Saturday, March 26, 2011


The passing of Elizabeth Taylor three days ago hasn't quite affected me the same way it has the entire motion picture industry as well as a number of people who I thought would have known better (right/libertarian commentator Lew Rockwell being amongst them), as if her eventual croaking ever would have any noticeable effect of a jaded and positively anti-Hollywood sort such as I. Like with Frank Sinatra or Marlon Brando's own decampments from this mortal coil Taylor's death means little if anything at all especially this far down the line from the days when the film industry had any spark of appeal or energy to this definitely outside-the-loop type. At least from my blah suburban viewpoint Taylor had always been, and shall remain, just another hasbeen relic of the forties/fifties H-wood that always seemed like part of the "adult" world, something which was about as relevant to me as Ish Kabibble if only for its stultifying boredom of it all. Old folks stuff, only with a snooty upper-crust jet-set appeal that made up more of my childhood television-watching/magazine-combing memories than I would care to remember!

You can obv. tell that I never fully understood the cult surrounding this actress who by the late-sixties just too big and beyond "acting" and was just well...Elizabeth Taylor, second only to God and working for the number one spot. Like other larger-than-life celebs such as Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. or Michael Jackson the only role she eventually ended up playing was her real life self, living to the point where she was merely famous for resting on a lotta "larger than life" past accomplishment laurels as well as for appearing with on/off hubby Richard Burton on an episode of HERE'S LUCY. (And of course THE LITTLE PRINCE, the total counterpoint to the raw mania of Burroughs' THE WILD BOYS.) And of course I knew about her from whatever antics that TV RADIO MIRROR would dish up, which is probably the only way I even knew she was still alive at the time. Mostly I knew about her through the reams of early movies that were being broadcast at the time, but I can recall my mother once telling my sister to shut off one of the mid-sixties vintage Taylor films that was being aired because those flicks were just too dirty, so maybe that comment is what made up a good part of my latter-day understanding of exactly where Taylor stood in the realms of sixties ranch house suburbanite living!

And hey, being part of the smart/beautiful set does seem totally alien to one such as myself who's (proudly) existing deep in the bowels of nada, but the way Taylor lived it is frankly something that makes me want to ditch my delirious dreams of being a decadent millionaire and glad that I rub shoulders with blue collar hunters and graveyard-shift nurses during my everyday travails. Their lives may not seem as glamourous, but then again they're a lot less creepy enough to associate with!

I know you're thinking that, unlike other stars who are only out for number one (and maybe some number two while they're at it), Taylor gave of herself and sure went out of her way to let us all know about it! Yeah, Liz donated bazillions to the cause of AIDS research (perhaps to keep her fan base from dying out---pardon the cheap joke!) and I'm sure that in her own special way she helped perpetrate the myth of the big heterosexual AIDS epidemic that was supposed to have wiped us all out by 1995 at the very latest. Nice gesture true, but does that mean she was worthy of the Nobel Prize like many people tend to think? Dunno about you, but I do hold a higher opinion of those retirees around here who work at Meals on Wheels and get hot grub to shut-ins on a daily basis without thought of any notoriety 'cept maybe a story in the local paper once every five years. Of course that ain't the reason these people do it, but they "give more of themselves" than bigshot actresses who seem to think more about people who (again, prepare to be offended) live from orgasm to orgasm than some widowed nonagenarian who's living on the barest of pensions imaginable.

I mean Elizabeth f**kin' Taylor...feh and double feh to thee! If anything yer passing's just another nail in the coffin to a Hollywood that lost its glimmer long before you appeared on the Silver Screen, just another reminder of the reek that your profession has permeated across this globe which I should at least thank you for in a typically snide back-handed way of course. Now all we have to wait for is Mickey Rooney's own passing (well, he did have a number of worthy acting roles including that brainy TWILIGHT ZONE one and of course the noir-ish thriller QUICKSAND, and who could forget SKIDOO?), at least after he quits blubbering about being abused by his stepson at some congressional hearing.
Maybe I should keep this post informal-like 'stead of just run down the items that have been tickling my eardrums and eyeballs these past few days. Maybe not. You can already tell from the tone of the above that I'm not exactly in the tippy-toppest of moods (it's been a week right out of some old Don Martin cartoon, complete with steamroller). Even the orders from Ken Pierce Books and Forced Exposure haven't been able to lift my mood into something a tad more jovial, though they have been filling my evening hours with fresh entertainment that's keeping me from going completely insane. Sheesh, sometimes I think I've caught a dose of the same MALAISE that seems to have been affecting Lindsay Hutton these past few years, and we know we can't let that happen!
One thing that's been perking up my settle-down time in the evening has been the acquisition of two volumes of DENNIS THE MENACE dailies that Fantagraphics issued in book form for long-lasting use. You may remember that Bill Shute sent me the first volume of Dennis panels for Christmas a few years ago, and frankly that was one gift that sent me back to the age of elevem (no sic) when both the comic and the tee-vee show (then airing in heavy-duty morning/afternoon syndication) was making a heavy doody impact on my sure wish it was still 1958 sense of well-being! The following volumes containing panels dating '53/'56 have a few surprises, including the debut of Margaret who had yet to become the tightass snoot foil she's best known for as well as a still-developing Mr. Wilson who comes off a lot meaner in these early appearances than his eventual Gale Gordon-ish looking self would lead you to believe. (Speaking of which, me 'n my compats always used to have these discussions as to who was better on the tee-vee screens of yore, like Dick York or Dick Sargent, and of course Joseph Kearns and Gale Gordon as Mr. Wilson. The general consensus was that Kearns was the better Wilson, though Gordon looked more like the one in the comics!) There are also a few rather surprisingly risque 'uns that creator Hank Ketcham snuck into the mix here (perhaps inspired by his own personal travails?) like this one snat gag having to do with a 3-D hula girl spectacular. Brought back great pre-pube memories of a time which was not only different, it was BETTER!
Got a strangie in the mailbox a few days back. It turns out that the infamous Gulcher record label has gone into the DVD business and is now pushing this new undoubtedly direct-to-disque feature entitled YOUNG ISLANDS on us. And to be honest about it I didn't know what to expect about this film which seems to be the post-film to all of those '90s slacker moom pitchers I used to hear about. And although the mere thought of modern films frankly does tend to frighten me off considering how I have a hard time gettin' into any feature that has been made since TILLIE'S PUNCTURED ROMANCE, but in order to do a friend a favor (after all, I was sent this thing gratis!) and to take on a new challenge, I masterfully and swiftly popped this 'un into the player and braced myself for which I was about to receive...

And what I got was a pretty strange tale indeed...not actually a film with a comin' at'cha discernible plot'r anything but a series of loosely-connected vignettes about this teenaged bedwetting glue-sniffing muddled kid living in what seems like a standard midwestern small city not that much unlike the area in which I inhabit. Shot in black and white and rather dreary in itself, the film follows this typically 201X washout (played? by a Steven Hamilton, a name you probably won't remember but then again you never remembered Josef Vondruska's) as he wanders around his town observing the weirdos and pestering his classmate who works at the deli at the supermarket. All this in between getting punched out by some guy trying to tell a story about getting fired from Pizza Hut and visiting his dad at the hospital (pop had a heart attack while engaging in an adulterous affair) which might seem a little far-fetched, but then again real life is so strange nowadays I find it hard telling fiction from reality on a daily basis. YOUNG ISLANDS just drifts from situation to situation looking like some 1961 avant garde feature guaranteed to get Jonas Mekas all hotcha, only shot a good half-century later in the here-and-now which I gotta say makes for the perfect encapsulation of as to why everything in this new and post-postmodern world is just one bit zombiefest, as if we couldn't tell that would happen back when the social forces of the "liberating" sixties came about to free us from the bonds of OZZIE AND HARRIET reruns.

Too much cursing true, and the bizarre reality of this is enough to make me turn to Perry Como records just to inject a little life into these veins, but whatever your own personal take YOUNG ISLANDS is one flicker that's bound to get you more'n a little hot and bothered whether positively or negatively. Great soundtrack music too featuring the creme of the Gulcher roster such as the Gizmos, Bon Vivants, Angel Corpus-Christi and the decidedly non-Gulcher Hugh Cornwell (howcum no Lou Rone? He coulda added some fine incidental sounds!). And what's best about the film is that no matter how much you may stamp your feet and complain, this is your life. can watch YOUNG ISLANDS or just go down to the shopping plaza and observe the fun...same thing. (An Acadamy Award would be given to the guy who plays the geeky mooching doof in the parking lot if this were a just life.)
Today's an important day in the annals of BLOG TO COMM-dom. On this date exactly thirty-five years ago I bought my first ever Velvet Underground album, a copy of LOADED at White Wing Records in Niles Ohio if you're that nosy about it. Remember that day as clearly as if it were yesterday...kinda sunny like it's been only much warmer in the mid-sixties, and I can still remember that surge of youthful joy I was having discovering a whole slew of musical acts that seemed to be making a much better soundtrack for my teenbo existence than the quap that was supposed to be custom made for that mythical ages 18-34 groupage. I dunno, but when I'd slap on a record back then I felt as if I was making an important socio-political statement or somethin', which amazes me since that sounds like something a wizened New York columnist mighta made in 1968 but when transposed to some ethno-suburban overweight pimplefarm level it makes all the more sense!

I do remember that I snatched LOADED (as opposed to 1969 LIVE) outta the bin because it was such a rarity at the time (in fact, the first time I ever saw it or the phony followup SQUEEZE for sale was at White Wing) and I figured that I better get my paws on the blamed thing before it was gone for all eternity. Good choice on my addlebrained part, for LOADED really holds up as a recent spin (in honor of this momentous anniversary) attests. I've stated before just how much LOADED really does hearken back to the early days of the group with a good sense of 1970 rock in mind, and naturally I AM right because this 'un has the hard-grit sense of the first album only with a good half-decade of rock evolution firmly implanted. And it's got a drive that could almost have been mistaken for that of the New York Dolls had this come out during the 1971-73 era of flash freak rock! Given the time and place I first heard it the thang couldn't have come at a better moment in life (this after a good year or so of fearing to purchase a Velvets album because of what the folks mighta thought!), certainly helping to change the focus of my musical horizons from FM/prog bleat to something a lot more feral. Who knows, if this post survives future generations might just make March 26th a holiday of sorts in the annals of misguided reverse-control conditioning youth kultur.
AND IN CLOSING...last December I hipped you on this recent album by the "Taureg" act Group Inerane, a buncha sub-Saharan rebel rockers who have been making a splash in the Libyan/northern Niger area with their heavy-duty riff rock which sports not only important political messages for the masses but some of the best primitive sound scraping since the early-Velvet Underground, Captain Beefheart and the Fugs (combined!). Their GUITARS FROM AGADEZ VOLUME 3 album was a real surprise, especially since I thought that all of that primitive repeato-riff rock that seemed so akin to the late-seventies moral clime was long gone and buried, but here it was presented in a way that woulda made me think these guys were some Cleveland avant garage under-the-counterculture groupage worthy of a David Solomonoff article in THE COVENTRY SHOPPING least until they started opening their mouths, that is.

Finances allowed me to snatch up two more of these Northern African group sounds and...well, although both of these Cee-Dees ain't as straightforwardly energetic as the aforementioned player I find both good 'nuff. Group Inerane's GUITARS FROM AGADEZ CD is a bit thin sounding considering the lack of a bass guitar perhaps but still fine. Coulda done w/o the additional chanting chick singers who sound like they're auditioning for the Master Musicians of Jojouka or the liner notes explaining their kinship with strongman Qaddaffi (who seems to favor the Taureg people's cause which might make him a hero or villain, I dunno), but then again many of you readers were all hotcha on those early-eighties English political rockers and you know what kinda views some of 'em held! Good cheap electric guitar rock that does, if you squint your ears, sound like no wave influenced Cleveland avant-garage practice tapes, though not coming to a small party near you nohow!

Group Bombino's GUITARS FROM AGADEZ VOLUME 2 is another straight to you rarity that should be offered free with a year's subscription to NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC. The acoustic "dry guitar" playing that makes up for the first half of this disque is good enough, though when Ghoumour Oumara Moctar a.k.a. Bombino plugs in this platter takes on the same high intensity of the rest of electrified Taureg with a smart energetic beat that just can't be shaken off that easily. Like the debut Group Inerane platter it might not come up to the primal oomph of VOLUME 3, but they do have that cheap guttural bellow that has made the soundtrack for our lives these past umpteen years/decades and if you're looking for a new kick well, why not give 'em all a try?

1 comment:

song 2 the siren said...

My first Velvets was a cassette of the first one and I HATED it. I was ignorant maybe expecting metallic pre-Ramones punk based on what little I knew. The only Lou I had heard was R&R Animal and that was faaaaaar easier to swallow than The Velvets to a classic rock kid.

It clicked while tripping on acid and somebody was playing it and everybody else wanted to go sit in the sauna but I didn't want to be half-naked with other dudes so I stayed upstairs watching patterns in the carpet moving and listening to side one of the first album over and over and The Velvets finally clicked in my head and they opened up a bigger world.

I kind of blame them and Lou Reed though for a lot of problems I had experimenting with drugs after getting into them and romanticizing smack and oddball sex and romanticizing depression. That's life though. It is what it is, and I'm sure the music just facilitated what was inside of me already.