Saturday, April 13, 2024


I'm sure I can hear a whole lotta you regular readers out there thinking HAS IT REALLY COME TO THIS????? Is a "graphic novel" about Peter Laughner and the Cleveland "first wave" groups really necessary, can something like this really be represented honestly (and accurately) in comic book form?  And would the end results come off looking like some haughty artzy expression regarding past energies misinterpreted by a new generation of kids wallowing about in a nth generation faded version of the original thrust? 

Or has it come to the point where all of the OCD Velvet Underground fans and punk rock hunters and gatherers of the sixties and seventies have finally been vindicated after years of scorn and being misinterpreted by critics and downright dolts and ON PURPOSE at that? Maybe every suburban slob who stocked up on the high energy big beat and usually got grief for it can bask in the glory that this book has shown whose music really stood the test of time, not that standing the test of time is any testament to the ultimate worth and intensity of the sounds at hand as if anyone should even care, but after all of those years of rejection and loathing directed at folk like us maybe we can do some sneering back at our detractors and bask in some long-deserved revenge.

Hmmm, the visuals are very good, not quite underground comix-ish but extremely professional. Kinda reminds me of some newspaper sports "Believe it or Not"-styled page filler. Layouts are extremely eyeball catching and the detail and committal for exactness is also to be commended. The storytelling well --- I gotta find that I find it a whole load "splurge" for my own tastes what with author Aaron Lange gathering up all sortsa shards and storytelling that might give a good seedy background regarding the whole Northeast Ohio saga, but he does manage to work it out so that everything from Elliot Ness and Sam Sheppard to Kent State, DA Levy and Ghoulardi sorta ties in together and the results don't come off looking like some pseudointellectual garble worthy of a book report on gender fluid left-handed Hopi Indians.

The main thrust here is the Cleveland (and various surrounding environs) rock 'n roll underground of the seventies, its gestation and spawn as well. And with Peter Laughner, who you could say was the mad genius and true lover of music whose own case of "too much too soon" led to his own sad and no ways romantic demise. Lange did his homework and captured a whole load of the nerve breaking power and pure genius that came out of that time and place, keeping it all rather focused even when he knots together all sorts of loose strands to create an image of the time and aura that I will say was etapoint. Yeah, the guy leaves out quite a few large and I would think important chunks (like no mention of Brian Sands and his pioneering work with Moses/Mouse/Milk) plus his dismissal of the Raspberries will get your head scratchin', but on other points Lange sure knew what the score was regarding the massive amount of passion and devotion of the bared-wire intensity that got the Cleveland underground a world wide reputation that I know very few people in the area even knew (or cared for that matter) existed.

Thankfully those groups that were so vehemently ignored or even outright scorned during one of the more fertile time in garage band expression are once again given their fair dues. Mirrors appear briefly which I guess wouldn't please a good portion of the members given their disdain for Laughner and the whole Plaza Apartments art colony, but there's more'n you could bargain for when it comes to the Electric Eels and the truths and fabrications that even got 'em a brief if un-named mention in CREEM regarding the lawn mower incident at the Viking Saloon. Something which most likely never did transpire but well, we can pretend.

Of COURSE I love it to pieces when Lange shows up the Cleveland media and the lunkhead "rock" fans for the general dolts they were and I assume remain. Local FM giant WMMS is given its dues for their early innovation in the field of a truly free format where the new and trend breaking could get played next to the firmly entrenched, but Lange gets major kudos for telling us just how that all went down the tubes once the concept of AOR proved you can make a mint catering to a clientele that had somehow figured rock 'n roll to be an update of their parents' passion for the blander, cornier aspects of the big band era. There is an emphasis on just how bad things were for the high energy contingent in this supposed "rock city", a place where such one-dimensional "talents" as Michael Stanley and Pat Benetar were considered the epitome of musical entertainment while the real mavericks and movers hadda struggle to make the rent and pay the bills. I'm sure glad that Lange gave that entire time in rock history a nice swift kick in the balls because frankly, considering the "conspiracy of silence" that these groups suffered from, it sure needs one.

But hey, this book is mainly about Laughner, a guy who was perhaps THEE mover and shaker and town crier for the harder, more feral aspects of a music scene that got its due long after it was dead and gone. Lange must've had a whole wagonload of index cards telling everything about the man and his influence on not only the bubbling under music scene (from folkies to rockers as well as the mainstream if you can imagine), but on those he would come in contact with throughout his almost quarter century of existence. And with the ups and downs and Laughner's shedding of self-control along with his friends it does make for a harrowing read, and perhaps a warning that you know anyone who reads this will never ever heed. 

So eh, this is a good enough one to dish out the big bux for or at least beg someone to get it for you (the smart way). A graphic novel about Laughner and Cleveland might not be the epitome of some sort of much needed vindication for what happened a good half-century back but its a start and like, I for one am glad it all happened.


Lou Reed said...

Yah, no one cares.

Christopher Stigliano said...

How could you say that after all that crystal meth Peter got for you?

Lou Reed said...


Anonymous said...

crystal meth circa Peter was speed