Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Although there's not exactly a glut in the field, it should be noted that a few fanzine titles devoted to the lives and antics of that ever-popular rock & roll band the Velvet Underground have managed to make their way into my ever-bulging collection. And, contrary to what any normal curmudgeon along the lines of myself might think, some of them have actually been pretty good! The first and best of 'em was WHAT GOES ON, the brainchild of teenager Philip X. Milstein who unleashed three grandiose and (especially for the time) information-laden issues before handing the entire project over to one MC Kostek who expanded the magazine into a larger, professional looking rag that although worthy of your gynecologist's magazine rack lacked a great deal of the style and energy of the earlier issues. A fellow named Sal Mercurio did his own fanzine named after his favorite rock & roll group as well, and it was a noble venture complete with interviews and tantalizing tidbits of information though it suffered from poor distribution and general obscurity whether intended or not. There may have been others (I dunno if you'd count the Nigel Trevena booklet as a fanzine in the truest sense) but one that I haven't heard of nor seen before has made its way into my mitts a month or so back and hey, if any of the legit Velvet Underground sites around ain't gonna mention the thing I guess the job's left up to me, and have """""I""""" ever been one to shirk from duty?

DIFFERENT TIMES is the 'zine's name, or is it really a fanzine in the truest sense or just a bunch of single-sided papers stacked up and ready to go? Sheesh, the people who put this particular publication out didn't even bother to staple the thing inna corner (fortunately my copy comes in a plastic booklet so's I can read it like a book which comes in handy for those privvied times) and if you end up losing pages due to neglect it's not entirely your fault! But who could deny that DIFFERENT TIMES is yet another boss entry into the hallowed halls of Velvet fandom, a grouping that seemed like such a noble and worthwhile cause back when the VU spirit was infiltrating every worthy aspect of seventies music but nowadays has been over-abused and misused to the point where even the lowliest jinglejangle tattoo'd coed is aware of their history. Not that it really affects the overall Velvets impact...but hey, that's been washed away loooooong ago.

With the fuzzy photocopied look one could easily call DIFFERENT TIMES a "crudzine", and frankly I never really thought that term was as derogatory a epithet as the creators of that particular fandom-oriented descriptor intended for it to be. After all, the infamous and well-loved psychiatrist to the stars (that is, if you consider Albert Fish a star, or for that matter a star-fish) Doctor Fredric Wertham in his WORLD OF FANZINES mentioned that even the cheapest, most addled crudzine in the spectrum has something of benefit and value to it, and although the Good Doc certainly did not live long enough to read many of the crankout rags that permeated the underground rock scene of the eighties and nineties (most of which had NIL redeeming social value whatsoever) I can see his point at least in regards to this particular piece of Velvet esoterica.

The ish I got is #3, dated winter 79/80, and its got 26 pages inc. covers of not only the expected Velvet homage but loads on solo Lou fodder which would figure given how he was riding his career into superstardom at that very nanosecond and hey, why knock a cash cow when one sees it. You get the expected fanzine standards here, Velvet lyrics, recent news, a cartoon and even a crossword to do while listening to TAKE NO PRISONERS I'd surmise. As you'd expect the lyrics don't quite match up with what we eventually found out Lou was really singing, but given all of those poor pressings and cheapo stereos we hadda rely on back then it's any wonder these guys got as many words outta them speakers as they did. The cartoon is OK, no KICKOUT D. JAMZ mind you but fine enough, especially the part where Lou starts singing "Jesus, help me write a decent song"! And although I never do crossword puzzles (they remind me of a sad time in my life) it was kinda interesting to read the clues and then figure out the answers w/o marking up my copy thus letting it go down in value if I decide to sell the thing and retire.

Other bits range from "hokay" (a list of recent Velvets covers) to hunh? (a spoof review of the Lou Reed Xmas LP on RCA Camden that doesn't quite hit the mark the way those fictitious CREEM and TEENAGE WASTELAND GAZETTE writeups did earlier). A review of Lou at the Hammersmith Odeon was good if only for historical purposes. One article I did enjoy was the one on the perhaps not-so-strange attitude that the now-defunct English weekly MELODY MAKER had towards the Velvets. Not that anything other than derision was to have been expected...after all MM were banking their bux on the progressive rock market which they pretty much cornered in the music weekly field (leaving NME to fend for the high energy punk segment of society) and bashing the paper as well as its spiritual figurehead Chris Welch might just be as futile as berating ELP for not sounding like the Velvets themselves! Still it is a fun exercise detailing the paper's disdain then sheepish acceptance of solo star Lou trying to eke anything outta his own fame that they could to pump into their own coffers!

Nice labor here. I gotta say that I enjoyed DIFFERENT TIMES even though it doesn't have the all out capturing of the Velvets' energy and mystique that WHAT GOES ON had not forgetting the in-depth scrutiny of Mercurio's pub. But hey, given that this one was cranked out at the tail end of an era of rock & roll as a force for teenage decadent energy thus containing many of the same powers that still permeated music and print I can't complain. As far as these crankout fanzines go at least DIFFERENT TIMES has a good feeling to it and captures at least some of the same qualities that I love about the Velvets' music within their faint, third-generation xeroxed pages.


Anonymous said...

Typing of the VUnderground, did you read The Blue Moment: Miles Davis's Kind of Blue and the Remaking of Modern Music by Richard Williams? He claims the Kind of Blue LP -> to everything since. It contains a chapter each on La Monte, etc. and the Velvets. It'd be great to know what you think of the book. Your public library may have copy or it may be remaindered or the paperback version is due out at the end of the month. Warning: Some of the conclusions are a jump, you may throw the book across the room in disgust. Best stow any breakables.

Serena WmS. Burroughs said...

Maybe I should do a crudzine focusing on the post-VU careers of these guys, and the reunion shows. What do you think is a better name: "Coyote" or "My Name Is Mok"?


Chris, please e-mail me at imgoingtostealatv at ; I'd like to send you something.