Saturday, April 30, 2011

I it me, or is it life?. I'm talking about the way it seems as if everything that is part 'n' parcel to my existence has come to a practical standstill, with a dramatic drop off of blog traffic to correspondence to whatever there is out there that's designed to stimulate the back brain here in what we'll call one of the most letdown centuries since the enlightenment. As you can plainly see, the spirit hasn't moved me so once again you're getting yet another half-there piddling post that really ain't anything for me to stand up and be proud of. Not that it wasn't expected because, frankly, there's hardly ANYTHING of a grand and glorious design happening these days that makes life worth living in a Bishop Sheen sorta way...y'know, where I can wake up with a smile on my face just rarin' to pour through a heapin' hunkin' pile of energetic recordings and fanzines guaranteed to me me the complete man...but as usual I'll have to make do with what I can even though that can get to be a drag when you're as A.D.D. as I am.

Let's face it, the original hard-edge rock und roll movement birthed in the fifties that flourished through the sixties and seventies is nothing but a cheap nostalgic memory (hey Greg Shaw, it never did come back and come to think of it neither will you!), while even the archival dig-ups seem to be a twice or thrice throb thrill happening per 365 earthspins. And sure, this probably means nada to you but for a guy like myself who spent my teenage years absorbing whatever gulcheral happening that was available for me to osmose (and who tried to milk whatever I could out of music as a means of escaping from the tedium of the day) let's just say that I am not exactly as happy a camper as I would like to be. It's come to the point where I have to give a try to various seventies schlub acts I never thought I would give the time of day to in my entire life only because certain people I trust like Eddie Flowers and Nick Kent have championed 'em and like, given the lack of stimulation on anyone's part I've got to grasp for whatever straws there are within my reach! That's how hard up I've become these past few years, and in the sage words of Quick Draw McGraw don't you forget it!

Now, it's not like I'm that desperate that I'm going to trek down to the neared Cee-Dee supermarket to latch onto a copy of Joni Mitchell's I'M PISSING ON SUMMER LAWNS or whatever it's called just because Kent thinks so highly of the human chipmunk, but if you see a review of it on this blog within the next few months if not years don't be too surprised.

And yeah, I know I touched on this very fact last post and if the mere fact that I actually bought a Little Feat disque isn't proof enough of my desperate nature I don't know what is! But sheesh, I really do need some fresh juice-flowing music in my life and if I can't get it the normal way I guess I do have to go elsewhere, no matter how much of a stretch I have to take from my own personal values to do so. And while I'm at it, I sure could use the latest issue of UGLY THINGS, which has managed to slip right by me for reason unknown to everybody 'cept maybe Mike Stax himself and which I know will help clear up the perennial fog in my bean and make me think more like a human once again...

(Right here is where the world's tiniest mouse comes in to play "My Heart Bleeds For You" on the world's tiniest violin. Sheesh, don't you readers have any feelings?)

Well, at least there's one "newie" out there to help lift me out of my mid-Spring ennui and make me feel like a maladjusted 20-year-old again. And frankly if it weren't for a recent HOUND BLOG post I probably would have passed up on this collection of oft-neglected Merseyside musings from the all femme Liverbirds even though this is the kind of music that keeps a blogschpieler like myself going for quite a long time. But after years of pondering I finally got hold of this probably about as complete as it's gonna get collection, and let's just say that it's the surprise of the season and a pretty good one that sorta matches the spring-like sunniness that I often associate with various other recordings that entered into my life during the onset of warm weather and a more positive attitude towards life. Like with the Velvet Underground and Mothers of Invention during 1976, the Flamin' Groovies in '78, the Modern Lovers in '79, or the Television Personalities in ' that seemed to reflect the clear outlook of summertime fun and games as well as some sorta misguided hope that things were gonna get better because well...they just hadda...

But enough rheumy reminiscence...getting back to the main thrust of this piece I gotta admit that it's OBVIOUS that the Liverbirds are just the perfect group for my springtime frolics not only because they're such a darn good, primitive band but because they happen to all be females yet don't play themselves up either as tits 'n ass merchants or dyko feminist bruisers! These misses just plow through their repertoire of Diddley/Berry-riffed numbers and do it in one of the most kinetic ways you can imagine. You could call it punk rock in the classic 1974 BOMP sense and you'd be right...the closest thing I can compare it to would be the Downliners Sect who did a similar r 'n' b styled music that mixed the raw grittiness of fifties rock with what many thought was plain incompetence, but there was an attitude and swivel to it all that really appealed to maladjusted midclass wonks such as myself who needed a little refrain from the music once known as rock that sounded more like the byproduct of a massive, mechanical and cyborg eighties music scene.

With 29 tracks there's just gotta be something for just about everybody with the gumption to tune into this blog, ranging from the familiar cover fodder (some which, as they say, will surprise you!) to a few cantcha believe it sorta things like Johnny Thunder's "Loop de Loop" and the Everly Brothers' "Love Hurts" (which naturally makes the Nazareth hit take sound like even more sore squeals for "classic rock" inbreds). And it all comes off like what you woulda expected from an all-gal band with a halfway-there handle on their gear just cranking out a nice bleat for a buncha local drunkards and other malcontents at the Star Club, a place which thought so much of the 'birds that they gave 'em a recording contract from whence two longplayers and a hefty portion of these tracks derive.

As usual the enclosed booklet is a big help, especially for a doof like myself who was fed a lotta misinformation about the Liverbirds o'er the years. Well, I'm glad that the rumors were cleared up but still the line I was handed sure sounded a lot better, like the story about how these gals were really from London despite their name and how they used to perform wearing their Catholic schoolgal uniforms onstage, or better yet how they actually dated the Downliners Sect who taught them how to play their gear before the 'birds unceremoniously dumped 'em! The final bit of folly does seem real enough considering the similarities between the two acts, but finding out that the 'birds actually were from Liverpool and probably never even came in close contact with the Sect does put quite a damper on things! Proves once again that fiction IS stranger than truth! I sure coulda used the story mentioned by Hans-Jurgen Klitsch in GORILLA BEAT about the time he saw an army of mad krauts swarm the Star Club stage as the gals were playing but hey, I guess we couldn't have everything!
Stew Lane and the Untouchables-HARDER THAN WAX 2-CD set (International Records, available through CD Baby)

As you know, I'm so interested in the New York underground rock scene of the seventies (and even onward to an extent) that I'd give your left kajoobie to hear just about anything that came out of that scene no matter how obscure or potentially coma-inducing said group might have been. Yeah, I know that not every act that traipsed upon the stages of CB's 'n Max's was exactly a winner, but for every ten or so Movies that were gigging about back then there might have been at least one or two Mansters or TV Toys, so I find it worthwhile to take chances whenever I can to give a listen to any obscurity whose recordings might make their way to my door. Besides, given the hard time finding anything high energy worthy to listen to these days I better do about as much grabbing for whatever is out there! I can't afford to miss out on anything that might get the exhumation treatment, that's how low the jamz have been for quite some time and yeah I know shut up and get on to the review we're tired of hearing your crybaby bleat I hear ya say!

Stew Lane and the Untouchables were but one of the thousands of groups who made up a rather diverse music scene in New York, and for some reason this particular album avoided my scope back when it was unleashed sometime in the v. early eighties. As it was, Lane and his Untouchables were a rather OK under-the-covers NYC group...nothing special and kinda new wave-y in that gotta slip some rap into our set kinda way, but the use of swank and style in their act gives 'em the impression of being a lighter weight Roxy Music sorta group. This is something I definitely would have loathed at the time but seems halfway decent in retrospect only because what we've had to put up with in the meanwhile makes this sound like "Sister Ray". Two additional tracks recorded live at CBGB sweeten the pot a bit, as does an additional disque with even more CB's era numbers of varying quality. Not really a bad package if I do say so myself, but if I find myself listening to this before I'm carted off to face the Death Panel it'll only be due to extreme boredom.
IT'S A FANZINE #51 (what else but a fanzine, published by Gene Kehoe, 2265 Byron Ave., Waterloo, IA 50702)

Well, even if the latest UGLY THINGS has yet to grace my boudoir at least there's another long-lived, and long-lasting fanzine out there to satisfy my under-the-gulcher cravings for rare and hardly-ever-disseminated information even in these computer-laden times. And although the comic book world ain't exactly anything that lights up my prune-y butt the way high energy rock does at least a mag like IT'S A FANZINE conjures up hefty memories of adolescent comic rack scouring and other forms of youthful activity. It might have kept this kiddoe off the streets and out of trouble, but it also kept him locked indoors where he could get into a whole lot more trouble'n had he been hanging out with the usual neighborhood miscreants!

You might recall an entire post I did on this fanzine almost a year ago...well here's the latest and as I woulda expected editor Gene Kehoe's kept up the same high standards of fanzine excellence that the previous fifty ishes have laid down for us ever since the first 'un crept outta the cranial compound of his mind way back in '80. And in an age where rock fanzines have either capitulated or take on a professional glossy look that somehow belies the ideal of rock as gritty, garage-laden music, at least IT'S A FANZINE looks and reads like a fanzine used to, and perhaps always should. And this late in the game I gotta be thankful for small favors such as this which keeps me connected with a past that might nor have been totally rapturous, but at least it produced gut-level hard-hitting fanzine-oriented reads that I really do miss lo these many years.

This one's got 44 pages filled with all sorts of interesting comic fan-oriented gunch ranging from a review of the Legion of Superheroes saga in ADVENTURE comics circa '67 where Ferro Lad kicks the bucket in the course of performing the usual heroic duties expected of a Superboy (one of the first of the "no big loss" comic hero deaths long before the big losses started piling up) to a reprint of a pre-Simmons Gene Klein anti-MMMS article from WEB SPINNER #2 in 1965 back when he felt it was an extreme ripoff joining this Marvel Comics fanclub for the then-exorbitant price of a buck! (Funny thing is that now he's so filthy rich that he could afford to pay the way for just about every orphan in this blasted nation!) Comic fanzine cover galleries and esoterica columns also appear, the latter dishing out some newsoids that I never thought about before and probably never will think about again (such as the two Alfred E. Neuman facsimiles that appeared in mid-sixties DC comics!) and that coupled with a great fannish outlook and excellent printing spells out something that's gonna occupy my evening hours for more'n one night I'll tell ya!

Perhaps thee item in this issue that made me do a double take was the reprinting of a pre-SPIDER-MAN Steve Ditko saga from a '59 issue of the soon-to-be defunct Marvel title STRANGE WORLDS. Not that there's anything weird enough about one of the many stories that Ditko was drawing from Stan Lee's scripts during these formative years which helped define the Marvel Age of Comics, but given some of Ditko's own, er, personal (some may say "peculiar", but I won't) beliefs this story must be one that the guy still has a hard time living down. Even casual fans know about Ditko's adherence to an Objectivist/libertarian sense-of-being and how he eventually rejected drawing stories featuring alternative universes/dimensions because he only believes in what he can see, feel and reason with, but at one time that certainly was not the case as today's case-in-point "I Couldn't Stop The Runaway Comet" not-so-subtly proves! Y'see, in this saga which takes place a good 49 years from now, scientist Victor Sage runs for the office of Earth's president and all is fine and well until it is discovered that a massive comet is ready to head smack dab into the orb and pretty much end planetdom as we know it. An attempt to destroy the comet with missiles fails and all seems lost until...Sage leads the planet in prayer and the comet miraculously swerves from its target "as if a giant, unseen hand brushed it aside!" Oddly enough, if Ditko were to present this story to one of the many fanzines that were printing original sagas a good ten years later the situation would have been reversed with the denizens of the future praying their guts out before Sage uses his scientific wit to destroy the blazing ball! I guess at this time the sway o' Rand had yet to overcome him, at least to the point where he would even reject doodling tales with even a hint of the ol' mysticism in 'em. Still, yet another rarity dug up and dusted off for longtime fans and followers such as myself and for that I gotta be grateful that a mag like IT'S A FANZINE exists in the first place! I'd pray to God in thanksgiving, but somehow I don't think Ditko would approve of that!
Well, I think I made it through this 'un OK-like. Have an interesting "concept" piece in the works for next weekend, but as usual I should see you before then, like say next Wednesday?


Anonymous said...

Thanks for reviewing my album, 'Harder Than Wax',
You have an excellent blog.

Very Best,

Stew Lane

Christopher Stigliano said...

But Stew, it wasn't exactly a tip top POSITIVE review that I dished out there. I have nothing against you personally though...

Anonymous said...

After 30 years, the slightest bit of attention makes me weep with delight.

Thanks again.
By the way, did your wife write 'Please Kill Me'?


Anonymous said...

Christopher please X the comment about 'Please Kill Me'. I was thinking of Houndog's wife.

Feel free to ask any questions about 1979/80 NYC club scene.

Stew Lane

Anonymous said...

OK, I feel it is reasonable to defend my album after Christopher's harsh dismissal.

HARDER THAN WAX recorded in 1979, at AI STUDIO in The Beacon Hotel, is a recording that was way ahead of it's time.
Try to find any real comparison from that period and you would be struggling.
The best tracks are PLAY THIS SONG with it's hypnotic bass pattern straight from the funk world, it's backwards lead break and unique percussion sounds.
Also brilliant is PERPETRATOR that uses pre Ian Dury poetry, horns, combined with a re-souped 60's feel.
SINCERITY opens the album with a reggae/disco combination feel,under-laid by drummer by NECESSARIES drummer, JESSE CHAMBERLAIN.
The bonus track, SUPERKARMA introduces a string section that pays tribute to the epic Bee Gees song, STAYING ALIVE. The soaring female vocals are supplied by LISA FISCHER who has been singing with THE ROLLING STONES for many years.
THE TALKING HEADS adjusted their stage act and sound after seeing and hearing STEW LANE and THE UNTOUCHABLES perform. Their STOP MAKING SENSE tour and subsequent augmented stage act, clearly reflects this change. (See STEW LANE videos on you tube from 1980).
STANFORD UNIVERSITY holds a copy of STEW LANE AND THE UNTOUCHABLES 12" RAP record, U.N. RAP SONG. in their archives as it is one of the first rap records released.
HARDER THAN WAX is brilliant and has been sadly overlooked for far too long.

Thank you. S.L.

Anonymous said...

As a young, aspiring musician, who has listened to 'Harder Than Wax' for many, many years now, it saddens me to see the album, like Stew Lane and the Untouchables, once again, overlooked and quickly dismissed. For 1979, it appears clear to me the album is unique, diverse, and although the band were part of the late '70s underground NYC music scene, among so many others, they were recording, writing and playing something far more special than your normal 'indie' music, which has not overall lasted the test of time. The lyrics are quirky,eccentric, but are equally loveable, sincere, and are presented with a killer punch, delivered by the overly talented Stew Lane, and some of the great underground, fairly unknown muso's of the NYC music scene.

There has obviously come a point with Stew Lane where it no longer matters whether a review is good or bad, as a review is simply a review, and that is an honour. However, to me, 'Harder Than Wax' is close to a masterpiece, frankly, and it truly does upset me to see it tossed away, and not appreciated. With all the pretentious, try hard crap which has been produced over the years, surely this album deserves more than 'extreme boredom' and 'please kill me'. In fact, I would take little notice of such a review.

If I walked into a record store, and saw a section of late '70s underground music from around America, I would consider 'Harder Than Wax' by far one of the best of its time...

Rock on Stew Laner, you are a star!!


Anonymous said...

As an aspiring musician, who has listened to Stew Lane and the Untouchable's 'Harder Than Wax' for many, many years now, I rate it in my top ten, frankly. With it's quirky sounds, whimsical lyrics, and an overall, imaginative back drop, it propels far beyond the pretentious, try hard crap which has been produced over the years.

It saddens me to see the album overlooked, disregarded and chucked away like much of the other NYC '70s music, when this album, like the band, is beyond its time; in writing, singing, recording and talent. There's clearly come a point where Mr Stew Lane has accepted a review as a review, regardless of viewpoint, as any review is an honour. However, this review is less than satisfying, and deserves so much more respect and acknowledgement than it has been served. Honestly, I would take little notice of this review. 'Extreme boredom', 'please kill me'... come on, get real.

Rock on Stew Lane; this album is stronger, tougher and harder than wax!!