Saturday, February 18, 2017

As the Monkees once said (actually Mike Nesmith)...so how's by you? As for how's by me well, I'm havin' a fun time here at BLOG TO COMM central listenin' to loads of music and generally engaging in tons of sinful pleasure, which for me is plowing through old BEETLE BAILEY paperbacks (the same box of 'em I got a few months back!) not to forget the occasional MAD collection of yore. You may think it's nothing but evil sloth that I'm engagin' in, but I say it's just me living up to my calling as a proud suburban slob and you better believe that I'm doing the best to honor my heritage!

Since this was a slow week, and you don't want to hear about the, uh, grittier aspects of what was goin' on like the insidious toilet float caper or my befuddlement over the instructions for the new paper shredder, let's just get down to the true reason for the treason, mainly the following record and cee-dee reviews!

GR-PROPEL TENSION ON POLYESTER BASE LP (Tapes Archives...available here)

This Gregory Raimo fellow's come up with another hot top notch winner with this album featuring nothing but music performed by him and him alone! I know what you're thinking, that this is probably one of those jagoffs where some guy struts out alla his classical edjucashum and shows it off for all to see, but Raimo ain't one of those post-hip Todd Rundgren types at all for this record is (really!) a hard-edged "experimental" rock album that won't let you down one bit!

Some of the tracks sound like those old Bruce Anderson solo tapes he was pittin' out back inna eighties, while others have a bit of the This Heat late-seventies experimental electronic feel that really knew how to fray them nerve endings. But no matter if GR's doing the hard-rock instrumental or avant garde trips he's doin' 'em well, and I can't think of many (if any) down sides to this particular outing which thankfully retains that home-production flat sound that sounds oh-so great in these digital doodle days.

If you're still enthralled by some of those better cassette culture home-cooked offerings that were so prevalent in the eighties this might bring back a few fond memories of tape jams and dropouts. Only I somehow doubt it because well...it's good ol' vinyl here and all you'll have to worry about are skips!
***
Wally Tax-LOVE IN CD-r burn (originally on Philips, the Netherlands)

Would you have ever thought that the (Dutch) Outsiders' lead singer Wally Tax would have done a soft rock middle-of-the-somethingorother album that certainly would have not appealed to the hard rockin' Pretty Things kinda guys who made up his fan base? Me neither, but he, just like Sonny Geraci who sang with the Amerigan group with the same moniker, went slo-mo teenage gals and middle aged men tryin' t' be hip on this particular album that sounds like it was recorded with Bert Kaempfert rejects during their off hours from the local army base club. Lousy late-sixties cling onto alla the tropes available music here with Tax doin' his vocalizin' through a megaphone (or so it sounds), but one thing I would REALLY like to know is...does Tax actually sing "your teats can make a grown man cry" or something very similar on track #2, "Let's Forget What I Said"???
***
Various Artists-THE BEST OF ROCKABILLY INSTRUMENTALS VOL. 2 (Folkline Entertainment Ltd., England)

The title's kinda misleadin' since a good portion of these platters really don't fall into the "rockabilly" category, but if you're a fan of the late-fifties/early-sixties rock instrumental like I am this one should do ya just fine. Of course a good portion of bonafeed chart toppers like "Rumble", "Red River Rock", "Last Date" and "Green Mosquito" show up and for the love of me I never even heard of Rex Qual or Dorothy Donegal (and to be really nit-picky about it, how in the world does an instrumental version of "When a Man Loves a Woman" get classified as "rockabilly"???), but the track selection is top notch for those of you who don't look your noses down at those "backwards" days when women/African Americans/gays/left-handed herniated Hopi Indians were being oppressed from here to Bizoo and back (don't laff---some wag actually accused me of lovin' them days just because of that!). If this happened to be some 1981 flea market find stuck in the old album racks you'd bet I'd be snatching this 'un up faster'n that woman who broke some nylon zipper on a pair of pants skedaddled after the peddler caught her.
***
Kazutoki Umezu/Seikatsu Kojyo-IINKAI CD-r burn

Dunno any other whys.wherefores of this particular album, but as far as free jazz rarities go this might be one of the tippy tip top of the iceberg. Alto saxist Kazutoki "Kappo" Umezu and pianist/bass clarinetist Yorituki Harada are joined by some of the hottest loft/free players from the En Why See scene on this '75 session that once again proves the fruitility
of what was happening in the avant world during those times. Hot playing from such familiar names as Rashid Shinan (always thought that was "Sinan") and William Parker merges pretty well with these Japanese visitors proving that if jazz is a universal language then many uninformed listeners'll need more'n Berlitz to figure out what's goin' on here. Definitely worth the engine searches you'll need to pull this one up.
***
Mandell Kramer in YOUR'S TRULY, JOHNNY DOLLAR CD-r burn

Sure he ain't Bob Bailey, but Mandell Kramer does a really good Johnny Dollar on these early-sixties radio dramas which rank amongst the last of this particular breed, not counting various revivals which were more nostalgic rehash'n anything. It's kinda strange to think that these kinda shows were still goin' on as late as '62 but they were, and if that is the case this series helped bring the genre to a hotcha end with two great episodes, one dealing with the pilfering of a rare painting and the other these two lookalike guys who years after the fact are kinda/sorta involved in a new insurance payoff scheme, one involuntarily. As they used to say, your mind is the only visual theatre to contend with, and hopefully the stage hands won't go out on strike!
***
The Staccatos-INITIALLY CD-r burn (originally on Capitol Canada)

These are the same guys who later on became the Five Man Electrical Band and had a socially relevant chart topper called "Signs" back '71 way. But back inna sixties these Staccatos weren't into the hip youth plight groove yet, preferring to crank out soft rock that was too raucous for the old folks but too tame for the Rolling Stones crowd. And they sure did a good job of it producing material that some could call "wimp rock" yet doing a good enough job with their chosen style to the point where you don't feel like flicking it off. Sunshine-y pop numbers abound, including a cover of Steve Stills via the Mojo Men's "Sit Down I Think I Love You" slushed up for maximum adolescent girl schmooze effect.
***
A TRIBUTE TO LEX BARKER---63 TRACKS IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER CD-r burn

I mean, WHO ELSE but #1 Lex Barker fan inna world Bill Shute would even think of compiling various brief soundclips of Barker dialogue and slapping it on a disque totaling a little over six minutes anyway??? You try to guess which moom pitchers these dialog snips come from while the whiz by you faster'n Bill himself trailing down the street after an old issue of Charlton's DR. GRAVES that blew outta his mitts, and be surprised if you actually do recognize one or two of 'em! As for me, I think this woulda sounded grand if some noise-cut up act like Smegma got hold of it and added their variety of squeaky toys and oscillating whoops to the entire thing, but don't tell Bill I said that.
***
Various Artists-MIRROR FATTY SPINACH JUNGLE CD-r burn (Bill Shute)

This one has been moiling in the CD-r stack for quite some time so I thought it the right and proper thing to give the thing its proper spin before ignoring it for all eternity. As usual this is a super collection of rarities including (besides an obscure Wilson Pickett track) a great early-sixties garage thumpin' instrumental from the Pastels, good 'n fruity slush pop from Pinkerton's Assorted Colours, creepy cheap "song poems" from Johnny Williams, hot 'n lowbrow blues jazz from the Three Sounds and a whole load of things I'll think up about once I get to hear this (I am typing while the platter is playing, time saver I am and shall remain!). I doubt that the Spades here are """thee""" Spades of Roky fame (I also doubt they're the NYC group goin' under that name inna eighties!) but they sure play good late-fifties instrumental rock as do Shoestring, the Beas and of course Dick Dale. Pretty good selection ya got there Bill...do you take requests by any chance???

Thursday, February 16, 2017

MOOM PITCHER REVIEW! DR. MABUSE VS. SCOTLAND YARD starring Peter Van Eyck (Germany, 1963)

Yeah, I used to have the same feelings about furrin' films as you do, having been inundated with cheap English and French flickers on Sunday afternoon UHF tee-vee ever since I can recall (two that particularly stick out in my mind are the ones where some people escape to West Germany on a train that busts the barricade that was set up to stop it, and another where some Eyetalian youth with a gun shoots someone else and there's this cop going around asking the street urchins of Rome who they think it was), but dang if this one is pretty tops in and out of its own low-budget class.

I first encountered the DR. MABUSE films back when some of the Fritz Lang silents popped up on PBS in the late-seventies, and to be honest wasn't that thrilled about 'em they being so Teutonic cold and all to the point where Nico woulda come off like a warm electric blanket in comparison. However, this particular pelicula's one that I gotta admit really kept me glued to my seat, and no it wasn't because of the suction my rectum (in consortium with my crack) had created after eating all of those refried beans for dinner!

Yes the cagey criminal mastermind Mabuse didn't die in the previous flick at all, but is alive and well and out to gain control of the whole world (a thankless task!) with this new invention where a ray (usually in the form of a camera) zaps the will of whoever it is pointed at making them do all sorts of crazy things from bashing in the heads of unsuspecting scientists and hanging themselves instead of the condemned on the gallows. Its up to Peter Van Eyck to get to the bottom of this, and it does look as if the handsome leading man's gonna have his work cut out for him considering that not only a good portion of Scotland Yard is under Mabuse's spell but so is Van Eyck's own mother, an elderly lovable who seems to be in the film mostly for comedic relief sorta like Aunt Harriet on the old BATMAN tee-vee show.

And yeah, the film is action-packed 'cept for a few li'l luls and easy enough to follow even if you don't understand any of the German you see via signs or newspapers (guess at it like you did in German class!). There's nothing to lose here (especially your lunch) because it's all done top notch in that crank-out way we can all appreciate and the jazzy soundtrack keeps your heart pumpin' at a pretty fast pace that once again'll have you holdin' your bladder in, even if you know enough to put the dang machine on "pause" and go relieve yerself!

Oh yeah, and watch out for none other'n future cult figure and rather deranged individual Klaus Kinski as a police detective who gets zapped by the camera and attempts to trick Van Eyck and his partner into a pretty nasty murder-suicide!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

COMIC BOOK REVIEW BY BILL SHUTE! MYSTERY TALES #16 (Super Comics, 1964)

Here’s another marginal comic book from the I.W. Publications/Super Comics empire of outsider publisher Israel Waldman. We’ve discussed his operation (kind of like a comics equivalent a budget record label, one which re-issued in exploitative and deceptive manner older material which it may or may not have had full rights to release) in previous BTC reviews. I should point out that the release numbers (according to Toonopedia) of these Waldman comics are NOT indicative of how many issues of something have been released. This would not have been the 16th issue of MYSTERY TALES. Remember, IW/Super was re-issuing existing but forgotten comics under new names, and one of their Super Comics magazine titles could be used for material from various older source comics for which IW/Super had printing plates...so different issues of MYSTERY TALES might have been taken from different original comics. No, what “16” indicated was that it was in the 16th round of releases from IW/Super. They could start a new magazine title, and if the first issue came out around the time of their 16th round of releases, then it was issue #16. According to the Grand Comics Database, MYSTERY TALES had only 3 issues: 16, 17, and 18. I’m lucky enough to own all three.

Interestingly, while the IW/Super magazine contents were pillaged from earlier comics, the covers were often new, and often do NOT depict scenes from the story. I’ve read about how Waldman hired comics artists to draw new covers, but in some cases, he must have just given the artists the story title, and maybe a brief verbal synopsis, and not had them look at the actual story. In any event, he certainly had a gut feeling for what sells comic books to adolescents....just take a look at this cover. Can you imagine how excited a 12 or 13 year old would be with it? Why, this would look even more exciting than any of the 50’s sci-fi or horror movies they showed on the local UHF station on Saturday nights!

Fortunately, the stories deliver the goods...and then some. All the contents of this issue were lifted from a 1952 comic called TALES OF HORROR (see scan of that cover), undoubtedly influenced by TALES FROM THE CRYPT, which began in 1950, from the legendary EC Comics. TALES OF HORROR was published by the obscure indie Minoan Magazines initially, then seems to have been reissued two years later by Toby (by the way, I’d LOVE to own some issues of Toby’s JOHN WAYNE ADVENTURE COMICS, which ran 31 issues! I notice that some of that run has been re-issued by Golden Age Reprints--guess what I’ll be ordering next payday!). However, I can’t imagine anyone who bought this in 1964 (and they might well have bought it in 1966 or 1967, as Waldman did not date his comics, so they were never out-of-date and could continue to be sold) finding it dated, anymore than they’d complain in 1964 about a 50’s giant-insect sci-fi film being ‘dated.’

With this being an offering from IM/Super Comics, we should remember that no one would have paid full price for it. It would have been part of a cheap bagged multi-pack sold at a low-end department store, or the individual comics would have found their way into the discounted marketplace or sold with “used magazines,” which at one time were available in small neighborhood markets, off-brand gas stations, and the like. So kids would have paid a nickel or maybe 2-for-15 cents for this. Also, even today, most of the IM/Super Comics offerings can be gotten relatively cheaply, if you are willing to get an ungraded “reading copy” (as it’s called in the trade). I’ve seen this one online for as little as $2.

The budget-label record business model always relied upon quantity sales, and the “budget comics” model probably did too. As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, the Charlton “Modern Comics” line of budget comics, sold in cheap multi-packs by low-end retailers and markets, were printed in large qualities, one reason why you can still get them cheap today. Why pay $6 for the Charlton copy of something when you can get the exact same comic with only minor revisions for a dollar or so in the “Modern” version.

The 50s were a Golden Age in horror comics in the TALES FROM THE CRYPT tradition, so it’s no surprise that every story here is a winner. The art style is functional enough to provide a kind of realism, but exaggerated and grotesque enough to provide a frightening horror experience....as much as, say, an AIP or Allied Artists 50’s sci-fi/horror B-movie would....and really, these kind of magazines (like crime comics) are pretty much delivering three or four mini-movies for the mind in each issue.

THE THING IN THE POOL has a creepy and mean home-builder who lusts after his secretary, but she announces she’s getting married to someone else and he flips out. However, once he regains his composure, he offers them a fancy, modernistic new home as a wedding present--one problem, though....that “thing” in the pool. THE HAND OF JAO TZE has a sleazy seaman in Asia who pretends to fall in love with a young lady whose father controls some ancient jewelry with spiritual significance, and of course, anyone who’s ever seen a MUMMY film knows where that’s headed. The only question is HOW the ancient spirits will get their revenge on this infidel. In THE RIPPER’S RETURN, there is a rest home where the patients are given some kind of potion--the kind you find only in comic books and horror movies--which makes them think and act like historical characters....Napoleon, Plato, etc. Unfortunately, one of them starts channeling Jack The Ripper. Finally, LOVE FOR A PLANT, the story depicted on the cover, offers a serious version of the murdering-plant set-up later used for LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS. In this one, a horticulturalist with a nagging, shrewish, overly-demanding wife starts to create a fantasy world in his hothouse and creates a plant which he comes to fall in love with....and let’s just say that eventually even the plant becomes a little too demanding.

If you have a taste for vintage comic books and for horror anthology TV shows (even something like the 1989-1996 TV version of TALES FROM THE CRYPT, which was aspiring to re-create this kind of model), give this a try. It’s perfect for a cold, rainy night....a few of the stories even have some variation on the crypt-keeper as a “host” in the first panel of each story, although that aspect is not really developed in this issue.

We love budget labels here at BTC....and we love budget comics too!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Shee-yucks---we're only into February and boy am I dreadin' this new year more'n anything since the 1979-80 tee-vee season! Of course a lotta the dread is due to them ol' "real life" situations 'n all, (y'know---work??? as Maynard G. Krebs woulda said) but still the lack of any real stimuli to keep a feller such as I on the up 'n up is contributin' to the overall woe that has been encapsulatin' me these past few weeks. It's like, at this point in my rather sainted life, I really couldn't CARE about anything other'n tryin' to keep up my "status" as a blogger of renown which is why I keep doin' alla this "writin'" rather'n chuck the whole BLOG TO COMM concept out the ol' window. Well, it does keep me occupied the way tootsietoys did when I was three and NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC did when I was twelve.

But to add another dimension to my---I sure hope it ain't ennui---is that I am sorta jungered out given my general lack of pep, vim vigor and other old time breakfast cereals over what good there IS available out there. And that's a real bum-bum-bummer since these days I can afford a lotta the items that are being made available given that I'm a man of wealth and means and could buy out the penny candy store which had alla 'em goodies I wanted back when I was six, only it's probably all stale by now.

Take those hotcha LAST OF THE GARAGE PUNK UNKNOWNS platters that Crypt is now unleashing onna public this very moment...like, do you think that I'm savin' up the shekels and pining away like a teenage gal with the hots for Michael J. Pollard to get these particularly potent platters? No way---what woulda got me up and runnin' to sneak some twennys outta my dad's wallet a good thirtysome years back doesn't even make me wanna turn the used toilet paper to confetti in addled joy these days. You call it old age---I call it old age too.

Now it's obviouser 'n all heck that I'm more apt to plunk down the precious sheks on some old comic strip or book reprint title, but maybe that's just me getting back in touch with the happier portion of my youth. Either that or I never did escape the overwhelming influence that these comics (and more!) had on me back when I was still in the single digits and my emotional threads weren't quite as frayed as they are now. Besides, I gotta admit that reading these old DICK TRACY comics might be an entirely better option in life than listening to a good portion of the music being made anywhere these days, if only because Chester Gould never thought of his creation as being an "art project" 'r anything like that!

But at least I have these Bill Shute, Paul McGarry and P. D. Fadensonnen burns to keep me up and runnin' musicwise, and good for them because if it weren't for these I'd probably be spending my free time volunteering for hospital bedpan duty 'stead of curled up in my cozy shack listening to these deep-fried disques. And so without further adieu (it's a joke, no "sic" here!), here is this week's batch of reviews which I do hope you deserve to read about.


More Eaze-wOrk CD-r (Kendra Steiner Editions)

Marcus Rubio is back with this crazoid bitta electronic spew that might make the weaker amongst us wanna run to the nearest "safe space" for pampered petunias who can't face the bitter reality of free sound, but I get the idea that most of you readers are MAN ENOUGH to take this right between the full frontal lobes. It's mostly electronic sound with some clarinet thrown in, parts of this sounding like the Electric Eels' "Jazz Is" (really!) with a whole load of what comes off like a stereo channel on a This Heat outtake with some Controlled Bleeding in there somewhere. The sound of the future for the past fiftysome years true, but that's future's gonna finally be a 'comin' a lot sooner than any of ya's gonna imagine!
***
Hank Ray-COUNTRICIDE CD-r burn (originally on Devil's Rain)

Last week I reviewed an earlier album...er...Cee-Dee-Are burn by this newer'n ever country rock sorta guy. This one's from a good six years later and is more indebted to that ol' original pre-frilly country sound that sorta got axed from the scene around the time HEE HAW got canceled. Y'know the country I'm talkin' about...the hard-edged stuff that was promoted and performed by people who sorta had that heavy set of snarl to 'em that just ain't allowed in todays castrati culture anymore! Good enough renditions of old and maybe even some new tuneage that sates even if the production is way too modern for my own personal suburban slob tastes. If you're the kinda he-man type of guy with hair on his chest who misses the smell of diners with cigarette smoke embedded into those Naugahyde chairs you might just cozy up to a platter such as this.
***
The Troggs-LIVE IN POOLE, ENGLAND May 23 2003 CD-r burn

Gotta say that I didn't even know that the Troggs were still up and about this late inna game! But obviously they were, and y'know what??? This set and performance is almost identical to all of those Troggs Max's and elsewhere tapes that have been floating around for years, and naturally the performance is straight on powerful just like you would have expected from these long-time professionals. If this indeed were the Troggs on their "way out" (if they ever really were on their way out!) then man, they went out in high fashion! Features particularly spidery version of such true Troggs faves as "Night of the Long Grass" and "66-5-4-3-2-1" that are just as good as the originals!
***
George Harrison-THE ALTERNATE WONDERALL CD-r burn (originally on Pear Records)

I never saw the moom pitcher nor heard the original WONDERWALL album figuring it was gonna be more of that twangy sitar and veena drone I've experienced enough of through my George Harrison travels/travails, so let's just say that this burnt offering was something I thought would be an interesting enough spin at least once before it got filed away somewhere. As I expected, THE ALTERNATE WONDERWALL is what I would expect from a Beatle-related outtakes bootleg recorded at the time, with shards and fragments of all sorts of exotic sounds mixed in with weird cornball incidental music and mellotron whoopie that probably wasn't good enough for the real deal. It's sure hokay enough for a Beatle-related educational romp through their late-sixties musical leftovers, but if you think this is gonna make me wanna seek out the movie or the original platter you are sadly mistaken.
***
Charles K. Noyes and Owen Marecks with Henry Kaiser and Greg Goodman-FREE MAMMALS CD-r burn (originally on Visible Records, 2511 Ellsworth St., Berkeley CA 94704 USA)

There are so many of these experimental music platters with the likes of Henry Kaiser floating around that its sure hard to sift through 'em all. Well, considering that I never was that much (if any) of a fan of Kaiser that would be one of the last things that I would consider doing, but I did get this particular platter featuring some other big names on the 80s-on improv scene and actually I found this a bit interesting even for my more rockist-attuned tastes. Nice atonal free sound that doesn't grate on ya like rubbing balloons but kinda goes through you with interesting enough intricate guitar parts that actually get your brain to perk up and analyse for once! It's nothing I would actually fork over precious coin to purchase myself, but I'm pleased enough that I got to hear it at least this once.
***
The Soft Machine-WONDERLAND LP (Secret Records, England)

I think a whole buncha the tracks that appear here have not made their first appearance on vinyl or any other format, but smooshed all together they make for one mighty nice encapsulation of the early Soft Machine days. My personal faves on this 'un are those with Kevin Ayers singing up and front, though if you were one of the few who got onto the Machine bandwagon via the Hendrix tour and followed them well into their import bin days I'm sure you'll find a whole lot of interesting jazz rock to enjoy here. By the way this was but one of the Christmas gifts that Brad Kohler scooted my way a good two months back...good choice you made there Brad!
***
The Twilights-ONCE UPON A TWILIGHT CD-r burn (originally on Aztec Records, Australia)

If you care, some fanabla who later on ended up inna Little River Band was in the Twilights, and somehow I can easily believe it. Typical late-sixties anglo-ish pop here, the kind that got Alan Betrock all hot and bothered during his JAMZ days complete with lush orchestration and interesting arrangements that woulda fit in fine on the Amerigan radio scene had this one been lucky enough to make it north of the equator. Psychedelic yet sunshine-y---definitely as good of a neo-Beatles take as the Move were. I guess if you like the Antipodean pop strains of the late-sixties/early-seventies Bee Gees you'll go for this pop swell.
***
Various Artists-HEIMATLICHE KLANGE VOL. 153 Cd-r burn

I dunno about Austria...it kinda reminds me of Germany without the sick stuff. It doesn't know whether it wants to be Germany or Switzerland either, and it's just stuck there right in the middle of Europe sorta flopping about. The music on this sampler is pretty much in the same vein, what with these watered-down covers of the big US 'n British hits made for (I guess) the local market. Not that it's all bad, but there seems to be a hefty lack of spirit and energy to these tracks that really don't make me wanna get up 'n dance those weird interpretive dances I did age eleven to Elvis Presley. And sheesh, I like cheap knockoffs too!
***
Alabama Shakes-BOYS AND GIRLS CD-r burn (originally on ATO)

These rootsy things sometimes tickle my fancy and sometimes they don't, but for the most part they kinda wobble somewhere in-between hey it's good stuff and hey it's good stuff but I don't think I'd wanna listen to it ever again. The Alabama Shakes are kinda like that, with some pretty nice retro-early sixties moves that appeal to me stuck in between some typically entertaining country rock moves that just don't make you wanna go "aah!" Take or leave music that might appeal to your sense of propriety if you liked those old Rolling Stones Muscle Shoals records, but I do get the feeling that I'm gonna lose this one in that leaning tower of CD-r burns that's just about to topple all over my bedroom.
***
Beck and the Record Club-THE VELVET UNDERGROUND AND NICO CD-r burn (originally on Fan Club Only Records)

Sheesh, just what I wanna hear...one of the better rock 'n roll albums of the sixties done up post-post-POSTmodern-like by a guy who I spent most of the past twennysome years or so trying to avoid. Beck's version of that olde standard "Waiting For The Man" does crank out with the same pace and stamina that a hundred or so local rock groups mighta worked it out way back when, but the rest is nada but eighties-onward precocious rose-colored rear view mirror'd takes that a whole bunch of those loathed synth bands managed to cook up much to my disliking. About on par with most post-seventies Velvet worship (they as the grandaddies of cloistered bedroom amerindie wannabes everywhere) that has been making its way out of bedrooms and remedial studies centers with an alarming regularity.
***
Various Artists-UNKNOWN RAGAMUFFIN SITAR CD-r burn (Bill Shute)

I dug this one from deep inna pile so I don't know just how long ago Bill sent this to me. But despite the age all I gotta say is that it ages like a fine wine rather'n one of those cheese hunks that rolled under my bed and I didn't find it for ten months what with the fine selection of hotcha sound that can be found therein. There's too much here to discuss with the fine-tooth needled detail this blog is most known for so I'll just skim over...high points include the two Charlie Feathers versions of "Look Up" which was co-written with none other than the Elvis himself, Azusa Plane's pee-take on George Harrison which really deconstructs things for ya and the infamous Beatle swipe by the Fut which actually got stuck on a buncha old Fab Four bootlegs it was that convincing. Also tops are Ken Colby's instrumental pop which sounds like the music you woulda heard in one of those dirty europeon films that you weren't allowed to go see, vanity performer Dora Hall doing some lullaby that would never have gotten me to sleep lest she whacked me hard onna head with a hammer while singing it, and the underrated Homer and Jethro who somehow have been airbrushed outta country and western history in favor of the likes of Miley Cyrus. As to just why this happened I do not know.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

BOOK REVIEW! REMAKE/REMODEL, BECOMING ROXY MUSIC by Michael Bracewell (Da Capo Press, 2007)

I'm sure that after the reams of comic strip and book collection reviews you have been reading in what ostensibly is supposed to be a "rock 'n roll blog" you might be surprised to find a book such as this up on the critical appraisal chopping block. Well yeah, I will admit that there are some books dedicated to the musical form floating about out there that are worthy of scrutiny here at BTC, and this particular read is one of the few I've come across as of late that deserves exposure to a wider audience. And that's even if the darn thing is nigh on ten years old (and now available cheap...why'd'ja think I picked it up inna first place???) but you do need to be made aware of it.

Sure there have been many a book dedicated to Roxy Music and I'll bet some of them are even good reading goin' beyond the usual Bryan Ferry's favorite color cheap teenybop coverage that one used to see in adolescent-girl-aimed mags world-wide. Well, at least until the brave souls at ROLLING STONE created rock journalism and we eventually got to find out what Bryan Ferry's favorite sex device was! But how many books really delved into the roots of Roxy, discussing the influences and kultural/artistic backgrounds that made the group what is was at least to a whole slew of backwards suburban slob mid-teens deprived of rock energy so much that the local record shop became like a meeting place for those who wanted to scam at least a li'l high energy in their otherwise drab lives.

REMAKE/REMODEL is remarkable enough in this respect...I mean for years we've heard about the art school backgrounds of Ferry along with Andy Mackay and Eno but this portion of the chaps' lives were always passed over in favor of the big fame days. Well, this book remedies that great hunka missing gap inna Roxy saga, starting with the early upbringings of the boys inna band (well at least the major ones...Paul Thompson is ignored as usual) well into their coming of age edjamacation days when they were soaking up all of the hip new moves in art and music which, combined with the head-on pop and rock of the day, eventually made the Roxy Music machine the most hotcha musical move of the early and mid-seventies that it most certainly was!

Monikers familiar and not like pioneering multi-media artist Richard Hamilton and avant garde composer Cornelius Cardew pop into the mix along with the various artist cliques that had surrounded these fellows during one of the more fruitful times in art as energy. And true, there are some points that have been written about into the ground are covered and I wouldn't have minded more info regarding Eno's tenure with the Scratch Orchestra amongst other details, but there's still a whole lotta info regarding those early days that's thankfully delved into bound to sate even a crazed nitpicker such as I.

Surprisingly enough there's a whole lotta history and insight that I never knew about before brought up here that in no way ever thought would be disseminated to the public and really, if you were one of those boys who used to leer at the cover of COUNTRY LIFE at the record shop starin' at them gals' see-through undies and bellybuttons then man, this is the kinda book you sure wish you had back '75 way!

Not only that but it's got a whole slewfulla good snaps not only of some of the Roxys themselves during their up-and-coming art school days but those of their mentors and their definitely Warhol/Rauschenberg-inspired pop-art productions. Unfortunately the oft talked about but never seen snap of Ferry posing by his Studebaker (the same one mentioned in "Virginia Plain") is not here, but somehow I get the impression that we'll never get to see that 'un! Also there's no mention of the Scratch Orchestra spinoff COMET who preceded Roxy as far as electronic Velvetisms go, but then again I get the feeling that their material's gonna come out the day I die which would be typical timing considering the life I've led!

But if you were...well...one of those guys who ears perked up back when those old albums were coming out and perhaps picked up some beat up John Cage album or old library art book to get a li'l more background on it all then well,  you might just like it.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

COMIC BOOK REVIEW BY BILL SHUTE! ELLERY QUEEN, DETECTIVE (Coachwhip Publications)

Coachwhip Publications (find them at coachwhipbooks.com) has a wide and diverse array of books available, many of them non-fiction, but they also have a comic reprint series, including a few volumes taken from the wonderful Dell Comics of the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. The volume under review today contains three complete ELLERY QUEEN, DETECTIVE comics published by Dell Four Color in 1960 and 1961 (Four Color #1165, #1243, and #1289

Ellery Queen has had an interesting history. He is both the protagonist of the books and the credited author; however, it was never a secret that the actual authors were the cousin-team of Frederic Dannay and Manfred Lee. There has always been a puzzle-solving aspect to their works in that all the clues are presented in a fair manner to the reader, and we readers are meant to solve the cases along with Ellery. In fact, in most if not all of the novels I’ve read (and in the various TV and radio shows), the narrative stops near the end, and the reader is explicitly challenged to figure out who is the murderer. There are never any cheats in a Queen mystery, and when you re-read one, you see how cleverly yet naturally the clues were presented. Everything is there for you, if you are shrewd enough to find it.

The first Queen novel was published in 1929, and then many others followed as the formula was fresh, the writing fast-moving and entertaining but with a certain elegance, and Ellery himself was an appealing character. He was a mystery novelist (the character, that is), and he often assisted his father, Inspector Richard Queen of the city police force, solve crime by bringing his eye for small details and his outside-the-box perspective on things. He had a sense of humor about himself (always a good way to win audience sympathy), and the father-son relationship was quite well-done....they would tease and joke with each other, and they came from different points of view, but they needed each other and cared for and about each other in a non-sentimental way that was refreshing.

The first film based on a Queen novel was in 1935, The Spanish Cape Mystery, with Donald Cook as Ellery, which I once saw and though was OK, but don’t remember well. The second film, which I do remember well, was from 1936, THE MANDARIN MYSTERY (which is in the public domain, so look for it online), with (of all people) comic actor Eddie Quillan as Ellery. Quillan (see b&w pic) got his start in silent comedy shorts for Mack Sennett in the late 20’s and often was a comic sidekick in serials and B-movies. He also had an amazing series of comedy shorts for Columbia (sadly, never legitimately reissued in any video format) in the early 50’s teamed with rubber-faced comedian Wally Vernon (who was also a comic sidekick, in many westerns). These are among the most violent Columbia comedy shorts, and Quillan is amazing in them. He started in silent films in 1926, yet he was still acting on television in the late 1980’s, appearing on shows like MOONLIGHTING, THE A-TEAM, LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE, and THE JEFFERSONS--he even had an ongoing role on the Robert Blake TV show HELL TOWN in 1985! As his last credit is a 1987 MATLOCK episode, Eddie was appearing on screen in featured roles for 60+ years! His hometown of Philadelphia ought to put up a statute of the man! MANDARIN is an entertaining film, but perhaps a bit more comedic than I’d imagined Ellery.

The character also had success in radio and in television (we’ve reviewed some of the ELLERY QUEEN’S MINUTE MYSTERIES radio show here at BTC), with the best-known and best-loved TV adaptation being the mid-70’s series starring Jim Hutton as Ellery (see color pic) and David Wayne as his father. This is one of my three all-time favorite TV series (the other two being PERRY MASON and GREEN ACRES). Hutton brought a charm and everyman quality to Ellery, and Wayne brought a gruff but lovable characterization to Inspector Queen. Each episode featured at least four or five top-line former movie stars as guests (this was not uncommon with Universal 70’s TV shows, but especially true here), and it was set in the late 1940’s in New York, so it was full of wonderful period settings, clothing, cars, etc. The show’s full run (alas, just one season) is out on DVD, and it’s highly recommended. I’m sure I’ve seen each episode 10 times, and they never get old for me.

Ellery Queen was brought to comic books a few times. I was familiar with the Ziff-Davis comic book from the early 50’s, but these Dell Four Color issues from 1960-61 were new to me until this Coachwhip volume came out, and I can’t praise them highly enough if you enjoy detective comic-books and the early 60’s Dell visual style. Ellery does have glasses and a pipe here, and from a distance he sometimes resembles Rip Kirby, but he’s less of a traditional “hero” than Rip--he’s a mystery author and amateur sleuth.

Each of the three comics reprinted here contains two long and detailed stories, with enough time to develop some depth and present a number of characters/suspects. As usual for the series, you follow Ellery as he uncovers clues and follows certain lines of investigation, and you in a sense participate in the solving of the crimes with him....certain characters try to pull Ellery in to their viewpoint of the crime, some of whom are helpful and well-meaning, some of whom are not at all helpful but well-meaning, and some of whom are trying to deceive him. The plots cover a lot of interesting areas and settings, all of which involve murder: the importing of an ancient mummy to a museum; a suspicious ship which is being used for counterfeiting; a person interested in the occult who is being blamed for various crimes where incriminating occult-related clues are left by the killer; a partner in a business who goes missing; a murder in Haiti which is blamed on Voodoo (so you know it definitely IS NOT related to that); and that favorite of murder mystery plots, the ill-and-dying patriarch whose scavenger relatives are waiting for him to die, but one decides to speed up the process.

All the stories are well-paced, full of interesting characters and clever plot twists, but written in such a way as to provide you, dear reader, with the relevant clues, masquerading as regular details that move the story along but seem at the time to be of no particular significance. Ahhhh, but to Ellery, NOTHING  is of no particular significance.

The artwork and the storytelling here are just like a lean, fast-moving Columbia or Allied Artists B-mystery programmer, but with Ellery and his Dad in charge. Coachwhip’s reproduction of the original comics is excellent. I’m not sure if any re-coloring went on here, as it does in many reprints today (which I’m fine with, if it just deepens and clarifies the original artwork--Dark Horse’s multi-volume reprints of the Jesse Marsh TARZAN comics are a fine example of how that can be done well )--I’d guess not--but the scans of the originals are crisp and all the detail comes through clearly, and with the quality paper on which this volume is reprinted, it probably looks BETTER than the originals.

These original comic books were a fine entry in the Ellery Queen canon, and Coachwhip’s reissue of the comics in this attractive volume is a model of how a small-scale (it just presents three issues) comic-book reprint should be done. I’ve probably read this entire book FIVE times since I got it, and even though I know what happens in each piece, it’s so well done and so full of choice detail and interesting characters, I find myself coming back to it again. If you like comic books and you like murder mysteries, you should treat yourself to this fine collection.

By the way, ELLERY QUEEN’S MYSTERY MAGAZINE is still going strong after 75 (!!!!) years of publication. You can find it at most news-stands and bookstores which sell magazines, and old copies can be found for 50 cents or so at many flea markets or used bookstores which specialize in mysteries. It’s not as if murder mysteries date, so pick up a cheap used copy, pour yourself a glass of wine, and curl up by the fire on a cold and rainy night....and have a date....WITH MURDER!

Sunday, February 05, 2017

My, aren't these interesting times we're living in! And what could get more interesting that watching a pack of so-called communists who think they are "anarchists" (though I sincerely doubt that any of 'em have ever read or will even consider reading a real anarchist like Lew Rockwell) smash up the Berkeley campus in order to shut down that "far right" (?---guess they never heard of Andrew Anglin) and former "Fag of the Year" here at BTC speaker Milo Yiannopolous! But you say "Chris, why would these people go to such extremes busting up their own campus and surrounding areas just because they disagree with a person's opinions...are these views held by Mr. Yiannopolous that incendiary that they deserve to be kept out of the public discourse???" I know what you mean...after all if the folk at Berkeley find that child molesters and black nationalists are OK to speak their minds then why not a guy who has made his mark in life pointing out the foibles of today's pampered minions like Yiannopolous has been doing for the past few years. But for some reason or another these precocious leaders of tomorrow find Mr. Y's opines, which frankly aren't that different from most Mr. and Mrs. Front Porch types, way beyond the fringe of the usually accepted speech that we should be exposed to here in these oh-so-oppressive teens.

It doesn't seem so strange that a whole passel of deeply-moved sensitive laid back moderne punque types, the kind you see in areas such as San Francisco and environs, would be driven to violence in this sort of fashion just because of Yiannopolous's mere appearance in the belly of the beast (hah!), and it wasn't that surprising when I had the misfortune of just having tuned ABC WORLD NEWS TONIGHT on last Thursday evening hearing a real beta-faggot like David Muir explain away the rioting by mentioning that Yiannopolous has made many a startling and outside the norm of polite conversation remarks about various touchy-feely subjects such as "hate crimes" oh-so-conveniently leaving out the "fake" part of the equation out. I guess Yiannopolous (as well as the likes of Jim Goad who does what Mr. Y does only on a more basic level!) gives credence to these masked ozobs pepper spraying gals in MAGA hats after all which I guess gives me the right to physically attack peaceful protesters who somehow offend my feelings and ideals! Great bit of journalistic credo you chalked up there, Dave!

Both cartoons reprinted courtesy Ben Garrison...a big hefty thanks to he!
Of course even ABC and presumably the rest of the bigtime news outfits don't match the neo-Marxist shills at the Huffington Post who in their defense of the Berkeley brouhaha just hadda bring up the ol' Twitter controversy where Yiannapolous ripped into last year's GHOSTBUSTERS remake, the one with that black woman who is about as unfunny as that SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE show she's on has been for over thirty-five years. Whoever this woman is actually managed, despite her lack of white privilege, limited Yiannopolous' right to express his views which is one action that I would surmise is (at this very moment) making Nat Hentoff's fresh corpse wanna rot at an even further pace! Sheesh, if I were taken to task for all of the bad reviews of deservedly so music that I wrote these past XXX years I woulda been chopped up and sold for roast pork at Cash Market ages ago and hey, since when was it considered "racist" (even in today's stretched out definition of the term) to knock a bad performance by a black woman who really was nothing but a SNL diversity hire anyway! Knock a duff movie and get called every name under the sun...one of the new tactics of those who don't even try hard because hey, what is the humor industry these days other'n a pack of pampered scions of the upper class railing away at "the system" (that they are part of, don't kid yourself) in a way that woulda made the daddy of it all Lenny Bruce wanna do a bitta wincing himself!

What really puts the frosting on the cuck is that the Berkeley police made no arrests and that (at least as of this post) none of the perps are ever gonna see justice for their behavior which only lends a sick credence to their pithy cause. Of course that's been the rule at least since the days of ACT UP where all of the scum of the earth who have been perpetrating these acts of violence against pure decency are in the good ol' right and that Mr. Foot-The-Bill Joe Blow has been born wrong and deserves to continue supporting the leeches who want him dead! Gee, if only people like myself had our cavalry to save us, or at least a pack of angry hardhats who sure did these goons good a good forty-five years back!

But amid the chaos and property-is-theft-so-what-if-I-smash-in-windows violence of it all, all I wonder is sheesh, whatever happened to the good ol' SHOOT TO KILL order of the past which really woulda told these perpetraitors (no sic) what they could do with their circle "A"'s? I am, for one, all in favor of such a deterrent against CRIME as that and truthfully, if I were asked to join in on the street cleaning in this sort of fashion I would be more than glad to participate in such a necessary task! As I get the feeling many of you would. Don't say that I don't believe in doing my civic duty!!!
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Hope ya dig this week's batch...as usual thanks be to Bill Shute, Paul McGarry and P. D. Fadensonnen for their wondrous wares which certainly have kept this blog afloat for a longer time than anyone could imagine. Blame them, not me!


John Cage/Christian Wolff LP (Jeanne Dielman Records, available via Forced Exposure)

I'm sure some of you remember that ROLLING STONE ad where some hippie in headphones looks like he's having some cozmik orgazm listening to the Mainstream Records reissue of the old Time label's avant garde music line. Of course the ad just hadda bring up a whole load of snappy come-on somehow connecting the works of these various moderne-day classical composers to the various doodlings that were all the rage, and I'm sure even a casual reader of STONE woulda known that the entire concept of the ad was pure phonus-balonus even if everyone knew that Grace Slick dropped 5000 mg of Orange Sunshine while spinning "Fontana Mix" backwards as Paul Kantner impregnated her with none other'n "god" herself while Rex Reed took personal snaps for the latest edition of HOLIDAY magazine.

Good stuff here...a-side has John Cage and David Tudor sticking pipe cleaners into phonograph cartridges and rubbing the cleaners up against various musical instruments and/or piano strings. If you did this in your dad's den boy would you get the bejabbers beat outta ya, but since these guys know what they're doing it's A-OK. Flip has Christian Wolff doing some more standard chamber-like stuff which might not be as all-enveloping as Cage's side, but you might find some joy to behold. A pretty hot sample of what was going on in the serious music world back in the early-sixties, and if hippies copped a whole lotta ideas from this record well...remember they had the good quality drugs to listen to this to and you don't!
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Unfit Structures-VAMPIRE BELT (or is is Vampire Belt-UNFIT STRUCTURES???) CD-r burn

Bill Nace and Chris Corsano make up this electric guitar/drums duo and you know what? These guys can do the electronic overload free play game almost if not just as good as those other guitar/drums acts, Bob Thompson and Doug Snyder included! Maybe it ain't as "rock 'n roll-y" as DAILY DANCE, but it can sure startle your subconscious the way the guitar roars forth while Corsano does a rather neat Sunny Murray impression if I do say so myself. More proof that it ain't all over like I tend to kid myself into thinking once in awhile. By the way, is "Unfit Structures" a play on Cecil Taylor's UNIT STRUCTURES?
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Surplus Stock-HOLLAND IS NOT CD-r burn

Oh boy, yet anudder europeon cassette culture platter just jam-packtus full of casiotone sounds and electronic whirls, with a few little bits of melody and song tossed in to make you feel like...I dunno...normil??? I guess that given the wide availability of cassettes and the plethora of bored kids who somehow thought that their mechanical cantatas were the exact equal of alla that musique concrete their stoned pals turned 'em onto there would have been many tapes of music like this floating about as any regular reader of OP coulda told ya. HOLLAND IS NOT has its share of interesting musical moments that make my ears wanna perk up like a Boxer's, but for the most part I find this the kinda music that drove me to KICKS magazine back when the early-eighties were not shaping up the way I sure hoped they woulda.
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Sonny Bono-NON-LP 45s CD-r burn (originally on Atco)


I don't think this package was officially released as such, but anyhow someone or other (prob'ly Bill) gathered all of Sonny without Cher's rare single sides and slapped 'em on a disque for the sake of, well, having all of Sonny's rare single sides collected in one neat li'l package. It's all what you'd expect, so slip on your caveman vest and groove to the protest self-pity (the best sort!) of "Laugh At Me" and "The Revolution Kind" before being wiped out by Tim Hardin's "Misty Roses" without any audible farts like there were on Hardin's album. Those instrumental b-sides are about as cornballus as the entire Ranwood label's output but still ear-tingling enough that you won't wanna press the skip button. Sometimes I wonder what he saw in that greasy tramp of a wife because he coulda done just as well (if not better) if the two had never met!
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Suicide-CAMDEN PALACE, LONDON 10-30-1986 CD-r burn

As far as I can tell this is the exact same recording that was used on the obscure bootleg WE NEVER SAID WE WERE MUSIC, WE ARE SUICIDE so if you weren't lucky enough to latch onto that one you can probably find this on line with a little dial-digging. And if you missed out on those not up to snuff late-eighties Suicide albums feel warm and toasty in the fact that this recording has very little of the schmooze of those albums and consists of ('cept for that one song that sounds like Barry Manilow's "Can't Smile Without You") pure Suicide repeato riff rock that sounds just as terrifying now as it must have to audiences back in the early-seventies. As far as I'm concerned this is probably one of the last real examples of late-seventies New York energy trying to stay alive in the dismal eighties.
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Hank Ray-MAINSTREAM DEATH COUNTRY CD-r burn (originally on OMD)

I don't go for these new country rock albums that much. However, this Hank Ray guy does a fairly good job of presenting a commercial yet rough enough country rock that doesn't bug me one bit, even in the process creating a downright rock 'n roll classic entitled "Everybody's Into Rock 'N' Roll" which I sure wish I had heard back when I was fourteen 'r so. With Ray's baritone voice and some rather swell melodies to go along with it the guy fails to offend...however sitting through forty-seven minutes of highs and less appealing tracks really became a struggle as it usually is for many of these newer platters which have a number of less-powerful tracks to go along with the good stuff.
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THE JACK BENNY PROGRAM CD-r burn

I can't see what people find funny in those newfangled sitcoms that I occasionally have the misfortune of being exposed to, usually under circumstances I can't escape no matter how hard I try. I mean, I can actually LAUGH at the downright funny gags on BENNY and follow the plot which, come to think of it, had more going for it than these shows which have nothing but yapping heads goin' at each other spewing out things that really don't tickle the funnybone the way a good Jack Benny/Dennis Day rapport sure does. My Sunday evenings are certainly brightened by disques like this which only goes to show you that even in one of the least guffaw-inducing periods in modern history there can be reason to settle back and enjoy a half hour of not having your sense being attacked by today's post-POST-postmodern spew!
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Iggy and the Stooges-WHISKY A GO GO 9/16/73 CD-r burn


I dunno where this one differs with any of the "other" Whisky show tapes but hey, I'll listen to this auto-destruct high energy total eruption rock 'n roll any way I can! Yet another great document of the beyond belief 1973 Stooges tour (which I had no idea was even going on back in suburban slob Ameriga back then---it was like Iggy Pop was totally BANNED from even entering our consciousnesses lest he turn all of Ameriga's kiddies into Burroughsian mind-diseased zombies wreaking havoc on all that was peace and love!) that continues to reverberate even a good fortysome years later. This may have been Iggy's last true stand as an artist we could have all gotten behind, either that or his last attempt at being the new Sky Saxon which would have been totally fine by me!
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The Five Americans-PROGRESSIONS CD-r burn (originally on Abnak Records)

Yep it's them "Western Union" guys a li'l bit after the mid-sixties garage band movement turned into the late-sixties whateveritwas trying to keep up with the times or something like that. No more crazed organ breaks and screams like we got on "I See The Light"...now it's more or less the same more adult contemporary post-bubblegum kinda neo-rock pop that wasn't as good as the Archies or as commercial as Tommy Roe but tells the same tale that other former mid-sixties garage band greats told once the years started rollin' on. The final cut is definitely an interesting take on "Hey Jude" done up just enough to avoid a lawsuit and hey, next to that hippydippy crap that was overtaking youth consciousness at the time this one does sound pretty swell, y'know?
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Various Artists-MAD DIXIELAND HENCHMEN CD-r burn (Bill Shute)

A good one, not only because of five count 'em Animals toonz but for the strange radio ads that are interspersed in between the actual music trackage. I thought these ads might have been created by Nichols and May but given their seventies vintage I guess I am wrong...I think those two were outta the question by that time what with Nichols directing those dirty moom pitchers with Art Garfunkel 'n all. Besides I remember those two not being so funny, kinda cute chirp chirp in a Dave Berg sorta way.

Whoever it was who dood 'em they sure dood some pretty interesting and sexy ads that sorta made me get the idea of what adulthood was gonna be for me when I finally got big enough to enter into one of those funny book stores. Gettin' an earfulla these ads was kinda like a trip back to the deca-seventies which unfortunately evolved into the squeaky eighties by the time I was big enough to enjoy life at its fullest.

The tracks by Chavez & Chaney (kinda like a halfway-decent if weaker Don & Dewey) and the Mohawks were also reet, and frankly I can use some Hamlin's Wizard Oil in my life,! If you can't then may I call you...now what would I call a Wizard Oil hater anyway...it ain't like something you come across everyday now, hunh?

Friday, February 03, 2017

Frankly I'm rooting for the Indians but wha' th' hey...
Chris wrote about the comic strip OUT OUR WAY some time back, and I wanted to chime in with my memory of it.

There was a freebie paper called THE NEWS (creative title) that was around when I was a kid. It was comprised of ads with a sprinkling of columns and syndicated features like "Criswell Predicts!" (I shall remember the time he predicted two British bands would take the US by storm. One band would be called "The Fat Skinnies" and the other "The Skinny Fats"!) Before the paper folded in the mid-80's I called their office and got to speak to the man who put it out. I asked if he had any back issues tucked away, feeding him a story about doing a book on Criswell--and of course offering to give him a credit in print for his help! He seemed suspicious of me (rightfully so--I just wanted to see those old columns!) and brushed me off but not before commentating the Criswell's column was very popular! Darn tootin'!

But back to OUT OUR WAY. I was quite intrigued by the one panel strip that was obviously a throwback to an earlier time. I might not have gotten some joke about "Silent Cal" Coolidge, but I was completely hooked on the feel of the thing and its obvious respect for hard work and values that my grandparents had. As a budding artist the great line work was a pleasure to see as well.

OUT OUR WAY fit in perfectly with the tone of THE NEWS, which r an an ad for a wringer washer machine! Ot featured a column by Russel Peck called "Pecking Around" that talked up the squarest entertainment imaginable, with lines like "If you've given up on rock 'n roll as being anything but subversive noise, I'm pleased to tell you about the Starland Vocal Band..."

Every autumn the paper would run the same KING FOOTBALL RETURNS! headline, and every week someone gave a prediction for the score of each college and pro football game. No college was too obscure to be included. Prairie A&M 35 North Dakota State 21 would be a sample prediction. In the pre-internet days one could never even know how the predictions turned out because its not like the newspaper would carry such obscure results!

THE NEWS was distributed by day laborers who would throw a copy on any porch just to get done quicker and most likely drink up their wages. You'd see obviously abandoned houses with a few years work of THE NEWS sitting outside the front door. (EDITOR'S NOTE---sheesh Brad, you coulda gotten alla 'em free back issues by just raidin' a porch or two!)

I worked one day with a friend putting ad supplements into copies and wrapping copies in a plastic bag. It was piece work, and for each copy you finished, you placed a metal washer in a plastic cup. If you exceeded completing a certain amount of papers you got a bonus. We worked with mostly retirees who all knew each other and talked about their families. They made no attempt to include us in their genial conversations after we said we were using our day wages on a case of beer.

I remember showing my grandfather OUT OUR WAY once, but he didn't seem interested in it, and he was a man who read the comics. I think now perhaps those hardscrabble times may have been reflected in a way that brought back tough memories, no matter the humor of the strip. Sort of like returning servicemen not wanting to talk of their experiences.

Oh yeah, every Christmas THE NEWS would print letters to Santa from kids, and I'd always send in prank letters saying I wanted electric eels albums and sign Manson family names. Chris was so hard up for space fillers he published some of them in the old print mag.

-BRAD KOHLER

Thursday, February 02, 2017

BOOK REVIEW! THE COMPLETE DICK TRACY, VOLUME 21 by Chester Gould (IDW, 2017)

Well it's here folks, the volume of the ongoing DICK TRACY reprint saga that features the strips that all of those upper crust comic aficionado types hate with a loathing but a doof such as I adore, the ones which furthered the science fiction element of the strip what with the introduction of not only Diet Smith's "Space Coupe" but the extraterrestrial wowzer of an alien, none other'n Moon Maid! Well, not exactly the Coupe itself which was more or less an outgrowth of the two-way wrist radio and atomic camera aspectsof the strip dating back to the forties and still within the frame of "classic" TRACY realm believable-ness, but mention Moon Maid to some of these old time TRACY fans and watch 'em act even more aggreviated'n some of those people who voted for Hillary ever could!

Yeah I can see how some of them TRACY old-timers who were with the strip since the beginning woulda considered the outer space aspects of a li'l TOO outta place especially for a strip that featured such illustrious and oh-so-real life villains as Prune Face, Fly Face and of course Oodles. After all, my own dad has often told me that he was a big growin' up fan of ALLEY OOP until the time travel aspects were tossed in making the strip all but readable for him. Well, that and the way OOP was always trying to cash in on some sorta current cultural happening such as love children and disco in a vain attempt to be hip if still rooted in the thirties cartoon tradition.

But for me, this period of TRACY was the one I remember growing up with, with not-so-tubboid me trying to have my dad read 'em to me despite the fact that it was all over my head (I sure loved the animated cartoons with Joe Jitsu and Go Go Gomez that were running on THE BARNEY BEAN SHOW at the time), and memories of Moon Maid, space travel and two-way wrist tee-vees were just as much as part of my late-turdler/kiddiegarden years as the Beatles, Cap'n Crunch and  OZZIE AND HARRIET!

But before Moon Maid ushers in the mid-sixties wildness before the late-sixties law 'n order miasma (or so I'm told...future volumes will tell the tale and I get the feeling that the experts are gonna be wrong again!) there's some pretty hot TRACY action to behold. First off Diet Smith's brand-spanking-new Space Coupe gets hijacked by the leader of a secret society of bad boys called the 52 Gang who use it to send enemies into the vastness of space! After the entire gang is wiped out by a napalm attack (!) in a particularly gruesome sequence (with the Queen of Spades putting up a valiant counterattack machine-gunning those who want to surrender) Junior is kidnapped by the brother and daughter of some guy who was sent to the chair based on the frizzed one's very own police sketch! I particularly liked the part where Junior, wrapped up tighter 'n a snug bug inna rug, tries to make "Thistle Dew" set him free after getting some of her long tresses into his jaws and tugging away!

Afterwards comes the saga of the Pallete Brothers, identical mustachioed twins who operate a heroin smuggling racket outta a hollowed out mountain where they not only keep a chimpanzee (if that's what it is...the thing looks nothing like the more realistic chimps who appeared in last volume's "Brush" story) but work under the guise of restoring old paintings. They get burned to a crispy crunch (corpses visibly contorted in agony) after their helicopter crashes before we head on to the "Dr. Orta" storyline (dealing with heart transplants a year or so before Dr. Barnard) which them aforementioned TRACY fans consider the last "good" 'un before that big swan dive into the mung. Or so they say...and like """""I""""" said we'll find out for ourselves more sooner than later.

But really, how could any good suburban slob Saturday afternoon chores 'n cut the grass kinda guy not have been into this new direction in TRACY??? The Moon Maid character herself is just about as outrageous as the entire strip was for the past twenty years and if you could handle the likes of Flattop Junior being pursued by the ghost of the gal he murdered then why not this??? With all of the talk of space travel and the Sci-Fi that was being pumped at us daily via tee-vee and comics throughout the sixties I'd kinda think that the introduction of an alien like her would have been the next logical step in a strip that spent most of its early run taking some pretty wild chances. And frankly, if you can't find some sorta warm 'n fuzzy satisfaction such as the part when Moon Maid delivers a stranded woman's baby and tries to keep them alive in a snowstorm then maybe you don't have that soul you said you never had anyway!

Hope #22's just around the corner since by this time there are strips and characters that really stick out in my by-then stool-age mind, especially that skinny guy with the cane who really gave me the nighttime creeps! Until then I better struggle with alla those four-year-old nightmares that I'm sure some of these comics are gonna inflict on memeME!!!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

COMIC BOOK REVIEW BY BILL SHUTE! FIGHTIN' MARINES #117 (Charlton Comics, June 1974)


Live cheaply--live well. That was my motto during my six years in Oklahoma, where I moved after leaving Colorado in 1979. I managed to find cheap places to live, basic food was cheap, and I did not have a car for the first year or two. I had a work-study job at the college where I was attending part-time, and I worked four nights a week at a local restaurant/bar/club, so I could easily pay my cheap rent and utilities--also, as an “employee” at the college, my tuition was very cheap and some semesters I paid next to nothing. That left a good amount for record purchases!

Moving from Denver, a town with an active and hip music scene--and also the amazing Wax Trax Records (Jim Nash, wherever you are in the afterlife, thank you for being such a friend to underground music and to those of us devoted to it in Denver--I can remember him fronting me the latest Industrial Records release or some Kim Fowley rarity or a Sun Ra album on Italian “Horo”, knowing how much I needed it, and telling me “just pay me when you get your next paycheck” and not even writing it down. And we all did pay him.) and multiple used record stores--to Northern Oklahoma was a bit of a change, but I’d kind of reached a dead end in Colorado and needed to re-invent myself, like a snake shedding his skin, and re-build the new me from the ground up, piece by piece, gesture by gesture.

Being a college town, Stillwater was a place that wanted to be connected to what was happening, and there was an excellent used record store run by an ex-hippie (in the GOOD sense of that term--sharing, laid-back, stress-free, open-minded, etc.) named Ken (he and I later co-hosted a radio show one Sunday night a month on the 50,000-watt FM station in town, which could be picked up after sundown in Kansas, Arkansas, North Texas, etc.), and that place was also a hangout for the punk-and-underground-inclined people in town. There I met a number of people who became music-friends. We’d hang out at each other’s places, listening to obscure records we’d each bring over, and also listening repeatedly to new releases from, say, PIL, Wire, Throbbing Gristle, etc.

Beer was cheap....you could get a six-pack of Pearl Cream Ale for $1.09 (which I often paid for in change), Little Kings (which sometimes tasted vaguely of soap) was also cheap (if I crossed over through the college dorm parking lots to get to the other side of town on a Sunday morning, I’d see pools of vomit and empty bottles of Little Kings here and there, mementos of someone’s Saturday night binge-drinking), and of course, all the lousy beers with Milwaukee in the title were super-cheap, so we’d always have plentiful beer and non-filtered cigarettes such as Camel, Pall Mall, and Chesterfield, as we spent long afternoons and evenings and overnight sessions playing the second and third LP’s of the Clash’s SANDINISTA over and over and over. I still had all the BYG-Actuel and ESP-Disk free-jazz albums I’d bought as a teenager, and also the Terry Riley and La Monte Young albums on Shandar, the Derek Bailey and Steve Lacy and John Cage albums on Italian “Cramps” etc., and the Emanem LP releases, so those were opening the minds of my local friends who were maybe 2-3 years younger than I. Although I never sought out such a role, I think I was something of a mentor to them. They would borrow my books by William Burroughs or Gertrude Stein or Jean-Paul Sartre or Henry Miller or the then-lesser-known works of Kerouac such as TRISTESSA or DESOLATION ANGELS or VISIONS OF CODY, and I would tell them about this history of the avant-garde, my dealings with people such as Cecil Taylor and Allen Ginsberg and the like. I’ve never understood the selfish, elitist attitudes that you find on the internet about specialized fields in the arts. I’ve always had the attitude that if you love something, you should want to share it, to turn people on to it----that’s certainly always been the BTC philosophy! It’s an almost missionary zeal. In the early days of the internet, when I joined discussion groups related to areas I am fanatical about--Duke Ellington, blues music, Elvis bootlegs, etc.--I found that there was an incredible insecurity and territorialism, with people wanting to create little fiefdoms and to become the big cheese with others sucking up to them. Fuck that!

There was also a kind of rite-of-passage aspect to sharing something with someone, almost like some kind of initiation into another plane of existence. If you really GOT what Albert Ayler or Gertrude Stein or Derek Bailey or Warhol or Andy Milligan or Frank Wright or Captain Beefheart or La Monte Young or Ted Berrigan or Henry Miller were doing, you had doors open up, and once you went down those halls into new and unknown areas, you could never go back again. You were transformed. You saw everything from a new angle. It was exciting but at the same time it was calming because whatever shit was coming down in everyday life, you understood the bigger and deeper picture, and you knew, this too shall pass away.

That spirit is still alive today among young people, and even though I am a grandfather now, I still see a modern version of the same thing--though of course, nowadays EVERYTHING is available at the click of a mouse or on your smart phone. The experience of waiting FOR YEARS to find a particular record or book, and then still not finding it--maybe getting a muddy, fifth-generation cassette dub of the album or a Xerox of part of the book--is something alien to those coming up now. I’d be a fool to say that we had it better in those days--that would be like the old “going hungry makes you stronger” argument. However, on some level, I think we APPRECIATED something more back in those days because we did not have an infinite number of cultural phenomena at our fingertips. I remember scoring a copy of Sunny Murray’s BYG album SUNSHINE for six or seven dollars circa 1980 at Starship Records in Tulsa, bringing it back to Stillwater, and for weeks afterwards, the crew and I would get together after our various work-shifts were over, and we’d partake of those long free-jazz blowout jams, elevated by the pulsating foundation of Sunny’s crashing and blurred polyrhythmic drum-and-cymbal flow, as if they were some kind of sacrament. We TREASURED every note on that album, and we played it enough times that we knew every note, every pause, every scrape of the bass, every screech and guttural blast from tenor saxophonist Kenneth Terroade, someone we knew next to nothing about, constructing worlds of associations from his playing and a blurry b&w photograph of him hidden behind dark sunglasses. There was a celebratory communal-festival vibe about those spiritual free-jazz fire-music blowing sessions done quickly and cheaply in Paris 1969 by musicians finally freed from their moorings--starving and unpaid-by-the-label, but free...and we were able to tap into that vibe and somehow reside in the sacred space created by those musicians. We did it in Stillwater, Oklahoma....and our brothers and sisters, separated yet unknowingly-united around the globe, also did it. It was a great time, and we all came together for a handful of years, shared and grew and communed, and then went on our own ways to different towns, different states, different situations, different realities. But we all grew from that same soil, and wherever we were eventually transplanted, it influenced what we later became.


One of the members of this varying group of 15-17 people was named Travis. He was from one of the small towns north of Stillwater up near the Kansas border....although even at the time I was not sure which one. He had some kind of run-in with the law as a high-school kid, and he wound up dropping out. He was thin and had the build of someone who had been an athlete and had gone to seed, but still had a look that would be considered intimidating to the average person. He dressed in white t-shirts and pegged jeans with either steel-toed work boots or cowboy boots. He had an angular face and close-cropped hair in the military recruit style. He was a quiet person until you knew him, and he had a hunger for the arts....he would stay up all night reading, for example, a copy of Kerouac’s THE SUBTERRANEANS or John Dos Passos’s MANHATTAN TRANSFER which I loaned him, and then come back a few days later with many fascinating thoughts and observations about the CONSTRUCTION of those works, as though he were an architect looking at someone else’s sketches and then analyzing the functionality of the design and why the architect made the choice that he did. He was also a talented artist. My job at the college gave me access to a lot of used paper--used on one side, that is--which was going to be thrown out, but which they’d allow me to take (this was before recycling came in). I would give him stacks of this paper for him to do his artworks on. However, as a poor, working-class kid from a small town who’d dropped out of high school (he was NOT a college student--about half of our group had at least one foot in the college, even if they were not going there now, but the other half had no interest in it or were dropouts and thus could not attend even if they’d wanted to), no one in the general community would ever view him as having any arts potential, so he worked in private, showed his drawings and paintings (all done on that used paper from the college) to friends, and that was it. I would check out art books from the library for my own pleasure and enlightenment, and he would always devour them----works of Braque, Twombly, Renoir----and he would also deconstruct those, tell me about the logic behind their CONSTRUCTION, and I’d see those ideas then become integrated into his own work. Once when I got access to a 14” x 17” piece of construction paper, he did a beautiful pen-and-ink portrait of Johnny Burnette (of the Rock And Roll Trio, and later solo artist for Liberty Records) for me, which I displayed on my wall. I later sold it for $50 when I got married, and my wife and I needed money to move to Virginia where we’d been promised work. I hope whoever presently owns that has it displayed on his or her wall. It somehow captured the depth and complexity and richness found in Johnny Burnette’s music, but at the same time shined with the glow of a man who truly wanted to make people happy with popular and accessible songs that could be heard and enjoyed by anyone from 5 to 75. A man who died in a boating accident when he was just hitting his stride as an adult and had become a master of the recording studio. A man who’d written hundreds of songs, the one who with his fellow-songwriting-brother Dorsey, waited in Rick Nelson’s driveway to catch him when Rick came home and to surround him with their excellent songs which they knew were just right for Rick and his persona, which Rick recognized too....and then a great partnership was born--Johnny and Dorsey writing them, Rick interpreting and recording them....Waitin’ In School, Believe What You Say, It’s Late, Just A Little Too Much, etc. Each one the perfect two-minute rock-and-roll record. Having Johnny Burnette on my wall kept me honest...and kept me inspired.

Travis had a job at a plumbing supply depot, the kind of place where plumbers and plumbing companies would pick up whatever they needed for a particular job, so they would not have to keep an infinite number of parts in stock at their own places of business, parts they would rarely need. He worked 20-30 hours a week there, few enough so they did not have to pay him any benefits, but enough for him to have a furnished room somewhere (while our floating listening parties went from house to house, from apartment to apartment, we NEVER went to his place, and I don’t remember him ever inviting anyone over) and keep him in cigarettes and give him some pocket money. He rarely pitched in for beer or brought any over, unless you called him on it, but he was a great person to have around, and if our collective of like-minded souls was a salad, he would be the radishes--yes, you could get by without him, but you did not WANT to get by without him.

A year or two after I met him, he lost that plumbing job somehow. He had a few stories he’d told different people about why he’d lost it, so I figured none of them were true. My guess is that he’d stayed up all night painting or reading or whatever one too many times and missed his 8 a.m. work-shift more than once and was given the boot. Laid-back guy that he was, he did not seem to fret about not having a job. I knew him well enough to know that he did not have any other source of income....and also that he was estranged from his family. Evidently, he had a religious-fundamentalist mother who disowned him when he moved in with his girlfriend a few years before we met, when he was 16 or so. So we friends of his wondered what he was up to, as he had rent to pay, etc.

Evidently, he did nothing about the situation....because one night, when friends were leaving my place at about 4 a.m. after a long night of listening to a few albums of John Cage prepared piano music over and over and over, and getting off to the chiming, percussive glow of the pieces, which radiated like a miniature gamelan orchestra, he stayed around after the last person left, and explained that he’d been evicted from his room and had no place whatsoever to go and could he crash on my living room couch for a few days until he could get work. Since I was in no mood to analyze the situation or negotiate as I was crashing right before sun-up, I of course told him yes. He had two small boxes of clothing and possessions which he’d been able to put temporarily in the store-room at a Mexican restaurant where a friend of his worked, and he said he’d get some changes of clothes there.

My couch was not very comfortable or very large. The place was half a one-floor duplex, kind of like the proverbial shotgun-shack. A sitting room out front (where the couch was), straight back to the kitchen and dining table, straight back to the bedroom and bathroom, straight back to the rear door and steps to the small backyard where there was a clothesline. I would wash my clothes in the kitchen sink and hang them out to dry in the backyard. I still have not forgotten that I had a beautiful bullseye-logo THE WHO--MAXIMUM R&B t-shirt, as well as a t-shirt with Andy Warhol’s portrait of Dennis Hopper, stolen off the clothesline. For years I looked for someone wearing them, but alas, whoever stole them must have then taken them out of town.

The couch had a wooden-frame (I guess it would be called a “love-seat” and not a couch, as it had only two sections, not three) and black plastic cushions that would not absorb sweat. With my two jobs and school (I tended to study at the library as there were fewer distractions there than at home), I was not home a lot, so having Travis living there was not a problem in the early weeks. However, he would put no effort into finding a job.

He would stay up all night (when I’d gone to bed after I came in late from my shift at the club) drawing or painting or reading and would go to bed at sunrise. He produced a lot of interesting work, but in a way, I was becoming his patron, which was something I did not want to be doing.

The weeks became months, and I did not enjoy having to become a father-like figure to him, pushing him to go out and get a job, and lecturing him on responsibility. I kept as little food as possible in the kitchen, to try to push him out that way, but whatever was there--onions, out-dated bologna, mayonnaise, diluted Kool Aid--he’d manage to live on, and when I let even that run out, he would just not eat, or mix ketchup with hot water to make a drink the way you would read about depression-era people who could not afford a meal doing. Also, earlier, he’d asked if I minded him re-rolling the tobacco in my cigarette butts (and there is ALWAYS good and usable tobacco in the end of a non-filter cigarette--I’d used the leftovers to re-roll new cigarettes myself during some of my lean periods) I’d leave in the ashtrays, and I said that was fine, so he kept some rolling papers handy, and he’d smoke as many as he could roll from what I’d left behind. I tried to not leave matches or a lighter around to perhaps discourage him from staying, but as he could light them on the kitchen stove, that was not much of a motivation.

Finally, after about six months of his not working and his crashing on my couch and my having to stay away from my own place if I wanted any privacy, I told him he needed to be out by a certain date if he did not have a job, and if he did not, then I would put his box of clothes on the front porch and keep the door locked (he did not have a key--this was a small-town and we did not worry about locking doors that much). He stayed until the last hour on the last day....I got up to go for work at 7 a.m. on a Friday, he was still sleeping, and when I got back he and his box of possessions had gone. But he did leave me a new six-pack of Rolling Rock beer (my then-favorite) and a pack of Camel straights and a new lighter, with a note that had a sketch of something that looked like the monster in a Mexican horror film imported by K. Gordon Murray and said THANKS, MY FRIEND.

None of us ever heard from him again. He could not join the military because of his problems with the law--he would have taken that route out of small-town life if he could--but we did hear vague rumors of his hooking up with some girl who’d support him, somewhere in Southern Kansas, south of Wichita. Evidently he’d gotten her pregnant, and he wound up staying there and working at McDonald’s to support them. Like a drop of water that falls back into the stream and then can never again be isolated and found and examined, he’d fallen back into the great anonymous crazy-quilt of Midwestern smalltown life. Or did he? With a child to support (and evidently he’d bonded with the girl’s dad, who would take him hunting and work on cars with him), he probably did not flee to Oklahoma City or Austin or Lawrence, Kansas, or some place where he could follow his art muse. He’d cast down his bucket, he’d taken root there, wherever there was, and he’d re-invented himself. As we in Stillwater moved on and scattered, no one heard anything of his whereabouts, but whatever he wound up doing, those nights of reading Kerouac and listening to Sunny Murray and John Cage no doubt provided him with some kind of internal gyroscope, and wherever he may be today, even if it is the great beyond, I wish him well.

One thing Travis always enjoyed reading--and with my small place, what was mine was his--was my military comic books--FIGHTIN' ARMY, FIGHTIN' MARINES, ATTACK, BATTLEFIELD ACTION, etc. He probably would have joined the military if he did not have that mysterious criminal blot on his record. I know that for periods of time when recruitment is down, the military’s requirement for a high school diploma or a clean record gets waived, but evidently in that time period, recruitment must have been above the quota because they would not take him. After reading my war comics, he would sometimes do sketches of mutants and robotic-looking people in military situations. I’d see my copy of BATTLEFIELD ACTION laying on the living room floor next to these sketches, and I’d have to step over them, as if stepping through a minefield, to get out to work and school in the morning, as Travis was spread out asleep on my uncomfortable couch. I’m not a psychologist, but I’d love to hear what one would have to say about the nature of these mutant and robotic soldiers in the artwork...

War comics became popular after World War II, and their golden age was probably the 1950’s, up through the Vietnam War period. I doubt most of these war comics had much to do with actual war....about as much as crime comics had to do with actual police work or romance comics had to do with actual relationships. They seemed rooted in B-movie war stereotypes. On occasion they might reflect the qualities of camaraderie, teamwork, sacrifice, and total devotion to the mission--becoming more than you thought you were ever capable of while in a life-and-death situation--associated with fighting a war, or they might deal with the different perspectives of officers and enlisted troops, but the motive of most of them was entertainment....violent, hero-oriented entertainment that moved fast, like a WWII movie with us Yanks taking down evil Japanese or Germans, played like the most over-the-top serial villain. Everyone needs a good, red-blooded B-war movie from time to time, and war comics filled that void. The war comics genre began to die in the 1970’s, and just as with western comics, the geniuses at DC comics helped destroy the genre with their “Weird War”-style comics in the waning days of war comics.

In the 1980’s and 1990’s, new comics emerged which attempted to provide an accurate and realistic view of the Vietnam War through the eyes of writers who’d fought in that conflict. This began with THE ‘NAM, published by Marvel, and then smaller publishers began to bring out realistic works that veered more toward the graphic novel style. These are admirable, and it’s great that veterans were able to tell their stories through those, but they are not really in the same universe as the pulpy, simplistic, and sensationalized war comics from the golden age.....anymore than a film like THE BOYS IN COMPANY C or PLATOON should be compared with a WWII serial with an evil Ming The Merciless-style Japanese villain, played by some Anglo actor--my favorite film of that type is the 1943 MASKED MARVEL serial, where the Japanese villain is played by former Little Rascals “adult” actor Johnny Arthur, who had his own silent comedy shorts and also a kind of Franklin Pangborn-esque vibe about him. That’s the world a quality old-school war comic book echoes, and boy, does this issue of FIGHTIN’ MARINES serve that up piping hot.

Look at that Nazi on the cover, with the monocle, looking like someone who escaped from the set of a Hammer horror film but first stopped off at the wardrobe department and borrowed the “evil Nazi” costume. Yes, that’s the way I want my war comics....over the top and comic-booky, in the best sense of that word. The first story in this issue, FOLLOW ME....AND DIE, probably resonated especially well with one particular group of readers: the recent recruits, those E1 servicemen right out of boot camp with whom I shared many a long bus ride across the Midwest, as they were going back home to see their girlfriend or wife after Basic Training....or the even newer recruits who were on the way to Basic Training. I can remember those young men on the bus reading war comics to kill time as we were going though places like Guymon, Oklahoma, or La Junta, Colorado. In this story, a corporal runs rings around his commanding officer, doubts the officer’s decisions and is proven right, and then finally gets an instant promotion to become an officer himself (!!!)...winning the respect of the original officer. There’s a fantasy fulfilled! The next story A KILLER IN TOWN has a rag-tag group on under-supplied and under-supported Marines taking on the Chinese communists in the Korean War. Finally, our monocled gothic Nazi is featured in NAZI HIT MAN, and it ends with one of my favorite B-action film clichés: the wacko, loose-cannon cop (in this case, Marine) who has explosives strapped to himself and threatens to blow BOTH of them up, and he’s so crazy (or, actually, he’s gotten others to believe he is), the bad guy buys it....and surrenders. I’m sure that scene is still being trotted out today in straight-to-video action and war and anti-terrorist movies.

You know, when comic books started taking themselves too seriously for their own good, it’s kind of like when rock and roll evolved into “rock”....or when punk was watered down to new wave--the baby was thrown out with the bath water. Thankfully,

FIGHTIN’ MARINES still delivers a Marine-like punch, even 40+ years after its publication. I can only imagine what kind of exciting dreams Travis had, sprawled out on my uncomfortable two-cushion couch, still under the woozy influence of those concentrated tobacco resin-drenched roll-your-own cigarettes made from my Camel and Chesterfield butts, as the sun was rising on Northern Oklahoma.....sleeping soundly, when he should have been out looking for work!