Saturday, August 10, 2019

As you will shortly see it has been a week where one is lucky to stay alive, with perhaps thee
ultimate rock 'n roll effort of the past three decades up and ready for inspection! Sorry, no ramble ons about my personal upheavals or general autobiographical bornados this time...aintcha LUCKY???


If Peter Laughner was still up and about here in the dusk of the 'teens you can be sure that  he'd be considered just as much of an elder statesman of a whole variety of musical subkultures from folk to glam scenester to punk rocker as any of the people the man emulated during his near quarter century on this planet. In fact I'm sure some up 'n coming club would be hosting some sorta seventieth birthday bash a good three years from now while the guy would be basking in the light of a good half-century-plus of musical accomplishment complete with a WVIZ-TV special hosted by some trimmed beard geeky up 'n comer or perhaps even a CLEVELAND (or at least Cle area) mag feature where once again Anastasia Pantsios sings the man's praises even thought it was probably his ultra-deca-death that turned her into the anti-punk biddy she was and perhaps even remains a good fortysome years after the fact. Of course the fourth or fifth hardbound collection of Laughner poetry would be making the rounds for all of us doofs who missed out the first time to catch up on...heck I gotta even admit that some typically distorto Hollywood biopic mighta even been inna works once again failing to capture that inner feral feeling that rock 'n roll in its purest form delivers on with virtual ease! (But don't worry, you'll see ads for it on "Direct TV" in a few months.) Y'know, just like all those other films about rock 'n roll that miss out seizing the core of it all despite ya thinkin' that people would know a lot better about what rock 'n roll outside the standard biz/hippie/slicked up mindset meant (and perhaps continues to mean) for unabashed lovers of sonic noise such as us.

WHO 'M I KIDDIN'????? Ya know that had Laughner not taken that deep dive into forever that June '77 night he would have been practically forgotten by the same people who gave him that big boost if only to TEAR HIM DOWN. Or at least he'd've been as marginalized as alla those other seventies spokesmen for a degeneration that seemed to dissipate once the squeaky clean eighties and its music sans fly shit specs and overall grit rolled in. Yeah the man had the potential to be Ameriga's answer to not only Peter Perrett (musically) and Nick Kent and Yves Adrien (even Alain Placadis!) in the printed realm, but other'n producing a few new rock 'n roll efforts and perhaps writing for CREEM until their growing stodginess had him looking for other outlets I don't see the man making it too far into the eighties as a viable rock stalwart. With the trend from gonzo rockscreed to hack publicity sheet repatch growing his career as a rock writer woulda been dead by '83 at the least, while I could see the man easily become more and more frustrated with the decreasing quality of his sixties heroes from Lou to Ig in the eighties to the point of perhaps giving up on rock 'n roll (as it meant for you and perhaps even me) for good! Well, at least he would have abstained from the form until the next great boom whenever that would be. Maybe its all the better that Laughner died when he did---after all, I couldn't see him extolling the benefits of Prince and Madonna like way too many seventies icons of decadence ended up doing! (Not so sure about the latter---the former most likely.)

Yeah, the concept of a living and breathing Laughner born and bred of the 1964-1981 upheaval in the eighties and beyond seems rather disturbing if not downright disgusting, and if he were smart enough which I don't doubt one bit he woulda skedaddled the entire music scene and got a job in his father's biz where yeah, he would be living that sorta life the rock 'n rollers out there seemingly dread but at least he'd havethose hefty good MEMORIES along with a nice fat paycheck. And maybe all us in-on-the-game rock fans need here at the dusk of the 'teens is just that because really, NOTHING ELSE MATTERS other'n the big beat and the long green.

So let me break my promise of no longer being long-windy and blab on forth about this piece of rock ephemera that you most definitely need. And brother, if there is anything out there that you need to spend your precious shekels on at this late date its this five-LP Peter Laughner box set. Yes, finally after all these years of being shuttered off into the closet of "things" that just didn't fit into the "proper" evolution and digestion of rock 'n roll Laughner has been done right, not only with these platters which more or less cover the man's extant recording "career" (though why no Mr. Charlie even though a live show has been penetrating just about every hotcha rock collection except mine?) but with the nifty hardcovered book it looks as if the man is finally being recognized on a large scale for his role as a mover and shaker in Amerigan Underground Rock, at least when it was finally getting a voice and an identity that sure set more than a few pitted butt suburban slob asses on fire.

The enclosed book featuring not only the Laughner saga but some rather choice writings blows to bit just about every snatch of rock "criticism" or just plain fan scribbles that popped up in the aftermath of the Great Gonz Expurgation of the early-eighties. Everything you have read from even the more "respected" rock writers of the last thirty years wilts in comparison---even my own Fourth Reich Kitsch is rendered totally meaningless when stacked next to the pearls that Laughner exudes it's that zoned into the mid-seventies guttural approach of appreciating rock 'n roll as that "International Youth Language" it seemed as if less and less youth were understanding as the years crept on.

But as usual I am lurching ahead. First the albums...five beauts with tracks which each beg us for more and more Laughner trackage which I know is out there. Perhaps this is but a taste for future Rocket From The Tombs and Wolves efforts that Smog Veil has in store...well one can only hope. And really, these things sound a whole lot better'n the nth generation tapes and cheapo cassette quality efforts that have been flowing around. Good enough to the point where even my cheapo nostalgia turntable done up for your great Aunt Matilda sounds like a boffo late-seventies STEREO REVIEW pick of the month, and that's even without the giganto speakers and diddley daddy amplifier all the rich kids in high stool had. Let's just say that record pressings and the ability to make something beautiful outta those throwaway tapes has markedly improved since those scuzzy bootleg and legitimate record days forty years ago!

Record #1--FAT CITY JIVE---early Peter. Much of this is taken from Peter's debut "Coffeebreak Concert" on WMMS-FM, while tracks from a subsequent one are from an "episode" that was hosted by Kid Leo, a guy who I get the sneakin' suspicion would have disavowed any knowledge of havin' known the guy if you'd've asked him in 1978. (But don't worry---I'm sure that if you ask him about Peter these days he'd wax eloquent about how the two of 'em were best of buddies and that his passing was such sweet sorrow and the rest of that showbiz caga that keeps getting tossed on us even though we all knew better a good thirtysome years back.) These songs capture Peter in his still-sixties-bred down home folk rootsy self with the Dylan roarin' on all cylinders and even a nod to John Sebastian and Jackson Browne to be heard. And of course  this has the obligatory Lou Reed numbers which I get the feelin' sorta ruined it for the folkies who tuned in but ah, that's part of the joy. The Original Wolverines do their best Holy Modal Rounders-ish freak folk imitation and it all blends in swell. If Laughner's loopy yet passionate rendition of "Eyes Eyes" doesn't make ya feel some deep down emotional uproar I dunno WHAT will.

Record #2--ONE OF THE BOYS---by now (1972) Peter had lept straight into his glam rock phase which, like many of the other glam rock phases in rock 'n roll easily enough slid right into many a punk rock phase which seemed to get stuck on these guys PERMANENTLY! And yeah, a whole album fulla Cinderella Backstreet and Cinderella's Revenge (still wonder about Crocus Behemoth's mention of "Cinderella Airstream" in that SEARCH AND DESTROY interview) is what this particular sonic bopper needs here at the dawn of what will definitely be the "boring" twenties. So good that even I can stand Cindy Black's Mellotron careenings (well, listening to Hawkwind albums did help me "appreciate" that monstrosity!) and ya gotta admit that the sound is sure improved to the point where you woulda sworn these cassette tapes were actually taken straight from the soundboard. As if that really mattered, but in some way it does in my own cornballus way. Hearing Backstreet play Mott the Hoople was a surprise but an even bigger one was the Cinderella's Revenge take on the teenbo-era Laughner blooze classic "I'm So Fucked Up" live from the Viking Saloon. I just hope this tuneage is but a teaser for an entire Revenge album on its lonesome...well, at least that would be something to keep me fit and healthy just so's I will survive long enough for one to materialize!

PLEDGING MY TIME comes next---Laughner goes acoustic decadent! Folk becomes sleaze and it works out in the pun intended. Some of it sounds particularly singer/songwriter done up right for once..."Rain on the City" might have even become one of those things 'MMS woulda played in slight rotation had this gotten out (and if the station was still as "free form" as everyone used to think) and I gotta say that after growing up with the idea that someone with an acoustic guitar was undoubtedly affixed to the whole James Taylor/Melanie beads and doves soft introspection breed these songs are but a vicious reaction to all that hippie infection. The same disease that everything from BLESS THE BEASTS AND CHILDREN to that new folkie teacher with the da capo'd guitar ready to lay a tune on ya was more'n anxious to infect on us disturbed types.

More rock 'n roll in that hard-edged Cleveland style that never did come into vogue  with the prissies....ROCK IT DOWN highlights Laughner's mid-seventies contributions to the local stage even if Pere Ubu and Peter and the Wolves are suspiciously missing from the brew. Trackage from the Finns (the same one from the SOL single but how often have you been pullin' that one out?), an unreleased live version of Rocket From the Tombs' "Ain't It Fun" and some Friction both rehearsal and live show up in better than expected sound quality. A pre-Wolves version of "Rock It Down" with Adele Bertei singing appears but even that ain't the highlight of this 'un, that honor being given to yet another take on the infamous "Amphetamine" not only with Laughner being backed by Don Harvey's harmonium but additional lyrics and the most beautiful musical segue heard in ages. Sounds like a rough demo for THE MARBLE INDEX and if you still harbor some emotive non-restraint from your youth you might want to sniffle at the passion of it all. Personally I couldn't (I've been all cried out for over twenty years) but if you haven't shed a tear in your life maybe it still isn't too late.

Hmmm, platter #5 NOCTURNAL DIGRESSIONS is pressed on white vinyl. I guess this was done in order to identify it as something special since it was Laughner's final session recorded just a few hours before he passed on that fateful June night. This does seem like it could have (intentionally?) been his ultimate "so long"...listening to Laughner hoarsely work his ways through such longtime faves as "Slim Slow Slider" and "Blank Generation" makes me wonder if he knew that he pretty much was recording his own obituary that very evening. But then again maybe not since the man does come to life, especially after the rather dreary and uncharacteristically obtuse "Going to China" (with a guitar riff lifted from Friction's version of the Richard Thompson "chestnut" "Calvary Cross"...unfortunately the version recorded that very night was inexplicable left off the album!) when he springs into a lively impromptu "Summertime Blues". Like he's sayin' "Hey kids, I ain't gonna knock off tonight nor never, or at least until the music I love knocks itself off and knocks itself out for good! An' like, I know it's gonna live on for a long long time and that those people who are my friends at the Big City FM station and the paper are gonna see to it that ROCK AND ROLL WILL STAND because like, if it dies or even gets watered down to fit the Big Suits' idea of what Teen Nation should be rather than how it stands in its jaded decadence so will I. And nobody would want anything as ridiculous as that to happen, eh?"

If you are lucky you will get a bonus see-through EP with your box, a tasty addendum to an already smorgasbord of greats. Laughner with Lester Bangs from that tape that WMMS was s'posed to broadcast, a dolorous version of "Venus de Milo" with accompanying harmonium, a snat country blues, a jazzy blues riff with Laughner blarin' in on guitar about halfway through. and the most interesting bit of music I've heard from him so far, an Asian-influenced instrumental with rock overtones that reminds me of something off Eno's ANOTHER GREEN WORLD. It's really a fine cherry on top of a sundae of sound you'll most likely be chompin' on for years on end and even if your mind is stuffed to the gills you will be begging for MORE.

The hardcover book is more'n just the whipped cream 'n cherry on top of this rock 'n roll sundae. It's the ROCK BOOK OF THE YEAR no doubt about it and as every bit as important as the various Lester Bangs, Richard Meltzer or Charles Shaar Murray collections that I'm sure adorn your bookshelf like they adorn about a dozen boxes scattered about my place. I am not exactly sure what was not enclosed in this effort but the thing does thrill you as much as such an effort should not only with the bio, the reviews and articles and rare snaps, but the ads do recall a time when the big lurch of underground rock seemed as if it would envelop the entire universe and that once again the spirit and energy of what was once a teenage given (that is rock 'n roll in its more feral guise) would shine through and that the kids of the seventies would be buying up the likes of Patti, Television, Suicide, Ubu etc. the way their older siblings sharpened their teeth on the Velvets, Stooges and all those English groups that were too over-the-top even for kids who loved English groups! All leading the way for a healthy rock 'n roll future at least until everyone got too old and went the housewife route age thirtysomething but if you think they'll still be spinnin' "Sister Ray" during those bridge games you might be right.

Shows how wrong I could be what with teenbo USA being totally zonkified by total mummery not only in music but other entertainment, general lifestyle patterns and philosophical mulch and the future we were promised adding up to nothing but forty years of low-intensity nerve-fray. Fortunately none of us that I know of was stoopid enough to forsake rock 'n roll or music in the raw state of becoming as Wayne McGuire put it once we toppled over the big three-oh mark.

Of course one question does remain. Like,since when and where did none other than Electric Eels lead vocalist Dave E die and he MUST HAVE, because his moniker is plainly mentioned in the obligatory "In Memorium" section of the book! Eels drummer Nick Knox ain't mentioned so I guess there hadda've been a mix up somewhere down the line,  but the last time I've noticed the man was still among the living, so I believe that Smog Veil OWES HIM AN APOLOGY and like mighty soon!
Jeffrey Alexander-MEDITATIONS FOR BEOWULF LP (Feeding Tube Records)

What a weirditie of a surprise from this former Dire Wolves member. The electronic piano noodling with various other sound effects tossed in had me thinking this could have been the handiwork of some seventies-vintage sound crankpot messing around with various electronics and DOING IT RIGHT FOR ONCE! Then a track that kinda sounds singer/songwriter but in a way where James Taylor's testicles are getting chopped off as he tries swiping a syringe from Carly Simon. It's all so poetic in many ways, but not the "Milk, Milk, Lemonade" kind. Nice swirls and creative manipulations of sounds that coulda come off much worse in the hands of you and me.
THE JIM JONES REVUE CD-r burn (originally on Punk Rock Blues Records)

Paul McGarry sez that if I don't think that album opener "Princess and the Frog" ain't hot then I'm not fit to run BLOG TO COMM! Silly Paul...actually I'm not even fit to run a one space parking lot concession let alone a blog, but I get the idea of what he's hintin' around at. Actually this relatively recent effort (from 2008 which is recent enough in my book) is pretty over-the-top hotcha in my book (or on this blog for that matter) what with this particular Jim Jones revvin' up the fifties sounds for an even more pumped up clientele soundin' kinda like prime-era Sonics if someone had shoved some juicy hot peppers up their assholes. These guys give Bunker Hill and Link Wray a run for the money, they're that over-the-top rock 'n roll in their approach! Your standard "Classic Rock" fan should be forced to listen to this until they cry for mama's boobies or die, preferably the latter.

I love these collections that Bill slaps together with bits and feces from various on-line sources gathering up things as fun as old radio ads for contests or the themes to YOGI BEAR, WALLY GATOR and YAKKY DOODLE for that matter. Most of these ads seem to emanate from Detroit which kinda makes me wonder what the luxurious Sheraton Cadillac Hotel looks like these days! I also need to know if Babe Krajenki is still around because I'm in the market for a Buick! Only really bummer to this effort's the cover, not because of the fatty gal posterior pictured but because of the turtle! Not that I hate those shelled creatures at all (even if I ran over one a few weeks back) but seein' that smiling amphibian reminded me of this story that was goin' around when I was in first grade about some kid we all kinda knew who made a snow man and used used the severed head of his former pet turtle for the nose. Sheesh, couldn't the kid just tossed him into Lake Julia like everyone else who didn't want their turtles anymore?
Well, selling back issues of BLACK TO COMM on-line is slightly more dignified than selling pencils on the street. And besides, I don't have to fake being blind to get away with it...the sympathy angle, y'know. And besides, I don't have to put up pretending that I don't "see" some kid plunking slugs into my tin can and have to say "thank you" after ever plunk! Get some before I do lose my sight (but not in the standard way most kids go blind, ifyaknowaddamean...).


Anonymous said...

Sadly Nick Knox passed away last year:

MoeLarryAndJesus said...

1. In my ideal world Laughner kept going until he met Jim Shepard and together they put out more solo and band stuff than the Guided By Voices guys.
2. The box is beautiful beyond belief. It could have been 10 LPs, they have a ton of additional material, and given the great sales of the box I bet a lot of it comes out.
3. Dave E is supposedly a born-again Xian who won't talk about the Eels, so maybe he IS dead in the ways that matter.
4. Jeffrey Alexander is still in the Dire Wolves.
5. There is no five.

Anonymous said...

Dave E and John Morton at Nick Knox' funeral last year:


Charles Hodgson said...

1. above is a beautiful thought, and I heartily concur.
It's been a problem getting the Laughner box here in the UK, due to the insane shipping costs (not Smog Veil's fault, blame the USPS). The one EU source turned out to be even more expensive than ordering direct from SV, which is a bugger.
A big comptehensive box for Shep would be a dream, but who is going to put in the years of work that's likely to be involved? Hope someone can work with the family to follow up Charles Cicerella's "Spirit Dominates Matter" set at some point, its nearly twenty-one years now since he passed.