Thursday, October 31, 2019


I must keep this 'un short lest I go on for paragraph after paragraph filled with the standard repeato-riff bornados that filled up my crudzine to the point of incomprehension. But sheesh, if we ever needed a book about what was perhaps thee complete krautrock/garage band effort of the ages, Can that is, this 'un it! A hands down winner that thankfully retains the drive, dirt and energy of the group transferring it into print making for one mighty sensory overload especially when listened to in conjunction with THE CAN BOX.

Sure the Pascal Bussy effort of a couple decades back was also extremely informative, well-written and remains an important book in any true blue BLOG TO COMM reader's personal library. However this recent inclusion into the Can-on is just what every drooling rock 'n roll manic has been dreaming of for a longer time than I perhaps even knew this group existed. Really, who out there in reader-land wouldn't want this hefty 550 + page tome for the times? I mean, ALL GATES OPEN contains a whole load of detailed Can history complete with all of the minutiae you've always wanted to know about this legendary German act and the behind-the-behind-the-scenes goings on and whatnot about all of those Can mysteries that have been bugging you for ages. After all you get all of the important Can historical milestones from the exits of both Malcolm Mooney and Damo Suzuki  explained in a whole lot more detail than had previously been let onto, while the inter-group hassles and stories behind the creation of those Can songs that have been wowzing you for years are fleshed out in a whole lot more detail than anyone had previously been let onto. An' lemme tell you, you don't have to be a frustrated anal-retentive like myself to appreciate and absorb like a sponge all of the new Canformation you will be soaking into your mind once you get this. But it sure helps!

Can keyboardist Irmin Schmidt had a big hand in this 'un working with some Rob Young guy who thankfully doesn't muck things up too much inserting his own private opinions and various extraneous sundries into a saga that reads just fine on its lonesome. The resultant wordblare really is fascinating not only because of that aforementioned bits and pieces added into what we already knew about was these German punk rock pioneers, but even the more personal and private matters that woulda embarrassed a whole load of celebrities way back when HOLLYWOOD BABYLON was considered the ultimo in scandal sheet tattling tend to surprise and perhaps even shock. True it ain't exactly that you might really care about guitarist Michael Karoli's toe dabbling in heroin usage or even Schmidt's marital infidelities but I only find it more and more crucial to the whole Can outlook giving (at least) me an insight into the whole maddening system that created and allowed such an act to grow. This also includes Mooney's resultant crack up and even the truth behind the time David Niven saw 'em in Berlin which is quite a different story than the one told in THE CAN BOOK. Added flavoring to a recipe that already tasted pretty swell inna beginning. But that's just might disagree vehemently and I get the feeling you will.

Ya actually get two books, the first 'un being the Can biography proper and the last being a collection of Schmidt musings and dialogues with various Can-anites ranging from SPECTATOR rock scribe and longtime supporter Duncan Fallowell (when are we gonna get a collection of his rock writings?) to the infamous Nick Kent who legend has it has Can to blame for his longtime opiate addiction but that was so long ago he probably forgot all about it. This section makes for some enveloping and in-depth reading as the banter is banted around, though for the life of me I gotta say that I now have an even lower opinion of Mark E. Smith even if he does come up with all of the cool rock credentials (being a Can fan so early in the game being one) for which I should like the guy for his tastes alone. Maybe he was as big a jerk as Bill Shute believes...from this dialogue I would believe it.

Picwize this does have quite a few good snaps of things like Mooney in action and various group poses in and around their hometown Cologne. I wish there were more snaps to accompany this bot at least we do get this collection of early pre-Can Schmidt snaps taken not only when he was a symphony conducter but as a teenager! And y'know what, when he was a good eighteen he looked a whole lot like Orson Bean with a necktie 'stead of a bow!

May I say this just might be the ULTIMO Can book which any upfront fan should beg, borrow or steal if only not from me? Really dredges up the memories and feelings of just what this music must have meant for many a drooling rockist maniac in those not-so-barren seventies, the kind who fought out the blandness with groups such as these to the point where the Can influence sure could be felt not in those early Siouxsie bootlegs and Mirrors rehearsal tapes but with many a classic slab of under-the-counterculture musings. And for one thing, this book sure makes me wanna re-live a good portion of my youthdom at least to the point where I could go back in time and snatch up those copies of MONSTER MOVIE and SOON OVER BABALUMA at the local shopping mall record shop import bins back '75 way. If I only had I mighta evolved into the total human being a whole lot sooner, y'know?

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Ain't it GREAT to be an up n' runnin' mammal these days! After being BOMBARDED with a load of goodies I've been busier with this project than a sweeper upper at a horse laxative research firm, and for once my free time has been put to good use analyzing and putting to type a whole load of items that really do fit in with the whys and wherefores of BLOG TO COMM as it stands in the vast annals of what we call history. Yup. I'd be lying if I didn't say that lotsa good stuff has happened since we last met and I really do wanna get to alla the fine items that I've received since our last meeting of musically-inclined chymes a good two weeks back (last week don't count cuz it was nothin' but fanzines we wuz discussin'!). I know you couldn't care less, but did you ever?
NOW we know where Patti Smith and
Lenny Kaye got all their ideas!

The recent passing of Nick Tosches ain't hittin' me as hard as I'm sure many of you would have thought it would. Gotta say that there are a number of reasons as to why, one being that the guy wasn't as gonzoid out-there as his pal Richard Meltzer was and unlike the former "R" didn't end up in a punk reshoveling like Vom or frontman in a Smegma, preferring to stick to the books and occasional magazine contribution. Maybe it's just because I tend to remember Tosches more for some pretty pallid rock writing in the eighties, such as this one piece he did on heavy metal in PENTHOUSE (which was just an excuse to fill up a few pages with various hair metal-era group action poses) that out-hacked even the kinda music dribble one could read in a local college free paper. Fortunately his earlier works do redeem him somewhat, such as with his various contributions to THE NEW HAVEN ROCK PRESS not to mention a few interesting pieces for ROLLING STONE (which you can find in those paperback collections of record reviews and such along with some choice efforts from the likes of Lester Bangs, Mike Saunders, Patti Smith, Lenny Kaye and even Meltzer himself before he was unceremoniously fired for making Jackson Browne look like a punk rocker). And like, he did manage to put out at least one issue of ZOOT, a fanzine that sure stood against the hippie hosannas that were cluttering up the youth kultur at the time.

Just so's I don't sound too down on the guy I will admit that I find a couple of pieces he did that stood out, one being a review of Albert Goldman's FREAK SHOW which still sends me way into guffaw-land (and is it wicked!---totally overboard rayciss bad taste guaranteed to get his body dug up and trashed once the thing really gets out!) and his Screamin' Jay Hawkins article in CREEM that perhaps stands as the best thing the guy ever did lay down to type. High kudos also go to his review of the debut Patti Smith single which also graced CREEM's pages back when that rag was the standard setter for what a rock 'n roll publication shoulda been! Good credentials there but eh, I still don't miss him as much as I do Bangs or Meltzer (wait, I think he's still among the living, or at least I hope he is!).
As usual, a big heapin' hunkin' thanks goes to Bill Shute, Paul McGarry, Feeding Tube and Hurst for their support and donations to the cause, not to mention me and the fruits of my labor (hah!) being transformed into loads of musical and reading material that will get me through the blahs that we call modern day living! Yes, lotsa good reviews and stuff and things and jive like that are up and attem as far as future posts go, and what it all boils down to meat 'n potatoes wise is that when you got an occupied with high energy music and total oblivion reading Chris on your hands, you got a pretty fun time a'headin' your way as far as these posts go!

Andrew DH Abbott-DEAD IN CHELLOW GREEN LP (Cardinal Fuzz/Feeding Tube Records, available here)

Haw, with a label with the name Cardinal Fuzz I was wond'rin whether the Cardinal was any relation to Lt. Sonny Fuzz of BEETLE BAILEY fame! All funnin' aside this is a great album from this talented English multi-instrumentalist who mostly concentrates on an acoustic guitar of a steel-string variety. Between surprisingly melodic thumb piano and other sundry percussion interludes that ain't just yer standard plunking around, Abbott presents some mighty good solo guitar that kinda reminds me of John Fahey circa. REQUIA even if I kinda get the idea that today's college-age students wouldn't care to ball to it a-tall. That's their loss, for DEAD IN CHELLOW GREEN consists of some pretty good acoustic excursions that stir more'n chyme in one's carcass. Moving, intricate and intellectual without becoming snobby, this nicely packaged effort even comes with an accompanying booklet that would probably best not be read to the kids at beddytime.
HURST MUSIC #10 cassette, JUNK RAGA cassette (available here)

On these cassette only releases Andrew Hurst proves that what he can do with Fadensonnon he can also do by his lonesome. Both of these tapes feature highly powerful (in their sonic displacement of the air around it) music that goes from straightforward rock to soundslabs on HURST MUSIC while JUNK RAGA seems to be comprised of various tape loops patched together to make a music that can get into a certain rock groove that satisfies sorta like some of those Smegma efforts that still seem really exciting a good fortysome years later. It's sure great knowing that people are delving into the more Meltzerian side of sound as abstract readymades this late in the game. A big hunkin' thanks to Hurst himself who sent these things to me unsolicited and gratis which really helps in these penny pinching times.
Stiff Little Fingers-NO GOING BACK CD-r burn (originally on Pledge Music Records)

Never was that humongous a fan of these guys' late-seventies recordings perhaps because they were just punks and not stretching the boundaries punks or reviving the forgotten energy of the sixties punks like many of my faves were. But this '14 or whenever it came out platter ain't all that bad. Nothing that I'm turning cartwheels over true, but its straightforward approach not only simmers up many an old forgotten rock 'n roll move but proves to those naysayers that these punk rockers had a whole lot more onna ball than those coked out cretins that used to (and still do) rule the radio band ever did. Old timers should get a smile or two outta it and even a decaying corpse like myself ain't gonna put the thing down due to some inner drive to be controversial!
The Bad Brains-I & I SURVIVED (DUB) CD-r burn

I gotta admit that I liked the Brains' late-eighties I & I SURVIVE SST platter back when it came out and would probably still ooze some rockist principles outta it even this late down the line, but this reggae dub effort bearing a very similar moniker isn't exactly something that perks my lobes any. But then again not being of the same heights of exulted reggae worshiping as many of you readers might have something to do with it. A mere sidestep from the usual, but not a sidestep enough to make me care to hear anything similar to this for at least another century.
Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds-CHASING YESTERDAY DELUXE EDITION CD-r burn (originally on Kobalt Records)

In which Gallagher proves that what he could do bad with Oasis he could do worse on his lonesome. Hey Paul, next time you send me something like this could you do me one big favor and make sure that the length of the album does not exceed twenty ten five minutes? Listening to this particular platter filled with the slickest and sappiest of new neo-rock musings has renewed my belief in Purgatory.
Various Artists-SOUL CARGO VOLUME EIGHT CD-r burn (originally on Bar/Marginal Records, Belgium)

Sorta like a PEBBLES of soul music with some familiar names such as Barbara McNair and Gil Scot-Heron intermingling with a buncha people whose step up the soul ladder had 'em stumbling even before they could even get a small mention in JET. Some of these woulda gotten limited airplay on the local small AM stations had they only gotten out more, and judging from the variety of grooves these sides get into it's too bad that they flopped given their comparable worthiness compared to many of the big hitters out there. Wait---Alvin Cash's "Twine Time" did hit it sorta big, right? Whatever, for those of you who never could get enough mid-sixties tinny transistor AM radio soul here's your chance to indulge...
Various Artists-BILBO DENTURES BOURBON CD-r burn (Bill Shute)

Loads of laffs here, from a side of a Leonard Nimoy thinks he can sing album to yet another side from some flaming homo who talks so fast I can't understand a word its saying through that lisp. The soul stirrers do work wonders and that record that comes with your new pair of dentures really does speak loads to those who have their chatterers inna glass by their bed. What can I say other'n you've wasted your time a whole lot worse before, and if you're town between having to lissen to this and pop the polyps on your rectum well...this might be just a little more fun!
Just a reminder that there still are loads more than even I can stand back issues of BLACK TO COMM just waitin' to be picked up and absorbed by many of you who make it a point to read this blog each and every entry. And then some! Anyway, you better get 'em before they're all gone, and while I'm at it if there are any outta print issues you'd like to see I can always run off copies from the original masters THAT'S what kind of a kind and compassionate fanzinemonger I am and shall remain! Of course you'll have to pay a huge hunkerin' load for something like that but hey, it ain't like I'm made outta money because if I were would I be putting these pithy please at the end of most of these entries?!?!?!

Thursday, October 24, 2019


Remember that old tee-vee commercial catch phrase "Aunt Jemima, what TOOK you so long!" which got a whole load of self-important wags all up in arms about racism real or perceived here in this Big Beauteous Land o' Ours? Well, in echoing those long-suppressed sentiments all I gotta say is "Comic book publishers, what took YOU so long in getting these much valued (or so the comic book snobs say) stories reprinted when you've been milking money outta us reprinting every other comic book epic onna face of this earth for the last fifty-plus years of our lives!"

Charlton was by no means DC and in fact had been absorbed by that megagalopigan empire quite awhile back.  Come to think of it, they did reprint some of these older Charlton efforts at the hands of Steve Ditko under the title SPACE WARS if I ain't mistaken. But for some not-so-strange reason Charlton never did get to re-releasing these particular old sagas that Ditko himself did during his post-Marvel time at Charlton, which not-so-surprisingly was right before his short spell at National, and his efforts there have been reprinted at least once which makes me wonder if those were OK for a new audience why weren't these???

It's an especially strange howcum since the Question himself was eventually revived in the DC scheme of things albeit in a fashion than I know originator Ditko would hardly approve of.

Fortunately the public domain scourers at Gwandanaland know a good title to reprint when it stares 'em inna face and decided to slap the original Question series of sagas into a nice if thin (there weren't that many!) collection for us Johnny come latelies to pour over. The repro is OK considering that Charlton never really was known for its high quality and the EC-styled type printing does give these stories a certain cheap 'n "unprofessional" look. But who amongst us reg'lar BLOG TO COMM comic book fans really "care" about minor quibbles such as that when it's the stories, the art and the overall effect of a story that we're most concerned with, unless you are one of those sticklers for fine style and minutiae you need an electron microscope to fully comprehend.

You get five stories here, four backing features from BLUE BEETLE and the book-length effort from MYSTERIOUS SUSPENSE #1 that still has Ditko fans talking in those hushed 'n reverent tones that Ditko fans have talked in ever since the sixties. And yeah, they all are really fine, encompassing tales that I would say are custom made for an autumn's day like this when reading a comic book is oh so more important than raking up all those leaves in your yard, priority minded thing you are and shall remain.

As it is with Ditko's less-commercial and philosophically overdriven MR. A. series from which the Question is based  (complete with the snazzy fedora albeit no face in place of the metallic mask) there's no origin story to be found unlike with his Dr. Strange, and we hadda wait five issues to get that! However, the same basics do apply here as they did Mr. A. what with the Question's alter-ego being a driven news personality (in this case television commentator Vic Sage) who works in a media that tends to be built upon a falsely-placed altruistic bent  reporting usually out-of-context "facts" to fit some misplaced social good need. This force in the Question saga's best represented by Syd Starr, the vainglorious son of Worldwide Broadcasting Company founder and president Sam Starr. (A cyster, Celia, was written outta the flow early on perhaps because she was rather useless as a character only being there as part of a failed romantic interest subplot with Sage's faithful secretary). Sam Starr does somehow correlate to Mr A.'s alter ego Rex Graine's own boss who, while feeling uncomfortable about the idea of moral absolutes and perhaps seeing some grey structure in human dealings, nevertheless keeps Sage on the payroll because he's not afraid to take chances and go after the concept of corruption as something that spoils a philosophical purity in thoughts and ideas and...sheesh, maybe if I didn't get so bored when I took that "Introduction to Classic Greek Culture" course (no jokes please!) I could really understand what all this is supposed to really be about!

Many of the same targets that were found in MR. A. pop up here and were (are?) sure to upset those more laid back comic book kidz in their bell bottoms who used to drop windowpane and stare at those Dr. Strange panels for hours on end. Modern Art (or at least an art that represents man's inhumanity to man and people who are perpetually persecuted by those better off) comes in for a ribbing an' yeah, even I wonder if the soup can presented in the painting art critic Boris Egar presents to Syd is some sort of commentary on Andy Warhol! Protesters and the soft on crime crowd are also commented on in a negative light which is a bit surprising just considering how much the comic book field lauded these very same types by the time 1970 rolled around. And believe-you-me, none of that "criminals are people too who have rights and are really just as good as the rest of us" moralizing you used to see a lot of on everything from NAKED CITY to PHIL DONAHUE shows up in these sagas!

The issue-long MYSTERIOUS SUSPENSE saga's perhaps the crowning point in the original Question run and it's too bad it's the last given how there was a whole load of untapped potential and other jamz to have been found with this title. Many have written about this 'un which runs like an extended MR. A. saga (and in fact is very similar to the two tales found in the second issue of the original A. series in the mid-seventies), and ya gotta admit that the way Ditko blended his own philosophy in with what I would call a gripping story really  does stand out especially when compared with some of the tales that were popping up on the comic book racks during not only those times, but ours.

'n call me an' ol' snifflin' blubberin' fool, but I still can get charged up readin' this particular tale which shows Sage pitted against a corrupt soda manufacturer whose dilly-dallying with a notorious mobster conflicts with his public image as a Mr. Clean-type businessman. Lots of pressure mounts up to the point where you can just feel the tension that's gonna build up to one mighty climactic orgasm of action splatter all over your mind, and yeah, once again, I can see some of the BLESS THE BEASTS AND CHILDREN types snugglin' in their fart-encrusted bedrooms just being TURNED OFF indefinitely by the entire scope and range of this tale that, although perhaps created to make the reader challenge some of his own notions of society and where we should stand in this universe of ours will naturally miss the target by a mile.

And it makes me feel all the better for some perhaps not-so-strange reason. After YEARS of being control-conditioned into accepting various vague notions of love and brotherhood something like the Question really does serve as a particularly potent antidote. Let what happened to me happen to you before it's REALLY way too late.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019


Murder mysteries were quite a staple in the early days of sound film, and hundreds were made both by the B-programmer divisions of the established studios and by independent production companies that distributed through the states rights market. They tended to be largely talk (or if set in old dark houses, they’d also have atmospheric creepy production design), and because of that, could be shot on a handful of small sets, with different combinations of the cast shot from different angles, and audiences would be paying attention to the dialogue and the performers, not the furniture.

A fine example of an indie murder mystery from the early 30's period is TAKE THE STAND, which moves quickly, has a colorful cast, has a raw urban feel to it (though shot entirely on small sets and with no outside or location shots at all, except for about 15 seconds of stock footage of a hockey game), and keeps one guessing until the end. The great movie tough-guy Jack LaRue plays a muckraking journalist and radio broadcaster, who through his columns and radio broadcasts casts aspersions on all kinds of business people, pillars of society, bankers, gangsters, couples in the society pages, etc. Not by name, but by innuendo. He even threatens to out someone he describes as a “soprano crooner” (yes, this is a pre-code film). In the first ten minutes of the film, we see a number of his columns on screen, along with the reactions of the people hurt by the claims. Then for the next twenty-five minutes, we see the various victims of the gossip trying to find and threaten LaRue, all of them of course saying or doing something that could later be considered a threat to kill him. This gives master character actor LaRue the chance to strut around, putting the others in their place, and it’s a joy to see a pro like him at work.

At about the 35 minute point (the film runs just short of 70 minutes), LaRue is killed while broadcasting (or so it seems)….in a room locked from the inside….and we hear a shot on his broadcast, and his begging “don’t shoot,” but it seems as though he’s been stabbed….and there is no knife in the locked room. Pretty much every suspect is out in the hall at the time of the murder, listening to the broadcast from a room with a speaker, after having been at his office trying to stop him from doing that night’s broadcast.

Each person is grilled by the police, and of course everyone was right near the scene of the murder and everyone hated the victim. People who watch murder mysteries regularly might catch a few tossed-off details earlier in the film, which would perhaps provide a special motive unlike the others for one character, and the opportunity for another character. Still, though, how the murder is committed is quite novel….although it was more novel in 1934 before it’s been used fifty times in later films.

The great lady of early 30’s film, Thelma Todd, loved for her Laurel and Hardy work and for her comedy shorts with Zasu Pitts and later with Patsy Kelly, plays LaRue’s assistant, who runs his office, and she does a fine job of seeming alternately sympathetic and suspicious. Also, as the over-eager sidekick of the gangster character is BTC fave Vince Barnett (see B&W pic of him brow-beating Thelma Todd), the bald, usually mustachioed, jittery scene-stealer who had his own comedy shorts at one time and appeared in hundreds of films as a supporting player. He’s constantly asking his employer, “ya want me to rub him out, boss? Ha, do ya?” and the like.

TAKE THE STAND does what it needs to do quickly and efficiently. Director Phil Rosen had a long and productive career, often in crime films and mysteries (including some Monogram Charlie Chans), and never keeps any scene running too long. After a long day at work in a sweaty print-shop or driving a cab or bagging groceries or whatever the typical BTC reader would have been doing to pay the rent in 1934, TAKE THE STAND is the perfect escapist murder-mystery entertainment, much easier to enjoy than reading a mystery novel, and with unforgettable character actors like Jack LaRue (see pic), Thelma Todd, and Vince Barnett. And thanks to Mr. Public Domain, it’s ready for YOU to watch online the next time you’ve got a spare 70 minutes.

Saturday, October 19, 2019


This edition of FANZINE FANABLA is dedicated to Brad Kohler, a clump of nonviable cells who actually enjoys these reminiscences or whatever ya'd call 'em re. the printed word kultur that had infested many a fandom for years on end. Hope you get more out of this 'un than I put into it, which as you will see was practically nil!

Unless yer talkin' somethin' 'round the lines of HONEY THAT AIN'T NO ROMANCE, WHITE STUFF, BACK OF A CARTEENAGE NEWS or WHAT GOES ON, I find most of these single artist-oriented fanzines to be too fannish and light in the hardcore information department for my tastes. And that probably would include this particular Frank Zappa-oriented effort entitled MOTHER PEOPLE, but since I still do carry a bit of an affectation as Leo Gorcey might say for those earlier Mothers of Invention records I thought this particular issue featuring a Zappa/MOI bootleg rundown would be just the thing to cure the boredom around here at least for one evening!

The thirteenth issue is a boffo bootleg gather-up that deals with the THREE generations of rock bootlegs and how Zappa et. al. was handled in each of 'em. Cover reproductions as well as fairly detailed information as to what transpires between those grooves certainly sends me back to one of those outta-the-way record shops usually stuck smack dab in the middle of some ruinous shopping plaza where not only bootlegs but imports and hotcha cutouts could be had for a mere song, or perhaps a good portion of last week's lawn mowing earnings. Hey, who needs a new catcher's mitt when something like ZAPPA/BEEFHEART CONFIDENTIAL was within your reach for only $4.99!

Of course these bootleg features have been updated and upgraded to the point of insanity, but at least an earlier one like this will remind you of just how much these outta-the-way illegal spinners spiced up  your record collection, at least until people like Zappa got even more and more ridiculous to the point of how could anyone care about these Bigger Than Thou snoots anymore!
Awlright, I like a lotta those Marc Bolan fanzines that I have happened to come across o'er the past few decades or so! But here's one that's a li'l bit rarer'n the rest and just for that plain fact TYRANNOSAURUS REX oughta get the royal carpet treatment as well! Andy and Tam were (are?) big Bolanites and their effort to shed a li'l more life on the early days of this sainted act really is something that ya gotta congratulate the two for given that they weren't doin' this for the glory but for the passion (sorta like me!).

The early singles as well as the whole friggin' bootleg scene are covered in the same fun and fannish sorta way most of these digest-sized single-artist fanzines from Merrie Olde back inna eighties and nineties were, and like those efforts you once again get that warm and toasty feeling reading what these writers are talking to you as a fellow pilgrim rather'n 'em blithering from their lofty perch as was (is?) the case with most of those "Rock Critics" (yeeeesh!) that I've had the misfortune of reading o'er these past fortysome years.

It'll probably be hard to find along with the few thou other fanzines devoted to various sixties/seventies legends and charlatans that were made in England way back when, but if you see it well...ya know what'cha gotta do...
Gotta admit that there are probably THOUSANDS of these rock 'n roll fanzines produced from the early-seventies until the early-eighties that I could really sink my soul into. The only problem for me is finding 'em all, not to mention UNDERSTANDING the things if they happen to be written in a language that is not basic Ameriganized English. Of course when it comes to a really boffo fanzine that appeals to me especially on a visual level, the language barrier ain't anything that's gonna stop me from enjoying myself and hey, even with a French to English dictionary I can make out some of the things that are written about in such rags as I WANNA BE YOUR DOG,  ROCK NEWS or this li'l (or I should say BIG being the dimensions of one of those old LIFE magazines that clutter up your attic) effort entitled ANNIE AIME LES SUCETTES! The title kinda/sorta translates into something like Annie Likes Lollipops which seems like a strange enough name for a rock fanzine but since that was an old French pop hit I guess the meaning is not lost on the Gallic guys who picked this mag up way back inna late-seventies.

It's a pretty interesting mag too made by and for people in France who liked high energy rock music, electronic German rock (see Kraftwerk cover story/interview) and Amerigan kultur no matter how goofy and ginchy it may be. These guys must've been big on Stinky Toys which would figure given their kult stature and the Flamin' Groovies got a mention as well, and even if a lotta this comes off more like a tissue thin VILLAGE VOICE without any communists or sexual deviants to be found I prefer ANNIE's reflection of late-seventies under-the-counterculture snazz than I do those New York sickos. And they were big on Amerigan kultur given their reviews of not only Hollywood film (or in this case "cinema") but the reprint of an old ETTA KETT Sunday page on the back cover! Might be worth a look see the next time you find yourself at some Parisian flea market.
Yeah, them French really did make good fanzines and here are two more that really fall into the category of  totally boffo reading. From the looks of it FEELING was right up there with the aforementioned rags what with its slick look which woulda fit in just splended alongside the legitimate rock mags that were up and about at the time. However don't expect a load of typical late-seventies snootism in FEELING for it was a rally smart, well-laid out and devoted to the kind of rock 'n roll we cherish kinda mag that settles well with me even if their musical tastes sometimes got a li'l wobbly., an' I don't mean I.W.W.!

Only bad point here's the presence of J. D. Martignon doin' the New York report (sheesh if only he was a nice guy given his musical pedigree and the fact he was the vocalist with Dagon should have earned him some under-the-counterculture points!), but otherwise it's sure grand to know that even overseas acts like Pere Ubu were considered hot tamales and that more'n just a few fanablas out there were followin' THE BIG BEAT while everyone else was followin' the Anastasia Pantsios route to post-hippie doldrums into total AOR mindmush. There are a whole lot more European fanzines of the seventies to be had, and when they come my way by gum yer gonna read about 'em HERE and read about 'em HARD!
The trend towards fancy French rock 'n roll fanzines didn't quite end in the seventies either, and I remember NINETEEN gettin' a whole lotta praise and huzzahs in the under-the-underground fanzine press back in the eighties. No wonder, for this rag, like LOSERS (see last Fanzine Fanabla), is printed up on nice glitzy glossy paper with a full color cover and slick photos that make alla those crank out cheapos look rather crudzine in comparison. Naturally the coverage is focused on what I would call the last remains of the vibrant seventies era of underground rock encroaching on the mainstream somewhat/somehow, so if you were one who was a big fan of the Fleshtones of the various Paisley Underground acts this would be just the mag for you. Of course you gotta be able to read French (which I was told is nothing but sloppy English, so maybe you can make this out even if you got thrown outta French class in school for asking what that line in "Lady Marmalade" meant) and if not the snaps are fine to look at. Once more proof that the French were the ones who really knew the true nature of rock 'n roll while the rest of the rock press was kinda stumbling along following trend after trend...usually with hilarious if not just downright DISASTROUS results.
Not only did the French have classy, slick fanzines but the Swedes did as well as least if LARM is anything to go by! Sure some of the acts covered in this late-seventies mag ain't exactly up my own expansive alley (Moon Martin, Darryl Hall & Warren Oates!) but otherwise LARM pretty much ranks up there with the likes of SNEAKERS, I WANNA BE YOUR DOG and all the rest of the French breed of rock as in ROCK & ROLL camp.. With a hefty look backwards (a piece on Jimmy Page's "Session Man" work) and the Left Banke mingling with the expected uppa date and hep fodder LARM makes for one of those mags you can't read if you don't know the lingo, but you try making sense outta the Swede-ese because you get the drift that THERE'S SOME MIGHTY GOOD WRITING LINGERIN' IN THEM PARTS. And once you make your way through the thing, you know you were right all along.
ANOTHER furrin' one! BACKSTAGE PASS came outta Holland back '77 was and it's all inna native tongue so readin' it is like readin' a German 'zine only it's like funnier lookin'. But there is nothing "funny" (as in "funny funny not funny strange" as Gilligan once put it) about BACKSTAGE PASS because, despite the rather plain cover, this has the same sorta oof! and bam! that all of our favorite fanzines had for many-a-year. This particular issue's got some rather groove-oid things innit like ne'er before seen Rolling Stones live shots and a feature on the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band as well as a thingie on Family (who I never thought much about but I don't mind readin' about 'em!). Like a good portion of these European fanzines the layout is professional enough for my tastes and the cover high gloss, and if I could only understand what they're sayin' I'd say that the writing was fine as well. But as with LARM I know there is some pretty high energy schpiel to be found within because given their tastes how could they not be anything but total eruption!  Dunno if there were any other issues of SUPPORTING ACT put out but just by the existence of this one issue the people behind the thing deserve a nice li'l berth in the Fanzine Hall of Fame which I hope ain't as retardo as the rock one and I hope they never create one because you know that the first "fanzine" that will be nominated would be...ROLLING STONE???!?!?!?!?!??!
Now back to something printed in the English language! And as far as fanzines from England go you know that the main template for a good portion of the home-made mags was undoubtedly the original ZIGZAG! And no doubt about it the folk at WAY AHEAD must have purchased, read and pretty much EATEN every issue of the original 'ZAG extant for it shows in their pages. The spirit (although not exactly the excitement) of the pre-punk rock era ZIGZAG can be found in these pages, and if you were a reader of that tried and true mag who hadda fight your way through the Tangerine Dream and Canterbury Sound articles to get to something on Dr. Feelgood you woulda hadda've gone through the same experience with these reads too!

But still, I like WAY AHEAD not only for the old-styled layout job, the rather appealing artwork (even if that artwork seems more inspired by Roger Dean than it does Andy Warhol) and the general quality that went into it even if that quality was being poured all over those West Coast Amerigan Back-To-Nature bands these English fanzines seemed to drool over. But as far as putting out the kinda fanzine that looked good and read good enough even if you couldn't care one whit about the acts mentioned, WAY AHEAD did a snatter job at it than many would dare to admit. It's hard not to like it even if the thing coulda used a bigger dose of the NME/SOUNDS-styled gonzo energy that make kids in Ameriga swipe money outta their mom's purses just so's they could get hold of an ultra-expensive overseas subscription.

Over the years there have been quite a few good fanzines put out by members of the female gender, or as I like to call them the dangerous sex. Off the top of my head I can think of STAR SPECIAL, THE ELECTRIC WARRIOR FREE PRESS and SLADE PARADER In some ways these gal 'zines were unique in their own way since they seemed to retain this teenage gal spinnin' records in her bedroom with her chubboid galpals talkin' about the beneath contempt boys in class while swooning over their fave musical idols. Only their music tended to encroach on the gnarlier side of sound and do you really think that a guy coulda pulled off an Iggy and the Stooges newsletter as well as Natalie Stoogeling did? But they did retain a feminine sorta outlook that wasn't all he man and gutzy like my own writing, but an interesting change of pace from the usual same old.

These first two issues of KIMONO, an early-eighties English fanzine, bear my point out. Nice layout and art and printjob and everything you can want in a fanzine pops up here, though editress Kathy Easton does retain that aforementioned teenage gal playing records on the portable in her bedroom attitude that many of the other gal 'zines seemed to revel in. And (again) like I said there's nada wrong with that...I mean I'd rather read some femme's impressions of anyone from Sky Saxon to the Stones taken from a suburban bedroom ranch house 1969 mentality than I would a feminist zine featuring the results of a symposium on the taste of menstrual blood. So if you want a fannish yet smart take on the early-eighties doings of everyone from Queen and Blondie to Adam and the Ants as filtered through the brain of a young English lass who I'm sure is not only privileged but proper this mag is the one to get!
I have a list of late-fifties/sixties-era satire fanzines that I copped off some website, a pretty inclusive one even if I did hadda add a couple of titles that were missing like FANFORE and SPOOF. I would assume that most of these, such as FOO and WILD, were definitely inspired by MAD given how their creators and contributors ultimately spawned the underground comix scene of the late-sixties, but this li'l effort from the list seems to be quite different 'n the expected hoo-hahs.

BEDLAM is whatcha'd call a satire mag, though it's not exactly in the same category as the aforementioned wonders since there ain't any comic book-like efforts to be found nor the expected ad and tee-vee spoofs that seemed to be all the rage. Well, there is a take off on the old Maidenform Bra ads but it's more like one of those spot comics you saw in just about every other fanzine satire, Sci-Fi or otherwise. But that's no reason to ignore this effort...edited by a Mike Deckinger, SPOOF dared to tackle controversial subjects just like every other fanzine of the era which either puts it at the forefront of modern, uncensored, totally uninhibited tell-it-like-I-WANT-it-to-be free expression or the predecessor to today's metastasized politically pious one-way discussions where you'd better shut up, march in lockstep or we're gonna make your life miserable credo that seems to be all the rage no matter where you look!

Now, I gotta admit that Issac Asimov's definitely non-funny andSci-Fi fanzine serious "A Woman's Heart" just doesn't jib my jab, although the "Interview With a Heterosexual" is amusing enough in its good ol' corny reverse cliche way, kinda like Orson Bean's "Two Chinese Men Go To an American Restaurant" piece in MAD. The strange thing about that one is, given just how mish moshed the whole concept of sexuality has become o'er the years this bit of satire just might have become FACT, one of those true-to-life dramas in a world that FEEDS on dystopia!

The cartoons ain't bad at all in that old fanzine sorta tradition while I think the two pages of personal ads reprinted are the only real laff-riot to be found between the covers. And overall BEDLAM was yet another good effort in sixties fanzine publication which naturally makes me wanna seek out more of these outta-the-way self-produced mags even if they might not have that stoopidly beautiful teenbo satiric outlook from a late-fifties suburban slob setting that I'd sure like to see!
More comin' your way, hopefully more later than sooner!

Thursday, October 17, 2019

COMIC BOOK REVIEW! CAPTAIN GALLANT OF THE FOREIGN LEGION (U.S. Pictorial Inc., 1955, re-published by Golden Age Reprints)

Unlike Bill Shute, I do not have memories of watching either CAPTAIN GALLANT nor its syndicated version FOREIGN LEGIONNAIRE while growing up in front of the boob tube. Not that the show wasn't being aired during my days of consciousness (NBC was re-running it on late Saturday afternoons back when I was three) but I suppose there was always something else that was being aired that got the precedence here at the old abode. I only caught the thang back when a variety of Golden Age tee-vee packages hit the local PBS station in the eighties and kinda felt like kicking myself for missing out on a series like that which really woulda enriched my sense of suburban slob blubberfarmisms back when I really needed it!

It's easy to see why such a series woulda been one of those perennial hits with the young boy crowd. All those shows with John Hart in 'em  like HAWKEYE and RAMAR along with THE LONE RANGER and THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN (and I'm leavin' out a whole slew of Saturday afternoon syndicated wonders) really appealed to the go-get-'em that used to bubble over in boys long before the liberals shamed 'em into being a buncha faggots, and if Johnny Weissmuller was too old to get into his Tarzan skins and hadda play Jungle Jim why couldn't fellow Tarzan Buster Crabbe do the same and slap on a Foreign Legion uniform! Not only that but he actually got none other'n Fuzzy Knight to play the comical sidekick and his own son Cuffy showed up as the youth interest which only goes to show you what a swell pop Buster was! I mean, can you imagine your dad letting you co-star with him on a tee-vee series? It would be a great idea unless your dad was Percy Helton.

In typical cash-in fashion a comic book woulda been in order, and this strangitie (published by a U.S. Pictorial Inc. of which nothing else I know about) mighta been the impulse grabber onna racks for many a kid back in those better 'n now days. It's what you would expect from a book in the Comics Code Authority era (albeit that stamp don't show up on here!) combining simple enough stories with a lotta history behind the French Foreign Legion that I'm sure made most of the boys reading this ready to stowaway on some transatlantic steamer so's they too could join up and forget whatshername just like Oliver Hardy tried to do in that all-time film classic FLYING DEUCES.

Much to the dismay of the comic book SNOBS out there the stories aren't as fleshed out as they would become once people like Roy Thomas decided comics were just as important to the literary canon as Ernest and F. Scott, and in fact some of 'em are downright STOOPIFYING! But that's nothing to up your snout at because at least you're getting some good funtime entertainment outta this and while you have a good half hour to watch an episode one story should take you a good five minutes to read. Like the one where the men at the outpost bet their hard-earned on a camel race pitting Knight's beloved Josephine (I kinda wonder about those two!) against an Arab's and is sabotaged when some sultry villainette slips sleeping tablets into the hapless goof's canteen! True this would have made a great saga if built up somewhat but as it stands it's a whole lot more digestible than some Alan Moore epic and maybe less discomforting as well.

The artwork ain't that much to crow about but that is expected. Most of it was done by Don Heck, who as you strident comic book fans will remember was the one Marvel artist of the sixties and seventies who really offended the more aesthetically-inclined out there in readerland. I never thought he was bad mind you and in fact his seventies work was brilliant in that he was retaining that old style in the face of some of those new trends in cartooning that didn't quite settle well with my teenbo stomach. But here Heck's work really leaves a lot to be desired making those early-sixties Marvel monster and Iron Man stories many dislike him for look like King Kirby in comparison. Heck was definitely going for the Milton Caniff look but comes off more like George Wunder after suffering from a few sledgehammer blows to the head...this stuff looks like something even """""I""""" woulda passed up on had I stumbled across it in a flea market stack back 1972 way, and I wasn't even that kind of a fussy gussy sorta comics snob back then!

Eh, why should I quibble since I got some good stories, some edjamacational history and a good half hour's fun outta this thing. In that span of time I coulda been saving a life or rescuing a dog or even helping out the fambly in some beneficial way.  But I spent it reading a comic book and somehow I still believe that I served humanity in a better way than had I done all that scout boy-ish good deedy stuff, dontcha think?


I gotta admit that all these furrin' action flicks from the sixties that Bill Shute has sent me o'er the years have really embedded themselves into my natural action cravings (for something that ain't as castrated as today's "entertainment", that is). This 'un starring Ray Danton's no exception.

THE LAST MERCENARY stars the longtime film/tee-vee tough guy as a soldier of fortune who, after wiping out a Congolese revolution within the span of a few minutes, ends up in Brazil to help out a small-time mine owner with a sexoid wife (of course you know what's gonna happen!) who's being pressured into selling out to the Big Time mining cartel. Loads of things happen along the line what with the naughty boys not always playing according to hoyle (some pretty good hard-edged beatings both ways are at hand) and at first the wife acts extremely suspicious of Danton, plus there's this little girl who dresses like an old crone who pops in and out of the action and somehow figures into the deep psychological bent of what the true essence of everything that is going on really means but in no way could I figure any of it out. Sheesh, don't you have it when these action and adventure moom pitchers alla sudden get all arty on ya?

Can't really complain tho since THE LAST MERCENARY does keep up on the action what with all the surprise twists and turns to the point where sometimes you don't know who the good-good guys are compared with the good-bad ones while a few bad-good ones might sneak in with the bad-bads. Of course getting there is half the fun, and I gotta admit that this 'un's good enough to keep you in control of your bladder just so's you don't have to take a trip to the pot even if you do have a pause button to hold the action while you take the pause that refreshes. Once again, a film that is mind over bladder.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Hmmmm, not as bountiful as I would have liked it this week. You can blame it on Mame, the Bossa Nova, Cain or the current socio/political situation if you like but as usual the blame falls on ME! After all, I do have a life outside of this manic social whirlpool we call the internet, and if those yards don't get mowed and those leaves remain un-raked my standing in the REAL LIFE community is bound to fall. So settle back and be satisfied with the relative pittance you're getting not only in reviews but in my deft insight into various important matters from tee-vee, politics, societal mores and other items that I know will upset the dish it out but can't take it types out there. You know, those "readers" who regularly tune into this unique form of expression that thankfully goes against the tide of what's considered hip and proper and other brownie points that will make you even more popular than all those good looking gals in school who got abortions. Nowadays they're all undoubtedly part of the sag set and here I am...about as fit as a fiddle upstairs as any true music maven on the face of this earth would dare to be!

Chris Spedding-GOOD TO BE ALIVE five-CD-r set (Marshall Records)

When I first heard Spedding via the BACKWOODS PROGRESSION album back '76 way I thought he was some bland kinda singer/songwriter who was trying to get his Dylan nasal down a little more pat'n that guy in Stealer's Wheel let alone Dylan himself. Li'l did I know that this Spedding guy was some sorta bigshot session player who had performed with the likes of John Cale and was latching onto that p-rock thing that alla the high school students talked about in hushed tones. These five platters present Spedding during his new-unto-gnu wave days with two Max's Kansas City shows featuring special guests John Cale, Robert Gordon and Henry Gross, Spedding on his lonesome as well as a Robert Gordon radio broadcast during the days when the motorbikin' one was in the rockabilly boogier's band shortly after he took over Link Wray's chair in the group.

The sound on 'em (if ya really care) is soundboard clear, though as far as performances go I didn't care for Spedding's early-eighties solo live excursions which came off so FM rock in their interpretation of what alla this gnu musik was "supposed" to sound like 'stead of what it shoulda. The Max's shows were snat what with John Cale and Spedding making up after the chicken incident and Gordon's rockabilly howl not as offensive as some made it out. Even Henry Gross rocked out here making me wonder why the former Sha Na Na guitarist hadda go and make that sappy single custom made for that fat thigh'd stuck up gal in Algebra. The all-Gordon broadcast ain't bad either especially if you get outta your mind that story about the Zantees wanting to open a show for him and he said OK only if they supplied him with some heavy duty booty that coulda gotten a whole load of people into trouble! But that's just a mean rumor so forget I even said it inna first place!

Like just about everything else that pops up on this blog this ain't for everybody, but a few people who have followed Spedding throughout the years and even had those Harvest albums in their stacks might want to snatch this up. Ebay seems to have one of these every so often so like, keep them peepers peeled and I don't mean UN CHIEN ANDALOU!
Fadensonnen-CHANDRA CD (Fadensonnen Records)

Talk about throwin' one for a loop! Here Fadensonnen alternates between light vibraphone/percussion pieces that remind me of something Gunter Hampel used to do with hard-out searing guitar play somewhere in between Sonny Sharrock and WHITE LIGHT/WHITE HEAT. Fadensonnen must be one of the busier people out on the do-it-your-way musical scene considering that Razorlegs cassette he sent me just last week. For all out total eruptive music here at the dusk of another decade that did nada for us you can't beat Fadensonnen! So get this one however you can (try the same link to the Razorlegs review that I posted and ye probably shall find).

Dunno how I missed out on these early Bob Forward cassettes. Maybe I didn't. Anyway this tape purports to be the "best" of the various tapeage that came out with Forward's OWN THE WHOLE WORLD fanzine and the sounds here are as all over the place which ain't nothing special mind you. Weird free splat goes up against straightforward rock 'n roll then you get an electronic thing that reminds me of the theme to a seventies-era PBS program before some tape mangipulation that seemed to be so the rage in the eighties shows up. This has some items from Akron, Cleveland and even beyond. Not for everyone's tastes but there's something for everyone within"grooves".
The Fireballs-GUNSHOT CD-r burn (originally on Sundazed Records)

If you liked the String-A-Longs who also recorded at the Norman Petty Clovis New Mexico studio from whence Buddy Holly once a-sprang you might very well like the Fireballs, who I dunno are the same Fireballs as in "Jimmy Gilmer and" but they're Fireballs just the same. These guys had the same sorta creaky and patented safe sound like the group of "Wheels" fame and you kinda get the impression that this music was also meant for the enjoyment of the elderly set as well as the teenbos who pocketed lunch money if only to buy records like these. But so what if I can get a good li'l rise outta their instrumental goodies just like I can most of the other instrumental acts of that sainted era. One vocal does pop up but that seemed to be the rule back then. Now this might not be as all out slam bang as the stuff Paul Revere and the Raiders were crankin' out at the same time but next to what would hit the AM dial once the late-sixties got into gear this might as well be the Stooges!
Scott H. Biram-THIS IS KINGSBURY? CD-r burn (originally on Knuckle Sandwich Records)

Although I probably will NEVER listen to this platter again I gotta admit that this slice of Appalachian folky blooze holler is purty down-home good! Although this kinda music ain't always my cup of tea unless Peter Laughner's doing it, Birum's take on downhome olde tyme folk music sure rings a whole lot truer'n the hippies onna front porch doings many of us have been inundated with for years whether we liked it or not. At times this sounds as authentic as those scratchy 78s that Bill keeps sending me, and the fact that this one's relatively "recent" (well "2000") is testament to the fact that there are still some people who remember what Americana down home goodness is still all about! You might even kick your feet up on the Franklin Stove while listening to this while smokin' a corn cob pipe...who knows?
Various Artists-HOKEY POKEY ROCK CD-r burn (originally on White Label Records, Holland)

The lack of liner notes has me wondrin' more and more about who these ozobs actually were, but from what I can these tracks were taken from various late-fifties/early-sixties flopsters that SHOULDA gone somewhere other'n the local Goodwill. In order not to be so boringly redundant about these things let me just say that you pretty know what to expect from these locally produced rockabilly tracks and it sure ain't the moderne day approach which seems to have lost more'n a little in the process. Next to this, the early-eighties "revival" might have well have been Patti Page!

Another rather "varied" selection here. This 'un's got some roughhouse soul from the likes of Little Gigi and the Lafayette Afro Rock Band (who actually sound kinda/sorta authentic as opposed to the more giddy disco-y stuff that came out inna seventies) not to mention different trax from familiar faces voices like Fats Domino and the Toys of "A Lover's Concerto" fame. The Hispanic rock 'n rollers were fine (I especially liked Alex y los Finders' "Me Siento Feliz" which is an accurate version of the Beatles' "I Feel Fine" without the feedback opening) while Sagram's "The Universal Form", a long sitar stretchout, would have been better put to use had it ended up on an episode of DRAGNET. In all (even the avant gardities from Tim Berne and Dominic Lash/Nate Wooley) a fine effort, though if Jim Fullen really is of the male gender I get the impressions that his testicles have yet to drop.
Just a brief note to say that BLACK TO COMM back issues are still available and I do kinda get the idea that more'n a few of you reg'lar tuner inners are in the market for these by-now LEGENDARY, CRUCIAL, NECESSARY and other keen words fanzines! Yes, while other fanzines of the day are nowadays about as relevant as Jane Fonda, these BTC's  really stand out inna sea of eighties/nineties home-produced efforts which really don't stand the test of time given how all of the under-the-underground musical trends and political chic moves of them days seem about as archaic as Benjamin Franklin Stoves. That is, That is, unless you still have quite a hankerin' for the "art" of Karen Finley and proudly parade your pock-marked body with a "Silence = Death" placard and if so may I ask you an all-important question which is...why are you still alive?

Thursday, October 10, 2019


1975????? Sheesh, I remember the whole youth kultur hippoid generation having pretty much been buried by this time, thankfully replaced by more wholesome outlets of youthful expression such as glam and a general sick 'n jaded attitude being directed towards just about anything and everything that the "relevant" kidz bolstered their own self worth with. After all, this was the era of NATIONAL LAMPOON and the original SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE and if anything typified the general grumble of the era it was things like those 'n many more (remember punk rock?). Moom pitchers of this quality were pretty much laffed outta the theatres they were showed at 'n nobody liked 'em unless they were one of those sensitive iron-haired gals who used to impress the teacher because they were reading Dick Gregory books while the rest of us were still pouring through The Rover Boys. But sheesh, I guess that if a moom like THE TRIAL OF BILLY JACK could pack 'em in long after the whole hippie/Viet thingie died down then why not this particular pelicula which has enough up-to-date and socially conscious material to have given Rod McKuen an erection on his death bed?

Micky Dolenz is the big name draw even though he's there mainly for comedy relief, a long-haired Pat Brady trying to grow a pot plant and get nookie 'stead of getting into highlarous confrontations with Nellybelle. But he ain't the meaty potatoes of this comedy-drama about a buncha freeloading hippies who are given (by the local merchants whose business is being hampered by the smelly set) their own town to vegetate in. The bulk of this flicker is "based upon" the myriad assortment of other characters both straight and loopy who are involved with this cinematic turdburger which is about as self-serious, and (once you get down to it) about as establishment preachy as any Dave Berg "Lighter Side" comic you may come upon. In fact, I really do get the idea that director Shelley Berman (who was a whole lot better walking around amid people wearing masks with his likeness on THE TWILIGHT ZONE) is straight from the Dave Berg mode...sure he mighta been the best neighbor one could have hoped for but that Fifties liberal stuck inna seventies schtick sure wears thin.

The dead serious parts of KEEP OFF MY GRASS! are stultifying, once again making those hippies that we're all supposed to love because they're so downhome goody goody 'n all look even more shootable than Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper did to those pickup truck denizens in EASY RIDER. The grownups are just as 2-D as a bra cup especially when they make peace signs at the hippies trekking off to their new town or commune or whatever it is they're moving to. Even a pro like Louis Quinn (former 77 SUNSET STRIP co-star who was spending the decade appearing in not only big league flicks like ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN but those Crown International tittyfests that had more'n a few boys hiding out in the woods behind the drive-in Friday nights) comes off more irritating than sympathetic as a local businessman who conceives the idea of shipping the hippies out to their own nirvanaland. And that ain't even counting the rest of the cast from the terminally hip Free Clinic doctor, the patently goyish-looking eighties tee-vee star Gerald McRainey as Quinn's Jewish son who wants to drop out of college and find himself, the other residents of Hippie Homeland with their immediately punchable faces and even that guy who played the retarded doof in ON THE ROCKS and other late-seventies forgettables.

KEEP OFF MY GRASS! has a weird kinda ebb and flow and lotsa loose ends including the film's very climatic ending where the revenge seeing daughter of the local pharmacist douses the ice cream for the hippie wedding reception with LSD leading to one of those freak out scenes that popped up in just about every "Now" film since 1969. Not that I particularly care that the bitch got away with her dastardly deed which resulted in the self-inflicted death of one of the scuzzies, but I kinda thought that at least that slim detail'd come to some concrete conclusion whether positive or negative (and you can guess what I hope "positive" and "negative" means or else you haven't been reading this blog long enough!).

What else would you expect from one of these low budget older generation tries to cope with the younger one and of course sets the pace with their loose adaptations of traditional mores kinda excursions such as this? Gotta say that this film does serve a couple of important purposes. For one it'll show alla those eighties/nineties punque rock types who think hippies were some sorta brave pioneers of total freedom just what a dull hoax the entire movement was and shall remain for that matter, as well as to remind us higher forms of life as to why things like Iggy and CREEM magazine were so important in the face of such cloying forms of entertainment as this.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019


Nothing satisfies like a hard-boiled Cold War-era espionage/crime film, and when it’s directed by Alfred Werker of HE WALKS BY NIGHT fame and it’s based on a magazine article by J. Edgar Hoover himself AND it’s shot on location in Boston, you know you are in for a quality time, a grim, atmospheric film chock full of document drops, code names, communist “sleepers” blackmailed into continued service, random-looking meetings on park benches during crowded periods, local shops used as fronts for the Party, relatives held hostage by the East Germans, lip-reading from clandestinely-shot 16mm films, etc. etc.—and all of this happening on the fascinating early 50’s black and white streets of Boston, full of small shops and local particulars now long gone, but thankfully documented in the crisp monochrome photography that Columbia Pictures did so well in its B-crime films. You want local Boston atmosphere? In one scene near the waterfront in Cambridge, FBI agents keeping an eye on a suspicious Polish freighter have a cover as ice-cream men in a Howard Johnson’s ice-cream truck. When they apprehend the suspect (actually, someone wearing the clothes of and looking vaguely like the person they were after, used as a decoy in a red switcheroo) a minute later, they take him down while still wearing their white ice-cream man uniforms! There was even a Fawcett comic book adaptation done of the film, which I hope to read in the near future.

The film is an extensive how-to catalogue of 1952 cold war espionage—who would have known that microfilm could be put under a sticker promoting the beauty of flowers affixed to the front of envelopes coming and going from a florist shop, or that the names of fictitious people paged at an airport could be a code for what locker the hot package is located in, or what kind of flower or plant was shipped out on which particular day of the week would provide coded information, hiding in plain sight.

The cast here does what they need to do without calling attention to themselves, since the agents and the spies both need to be discreet and anonymous. Former 30’s song and dance man George Murphy (in his last feature film), later Senator from California, is the lead FBI operative and has the worn-down professionalism and gravitas such a role needs; Scottish actor Finlay Currie is the European-American scientist working on a secret government project who is approached by the Reds to trade secrets in return for the release of his son from an East German jail (he of course reports the offer to the FBI, while pretending to play along with the party operatives) and gives an emotional, Orson Welles-style bravura performance, his Scottish burr only slipping in a few times when he’s at his most agitated and emotional; Czech actor Karel Stepanek, who spent much of his career working in the UK, is convincing as the conscience-less party enforcer. There is more than one femme fatale here, one of whom (the glamourous one) is played by Virginia Gilmore, who’d previously worked with such great directors as Jean Renoir and Fritz Lang and who was at the time married to Yul Brynner!

In one of the film’s climactic scenes, a party operative who manages to avoid getting picked up along with his colleagues runs to a pay phone to make a call containing a coded message about a condolence card for his nephew, and the phone booth is lit in such a way and shot from such an angle that it looks downright sinister, something from a 20’s Fritz Lang Dr. Mabuse film. Director Alfred Werker, despite the Germanic-sounding name, was born in Deadwood, South Dakota and came up through the ranks of genre films, his first film as full director (after working as an assistant director) being a 1925 Fred Thomson silent western. However, anyone who has seen THEY WALK BY NIGHT knows that the man can make the commonplace urban streets look like something full of dread and danger, and even manages that here in a more restrained form, while conforming to the flat, matter-of-fact house style at Columbia Pictures for their B-crime films, a style responsible for these films holding up so well today.

Producer Louis De Rochemont, who receives auteur billing at the film’s beginning and end, was a Bostonian himself, coming from Chelsea, and was not only responsible for the long-running MARCH OF TIME documentary newsreel shorts, but also such 40’s noir-crime classics as 13 RUE MADELEINE and THE HOUSE ON 92ND STREET. He brings the clipped, staccato rhythm of the former and the brooding atmosphere of the latter to this project.

WALK EAST ON BEACON is available on one of Columbia-Sony’s Film Noir boxsets, but it’s also available on You Tube (at least it was, as of this writing) for your viewing pleasure in a fine quality print. It’s even more entertaining than reading the de-classified files from Soviet and East German intelligence agencies, identifying what Americans were compromised, how they were “worked,” and what methods were used to pass information, because here those dry facts come off the page and into hard-boiled, three-dimensional life on the screen in front of you. Another gem from the golden age of Cold War crime/spy programmers.