Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Perhaps demerits are in order for totally forgetting (until it was too late) that this past June 22nd marked the 35th anniversary of the passing of noted musician, writer and Cleveland prime mover (Cinderella Backstreet/Rocket From The Tombs/you know the score) Peter Laughner. Maybe I can redeem myself, at least in part, by reminding you that today would have been Laughner's sixtieth birthday had he only survived that fateful early morning slip into the forever way back '77 way. Y'know, it may seem odd to you but I can envision a sixty-ish Laughner in the here and now, he having had to struggle through the dark days of the eighties with the rest of us whilst experiencing a rebirth of sorts during the same nineties which saw his beloved punk rock* finally get accepted by the new if way more self-pitying breed of teenage miscreant who certainly gave that term a new if rather lacklustre meaning. Hair white w/grey flex and kinda wrinkled, but still the same guy as if his entire belief system was still stuck in the 1972-6 underground rock/CREEM credo that still comes off so enlightening lo these many years later. 

Who knows, perhaps he'd even be stimulant-free, though fortunately not one of those chaps who'd bore us endlessly about it like a guy who's been on a diet the past six months! As for how Laughner would otherwise be behaving himself here in the teens a good fortysome years after the guy began dabbling in the realms of rockscreeding, folk scene introspection and proto-punk involvement well, your guess is as good as mine but doesn't it get your mind in gear just thinkin' up the possibilities (or looking to see what his fellow "first wave" survivors are up to in the here and now and following suit)?

Gotta admit that one of the things that got me thinkin' to do a Laughner at sixty piece was the discovery of a file folder in the basement which, surprisingly enough, just happened to have a number of letters, photocopies and whatnot related to the guy. Most of 'em are of a particularly early-seventies bent (in particular various clippings taken from the Crocus Behemoth/Mark Kmetzko "Croc O' Bush" column in SCENE not to mention a few rather entertaining reviews and articles from Laughner's tenure at ZEPPELIN), all of which were given to me by friends and acquaintances to use or abuse in the pages of my very own crudzine. Of course back in the loathsome eighties I was more'n anxious to present these Laughner-related rarities in my mag (a choice which actually got the thing tagged as a "reprint 'zine" in a number of poorly-written reviews) during a time when the universe in general couldn't give a rat's ass that the guy had been dead for ten years and perhaps deserved a memorial or sorts. Nowadays I tend to feel the same way about Laughner and his legacy given the rebirth of not only Rocket From The Tombs but a general interest in a variety of punkitude past which, even here in the age of internet, is not being disseminated as quickly or as thoroughly as it should be.

The presence of some letters sent by that eternal gadfly Clinton Heylin would suggest that this file was put together to assist him in his controversial underground rock history FROM THE VELVETS TO THE VOIDOIDS, an effort which earned me a personally autographed copy of the book and lost me a number of rare photos (second biggest swindle by a rock scribe after Reinhard Holstein's pilfering of some Mirrors/Eels-related material back '83 way), but over the years I've gotten used to all of that anyway. Then again, most of the clippings were sent me by none other than Peter's long-suffering mother Pat, a woman who used to call me up and talk about Peter, at times breaking into tears before regaining her composure when certain memories hit her hard. I ain't gonna tell you about the ones she hated for the way they treated him or anything of that sort, but it was sure nice of Pat to correspond and call me the way she did, and at a very cross-roady/mixed up time in my own existence. I understand Pat's now gone, and I can only hope that she is now at peace and all of that stuff I know you hard-as-rocks "realists" think is corny but I don't since at least I believe in showing a little emotion when it is warranted.

Looking through the clippings and reading Laughner's opines on everything from a live New York Dolls/Left End show** to his reviews of Van Morrison's TB SHEETS and Dylan's PLANET WAVES, it's not hard to see that even at this early stage in the rock writing game Laughner had the potential and ability to have become every bit as popular and as published a writer as his major influence and pal Lester Bangs. If you pardon my own perhaps skewered speculations, perhaps Laughner could have become the American Nick Kent! This is especially true when you consider just how both Laughner and Kent had musical tastes that could be considered in many ways universal***, and both of wrote about the subject at hand in a deep, personalist fashion that spoke to you as if it were a down-to-earth man-to-man talk rather'n the latest outcropping of flack posing as criticism that has become oh-so-common since the passing of the rockscribing baton to a generation of doofs. None of that standard one-dimensional hyperbole and overanxious lapdog fanboy attitude that tells you more about the asshole behind the typewriter than the music emanating from the speakers. Maybe that's the real reason I began to loathe Chuck Eddy other'n his incessant belittling of me via letter and phone****; at least Laughner, Kent and the seventies breed of scribe could explain to you their opines in the best straightforward ways possible (with a load of autobiographical backbone that didn't seem self-serving and mere padding)...all Eddy did was climb up on his high horse and berate us li'l ol' peons for not appreciating the fine qualities of dredge like Lou Gramm and Lisa Lisa whilst I clung to my punk philosophy as if it were still 1966 and Sky Saxon and the Seeds really were better than the Rolling Stones!

Here's the cream of the xeroxed material that I found. For the sake of privacy I left out the personal letters Peter wrote to a certain fan fixture we all know and love (though I included Richard Hell's note to Laughner with the "Blank Generation" lyrics and chords!), as well as a mention of him in an article on Bruce Springsteen's "mystique" that was written by one Anastasia Pantsios, a "person" who ironically used to set Laughner's articles for ZEPPELIN to type in the same fashion Kent's scribbles hadda be transcribed before meeting the deadline! Oddly enough, Peter's mother told me that Laughner thought a whole lot of Pantsios as opposed to PLAIN DEALER standby Jane Scott, a woman whom Laughner also liked dearly, if only because Pantsios was a "rock critic" who made her opinions known to the unfortunate reader at hand 'stead of a reporter like Scott who never really let many of her personal opinions regarding group "X" get into print. Well, all I gotta say is, those are some pretty pathetic opines that Pantsios dared spew out throughout her entire rock criticing "career" now, weren't they! And I guess Pantsios' feelings regarding Laughner weren't mutual considering the badmouthing she eventually gave him long after he was placed in the grave!

I also decided to 86 a Laughner ZEPPELIN live review of Springsteen and Wishbone Ash since we all know that even out favorites' tastes tended to veer off into orbit at least once in awhile!

But still I thought you would get a kick outta it all, even with the old ads, the "Croc O' Bush" with a Laughner mention and photo situated next to a mention of a Great Bow Wah Death Band performance, the letter from the Musician's Union of which Laughner was a member and even Charlotte Pressler's attempt at the Lisa Robinson game with "Pzzaz" featuring a nice mention of hubby Laughner chewing out the folks at WMMS-FM for their obviously shallow tastes. And if Laughner coulda shamed 'MMS into spinning the Stooges then you know he had some mojo really workin' for 'im!


Hope you celebrated Laughner's big sixtieth in fine fashion here, although it would have been nice if that box set featuring everything from bedroom musings to the infamous CREEM tapes with Lester Bangs was at our fingertips for us to enjoy while pouring through this treasure trove? Oh well, at least we have more'n enough legit Laughner available (some of us more than others) to help soothe our scorched souls, and although waiting for the next Peter to head our ways would be rather futile at least these pieces (as well as his music)  still has enough power and punch to help get us through the current crisis in rock, and the next dozen or some of 'em to crop up as well!

*which to him was "a term coined stillborn," an idea that seemed to be part and parcel to the whole Cleveland underground considering how former bandmate Crocus Behemoth said in a BACK DOOR MAN interview that he pretty much thought the whole punk idea came to total fruition with the Stooges and RAW POWER, or something to that effect (pull out your own mag, man!).

**the same show which had Left End terrorizing the Dolls and throwing their road manager down a flight of stairs, an action which had Crocus Behemoth praising the Youngstown Ohio act for "defending Cleveland's honor" against a buncha New Yorkers who were badmouthing the city in which they were making a whole lotta money offa the new generation of  lower-middle class kids who suddenly had enough money in their pants to spend.

***and hey, for years I must admit that I never could fathom how such smart and definitely punk scribes as Laughner, Kent, Murray, Farren etc. could find something of substance and worth in the likes of everything from the San Francisco mire of the Dead and Janis to various sixties survivors who never did make it outta that decade extant like Jeff Beck. But after reading more and more and attempting to broaden my scope if only to listen between the notes more/less I figured hey, maybe these folk weren't the "schmorgasbord schmucks" that I originally took 'em to be but could appreciate loads of sounds no matter how mainstream and mundane they could get! Sheesh, it's even come to the point where I pretty much wish that """""I""""" could have approached and enjoyed these same acts the same way Laughner and company had, though in reality you know I will always be the "horse-blindered" one-beat guy that I've been for nigh on thirtysome years. And hey, maybe I shouldn't be ashamed of it one bit!

****yeah yeah yeah I know, getting too personal again. Well, it's my effin' blog and I can bitch and moan all I want because in the REAL WORLD I just couldn't get away with this tripe! And you KNOW that Eddy deserves every bit of bile that I dare fling at him even if it was all a good quarter century ago, just like any other asshole or cheat who dared cross my path for a much longer time than I can care to imagine!


Bill S. said...

Strange to think that it's 35 years since PL's passing. I remember when he died, although of course in those pre-internet days, it was probably two months later when I heard.
Your thoughts about "what if Peter Laughner had lived" got me thinking...and I can imagine him following a career arc somewhere between Peter Stampfel and Fred Cole, an outsider who recorded for small labels or created his own label. Also, I can imagine him producing younger bands, kind of in the Jim Dickinson vein. Also, I think he'd have continued his writing...perhaps he'd have wound up better known for his writings than his music. Maybe he'd have gone in a Mick Farren direction and gotten into fiction and book-length studies of various music-related subjects? In any event, it was a huge loss for the world. One thing I'm sure of: the world was a poorer place without Peter Laughner. Honestly, I'm sure there have been dozens of times since 1977 where I thought, "if only Peter Laughner were still around---he could have done a MUCH better job than so-and-so."

The Hound said...

There's a version of Amphetimine (dedicated to Miriam Linna) on youtube from the Ann Arbor tapes that hasn't been released. A must for those like me who don't have a copy of "the ann arbor tapes". Smog Veil was suppossed to issue them on a PL box I think, but I'm pretty sure they'er out of business. Great posting...

paul hamed said...

I sent smog veil an email about two weeks ago regarding the box set, they told me it was due 2013. The delay is apparently due to trying to get a complete set of music and cuttings. I was asking as I was considering putting an open archive of peter laughner related music on the net, I have found many bits and pieces over the years, I am sure there is much more. I shall wait and see what smog veil do. thanks for the post and an interesting blog.

Anonymous said...

Glad you liked the Ann Arbor "Amphetamine" track (I played organ). A A Tapes is supposed to be the first to be released, but I haven't heard from Smog Veil in well over a year.

Lisa Falour said...

I knew so many of these people a bit -- they were older than I and I was agog. Laughner, Pressler, Thomas, Linna, et c. . . . Glad I bought TAKE THE GUITAR PLAYER as soon as I found out it existed -- it's great. I still have the "Rock Has Lost A Friend" clipping, carefully kept all these decades. I had some friends over to my rented room in Kent, Ohio during the Summer of '77 and mentioned that Peter Laughner had borrowed a few of my records and I wanted them back, and Bernie Joelson slowly told us all that Peter had died. We had been drinking and began to moan -- very maudlin. Everyone immediately left. I moved to NYC that Hallowe'en and was closer to music there. Peter Laughner would surely have enjoyed what went on there in New York after he died. One time I recall seeing Peter Laughner play -- it was with Pere Ubu with Tin Huey in a basement-like place in Cleveland on a weeknight, very, very late. He was still with Pere Ubu. A few people had driven there from Kent -- tiny audience. He did a wonderful cover of "Heroin," but I don't recall if he did that, alone there, with an acoustic or an electric guitar. He was seated and it was, of course, a slow, mournful rendition. I saw him again I think at a big place in the Flats in Peter and the Wolves, or perhaps they were Friction already then. It was good. Well worth the travel time and all! It was kind of strange seeing Bradley Field, Adele Berte, Glen John, Barbara Tate, Miriam Linna, and others in NE Ohio in '76 and '77 and then seeing them all again in NYC "a few weeks or months later." That is also why I say Peter Laughner would have liked it there, besides for other reasons, of course. I saw Charlotte Pressler in Cleveland after Peter had died and clumsily asked for those records back. "If you can find them, sure," she said, pointing to a large collection. I felt stupid and left quickly. Again out of my depth with "grown-ups." A strange time -- I feel very ... sad ... when I find old "Croc o' Bush" clippings or related things in my scrapbooks or photo albums. All of that and those people mattered. What a waste. Acute pancreatitis, liver problems. 24. Bernie said a friend had gone to see him in Bay Village, and Peter had said he was "tired," and went to lie down ...

jkj bnb said...

The complete Ann Arbor Tapes are available for free download through the following link: It includes previously unreleased recording of "Fire Engine" and "Candy Say", in addition to Story of My Life, Blank Generation, Dead Letter Zone, Amphetamine, and Venus de Milo. Peter Laughner: guitar and vocals, Don Harvey: reed organ, bass and backup vocals on Candy Says. Enjoy, and spread the word to anyone you think would like them, just please don't sell them. Thank you, Don Harvey