Thursday, January 03, 2019


This looks like one of those vanity press-kinda self-published books, the kind published by  companies where people send their wares because no publisher in their right (and moolah-obsessed) mind would go near the thing. These books must be more common than I have thought, after all my dad's old school friend wrote one once about playing in the minor leagues. Anyway, this thing would be prime vanity publishing matter if only because the subject matter (Les Braunstein) if not the subject itself (the Soft White Underbelly before they because the Stalk Forrest Group before they became Blue Oyster Cult) ain't gonna be the kind of reading material that's bound to hit THE NEW YORK TIMES top ten an' you know it's a sad thing in life if someone along the lines of Braunstein is IGNORED in this world of ours because hey, at one time (and maybe even now) he was a SOMETHING!

And that SOMETHING was as the lead singer for the Underbelly, that oft-hyped (along with David Roter) act that came out of the Stonybrook University underground of the late-sixties that everyone from future manager Sandy Pearlman to lyricist/punk rock muse Richard Meltzer hyped incessantly (along with Lillian Roxon who plugged 'em in THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF ROCK ) because they sure looked like the future of rock as far back as 1967! Y'know, when these things were still germinating and ideas later to topple the under-the-underground rock world like THE AESTHETICS OF ROCK and AJAX for that matter were still squiggling around in Meltzer's ball ready to be spurted upon some sheet of paper and dried for the next edition of that legendary fanzine!

But as all reports had it, Soft White Underbelly were worthy of all of the underground hype bestowed upon it, and I'm sure you will agree after hearing this rough early demo of the group that I've only discovered recently. Y'see, for years I thought that official "Stalk Forrest Group" tape floating around was the Les Braunstein-era group, and only until recently did I discover otherwise much to my addled shock. Anyway, here is the original tape. Sound isn't that great but the music surpasses even the recently-released official Stalk Forrest album that's been taking up much of my precious free time. Wish someone'd find the originals of these and give 'em the royal release treatment!

Pretty hotcha stuff eh? Psychedelic yet still potent enough to have clung onto the latter NUGGETS period of local ignored yet just as good as the biggies if not even BETTER rock, the kind that only seemed to get played on the smaller AM stations at the time by disc jockeys you never heard of before and never would again. If you're interest in knowing more, then just check Braunstein's book out.

It's a howshallIsay "interesting" affair, kinda rough with the usual misspellings and such that'll get all you sticklers' anuses tightening even more, but if you can bear my stuff you can bear this. For an autobiography Braunstein really lays it down good and he SHOULD considering just how much of a pure rock 'n roll story he has and how maybe what he has to say is SOMETHING that needs to be heard in these days of phony rockscreeding that reads worse'n even my sixth-grade book report on John Hersey's HIROSHIMA (drop, boom, arrrgh!). The book starts off with the day Braunstein's dad died, and although that was definitely a sad time for the teen it also triggered the dawn of a new era where now the guy can get out and do what he always wanted to un-chained so-to-speak. And for Braunstein that means entering into the wild kultur of mid/late-sixties cool cat-ness what with the guy earning moolah for writing a song that popped up on a Peter Paul and Mary platter (it helped to be college friends with Peter Yarrow's younger brother) up to getting in line with the Pearlman/Meltzer gang and fronting the hottest group in the area, one who might have been tossed off as East Coast psych nobodies had they been anyone else but who had that spark of straightforward originality that separated the unique acts from the hacks! And this was long before hackdom was in and it became easier for the hacks to play footsies with the suits which is why rock 'n roll, as presented and packaged for the most part these past fifty years, really did suck the royal turdburger.

Lotsa clip and quote lines here from various old and on-line sources featuring the opinions of the other proto-BOC members. There's also a lotta things about Meltzer here that I never knew about before which is cool, the weirdest thing being about the time Our Hero had Braunstein slap on some boxing gloves so the two could be filmed duking it out on-stage for Meltzer's upcoming boxing film. It all ended when Meltzer toppled back after a good 'un from Braunstein and ended up strangled in between his gloves which were still tied together. No wonder Meltzer still can't stand the guy 'til this day! If you want more of this kind of jocularity believe-you-me the book is FULL of it!

There are two more volumes in the "Lucky Monkey" series, one called A LUCKY MONKEY WANDERS AMERICA AND EUROPE and another A LUCKY MONKEY ON THE HASHISH TRAIL. Feel like tearin' into any of those other Braunstein efforts by any chance? If ya do howzbout tellin' us whatcha think of 'em...right now I'm still re-re-rereading this book as it is!

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