Saturday, December 31, 2016

WELL THAT WAS 2016, and wasn't that just a ducky year if I do say so myself? Well, actually it was more of a cukky year for me with more grim happenings and pressure cooker tension than I've had piled up these five or so past eons of total throttle. But then again I can't expect 2017 to be any better so's like, maybe this year was nothing but a WARM UP to a continuing reign of troubles and woes. Aren't you glad???

Well, at least BLOG TO COMM kept on pumping full blast, and a lot of the credit must go to the likes of Bill Shute and Brad Kohler for their much-needed contributions! Their reviews and reminiscences not only raised the intellectual consciousness of this blog many fold, but helped to make my own opines look even stupider! A big thank you to your two, and all I gotta say is KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!!!

And at least the kultural scene wasn't so bad what with a nice slew of music, books, video and whatnot making the times more bearable as I snuggle in my spiritual bunker also known as my bedroom. And so, here's my BEST OF for a year that I really coulda enjoyed, only somehow I knew better not to!

ALBUM OF THE YEAR!: Fadensonnen's GUTTER WANDERER. Of course, Gregg Turner's CHARTBUSTERZ is a definite late-year contender but as far as a spinner that kept me active goes this 'un was pretty hard-energy overdrive soul-cleansing. Not only that but it sure looks swell stacked up inna collection---I'm sure the flea market whichever gets my platters after I'm gone will look all the more better with this one innit!
SINGLE OF THE YEAR!: So What's "Why Can't I See You Tonight"/"I Can See But You Don't Know" (Just Add Water). So good in sound, approach and presentation that I actually thought it was a long-lost single from mid-Ameriga 1976! Maybe if you're not as dense as I am you will find out the same thing too, or something like that!
LIVE ALBUM (or in this case Cee-Dee) OF THE YEAR!: Hawkwind's THE TEXT OF FESTIVAL which ain't exactly a spring chicken but sheesh, this was perhaps the only live platter I played repeatedly throughout 2016!
JAZZ RELEASE OF THE YEAR!: Alfred 23 Harth's BERLIN ENSEMBLE (Kendra Steiner Editions)! This one reminds me of thejazz rush I got throughout the eighties snatching up various freeform classics either via the New Music Distribution Society or a variety of Cle. Hts. used record shops.
COMPILATION OF THE YEAR!: Burnt Offering's ALIEN NATION. Proof that there still is life out there in DIY music land that doesn't fall into the traps that have eaten way too many an act these past few decades!
EP OF THE YEAR!: The Styrenes 76-79 UNRELEASED 3-platter set (My Mind's Eye)...close second, 21-st CENTURY GIZMOS FANS CAN'T BE WRONG (Gulcher) Yes, the mid-seventies roar still has some cred even here a good forty years later as this collection from Cle shining lights the Styrenes as well as the reformed Gizmos prove to one and all.
BOOK OF THE YEAR (ROCK 'N ROLL DIVISION)!: DENIM DELINQUENT. Proof that there was life before the Sex Pistols came to rescue us from the dismal display of bad Doobie Brothers albums, or something like that, or nothing like that for that matter. If you still think that CREEM's snide approach tops ROLLING STONE's journalist snob appeal this is the book for you! Only hope that BACK DOOR MAN and HYPE(RION) get the same treatment, and soon!
BOOK OF THE YEAR (SECULAR DIVISION)!: ELLA CINDERS! With the lack of any new ARCHIE newspaper collections I gotta look at somebody of the sexy female persuasion in a swimsuit! Great comics with the kinda bad gag humor I so desire, done up in such detailed art that you woulda thunk they hired Michelangelo Da Vinci to draw these! And in this day of ugly's nice look at females the way nature really intended 'em to look (and that's with shaved pits, legs and shapely in case you're too stupid to know).
REISSUE OF THE YEAR!: Ngozi Family's DAY OF JUDGEMENT which only shows ya that maybe Zambia was the new Detroit, or London, or New York City, or something like that. Yet another rock 'n roll scene to be discovered, unless there was a hot burning underground rock movement happening in Sri Lanka around the same time.
ARCHIVAL ALBUM OF THE YEAR!: Zoom's SWEET DESPERATION---ferget that, make it SAUCERLAND! I was hoping that a lot more would have made it outta the vaults of hard-edged glory ca. 1964-1981 but these two classics will do. And they're both of Canadian origin, which somehow doesn't surprise me one bit!
FANZINE OF THE YEAR!: VULCHER! The grand return of the seventies fanzine mafia in a great slick read that brings back everything I liked about the seventies only it's 40 years later and surprisingly the lava of creative construction is still flowing. Can't wait for #2...coming soon!
MOOM PITCHER OF THE YEAR! CURSE OF THE DOLL PEOPLE. Didn't have much time to watch the ol' Dee-Vee-Dee player like I would have hoped, but this one managed to help break the boredom once in awhile.
PLEASANT SURPRISE OF THE YEAR!: Hackamore Brick's SNAILS IN ASTORIA . Close enough second...Robert Bensick's FRENCH PICTURES IN LONDON.
POST OF THE YEAR!: Definitely this one.
DEATH OF THE YEAR!:: Who else's but BILLY MILLER and DON WALLER, two titans of the fanzine world who never did get the rock respect that lesser brains like Parke Puterbaugh have but hey, what else would you expect from people who still have their heads up hippie anus so far they can't pull it out no matter how hard they try. As if they would.
BLOG OF THE YEAR!: J.D. KING ILLUSTRATIONS. where there's nuttin' to read but the pictures sure look good just like they did when you were thumbin' through older bro's PENTHOUSE hidden under the mattress when you were but three years old.
Hey, this post is kinda skimpy for bein' a "weak end" one 'n all, so howzbout a few reviews to beef it up???

Buell Neidlinger-GAYLE FORCE CD-r burn (originally on K2B2 Records)

How'd this outta-nowhere slip by my free jazz radarscope anyhow? Cecil Taylor alumnus and future Zappa via Ponty player Neidlinger leads this trio featuring none other than Charles Gayle a good quarter century before he became the big under-the-underground free jazz find then blew it all by releasing some of his street sermons backed by his own piano playing that turned just about every precious soul in feelgood land off for good! Drummer Bergamo plays fine enough not quite Sunny Murray but pretty good for one of these guys how stayed on the sideline so to speak and never did go anywhere. Neidlinger is great as leader and plays his bass as Ron Asheton played his (as a lead instrument!) but it's Gayle all the way here with his neo-Ayleresque play that seems more in place a good decade later during the days of the collective groups like Air rather than as leader plus band ifyaknowaddamean... Try and pick it up...I dare you!
Burning Spear-MARCUS GARVEY CD-r burn

My cyster went to high stool with some guy who had the last name Garvey (and his cyster was one big stuck up snob...I hope she gets a bad case of the runs and dies!) but I don't think he had anything to do with this Marcus guy. Well, from what I do know about "thee" Marcus Garvey it would figure that rastafazool Burning Spear would be a big fan of him and sing a lot about the guy's Afrocentrism'n all. Since I never could ooze myself directly into reggae it's all goin' over my head like Algy's Bra, but if you're the kinda guy who goes for those Caribbean oom-chukka rhythms and thick accented singing well the, who's stoppin' ya???

Here's what the famed Memphis label was up to before Big Star put their name on the hipper'n you'll ever be cool stuff for suburban geeks to look into list. Nothing that I would call outwardly spectacular true, but as far as early-sixties mid-South local releases go the blend of neo-rockabilly and blue crank does work out rather neet. From Freddie Caddell and the Twirls' big beat bouncer to the Ole Miss Down Beats' bloozey haller you can somehow see how it would be a short step from this to Alex Chilton within the span of a good fifteen or so years.
The VIP's-BEAT CRAZY CD-r burn (originally on Tangerine Records)

I think McGarry mixed up the Cee-Dee-Ares here, for these VIP's songs don't quite correlate with the group listings on the cover. That is, "Louie Louie" and the John Denver buckraker "Country Roads" are nowhere to be found on this spin!  Maybe this is a different VIP's album, but whatever it is the sounds are slightly pleasing power poppy rock that sounds OK at least some of the time and at reduced doses. In other words a li'l bit goes a long way, and if I ever listen to this again that'll be the same day I decide to join the Chuck Eddy Fan Club or something equally ridiculous!
An' with that HAPPY NUDE go get lost willya?

Thursday, December 29, 2016


Dunno about you, but there was a time in my life when I certainly wouldn't have ever dreamed that a book on an "obscure" Canadian punk rock group, let alone any punk group woulda ever seen the light of day ever! After all, here I am having been stuck in and grown up inna middle of one of the most anti-rock 'n roll areas imaginable, one where the late-seventies and early-eighties were spent with FM rock fans spitting ire at all of those horrid punks like Nick Lowe (no shit!) who were just too scabrous to be allowed to live 'n stuff like that. I mean...who "really" cares about some nobody kinda act like Simply Saucer, y'know??? Now pass the bong and turn up the Journey!

Enuff of that dated mainstream rock putdown that was trite even inna early eighties (albeit true to the core) and down to the bare knuckles. But hey, there is a whole lotta truth in what I had written above regarding a whole slew of acts who had been conceived in the excitement of the mid-sixties and birthed around the time rock had quit being that new intellectual game and was mostly a limp bowl of yesterday's pastafazool as R. Meltzer might have put it. And really, who in their right mind back say 1984 way (when rock for all purposes had fizzled out from being that International Youth Language to the aforementioned fazool) woulda thought that a book on an act like Simply Saucer would not only be written, but actually published and delivered straight into our sweaty palms?!?!?! Not me, and I've never been in a "right" frame of mind my entire life!

But man is this a good read. Jesse Locke really delivered on the goods with this detailed history of Ontario's best kept secretion and eyeballing the accounts surrounding the growth of Simply Saucer kinda makes you feel like you were there in the midst of the grubbiness of it all sweatin' it out with head Saucer Edgar Breau himself as he spins the first Velvet Underground platter for some guys who came to his door with clubs ready to beat him up! Yeah, it's that gritty a history and that enriching as one as well, and hey if you were one to have grown up in music with the likes of the Velvets and import bins molding your musical parameters you might just like this particular tome for the times as well.

Locke writes pretty good, even when he's trying not to cleanse his palate when describing Breau's non special snowflake opines on life and politics which I assume do not quite mesh with his own. And hey, maybe the later chapters on some of the Hamilton Ontario and environs bands that sprung up in the Saucers' wake coulda be trimmed a bit. But hey it ain't like I have been known to go off on tangents a whole lot wilder'n what Locke does and after all, its' HIS book.

But oh whatta book! Great detail and interviews with the likes of Breau as well as early Saucer members Paul Colilli and David Nelson Byers (he of the incredible Shangs) fill in all of the specs and data regarding the early days of the group before digging into the mid/late-seventies heart of it all with a few interesting stops on the way, including the arrival of Gary "Pig" Gold on the scene which really helped boost Saucers' stock quite a bit if you ask me. Then it's on to the eighties dark ages before the grand re-ignition in interest thanks to one Bruce Mowat and the CYBORGS REVISITED album on Mole Records which I must say did like a few fires in the underground rock gulcher at a time when such a fire NEEDED TO BE LIGHTED!

And don't forget the other names that pop up in the brew like the Battleship, Ethel and Imants Krumins, a guy who also did his share to boost the Saucer secret even though he ain't as much covered in this book as one would have hoped.

Strangely enough, I consider Edgar Breau a "close" (or as close as anyone can get to me) friend even though I had only talked with him via phone and exchanged various missives. I can tell he's a pal of me because he's one of the very few who dared answer Dave Lang's charges against me when the rest of blogworld was eager to get their anti-Chris licks in! Not that I care anymore (figuring that terms like racist and sexist can be twisted to mean just about anything the accuser wants so like a big SO WHAT!), but it sure was nice of Mr. Breau to go out of his way in my defense and I only hope that someday I may be able to do him a return favor. Let's just say that Breau really is a true legend and I hope this book only makes him all the more howshallIsay big guns when it comes to documenting the real deal rock 'n roll as your soundtrack during the 1964-1981 seasons that is bound to make up one hefty textbook in Elliot Murphy's rock class of the future.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

I hope yer havin' a better Christmas than the blokes on the left are. As for me well, I haven't had whatcha'd call a kickout de jamz holiday season since maybe 1976 considering that is was the final one where I really enjoyed myself whilst immersing my vacation time in record shops, flea markets and Radio Shack bins trying to cop as much rock kultur as my pennies could possibly take me. And frankly, Christmas for me has turned into a deader 'n dead holiday season since not only do I NOT get the kinda toys and such that I sure wish I did back when such things really mattered (that is, if ya could afford the now-expensive items I wanted way back when I was but a mere turdler) but there ain't hardly any more fambly to have a Christmas party with (well, at least people I would want to talk to inna first place). Not only that, but I still gotta work through them days rather'n take a good week or so off to immerse myself in alla that daytime tee-vee and night time record shop carousin' I'd been missing out on. Then again, alla that daytime tee-vee ain't as good as it used to be back when a decent antenna could draw in a whole slew of fun programming to keep you captivated from sign on to sign off and as far as record shops go...well, where did they go anyway???

If there is any sort of theme to this particular Christmas I would gander that it would be that the 2016 season is definitely MAD oriented. Not as if anger'r anything but the magazine itself. Or shall we say the paperback, because what did I do but buy yet another big box of old MAD books if only in the hope that I could have scored the ultra-rare MAD ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KLUTZ II being offered with 'em which I discovered, after winning the ebay auction THEN reading the fine print, was taken out of the package deal. Some of the paperbacks are in good condition while others are feh, and now that I have these in my mitts all I can say is that this year's horrorday season will be about as MAD as Christmas '69 (which was saturated with my reading and re-reading of GOOD AND MAD) or better yet Christmas '72 where I scored that MAD SPECIAL which reprinted some of the old MAD comics (in comic book enclosure form!) that were hard to come by what with the Ballantine series having temporarily gone out of print. Not as potent as Christmas '71 ("Bang a Gong" still riding high on the radio and plenty of DC and Marvel Comics galore) but eh, still good enough to elicit fond enough memories of school free jamz.

Many of the books I had for years and the newer titles were just as bad as I remembered the mag to be from the late-seventies onward, but THANKFULLY I got a few new ones to sparkle my imagination and keep me awake past eight o'clock. After all of these years I finally get to once again see that infamous DENNIS THE MENACE cartoon reprinted in THE NON-VIOLENT MAD and of course it helps to have as many copies of MAD IN ORBIT as you can on hand if only because of the two comic strips spoofs, one which happens to show Nancy and Sluggo in a political cartoon situation and the other with them done up as Mickey Spillane would have envisioned. My biggest thrill of the entire package was (surprisingly) the two MAD'S SNAPPY ANSWERS TO STUPID QUESTIONS books, not because they were anything special but because the previous owner actually filled up the blank balloons with his own answers, and boy are they stunningly lame! But still fun, and the kiddo even hit the spot with a few answers that Bill Gaines would have never let Al Jaffee get away with in a millyun years!

Of course none of these X-mases were as hot as Christmas '62 (the earliest one I can remember and have discussed wit'cha often enuff), '63 (finally got a litho gas station the kind I bit my cousin on the neck the previous year because he wouldn't let me near his!) or even 1975 even though I got sick to my guts after eating at a Red Lobster for the first time ever the next day (that'll teach me to pass up on that copy of Nico's CHELSEA GIRL I espied [first time ever!] in a Cle record shop despite some shallow pondering) but good enough even if I am existing here about thirty-five years CE (which, in these case stands for "Crappy Era"). Somehow I get the feeling that I'll never experience the kinda Christmas fun and jamz that I did when I was young, but then again all I gotta say is...what else is OLD?????

Anyhoo, I hope SOMEONE out there has had a nice Christmas. Thanks to Bill, Brad, P. D. and Robert for their gifts (even if Robert sent his a few months back!)...will get to open them eventually since I stashed 'em somewhere and just can't remember where. Just consider this paragraph a thank you note because I don't have the time to send each of ya a personalized one. Those are the breaks of being a busier than ever blogger, so I hope you understand.
Here's this week's bunch of newies (which I tried to be succinct with...nothing too long-windy) which I hope you'll enjoy reading about, if not actually get the urge to buy any of 'em! Even with all of the trials and tributaries I have experienced this past year at least I'n thankful that still got the ears to listen to this stuff, even if I also have the ears to fill my head with lots of extraneous junk that has nothing to do with my personal existence. And so, while you're digesting the roast turkey with chestnut stuffing settle back and digest on these for awhile...

Glorias Navales-COFRADIA NAUTICA LP (Kye, available through Forced Exposure)

Every so often I dish out a few hard-begged bucks to buy an album by an act that is now up and running, and considering the hotcha comeon that Forced Exposure gave this item I just hadda go for the bait-laden hook in typical Charlie Tuna fashion!

Glorias Navales hail from Santiago Chile and put up one real nice and trance-y wail with their hypnotic repeato-riff acoustic music. At times I am reminded of Robbie Basho and the Seventh Sons because COFRADIA NAUTICA is so mesmerizing that it makes you feel as if you're in some college dorm circa 1965 and listening to a buncha beat neer-do-wells strumming away while under the influence of the latest psychotropic flash! But it sure works a hegguva lot better because it's even more stoned! Heck, you might have even had the wherewithal to record a platter like this back inna mid-seventies on one of those sick days off from school under the addling forces of Ny-Quil! Well, I could see some muddled fifteen-year-old strumming the guitar parts while dazed on whatever cold-relief medicine he was on while surrounded in soggy Kleenex and  a half-crumpled attempt at his algebra II homework!

A surprising platter that makes me wonder what other riff drone has been coming outta South Ameriga lo these many eons! And somehow I'm sure there was more.
Jodi-POPS DE VANGUARDIA CD (Out-Sider Spain, available via Guerssen)

I must admit that I did have some "reservations" about this particular spinner if only because the name of this group reminded me of not only this annoying kid I sat next to in second grade but that equally upchucking boy from FAMILY AFFAIR who had a twin sister named Buffy not to mention an older sibling who sure made teenagers look bad what with her pseudointellectual airs making us wannabe pseudointellectual teens look pretty bad. Turns out these guys from Uruguay via Germany were pretty good what with these home-made recordings (released 1971) that recall mid-sixties continental pop rock (of the German variety natch!) more'n anything. If you like all of those German teen groups like the Rattles and Lords who were aping the English beat acts in their own inimitable style you'll most definitely like this.
VIDEO NASTIES LP (Feeding Tube, available via Forced Exposure)

While listening to VIDEO NASTIES I was reminded of those many cassette culture groups that had popped up throughout England in the early-eighties who were recording some mighty exciting tapeage in the privacy of their own boudoirs. It just has that (pardon the expression) "DIY" feel and besides, it could still rock and roll out like the best punks with a tape recorder and some cheap gear could. And really, what is wrong with hearing someone's umpteenth take on the Velvet Underground which I guess is better than their umpteenth take on the Eagles 'r something like that.

Turns out that these Nasties ain't even English but from Maine, but they also released their items via cassette and sure do their best to recall some of the less-stifling moments of the early-eighties, at least before those days became very stifling as the decade got into full sunny side up swing. At times this does sound like cheap casio clunk, but moments do dredge up all of those under-the-gulcher favorites like Suicide, Silver Apples and even those homo groups that were all glitter and gloss w/o any real steak to 'em. And when you're not looking the Nasties blast into a hard-edged electronic thunderstorm that reminds me of none other than Hawkwind which makes this all the more tastier!

A very sharp album made up of gunch that was, yeah, "previously released", but if you missed those try not to pass this one up!
Dick Hyman/Mary Mayo-MOON GAS CD (Captain High, available via Forced Exposure)

Electronic pioneer Dick Hyman (who I am told had the best name in entertainment since Beaver Cleaver) and Mary Mayo do the early space music swing swimmingly on this '63 jaunt, and if you (like me) somehow envisioned (or even remembered) the 1959-1963 season as the destiny we should all have strived for only we got what we have now this one'll really satisfy ya!

Like Joe Meek and THE JETSONS, the hope of a flashy future of space exploration and mechanical ease complete with the same early-sixties verve and feel can be felt in these jazzy/lounge-y tracks. Resplendent in early electronic oscillating instrumentation meshing with Mayo cooing some great ethereal vocals, the music brings those heady times all back to you just like your favorite OUTER LIMITS rerun. Whether they be originals or well-known covers, that feeling us oldsters all had about what we thought 2016 was really gonna be like will just come rushing back to us, and the effect is surely bound to last---as long as you don't click on yer tee-vee 'r sumpin'!
Hawkwind-BRING ME THE HEAD OF YURI GARGARIN CD (Spalax France, available via
Forced Exposure)

This mid-eighties vintage (recorded '73) live album has gotten its raps over the years but if you're a true blue space rock kiddette like, does it matter??? Despite the high school gym acoustics this is a pretty fair approximation of what a live Hawkwind show during that period (when Robert Calvert was front and center as our tour guide) was like, and the cassette quality does tend to add a certain amount of interstellar distortion akin to listening to this via Skylab. Hey, if your'e an enterprising soul howzbout chronicling all of those English punks from the late-seventies who were playing in Hawkwind-inspired groups just a year or two prior? Maybe even enclosing an album to accompany the book would be great, what with all of those acts who were doing the space trip complete with waist-length hair before going the vacant route! You'll be sure to make some waves out there and if you do just this, don't ferget who gave you the idea!!!
Ronny and the Daytonas-LITTLE GTO CD-r burn (originally on Mala Records)

Other'n the title track I dunno how many of you have heard Ronny and the Daytonas. Neither have I but at least this album gives us a little insight into the world of these quick-flash surf rockers. Actually the rest of the Daytonas output ain't as potent as I would have hoped, but these days I've come to the conclusion that the mid-sixties on slow-cook beats today on full-blast all hollow! Temperate but still pleasurable numbers including a fairly decent version of the Jan and Dean (not to mention the Who) favorite "Bucket T" aka "Jennie Lee the Boom Boom Queen" (or something like that).
Brigade-LAST LAUGH CD-r burn 

These self-released albums of the early-seventies can be a chance-y proposition and Brigade is no diff 'n the rest. Nothing here to really stir the imagination although the Doors-inspired instrumental tracks are at times pleasing. Otherwise this one is marooned in the miasma of 1970 and sounds more like it was recorded by a buncha guys who were worried about being drafted than it was by...a buncha guys who wanted to spend their days roaming the environs and making as much of a ruckus as they could under the influence of a variety of concoctions both legal or not. Well at least Brigade refrained from any versions of "One Tin Soldier" for which we can all be thankful!
The Action-IN MY LONELY ROOM CD-r burn (originally on Top Sounds, probably England)

Not quite into their psychedelic groove yet, the Action rock on like the good li'l geeks they were all obsessed with Amerigan soul music and the like. And like the good li'l geeks they were the Action did a pretty good job of taking early-sixties Motown riffs and making them more'n safe for the local mod clientele who liked a little of the grit lost in the translation. This particular EP proves that the Action were about as good as the Who even though they could get a little bogged down with their variations of the form. Ah, but catch me in a weak moment and I'd probably take anything on here over the rill thing anyday. Can't tell you what these guys were like by the time they all went the route to Islam and would pray to the east before beginning their first set, but I get the idea that even then they would have beat a hefty portion of the competition all hollow.
Various Artists-SWEET SHOTGUN SOOKIE ARABY CD-r burn (Bill Shute)

Here's an old one that sorta got shoved to the back of the Bill box, which I guess is better than getting shoved to the back of the bus. The soul raves from the likes of Tina Britt (doing the old Steppenwolf fave "Sookie Sookie") and Aleene Strawn are funtime enough for the ears, though Japan's Zigzag present for us some particularly potent punk rock and none other than Rosemary Clooney in her pre-beef days wails on with "Shotgun Boogie"...a surprising sleeper if you ask me. Personal faves include Henry Threadgill doing some of that intricate late-seventies avant jazz, Faud Hassan's xylophone-featured "Jazz Araby", the tough film theme to DON by Kalyanji-Anandji which stands out on its own w/o any visuals and Los Cheynes' downright swinging Latin Amerigan garage band thump which had me doing a few headspins in classic Sherwood fashion.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

BOOK REVIEW! THERE OUGHTA BE A LAW by Fagaly and Shorten (Midwood, 1961)

As I and Bill Shute have told ya many-a-time, sometimes the cheap knockoffs are usually better'n the real deal meal! Or if they ain't at least they make for some pretty hotcha-styled fun and jamz which can be had, usually at a cheaper price.

Of course that usually applies when we're talkin' about Cap'n Crunch or PEANUTS vs. SHRIMPY, but as far THERE OUGHTA BE A LAW??? This must be the first time in history that the title of a comic strip answers its own question.

Actually I'm just funnin' ya, for THERE OUGHT TO BE A LAW is a good enough swipe of the more famous THEY'LL DO IT EVERY TIME which I have reviewed in book form earlier in the blogging season. Same format, same situations (work, neighbors, kids...), same kinda characters (Bratinella and/or Little Chlorine for Little Iodine) and the same kinda everyday schlubs from Anywhere USA who send in their pet peeve examples of life's inequities and actually get their names 'n hometown (sometimes even their street address!) printed for all of the nosy nebs to see.

Al Fagaly (try living sixth grade down with a name like that!) ain't as hotcha as Jimmy Hatlo but he's still way better'n any of the women who you see saturating the funny pages nowadays while Harry Shorten does a fine job aping the whole Hatlo sense of mid-Amerigan frustration whether it deals with goofs who mistreat their famblys or the kinda backstabbing co-workers out to get ahead that you see even this far down the line. I guess themes like these are so universal that it really doesn't matter that there were two comics with the exact same fashion and layout competing for precious newspaper space.

Published by Midwood books (the same company that gave you THE UNASHAMED, YOUR SINS AND MINE not forgetting that all-time lulu SEX SCHOOL), THERE OUGHTA BE A LAW was actually the first of a series of paperbacks featuring reprints of the panel, and yeah an imitation it may be but it still zones me into that whole world I remember from my kid-dom that sorta petered out about the same time the generation it represented did the same. I can see a whole lotta the world that my parents lived in via these comics, just like I can see the universe most of my "compatriots" exist in whenever I happen to get a load of, say, STONE SOUP to pick a title outta my brain. And guess which world I'd prefer to place my plasma in, as if you have to guess!

Since the flea markets have probably sold outta the rest of the THERE OUGHTA BE A LAW line around 1979 I guess I'll have to get my fix of comics via ebay. Fortunately there ain't that big of a jones for this 'un in my system as there is for say, more Bob Montana-era ARCHIE dailies (the series of which has sadly come to a complete standstill leaving me in a humongous lurch!) but if one ever creeps up well, you know what I'm gonna be bidding my hard-earned on, right? (And no, it ain't gonna be Liberace memorabilia!)

Sunday, December 18, 2016

With the X-miss season in full gear 'n all, it's so good that the following albums/platters/cee-dees/whatnot have entered into my life to make these days a whole less ennui-filled disgust than they just happen to be now! Otherwise I'd be just a li'l frettin' waste, trying to get through the hollow-day season without trying to eyeball even the smallest Christmas tree or wreath lest I get into some really gnarled-up mood! And, unlike the Christmas seasons of yore, there ain't no TIME OFF FROM LIFE that really recharged yer adolescent batteries back when any time of the year really mattered because hey, it was your life to have and control! (Or so I thought but never mind that!) Nothing but work, work and oh yeah, alla those real life threats to your everyday normality and sanity! Now if I can only get those creepy dark Christmas party and fambly gathering dreams (usually taking place years ago in settings that look quite different than the ones they actually transpired in!) outta my subconscious!

Oh and...hrummph!...welcome to this particular edition of BLOG TO COMM! Hope you dig it even though I find the entire concept of doing a blog here in 2016 rather disturbing for some occult reason. But trudge on I must. Got some goodies here for you to digress, some from the burntable of Bill Shute and a couple from the hard work (hah!) of my sweat 'n brow or something like that! Nothing spectacular mind you, but I think a good portion of these platters would do your own turntable or laser launching pad swell, so without further ado, here's this week lineup of reviewable raunchiness!

Amanaz-AFRICA 2-CD set (Now Again)

Dunno about you, but I never woulda believed there would be that much good rock 'n roll comin' outta Africa considerin' just how far away it seems from the Northern Hemisphere realm! But there was (is?) and I've reviewed quite a few bits of African rock wares as of late in case you weren't paying attention. This collection from a "Zamrock" (Zambian Rock...geddit?) group called Amanaz proves that there were groups over there that had that straight-ahead rock 'n roll feeling that was out of vogue when these were recorded (mid-seventies), and who ever thought that one would have to go all the way to Zambia to given some straight ahead Amerigan rock complete with cheap fuzztone lead guitars a listen?

Not that this doesn't tend to slow down once the disque plays out, but it sure beats a whole lotta similar-minded self-produced platters all hollow. Of special note is track #3 entitled "Sunday Morning" which, while not thee "Sunday Morning" of first VU LP fame, claims to have been directly influenced by the Velvets and was written in 1968 t' boot making Amanaz one of them outta-the-way groups that were copping Velvets influences while that band was still alive and kicking! Once again who woulda thought that Lou Reed and company woulda had that far-reaching an effect but they did, and Amanaz sure had their number down pat which is more'n one feather in their rock 'n roll cap!

Contains two disques, one with the album proper and another with a "reverb" mix, if such things happen to light your fancy. Not mine particularly, but at least if I break one of 'em the other will come in mighty handy!
Greg "Stackhouse" Prevost-UNIVERSAL VAGRANT CD (Mean Disposition Records Spain, available via Forced Exposure)

He's back, and for some reason I get the impression that you wouldn't be surprised one bit. After all, this is thee same Greg Prevost who thrilled you with Distorted Levels, the Chesterfield Kings and maybe a few other outfits that didn't manage to make their way to my ears just yet, and if you think he's gonna scrambootch from the music biz and shuffle off to Florida well then you got another think comin'!

Kinda like early-seventies Stones in part---y'know, the stuff that Jagger and co. were doin' when they were doin' that down 'n durty I wanna be black sorta groove. Read Lester Bangs' article in the last issue of HYPE if you wanna know more 'bout it. It also has two downright Arthur Lee and Love covers (one of 'em actually a re-cover via Buffy St. Whatzernames' "Codine") which gives this an added "cool" late-sixties West Coast vibe and I ain't talkin' the grooves the ROLLING STONE was putting forth either! Over half of this contains Prevost originals, and the whole feeling kinda reminds me of what I think those snooty rock critics thought they were hearing back when Neil Young and the rest of those Laurel Canyon obsessives were getting boffo writeups in a whole load of hippie rags that really haven't held up over these years, ifyaknowaddamean...

Pretty hotcha stuff and a whole lot more varied'n this review might indicate. Let's just say that with this album and his previous solo excursion Prevost has done just about everything that was "supposed" to have been done via the whitey reconstruction of hard-edge postwar blues (w/o coming off looking like a doof) that only a few from the Numbers Band to a few choice outfits have succeeded with. And from the looks of it he did it all sans the usual tough guy pose leather jacket stubble trappings that seemed to come with the territory and I'm talkin' for YEARS!
Various Artists-THE A&M BOOTLEG ALBUM CD-r burn

Hooboy, I remember a whole lotta hubbub about this platter back inna seventies when bootlegs were the talk of many a rock 'n roll maniac. Of course the ripoff aspect was lost on neophyte mid-teen me because hey, if the actual legit label put this one out then by golly it wasn't a bootleg but a nifty imitation. Kinda like alla those "legitimate bootleg" albums we've seen in the seventies from THE VELVET UNDERGROUND LIVE AT MAX's KANSAS CITY onward. But the thingie did serve its purpose what with the inclusion of those Captain Beefheart single sides that were hard to come by back then, not to mention some then-rare Tyrannosaurus Rex numbers and a buncha popster things from the Move and even (really!) Procol Harum that don't really sound that stomach-twisting. Even the Dillard and Clark track sounded good late-sixties Byrdsy enough for me to not wanna chuck this inna trash, and so what if such early-seventies worthless ones as Joe Cocker and Leon Russell are on it...ever hear of skip buttons????
Freddie Roach with Joe Henderson-BROWN SUGAR CD-r burn (originally on Blue Note Records)

Doan worry, this one was recorded a good seven or so years before the Rolling Stones copped the title for their big hit of the day so it ain't like you're gonna hear a soul jazz version of that particular spinner! But whatever this one is a goodie, nice and relaxing in that jazz organ style that ain't as tough as---say---Larry Young but pretty potent as far as wind down jamz go. Spin it when you're about to hit the hay and it just might make you forget alla them daytime worries that seem to grip you by the kajoobies more 'n more than these things ever should.
Bill Justis-12 OTHER INSTRUMENTAL HITS CD-r burn (originally on Smash Records)

Yup, the "Raunchy" guy himself was still crankin' 'em out well into the mid-sixties what with this platter just chockfulla instrumental blare that's bound to have some sorta sneaky effect on you. As for me listening to Justis cover the classics so-to-speak did bring a whole lotta turdler-era memories back like the time me and my cousin would walk around his basement to "Washington Square" pretending we were on BANDSTAND, and sheesh, but one lissen to the ol' MONDO CANE theme "More" sure jolts me back to happier times marooned in the '62 Pontiac if I do say so myself. Of course a whole lotta this slushes all over you with E-ZY listening goosh, but I gotta admit one thing, and that is the goosh of fifty-plus years back sure sounds better'n the goosh of 2016 and maybe (hopefully?) that's something we can all agree on!
SOUNDS INCORPORATED CD-r burn (originally on Columbia Records England)

These guys used to get a whole lotta ribbing from the usual rock fandom sources, but I find this platter just as entertaining as those Joe Meek instrumentals that were coming out around the same time. Very English-sounding pop rock with a kinetic, bouncy edge. Of course there's nothing here that's gonna make your typical rock snob ditch his James Taylor platters, but the platter still rocks out in that good early-sixties style that, come to think of it, wasn't really that cornball what with its intense sublimity. See the "goosh" remark from the above review and apply here.

HUMBLE GATHERING CD-r burn (originally on Stang Records)

Boy-oh-boy, did Bill bomb with this particular burn which I assume (and you know what Felix Unger said about that word!) he sent me either as a joke, a "test", or something like that. Nothing but typical hippie musings on this album which dredge up all of the BAD memories of those days that I unfortunately had to live through. (At least I had my DENNIS THE MENACE paperbacks and "Milk, Milk, Lemonade" to "protect" me in typical Paul Simon fashion!) Shades of the early-seventies horn bands can be discerned as well as a hefty dose of the Moody Blues at their moodiest...spin this one and go watch one of those "now" films of the day (topped off with a sampling of GREEN LANTERN/GREEN ARROW) and you'll know of just about everything that seemed "meaningful" and "relevant" in 1971 yet came off so hokey just a few years later.

We've heard these early Floyd rumblings from "Lucy Leave" and that October '66 recording of "Interstellar Overdrive" on before, but what's wrong with hearin' 'em again because hey, this was a perfect encapsulation of Pink Floyd at their all-time best. This 'un has just about everything that appeared on those early platters like UNFORGOTTEN HERO other'n the stuff that's been legitimately reissued as of late, not to mention a track from that Rotterdam show that sounds pretty clear and some Syd outtakes. Of course it ain't complete like a thorough early Floyd survey should be but hey, if you haven't heard any of these tracks before and you consider yourself an aficionado of the form then why not go for it (or some of the similar under-the-counter releases that have been coming out these past thirtysome years)???
Various Artists-DECOMPRESSED YORKSHIRE EXPRESS CD-r burn  (Bill Shute)

Yuh there're more of them garage band barrel bottom scrapings here, but they ain't as bad as those...say...glam rock barrel bottom or heavy metal barrel bottom scrapings that we've heard a whole lot more in our lifetimes than we would have ever dreamed. Some of it is pretty snatcha like say, the Quarrymen (not the pre-Beatles act) and their "Why" or the Mysterions' "It's a Lie" so it ain't like I'm complaining. I am complaining about the Shadows who never really hit the target as far as early-sixties instrumental rock goes, but the soul of O.V. Wright and the Sods' late-seventies English punk protests more than make up for the blandness of those over-rated timmies. Another good Saturday afternoon time waster that's not as good a time waster as a tee-vee western or action-packed matinee, but I'll take it!

Friday, December 16, 2016

MOOM PITCHER REVIEW BY BILL SHUTE! THE DAY THE HOTLINE GOT HOT starring Robert Taylor, George Chakiris and Charles Boyer (1968)

While people today may feel that they have access to a wide array of international culture because of the internet, and of course they do, since the 1990’s, there have been very few foreign films playing your local theater in competition with Hollywood product. Oh, there are university film programs and film festivals and the occasional arthouse here and there--we’re not talking about that. We’re talking about international films playing your local theater--not with subtitles and not presented as an art film or something that is somehow “good for you” (like a colonoscopy), but films dubbed in English out there competing in the marketplace representing a number of popular film genres. From the 1950’s through the 1970’s (although continuing on, to some limited extent, through the 1980’s), this was VERY common. While many were distributed in the US by smaller companies, some were picked up by the majors to fill out their release schedules and to use as the bottom half of double bills (you usually got TWO films for your ticket money until the early 1970’s). It was easier for an American film distributor to acquire a foreign product, usually for a modest advance and then a percentage, or an inexpensive “buy” for the American market, than to produce a new programmer feature. Nowadays, if you don’t include films from the UK, seeing a film from outside North America in the general cinema marketplace is rare. Here in South Texas, presently, dollar theaters have gotten into the practice of having special showings of Bollywood films or Mexican films or Filipino films or Thai films for ethnic populations wanting a taste of home, but those are in the original languages and NOT intended to compete with American product. With all the talk of diversity, it’s funny how little diversity you see at the multiplexes of America today. And the same 12 or 14 films are playing at every chain theater in the nation. You notice this when you travel. During the golden age of foreign and independent film in the 1950’s-1970’s, there might be anywhere from 75 to 100 DIFFERENT films in active circulation on US screens at any particular time, if not more. Those days are long gone.

Also, the 1960’s were the age of the “international co-production.” Tax laws and governmental subsidies toward film-making in Europe and elsewhere made it advantageous to make a film which involved two or three or even four countries as participating production partners (thus, getting a subsidy from each country). One country would tend to be the lead partner, but the other countries would be represented in both the technical crew and the cast. Since most European films were shot MOS (without live sound) and were dubbed in multiple languages, international casts were not a problem. And since the United States film industry led the world in popularity, and American stars were basically bankable international currency in a film project, many of these co-productions would feature an American star, or in some cases an American who was not a star here but was “American” and had star quality and often became a star overseas. Talents such as Brad Harris and Richard Harrison would fall into that category.

Then there were people who revived their careers overseas and became bigger there than they were here at home. George Nader and Lex Barker would be examples of that. Older American and international stars would often be used as secondary characters in such films (with a younger lead being in every scene), for both their name value and for the quality that their seemingly effortless professionalism would bring to the production.

If THE DAY THE HOTLINE GOT HOT is known at all, it’s as the final film of the great ROBERT TAYLOR. Taylor was a hard-working man who always seemed to make multiple films per year and who had been doing the occasional project overseas (THE GLASS SPHINX, SAVAGE PAMPAS) through the mid-1960’s. Taylor smoked heavily, and he died of cancer soon after this film, but he was an excellent and subtle yet charismatic actor who could play anything, and from the mid-1940’s on, he brought a sense of gravitas to whatever he was in. He’d had a successful TV series called THE DETECTIVES in the early 60’s, he’d appeared in TV movies, and he was still a relatively big star name.

This is a French-Spanish co-production, which seems to have a lot of French crew (and a Belgian director who was France-based) but was filmed in Spain (although there are not a lot of Barcelona exteriors, unfortunately).

It’s essentially a cold war farce. Taylor plays the head of American intelligence, and Charles Boyer his Soviet counterpart. George Chakiris (of WEST SIDE STORY fame), probably in his 30’s here, is a low-level IBM employee who has the curse of always telling the truth, which does not help him in his career at IBM, as he sometimes tells the truth to potential clients, and they either go elsewhere or do the job themselves because of his candid comments. Thus, he gets transferred a lot....because he’s a brilliant mind, and the company does not want to lose him, but no local office wants the headaches he causes. As the film begins, he causes trouble in Stockholm and gets transferred to Barcelona.

Simultaneously, a trio of wacky grannies in their 70s or 80s (!!!!) invade some Western intelligence office in Stockholm and force the lady working there (the lovely Marie Dubois, a short-haired reddish blonde in the classic French tradition) to send some provocative message to the Kremlin hotline to stir up trouble between the US and Soviets. They then kidnap Dubois to keep her from talking, put her in a steamer trunk, and ship her to Barcelona. That steamer trunk looks exactly like George Chakiris’s, which is arriving at the airport at just the same time, and.....well, you can guess the plot from there.

Taylor is brought in from Langley, VA (CIA headquarters) and Boyer from Moscow, and these two have been friendly sparring partners for decades, with agents going from one side to the other to the point where neither really knows who’s on whose side that particular week. Add to that the mix-up with the lady in the steamer trunk and George Chakiris, and the bumbling local cops, and the devious grannies who are fouling up international relations....then have it all performed in a manner that is to the cold war what Hogan’s Heroes was to World War II, and you’ve got THE DAY THE HOTLINE GOT HOT.

It is a pleasure to watch the two old pros Taylor and Boyer (who no doubt knew each other, or at least knew OF each other, back during the MGM days of the 30’s and 40’s) at work, and having them cast as friendly adversaries allows them to have a somewhat leisurely pace (these are older men, after all) but subtle sparring, which is just right to bring out the best from each. Leading man George Chakiris (who looks great--he’s also surely the only one in this cast to have recorded a single for Joe Meek!) is excellent with this kind of light comedy, as a kind of meek and bumbling but intelligent tech-nerd (I could see Jim Hutton in this role, though Chakiris is more of a heart-throb).

How funny is the film? Well, I first saw it in the middle of the night on a UHF station back in the late 70’s. I was working at a restaurant/bar/club in the kitchen, from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.. It was open until 2, but we’d stop serving food at midnight and then start breaking down and cleaning the kitchen so we’d be done by 2. As a perk of employment there, we could have two free drinks an evening. I always took mine when we’d finish--two scotches. Back in those days, UHF and independent stations programmed old B-movies and more recent dubbed European films in the all-night slots. I’ll write a piece about that phenomenon in the future, as it’s not really documented adequately on the internet, and I don’t want the knowledge of that amazing period to die with those of us who were alive back then. I want future generations to be green with envy because they did not have the joy of a Channel 27 or Channel 56 during such a Golden Age, which was taken for granted by many, but appreciated and savored by us here at BTC back in the day.

I’d check TV Guide, and when I got off work, with the buzz of two scotches, I’d go home and catch some great film on my small B&W television. On any random night I might see, say, MINNESOTA CLAY with Cameron Mitchell....or one of the Dr. Mabuse films with Lex Barker....or some Italian costumed historical drama with Guy Madison....or a Republic Pictures or Allied Artists crime film....or a PRC Tex Ritter/Dave O’Brien “Texas Rangers” film. But one night, circa 2:30 a.m., it was THE DAY THE HOTLINE GOT HOT. I’d vaguely remembered this playing (it was released in the US by the obscure Commonwealth United, of Jess Franco’s VENUS IN FURS and Mickey Spillane’s fame/infamy) on the bottom of the bill at some drive-in back in the 69-70 period, and I loved Robert Taylor, so I set up in front of my 14” TV in my $80 a month furnished room with kitchen and bathroom....and took a trip to Barcelona. Oh, I asked “how funny is the film?” Well, it produced a lot of smiles, the European “look” of the sets and the supporting players and the cars and the locations took me out of my everyday world, Taylor and Boyer were a pleasure to watch, Chakiris always has charisma to burn and also has excellent comic timing, and as a longtime dancer, he has excellent physical timing too, and Marie Dubois certainly set my adolescent heart a-fluttering. She looked like that French teacher I had a crush on in Junior High School.

I couldn’t have been happier, being able to watch such an interesting, little-known, and vaguely exotic film for free on a low-powered UHF station right when I got off work and was looking to wind down. I finally scored a grey-market DVD-R of this a few years ago, and it’s amazing how much I remembered of it.

There might be a million films out there on You Tube and on BitTorrent downloads, but the thrill of seeing an obscure European film with recognizable American actors out of their usual comfort zone but bringing their can-do attitude and smooth professionalism to these low-budget international co-productions....and having these on free TV that anyone can receive....and back when there were only maybe SIX television stations you could pick up, which meant a lot of people were watching these....that thrill of the 3 a.m. film find----whether you were coming in late and “coming down” to the film, or whether you stayed up or got up for it (which I often did when not working late)----is something wonderful and something that died by the late 1980’s/early 1990’s, as broadcasting was de-regulated (and stations could show informercials all night, which they COULD NOT DO prior to de-regulation--they had to show actual CONTENT, with a maximum of 17 minutes of commercial per hour----infomercials are, by definition, 60 minutes of commercial per hour, and thus were not allowed) and then specialized cable took over, causing the present dilemma of having 750 stations available to you, but nothing worthwhile to watch. 

Ahhhhh....750 STATIONS AVAILABLE, BUT NOTHING WORTHWHILE TO WATCH. Boy, that certainly sums up life today, doesn’t it!

Thursday, December 15, 2016


Hokay, you've seen many a tee-vee show like LAWBREAKER o'er the years whether it be via one of those AMERIGA'S MOST WANTED and COPS on-the-scene-as-it-happens reality programs that have cluttered up the cathodes these past thirtysome years...series that were part documentary and part drama with everyone from the victims and arresting ossifers to the crimnuls themselves taking part in the on-screen festivities. But LAWBREAKER was way better  'n any of these if only because it came out during the fab '63-'64 tee-vee season (first year for THE OUTER LIMITS and FIREBALL XL-5, last year for THE TWILIGHT ZONE) which was just as good as '62-'63 and '64-'65 and even better'n '75-'76 which was the last good season with regards to the kinda tee-vee we all like! Yeah, back then tee-vee really was attuned to the fun and action-addled minds of people like us, and a show like this really kept up glued to the boob tube when we could have been doing less culturally dutiful things like our homework, singing folk songs, going on freedom rides and all of those noble activities that I guess people in 1963 were doing which in the long run look pretty silly if you ask me!

's kinda hard to describe this ' and narrator Lee Marvin (who had a pretty busy time during the '63-'64 season what with not only here but with appearances on THE TWILIGHT ZONE and GREAT ADVENTURE) spends the entire series in what looks like a stripped down television control booth describing to us the criminals and acts at hand while the story is being played out before our very eyes, sometimes by the actual victims and officers themselves doing some of the best one-D stiff acting imaginable. (Sheesh, you'd at least think that those teenage gals in Pittsburgh who were kidnapped woulda shown some real emote on-screen like they obviously must've in real life!!!)  Many times Marvin interviews the criminals themselves from the prison where they always seem to be so contrite and embarrassed by it can only wonder if it is because they are that contrite or because these killers and thieves think that if they put up a good front their sentences are gonna be reduced. Whatever, when you put the re-enactments, interviews and Marvin's hard-edged hosting abilities together you get one of them shows that really woulda hooked ya to the point where you'd most definitely quit the bowling league if this just happened to be on the same night in those pre-VCR days.

Most of LAWBREAKER does have that raw DRAGNET-styled sense of urgency. Marvin plays it his natural cool and tough self throughout (I guess he hadda do something to counterbalance the at-times grade-zilchville acting from the real-life participants) whether talking about the search for a rare blood type donor or high school kids stabbing each other just for kicks. The stories are seat-gluing and at times unbelievably gruesome like the one from Rochester where some teenage gal was molested and murdered by some kiddie diddler who just hadda remark that there's one like him in every town! Sheesh, no wonder the neighbors keep eyeing me like that!

Even creepier is the one from Long Beach California where these always on the move criminals are running an abortion racket with one dead victim getting bagged and tossed in a viaduct and an actual woman who had one talking behind a screen about her experience. Since this woman is identified as being an actress I kinda wonder just who the gal who slipped the sucker is hard to discern because her face is hidden and the voice can't be placed and as usual so trying to put the sparse clues together is just driving me crazy! Just hope it ain't someone I used to like such as that lady who used to give out Hostess cakes to the kids from a Dutch door that used to run when I was but a mere turdler!

But what really is striking about this particular episode is that, years later, none other'n Marvin was called out by former palimony squeeze Michele Triola because back when the two were an item he allegedly forced her into getting a couple of uterine slurpers! During the palimony trial Triola was crying and moaning to the press about her shame and guilt over them, and after watching this 'un I woulda kinda thought that Marvin mighta learned something about the emotional effects abortions can have on those who get 'em. But obviously...he didn't.

Well, it still is kinda hard to get through my bean that the actor on the screen is playing a role and that a certain role most certainly will differ from movie to tee-vee show, totally forgetting that real life most certainly ain't acting one bit. After all, I remember the Skipper talking to Gilligan in that RESCUE FROM GILLIGAN'S ISLAND special about how there actually are good movies being made and they don't need to have any nudity in them to succeed, explaining this with all of the solemn heartfelt emote that Hardy must have used when explaining the facts of life to Laurel. The funny thing is that Alan Hale Jr. previously acted in the recommended modern-western update THERE WAS A CROOKED MAN which had some boob flashes innit, and that single role seems to have blown the fambly-type entertainment roles Hale was known for right out the porthole of the Minnow ifyaknowaddamean... Sheesh, ya can't trust even yer faves anymore!

And, of course, at the end of each LAWBREAKER the chief of police of whatever town the show takes place in appears from his desk to read a pre-prepared encapsulation about the crime and the police work that was done with all the conviction of a fourth grader standing in front of the class with a report on the tapioca crop in Guyana. What better way could you think of capping a show that goes from hard-knuckled narration to drama to documentary without you even realizing it???

Tuesday, December 13, 2016


In my earlier days, when I would juggle multiple part-time, no-benefit jobs to make ends meet....or later, to support the family....I would often fall back on security guarding, as I had done it numerous times before and thus did not need extensive training (and could start quickly, if needed), I had a state license (or could easily renew it if I’d let it lapse), I projected a relatively stable persona, and I could keep my mouth shut--those two latter ones being the essential qualities for the position. With today’s economy, who knows....I may well be back in the blue guard uniform with the piping on the slacks some time in the future. I’ve always specialized in looking inconspicuous, so I’ve got that part down, and I can definitely keep quiet....especially when I’m being paid to do so.

During my longest stint (2 ½ years) as a night-shift security guard, in the 1980’s, I always needed some reading. I could listen to all-night radio for some of my eight-hour shift, but that would get old fast. Larry King was still mostly a radio person at that time, and he had a midnight national two-hour show each weeknight, which was very popular with night-shift workers and insomniacs (when he was on vacation or on weekends, he'd be subbed by Jim Bohannon----a name very well-known to night shift workers, and someone we all thought of as a friend----who eventually took over the show when Larry went totally to TV....and who was fifty times better than Larry!). Larry's interviews with authors, celebrities, political people with a book out, and the like were somewhat entertaining, but that show would run for only two hours and then they'd re-run it, so you could not listen to it twice. If you've never worked the night shift, you may not really understand that while your body is up, your brain is not. Oh, you can do the tasks you need to do to get by. If you work with numbers (and I had to do some minimal record keeping and tracking of the ins and outs of employees during my shift) or work in a hospital, you can train yourself to do what needs to be done in an acceptable manner, but I think any night shift worker would agree that higher-level thought deteriorates in that environment. Let's just say that it would not be the time to read Henry James or the poems of Browning (if there's EVER a time to read them!).

No, night shift is the time for a Mickey Spillane novel....or a copy of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine....or, if you're so inclined, something by Jackie Collins or Harold Robbins. Something that requires no thought and which has its own kind of internal momentum to move your half-awake carcass along from one chapter to the next. I would have also handicapped the horses or dogs on a racing form, but there were no racetracks in that area, alas. One of the managers of the company who owned the building would sometimes give me his old copies of The Wall Street Journal (when it was good, before Rupert Murdoch took it over) and The Economist, and those helped.

For me, however, the perfect night shift reading was comic books. During an eight-hour shift running from midnight to 8 a.m., I'd have to make the rounds three times with my time-clock and key, call the country sheriff at the beginning and end of my shift to check in, meet the sanitation guy out on the loading dock at 4 a.m. where I'd wheel out the dumpsters (and we'd talk about sports and women and the weather), meet the mail drop-off at 4:30 a.m., and then be ready to greet and observe the employees who came in at 5, then at 6, then at 7:45, right before MY shift ended. Other than that, the time was my own, but I had to man the front desk and observe the video monitors for the property at all times. You get to the point where you can do all of this in your sleep....and during the night shift, you sometimes did! I could basically be asleep, but if anyone approached the building within 50 feet or if there was any movement on the four black-and-white video monitors of the property, I would wake myself quickly.

I was fortunate during that period in the 80's as it was the golden age of Dick Tracy reprints, with the DICK TRACY WEEKLY, a large magazine of vintage newspaper strip reprints which came out EVERY WEEK. Tracy was always my go-to comic read, and I'd read each one multiple times. However, I also was on the lookout for cheap used and multi-pack comics to kill time in an entertaining manner. For instance, if I could buy a used regular (32-page) Tarzan comic and a used TARZAN GIANT (52 pages) for the same price, I'd go for the Giant.

One item you'd find often in cheap used comic racks (and in old multi-packs which were still found in dusty racks at K-Mart, Ben Franklin, Woolworth's, Phar-Mor, etc.) was the MODERN COMICS line of reprints which Charlton did of its back catalog and which were originally sold bagged for a cheap price. They wound up being re-sold unbagged at many low-end retailers, and you can see the 6 for $1 sticker on the front of my copy. Charlton eventually went entirely to reprints in the 1980's. MODERN had a diverse array of offerings: military, horror, superheroes, westerns, hot rod, romance, etc. The material seemed to range from five to twenty years old, and usually they would reprint the entire comic, including cover, and keep the same number. All that would be different would be the MODERN logo instead of Charlton....and of course a new masthead with publishing info. When I looked up this particular issue at, I learned that it was an exact reprint of Charlton’s OUTLAWS OF THE WEST #79 from November 1969, but with new ads, a new publishing masthead, and the short story deleted (to make way for another page of ads....remember how in previous reviews I’ve described the short stories in comic books as “disposable” or “throwaway”----they disposed of it in this reprint!). From what I’ve read about the Modern Comics methods of distribution, I’m guessing that circulation of the Modern reprint of a Charlton title would probably have been larger than the Charlton original (at least during the early days of Modern)--they are certainly easier to find and cheaper when found than the originals, except for some late Moderns which dealers label “short run.”

Classic western comic books----set in an imaginary Old West which is timeless----usually do not date. They are also the perfect 3 a.m. reading. Night shift workers (and anyone else forced for one reason or another to keep such hours) are in some unnatural state with artificial lighting keeping you up, your brain is in a kind of netherworld, and your connection to most people's "reality" is tenuous at best, so the perfect venue for that punchdrunk imagination is a mythical Old West (the REAL Old West was probably a lot like what's depicted in the Michael J. Pollard vehicle DIRTY LITTLE BILLY (we’ve included the poster for that, which says it all)--a classic of a sort, certainly, but who needs to re-live THAT downer of an experience! Life sucks enough without rubbing my face in its suckiness in a western, which is supposed to be escapist entertainment). As I would look out the window from my guard post, illuminated by fluorescent tubes in the ceiling, and see a well-lit but nearly empty parking lot (there were about five computer-room night shift employees at the massive insurance office where I was guard--that was it--most everyone else was day shift with a handful of evening employees) bordered by tall pine trees on three sides, I could summon up any scene, any reality in my imagination. It’s amazing how we may have millions of people around us, but 99% of it shuts down each night--except for the occasional police siren or ambulance screech or loaded individual playing loud music in his or her car (or in some neighborhoods, gunshots--this office building was on the outskirts of town, though). Even now, I enjoy sitting on my porch after sundown or before sunrise--listening to the environment, imagining what’s going on in the sealed-up and dimly-lit houses and apartments. Remember the old line from the old NAKED CITY TV show: “There are eight million stories in the Naked City. This has been one of them.” You can see how one can easily slip into and out of some alternate reality in the middle of the night. And an alternate reality I remember enjoying was found in the 6 for a dollar comics I would buy and read at my guard post in between tasks and after Larry King signed off for the night.

OUTLAWS OF THE WEST #79 has a lot to offer in its three long stories. “The Endless Trail” features comic book stalwart Kid Montana (who had been graying at the temples for a few years at this point) in one of those always-enjoyable “existential gunfighter” plots (which were re-written in 1970’s movies as “existential hitman” plots) where the aging gunfighter is looking to settle down and find peace. He’d only shoot when shot at--he never looked for trouble--but when you are a legend with a gun, there’s always some young punk who thinks he’s on his way up who’s looking to take you on, and will bait you into a fight you don’t want. Yes, you’ve seen that plot before with Alan Ladd or Robert Taylor or Audie Murphy....heck, even John Wayne’s final film, THE SHOOTIST (which I saw theatrically in its initial run at the Brentwood 4 in West Denver), was a variation on that old plot. No one who has ever seen a B-western has any doubt about where the plot is headed here, but does anyone really NOT know what the outcome is in most genre entertainment, be it low-budget films, quickie genre novels, or western comic books. That was NEVER the point. It’s how you get to the climax, and how the sleight-of-hand of the creator gets you focusing on the smaller details and the immediate moment. That’s what provides the pleasure. After all, everyone knows where a roller coaster is can see its course before you get on....but the ride is still a thrill, isn’t it?

The second story, “A Share of Evil,” has a criminal gang shoot a drifter who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, but when he doesn’t die immediately, they decide to keep him around to do forced labor for them. Of course, as you can imagine, he eventually picks them off one by one. If this were a Universal made-for-TV western of the late 1960’s, I could imagine Don Stroud in the role of The Drifter (or in a Eurowestern, Peter Lee Lawrence). One of the advantages that a comic book has over a low-budget B-western is that you can create anything on the page you can imagine, and not worry about locations, sets, production design, etc., so the settings here are dynamic, the action fast-paced.
At this point in the original Charlton comic, there was a one-page short story, but that’s been cut here for a full-page ad for a four-dollar portable AM radio (see pic). Many of us owned these chintzy but convenient battery-powered radios back in the day. I first heard the Kinks and The Bubble Puppy and The Standells and “I Am The Walrus” and old reruns of “Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar” radio shows on such a cheapo machine. This deal even throws in a free you can play it right out of the box.

The issue concludes with an odd story called “Dare To Enjoy It,” featuring an arrogant outlaw, whose Achilles Heel was his vanity. A brutal killer and robber named Rogg, who wears a beard and has long dark hair and a large floppy hat, decides to re-emerge as a newcomer in a town he just robbed and killed a few people in. However, he’s now clean shaven, has rinsed the dark color out of his hair and is a blond, and also has a short haircut...and no hat. He also talks differently....or at least attempts to. He does this out of his conceit and his belief that these stupid locals are too dim to’s almost like a challenge to them. Of course, we all know where this will eventually head, and it’s quite satisfying as the clever locals catch on to this jerk as he slips up here and there. He finally gets what he deserves from the locals, and the reader then has a full page ad for a KISS pendant (as a public service, we are NOT reprinting that page here) staring him/her in the face.....and it’s probably almost 4 a.m. back at my guard post. Time to make that last run with my watch-clock before meeting the sanitation guy and his garbage truck out at the loading docks.

He’ll tell me some witty stories about the work-sites he’s visited since coming on at midnight, and we’ll have a cigarette or two on the edge of the dock and look out into the darkness as the first cars start to emerge on the main road down the hill with people who have to be at work at 5 a.m. He might tell me about how he’s still flirting with that red-haired divorcee he sees at the flour mill....and how she’s going to say yes one of these nights. He might tell me how much he’s bet on football and basketball games this week. He might tell me of some new beer he’s tried, which is just starting to be sold in the area (he also hits a beer distributorship on his run each night, and they give him samples of items they are considering stocking). I won’t mention that I just got back from hanging out with Kid Montana....better brush that trail dust off my guard uniform before I start pushing the first dumpster out to the loading dock.