad" state of local Cle rock and brought up how this group along with Mirrors, the Eels and Tin Huey were gonna be the ones to save the local music scene. The fact that this "piece" ended with a lyrical quote from "Raw Power" also helps its status amongst hook-hitching people such as myself and makes me ponder if in fact this was some group conjured in the mind of said writer or in fact an actual living and breathing aggregate. And while I'm at it, what's the deal with SARAH BLUE?????

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Stooges-HAVE SOME FUN: LIVE AT UNGANO'S CD (Electra/Rhino Handmade)

Well we sure hadda wait a long time didn't we, like why couldn't this've manifested itself in 1977 when it woulda had a bigger impact on the frazzled brains of suburban youth who were a little more'n ticked off at Robin Trower. Really, this recording of the Stooges at the beginning of their 1970 FUNHOUSE tour live at the infamous New York hanger-outery Ungano's woulda made a dandy bootleg back then pressed on cheap vinyl with a paper insert, or better yet Skydog coulda put it out in one of their low-fidelity covers like they did with METALLIC KO complete with that wondrous European-styled budget sleeve design. Some enterprising young fan coulda done wonders with this tape!

As it is, the packaging is about as good as a major operation could get. The Leeeee Black Childers snap of Iggy flipping the fingers seen in that old Richard Robinson/Andy Zwerling ROCK SCENE book makes for a fine cover, plus the flip box package with inserts (including an actual mimicked clipping outta THE VILLAGE VOICE and some postcards) remind me of those old promos of the early-seventies only not as elaborate but at least getting the goods out to da people 'stead of the industry wonks! The enclosed poster even reproduces the bird-flipping cover in case you want to pin it up on the bedroom wall to send your parents a message, and not only that but on the other side's an essay on the show written by none other than Lenny Kaye! Did I ever tell you that when I was in my late-teens the one person I really wanted to look like in this world was Kaye???

The disque begins with a snippet of recording from the party which would record the show on a standard cassette of the day, with high-larious talk about whether or not Iggy was a member of the MC5 as well as his persona with one girl expressing disgust at his stage diving since in no ways would she want his cooties to get on her! The funniest part of this segment is when some guy describes Iggy as being a "baby Jagger" which I'm sure conjured up a whole load of bizarre images in these teens' beanies as to what was gonna be in store for 'em this evening!

Throughout the standard bootleg-quality recording is a band that sounds as if they're trying to get a bearing on their new material. The familiar FUNHOUSE numbers just barrel on; some might think that's because it's "under-rehearsed" but I prefer to think of it as the Stooges were tackling their material the way General Sherman tackled Georgia in his march to the sea. No holds barred attack here, and it sure is a pleasure hearing the FUNHOUSE show live and sounding fresh in its own way considering that Iggy was supposed to be thrice as wild on stage as his was in the studio.

The lack of "LA Blues" sending the listener into mind-boggled loathe of life is bound to upset those of you in for the purer aspects of the quest but don't fear...the addition of a new track entitled "Have Some Fun"/"My Dream is Dead" is bound to reach the upper echelons of Stooge mythology with its equally atonal bleat (thanks to Steve Mackay's boundless sax playing) and utter scraping above and beyond the ken of human comprehension. I wonder if this track (which starts off as a bizarre swipe of the Stooges' own "1969" riff) is in fact the legendary "Way Down in Egypt" showstopper during gestation? Whatever, this truly is avant garde jazz-rock that had just as much of an importance within the realm of the really new thing as much as Archie Shepp or Pharoah Sanders did, only it's being made by a buncha looped-out guys who were playing free jazz filtered through the hard rock explorations of the late-sixties bound to upset more than a few cultured DOWN BEAT-bred critics out there!

I'm sure there's more in the poop-chute waiting for release. Really, one only wonder whether any of those really early Stooges rehearsals survive let alone more of the FUNHOUSE-era gigs which were rumored to have been taped nightly in anticipation of a Stooges double live set of Budokan dimensions. Personally I believe it's all extant and bound to make it to our abodes with much fanfare and self-backpatting and at the most opportune time, like as soon as the record labels have milked their previous platters for all they can! I only hope that Rhino or Easy Action or one of those grey area labels gets this stuff out immediate-like now that the Stooge star is shining bright and you know it's a lot more salable'n the same retreads heard repeatedly ever since the first big Iggy putsch of early '77 had us all wondering...isn't that the baby Jagger who jumps in the audience and spreads his cooties???

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


I must have been about four or so...maybe even three...when I had this one. It takes place during the middle of the night, perhaps at the time I was dreaming this around four in the morning. There's a gathering of women in our parlor, mostly older women dressed as they did at the time, still kinda Mamie Eisenhowerish, as well as this one woman who looks suspiciously like an older cousin of mine who was then attending college (I remember her teasing me to no end like rubbing my balloons and sticking them on the ceiling so I couldn't get them back!). Only this woman looked more...cro-magnon-esque or something like that, with exaggerated facial features. Anyway, I'm in the room with these older women and perhaps my mother and this prehistoric woman (who otherwise had a typically sixties hairstyle and dress) sat down at the piano and played this very heathen-styled, feral music. Feeling very ominous already, a strange pallor of fear began to overcome me...

Another one I recall had to do with this photo at my grandmother's house hanging on the wall which featured my by-then deceased grandfather and some workers which was taken way back when. For some reason, the photo becomes animated with the skeleton falling out of my grandfather with his flesh just sagging down to the ground. Naturally this was one to have me wake up screaming like anything.

Not quite as weird but odd enough was another dream set at my grandmothers', this one also taking place early in the morning like around five or so. A strange old book is found in her attic which I thumb through in her kitchen, a book with seemingly mystical powers and illustrations that look as if from a bible but perhaps something more ominous.

How about the one where I'm the the back seat of a 1956 Ford that's speeding down some curvy highway and I discover that NOBODY'S DRIVING IT!!! I'm the only person in the car and I'm like six so what could I do other than panic??? I think this was one of those dreams where I woke up and hadda run to the bathroom with a brimming full bladder, something which has become a common occurence as of late.

Of course later on I remember having a dream where I formed a group similar to the late-sixties Mothers of Invention, me supposedly being the leader although the rest of the group (made up of high school classmates) take over and I'm relegated to playing FRENCH HORN in the act, an instrument I don't even know how to play!

I still have weird dreams usually while under the influence of a fever or cold medicine. Many of them are "time-warped", taking place in the here and now but the look, feel and situations are definitely of the past. One recurring theme in dreams that I had, frequently during the past though with less frequency these days, was that I'm back in grade or high school, either at my advanced age (which usually hits me in the middle of the dream, like I'm too old for this!) or once again young only I know everything that's gonna happen and with my more advanced mode of thinking I can handle myself in a way more professional manner. Or else people from the past will pop up into my dreams and feelings I had as a youth but not anymore will infest themselves into my psyche. (I really enjoyed the dream where I was cursing out a particularly irritating teach of mine, though I woke up before I could get expelled!)

Some dreams deal with television, like I turn it on and it's fun like it used to be when I was young with reruns of old shows and cartoons I haven't seen in ages, as well as commercials and graphics that reflect that old time easy goingness that was still intense even if subdued. Sometimes the syntax short circuits a bit, like in the dream where I'm watching an old episode of BONANZA only it's a real old episode from 1956 back when Shemp Howard played the oldest brother on the show! I remember one dream where I was jogging (which I haven't done for ages after finding out it was a sick yuppie way to exercise) and I went past a house where some girls I remember from school were now living and I really liked 'em and wanted to start up some sorta relationship with at least one of 'em but somehow or other wires got crossed and nothing happens leaving me feeling real empty even after waking up. Strangely enough, none of them aged a bit!!!

Another neighborhood dream had the family stopping in at a dive, a sorta bar and grill that's located a small block away from the house with a gravel parking lot and typical plastic table cloth decor. I had a slice of thick crust pizza which was really good too, showing that you can experience a whole lotta sensations in dreamland as well! (Naturally in reality a standard house sits where this bar and grill would have been!) Neighborhood dreams are common, like the area looks different or the house does or even stranger still is that a block or so away is a huge steel, or a railroad track with a small general store nearby.

Speaking of railroad tracks, another recurring dream has me driving around the area coming across railroad tracks with trains approaching, me beating the train only to find another track with another train coming on and on and on...

One of the more grotesque dreams of the past few years had me going to an old cemetary where some people, mimicking the actions of Spanish Communists during the civil war of the late-thirties, dug up the corpses though didn't affix them in sexual positions as was done in real life. It was rather disturbing seeing half-decayed bodies spread around like that. Come to think of it, for some reason there was large bound volumes of old newspapers like the kind you could thumb through at the very newspaper office for years scattered. Needless to say the dream was rather jarring.

But as far as really strange ones go none can top the one I had Monday night. In the dream, I was reminiscing about the time I saw VON LMO as the musical guest on an early 1979 episode of SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE! I guess he and band were promoting the FUTURE LANGUAGE album which didn't come out until '81, but it was the LP version of the group decked out in spacesuits that was performing. I remember Lmo doing "Ultra Violet Light" pretty much like the album version and him introducing the group afterwards. The response was rather muted, as if the audience was stunned by the entire affair.

And on that note...HAPPY THANKSGIVING DAY!!!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

As most of you fervent readers already know, I'm not exactly a man of few words! In fact, I love to ramble on ad afanabla about whatever I feel like rambling on about to the utmost excess!!! But today I kinda feel like holding off on the long gab. That's the reason why all but one writeup (which I wrote earlier anyway) that you'll experience this go 'round're what-cha'd'say of the mini-review/CREEM "Rock-a-Rama" variety. I figure that if you can say something in one paragraphs what you'd usually say in ten then those other nine paragraphs are useless! Of course I'm lying (let's just say that it's fun to extrapolate and go off on diverse tangents while reviewing some items that might have meaning to me and me only---makes me feel like the rock scribe greats a la Bangs, Meltzer and Russell Desmond!), but right now I'm feeling a little compact (of an Isetta size even), so...

As for the arm I was complainin' to you about last week, it was a fracture of the radius requiring me to wear a sling. I know many of you (especially those of the San Francisco and Melbourne variety) were hoping and praying that it would be something way more serious, but maybe next time...

Oh, you still curious as to how I'm doing with the DICK TRACY books? Didn't think so, but anyway I'm doing pretty fine if you must know, just having finished with the classic Flattop, Brow and Shakey sagas (this being the height of the deformed villain era in TRACY) and smack dab in the middle of the Breathless Mahoney storyline right when the soon-to-be strip regular BO Plenty's strangling the beauty trying to get Shakey's $50,000 offa her! At this time Gould's art was just getting into that spacey expressionist look (which always added to the overall grotesque nature of the strip) and the stories, as you've probably already guessed from my buildup, are becoming even more twisted and gory...why in just this latest volume there have been two burnt corpses and ten bullets through heads/hands/torsos wiggling off while coming out the other end not to mention the eventual death by freezing of Shakey and the recovery of his skeleton! Sheesh, I feel like an agitated Fred Wertham counting all of the murders and other violent sundries in BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA. only in no way do I wish us all holding hands and singing in perfect harmony like those kidz on that old Coke commercial like Wertham did! (I remember the controversy regarding this commercial as a kid...I think it had something to do with the blond in pigtails standing a little too close to the man from Kenya! Hmmm...wonder if they had a baby and they named it...naw, that couldn't be!)

Jon King and the Cats-"Oh Oh Oh"/"Show Biz" 7-inch single type thingie (FBN)

This is one of those singles that I remember got a duffoid review in THE NEW YORK ROCKER with the Cats being held up as evidence of a rapidly decaying local rock scene onandonanism. And well YEAH, I myself do recall just how watered-down many of the early-eighties groups springing up from the audition nights at CBGB were compared with the mid-seventies variety, but I ain't gonna lump Jon King and the Cats in with the rest of the pasties despite their rather bland name and the fact that they had that early-eighties new wave look patterned on the early-sixties greasy dago teen idol one down pat. Both sides of this self-produced disc are pretty hotcha straightforward rompers with just a little bit of powerpop tossed into the rock & roll...nothing offensive here even though it was a great change in diet from the avant garde and cute/coy posturings that had overtaken gnu wave at the time. Of course with heavy production and studio trickery this stuff coulda easily been hashed into "Music of the Eighties" the kind now being replayed on radio stations that used to cater to the "easy listening" crowd in the sixties, but we'll worry about that gunch when we come to it!
The Beach Boys-PET SOUNDS REHEARSALS CD (Yellow Dog bootleg)

You sat through the FUNHOUSE BOX SET? How about that complete LET IT BE session boot where you got to hear Paul talk about how the session was taking on an "oriental influence"??? Well sit tight for this li'l peek behind the scenes at the Beach Boys' PET SOUNDS sesh which'll give you added insight into what was really going on in front of and behind the boards during the height of sunny California pop artcraft. Get mesmerised by the repeated instrumental takes of "I Just Wasn't Made For Those Times" before being driven batty by the endless piano noodling on "You Still Believe in Me"! If you really love to go through your faverave recording artists' garbage heap this is the disque for you!!!
Changing Modes-A PERFECT DAY CD (Changing Modes)

As most people know, I'm really not that hot on the reams of amerindie groups that have been coming outta the woodwork since the early eighties. In fact, I tend to hold an extremely dim view regarding them because frankly they shoulda known better'n to take snat visionary rock of the sixties and seventies and water it down for the spiritual successors of those introverted college gals who used iron their hair so it's be nice and straight and bangy. Sheesh, I thought Carole King woulda been enough for that type! But hey, this second album from the still-kicking En Why-area group Changing Modes is halfway decent, sounding more like hot late-period seventies underground rock with only a slight amount of twee added (state law y'know). You could still call it college fruit if you wanna, but it won't make my system go into sugar shock. In fact the seventies influences from Sparks (!) to the usual suspects is handled with taste and elan. It ain't enough to make me want to purchase this group's entire backlog but I ain't gonna lump 'em in with J. Neo Marvin either!
PSYCHEDELIC SCHLEMIELS (more lost sounds from the Britpsych Scene 1966-1969) CD (Wooden Hill)

Haw! Prob'ly wond'rin why I'm still buying up these six-oh compilations which anyone with half a brain (or as Tom Howard used to say, "If you had another brain you'd only have one!") knows ain't exactly up my particular highway (Hershey or otherwise). Yes I'll admit that a few of these PEBBLES/RUBBLE knockoffs for the digital age have way too many repeats of trackage that I've already been inundated with for the past twentysome years, and most of the new upheavals coming out ain't exactly worth the effort to purchase (let's just say that all the good that was gettin' was gotten ages ago!). But, as usual, there's madness in my mission. Y'see, amongst the flotsam and jetsam of unreleased acetates and other sundries that appear on this particular volume of English psych almost-made-its are two tracks by a group called The Velvet Frogs who, thanks to their unabashed faithful following of the Velvet Underground credo, warrant my attention as well as that of those who are interested in the whole Velvet influence flow chart which began inciting more than a few punks in the late-sixties only to snap crackle and fizzle somewhere in the eighties when the message finally dribbled down to limpwrist suburban Doodyville and every trustfund crybaby decided to get in on the act!

But these Frogs had a good thing going for 'em, and that was their awareness of the entire VU attitude and drive back when it was happening as well as the application of this awareness with a music that was succinctly described by their vocalist/guitarist/violinist as being "delinquency set to music". Three acetate sides survive, the first entitled "Jehovah" (inspired by the Process Church...this ain't no Jesus Freak regurgitation!) being touted as a "pastiche" of various Velvets moves and appearing on Wooden Hill's THE STORY OF OAK RECORDS CD, a set which features English psych sides of varying degrees recorded at the supposed-to-be legendary Oak Studios in London:

The Velvet Frog numbers that appear on PSYCHEDELIC SCHLEMIELS 4 are in the same dark psych goth vein; "Archaeology" seems to straddle '66 UK garage/punk concerns and the better moments of the English lysergic scene when it was beginning to waft into progressive aerie faerie gnome bopping. No need to panic though, since the Frogs remain a total punk assault sounding like the Fleur de Lys meets the Pretty Things jamming to "Waiting For My Man". Yeah, I know these comparisons give very little insight into the whys, wherefores and making of the music but hey, they sure read swell!

Even crazier is the Frogs' '69 recording swan song "Wasted Ground" where the group tackles the MARBLE INDEX with rather peculiar consequences. I gotta give these guys credit for paying homage to Nico this way but the results sound like something you'd have heard kids recording on their toy chord organs had that eponymous album made it into more teenage bedrooms! I gotta love it just for the thought behind it and yeah, it is heartwarming to know that such a track even exists even in the still-uncharted archival digging up of these outta-nowhere late-sixties English artyfacts.

As for the rest of PSYCHEDELIC SCHLEMIELS 4, well it's good enough if mostly typical 1969 rock that really doesn't cut a stark path the way the Frogs do. Frankly I could do without rewrites of "The Weight" and Tomorrow did the psychedelic trip a whole lot better 'n these almost-theres. Still I would love to hear more Velvet Frogs if available, and gathering all of their material in one place for instant enjoyment would have been better 'n having to wade through some of the swamp to get to the necessities of life ifyaknowwaddamean...
IN CLOSING let me present, as a PUBLIC SERVICE (which means that you must read it, of course!) that previously-mentioned in the past few comment sections article by and about Ivan Brunetti, the guy who could have gotten the opportunity to draw the NANCY comic strip back in the nineties but lost out to the Gilchrist Brothers. Really, this is a great slice of comic strip histoire that I know that all of you true blue NANCY fans will appreciate. I must admit that Brunetti, although lacking in many acceptable qualities, undoubtedly dileneated some rather adequate post-Bushmiller artwork (reminiscent of the standby who did the strip in between the death of Mark Lasky and the wretch-inducing Jerry Scott) as well as neat gags and rehashes of old about "could have beens"! The fact that Brunetti lost out to the Gilchrists (who began doing a decent if uber-swiped strip before retreating back to their own modern stylings) is almost as tragic as the Bowery Boys' HIGH SOCIETY almost getting the Academy Award nomination meant for the Bing Crosby moom pitcher of the same name way back in the mid-fifties!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

MOOM PITCHER REVIEW! NIGHT TIDE (directed by Curtis Harrington and starring Dennis Hopper, 1961)

For once TCM decided to air something beneficial during prime time 'stead of the umpteenth rerun of GIGI, and the Turner lackeys really did themselves good by running this particular bit of under-the-radar cinema that would usually get stuck on their schedule inna middle of the night when only the pervos and other assorted sickies are up and at it. And as far as mooms with a reputation go NIGHT TIDE can't be beat whether it's due to the occasional name-dropping praise from the likes of the fine folks at PSYCHOTRONIC VIDEO amongst other post-Kael visionaries, or even Parker Tyler citing it as an example of a feature-length avant garde excursion that didn't quite jibe in his might-be-infamous UNDERGROUND FILM book. Anyway you stoke it NIGHT TIDE was one of them flicks that I wouldn't pass up an opportunity getting an eyeful of, and thanks to the powers that be that chance came a lot faster'n I would've ever thunk!

Unlike many of you faithful readers, I am not a humongous Dennis Hopper maniac by any stretch of the imagination. Keeping that in mind I shall courageously 'fess up to the fact that I enjoyed his aw shucks portrayal of Johnny, the sheepish sailor who falls real hard-like for this carnival sideshow mermaid played by Linda Lawson. She's not quite attractive in that drool and dribble way but creepy enough as the designated psycho case who believes that she actually is a siren of ancient legend who lures her lovers to a watery grave (two down and Johnny ready to go). But it's not like the rest of the denizens of the amusement park world are any more mentally balanced from Captain Murdoch, the park owner who found "Mora" as a child on a Greek island to the sterotypically haggish fortune teller, but all of these goonish aspects mix well into a rather offbeat yet pleasurable film which just oozes that early-sixties ambiance that continues to envelop me fifty years after the fact.

Downplayed and Kennedy-era cool, you can tell that this was created by an accomplice of Kenneth Anger especially after espying the definitely expressionist dream sequence which only makes me wish someone'd upload Harrington's early underground filmage onto Youtube for all of us to peruse. (A swift aside, the role of the strange blond woman who sporadically appears adding an even creepier aura to this film is portrayed by none other than the widow of famed rocket scientist Jack Parsons who went by the moniker of [Marjorie] Cameron, a truly mystical being who not only acted alongside Harrington in Anger's INAGURATION OF THE PLEASURE DOME but was also the subject of a short directed by Harrington which was titled what else but CAMERON!)

Yeah, NIGHT TIDE can get quite messy and the ending had me quite confused (still can't fathom what actually did go on during the scuba diving scene!) but it sure satisfies here in my aged state the same way it would've had it been shown on your local UHF station some hot Summer-esque Sunday afternoon in between forages through piles of old rock mags and the LITTLE RASCALS short that used to fill out the hour until THE OUTDOOR SPORTSMAN. Naturally I sure wish I woulda eyeballed NIGHT TIDE back when these kinda films were really hitting me in a young 'n impressionable way but hey, I guess I hafta wait for all good things to make their way into my psyche so better now as an old turd 'n never, savvy?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

No I ain't gonna bore you w/any of my personal travails this go 'round. Nothing about how long gone I am into the DICK TRACY volumes (hokay, I'll let you know that I'm heading into the ever-budding gore and deformed villian territory and boy is that making me nervous!), nor any cute 'n coy reminiscences of past endeavors are on the boards for today either. Heck, I ain't even gonna tell you about how I broke my arm last Sunday and drove myself single-handedly to the hospital like a real man (which I guess is nothing new to you reg'lar readers who do a lotta things one-handed-like, if you know what I mean), I'll just concentrate on givin' you the meat and potatoes writeups and reviews of things that have been tickling my fancy on the music and reading scene these past few. Gawrsh, if I must say these reviews are so gooood that after you're done reading these cruise-missle accurate accounts and opines I'll bet you'll all start living vicariously through me for a change!

STOP! MAGAZINE #'s 3, 6 AND 7!!! (rags that could be found around the En Why See area back in the early-to-mid eighties but not elsewhere)

I'm probably wrong, but weren't the early-eighties the last days of post-modern hip humor? By "hip" I mean that knock-down-drag-out kinda humor that had its beginnings with the early MAD comic book and magazine that sorta got filtered own through the likes of HUMBUG and HELP! (and later on the original NATIONAL LAMPOON), not forgetting the comedy talents of such stalwarts as Stan Freberg and Ernie Kovacs (esp. his early-sixties specials for ABC) that sorta made their influence known via the early SNL and their immediate spawn such as SCTV f'rinstance. You could figure in THE GOON SHOW and MONTY PYTHON of course not forgetting Andy Kauffman, Emo Phillips (plus ex-wife Judy Tenuta...I could just see how that marriage ebbed and flowed!!!) and that whole brood. David Letterman during his earlier days also comes into play, at least those shows where you could tell he was watching his Kovacs videotapes intent-like whilst taking notes. Whadevva, I really used to gobble all of this stuff up during my kiddo/teenbo days and looking back most if not all of it was sorta like the tail end of a Golden Age of yuks that had a clear connection dating back to a whole lotta Old Timey laughmongers the caliber of the Three Stooges, Joe Cook, Stoopnagle and Budd and who could forget that ever-popular Willie Howard?

Unfortunately something happened down the line...maybe it was the fact that Ronald Reagan was president which re-arranged sooo many minds, but humor stopped being funny! Really, while the entire credo of Lenny Bruce mighta been offensive humor with deep socially significant meaning, his spiritual heirs managed to take the humor part out of the equation to the point where the new breed of standups were doing nothin' but ranting away at the so-called "Powers That Be" to an audience that was so stupid that they didn't realize that these "comics" were speaking FOR those very same powers. Basically the new generation of jokesters are nothing more than a rehash of the old George Carlins and Dick Gregorys puttin' down honko mid-Ameriga, and come to think of it when was the last time any of 'em tried to make you laugh? Cringe is more like it!

So the next time you happen to see Bill Maher or Joy Behar (a living argument for female genital mutilation!) strollin' down the street WITHOUT the wall of security around 'em just bop 'em on the head...maybe somethin'll jar'n they can start telling funny jokes for once rather'n act as sorry court jesters for a snob-laden kingdom who never saw a down and out peon other'n in a Ben Shahn print.

But STOP!...hey, that's funny stuff 'n I just happened to get a few more issues in to tickle my funnybone at a time when the only things that make me laugh are down and out reactionary screeds, bad taste or not, usually aimed at the same effete elitists who populate the paragraph directly above! Yeah, I gotta admit that STOP! did have their ups and downs and at times wallows in the gutters...that one ish with the girlie mag spoof was pretty disgusto after all...but these new ones are the perfect prescription for an era when humor has pretty much been replaced by "fun with a purpose", the old HIGHLIGHTS FOR CHILDREN credo! (I swiped that line from an old REASON magazine article on Lenny Bruce [a rather bad article at that!], so please don't sue me.)

Anyway, I guess editor John Holmstrom (yeah, the same guy of PUNK magazine fame!) must have TONS of back issues clogging up his basement (I know the feeling, pard!) and is trying to get rid of as many as he can on ebay which is a smart move on his part considering the last two generations of kidz who don't know what a good laugh is all about. And hey, the ishes I got (which I think completes my collection) are really hot stuff, funny as all get out and geared towards that whole mindset that I continue to adhere to, that the middle portion of the twentieth century was one hot time to be around, and that the more we cling to this past the better.

Of course it's the contributors (what else?) who made STOP! such a rough and tumble read. Natchurally a good portion of the old PUNK gang is here as are a few of the COMICAL FUNNIES hanger on's like the inimitable J. D. King and Peter Bagge (a guy who I do have greatly conflicting opinions about...I hated his HATE comic books but found some of his opines in REASON well...reasonable) and when you put 'em all together they sure spell a funtime read whether you're on the toilet or just passing times between issues of UGLY THINGS. Dale Ashmun's "Spare Parts" column that later on ran in PSYCHOTRONIC shows up too (the guy had taste) and mix that up with the Bosko comics and the like and you get a mag that sorta bridges the har-har seventies and the blah late-eighties onwards, an interesting concept if I do say so myself.

And you know that STOP! was a hotcha read because their letter page was filled with notes from some of the big names on the old underground comix circuit like Jay Lynch and R. Crumb even, sorta like the old guard torch being passed to the new guard 'n real heart cockle warming at that.

STOP! #3 from July/August 1982 (a rather pleasant time in my life I must admit which is why this issue sorta snuggles up to me real fine-like) is a definite keeper if only for the cover feature, an interview with none other than Bill Scott who was the voice of a whole slew of characters that oozed outta Jay Ward Productions and into the living rooms of way too many kiddies throughout the sixties and seventies. Naturally I would cozy up to something that clings to my earliest (and most favorite) years just before the trauma of school and socialization turned me into the behemoth that I am today, and this interview courtesy of a Judy Wilmot (a name that I think stretches beyond the STOP! sphere of comical knowledge) is pretty snat even if little new-to-me information is disseminated. A big so what! to that because it's still a wowzer though I kinda wonder why no mention was made of the less-enthralling HOPPITY HOOPER let alone that all-time great FRACTURED FLICKERS, but I guess the publishers just ran outta space. Well, they coulda made the SACRIFICE and added a few more gratis just so's we would get to know. Sheesh, I used to do that myself with my own crudzine and I never complained, other'n not enough of you pudz out there buyin' it up that is! (And what's really eye-gouging about this interview is that Wilmot actually name-dropped LESTER BANGS when recalling his memories of an early-sixtie Bullwinkle parade that Bangs was fortunate enough to espy...I mean, do you even think that Scott knew who Bangs was?!?!?)

Of course that ain't all there is to this ish...Drew Friedman contributes a high-larious piece on ugly baseball cards preventing premature ejaculation (and I think there was some hubbub over the Ron Yubba one, something to do with "racism") while J. D. King's "Mr. Know-It-All" (no relation to any Jay Ward property) had the sort of "fuh-fuh-fuh-NEE" quality that I really like in a comic strip. None of that commie sex here nohow! Now I coulda done w/o Dale Ashmun's review of a Dave Edmunds concert but the various cartoons 'n views are in such high gear that maybe skipping over them two pages ain't quite as criminal as some roots purists would have you believe!

Ish #6 (April/May 1983, not a good time in my life!) has a SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT onna cover. Not really that special since all they said they're gonna do is stop givin' this 'un away for free and start chargin' a cover price! Twenny-seven years later this message is about as dated as the Tylenol Scare because we hafta pay for it ALL no matter what! But still this STOP! has me going all fanabla if only for such special treats as the S. Clay Wilson interview (yeah, I know he's a sicko, but an interesting one at that) as well as the obituaries for the recently-deceased Jack Webb and Doodles Weaver which really had that heartfelt gutsy gloom to 'em that I used to get (still do!) every time some classic 20s/30s/40s star got snuffed out in an age of indifference. The Weaver obit was particularly striking as it claims that it was none other than Ed McMahon, after getting in a fight with NBC exec and brother to Doodles Pat Weaver over the affections of Barbara Hershey (!), who got Weaver "semi-blacklisted" in tinseltown! Well, at least he now had an excuse to pop up in such vehicles as MACON COUNTY LINE and TRUCK STOP WOMAN, the former which benefited from his comic relief appearance as a local yokel at the filling station and the latter which might also be a good 'un although I have yet to lay eyes upon it.

The comic stuff's hokay too...'specially liked the Louie and Bulldozer ones that King drew which hadda do with the two of 'em meeting up with/trying to pick up a "liberated woman" pitting their wits against the same kinda, if you'll pardon the expression, "female" who I had been railing against for lo these many years. I hope these are still guaranteed to offend...the right people that is!

The summer '83 ish had a special tingle for me because of the front cover FEATURE (wish there was some gadget on the blog tool bar that would get that word flashing like a marquee!) interview with Soupy Sales. Now I gotta admit that I haven't been as big of a Sales fan as many of you more geriatric-type readers have mostly because the only thing I knew about him during my tender growing up years were his television commercials as well as guest pop-ups on various programs then near and dear to our hearts like HULLABALOO and ED SULLIVAN. Sales' mid-sixties syndicated series outta channel 5 in New York wasn't even aired around these parts, and although I woulda been way too young to appreciate his ABC Saturday afternoon series that woulda been outta the question anyway because the local affiliate didn't even run it preferring to sign on around five in the afternoon during the weekends! And really, I think that kids like myself coulda used more Sales in our upbringing because well like, real role models were hard to find, y'know?

In this interview which was conducted by none other than GOLDMINE's Jeff Tamarkin, Sales comes off as a rather level-headed fellow if sounding quite bitter because comedy had passed him by. His opinions regarding the newer breed of comics are most definitely on-target even if he condemns the preachy new breed of socially-conscious stand ups on one hand then praises the likes of Carlin on the other. Whatever, it is refreshing to hear him rail against the societal crud and corruption that was prevalent even in the early-eighties which was more or less in-your-face whether you wanted to see that parted pudenda on the cover of HUSTLER or not. No wonder Sales made the rather etapoint observation which was even quoted on the cover; "Do you think a kid wants to watch someone get hit in the face with a pie when they can watch someone screwing?" Dunno about what you think but I'll take the pie ANYDAY! (sPLAt!)

The rest of this ish ain't anything to toss into the langbin either, with some pretty hot contributions from King, Drew Friedman (a funny "whatever became of Our Gang" featurette that will probably get more spinsteresque readers apoplectic), an interview with Bill Griffith and of course Ken Weiner's "Busboy" comic which had me rolling in the aisles which was pretty disgusting in itself because I was taking a dump while reading it! (There's also a piece on the infamous Chesterfield Kongs as Don Fellman calls 'em back when they were just starting to get the up and notice on the "underground" circuit at a time when even I wondered...will 1984 be their year?) The cartoon review of a restaurant was a brilliant touch since it featured cartoon characterizations of a good portion of the STOP staff including their wifies. Now I get to know what J. D. King's first one looked like (not bad...wonder what happened there?), and while I'm at it dontcha think that King himself kinda looks like a cross between Bill Cullen and Dennis the Menace's dad? Anyway, he reminds me of what guys used to look like when I was a kid before long hair, aviator shades and "body modification" became the norm. Must be those late-fifties Bausch and Lombs that he wears.

And although I didn't even ask for it (though everybody seems to think that I get everything I ask for...hmmmm, wonder what they mean by that?) Holmstrom snuck in a copy of the first and presumbably only issue of BOSKO comics! Yeah, here's a title featuring nothing but that rascally scamp with the striped shirt engaging in real gut-shakin' sagas that seem created esp. for people like myself who have a lot of gut to shake. Yeah, some of these adventures have been printed before, but it's great to have 'em all in one place where you can read about such demonically-intense dramas as the time Bosko hadda struggle to get out of bed so's he could make it to his new job! Not to mention the time he and friend Roscoe pay a visit to their old neighborhood and piss off some broken-english bacciagalupe of a store owner! And you thought that Ozzie Nelson's life had no meaning!

Do you need any more evidence (as you know, MY WORD IS GOOD ENOUGH!!!) that these reads are whatcha'd call...the utmost? I mean you could tell that they're worth your while because none other'n Lindsay Hutton used to hype these rags in the pages of his old NEXT BIG THING fanzine and you know that guy knew what he was blabbing about! And if you can't trust a human who still tunes in to DANGER ISLAND daily who can you trust??? Uh Oh Chongo!!!!!!!!
Patti Smith Group-FREE MUSIC STORE bootleg CD (Brand New Beat, Germany)

You may remember this particular piece of illicit barrage clinging onto the pages of your favorite late-seventies "collectors recordings" catalog along with the rest of the import bootlegs (the ones with the deluxe color covers 'stead of the paper inserts) fetching upwards of $12, nay even $15 a pop! Yeah, those were the days when coughing up $5.99 seemed way too much for a domestic piece of legitimate ware let alone a boot emanating from the dark reaches of Germany. Fortunately by the time people such as myself were able to get a li'l more moolah into our paws some enterprising label decided to reissue this particular platter and at a more reasonable price (at least for the late-eighties) to which I say...thank goodniz for ENTREPRENEURS!!!

FREE MUSIC STORE's the name of the WBAI-FM radio program that Patti Smith appeared on during a pledge drive in May of '75 thus giving the budding poet-rocker a reason to blab a whole lotta 'BAI memories from back during the days when they were actually playing British Invasion music in between the usual fringe rants and experimental music sundries. Of course the actual music presented herein ain't duff either showing Patti and group to have had a good handling on their drum-less material wallowing in between stand up personal rants and bedroom-level rock jamz. Sharp and focused, with a beatnik cum punk feeling unmatched since the early Fugs or equally-early Velvets even. Nice selection of trackage as well with early versions of songs soon to be fleshed out on HORSES and RADIO ETHIOPIA. Of course who could forget her infamous take on the Velvets' "We're Gonna Have a Real Good Time Together" which you know will nowadays bug to no end the same breed of college sophisticados who ate Patti's entire race-baiting vernacular up without question a good thirty-five years back.

As an added bonus (not on the vinyl version) there's "Down The Aisle" (Patti and Lenny exploring their doo wop roots) as well as the Central Park gig noting the Fall of Saigon which certainly was cause for celebration amongst the chattering classes who never did have their heads on straight. Sound's good if kinda FM flittery (might be a slightly-weak signal 'n besides home recording facilities wern't exactly the top-notchest back then) and the whole shebang'll give you a slight hint of what kind of energy and unique ideas were being birthed in the reaches of lower Manhattan back in those oft-praised pre-serious radicalization days.

Naturally the existence of this tape makes me wonder what other WBAI-FM recordings are floating around...I mean I already know about the Unholy Modal Rounders one but what about the Uncle Son show not forgetting others which, come to think of it, are forgotten? I don't think the staunch leftoids at 'BAI are willing to open up their vaults to labels let alone fans, so maybe some urban guerilla action for a really notable cause is needed out there, eh?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

O. Rex-MY HEAD'S IN '73 2-CD set! (Gulcher)

When it comes to seventies fanzine bands, none really could top the Gizmos. And when it comes to runner ups, who could forget such stellar attempts as Distorted Levels (or were they the Creatures From The Black Lagoon, or Tar Babies, or Mr. Electro and the Void?), the Zippers, the Afrika Korps or today's case-in-point O. Rex. Born of the same groundswell of printed mulch passing for fanzine brilliance that begat GULCHER and FUTURE (in this case O. REXTASYand RAUNCH & ROLL), O. Rex were a great huge hunkerin' mess of primal heavy metal in the classic CREEM sense scrunch, a West Bruce and Laing for the crudzine set that sorta gathered all of that hard-rock gunch worship that was so prevalent during the Golden Age of fanzines and managed to dunce it all up even more with its primitive pallor and general septic balance! You knew it was being created by doofs such as yourself rather'n flashy English dudes with smart saxon looks and good teeth which always seemed suspect from the beginning, and for THAT it just hadda be good!

Fronted by the dynamic fanzine duo of the Gruberger brothers (Solomon and Jay) with the added oomph of future Gizmo Kenne Highland, O. Rex weren't just another one of the hundreds of beneath-the-garage groups that were springing up throughout the seventies, they were one who even managed to release a snat single which by this time costs a whole lot more'n all the money you'll ever see! Fortunately the entire seven-incher appears somewhere on these two sprawling disques that come to us courtesy of Gulcher alongside a whole load more, and we can only be thankful that Mr. Bear, undoubtedly with the go ahead of Solomon G and maybe even Highland, decided to put it out because although your life might not be enriched by listening to these three heave up some early-seventies metal crunch for an ever-budding punk audience MINE sure is!

You might have forgotten, but stuff like "My Head's In '73" (Not forgetting its flipster "Califawnia Girls") was really hotcha stuff amongst the fanzine intelligentsia of the mid-seventies the same way those singles by Television, Pere Ubu and Mogen David were. Remember, this was long before the whole DIY mode sorta oozed into a mass of "so what" after every kid on the block who was just one-step-up on the evolutionary scale from stoner boxboy sounds decided to prove it by recording bad Stooge pastiches instead of bad Van Halen ones stinking up the atmosphere even worse! But back when these pearls of utter dunce-genius were recorded it was Christmas and VJ Day rolled into one when some bigname critic at some "respected" rag'd review one of these records you could be sure that the entire 500 press run'd sell out faster'n El Kabong!

There are a whopping 48 tracks sprawled out amongst these two disques and each and every one of 'em is a downright wowzer. Early versions of familiar Gizmo riffage appear in typical Flintstones bedroom cassette quality as do some definitely recognizable even at this early stage familiarities, and amongst all of the newies (ranging from ultra-doof bedroom jamz to even a trib to Jay's fave of the day Mountain!) are even some interesting covers that only go to show you that if some teenage nobodies from Dubuque could ruin old one-chord rock riffs, O. Rex could ruin 'em even better! You probably won't recognize their version of Link Wray's "Rawhide" (I didn't!), but you will "Shapes of Things" as well as "Pushin' Too Hard" done that special O. Rex way and mutter to yourself while it all transpires "why didn't I think of that?" (And don't worry, you will!)

Really, I could go one about each and every track here but maybe, just like Elliot Murphy surmised, it would be like chemistry. Or at least just about as boring (at least for you, if not self-indulgent fun for me!), but I'm sure you get the drift. MY HEAD'S IN '73 is a fantastico slice of mid-seventies beneath-the-underground hard crunch passing as rock that should excite at least half of the serious BLOG TO COMM readers who are still tuning in even this late in the game long after the rest of "underground rock USA" have ditched this stuff for the latest flash hype outta blogland. As for those types well, sometimes it is hard to second guess you guys but anyway you might get a good 'n hearty laff outta it...just don't go throwin' away your Content Providers disques, because I know you're gonna need 'em more'n I ever will!

A word about the packaging...unfortunately there ain't much to go by pic-wise (sheesh, I thought they'd at least stick in that one O. Rex snap 'n blurb from the "More New Bands" section of ROCK SCENE) but Eddie Flowers' liner notes are the best slice of new reading all year reminding me of just why seventies fanzinedom had the eighties variety on the ropes. Makes me wish the guy was more, er, proficient w/regards to keeping his own site updated with reviews and whatnot, and considering how I just can't get enough of this GA of fanzines-styled thrust into my life anymore the more Flowers and the less Lang the better, unnerstand?

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Hokay, I'll at least try to do a lot less rambling here than I have the past few weekend posts, but we'll just hafta wait and see if I succeed. Frankly, I doubt I will. True I promised that I wouldn't ever blab on aimlessly again like I have been for way too long, but this mid-autumn overcast weather season hanging over the Western Pee-YAY area ain't exactly conduit to gettin' the spirits uplifted, nor the ol' braincells a'poppin' either. And after only one good month of chilly weather I'm already missing the nice and toasty summer season which won't be back for at least a good six or so months, and that's letting me down just like it did in first grade when I'd stare out the window during a boring dissertation on subtraction! Now I know that we can all hope for a bit of Indian Summer to come our way hopefully by the end of the month but considering how some might find that particular term to be socially unacceptable even that concept of a break in the mid-autumn weather is probably verboten for all time!

I'm still spending my evening hours pouring through the volumes of THE COMPLETE DICK TRACY which have been a godsend I sure wish God woulda sent me back when I was twelve! Right now I'm wandering about during the final months of 1938 when "Karpse", the evil genius who headed up a slave-operated poison gas factory, has escaped to the exact same city where Tracy lives (undoubtedly Chicago) and gets scalded by an exploding water heater while working in a bakery which coincidentally just happens to be owned and operated by Tess Trueheart's mother! Pretty gruesome indeed, since right when I stopped off Karpse was seen running out of the bakery howling in agony looking like a boiled lobster and who knows just how this story's gonna turn out at this point! And, to add to the overall goriness of it all, Tracy is in the hospital having not only been blinded but placed in an iron lung because of a gas attack at the hands of Karpse! Of course some of you more "sensitive" readers may wonder if stories such as these were responsible for Charles Manson, but I prefer to wonder if they were responsible for Richard Meltzer!

While I'm on a comic strip jag lemme clue (or "clew" as they say in these old TRACYs) you into the wondrous fact that there's yet another NANCY book in the works, this one dealing with the history and creative energy behind the strip. (And yes you ding-dongs there WAS a "creative energy" that resonated through the strip though people weaned on BLOOM COUNTY wouldn't be aware of it!) Last I've heard there was a call for someone to locate the very first appearance of the frizz-headed one in the old FRITZI RITZ strip, and bagels-to-doughnuts I sure hope this book will be all-inclusive w/regards to the entire NANCY chemical makeup with information on all of the major and minor characters including this weird Nancy lookalike with a bulbous nose who made a brief appearance in the strip back in 1962. As you all know, NANCY along with TRACY are my two all-time favorite comic strips which continue to connect with me long after these two as well as a whole load of other "old-timey" strips sorta got shoved to the back of the bus. I only wish that there would have been some sort of crossover between the two somewhere down the line back when creators Chester Gould and Ernie Bushmiller were still alive and kicking...I could just see it; Nancy assisting Tracy in the apprehension of one of Tracy's most tricky and fearsome foes, Slughead!

So, what else can I prattle on about here? Howzbout the end of yet another election season, one that seems to have been hyped up to all get out as if it were yet another presidential contest with loads and loads up for grabs affecting us for at least the next twenty centuries (and counting!). Actually I have very little to say about the 2010 mid-terms and their results other than...I am disappointed that I did not have the opportunity to use an analogy regarding something that had a slim possibility of succeeding having about as much of a chance as Christine O'Donnell getting the jackoff vote! I thought that line would have looked good somewhere here on the blog but I couldn't place it anywhere which does get my goat quite a bit considering it's such a cute'n darn clever funny one. Oh well, maybe another person will run for political office who might take a stand against the brushing of teeth, overall hygiene and wiping up who might make for a fun aside in these pages, and considering the political scene as it stands that day might be a lot sooner than any of us might think!

Sandy Bull-JUKEBOX SCHOOL OF MUSIC CD (Rom, available via any ebay listing you might come across)

Wasn't really planning on purchasing any more of those latterday self-produced Sandy Bull platters but since I happened to chance upon an excerpt from Dean "Luna" Wareham's autobio where he recalls a gig his eighties-era group Galaxie 500 did with Bull at the old CBGB Canteen I figured hey, why not? This recording dates from about the time that particular gig transpired and although I woulda preferred hearing that 'un which Wareham described as Bull playing reverbed oud I found JUKEBOX to be a pretty enticing affair, worth the budget price I dished out for a used copy if anything but still heart-cockle warming enough indeed.

Bull's country side does take a front seat especially with the pedal steel careening that sends you back to pre-popified Nashville, but the Bull of all genres can be sampled via everything from rewrites of Bach to the Isley Brothers and even some more throwbacks to Bull's Vanguard era (note the presence of Billy Higgins making a welcome return to the Bull sphere of things). There's even a new version of "Mahana de Carnival" and although there coulda been more at least there's something for everybody on this halfway-decent excursion.
The Flamin' Groovies-SLOW DEATH-AMAZIN' HIGH ENERGY ROCK N' ROLL 1971-73! CD (Norton)

Whereas SUPERSNEAKERS featured the Flamin' Ones at the beginnings of their goodtimey fifties-inspired/folkie rock period, Norton's SLOW DEATH presents 'em during their high-energy rock period right after the revamped bunch dumped Roy Loney and moved to England for a short stay with the United Artists label. You may remember this was a few years before Greg Shaw began making wild proclamations about how 1975 was gonna be the year the Groovies finally broke on through to commercial success, looking ever so ridiculous when that obviously didn't happen no matter how altruistic he tried to be. Not that I don't blame him...after all his mind was in the right place and frankly I think I've made some even wilder off-target predictions myself somewhere down the line!

Three of the four United Artists sides, longtime obscurities heard only by the more "serious" Groovies fans, appear though I sure wished that the UA take of "Slow Death" as well as the track they did backing up ex-Bonzo Roger Ruskin Spear of all people were here! Both Skydog single/EP's which have always ranked as the Groovies at their noisiest also pop up and they're beauts even if you've probably heard 'em repeatedly o'er the past 35 years (make it 31 for me, being such a Johnny-cum-lately!). And hey, just why more people don't worship these guys next to the Stooges and Dolls after hearing these great hard-edged, raw numbers is one of the great mysteries of life!

True, a good portion of this has been released o'er the past two/three decades on other labels both legit or not, but it's sure swell hearing it all in one place and in one sitting just getting that high energy pumped into your system which sure helps especially in these low-throttle days.

I'm sure the folks at Norton have a whole warehouse-load of these available and really, any true believer would do right by hitting the linkup on the left and purchasing a copy for your own personal pleasure right this very minute! Not too many groups in the early-seventies were sucking from the teat of the one called Ig, and those who did should be accorded some additional homage, if you know what I mean. Oh, you wanna read what those other bloggers out there in anti-BTC-land think about it first??? Thought so. Turds.

Boy are these European proto/pre-punk rock items just crawlin' outta the woodwork like the roaches out of Don Fellman's drain! Here's a French item by some group called the Rob Jo Star Band, an aggregate whom I've never heard of before this reissue hit the internet sales lists who, like everyone from Mahogany Brain to Rotomagus have been touted as being yet another one of those French groups that just might worm their way into my li'l ol' corazon given their love of Velvets drone, Stooges primitivism and Roky energy. This mid-seventies band who are now being hyped for Gallicizing various mid-Amerigan rock truisms have been creating a little bit of a stir on the garage/punk collectors sphere. Even more surprising about the Rob Jo Star Band is that they've managed to release this self-produced disc back in '75 at a time when most garageadelic types were lucky enough if they could press up 100 singles to sell at an infrequent local gig.

Some wonks classify this record as being in the "progressive rock" camp which might make sense if you consider Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd to be progressive, but if this is in fact so then the Modern Lovers might as well have been Genesis cuz the Rob Jo Stars are total teenage abandon rock & roll the kind that mags such as ROCK NEWS and I WANNA BE YOUR DOG would have spilled plenty of ink on had the RJS's only made it to the attention of one Michael Esteban around the same time this platter got released to a public that didn't even know it existed.

I don't wanna mislead you here...this album ain't exactly earth-shattering and in fact it's kinda fluff-weight, but the thick accents from the male and femme vocalists are entertaining in themselves and the music does have a little bit of a nice late-glitter stomp to it that might have earned 'em an entry on the Purepop blog had they only released a single with a glitzy enough sleeve to catch our attention. A nice diversion (with primitive oscillators!) that, while not breaking down any barriers heading straight into nova music does capture some of the mid-seventies underground thrust that thousands of groups since never were able to reproduce no matter how hard they tried to put their eighties/nineties/oh-ohs attitudes behind.
ORCHESTRA LUNA mp3 DOWNLOADS (available here)

Strange as it may seem, I've harbored at least a little smidgie bit of interest re. the Boston-bred "theatre rock" group Orchestra Luna ever since coming across their handle in some old CBGB listing ages back (like, 1979 if you can believe that!). The name itself intrigued me (as did that NEW YORKER blurb regarding CBGB which mentioning Orchestra Luna as being but just one of the "local" aggregates there playing loud, out-of-tune mid-sixties rock), leading me to think that OL were probably some early precursor to the then-current groups on the En Why terrain who were sticking "Orchestra" in their monikers such as the Love of Life Orchestra not forgetting the by-now forgotten Chelsea Funk Orchestra. The actuality was far from the myth-conjuring case on my part (Orchestra Luna veering more into an avant-pop cum new wave cum mainstream rock direction), but it was fun enough to engage especially if one was grasping for straws trying to hang certain pre-conceived notions and hooks onto whatever to justify their understanding and enjoyment of the music at hand.

I still do spin Orchestra Luna's sole LP on rare occasion if only for the mid-seventies vibes, and now I find out that former Luna leader Rich Kinscherf/Berlin's very own site has a few unreleased tracks available for your very own (pardon the badgag) dining and dancing pleasure. Recorded live at either CBGB or Boston dive the Rusty Nail, these productions were laid down by the remashed version of OL who were so loved by Hilly Kristal that they were slated to appear on a ne'er to be released second LIVE AT CBGB'S album stacked next to such disparate types as the Dead Boys and Planets. They must've been the toast o' the town because THE NEW YORK ROCKER did a big spread on 'em, and even PUNK magazine dropped their name a few times which gotta say somethin'! To top it all off, Sire records got into the act offerin' OL a contract around the same time they were gobbling up groups like Talking Heads and the Voidoids...too bad the group turned down an opportunity for a second album because if they did record/release one you know it woulda been a two-years-later bargain bin find next to all of those other instant flashes that sorta fizzled out with the record buying populace only to find popular success long after the original moment had dissipated.

Strangely enough I find this second version of Orchestra Luna to be very similar to the original "Broadway Rock" take and not quite the refurbished rock group that I had been led to believe they'd "evolved" into. Heavy-duty seventies rock moments (I refuse to say "cliches") abound, with a hefty portion of the Island Records/Import Bin aesthetics in gear (with a lotta Deaf School thrown into the Roxy/Harley/Sparkisms), Queen-styled preen and Brian May guitar, Meatloaf theatre-cockrockism (which would figure given not only the OL/ML WONDERLAND connection but the fact that warbler Karla DeVito would eventually defect for the more commercial confines of the live BAT OUT OF HELL show once the gettin' was good), Manhattan Transfer mishaps and nascent roots of the new wave entwined. Lyrics also reflect the seventies miasma that Jimmy Carter warned us about a good six years too late with all too true tales of split up couples happier with each other from afar ("Long Distance") and homo teens leaving mom and dad (who are probably grateful for it!) heading for the big city and a good pickup at the bus depot ("Greyhound")...well at least that's how I interpreted the song 'n given how a good portion of this group "lived" well, I'm probably ain't that far off the mark!

's good enough for me given its importance to the ever-budding local groups making good inna big city and at the right time (1976) credo, and darn tootin' I'm gonna attempt to burn these onto a silver dollar and spin 'em for my own personal enjoyment just because of it! You can't get enough seventies ennui these days (which is much better'n 2010 ennui that's nothing but mentally addled self pity) and as a substitute for the lack of RHODA reruns Orchestra Luna can't be beat!

One thing...Mr. Berlin, if you're gonna offer us any more OL downloads howzbout the infamous "Teenage Punk"? That sounds like one that shouldn't be lost to history 'n the sooner the better I say!

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The Flamin' Groovies-SUPERSNEAKERS CD (Sundazed)


My current Groovies obsession kicks into high gear with the (re)appearance of this oft-neglected disque that (along with Sundazed's CALIFORNIA BORN AND BRED platter which I can't for the life of me locate within my cache) once again showcases the group during their Roy Loney-period when they were the stars of 99-cent bins nationwide. Well actually I'm getting ahead of myself, since this particular Groovies platter contains the entirety of the band's very first self-made 10-inch album (which never made it into any cheapo bins I've come across!) along with some pertinent live tracks dating from the same period in time and thus are "relevant" to the entire scope of things. And for a guy who was a follower of the Groovies credo back in them olden times (otherwise known as the late-seventies/early-eighties) for the life of me I could never find SNEAKERS in just about any form (including the mid-seventies Skydog reissue) until it was reissued by Line in the early-eighties. You could say that this particular disque does have some sentimental value to me, and maybe you'd be just a little tinkling itty bitty right.

I must stress the word "some", since when I first spun SNEAKERS I was rather er...surprised. I guess it was my youthful inexperience as well as my punk rock chauvinism for lack of a better description that had me walkin' away from SNEAKERS thinking it was nothing but good-timey music that obviously would disconnect with a guy such as I who was pretty much born and bred on the Detroit spasms of GREASE and mop top enthusiam of SHAKE SOME ACTION. I guess that my "finer" feelers for different styles and formats of rock & roll weren't quite engaged at this f'rinstance I used to have an aversion to pre-British Invasion-era rock probably due to the overexposure of giddy fifties worship throughout the seventies while anything that wasn't worthy of playing the stages of CBGB or Max's (or at least the styles of music that I thought played there) was somehow suspect. After years of proper thought and a re-evaluation of my musical credo I must admit that's all changed but the question remains...what do I NOW think about SNEAKERS as well as the bonus live tracks presented on this piece of plastic anyway?

Surprisingly I really found myself enjoying this pre-Epic whacked-over San Fran goodtimey rock to the rafters. Sure it ain't the Little Richard filtered through the Sonics buzz of the Kama Sutra albums nor the slow burn intensity of the Sire period, but it's way-better San Francisco rock than much of what was being passed off as West Coast innovation and precociousness back then. Besides Bill Graham hated the whole lot of 'em, so maybe they just hadda be good?

The thirties nostalgia tracks are instantly dated (I still remember how my mother thought that the late-sixties BONNIE & CLYDE/thirties-forties pop song cops were nothing but aimed barbs at her generation!) but I don't care one bit, and at least the Spoonful/Moby Grape influence gives this a truer SF sound and feel than even the early Jefferson Airplane, a group that had a lot to do with the early Groovies style even if the folks at KICKS magazine would've been the last ones to admit it. Overall this is a great debut that naturally points the way for greater things to come within the span of a few short years.

The remaining tracks recorded live at the Matrix prove just how indebted the Groovies were to the better moments of SF Ballroom aesthetics. The Spoonful influence (big in the burgh at the time re. such group workings as the Sopwith Camel for one example) are obvious enough to the point where the band even does three of their numbuhs (well, two of 'em are mere "arrangements") and in fact this entire gig opening for Sandy Bull of all people does have that Ballroom "feeling" which would creep away from 'frisco once the LSD had done its damage and groups actually thought they were creating something meaningful and "for the ages" whilst jamming on Marin County back porches and producing records like MANHOLE. Again, the occasional thirties bent might not settle too well with some of you but I don't mind it even though when I hear music like this I'm more or less zoned back to the days when the only things that mattered to my pudge of a body were Peanuts paperbacks and Corgi Toys!

You're probably wondering just how in the world I could couple up a review of noise-rock pioneers Smegma in with the teenage garage-rockin' Groovies considering how "poles apart" their styles and approaches are. Well, believe it or not but both acts have at least a few things in common not only their California roots but the fact that both acts worked with Richard Meltzer in various capacities and covered "Rumble", so at least with these tangential connections why not lump 'em together just for the sake of lumping?

THIRTYYEARSOFSERVICE is actually a pretty old 'un having been rec'd in 2003, and for the life of me I can't fathom how this disque missed my target for all these years. Not only is this classic oh-oh's-period Smegma with R. Meltzer handling the lead vocals, but joining the group is none other than Stooge saxist Steve Mackay giving the proceedings an even more free-jazzy ambiance to be chic about it.

The entire performance is one massive segue into various Smegma's deep throb workouts, some resembling free-play one would have expected from Roscoe Mitchell while others dwell deep into the inner addled mind that Smegma's music has represented for nigh on three-plus decades awlready. Meltzer's intermittant howls of poetic injustice naturally add the proper late-seventies disastopunk feel and dimension to this platter (and of course "legitimize" it even more for me considering how I'm always looking for pertinent "hooks" to hang my own musical prejudices on) and what's best about this is that just when you're lulled into a nice comfy sense of amorphous complacency the group goes whole hog into some hotcha rock & roll that reflects a more seventies riff-drone attack more akin to all of your favorite self-produced noisemongers of the past forty years (emphasis on the first ten!). And right at the end of it all some femme warbler jumps into the mix to belt out a wild cruncher that should have just about everyone within listening range holler..."wha' wuz that???"

For those of you who yearn for even more throb thrills, just listen to the "hidden track" which might be the best out of nowhere album closer ever at least since "Cheeseburger" on Sandy Bull's DEMOLITION DERBY... rilly!