Sunday, January 15, 2012

I don't know whether I should be proud, ashamed, or just plain ol' flabbergasted, but it finally took me over thirty years for the debut Siouxsie and the Banshees platter entitled THE SCREAM to finally worm its way into my not so often wormed heart. I'm not exactly sure as to why this 'un finally hit the core of my being or whatever flowery rockcritic jargon you'd care to dredge up, since just about every word of praise and exaultation regarding this album that your mind can think of has been directed at me regarding this (as some would say) "epochal" release. I kind of get the feeling that it was because of the Nick Kent writeup in a long-lost NME dropping everything from the Velvet Underground to Can that finally clenched gears within my rockist sense of well-being, which only translates into I'll listen to this guy shovel the rock evaluations and opinions anyday though if some schmuck next to me deals out the exact same schpiel I'll be more'n apt to IGNORE the upstart sucker. After all, if I'm going to be dishing well up to two hours worth of pay (before deductions) for a platter that I might have some reservations about, I might as well hear it from a well paid professional 'stead of some knowitall off the street! Besides, if the record turned out to be a dud it ain't like I can go all the way over to Gay Paree 'n slug out Kent like I could some Joe Fafoofnik who works in a bakery and skids his underwear just like everyone else!

But for being an "experimental" punk rock album (perhaps even "avant punk" in the best Velvets/Imperial Dogs sense) THE SCREAM ranks up there with Wire, the Pop Group, the Slits and the rest of those English art rockers mentioned in that Talking Heads/electronic possibilities piece the adorned the cover of the final issue of BOMP. True the entire format seemed like way too much English Weekly fodder once 1982 rolled in, but at least when the idea of taking various sixties epiphanies and deconstructing them to the point where rank amateurs could do with nth the musical abilities (but with all of the acumen) what the Velvets did with their inborn genius groups like Siouxsie/Banshees were able to pull it off with much elan. Great spidery sound here gives this the same starkness of that last dream you had when you flashed back to mid-teen loneliness and angst and lived it all over again in your modern day hulk of a remnant post-man...uncertain past meets stark present.

A latch onto the Peel sessions is a definite possibility, though what I would like to know is, is the 100 Club set featuring the original free splat variation with Marco Pirroni and the one called Sid available anywhere (and in better fidelity than the horrid mess that's been flying around for some time)? I coulda sworn there not only was a bootleg featuring this set floating around, but that somebody (one of my adoring fans, no doubt!) had sent me a cassette of this show and it sure sounded better'n the mass of wallow that had been made available to tape to traders everywhere for years on end!

Essra Mohawk's one of those singer/songwriter fringe rabble (who's been associated w/Zappa and the Grateful Dead as well as hung around the Laurel Canyon area a little more than any sane person would dare) that more'n a few people, some of whom I even admire, claim a strange if almost clandestine allegiance to. As far as cult figures go Mohawk doesn't quite live up to the expectations I'm sure that her SoCal compats like Tom Waits or even Joni herself can deal out to disaffected and way-too-introspective for my tastes kinda people, but I gotta admit that she sure did a better job on these two WEA discs back inna seventies than I would have given her credit for. Downright rocking, jazzy and driving at times, both PRIMORDIAL LOVERS and just plain ol' ESSRA MOHAWK (here double packaged in a 2000 Rhino handmade edition complete with rare b-sides and the like) come off like Carole King's toughest only done even tougher, Joni Mitchell with a prescription for Celexa and as some of the best solo seventies woman rock since the Shangri Las or at least Yoko Ono's APPROXIMATELY INFINITE UNIVERSE (OK, that's an inside Metal Mike Saunders joke which I hope you get!). Once you get the fact outta your mind that this lass wrote songs for Tina Turner and Cyndi Lauper (and nicked her Asylum LP cover offa Maxfield Parrish, one of my least fave artists) you might even consider Mohawk one of the few people outta the SoCal land of la la to make it into the present without losing much sanity or strength in the translation! A nice once in awhile spin that I thought actually had the intelligence, move and swing that the rest of the competition, cult or mainstream, just totally lacked.

You already know about my natural inbred weakness for the Velvet Underground and the utilization of various forms either developed or extrapolated on by this musical act which have been borrowed, lifted or developed on throughout the late-sixties and seventies ny more than the handful of acolytes the likes of Jann Wenner would care to admit. And, as you also undoubtedly know, I still have an almost infantile weakness for the Velvets and their various progeny who have helped create some of the most vibrant and electronic energy throughout those years. This  weakness is evident even to the point where I continue to cherish coming across a variety of references (mostly written while the group was still functioning or recently deceased) where various scribes would compare certain acts boht up-and-coming as well as established to the Velvets in various musical capacities as if this was perhaps one of the most intelligent and crowning achievements in said group's entire kultural makeup.

A reference to the "early" Velvets will get me more than champing at the bit to search through three decades of flotsam for a certain tape that will reveal said act's abilities to decipher the Reed/Cale period in rock history when the Velvets were such an alien force that only the fringiest of the fringe (or the nerdiest of the suburban fanboys) could comprehend the addled might. A '73 VILLAGE VOICE piece on Patti Smith which compared the Lenny Kaye/DNV Sohl backup to a cross between the early-Velvets and Kurt Weill had me giving the Max's portion of THE POETRY PROJECT bootleg a good three nights worth of pre-beddy bye spins, while a recent writeup of the Smith boot PATHS THAT CROSS which described "Farewell Road"'s early VU lilt had me spinnin' that with the repeat button goin' on ad infinitum (even though the piece was written well after the allure of Velvets-unto-rock decadence had long worn off thanks to the news filtering down to where just about every amerindie dork could take the magic and ruin it. But somehow the idea and mood was just right and...). I know that Mick Farren's writeup of Dylan's HARD RAIN live set with the early-Velvet Underground refs (though with good ol down on Maggie's Farm fresh air and sunshine replacing the gutter homo drug visions) had me scurrying to latch up a copy if only because Farren's such a deep into the soul writer, while even dorkoid Robert Christgau comparing the Fugs of FUGS FOUR ROUNDERS SCORE to the '66 vintage VU in some '75 "Consumer's Guide" was enough to...well you know the entire schpiel anal retentive exactness of it all.

Gotta admit that even though I do consider myself an up 'n front Velvets fan I rarely play their legit albums anymore, or even a lot of their bootlegs for that matter. This is mainly because I don't want to become overly familiar with 'em even afte a good 30+ years of knowing these platters by heart, and besides the call hasn't been overcoming me as much as it did when I was a mere 18 and for some strange reason rock 'n' roll seemed to have a deeper, more invigorating meaning in my life than it even does now. When I do spin the VU it's (once again) the early stuff...or shall I say the real early surviving and downright experimental entries from their ESP "Noise" track of pure undistilled beauty or the CHELSEA GIRLS soundtrack where shards of neo-Asian tuning are performed to Ondine's maddening monologue. And not-so-surprisingly this particular platter, the first disque in the '95 Velvet Underground box set which gets way too much play as of late which isn't at all that strange. But as far as the early-EARLY Velvets go, these embryonic versions of the big hits of '66 affect me as much if not more than the original takes, showing a Angus Maclise-less act as they probably sounded back when they were still the Falling Spikes and Electrah Lobel was doing the guitar parts that Sterling Morrison would eventually make his mark with. Sparse, driving and downright intense, these acoustic demos only go to prove that Lou Reed and company didn't need electricity to make highly-charged sounds though when they did it sure helped!

Yeah, perhaps there's a bit too much of a Dylan influence where there shoulda been more Reed, and instead of hearing all of those takes I woulda preferred whoever compiled this to choose the best versions of each song and add more early rehearsal tuneage if only for historical reference, but for what it is what else can I say but I sure love it because it packs just as much of that oft-needed resensifying force into my still-teenage beenie as Smith or Hackamore Brick or all of those acts that tried so grandly to be the Velvets of the seventies while everyone else was looking for the new Beatles. Sends me way back to when I was a young teenage goof trying to latch onto something interesting for once in my life, and that progressive rock and disco sham just wasn't cutting it. Now that I'm an OLD baldoid goof well...I gotta admit that I sometimes get the original feeling which does help connect me, at least spiritually, to a time and place when I thought that music like this was being created for me only because who else did I know of who would even go near the stuff!

Besides collecting rockist-oriented fan publications, I have been known to dabble a few tootsies into the fountain of other forms of fandom that have been sprouting up like lily-livered spots across my face. Amongst the various branches of "amateur" publications that I have been purchasing over the past fifteen or so, comic book fanzines have made a big indent in my own 'zine collection. This is perhaps because the beneath/beyond the mainstream work to be found within the pages of a wide array of long-deceased amazine pubs have somehow registered with my own adolescent comic art fantasies which have produced such beloved if forgotten titles as FEEBLE FABLES and RATS REAGAN. Not that there weren't an inordinary number of "crudzines" out there featuring work that woulda made the above titles look like Steranko, but there sure were a whopping batch of characters, stories and downright decent fan artists out there who did a pretty good job approximating the previous twenty years of comic book history and distilling it into whatever they could get outta some spirit duplicator or (if very lucky) offset.

LABORS OF LOVE was a fanzine-styled history of comic fandome written by former SENSE OF WONDER editor Bill Schelly, who later extrapolated on the idea with a large softcover book that filled in a lotta the missing details and general historical background that clued more'n a few newcomers about such crucial comic fanzines as ALTER EGO, XERO and STAR STUDDED COMICS. A nice and breezy li'l read that'll take you at least two pre-beddy bye sittings to complete, LABORS gives the basic backgrounds and general impressions regarding the birth and grown of comic book fandom courtesy Schelly, a guy who has a takent to really show ya just how much of an importance comic fandom was in the sixties, enough that he can actually zone you back to that early/mid-sixties teenage gulcher fun and games attitude that permeated itself into everything from comic books to tee-vee, rock 'n' roll, slot car racing and even the kind of new pleasure foods were being pumped at us from cathodes nationwide. Makes me feel sorry for kids today who have nothing but computer gadgetry and their genitals to rely on!

When you're done reading this 'un you'll undoubtedly want to give Schelly's GIANT LABORS OF LOVE a try. Reproducing some of the better dittoed fanzine sagas (nicely reproduced so's you don't get stuck with a faint page as was wont some of the ditto 'zines you'd get back then), GIANT's got some of the better stories of the sixties era front and center for you, featuring such stars of the spirit duplicator as Biljo White's The Eye (sorta like the early Batman w/o the grotesque badskies), the infamous Ronn Foss's "Velvet of Venus", future undergrounder Grass Green's "Speed Marvel vs. The Laughing Phantom" and the legendary (at least in comic fanzine circles) "Death on Night-Tide World" where a famous fandom hero actually bites the dust in action! Won't tell you who it is because you might want to latch onto this 'un and read for yourself, but let me tell you it's a real weeper!!!

Even future FANTASTIC FOUR artist (who got the job because he could do Jack Kirby better'n anybody else) Rick Buckler pops up with a Captain Liberty story that shows that the only limitations of ditto were in the mind of the creator. A great find if you can latch onto a copy, and if you consider youself any sorta fan and follower of the fans and followers then I'm sure you're more'n intereted in these long gone tomes'n I'm giving you credit for! Try ebay, or maybe even publishers Hamster Press (PO Box 27471, Seattle WA 98125) have a few left. Well, you could spend your ever dwindling lucre on something a whole lot worse, which I have the sneaking suspicion you undoubtedly will...
AND YOU THOUGHT THAT DREAM I HAD LAST WEEK WAS WEIRD! Well, here's an even weirder one that I can't make any real heads or tails outta. The whole night was filled with strange occurances in dreamland, but the part where I came home after a hard day at the nerve gas factory and found out that none other than well-published pipsqueak CHUCK EDDY was there to visit me was something that was really taking the cake! I naturally was irritated that this mental munchkin had invaded the sanctity of my abode especially after being run through the wringer, so while my parents "entertained" Mr. Eddy as if he were some visiting royal dignitary (y'know, like ask him what he does for a living and how many kids he has) I spent my time hiding in my bedroom and the bathroom where I did things like pluck a big long hair on my scalp resembled a black leek. After awhile who should bust into my vary toilet area but Mr. Eddy himself, looking a lot like the schlong I've seen in pictures o'er the years only smaller as if he were a mere ten-year-old loudmouth deserving of a big walloping!

Well, after putting up with his insults (like "nice bangs" in reference to my current Yul Brynner 'do) I actually piledrive the kiddo a few times which doesn't do much for him, given his spine seemed to be made of a slinky. I did this with no effort, as if I was play-acting studio wrestling with a three-year-old only with a ton of anger in my heart! The rapier-like witticisms kept on a'comin' (I remember him shouting "Keep your cholesterol-laden hands off me!" as I tried yet another debilitating wrestling move) though soon the social intercourse (no, not that!) was broken up by none other than mother, who chastized me for treating company in such a way even if that company was an annoying rock critic bigmouth who was more'n responsible for helping destroy the Generation of Bangs and Meltzer and turning it into one big Voice of Whoredom!

Too add even more turds to the toilet, I noted that yet another former BTC touter now on my condemned list had come to visit as well, but we got along fine, even to the point where I complimented him on the Leo Gorcey impression he did! The strange thing about this is, that I did not take any pain or allergy aids that night and those are the things that usually give me sharp, vivid dreams! Well, all I gotta say is that it wasn't one of those dreams that give me the creeps so much (like the ones where I observe gross mass genocide or various wartime atrocities first hand-like) that I don't wanna go back to sleep for another century or so. With this one make it at least a good month, because once you get down to it Chuck Eddy is Chuck Eddy and there's no way gettin' 'round that disturbing fact!!

1 comment:

Papa Jon said...

Funny that it has taken you this long to get "The Scream." An lp which even the idea of will get you running for the hills, but in my opinion is one of the best of all the post-punk lps or whatever name you want to call it, is the UK version of Adam and the Ants "Dirk Wears White Socks." That lp sounds better today than it did back in '79-80. That lp clicked about ten years ago around the same time as "The Scream." It is pre-Marco before McLaren stole the band for Bow Wow Wow. Cant believe I am even sullying the BTC brand with mentions about these bands . . .