Wednesday, November 30, 2016

BOOK REVIEW! ELLA CINDERS COMIC STRIPS COLLECTION (B&W) 1925, 1926, 1927 and ELLA CINDERS SUNDAY COMIC STRIPS COLLECTION 1937, 1938, 1939, 1943 by Bill Counselman and Charlie Plumb (available via GOLDEN AGE REPRINTS)

I'll bet yer just sick of reading these writeups of comics that were done up by a whole load of craftsmen who are so daft that they don't even mention rectal itching and menopause in their obviously non-relevant reads now, aren't you! Well tough turds tootsie, because I've got a load of these boff comic collections to tell the world about, and if it ain't gonna be me spillin' the beans about some great and long-gone strip that seemed to be created for us more...shall I say...less kultured readers then it's gonna be Bill Shute gabbing on about some comic book find he picked up in some Salvation Army while waiting for them to pass the doughnuts out. And as Big Vito once said, you better like it!

Y'know, I'd rather snuggle up with a good collection of comic strips, a bottle of Diet Dr. Pepper (or Moxie if available) and some early-seventies post-Velvet Underground drone on the boom box than I would with just about anything else. And frankly these recent ELLA CINDERS collections have really filled a gap in my oft-suburban slobbian deprived life. As far as long-forgotten mid-twentieth century comic strips go ELLA had a whole lot going for it from gripping scripts, badskis who were cruel enough for you to downright loathe, really good artwork and a general care and detail to it that I haven't seen in a comic strip in years. I mean, I coulda see just about anyone throughout the twenties and thirties, young or old, rich or poor down the ol' line tuning in to the funny pages to see just what was going to happen to Ella just like they did with the adventures of Andy Gump or Dick Tracy back in those particularly mass media starved times. Yeah there wasn't as much frivolity to take up your precious time back then, but in many ways those depression-era kiddies had a lot more goin' for 'em with the likes of Ella to follow, and I do mean that in the most sincere way possible!

The collection of daily strips covers CINDERS' early years setting the pace for what was to be during the years when it continued on as a fairly entertaining if not quite upper echelon comic. We are not only introduced to the title character (who looks more like Ann Frank here rather'n a miss old enough to get married!) but her typically incorrigible younger brother Blackie, not to mention her downright evil stepmother and stepsisters who make the characters in Cinderella (in case you haven't gotten the pun yet) look rawther chahming (and I mean it the way the Mother actually steals Ella's savings and gives it to her spawn to squander---that's not forgetting the money owed to Ella by friends which she casually claims as "rent" or payment for a broken dish!). Ella's father makes a brief appearance in the story as the head of a failing moom pitcher studio but even he chickens out and skedaddles to China when things get tough leaving Ella and Blackie in the lurch. And then there's Ella's other bigtime nemesis O. Watters Neek, the studio publicity man  who not only looks like John Waters but equals the stepfamily in treachery to the point where at one point he even kidnaps Ella and Blackie. Neek obviously gets away with this capitol offense because he continues to pop up in and outta the storyline when frankly he shoulda been hanged, but if Steve Rogers could only get KP for desertion during his World War II Captain America days 'stead of the firing squad maybe Neek could get away with a few things that woulda earned him a lynching back in those justice-minded times!

It's a good collection and all but Golden Age Reprints time please print the stories in chronological order because these can be hard to follow when one storyline is presented on the left page and another on the right. Also it might be smart to get a better source for strips other than off the internet...those digital dots can be really hard on the eyes y'know.

The Sunday book is pretty hot even if some of the strips used might not have passed muster had Fantagraphics been involved in this effort. Still these color comics (which are not part of the weekday continuity) are good gaggers perhaps one or two steps about a classic Bushmiller-era NANCY. Many of these tend to involve Blackie getting into various kid mischief adventures like inventing skis made of ice which happen to melt off halfway down the slope, but Ella can be found within plenty of the badgags as well. Personal favorite of mine is the one where she gets arrested on some beach for wearing an immodest bathing suit, a subject matter that I wish would have also been explored in such strips as DIXIE DUGAN!

Of course I gotta say that I really like these funnies since by that time (mid-thirties) artist Charlie Plumb gave Ella that delicate and slightly curvy figure that I like in a female. However I must say that I don't particularly like the later strips because not only is Ella's cute bobbed hair done for (at first replaced by some slightly sexy curves before going the curly forties route) but the lass eventually gets a more buxom build which certainly doesn't do her any good! I like 'em kinda thin and slightly curved with a cute girlish face (sorta like the Japanese image of womanly wowzers, only without the sick stuff I've heard about) so I guess that there was a certain point where the strip just might have lost my interest had I been pouring the papers back then. Oh well, it certainly wasn't as bad as when BEETLE BAILEY cowtowed to feminist temper tantrums (and by that phrase you can tell I REALLY LIKE TO MILK A SUBJECT THAT STICKS IN MY CRAW FOR ALL IT'S WORTH!!!!) and I had about as much fun reading these as I woulda age ten laying smack dab inna middle of the parlor floor with the entire fambly traipsing all over me. And maybe that is saying something that should be said a whole lot more often these days!

Monday, November 28, 2016


I have always been a sucker for cheap combo-packs----of baseball cards, of 45 rpm records, of comic books----where you get a sealed stack of them for a low price, but all you can see is the front one and the back one (and sometimes the back one is covered). During the period of 25-cent comics, when this issue of MONSTER HUNTERS was published, you would get, say, 10 comics for a dollar. Given the choice of four comics I could select for a dollar at 25 cents each, or 10 random comics for the same dollar, only a fool or someone who played it very safe would not go for the stack of 10, unless you were just buying one and knew exactly which one you wanted. However, by 1975, I was more likely to have a dollar in my pocket than just a dime, so I bought many of these combo packs. MONSTER HUNTERS was exactly the kind of thing you’d find there. I remember that you’d sometimes have all-Charlton combo packs at lower-rung department stores and even supermarket magazine racks.

MONSTER HUNTERS ran for a few years, beginning in 1975 and continuing 18 issues until fading out in 1979. The early issues (such as this one) featured new material, but as the series went on, it became primarily reprints from older Charlton horror/mystery titles. In fact, according to Comic Vine, issue #17 is an exact reprint of #3, under review here, but with a new cover (which we’ve reprinted for you....#17 is the one with the big GARRR on it). Considering that on the subscription offer page Charlton has almost 50 different comic publications available, and no one would read even a fifth of those, it’s unlikely that most people who bought the issue 17 would remember the issue 3. Charlton always had the refreshingly unpretentious budget-label mentality regarding re-use of material: hey, it’s just a comic book, it’s a throwaway product, who the hell cares!

The title MONSTER HUNTERS was well-chosen, with the then-recent success of both Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter and Kolchak: The Night Stalker, and would sound just the right echoes in the mind of the adolescent comic book buyer (or in my case, the person who found this in the middle of a sealed combo-pack stack). Each of the stories in this issue would vaguely qualify as monster hunting, although to be honest, any story with a protagonist and an evil creature of some kind could fit under that broad banner.

On some level, MH is a ripoff of the well-regarded and very popular comic BORIS KARLOFF: TALES OF MYSTERY, which ran from 1962 through 1980 and was inspired by the THRILLER TV series that Karloff hosted and sometimes acted in. Karloff served the same function in the TALES OF MYSTERY comic, host and sometimes participant, as he did on the TV show. Here in the MH comic, we have a similar host, named Colonel Whiteshroud, who somewhat resembles Karloff’s “Colonel March of Scotland Yard” in appearance, though not enough to generate a lawsuit (interestingly, in the issue under review, the character is not named! He just appears and narrates....). 

This issue features three comic stories--one about a doctor doing experiments with apes somewhere in that mystery continent that exists only in comic books and pulp stories and Sam Katzman-produced serials and jungle films who is threatened by the local political dictator, another which is a clear knock-off of Kolchak and features a newspaper man working parallel to but separate from a cop in investigating a “vampire” case, and finally a story about another mad doctor who has created a kind of Frankenstein “Plant Man.” Each of these stories starts off with a bang, creates a lot of excitement and intrigue, and then finishes kind of abruptly, with either a gimmick ending or a quick and unsatisfying resolution. It’s as if the creators were going along just fine after six pages and then realized that it was supposed to be a seven-page story. Ooooops! Better wrap this baby up quickly! Considering Charlton’s low pay and minimal editorial supervision, that may well have been what happened. That kind of roughness is both the strength and the weakness of Charlton Comics, depending on your perspective, and mirrors in content the jagged page-cuts and imprecise Warhol-esque printing of the comic art. As someone who likes low-budget movies and quickly-written genre fiction, to me it just adds another level of interest, a level that a slicker, more closely edited comic would be lacking. Hey, I’ve got a doctor doing experiments with apes, I’ve got a ripoff of Kolchak, and I’ve got a “Plant Man” on the rampage....and let’s not forget the two-page short story filler at the end, The Key To Magda’s Heart, which is a caffeine-fueled knockoff of The Picture of Dorian Gray and some gruesome fairy tale I can’t remember (and which is set in Transylvania, of course). What more could you want for 25 cents....or in my case, a dime.

It’s all about killing time in an entertaining manner--and smart phones and internet surfing cannot compete entertainment-wise with a throwaway 70’s Charlton comic book buried in a ten-for-a-dollar multi-pack. When I was at the County Tax Office the other day to get my annual car registration, I was the ONLY person of the 50+ in the waiting room NOT hooked up to some portable device. And it’s not just my age. Surely 40% of the folks there were older than I am, and they were all sitting like zombies being fed corporate and military-industrial-complex-filtered news and Yahoo “trending” stories and various clickbait “lists”, while the younger people were listening to sh*tty hip-hop or checking tweets from B-list celebrities of the month or reading about the fucking CMA Awards. All of them killing time separately while rubbing elbows in tight seating, not chatting with each other about the coming of Winter or the latest Dallas Cowboys game--the older ones weren’t even showing off pictures of their grandchildren, as I do whenever I get the opportunity. They were all just sitting there, glazed-eyed. Where the fuck is the Monster Hunter who can track down the fiend who created this virtual mental-vampirism that has everyone under its spell? Where is the Kevin McCarthy who can break up this Invasion of the Body Snatchers? No, it’s too late. Trying to fight this off has as much of a chance as a legion of Amish trying to fight off electricity and those other nefarious 20th Century influences. Let it go. Let it all swirl down the toilet.

Charlton’s buildings and presses in Derby, Connecticut, were destroyed in 1999----and as they came down, so did a lot of whatever worthwhile was left elsewhere. However, don’t give up.....BTC is here to remind us all of what’s useful that survives, and maybe when this phony “virtual” age dies off, we can re-build on a more-solid foundation, one where MONSTER HUNTERS matters, where Jim Varney is still alive, where the cut-out racks are full of Flamin’ Groovies, Good Rats, and Kim Fowley albums, where Colonel Bruce Hampton and Captain Beefheart are the ones reviewing the troops, where I can turn to a still-active-and-recording Lightnin’ Hopkins for social commentary and life wisdom, and where I can see an Al Adamson double-bill at the drive-in. It’s no surprise that third-rate zombie TV shows and movies are so popular now----it’s the defining metaphor of the age. Just ask sociologists or historians of popular culture 75 years from now as they sift through the ashes. Zombies looking at themselves mirrored in their smart-phone screens! Those zombies can have this world where the late, once-great Lou Reed recorded with Metallica and then praised a Kanye West album. I certainly don’t fucking want it!!!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

So how have you been spending your Fangsgiving holiday anyway??? Probably watching a whole lotta useless tee-vee sports and moom pitchers I hope (not). Well, once again credit memeME with bucking the usual trends (other'n a time inna late sixties when I rushed home from a fambly meal to watch a lousy marionette presentation of either RIP VAN WINKLE or TREASURE ISLAND [prob'ly the latter since I recall some one-legged guy innit toppling over] that was being hosted by none other than Bill Harris aka Barney Bean, this time in his Ronald McDonald guise I kid you not!) because what did I do during those crucial hours of food digestion??? None other'n hole myself up in my bedroom, spin a buncha cee-dees (some which are actually reviewed below!) and read a whole slew of comic strip collections that I have acquired as of the past month or so! Well, I thought it was the best thing I could do to channel my inner thirteen-year-old, other'n lock myself inna bathroom with a copy of NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC (the hula girl issue) that is.

Most of the day was spent going through a box of recently acquired via ebay BEETLE BAILEY paperback collections. Fifty-one in all, although there were about ten or so overlaps with a previous BAILEY cache of books which Bill Shute is gonna receive one of these days but still, that's a walloping bunch of books and some might majestic reading if I do say so myself!

It's funny---back when I was a huge comic strip fan during those slip into the double-digit days I couldn't find a BAILEY book anywhere but in flea market piles which is where the only one I've owned for years came from! Now I'm up to my lobes in these and after going through about 3/4th of the box all I gotta say is sheesh, in these days of puritanical scolds and humorless sitcoms ruling the media roost boy were these strips pretty good (and perhaps even dirty in the good ol' schoolboy sense) reading! Even the eighties comics which make up a bulk of the material for these books were pretty boff in that army jokes sorta off-color way, and for me NOTHING after the original SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE that was being created from the late-seventies onward was worth the effort to even have a giggle at! So in the long run of things that's really sayin' somethin' about a comic's lasting humor power in an era when it just darn shouldn't have been!

Long after they were supposed to be, these BEETLE BAILEYs actually were that guffaw-inducing even when a good recycled corny gag dating back to the fifties was being thrown into the mix for the umpteenth time. I know that you more socially astute readers (if in fact they haven't all retreated) loathe this type of humor, but as the old prayer went "Give us this day our daily groan" and between the classic Bushmiller-era NANCY and BAILEY how could one miss out on a strip that might or might not have the kinda joke to make you gag or even yuk it up a bit in your own pre-culturally conscious way????

With a label like that, I don't care if it don't work!
Remember, the eighties were the days of the feminist onslaught against everything that seemed demeaning to "women" (remember their tirades against the old and rather innocuous Whisk "Ring Around The Collar" commercials?) and the General Halftrack/Miss Buxley comics surely fit into their baggy eyesights in that never-ending attempt to make men as boring and humorless as feminists are. Also don't forget all of the other "offensive" aspects of BEETLE that these modern day uplifters have tried to squash, such as the Zero character who a few wags along the way have deemed mentally retarded for some strange reason or another. But if bored housewives and ugly ladies wanna get their tits all in an uproar about something well I guess that BAILEY was an even handier target than Larry Flynt!

You might not agree with me, but considering just how it was those upstanding citizen types who eventually ruined the strip by toning it way down these early BEETLEs come off really radical and risque for today's totalitarian tastes. It's funny how the obviously humorless women's lip types just didn't get the running gag that the General was being the obvious buffoon when it came to his behaviour towards Miss (now "Ms"---shee-yit!) Buxley or that Zero was far from being retarded and in fact had his rather surprising spurts of genius, but I never did expect things like irony to work on such thick-skulled types who still fret about glass ceilings and the myth of unequal pay. And I can add to that all of those creampuffs who would write into newspapers aghast that Sgt. Snorkel would beat up Beetle and that this is no laughing matter considering all of the privates who do get beat up by their superiors!  Sheesh, its now like we can't laugh anymore other'n what we're directed to laugh at, and it's all on COMEDY CENTRAL fercryinoutloud!

Do you remember that mid-nineties-vintage John Stossel segment from ABC's 20/20 where the man was complaining about how we can't laugh at anything we used to, from the speech impediments of the Warner Brothers cartoon characters to BEETLE BAILEY itself? Strip creator Mort Walker was even interviewed for the segment telling the world that even his own sister told him that BAILEY wasn't funny now that the General went to a sensitivity seminar and the whole lecherous angle of the strip was jettisoned for good! Twennysome years later, and all I gotta add to the fray is that the new prohibition only makes these old comics, along with those seventies-vintage NATIONAL LAMPOONs and early-twentieth century movies with stereotypes galore all the more tasty for me. I have nothing against a whole load of people in this world of ours, but I do have a special loathing for the new breed of teacher's pets and evil scolds that have sprung up in a strange attempt to make this world a "better place", and after being around the Pee-Cee block a few times I get the idea that this "better place" is one that doesn't have any use for old Educational Pictures shorts or PEBBLES albums. If there were to be a fuhrer for this reich it probably would be none other than Anastasia Pantsios preaching at us from the pulpit of the Trinity Church of Those Better Than Thou.

Back to Walker---in some---no---many ways I'm not that keen on Walker for kowtowing to a group of smug humorless members of the female gender who couldn't elicit a catcall even if they passed by a hog least his rebuttals re. Halftrack and Buxley in the eighties were what any normal person would have uttered in a more sane environment, but doing a 180 like he eventually did (maybe with some arm-twisting from higher up) makes it a little hard to like the guy the way I used to. Talk about making irreversible wrong turns in life!

Ah, but these classic BEETLE BAILEY comics, complete with the old gags that have been milked over and over again for, are as fresh and as potent as they were the day you wrapped your dog's turds in them. How can anyone with a sense of guffaw not laugh at these gags including the Lt. Flap racial jokes where the white soldiers, especially the tres-cube Lt. Fuzz, can't seem to come to grips with his hip style, not to mention the typos on various orders leading to funny results and of course the ones where Miss Buxley drives the General wild with her short skirts, plunging neckline and bending over to file something. And hey, if I were a grade school teacher and a boy student of mine wouldn't wanna zing a gal's butt with a rubber band gun I'd call the school psychiatrist on him!

Let's just conclude this soapbox editooreal  with the plain and simple comment that at its best BEETLE BAILEY was one of the better comics to appear on the post-WW II comics page, and it's too bad that it too had to become re-shaped and re-vamped for a new ball-less society that couldn't laugh at a cripple if it were run over by a steamroller. And come to think of it, even DENNIS THE MENACE ain't what he used to be back when the kid would walk in on his mom in the bath and skin Mr. Wilson's head right down to skull...oh wait, that was MAD magazine, right???
This week's blog is pretty hotcha if I do say so, and that's not only because of the BAILEY blast I started this romp out with either (way too long but necessary in today's cyborg world)! Got some nice circles to encompass you here, some from Bill Shute, none from Paul McGarry, and some direct from the labels themselves! Thanks to ya all for your kindness because now I don't have to go without shoes for the winter! 

AK MUSICK CD (Mental Experience Spain, available via Guerrsen)

Leave it to Mental Experience to dig up this ultra-rare avant garde spinner recorded back 1972 way. Being of German origin it does have that European remote feeling to it, kinda reminding me of a number of platters that BYG-Aktuel were putting out when they weren't diving into the New Black Music. Not really jazz but close enough as they used to say, AK Musick dwell into what seems to be the post-serial movement that people more attuned to the whole 12-tone thingie might appreciate, and I'm positive that fans of everyone from the Sea Ensemble to John Cage can find something to stammer their hammers with here. And besides, those used bins that were FILLED with such outta-the-loop wonders have been flushed out years ago, so where else are you gonna get your doo-wah classics anyway???


Bile Svetlo-DELNICI BILEHO SVETLA CD (Guerilla Records, Czech Republic)

You (well, at least some of us) have grooved to the sounds of the seventies Czechoslovakian underground whether it be the Zappa-cum-Velvets post-psych of the Plastic People of the Universe,  DG 307's industrial free sound and the punk rock rumbles of the Umela Hmotas. Now it's time for a little WHITE LIGHT (or in this cast Bile Svetlo) in your life!

With a name like that I guess you'd be thinkin' that Bile Svetlo woulda been yet another one of those Velvet Underground tributes (at least in gutter drone spirit) that were spawned in the wake of Vaclav Havel's acquisition of a copy of their first spinner during a traipse to New York City, eh? Well wrong again Pongo, for these guys actually captured the spirit of prime-era Captain Beefheart and the Magic Ones in their overall approach, at least when group founder and former PP Pavel Zeman (drums) wasn't lodging in a nearby mental institution. Also in the act was Jiri Fryc on flute and vocals, he once being a member of Umela Hmota which must make these guys yet another Underground Czech Supergroup considering all of the past historical ref. pts. that was being poured into it.

Half-rehearsal and half-live, this platter really does capture that down and dirty Iron Curtain rock feeling that must have permeated the entire region at the time. There's more than just an "air" of desperation in these mostly minor chord musical mutters, but the Beefheartian free jazz blues drive really does suit the situation well. I also detect more than a scad of Canterburian Soft Machine style between the Ratledge-esque organ and the Elton Dean-ish horns which should suite more'n a few mid-seventies import bin watchers out there.

You're in for a mighty hotcha music listening session with this, especially if you were one who spent the seventies gobbling up the whole Zappa/import/new jazz movement that was so prevalent you could even find these kinda albums in actual record shops! I guarantee that more'n a few of you will be satisfied with this, and for those who aren't well...the year isn't over yet and I still wanna stick to my 2016 resolutions as best I can!

The Music Asylum-COMMIT THYSELF CD-r burn (originally on United Artists)

Without trying to look all haughty and knowledgeable by googling this 'un, lemme just lay down some prima facie opinions on these Music Asylum guys. Hmmm, they sound kinda smart, like a little progressive rock in the old Lester Bangs even liked it fashion here 'n there with some So Cal seventies flash and Todd Rundgren pseudointellectualism here not forgetting a whole load of Zappa freakiness there. Even some traces of early fusion! Not forgetting a cover of the as yet not legally released Dylan toon "Million Dollar Bash" (which Fairport Convention did a good year before on their second spinner---that GREAT WHITE WONDER album really must've gotta around)! For being one of those outta nowhere platters that sunk like a turd in the toilet of the record industry this is a pretty decant release that captures the rock zeitgeist of the sixties/seventies cusp as good as all of those save-the-world platters we continue to cherish. If I were one of those cheap freeform FM deejays back during them days this mighta gotten a choice AM play, right before I got fired that is.

Brinsley Schwarz-FIFTEEN THOUGHTS OF BRINSLEY SCHWARZ CD-r burn (originally on United Artists, England)

I guess this is the sampler that UA put out in England for all of those Stiff Records fans who weren't around to pick up the originals when they were out, and for a quickie cash in job this one's probably just about as good as the Can one where they got Pete Shelley to do the liner notes. Yeah there is a li'l bit of that laid back sound which old time compadres warned me would be too SF/Grateful Dead for my tastes, but thankfully that don't last long. Overall the pop/country stylings really do lead the way towards alla that Nick Lowe/Elvis Costello punk rock that was just too wild and gnarly (really!) for the AM pop fan in your life (and I should know...I should REMEMBER) and if labels could regurgitate old Can, Pink Fairies and Stooges albums for a new audience why not these guys? If you were part of the English pub rock collective here in the United States of Whoa and followed all of the weaklies and TROUSER PRESS coverage extant, I'll bet you had more'n one Brinsley Schwarz album in your collection, hunh???

Various Artists-JUSTAFIXATION CD-r burn (originally on Funny Records, England)

A collection of commercial psychedelic jinglings from late sixties England that might just be your cup. Some familiar names cozy up with a batch of forgotten faves to make for a pretty interesting collection of what was vying for the precious pennies of young English gal-hood what with the at-times lush production and patented yet potent pop moves that these tracks exude. Personal fave...Legay's "No One" which has this kinetic guitar line that kinda reminds me of a bumble bee that would have snuck into the gaping space between my ears...a good enough one to have appeared on one of those PERFUMED GARDEN samplers but so rare that I don't even think that John Peel knew they existed!

Big Jay McNeely-PLAYS A RHYTHM AND BLUES CONCERT CD-r burn (originally on Savoy Records)

Dunno if you go for these early r 'n b honkers but I kinda find 'em suitable enough for these lonely Sunday Afternoon kick up the feet times. Of course it ain't "exactly" rock et roll the way you probably like it but it'll do what with McNeely's beefy tenor sax blurting out those heavy tones to those patented if expressive r 'n b patterns that have been milked to all high heaven these past few eons. Actually this is downright impressive jazzy stuff that doesn't deliver on any jive-y pretension nor sophisticado airs unlike what passes for jazz in the mainstream these (and other) days.

Blasts from the past, and I'm talking like over a hunnerd years here! William Jennings Bryan and William Howard Taft give the democratic and republican view respectively, while the sermon to be heard it so boring it makes that chaplain from BEETLE BAILEY's sound invigorating. The ethnic (mostly Jewish) humor is rather dated, but it does give you an idea of what people found funny back during the turn of the century and perhaps you can even find some har-har moments lo these many years later. Well, I got more enjoyment outta those lighthearted ethnic romps than I do from anything to be found on Comedown Central so maybe them people really did know how to yuk it up in a good way unlike in today's comparatively cyborg world.
Various Artists-OTHER NAMES FOR NOWHERE CD-r burn (Bill Shute

As usual...interesting. Of course the single by Driver was a pretty good all out rocker (too bad more of these local seventies acts didn't get their music preserved like this) and the obligatory avant garde track good enough even though these Arcane Waves people were probably about as beret and stale Doritos as you can get (well, at least I get that impression!). The Ellington air check pretty historical and all, the Pulsating Big Band Sounds about as sixties spooky spy as you can imagine, and Don Gibson sorta straddles the country and pop realms not really hitting either of 'em. And I always thought Wynder K. Frog was a prog rock they do straight ahead jazz which really surprised me! And yeah, there's also a CBS radio broadcast from July '40 stuck here and after listening to it all all I gotta say is...sheesh, all I gotta say is wasn't that a boring day!

Friday, November 25, 2016


Ebay, as with the internet in general, has been both a blessing and a curse. Yes, it’s great to be able to pick up that obscure Swan 45 you’ve never seen a physical copy of before, or that Dutch picture sleeve Troggs single that’s unlikely to turn up at your local used record store in Tulsa even if you check weekly for 20 years--all you need is a credit card. However, the damage that Ebay has caused rarely gets commented on. In the world of old records or old books or old comics (and surely all areas of collectibles, whatever they are), it’s been a total transformation. The evil combination of scavenger-dealers who “work” every flea market, junk store, used record and book store, etc. to find items to sell on Ebay, and who usually have “arrangements” with the owners so that they get access to things BEFORE they ever get seen by the general public....and also greedy owners of these places who check prices against Ebay and then mark up the stock to reflect what a top-condition price online is. In the old days, owners would price something so they could sell it in a few months. Sometimes they’d under-price it, so it would sell quickly and some lucky person (hopefully, yours truly) would luck out; sometimes they’d over-price it, and it would sit there for a year or two and then they’d mark it down. Pricing was an art, but those in that business were professionals. I have always hit junk stores, flea markets, antique malls, etc. when I travel, and in the pre-internet age, you could always count on finding things on the road that would not be seen in your home area. I still hit them regularly, but rarely do I buy records anymore. Mostly I’ve been buying lesser-condition (in other words, NOT candidates for sale on Ebay) comic books and magazines. If you’re willing to wade through boxes and boxes of junk, you may well find something of interest for fifty cents or a dollar. Such is today’s item under review. It’s dog-eared, mildewed a bit, and shredded at the edges, but it’s a document of a world long gone and only a dollar--it also provides some laughs.

Charlton Comics was just one segment of the larger Charlton Publications empire. The music-oriented magazines such as HIT PARADER and COUNTRY SONG ROUNDUP were the cash cows of the organization, but they also had publications of all kinds to entice the bored person looking for something to read....and also offered a wide-range of crossword puzzle magazines and booklets for the person looking for something to do. Then there is CARTOON CARNIVAL.

This is not really a comic book, but an adult humor magazine. The cover of each issue promises OVER 200 GAGS AND GALS(borrowing the old catch-phrase of cartoonist Jefferson Machamer, whose comedy shorts at Educational Pictures in the mid-1930’s are revered here at the plush BTC offices-- I just noticed that Machamer died in 1960 and this series started in 1962....I have a feeling no payment was made to the Machamer estate for the use of JM’s tagline--we’ve included some vintage Machamer for your enjoyment--a shame Charlton did not put together a magazine of his old would have blown CARTOON CARNIVAL away!), and if you count each comic panel and each printed joke, it probably adds up to 200.

According to Comic Vine, the first issue of CC appeared in 1962, and the latest one I see listed online, #112, is dated 1984. However, as with some of Charlton’s comic book series, it seems to have been run for a while, then dropped for a few years, then revived for a while, etc. Each run seems to have been given a new volume number, but the issue numbers were consecutive. My issue is Vol. 8 and issue 33, dated May 1970.

--The only thing more dangerous to a bachelor than a jealous husband is a single girl.

--Then there’s the showgirl who likes to have her boyfriend order her around....a round of drinks

--He: “When did you meet that sexy blonde.” Him: “About fifty check stubs ago.”

You can almost hear the drummer in the Burly-Q pit band do a drum roll and cymbal crash after each one of these. As for the comic panels, when I said “sex” earlier, I meant “sex” as seen in a Leon Errol comedy short or in the tamest 1950’s Playboy cartoon----meaning infidelity, impotence, stepping out and the like, but treated in an indirect manner. Clearly, the cartoons in Playboy----done by first-rate illustrators and caricaturists-- were the model this magazine aimed at, but they have a casualness and crudeness that would be more likely found in a third-rate men’s magazine....or a small-town newsletter or circular. There are some topless women in some of them, but there are no nipples or any other details. 

I don’t remember seeing CARTOON CARNIVAL back in the day. It was probably sold at news-stands near the “men’s magazines,” not where children could thumb through it.

The cover promises A CIRCUS OF FUN, and I have to agree with that. For the dollar I spent, I got wall-to-wall burlesque-era comic panels and one-liners that take one back to an age long gone. An age when THE IMMORAL MR. TEAS was all the rage, and that kind of tame but mildly “naughty” comedy is what’s on offer here (“but wait,” I can hear some readers saying, “wasn’t THE IMMORAL MR. TEAS out in 1959, and this magazine is from 1973?” Yes, but it’s totally rooted in the 1950’s....and I have a feeling that whoever bought this in 1973 was STILL rooted in the 1950’s!). I’m also reminded of the comedy sequences on those late 60’s Dean Martin TV shows with his Golddiggers and Ding-A-Ling Sisters----those were live-action examples of the kind of comedy found within CARTOON CARNIVAL.

Keep an eye out for these when you are looking through boxes of old yellowed magazines at some backwater junkstore or low-end antique mall. While most of the humor is of the groan-producing variety, a few of them are somewhat clever, in that they require you to think for five or ten seconds before you “get” the joke.

I should of course close this review with a typical joke or two:

--Know how to catch a rabbit? Stand behind a bush and make a noise like a carrot.


--Then there’s the Hollywood showgirl who never kisses her dates goodnight. By the time they get home it’s good morning.

CARTOON CARNIVAL might be the perfect read after viewing Phil Tucker’s 1954 burlesque film BAGDAD AFTER MIDNIGHT----the Shriner after a few drinks at an out-of-town-convention world-view and the baggy-pants comedians in that are quite in keeping with this magazine.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

BOOK REVIEW! OUT OUR WAY 1929 SUNDAYS by J.R. Williams (Ecomics Space, 2016)

While OUR OUR WAY ran as a panel comic with a variety of recurring characters and settings throughout its fiftysome-year lifespan, the Sunday version featured the tales of the Willet family, a foursome who appeared sporadically (and most of the times looking totally different) in the dailies. A nice bunch of folk they were too, what with the father being one of those flustered and perhaps confused sorta guys that you used to see a whole lot of back when white males weren't the bane of postpostPOSTmodern living, while the mother sure seemed like a loving if at times stern type I think went outta vogue around the time people started reading Dr. Spock books. Lil the older cyster was, like many a senior sibling, a crabberoo par excellence and the young brother a practical joking troublemaker who never did seem to learn. Yeah, this line up seems to be the basis for way too many a fambly sitchy-ashion comedy seen on mooms, tee-vee and the printed page for years, but at least Williams (or in this case his Sunday ghoster, probably Neg Cochran) was doing this in the twenties and like, general civilization and culture and alla those things weren't screwed up back then the way they are now!

I can barely remember the Willets from the days when I was knee high to an amputee, but some early-sixties examples I copped at an antiques shop about twenny years back reminded me as to how I loved the unique artwork and the even dated by sixties standards feeling which, like I've said many-a-time, reflected a world that was still up and running in small towns where blue collar people struggled and people did seem a whole lot friendlier and closer than they've been for years, at least around here. The Willets were people you could love like you did your aunts and uncles, for these strips reflected a whole load of conflicts, true-to-life gags and the same type of people who were very similar to those you knew and miss like anything! If you're a pampered upper-middle-class snob protest pansy women's lipper type who loathes the same people you're supposed to "uplift" you wouldn't understand, but what about a suburban slob outta-the-loop nerve-riddled guy like me??? To me the Willets are people I'd like to get to know even if I get the idea that young Willis would be giving me a hotfoot about five panels into one of these full-page Sunday episodes of yore!

One unique thing about these comics is that the then-familiar "topper" strip was not drawn by Williams or Cochran but a totally different guy, in this case the infamous Roy Craine of CAPTAIN EASY and BUZZ SAWYER fame. This topper is none other'n WASH TUBBS, he who eventually teamed up with the gruff and adventurous Captain Easy for an adventure strip that I'm sure comic strip aficionados are still talking about even this late in the funny pages game. Tubbs is a small guy who reminds me of a prepubescent boy doing a Harold Lloyd routine, and these three or four-panel efforts usually feature those same old badgags done up with such great art (and many time the gratuitous yet welcome good looking gals) that you don't mind the groaners at all. And for a guy who loves old time badgags let's just say that WASH TUBBS ain't washed up!

But man the Willets. Great eye gags and mistaken identity hoo-hahs and all those other comedy templates done up really good which reflect  MY suburban ranch house upbringing of which I am proud of and will never eschew like too many of my compadres have. And really, what everyday sorta guy wouldn't empathize with the father who seems befuddled by life in general or the mother who seems harried beyond belief or even the siblings always at each other's gullets. I'll tell ya, it's more REAL LIFE'n the offal being passed off as "normal" and "natural" these days which is so pre-verted it makes Sodom look like a Branson Missouri sideshow.

There's more coming, and after that I gotta look for those old clippings I bought way back when if only for a good early-sixties resensifying, ya little snip you!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016


GO-GO is a strange comic book creation, one that seems so typically Charlton in its slapdash quality and its tendency to jump on bandwagons a bit too late. It's also a cheap imitation (note the John Cage allusion there!) of other, more successful popular culture items and, frankly, much of its charm grows out of that mimicry.

I have always appreciated (in the sense that rubbernecking spectators at an auto accident "appreciate" the event) the American tendency to produce cheap knock-offs of consumer items for those who cannot afford the originals or who cannot access the real thing. Presently, an excellent example of that phenomenon would be the knock-off versions of name-brand products one finds at Dollar Stores. Many times, the knock-off toothpaste or sandwich bags or stuffing mix will have packaging that echoes the name-brand product in the shape of the logo and the color scheme of the printing on the box, about as close as you can get without a lawsuit. The similarity sets off some kind of recognition within us, probably unconsciously, so we're getting a kind of virtual satisfaction as if we really are buying Scope mouthwash or Hefty trashbags or whatever. It's the same kind of thing you get when you see a z-grade made-for-video action film from the 1980's starring Frank Stallone or Don Swayze, both of whom are excellent performers in their own right (Stallone is also a superb singer in the Tony Bennett vein....check out his beautiful album IN LOVE IN VAIN)....or when Jim Hanks is used to do a voice acting role in a knock-off animated version (on Saturday morning or straight-to-video) of some film where Tom Hanks' voice was originally featured.

Of course, often a knock-off is of inferior quality. I used to buy ten-dollar shoes at Payless, and they'd last three months, if that, and they never provided my feet adequate support, but my inherent cheapness over-ruled my common sense. I eventually realized that buying a forty-dollar pair of shoes that lasted five or six times as long as the ten-dollar shoes not only made economic sense, but my feet were actually more comfortable, and I no doubt was a more pleasant person to be around because my feet weren't hurting, so I was helping humanity at the same time. The Payless shoes LOOKED like shoes, and they had a certain surface shininess and vaguely sporty design, but they lacked the essence of a shoe----they weren't well-fitted to the foot, they were not designed by someone who understood foot engineering (I'm sure there is a big word for that, but I'm too lazy to look it up). It was like putting my feet into a shoe-shaped box. The product looked like the real thing, but when you got it home, you found out you'd been ripped off.

It's the same feeling you would have had if back in the day you bought a copy of CRACKED magazine instead of MAD. Maybe to a Martian or to a Soviet spy attempting to figure out American popular culture they would look similar, but the one totally failed to capture the ESSENCE of the other, and everything was a bit off. As CRACKED magazine seems to be a main influence on GO-GO, that's a relevant reference. Or....was Charlton attempting a MAD type hipness and quality with GO-GO and totally missing the boat and then coming off like a pale imitation of CRACKED, the pale imitation itself? Who knows at this point (by the way, Charlton actually had their own rip-off of MAD/CRACKED called had been published by others initially, and Charlton took it over in the mid-70's near the end of its run. as they did with other series which were running out of gas....they went over to Charlton for that last issue of SICK with Archie Bunker on the cover was reviewed here at BTC in July 2013....I picked it up at a junk store in Florida and sent it along to Brad Kohler when I finished it and he sent it along to our fearless BTC leader, Chris....a history of SICK magazine in its various incarnations would be interesting....maybe someone has done that.....until then, the Wikipedia entry will give you the essential dates and details).

As someone who grew up in the lower middle-class, I never had to go without shoes or a birthday present or whatever, but I often was given an odd cheap-jack version of the items that kids from more affluent families had. When I was in 8th or 9th grade, I wanted a 10-speed bike. In Colorado, there are a lot of hills, obviously, and that kind of bike made travel easier. However, those cost nearly a hundred dollars. My father generously offered to get me a 10-speed bike, but he could not afford a Schwinn or one of the established brands, so he got me some forty-dollar ten speed bike made in Korea or the Philippines or some similar place (this was before Chinese imports dominated the low end of the American market, as they do today). The brakes operated in a different way than in most "normal" bikes, and the shifting mechanism also did not seem to make any sense but somehow worked. I guess this was to bikes what Yugos were to automobiles. Also, parts could not be found for this bike, so I had to jerry-rig it once the brakes wore out, tires needed to be replaced, etc.

The knock-off quality in my childhood was not restricted to cheap-ass products. My late mother, God rest her soul, was a very neat and organized person. I think she vacuumed the house every other day (it's a shame I did not inherit THOSE genes from her!). Because of that, I was not allowed to have a dog or a cat as a pet as other kids did (I finally got my own dog when I was in my 40's). Birds were also out because of the feathers shedding. I thought about a goldfish, but they did not seem to have a personality, and I wanted to commune with my pet. Back then, department stores like Woolworth's or K-Mart sold turtles in their pet section. These were small green or black turtles, between one and three inches in size, and they sold little plastic environments (maybe a foot long and six inches wide) for them to live in that had a water section and then an elevated bridge or something where they could go when they wanted to get out of the water. I was given one of those turtle homes by a friend whose turtle died, and I wanted to get my own turtle as a pet. However, I did not have a birthday or Christmas coming up anytime soon then, and I very much desired my own turtle, but I just could not afford the $1.09. I would go to pet stores and Woolworth's and look at the turtles. The turtle has always been my spirit animal. If we are reincarnated as animals in some future incarnation, I'd like to be a turtle. I like the pace of life they lead, I like to pull inside my shell and just tune the world out, and I love to live around water....that all adds up to turtle. Nothing fazes a turtle. If they don't like something, they just turn around and walk their own pace.

After a few weeks of my hanging around looking at the turtles, the pet department clerk asked me if I wanted to buy one or if I was "just looking." I told him that I really did want to buy one, but I did not have $1.09. I remember that I actually asked if I could do some work for them.....sweeping up, taking out trash, earn the amount that I did not have. "How much DO you have?" he asked me. I told him I had about 40 cents. He took me aside and lowered his voice, the way people do when they are making a sexual overture or conducting a drug transaction, and told me that there was a "special" turtle who had a few problems, who was in their present shipment, and no one wanted to buy him. He told me that they did not want to throw him out (and he called the turtle "him," so I always afterwards assumed it was a male....I never knew how to tell a turtle's gender, and I wanted to respect the animal's privacy and not be searching around in his/her private parts....and certainly when I did not know what I was even looking for down there!) because he was a living thing, not a can of out-dated cat food. "I can sell you this one turtle for forty cents. Do you have the forty cents with you?" Yes, I did, and I paid him (and even as a nine-year-old, or whatever I was, I noticed he put the forty cents in his pocket, and not in the register). A minute or two later, I was presented with a small black turtle in a plastic bag with breathing holes in it. When I looked at his face, I noticed that he had an eye in the middle of his face where the nose would usually be (like a bullet-nosed Studebaker car from the late 40s or early 50s), he had a small misshapen nose off to the side, and to the side of that was a small slit which was probably where the second eye would have been if he'd had one. I named him Harry.

I was happy to take Harry home. He might have been thrown out had I not come around wanting a pet turtle but without the money to buy one. I always felt very close to Harry Turtle. Like all creatures who are different on the surface, he probably had to take a lot of crap from the more conventional turtles in the pond....and that experience deepened and enriched his character....he was a noble turtle.

I may have had Harry Turtle when this comic book was published. If I had to break down GO-GO into its component parts, I’d say it’s equal parts imitation CRACKED and imitation ARCHIE, with a twist of TIGER BEAT....the latter because there are promo pics (these certainly would have been laying around the Charlton offices as they were the publishers of HIT PARADER) of The Beach Boys, pics that look vintage 1965. Brian is even featured on the cover.

In addition, there’s a parody of The Monkees in an article called “Record Breaker,” not written by someone who appreciated or knew much about The Monkees, but someone who saw some pics of them and maybe a few minutes of their show. They’re also featured prominently on the cover, so the teeny-bopper with 12 cents in her (and in some cases, his) pocket in 1967 would see both the Monkees AND The Beach Boys on the cover and just know this was, as the tagline at the top of the cover says, “teen’s top comic.”

The mag opens with a PEYTON PLACE parody (!!!!) called “Return To Peculiar Place,” which aims at a MAD-level, but lands squarely in CRACKED territory. Then we’re treated to a seven-page story of the exploits of teen superstar “Miss Bikini Luv,” who bears a very strong resemblance to Betty of Archie comics fame, and just in case the reader did not make that connection, her manager looks like a cigar-smoking version of Mr. Weatherbee. The Archie knock-offs continue in a one-page comedy strip called “Rendezvous” about a Russian and an American astronaut who don’t get to get together when they crash-land on the moon----the Russian gal looks like Betty, once again, and the American guy looks like Reggie.

If anyone wondered whether this magazine was aimed at girls or boys, that question is answered in a one-page filler short story called “The First Argument,” about a young married couple, where the guy (who rarely cooks) makes a sub-standard breakfast for the gal, with the eggs made the wrong way from what she likes, and she points that out to him. The message of the story, told to a young lady by one “Aunt Edna,” is that young ladies should praise to the sky whatever he does because he’s actually trying to help, which is a sign of his love for you. Ummm, OK....I guess the most charitable way to interpret this story would be to treat it like a typical sit-com plot, but awkwardly told and without the humor. If Darren made a sub-standard breakfast for Samantha on an episode of Bewitched, would she complain? Well, actually, she’d tweak her nose and make it a gourmet spread magically, but we’ll forget about that right now.

The book’s final story is called “Snow What: A Far-Out Fairy Tale,” which is another lampoon of the pop music world, with Snow being a guitar-slinging teen idol who sings songs like “Whistle While You Jerk” and who plays coffee-houses on the same bill as bands such as “The 7 Dipthongs.” One wonders if this story had been submitted to CRACKED and rejected!

After another Beach Boys pic, which kills another page, we get to the back cover, and here is the perfect summation of the ad for one of Charlton’s “sound-alike” song-hits packages, 36 HIT SONGS, also peddled in HIT PARADER. What you’d get here is six 6-track 45 rpm 7” EP’s (6 x 6 = 36, so there’s the 36 hit songs) of sound-alike budget cover versions of hits. According to archivist and vintage popular culture authority Lee Hartsfeld, “these exact same tracks also came out on a host of other cheap labels, including Tops, A.R.C. (Allied Record Co.), Promenade, Hurrah! and Bravo.” I’m sure the folks at Charlton were good at “making deals” as they had so many licensed properties (and in the case of Tarzan, un-licensed) among their offerings, and by the 1960’s, HIT PARADER was paying something for the rights to the song lyrics they printed. It’s actually a weird collection of songs that attempts to cover all the bases....I’ve always loved these rip-off sound-alike records, and I didn’t even know the copycats attempted Dylan’s “Positively 4th Street.”

In a way, that budget sound-alike music is the perfect complement to this magazine....and why not down a store-brand diet soda while you listen to the fake English accent on the knockoff of “Well Respected Man.”

GO-GO copies are not that expensive when you can find them--evidently Beach Boys collectors haven’t been tipped off to the significance of this issue (The Byrds are in one of the others). But then, I can’t imagine an off-center blurry repro of a promo pic the fans would already have a clean copy of would be too appealing....the fans nowadays are probably saving their money for copies of mono LP’s and Stack-O-Tracks.

I hate to break this news to anyone under 35, but most teens were NOT listening to the Chocolate Watchband or participating in political protests in 1967....this magazine, as cut-rate and throwaway as it is, probably captures a lot more of what daily life was like for the 13 year olds from insulated suburbs and small towns than what’s offered by the many other cultural artifacts of that day which have washed up on our 21st Century shores.

Harry Turtle and I advise you to check it out (as Joe Bob Briggs would say)....while munching on dollar-store candy and swigging Shasta root beer.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

It's kinda hard for me to start this week's post off with such bad news, but since we last "spoke" two big names in the rock 'n roll fanzine (and dare I say "rock journalism"???---NAW!!!) world have passed.

As I assume you've probably heard by now, noted rock 'n roll fan/writer/singer and general entrepreneur Billy Miller has died after a long battle with cancer this past Sunday. And naturally, anyone who has been in on the BTC game these past few decades should know just how much of a debt the entire rock 'n roll fandom world owes to Mr. Miller, he not only having been the frontman for the Zantees and later on the A-Bones (two bona-feed fifties-oriented monsters of the realm) but one of the two big brains (the other being longtime wife and drummer Miriam Linna) behind the massive Norton Records empire. And hey, if you aren't aware of the plain fact that Billy and Miriam were the ones who have given us not only the boffo KICKS fanzine not forgetting a whole line of records that have, unlike some of the competition, held up rather well over these past few decades then may I direct you to a blog that might be more suiting to your tastes like perhaps maybe RESEARCH INTO THE DIMENSIONS AND CAPACITY OF THE ADOLESCENT MALE IBEX COLON???

First the Zantees and A-Bones. Sheesh, what can you say about either group that hasn't already been said in a variety of hotcha fanzines these past thirtysome if even longer years. Well, for one thing the Zantees were one pretty hefty rockabilly band that, compared with the competition on the much-heralded New York Rock Scene of the late-seventies and eighties (some of which was good mind you but those were few and far between) delivered on the authentic real deal sounds  'stead of some glitzed up modernized version of that seemed to fizzle out once seventies-era nostalgia and rose colored hindsight ruined those memories for more'n a few of us. Now I am one guy who's gotta say that a good hunk of what was goin' down in En Why See in the seventies was pretty much conduit to my own listening waves, but the Zantees (and of course later on the A-Bones) were one act that really stood out amid the various art projects and more-decadent-than-thou attitudes that might have seemed interesting in 1978, but sure came off pretentious and self-conscious a good decade or so later. And for their staying power boy did they do a body good!

Secondly KICKS. I know that more'n a few people out there thought the LAST thing anyone needed in the late-seventies was another fanzine, but if it hadda be another fanzine at least KICKS was one that stood out even more'n the batch of reads that were pouring their way into quite a few mailboxes of the day.With an attitude that stood out against the prevailing underground trends (undoubtedly to their own detriment and more'n a few readers just happ'd to tell me off the record), those early (1979) issues really must have alienated quite a few under-the-counterculture types what with Miller's badmouthing of just about everything that came out from the late-sixties onward other'n the Dictators and precious few others. But I'm sure more'n a few people out there eventually got it through their noggins that KICKS actually was a "punk rock" fanzine, only they were talking punk in a rather broad 1972 fanzine/CREEM magazine sense of the term before people who shouldn't have been left around a turntable unguarded got hold of the language and mangled it to their advantage. Well, maybe not as broad as when certain CREEM-screeders would refer to groups like Ashton Gardner and Dyke as punks, but close enough for comfort.

By the eighties there might have been a plethora of fanzines vying for your attention and precious lucre, but only a few really delivered on the rock 'n roll goods! KICKS was one of the better of these what with those awe-inspiring cover stories on everyone from the Trashmen to Bobby Fuller and other acts that really seemed to fit into my post-new-unto-gnu wave (copyright 1983 Bill Shute) listening patterns. Ya gotta admit that this was at a time when I hadda keep searching more and more for the same throb thrills I got listening to some Flamin' Groovies record in 1978 but by this time had just seemed to vanish! Those issues of KICKS really did something to me, other'n help empty out my billfold buying up a whole slew of records I probably would have otherwise never knew existed.

And of course there's the Norton empire to contend with. Miller put so much effort into building this record company cum book imprint up that you kinda wonder why he hasn't received some big award from the industry complete with his pic splattered all over an issue of BILLBOARD. Maybe he woulda if he hadn't been such a stick-to-himself kinda guy who wasn't "offending" the special snowflakes of his day with those wild and dare-I-say "offensive" articles of his but otherwise sheesh...those Norton paperbacks on Bobby Fuller (and by the likes of Sun Ra and Kim Fowley) were nothing but pure energy put into wordage, and you tell me what other label out there would have a roster as bright and shiny as Norton's what with the likes of Hasil Adkins (who owed a huge hunkerin' debt to Miller and wife Miriam Linna for the re-boot of his career) to Jack Starr and Link Wray and Rudy Grayzell and the Dictators and Ramones and Figures of Light and other acts that come to think of it were punk rock in its purest distillation but don't tell Robert Christgau that.

Should also mention Billy Miller the person behind the image. Boy was he a nice guy which is a change from the usual runna the mill bigshots inna music 'n fandom world (myself included, though I would say that I am about as far from being a "bigshot" as one could get) who might get a little too big for their britches and uppity for anyone's tastes. Not Billy. Sure he thought my musical faves were way outta whack what with me digging Von Lmo (a def. Miller no-no!) 'n wasn't afraid to tell me in a nice if confused as to my tastes sorta way, but it wasn't like he was out gunnin' for my hide like I'm sure a whole load of others out there in fandom land woulda had I made some major poor taste in music faux pas. In all of my contacts with Mr. Miller (which I must admit were few and far between) the guy was nice 'n cordial just like he was to Tim Stegall (who actually has the honor of having contributed to KICKS!) when a braver than I would ever be Tim mentioned to Miller that his favorite rock 'n roll band of all time was the Sex Pistols! But did Billy do his Sonny Liston impression and whomp Tim one? Naw, all he did was say well, many people nowadays say their favorite group is Marillion so wha' th' 'eh! Now that's what I call class!

Let's face it...Billy Miller has done more rock 'n roll living in one second that most of us (including me!) have done in our entire lives, and if it weren't for him what would you be doing right now, other'n reading this pithy excuse for a tribute that is???
Also sorry to inform you that BACK DOOR MAN's own Don Waller has passed on (I believe) this past Thursday. Yet another rock 'n roll crusader par excellence, Waller was, along with Phast Phreddie Patterson, the Punk, the Underwoods, the Fayes etc. one of the guys who made BACK DOOR MAN one of the premier fanzines of the mid-seventies. True, before the grand entry of BACK DOOR MAN, TEENAGE WASTELAND GAZETTE, FLASH, NIX ON PIX, CRETINOUS CONTENTIONS and DENIM DELINQUENT, but after came TEENAGE NEWS, RECORD RAVES, YOUNG FAST AND SCIENTIFIC, CAN'T BUY A THRILL and other mad ravers that really lit up the decade not only with the groups that were covered in their pages, but the gonzoid way they were covered! And as you might surmise, each and every one of these mags owed a big debt to BACK DOOR MAN in one bad taste way or another!

And when it came to "bad taste" it was like these guys were pretty much looking for a fight which I gotta say is cool by me! Remember the article on the Dictators where Handsome Dick and company seemed to go out of their way to be racially/socially offensive? Nothing that would earn them free memberships to the George Lincoln Rockwell fan club mind you, but tasteless enough that I'm sure that there were more'n a few whiny bitch types who were all discombobulated over things like Ross the Boss mentioning one of his hobbies as "chasing Negroes out of my neighborhood"! Back then things like this were more the norm what with the likes of NATIONAL LAMPOON selling millions and things like PUNK magazine getting written up in all sorts of chic magazines without people gagging up phlegm over that mag's over-the-top anti "we are all one people" attitude! Not like in more recent times when I've been raked over many a coal doing pretty much the same thing, so you can bet that I sure find these meta-Bunkerisms rawther pleasant next to the white/straight scolding that passes for comedy and commentary you just can't escape anymore!

And hey, wasn't BACK DOOR MAN just the kinda 'zine you wished their were more of even when you acted all high-falutin' offended after reading some offhand comment from the likes of Waller? After all, these guys were covering the dying remnants of the great sixties past while plugging away at the upstart underground and heavy metal ("Do not be mellow, be metal!") future that I don't think anyone coulda predicted at the time. They put Iggy on the cover of their first (Feb. 1975) issue back when such an act might have been considered commercial suicide and wrote about Patti Smith on the strength of her "Piss Factory" single as well as a surprise concert in Los Angeles long before the gal signed with Arista Records. And when it came to the new spate of self-produced singles that were beginning to come out with an alarming regularity it was BACK DOOR MAN (and sometimes Waller) who was the first to tell you about 'em.

Of course there were the Imperial Dogs as well, Waller's high energy band that helped push the punk aesthetic at a time when I'm sure a huge amount of the youth populace was too blitzed to care one way or the other. These guys really must have stuck out like a sore thumb (or sore something else considering the time Waller's pants once split at the crotch during an appearance) but the Dogs really did set a trend in the El Lay area that continued on for quite some time what with their sado-faena image and toying around with forbidden festoonery. Thankfully a number of records and a DVD survive to show us just how exciting these guys were live and who knows, maybe if they did get signed the Imperial Dogs woulda given us that 1979 bargain bin classic that woulda cost us the $1.99 most if not ALL of us could have afforded on our depression-era wages!

And man, was Waller a rock scribe of the highest order! I consider a whole slew of articles he did for BACK DOOR MAN to be of the best music-related scribbling to appear anywhere including the mainstream rock mags. Up there with Bangs, Meltzer, Saunders, Farren, Kent, Murray and need I go on??? Certainly tops anything I've seen on the web o'er the past few years considering I haven't picked up what passes for a rock mag in ages. I still love his infamous takedown of the El Lay punk scene in "Looking for a Hook" not to mention his Phil Ochs obituary which says more about the actions of the nuevo left beautiful people type than any of us could imagine. Such good writings make me wish I had read more of his pieces for not only THE NEW YORK ROCKER and mid-eighties fehsville-era CREEM but his book on Motown among other long-forgotten subject matters. Not that I actually have the money to pursue all of this...
And so you have it, two greats of our time plucked from our midst long before we woulda thought any of 'em woulda left the carbon cycle. A big too bad, even though as things stand here in 2016 the general doofuses who make up the population could care less which is something that really does have me fuming! Of course the real question remains, with bad things happening in threes who is the next person in line to leave the premises once and for all? I really don't know who the Grim Reaper has in store to visit next, but one thing for certain is that I hope it ain't gonna be none other'n the one 'n only me! After all I do have something to live for, even if it is some heretofore unknown garage band rehearsal tape, a fanzine that has avoided my collection or perhaps even an early metallic wonder that's bound to be uncovered more sooner than later! And believe-you-moi, I'n gonna hold on to sweet life as long as I can in order to hear, read and see it ALL so when it comes to life support time don't pull the plug just yet...
Pardon the brevity of that previous paragraph. I just thought I hadda end it all on a happier note the same way that ultra-sad episode of THE HONEYMOONERS where Ralph and Alice had to return their adopted daughter Ralphina to her real mother finished off on an awkward gag despite its rather depressing outcome if only to keep the audience from crying their eyes out. (Besides, if you wanna stretch the three-dom theory a bit you could include Mose Allison, a pretty hotcha jazz/blues guy who I have only begun to appreciate in later years. Interesting enough I remember seeing him on PBS back in the late-seventies and I thought he was Larry Tate! As for Leonard Cohen well...) Anyway, now that we got the well-deserved tributes to two men who are greater than any of are or will ever be outta the way, here are but a few of the things gracing my waxed-up ear canals this past week.

Various Artists-TOUGHER THAN STAINS CD-r burn (originally on London Fog Records)

Yeah you I and the rest of the fanablas into this sorta rot really weren't that thrilled by a whole number of garage band compilations (and there were quite a bit!) that were comin' out back inna nineties. Some of 'em like a few Texas-oriented platters were total winners true, but many had a load of draggy b-sides and various geek-oriented tracks that just didn't cut the old moostrick. But when a good one did make its way onto a Disques Du Monde list boy-oh-boy! TOUGHER THAN STAINS is but one of these rare finds...sure a few tracks might not quite grab you by the psyche but most of these spinners are top-notch garage band wowzers that have more in common with the Sonics, Kinks and Raiders than they do the Doodletown Pipers. Hear alla the wannabe Jaggers you can imagine playing Voxed-out cantatas with patented "Gloria" riffage mutated the way only a seventeen-year-old Winky's employee could! Some familiar names (the Spats, Sounds Unlimited???) with a whole batch of heretofore unknown acts that just might have consisted of some guy you yelled at in line at the supermarket yesterday!. Now aren't you ashamed of yourself???
BLUE CHEER CD-r burn (originally on Philips)

Naw it ain't heavy metal. It ain't even punk rock or garage if you prefer. In fact it's kinda professional and even a tad laid back, with piano, organ and harmonica t'boot! Blue Cheer always were a group that kept you guessing, and I discovered that whatever the guessing was the guessing was gonna be good. Just like it is with this platter which, true, does take on a tad of the heavy but not hard attitude so common at the time, but it sure does rock 'n roll out when it dad burn feels like it! If you like the post-Yardbirds hard rock murk of everyone from UFO to the Stooges you might just cozy up to this one as well. (Should  this have appeared in my year-end list of "familiar" platters I have spun in 2016? Maybe so, but since I never HEARD this before let's just say it was pure epiphany!)
Various Artists-BACK FROM THE GRAVE PART 3 CD-r burn (originally on Crypt Records)

Another one that maybe shoulda been in the year end collection of old and familiar, but given there just ain't been that much new and unfamiliar headin' my way as of late I guess why not do it up now and do it up good? Those BACK FROM THE GRAVE samplers that were springing up from the early-eighties on were quite a wake up call as to all of the good sixties garage band rompers that had yet to be discovered, and this third edition featuring a whole buncha tracks from the mid-period of that series really is swell. Of course I don't got the fun liner notes to read while these tracks are spinnin', but given how EACH AND EVERY ONE OF THESE NUMBERS are downright winners it ain't like I'm being totally deprived. You know the rap, now once again swoon to the savvy strains of a whole load of post-Diddley daddies the likes of the Keggs (Detroit under-the-wire high energy) and the Hatfields, not to forget local non-legends the Treytones (Warren Ohio) who I swear had a now-retired local tee-vee reporter in their ranks!
Tom Crean/Matt Robidoux-BLANK SPACE CD-r (Kendra Steiner Editions, see blogroll at left for more info)

For a guy who really needs more mesmerizin' these days this one really does help ease the ol' nervous system. The duo of Crean and Robidoux present a platter of calm if eerie instrumentals performed mostly on acoustic guitars and banjos making the same kind of ethereal space sounds that Loren Connors or Derek Bailey often got out of their guit-boxes. At times the acoustic intertwanglings remind me of something that would have fit perfectly on an Alan Sondheim recording. BLANK SPACE is one platter that really fits in swell when it comes to unjangling those real-life nerves, yet thankfully this is about as far from gnu age as you can get so please, be thankful for once!
Elephant's Memory-TAKE IT TO THE STREETS CD-r burn (originally on Metromedia)

I dunno why most of the Elephant's Memory albums have not been reissued (the only one that I can recall offhand, not counting various ones they did with John Lennon, being their debut on Buddah). Those I've heard (other'n their goodbye for Muse Records which was a sorry instrumental lounge 'n cheese affair) were fairly good and stand up to repeated spins, this effort being no exception. Contains the group's big enough I guess hit "Mongoose" from '70 as well as a buncha jazz rockers that for once don't make you think of the big horn rock putsch that was going on at the time. Of course you also get the obligatory country goof but that doesn't last too long (it actually ends in a hail of gunfire!) and you have heard it done a lot worse on a whole number of hippie releases throughout the seventies so why not give this a go!

Various Artists-RAINY ETHEREAL GARDEN RUMBLE CD-r burn (Bill Shute)

As usual this one jumps from a variety of styles yet seems all together (and I don't mean nude!). The foreign instrumental music does have that cheap import film kinda feeling that makes me wanna open up a can of tamales, while acts like the Peanut Butter Conspiracy show that they were pretty hotcha late-sixties kinda pop acts who were much better'n the hipster types of the day made 'em out to be. I particularly liked the garage-y pop of Linus and the Little People's "Lovin La La" (which starts off just like an old T. Rex hit!) not to mention the Vandals' "Ballad of a Loser" which I'm sure we all can relate to. Of special interest is the bubbling under avant garde but still avant garde enough for you "Insect Song" by a Reid Harris, a man who I get the idea is not noshing on little weenies wrapped in dough at some swanky gathering like I assume Philip Glass is. Big surprise---a whole side of the Ethereal Counterbalance album which takes psychedelic mewlings a la Hawkwind and sets the to a mid/late-seventies cold wave beat! Gotta do some research on those way outta the loop guys one of these days!