Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Various Artists-FRANK ZAPPA'S CLASSICAL SELECTION 2-CD set (Chrome Dreams, also available via Forced Exposure)

I remember way back when I was eight or so watching the WW II-vintage Warner Brothers cartoons on tee-vee, and my mother just happened to remark how wonderful they were for introducing classical music to us lumpen sons of prole kids who otherwise wouldn't know better! According to her reasoning, if the likes of Elmer Fudd weren't exposing us spoiled UHF brats to this wonderful music (nothing like the slop that was being played on the radio!) it all would eventually be lost to time ne'er to be retrieved again! Of course I watched Bugs Bunny because I loved his smartguy attitude I sure wish I coulda gotten away with, and liked to listen to Porky Pig do his stuttering routine and Daffy Duck act all nutzo, but for me the classical portion of the program was just incidental fluff, nothing to get worked up about and something I definitely would not want to listen to the rest of my life. But still it was "culture" that was being presented into the sanctity of our tee-vee room and for that Warner Brothers got a big pass around here.

I wonder what mom'd think if this collection of Frank Zappa-approved classical numbers had actually been released back in those halcyon days and I trekked a copy home to give it a listen to. Given one look at the goatee'd freak onna cover I'm sure mom woulda chucked the entire idea of introducing the Fine Arts into my life out the window and preferred I remain an uncouth junk food gobbling, boob-tube viewing everyday suburban slob! Come to think of it, she also would have chucked the album into the trash can while she was at it! Pre-conceived notions were so hard to overcome back then.

This two-Cee-Dee collection featuring the classical music that made a man out of Zap reminds me of that early-seventies series of albums which included the MUSSORGSKY'S HEAD collection of PICTURES AT AN EXHIBITION with liner notes by Lester Bangs, not forgetting the ORPHIC EGG series aimed at selling classical records to the budding rock market whom I thought probably didn't know any better to begin with. Of course slapping liner notes by Bangs onto the Mussorgsky one was a good way to punkify the thing so-to-speak, and come to think of it I'm sure it woulda been a brilliant move if Bizarre/Reprise issued this cut down to two-LP-length sometime in 1970 as a loss leader and flung it out to the ever-growing Zappa market. I mean, could you see all of those greasy teenage freaks taking a gander at Zappa on the cover, rushing home to slap this on the turntable only to find it nothing but a selection of orchestral favorites with some modern elements tossed in (which would at least endear it to some of the gnarlier aspects of early-seventies teendom!)???

But hey, I like it...I find that the selection going from krautsters Wagner and Holst up through Cage, Nancarrow and Penderecki is just as free-flowing as listening to a good classical music station without having to endure those downed-out announcers who permeate 'em. You can hear a lot of where Zappa stole his ideas from on these disques, with loads of Stravinsky here and some 12-tone there making for not only a good selection of where 20th-century music was at, but the behind-the-public-face workings of a guy who always did seem a little too above-it-all for being a bonafeed rock star!

Personal favorites (in case you're keeping score) include Holst's "Jupiter" (the flat original recording conducted by the composer sounding perfect in this digitized age), George Antheil's "Ballet Mechinque" (just as screwy as the composer was in real life!) and of course Penderecki's "Threnody To The Victims of Hiroshima" which was the subject of the first ever discussion between Zappa and members of the Hampton Grease Band upon meeting in 1967. And the rest, from Harry Partch to Stockhausen and even the over-exposed "Bolero" by Ravel, ain't anything to hide Zappa's greasy head in shame about. If you want to inject a li'l high falutiness into your household while still looking "hip" well, this might be the best place to start!

Saturday, March 26, 2011


The passing of Elizabeth Taylor three days ago hasn't quite affected me the same way it has the entire motion picture industry as well as a number of people who I thought would have known better (right/libertarian commentator Lew Rockwell being amongst them), as if her eventual croaking ever would have any noticeable effect of a jaded and positively anti-Hollywood sort such as I. Like with Frank Sinatra or Marlon Brando's own decampments from this mortal coil Taylor's death means little if anything at all especially this far down the line from the days when the film industry had any spark of appeal or energy to this definitely outside-the-loop type. At least from my blah suburban viewpoint Taylor had always been, and shall remain, just another hasbeen relic of the forties/fifties H-wood that always seemed like part of the "adult" world, something which was about as relevant to me as Ish Kabibble if only for its stultifying boredom of it all. Old folks stuff, only with a snooty upper-crust jet-set appeal that made up more of my childhood television-watching/magazine-combing memories than I would care to remember!

You can obv. tell that I never fully understood the cult surrounding this actress who by the late-sixties just too big and beyond "acting" and was just well...Elizabeth Taylor, second only to God and working for the number one spot. Like other larger-than-life celebs such as Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. or Michael Jackson the only role she eventually ended up playing was her real life self, living to the point where she was merely famous for resting on a lotta "larger than life" past accomplishment laurels as well as for appearing with on/off hubby Richard Burton on an episode of HERE'S LUCY. (And of course THE LITTLE PRINCE, the total counterpoint to the raw mania of Burroughs' THE WILD BOYS.) And of course I knew about her from whatever antics that TV RADIO MIRROR would dish up, which is probably the only way I even knew she was still alive at the time. Mostly I knew about her through the reams of early movies that were being broadcast at the time, but I can recall my mother once telling my sister to shut off one of the mid-sixties vintage Taylor films that was being aired because those flicks were just too dirty, so maybe that comment is what made up a good part of my latter-day understanding of exactly where Taylor stood in the realms of sixties ranch house suburbanite living!

And hey, being part of the smart/beautiful set does seem totally alien to one such as myself who's (proudly) existing deep in the bowels of nada, but the way Taylor lived it is frankly something that makes me want to ditch my delirious dreams of being a decadent millionaire and glad that I rub shoulders with blue collar hunters and graveyard-shift nurses during my everyday travails. Their lives may not seem as glamourous, but then again they're a lot less creepy enough to associate with!

I know you're thinking that, unlike other stars who are only out for number one (and maybe some number two while they're at it), Taylor gave of herself and sure went out of her way to let us all know about it! Yeah, Liz donated bazillions to the cause of AIDS research (perhaps to keep her fan base from dying out---pardon the cheap joke!) and I'm sure that in her own special way she helped perpetrate the myth of the big heterosexual AIDS epidemic that was supposed to have wiped us all out by 1995 at the very latest. Nice gesture true, but does that mean she was worthy of the Nobel Prize like many people tend to think? Dunno about you, but I do hold a higher opinion of those retirees around here who work at Meals on Wheels and get hot grub to shut-ins on a daily basis without thought of any notoriety 'cept maybe a story in the local paper once every five years. Of course that ain't the reason these people do it, but they "give more of themselves" than bigshot actresses who seem to think more about people who (again, prepare to be offended) live from orgasm to orgasm than some widowed nonagenarian who's living on the barest of pensions imaginable.

I mean Elizabeth f**kin' Taylor...feh and double feh to thee! If anything yer passing's just another nail in the coffin to a Hollywood that lost its glimmer long before you appeared on the Silver Screen, just another reminder of the reek that your profession has permeated across this globe which I should at least thank you for in a typically snide back-handed way of course. Now all we have to wait for is Mickey Rooney's own passing (well, he did have a number of worthy acting roles including that brainy TWILIGHT ZONE one and of course the noir-ish thriller QUICKSAND, and who could forget SKIDOO?), at least after he quits blubbering about being abused by his stepson at some congressional hearing.
Maybe I should keep this post informal-like 'stead of just run down the items that have been tickling my eardrums and eyeballs these past few days. Maybe not. You can already tell from the tone of the above that I'm not exactly in the tippy-toppest of moods (it's been a week right out of some old Don Martin cartoon, complete with steamroller). Even the orders from Ken Pierce Books and Forced Exposure haven't been able to lift my mood into something a tad more jovial, though they have been filling my evening hours with fresh entertainment that's keeping me from going completely insane. Sheesh, sometimes I think I've caught a dose of the same MALAISE that seems to have been affecting Lindsay Hutton these past few years, and we know we can't let that happen!
One thing that's been perking up my settle-down time in the evening has been the acquisition of two volumes of DENNIS THE MENACE dailies that Fantagraphics issued in book form for long-lasting use. You may remember that Bill Shute sent me the first volume of Dennis panels for Christmas a few years ago, and frankly that was one gift that sent me back to the age of elevem (no sic) when both the comic and the tee-vee show (then airing in heavy-duty morning/afternoon syndication) was making a heavy doody impact on my sure wish it was still 1958 sense of well-being! The following volumes containing panels dating '53/'56 have a few surprises, including the debut of Margaret who had yet to become the tightass snoot foil she's best known for as well as a still-developing Mr. Wilson who comes off a lot meaner in these early appearances than his eventual Gale Gordon-ish looking self would lead you to believe. (Speaking of which, me 'n my compats always used to have these discussions as to who was better on the tee-vee screens of yore, like Dick York or Dick Sargent, and of course Joseph Kearns and Gale Gordon as Mr. Wilson. The general consensus was that Kearns was the better Wilson, though Gordon looked more like the one in the comics!) There are also a few rather surprisingly risque 'uns that creator Hank Ketcham snuck into the mix here (perhaps inspired by his own personal travails?) like this one snat gag having to do with a 3-D hula girl spectacular. Brought back great pre-pube memories of a time which was not only different, it was BETTER!
Got a strangie in the mailbox a few days back. It turns out that the infamous Gulcher record label has gone into the DVD business and is now pushing this new undoubtedly direct-to-disque feature entitled YOUNG ISLANDS on us. And to be honest about it I didn't know what to expect about this film which seems to be the post-film to all of those '90s slacker moom pitchers I used to hear about. And although the mere thought of modern films frankly does tend to frighten me off considering how I have a hard time gettin' into any feature that has been made since TILLIE'S PUNCTURED ROMANCE, but in order to do a friend a favor (after all, I was sent this thing gratis!) and to take on a new challenge, I masterfully and swiftly popped this 'un into the player and braced myself for which I was about to receive...

And what I got was a pretty strange tale indeed...not actually a film with a comin' at'cha discernible plot'r anything but a series of loosely-connected vignettes about this teenaged bedwetting glue-sniffing muddled kid living in what seems like a standard midwestern small city not that much unlike the area in which I inhabit. Shot in black and white and rather dreary in itself, the film follows this typically 201X washout (played? by a Steven Hamilton, a name you probably won't remember but then again you never remembered Josef Vondruska's) as he wanders around his town observing the weirdos and pestering his classmate who works at the deli at the supermarket. All this in between getting punched out by some guy trying to tell a story about getting fired from Pizza Hut and visiting his dad at the hospital (pop had a heart attack while engaging in an adulterous affair) which might seem a little far-fetched, but then again real life is so strange nowadays I find it hard telling fiction from reality on a daily basis. YOUNG ISLANDS just drifts from situation to situation looking like some 1961 avant garde feature guaranteed to get Jonas Mekas all hotcha, only shot a good half-century later in the here-and-now which I gotta say makes for the perfect encapsulation of as to why everything in this new and post-postmodern world is just one bit zombiefest, as if we couldn't tell that would happen back when the social forces of the "liberating" sixties came about to free us from the bonds of OZZIE AND HARRIET reruns.

Too much cursing true, and the bizarre reality of this is enough to make me turn to Perry Como records just to inject a little life into these veins, but whatever your own personal take YOUNG ISLANDS is one flicker that's bound to get you more'n a little hot and bothered whether positively or negatively. Great soundtrack music too featuring the creme of the Gulcher roster such as the Gizmos, Bon Vivants, Angel Corpus-Christi and the decidedly non-Gulcher Hugh Cornwell (howcum no Lou Rone? He coulda added some fine incidental sounds!). And what's best about the film is that no matter how much you may stamp your feet and complain, this is your life. can watch YOUNG ISLANDS or just go down to the shopping plaza and observe the fun...same thing. (An Acadamy Award would be given to the guy who plays the geeky mooching doof in the parking lot if this were a just life.)
Today's an important day in the annals of BLOG TO COMM-dom. On this date exactly thirty-five years ago I bought my first ever Velvet Underground album, a copy of LOADED at White Wing Records in Niles Ohio if you're that nosy about it. Remember that day as clearly as if it were yesterday...kinda sunny like it's been only much warmer in the mid-sixties, and I can still remember that surge of youthful joy I was having discovering a whole slew of musical acts that seemed to be making a much better soundtrack for my teenbo existence than the quap that was supposed to be custom made for that mythical ages 18-34 groupage. I dunno, but when I'd slap on a record back then I felt as if I was making an important socio-political statement or somethin', which amazes me since that sounds like something a wizened New York columnist mighta made in 1968 but when transposed to some ethno-suburban overweight pimplefarm level it makes all the more sense!

I do remember that I snatched LOADED (as opposed to 1969 LIVE) outta the bin because it was such a rarity at the time (in fact, the first time I ever saw it or the phony followup SQUEEZE for sale was at White Wing) and I figured that I better get my paws on the blamed thing before it was gone for all eternity. Good choice on my addlebrained part, for LOADED really holds up as a recent spin (in honor of this momentous anniversary) attests. I've stated before just how much LOADED really does hearken back to the early days of the group with a good sense of 1970 rock in mind, and naturally I AM right because this 'un has the hard-grit sense of the first album only with a good half-decade of rock evolution firmly implanted. And it's got a drive that could almost have been mistaken for that of the New York Dolls had this come out during the 1971-73 era of flash freak rock! Given the time and place I first heard it the thang couldn't have come at a better moment in life (this after a good year or so of fearing to purchase a Velvets album because of what the folks mighta thought!), certainly helping to change the focus of my musical horizons from FM/prog bleat to something a lot more feral. Who knows, if this post survives future generations might just make March 26th a holiday of sorts in the annals of misguided reverse-control conditioning youth kultur.
AND IN CLOSING...last December I hipped you on this recent album by the "Taureg" act Group Inerane, a buncha sub-Saharan rebel rockers who have been making a splash in the Libyan/northern Niger area with their heavy-duty riff rock which sports not only important political messages for the masses but some of the best primitive sound scraping since the early-Velvet Underground, Captain Beefheart and the Fugs (combined!). Their GUITARS FROM AGADEZ VOLUME 3 album was a real surprise, especially since I thought that all of that primitive repeato-riff rock that seemed so akin to the late-seventies moral clime was long gone and buried, but here it was presented in a way that woulda made me think these guys were some Cleveland avant garage under-the-counterculture groupage worthy of a David Solomonoff article in THE COVENTRY SHOPPING least until they started opening their mouths, that is.

Finances allowed me to snatch up two more of these Northern African group sounds and...well, although both of these Cee-Dees ain't as straightforwardly energetic as the aforementioned player I find both good 'nuff. Group Inerane's GUITARS FROM AGADEZ CD is a bit thin sounding considering the lack of a bass guitar perhaps but still fine. Coulda done w/o the additional chanting chick singers who sound like they're auditioning for the Master Musicians of Jojouka or the liner notes explaining their kinship with strongman Qaddaffi (who seems to favor the Taureg people's cause which might make him a hero or villain, I dunno), but then again many of you readers were all hotcha on those early-eighties English political rockers and you know what kinda views some of 'em held! Good cheap electric guitar rock that does, if you squint your ears, sound like no wave influenced Cleveland avant-garage practice tapes, though not coming to a small party near you nohow!

Group Bombino's GUITARS FROM AGADEZ VOLUME 2 is another straight to you rarity that should be offered free with a year's subscription to NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC. The acoustic "dry guitar" playing that makes up for the first half of this disque is good enough, though when Ghoumour Oumara Moctar a.k.a. Bombino plugs in this platter takes on the same high intensity of the rest of electrified Taureg with a smart energetic beat that just can't be shaken off that easily. Like the debut Group Inerane platter it might not come up to the primal oomph of VOLUME 3, but they do have that cheap guttural bellow that has made the soundtrack for our lives these past umpteen years/decades and if you're looking for a new kick well, why not give 'em all a try?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


(or...I don't have to wait until the weekend to indulge in my favorite gulcheral pastimes anymore so dig my reality!)

1) STATION WAGONS, text by Byron Olsen and photography by Dan Lyons (MBI 2000)-This here's a very hotcha book regarding the rise and fall of the station wagon in Amerigan life from its humble beginnings to its glory days as something to pile the kids into in order to take 'em to McDonalds. Unfortunately this 'un concentrates on United States makes only, but it's sure jam-packed with loads of photos (mostly taken from ads showing families camping or at the stables, but that's good enough for me!) and enough memories to bring back them days when these wagons were the fun way for a nine-year-old to travel. Did I ever tell you that when I was a kid I had this strange "thing" about station wagons as opposed to reg'lar sedans? T'was an obsessive attitude about 'em too, especially if the rear taillight/body structure was vastly different than that of the sedan variety which would excite me to no end! You may remember the stark differences between the '58/'59 Edsel, the '60 to '63 Mercury Comet, or especially the '63 to '66 Studebaker Lark sedan and wagon variations, because I sure do! I believe I had these feelings towards automobiles because of a misplaced, youthfully confusing sexual ideal replacing automobiles with the two sexes, with women being wagons so to speak and men being sedans. Only women have different headlights than men do!
2) Les Rallizes Denudes-67/69 STUDIO ET LIVE CD-R-Part of an 11-CD set of various rare and not-so Rallizes disques, this is a reish of the now-impossible to find group-related early-nineties official sampling of their earliest recorded output from the swinging late-sixties. I still find the group's handling of choice late-sixties soundpoints (Velvets, San Fran, UK acid...) especially in a Japanese rock/"group sounds" setting to be quite exemplary, and given the number of Japanese groups around these days who are playing in their "tradition" what else can I say but these guys were trailblazers in certainly more'n one way. I'm sure you knew that already, which is but one reason I wonder why I even BOTHER writing these posts up for you unappreciative blog followers in the first place!
...which features nothing but 1973 vintage Max's Kansas City ads taken from old VILLAGE VOICE microfilms. Talk about a screwy year for the club, which within those twelve months had booked everybody from the Stooges and Philip Glass (not forgetting the Druids [of Stonehenge]...opening for and reportedly wiping Ruben and the Jets off the stage!) to such seventies schlongs as Billy Joel and Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show (and I left out Bachman Turner Overdrive and BW Stevenson, amongst many others whom you wouldn't expect an underground venue as Max's to have booked inna first place!). Reminds me of the days when I would comb through such esoterica at the Youngstown Public Library at the peak of my New York Scene obsessive/compulsiveness, a time that seemed ages ago even though it was perhaps only a good three years since the seventies underground generation had given way to something more...disco?
4) Alien Planetscapes-LIVE CBGB 7/31/99 CD-R-Those Alien Planetscapes burnt Cee-Dee offerings that I got off their website (see link at left) have held up pretty well esp. for serving as background for my evening reading excursions. This particular CBGB gig (which I believe was their last before the illness that eventually killed leader Brian Walker got the best of him) doesn't fail in stirring up deeply-seated emotions buried within a good forty years of tonal frustration. Surprisingly hard, almost heavy metal-ish Chrome-inspired rock et roll here with Walker's synthesizers revving up all over the place like well-oiled cyborgs giving these numbuhs a particularly otherworldly appeal. The rather extreme moment in the opening number where the guitars and synth repeat this one riff brutally for about a minute still makes the hair on my head wanna stand on end and I've been baldoid for quite a long time! Might be traipsing back to the site to get a few more Alien Planetscapes recordings to upload for the upcoming PM downtime, because they really are inspiring in the boffo-est seventies electronic rock way extant (and they're free too)!
5) POLLY AND HER PALS COMIC STRIP SHOWCASE 2 by Cliff Sterrett (Arcadia Publications, 1990)-An oldie to tide me over until the Ken Pierce order arrives. Sterrett's full-page Pollies are the ones everybody remembers for their (to use the already hackneyed-beyond-belief term) "surreal" nature, but these 1930-31 dailies are just as good as anything that Ahern, Herriman or Gross were putting out during this Golden Age of the Comics Page. It would help if some of the panels were printed in correct order, but maybe that only adds to the bizarre nature of these strips. Contains at least one racist gag that makes a guy who's been around the comic strip block a few times like myself absolutely shudder!
6) Kung Pao Chicken (food)-Despite being on a kinda/sorta strict diet I actually broke down and ordered some takeouts (that's "takeaways" for you British bums) from the local Chinese food emporium. Could drool on a few paragraphs about the new gal who works there, but instead I'll tell you about the joy of having some Kung Pao Chicken after about a good year of staying away from the restaurant for fear of enlarging my mantits even more. Wonderful concoction that KPC is...pieces of stir-fried chicken ("velveted" I believe) with cubes of carrots, celery and other Far East goodies all mixed in a hot green-ish sauce with (get this!) peanuts! Believe-you-me, with all of these veggies as well as the tasty meat I was so protein'd up I felt like moving a few buildings with my bare hands. Could be the official dish of BLOG TO COMM, though I am especially partial to the boneless chicken in "brow" sauce (as the menu says) which is deep-fried bits of chicken and veggies in a tasty gravy that's really good splattered all over some steamed rice and downed with a few Chinese pirogy (a.k.a. dumplings or pot stickers if you will). Calorie city true, but then again who's gonna look at me?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

You can just tell by the addled tone of this post that this has been a creeping, crawling, slower than a pustule ooze week here at BTC headquarters. To be honest about it there ain't really that much worthy of this blog to gab about, though as usual I will give it the old college try and attempt to pad this post out to an "acceptable" weekend-length size.

You might feel grateful that I did go against my vow of spendthriftiness this year and dished out some big bucks for not only an order from Forced Exposure (which will probably arrive more later than sooner since I forgot to tell 'em to cancel any orders for outta-stock items 'stead of holding back the entire kitten caboodle) but one for some old comic-related items from Ken Pierce books, a company that seems to handle just the right kind of early comic strip fodder guaranteed to get me spread out on the living room floor just like I did when I was a kid. I'm just giving you readers heads up on the nature and flavor of some up and coming posts headed your way so's you won't be startled when you finally read the things.

But otherwise as you will see shortly I had to resort to busting into my old cassette collection in order to come up with some halfway-entertaining fodder this weekend. Actually I was looking for a specific cassette that's been moiling away in some box here in the abode for well over thirty years, and although I wasn't able to find that particular one I did come up with a few tasties that I just know you'll want to osmose my opinions about. Still on the lookout for that particular cassette (which, if you must know, is of early-eighties English hippie/punk vintage) so who knows, there may be more cassette culture reviews coming up in the not-so-distant future if I play my cards right and clean my closet out!

THE MORE THINGS STAY THE SAME, THE MORE THEY STAY THE SAME DEPT.-I just gotta tell ya about this 'un before I explode like a festering pimple all over my computer keyboard! I had the strangest flashback last Friday morning and although it wasn't of a lysergic nature it sure zoned me a good thirtysome years back to the days of local FM-rock thuggery when knuckle-dragging neanderthal rock ideals weren't necessarily a good virtue to flaunt. Y'see, the radio just happ'd to be on and a locally produced commercial for the upcoming Motley Crue/Poison/New York Dolls show popped up amidst the "classic rock" fodder that was guaranteed to destroy the sanctity of the ride to work (and since I was a passenger it wasn't like I could switch stations w/o getting my hand chopped off!). Nothing special about this particular commercial, other'n that throughout the thing the names of Crue and Poison were being touted (in high-gloss announcer-ese) as the real reason for that evening's festivities while the Dolls were sorta shoved to the back of the advertisement so-to-speak as if they were just an "add on" and not the real reason you the hair metal fan would want to see this particular show! Really, the Dolls' name was mentioned by the patented FM-radio announcer rather offhandedly and in less-than-approving tones, as if they weren't exactly a sane reason why anybody who'd listen to this radio station in the first place would want to trek out for a "real" rock & roll evening! Talk about shades of 198X rock snobbery back when just about anything that was wild, vibrant and high energy was getting poo-poo'd (or worse yet tagged as criminal) while subpar light and fluffy metal sputum was being touted as the real rock way to go! Sheesh, that commercial was almost as bad as those old CONSERVATIVE CHRONICLE ads Rush Limbaugh would read where he'd cheerfully spout off the names of his favorite neocon columnists but muffle his voice when he would mention Joseph Sobran's! And frankly, I thought that those days of puton macho metallic pose were long gone, but now I can see that it still lives on in the hearts of the terminally unemployable and spiritual AV Club survivors county-wide!

Before I get to the hambone of this post I ought to give you heads up that the Les Rallizes Denudes 4-CD set entitled GREAT WHITE WONDER is back in print, this time on yet another Rallizes-approved label, Phoenix. There have been quite a number of Les Rallizes Denudes Cee-Dees coming out over the past decade or so and this set is definitely one of the more interesting of an already prolific and noteworthy legacy. And what's best about it is that for you thrifty (stingy) Scotsmen types it's a whole lot cheaper'n the original. Forced Exposure had 'em last time I looked, and perhaps one of your favorite hotcha underground sources is carrying the thing as well so (just a word to the wize) don't tarry.

Well after all of that cereal filler, what else would you expect but the write-ups???

Can-RADIO WAVES CD (G&P Essential Music bootleg, Russia)

Can't figure out why I passed on reviewing this one for so long (I even checked out this very blog and couldn't come up with any references to even mentioning the thing!). Really, this is a classic collection of Can at their obscurest best, and although it's not quite as encompassing as that four-CD set from a few years back this one's sure to appeal to all of those Johnny-Come-Lately Can fans like myself who really didn't pay attention to 'em until chic English post-punker types started dropping their name in NME interviews making me feel like a total doof for passing their albums up in the import racks thinkin' they were just another buncha Passports or something.

"Up The Bakerloo"'s a massive track which was recorded for the BBC in '72, a 34 minute tour de extravaganza that gives vocalist Damo Suzuki a chance to stretch out a bit while Irmin Schmidt roams all over the place on his keyboards and Michael Karoli plays all of that brittle guitar that influenced Pete Shelley so. Wavering fluctuation's perhaps the only way I could describe this forgotten classic.

"Paperhouse"'s taken from that BEAT CLUB video that diligent Can fans have seen all over the place (I'm sure youtube posted it unless someone had since taken the thing down) featuring Suzuki shaking his hair all over the place and the rest of the group looking equally freaky as they conjure up loads of Teutonic demons filtered through the previous five years of freak rock. Really, having this broadcast over the airwaves in Germany was akin to the Stooges popping up on MIDSUMMER'S NIGHT ROCK, only with more air time.

Clocking in at over fifteen minutes, "Entropy" purports to be a live track though it sure has a studio feel to me. Karoli once again lays out his unique guitar stylings while Suzuki moans, coos and chants and Schmidt does his jazzy electric piano clunks and plucks making this yet another maddening and previously ignored Can treasure. Maybe I should mention the "rhythm section" of Holger Czukay and Jaki Liebzeit, but I don't want to sound too froth-like.

Hey, is this a new recently-discovered take of "Little Star" (here listed w/o the "of Bethlehem") these crafty bootleggers used? It sounds way more feral, more driving than the DELAY 1968 take. Malcolm Mooney's vocals push the music even if he does sound like he's straining his vocal cords a little more than the standard daily requirement. Oh wait, the track's sped up slightly, that's all.

I forget what the a-side to "Turtles Have Short Legs" is since I ain't got the original on hand to find out (yeah, I could "google" it and find out if I really wanted to, but I'm not that diligent and why shouldn't I let you readers have a little fun once in awhile!). It sounds like a b-side, not quite of a stinker mentality mind you, but a strange attempt at avant pop-ness the kind the group would wallow in within a few short years. I think you can find this one legit-like somewhere out there in the great digital unknown.

Closing out the platter's "Shikaki Maru Ten" which is yet another flipster. Only this one comes off kinda like EGE BAMYASI's "One More Saturday Night" only more equatorial. The same jazzy electric piano chords and cool Suzuki chant though. A good one even if it does fade out a lot earlier than at least I would have wished. Check your favorite search engine for a download of this and perhaps the rest of RADIO WAVES and at non-existent prices t'boot!

So there goes a Can bootleg that really does live up to its promise of delivering the obscure (and not so) goodies for us here in the digital age. A real godsend as well, and while we're on the subject of Can boots can anybody out there tell me whether or not the SUNDAY JAM one even exists? I read about it on an Imants Krumins want list in a 1982-vintage issue of GOLDMINE (in fact, the same ad that made me get in touch with the ol' pooperoo!) but other than that... nada! Dunno where Mr. K found out about it so perhaps this is one of those phantom records that I told you about last week which people swear by seeing but no other documents of their existence seem to survive. Oh well, I recall coming up with some really cool albums in my nocturnal brain activity which for the love of Sam I sure wish had materialized into real-life flesh and vinyl!
THE MONTY PYTHON MATCHING TIE AND HANDKERCHIEF cassette (The Famous Charisma Label, England)

Izzit just me or were those old perennially cut out Monty Python albums actually funny? Or at least repeatedly listenable unlike most comedy spins that came down the pike which were kinda disposable after the first few plays. I must admit these Python platters came in pretty handy if you were a fan of the show and wanted a personal memento in those pre-VCR days. Of course back then I just used to tape the audio portion of a Python episode onto some extremely cheap Cetron C-60 to listen to at a future date, and although those "assembled in Mexico" cassettes had a lifespan of about five plays before the leader glue would let up thus spinning the tape up into the shell ne'er to be retrieved again at least my $1.00 tape purchase saved me a good four smackers considering it would cost me at least five bucks to snatch up all three available Python platters from the cutout bin!

This 'un must have been the third season album for Python, and it has a few good moments re-created in the studio for hi-fi effect including such classics as the "Church Police" skit and of course the ever popular one with Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw and James McNeil Whistler telling Prince Albert he's like a stream of bat piss. Some great guffawing goin' on in that 'un which actually reminds me of those old laughing records which were supposed to lift your spirits and, come to think of it, could make you feel a whole lot better'n any of these new timey comedians ever could so I gotta hand it to Python for like, rehashing twenties material for a jaded seventies world!
Johnny and the Hurricanes-CROSSFIRE cassette (Golden Circle)

Talk about cheapo crankouts! Dunno who these Golden Circle people are other'n they reside(d) in Stamford Connecticut, but they actually got a bunch of old Johnny and the Hurricanes singles and slapped 'em pretty messy like onto a cassette complete with snap, crackles and tape glitches and rushed 'em out to various Big Lots nationwide which is where I bought mine! Better'n nothing, and what else would you expect for $1.99? Contains the title track (later refashioned by the Fleshtones for their debut platter), "Reveille Rock", "Storm Warning" and five relative rarities that probably sound 100 times better on some official Hurricanes collection. But then again this has that basement kiddie player swerve to it and sounds like something I woulda played on my cousin's old turntable while marching around the room or doing wild interpretive dances! The absence of such classics as "Red River Rock" is stymieing, but then again that's why you have GOLDEN GOODIES VOL. 13, right?
Jonathan Borofsky and Ed Tomney-THE RADICAL SONGBIRDS OF ISLAM cassette (ROIR)

Bought this 'un due to co-artist Tomney's involvement with Harry Toledo and the Necessaries back during the Golden Age of New York Rockism, but given that this collab was done with chi-chi visual artist Borofsky you can bet that there ain't any rock & roll on this tape nohow! According to the notes, this album of dark droning vocalization was "partly influenced by Islamic prayer chants heard over a Jerusalem radio station", and frankly I can only thank Borofsky and Tomney for issuing this tape because in a few years this is all we're gonna be hearing and we better get used to it right now!
Jupiter Jets-RECORDED LIVE "OFF THE BOARD" cassette (CBGB)

Didn't quite cozy up to this back when I first wrote this 'un up, but time has kinda softened this ol' fanabla like a tasty dose of Hailey's MO. These Jupiter Jets were no flashes either, first starting life during the '75 New York City groundswell as Day Old Bread (heck, even Wayne County namechecked 'em on his "Max's Kansas City '76" numbuh!) then getting a whole loads more gigs as the Rudies before finally settling on this new and refreshing moniker which seems just about as custom made for the eighties as the sounds these guys produce on this live showcase tape which came out way back '86 way.

The music is def. eighties-bred, though surprisingly it's not as gnu wave offensive as a whole load of quap from those days was which is one reason I really turned my back on a whole lotta stuff I once loved w/a passion. Nothing irritating to the central nervous system here, and no jangle or undue emote is to be found. Kinda think of the better moments of Let's Active and other mid-South underground popsters 'stead of the usual offenders and you'll get a good idea of where these guys were comin' from. And they're good musicians, good writers and best of all they could churn out some good music and within a genre that seemed to be rotting away right before our very eyes. Y'know, back when new wave had already been surpassed by gnu wave and was beginning its even newer guise as "alternative" much to the chagrin of people who were in on the trip since at least 1973!
Well uh, that's it until next time. Don't forget to tune into this blog, especially if you want to see a living man decay right before your very eyes.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Whenever I get hold of some old collection of long-forgotten, usually 20s/30s vintage comic strips, you can bet that I zone right back to my just-barely-into-the-double-digits-days when the funny pages really had an obsessive/compulsive grip on my overall behavior! And I mean as in permeate my every waking moment to the point where I would incessantly study an artist's style evolution in detail from its humble beginnings to its current manifestation noting the little nuances and changes in my ever-mushy mind. In fact I got so good at it that, just to have a li'l fun, I would cover up the copyrights that appear in the strips and try to guess which year they was drawn just by looking at the angle of Dick Tracy's nose or the jowliness of the characters in NANCY. Usually I would get within a few years of the exact date, trained eagle-eyed comic strip fan that I was and most truly will remain! But look at it all from a positive view...if I were only a diligent with my school studies as I was with my comics enthusiasm do you think you'd even be reading this blog today??? No way Charlie!

I gotta admit that the REG'LAR FELLERS strip never did light my fancy back when I was pouring through microfilm spools to read old variations of comics that were still being produced a good 45 years after first being created. If that strip had continued on perhaps I would've given a hoot, but when I was a good ten or so it just seemed like a quaint old comic that was even too dated for my already dated sense of comics appreciation. Strangely enough, all of these years later I find this sampling of 1927-vintage REG'LAR FELLERS (a 2000 reprinting of a late-twenties collection en toto including the original forward written by the gang themselves!) stands up not only to "the test of time", but to my own sense of non-elitist comic strip aesthetics. From the old-styled fine-pen drawings to the wonderful bad gags that I adore, REG'LAR FELLERS was a fine example of just where the comic strip idiom stood in the twenties during a time when the comics page was just beginning to head into its Golden Age. An era of greatness which wouldn't waver at least until the seventies when hippie ideals and snoozeville domestic comics began replacing the twenties/thirties-bred works of pure art with a generation gap PASSION.

Nice hominess to these REG'LAR FELLERS too, which like OUT OUR WAY and a slew of other obscure-os represents an old world and style that unfortunately died out long ago even if it did linger on at least until the last Old Timer finally packed it in at the rest home. (Well, at least I got in on the tail end of this era thanks to my relatives and for that I am forever grateful!) A beautiful encapsulation of the twenties through the eyes of kids such as Puddinhead (the fat 'un), Pinhead his little brother and Jimmy Dugan, the leader of the gang at a time when people were still saying that the Irish were put on this earth so that black people could have something to feel superior to (and I kid you not!). There's even a Jerry Mahoney in the batch making me wonder in Paul Winchell wasn't an upfront reader along with a few million other kids. Well, you can see the influence on him, especially given some of the outright clunkers he was known to toss at us o'er the years!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

So, what can I talk at'cha today in order to look up-to-date and in tune with this rather sad and sick world o' ours anyway? Howzbout some current events, like perhaps the Earthquake in Japan? Yeah, that's too bad...I keep thinking of all the gorgeous gals who probably got offed or maimed in that disaster. What a loss. Hope enough good looking ones survived.

On to another pertinent subject. Maybe you'd like to know my opinions regarding the standoff between the public school teachers and the gov over in Wisconsin? Well, if you must know, I say with total Shakespeareian gusto intercourse to thee, TEACHER SCUM! Frankly, I really do find it puzzling as to why many otherwise intelligent people (some who even read this blog) feel sorry that the teacher's union lost their right to collective bargaining, because as you'd already guess I COULD CARE LESS given the way these people played hooky just so's they could rant and rave in front of sympathetic television eyes and act like persecuted peons when these sanctimonious pueriles're making a whole lot more per year'n I'll ever see, and still they want MORE!

Hell, Archie cares a whole lot less about Miss Grundy than you seem to about that old crone who used to give you a hassle in Sex Education, so why are all of these tears being shed for some of the most narcissistic, self-centered people on this planet (outside of gays, that is!)? At least one good thing has come outta this strike, and that's the STALEMATE that this showdown has resulted in...just think, no new laws are being created to screw you Wisconsinites even more which only makes me hope this impasse continues on ad infinitum!

Now if only somebody could drive it in real hard to the governor who ain't exactly a peaches and cream sorta person himself (sheesh, these debacles are kinda like having to be forced to root for Hitler over Stalin or vicey versey...something equally gruesome in the long run if you think you have to root for one side or the other, that is!). Gee, ain't current events fun? A lot more so than when Beaver hadda find one for school and the only thing he could come up with was "the Indians are predicting a severe winter"!

Hokay, enough of are a few platters of various sizes (though the same shape) that I've been spinnin' this week. Some old, some new, nothing borrowed or blue though!
Suicide-WE NEVER SAID WE ARE MUSIC, WE ARE SUICIDE LP (no label bootleg, Germany)

I've never seen this one mentioned in any Suicide bootleg discography, or at least any that are available at my cracked and crevice-y fingertips. I even did a google search and came up goose eggs which must attest to the rarity of this particular item which is something that makes me feel warm and toasty inside! In fact, I wonder if this even exists at all though the blasted thing has resided in my record collection for well over twenny-four years, but then again there it is, so it must exist, right? Or is my mind playing a grandiose trick on me and all of these years I've only been imagining owning and spinning this album? I mean, things could be worse like the stories I heard of a 2-LP Pere Ubu live in London bootleg that was espied in the basement of the old Record Revolution in Coventry (Ohio, suburb of Cleveland), or even a reported Rocket From The Tombs bootleg that was flying around as early as 1981, records that I doubt ever materialized even though the people who claim to have seen 'em might even be having as many doubts about what their orbs encountered as I am trying to figure out what exactly's up with this particular platter!

But yes WE NEVER SAID WE ARE MUSIC... does exist and it's a pretty good doozy of an album recorded right before Suicide took that big plunge into soft schlocky music more fit for your martoonies and nibbles party than anything remotely related to rock & roll. Naw, the music being performed here's way closer to the Suicide circa '76 when the music was really hard-edged and high energy and the duo of Alan Suicide and Martin Rev were helping to create a new booking policy at Max's Kansas City. Well yeah, that one song that sounds like Barry Manilow singing "Can't Smile Without You" does pop up here (and is titled "Heroin" t'boot!), but even that sounds good enough like an early-sixties top 40 rouser when performed with an outta-control beat box and Alan Vega mewling out the lyrics like Frankie Avalon with his stones cut off.

The rest is total out-there screech music that seems to bear little resemblance to anything Suicide did either during their Ze period or directly after that affair. Hard soundscapading with manic rhythm backing it and insane street bleat all over the place, the sound of the subway 'stead of the salon which is what the Suicide of '88 obviously reveled in for reasons known only to them. Although this really ain't as good as this one live tape I have of Suicide at CBGB around the same time (which would make an excell-o bootleg in itself) I find it sounds a whole lot more "New York" "Arty" "Avant Garde"'n a good portion of the rather unmoving underground music being made in the wake of Suicide's, er...success?
Shirley Collins-AMARANTH including the ANTHEMS IN EDEN SUITE LP (Harvest England)

I gotta admit that at one time I didn't know Shirley Collins from Adam or Eve, but all of those plugs in FORCED EXPOSURE and name-droppings from various Throbbing Gristlites did pique my curiosity up just a tad bit. And since ANTHEMS IN EDEN, Collins' long op album on English Harvest is now going for collector's item prices I figure that maybe this '76 "Harvest Heritage" quickie budget collection would be just thee place to start before even thinking about dishing out beaucoup for the woman's '69 longplayer which has garnered a whole load of critical acclaim o'er the years, if that means anything to you.

Interesting album this is too, for unlike all of the other Harvest Heritage releases the entire first side consists of freshly-recorded material 'stead of the standard album tracks and rare b-sides. Dunno why this ended up being half new and half old, but Collins herself states on the back cover that this will be her final outing on vinyl or whatever recorded mode there was and shall remain, and I guess half an album of new material would be better'n none at all. And hey, her "new" material's pretty hotcha as well, nowhere along the lines of the hippified medieval moanings of Steeleye Span but faithful if modified versions of old English and French folk numbers that do bring a smile to my face and a tap to my toe. And even if I doubt that the original songs sounded anywhere near the way Collins and crew (which includes a few Fairportites and other names on the English Middle Ages scene) perform 'em these sure don't make me irk the way some of those foppier folksters coulda rendered 'em!

The "Anthems in Eden" suite takes up the whole of side two and it's more of the same renditions of ancient folkage that I guess is trying to be faithful to the original form. Sheesh, I wonder if the English hippoids of the day were trying to re-live their past sorta the same way alla them San Fran laidbacks borrowed from the Old West in an attempt to reconnect with their own roots? Well, at least Collins doesn't offend like she coulda, and I found her singing to be most pleasant along with the musicianship, obviously played on instruments that had to be returned to the National Museum after this session was over.

A nice once in awhile affair...wouldn't wanna gulp down a steady diet of it but after giving this a listen I kinda wonder was it really that far a jump between some 14th century troubadour and what the Falling Spikes were doing on that 1965 demo tape? But hey, I'll bet if you loaded Geoffrey Chaucer up with enough heroin I'm sure he woulda come up with "Venus in Furs" too!
Various Artists-DO WHAT THOU WILT LP (no label, England)

Don't try getting it...the thing's already sold out, but if you were lucky enough to latch onto a copy of this limited edition album I'm sure somebody out there will envy you. Despite the title, this album is not some collection of satanic ritualistic soundtracks for practitioners of the "olde religione" or whatever they called it but a sampler of rare acetates and obscure single sides (mostly the former) featuring a slew of English groups who recorded some good hard thud rock that should appeal to people who want to know more about what interesting music was being made during that great chasm between the time the last sixties garage bands hung up their guitar straps and the Sex Pistols arrived to rescue us all from the ravages of Robin Trower albums. (Yes I know it wasn't that simple and that there was plenty of good rock & roll being made between 1968 and 1976, but sheesh, sometimes I feel as if I gotta dumb down things for some of you readers!)

I guess I could consider myself lucky for latching on to one of these for my very own, for I emailed the guy who had compiled and was selling this album about a nanosecond after Robin Wills notified us of its existence via his PUREPOP blog. Not too many were left after that and a lotta fans of the form were S.O.L. as they used to say, but not me!

Anyway, I finally got mine a good two months after ordering the thing (lotsa worry clouding my mind thinking this 'un got lost in the GREAT ENGLISH SNOWSTORM OF 2011) and frankly I'm pretty glad about it! After all, English thud rock of the early-seventies is an often neglected genre, and with the rest of the seventies punkism sources either drying up or holding tight on the releases (and hey, I know there were thousands of seventies groups out there worthy of getting the royal carpet treatment at least before the surviving tapes crumble into nothingness!) records like these help soothe the pangs of realizing that all the good stuff was happening up to forty years ago and most everything since is nothing but pure taffy!

Actually most of this album isn't anything that's gonna make you wanna go and chant homages to Cthulhu while rolling your eyes back until they're all white, but it's pretty entertaining slime at that. Much of it comes off in the early Black Sabbath/UFO vein back when both aggregates were trying to take English blues forms and strip away all of the chording, while others come closer to the primitive Deviants/Fairies/Hawkwind Ladbroke Grove style of pre-punk screech. A group calling itself Grind was particularly good in taking this ethos to even more primal levels, while another called Tonge were also adept enough to create a pretty good punk rock wail a few years before the snides at MELODY MAKER decided to perk their antennae up. Still others sorta come off like a weird cross between this brand of ethos and the popular progressivisms of the day sorta reminding me of the group Stud Leather whose aim was closer to that of Yes but whose single was pure punkism!

Of course there's nothing along the lines of a Stud Leather here but the mix of hard scrunch and primal splatter is one that should appeal to fans of rock & roll so raw you'd think it was recorded live at 100 BC!

(And maybe I should note to you that the only group here whom I've read anything about and who perhaps were the only ones to break out of the acetate mold into flesh and blood vinyl were Lucifer, who actually got an article written 'bout 'em in the old English fanzine PENETRATION and who appear here closing out the proceedings with a number called, appropriately enough, "Fuck You". Not exactly the best track on an album filled with some of the more blatantly low-fidelity English thud-speak but hey, you tell 'em!)

If you really want to read the PUREPOP post which brought light to this album (and hey, why not?), all you really have to do is click here to see what you missed out on. And hey, a long hard cry will make you feel better, and given the loads of classics I missed out on when the missing was good I should know!
Streak-"Bang Bang Bullet"/"Black Jack Man" 45 rpm (Deram, England)

It's really gosh-it-all nice to get hold of an actual vinyl copy of this under-the-radar single recorded during the glory days of glitzy rock terrace stompers as they used to say. When this one originally came out it was being touted as one of the leading lights in the big punk rock putsch of '73, a movement that I assume was well-known and growing at the time even though you and I undoubtedly missed out on it all for some strange reason. Well, at least Charles Shaar Murray, one of the original p-rock boosters back in the NME glory days knew enough to rate it as a top notch single and a harbinger of even better things to come down the pike! And if somebody like him said so, you knew it hadda be true, savvy?

If you wanna read more about Streak click here, but if you don't just take my word that this single (featuring two future members of the English glamboppers Arrows ifyoucanbelieveit) is a "red hot bopper" as the lyrics put it. Kinda think of the Sweet if they had a Max's Kansas City attitude, complete with that innocent yet decadent-looking English stomp rock feeling that was so big at the time although it eventually mutated into various areas perhaps best left unnoticed. "Bang Bang Bullet" is a natural winner that I'm surprised missed out on any chart action given how it was tuned into the whole platforms and sparkle mindset o' the day, and while the flip "Black Jack Man" ain't as high energy as the plug side it still cuts swaths in the path of James Taylor records with its basic (demi) crunch. No matter, this is a punk rock classic that has been done good by its placement on the GLITTERBEST collection of British fop pop, and not being familiar with it would be...well, something I would expect of most of you readers these sorry days.
Treddie Frogs and the BMT's-"Crazy Little Mama"/"I Can't Help Fallin' In Love" 45 rpm single (Off the Wall!)

My mission to track down and uncover just about every available bit of obscure information regarding the seventies NYC rock scene continues after all these years, and oddly enough (thanks to the existence of this here internet) my efforts to locate rare recordings and eke recollections out of aging band members have become a whole lot easier than they were a good quarter century back when I began my research efforts in earnest. True I've been running up against a brick wall trying to locate information on some totally outta-the-loop groups, but as of late it has become quite a breeze to trek down at least a little previously-unknown information regarding a whole load of groups who otherwise might totally be lost to history like some old-stock silent film or even a pre-pubescent girl from Youngstown Ohio's virginity!

Prior to the here and now, all I knew about the BMT's was that they were one of those groups that used to play Max's Kansas City's "Fifties Rock" night (on Sunday I believe, I do know that Thursday was hardcore night) along with such acts as the Zantees, the Buicks and the Ribitones. Given the types of acts that were playing Max's at the time (80/81) I figured out that perhaps their idea of fifties rock was filtered through the Heartbreakers-inspired punk that made a whole lotta inroads on the local scene whether you liked it or not and guess what, once again I was right!

Aided by the Ribitones, the BMT's do some pretty good punked up doo-woppy things on this outta-nowhere platter, the a-side being the El Dorados via Pat Boone hit done as you would expect Italians playing at Max's to have done it in 1980. Fifties verve, style and lotsa chooch kinda filtered through the previous quarter-century of bared-wire rock evolution. The flipster's the Elvis classic which surprisingly enough starts off as a straight ballad faithful to the original before heading straight into Johnny Thunders territory like any good Max's band should before returning to the original heart-tugging intent of it all. Let's just say this was another nice shoulda-been-plugged surprise that I sure could use more of, and if this 'un ain't comin' at you via some seventies indie/underground collection soon I really do not know what's wrong with this here world.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Here are my opinions regarding a coupla books I've glommed in between last week's post and the here/now. Well, it was either that or review my latest rectal disaster (as you can tell, I do have a rather "biological turn of mind"!).

I've admitted many-a-time that for years I've found that the comic book variation of ARCHIE paled mightily next to Bob Montana's newspaper strip, the version of this long-running comic star which I and presumably you were familiar with long before we discovered the existence of the comic book variation. Whereas the ARCHIE strip was sarcastic, snide, witty and best of all drawn with exacting detail and overall care the comic book take seemed slapdash, juvenile and worst of all overly mawkish and sentimental. There was a time when, under the workmanship of eventual ARCHIE standard-bearer Dan DeCarlo, that the comic book almost reached the heights of Montana's strip but that was "perhaps" between the late-sixties and early-to-mid-seventies at the latest. But the difference between the comic strip and comic book ARCHIE were noticeable enough as if they were each taking place in that TWILIGHT ZONE dimension where things were basically the same, but the minute details were enough to drive clean cut astronauts batty. It's no wonder even a non-comic book-oriented person such as my cousin could see a marked difference between the ARCHIEs of these two distinctly different worlds.

At least the "Best of the Sixties" collection of Archie comic book fodder presents a few of the better moments of sixties brilliance. Not much mind you, but at least some of DeCarlo's more inspired sagas (including a funny one about a "camp" dance contest which stuck in my mind for years if only for a guffaw-inducing comment Reggie smirked to Big Ethel) do transcend the expected ruts and made for waxy nostalgic weekend reading. As for the rest well, you can only go so far with gags regarding flash-in-the-pan trends as well as recycling old beatnik riffs with hippies put in their stead. Funtime enough for all of you Vietnam-era suburban brats, but frankly I found a vastly better selection of stories in those early-seventies paperback collections not to mention the various digests that can still be found in thrift shops nationwide.

You might remember Fredric Wertham's THE WORLD OF FANZINES getting a huge writeup in the last but most certainly least issue of BLACK TO COMM. However, since that one was created so loooooong ago and you readers are OBVIOUSLY not smart enough to pick up a copy for yourselves I figure why not write it up again if only to present my opinions regarding this book for the computer age and to help pad out yet another typically anemic mid-week post with even more inanity!
And what do I think about the legendary anti-comic book psychiatrist's attempt at disseminating the whys and wherefores of not only fanzines but the sci fi/comic/fantasy fandoms they represent? Well to put it in one!

But all funnin' aside, THE WORLD OF FANZINES is at least informative enough to make you wanna wade through the gosh-it-all well-meaning to get to some hard meat and potatoes facts. In this Tome For Our Times Dr. Wertham tells us in his own Freudian words what it is about fanzines and fandom in general that excites him the same way that discovering old applications of Velvet-rock excited me in the very-late seventies. (Only the Doc does it in a way stodgier and clinical fashion as if you would expect anything else from such a stick-inna-mud trying to prove he's in-tune with the youth of the Now Generation!) His opines are all laid down in this rather short read, complete with reproduced fanzine covers and a whole load of discussion (some of it even understandable!) as to what these self-produced reads are and why teenagers want to put 'em out in the first place. And even if the Doc had a reputation somewhere up there with Joe McCarthy for being one of the bogeymen of fifties gulcher well, like he mentions about crudzines even I can find a few undigested oats to pluck from the heaping pile of manure the guy leaves more than once and I guess that's better than nothing!

In some ways it's strange (especially considering his reputation as a Cold Turd Par Excellence) reading Wertham prattle on about the nature of fanzines and how important they are to popular culture. It's even stranger seeing him refer to various comic book heroes (though he seems to go out of his way not to refer to comic books directly, preferring to mention a superhero as being of the comic strip idiom whenever he can) in a positive light, especially since he dismissed 'em as a buncha nazis 'n homos in that infamous comic book expose SEDUCITON OF THE INNOCENT way back when. But even with the bizarroid not-quite change of face at least there's at least the redeeming social value here to keep your interest up, mainly in the form of tons of information on the major fanzine movements of the early-seventies that should interest the average reader of this blog even if the only rock fanzine that's brought up's Alan Betrock's seminal JAMZ.

In many ways THE WORLD OF FANZINES comes off like Wertham's apology to the pacifist hippie types of the early-seventies who loathed him, as if to say "hey, I'm a peace-loving antiwar freak too even though I still think those comic books are gonna make your free will capsize and turn you all into machete-wielding maniacs!" This attitude is evident especially when Wertham gets on his high horse about the peace movement, race relations, war and that ol' bugaboo of his violent entertainment which all reads like the cross between a stale School Marmish-type giving a temperance lecture and a peace rally being addressed to the demographics that used to buy Melanie albums. That would figure since once we all got down to it Wertham really was just as pinko as the late-sixties activists and assorted other troublemaker types who sworn vendettas against the man only a good fifteen years earlier!

And hey, knowing that Wertham held the same antiwar sentiments as the average New Left college kid of the early-seventies is enough to make me wanna go out and bomb orphanages, but I do get kinda reactionary like that sometimes.

I guess if the market was swarming with fanzine histories I would find this book much easier to toss out, but it ain't and I gotta do with this even though it was written by one of the worst do-gooder types to hit our shores at least until Christopher Hitchens set up shop here. Well, the book does make for a nice sidebar, but for a more copasetic fanzine rundown you might want to try a variety of Sam Moskowitz books dealing with the birth and growth of Sci-Fi fandom, or Bill Schelly's various comic book fanzine reminiscences and collections which should be available somewhere out there in webland. And hey, I'll take Miriam Linna's excell-o rock & roll fanzine history that popped up in a '79 NEW YORK ROCKER any day, that being a concept certainly worthy of a book-length effort in its own right even though I doubt there would be anybody out there in rockdom who would have the stamina or even courage to tackle a subject matter such as this (and don't look at me...I'm awlready having enough trouble coming up with dope to stuff into these posts to stress myself out any further with an actual book project!).

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Hoo boy Natasha, here's another uninspired weekend post. And this one's gonna be a little bit shorter'n the rest, not necessarily due to a lack of raw material, inspiration or lethargy. More or less a combination of all three things rolled up into one big massive ball of fat, guts and nerves. Kinda like ME in many ways, but self-deprecating comments aside here's whatcha gonna get this week:

FREE PLUG DEPT.!: The era of fanzines is not quite dead (yet), for outta the blue what should pop up but yet another issue of DAGGER (see link up on left for internet address...why'd'ya think I put it up there inna first place?). 's a pretty good 'un at that, and although DAGGER editor Tim Hinely's tastes and mine don't always seem to jibe or see eye-to-eye or something like that I still like to read this surviving screed just to see what's happening out there in self-produced underground rock land. And DAGGER's always a fact the latest in a long line (#43 if you can count that high) does contain something that an old fogey like myself can relate to, mainly an interview with none other than Lisa Fancher. That's a name which should ring a bell with anybody who picked up a fanzine between the years 1974 and 1979, or purchased a record released on her very on Frontier records label throughout the eighties (and beyond!). In case you don't remember, Fancher is not the longtime head of that particular company (home of some of the gnarlier El Lay punk during the early-eighties days of hardcore rage) but a respected fanzine writer and editor (STREET LIFE) in her own right whose name appeared in a number of famous rags of the era including BOMP! and BACK DOOR MAN (#4, with an article on the Tubes if you can believe it!). Some called her the Penny Valentine of seventies fandom, and if you can't relate to that, well I guess you're just another typical BLOG TO COMM reader. Sheesh, is there any reader of this blog who's IQ's in the three-digits???

And now for some reviews!

You readers probably know already that I'm not exactly that big a fan of the "Nederbeat" scene that transpired in six-oh Holland, but then again I'm always sometimes in the mood to try new and different modes of sound portrayal that I hope would stimulate the nerve-endings reaching into my backbrain ever-searching for new and exciting vistas to explore. (As you can seem that creative writing class I took paid off, even if I did get an "F"!) And hey, this third and final album by the Netherlands' very own Outsiders just seemed to fill the bill. True this one's from '68 and perhaps a li'l too far outside the mid-sixties epicenter to matter, but then again there were many a smart mid-sixties bunch who were able to transcend the usual late-sixties pratfalls with avant garage aplomb and perhaps the Outsiders were but one of the acts who could pull such a trick with about as much ease as Cary Grant snapping off Randolph Scott's jockstrap.

And at times they do, such as on the noisy freakfest "Doctor" which closes side one and makes most of those other obligatory late-sixties token avant garde tracks seem positively droll. But otherwise the Outsiders put forth with a nice update on their mid-sixties post-Pretty Things stylings though I must say that they can handle the transformation from punk to avant punk with nil effort, perhaps not as vividly as the Detroit bands did but atonally enough. Wally Tax's vocals sure add to the overall bizarre nature of these tracks at times sounding really Dutch snot and at others rather feminine, but whatever his singing gives this album the flipout aspect to make it more'n just another buncha foppy Europeons cranking out kultured pop for the former Nazi sympathizers who used to slurp up Horst Jankowski albums.

Fantastic gatefold packaging as well as insert notes written by Mike Stax, a guy who should know more'n just a little about the entire Nederbeat scene than you or I. And it's a must for those who like the continental rock & roll scene of the sixties and (like I) didn't even know it existed until maybe the early-eighties or even later!

Way back in the Golden Age when I snatched up my copy of NUGGETS via the cut out bin (saw a cassette goin' for $9.99 at Musicland during the Spring of '77 and just figured the thing would be cutout within a good six month's time, and typical garage punk fashion I was right!) I was as nutzo about the Strangeloves as everyone else who happened upon that legendary collection of mid-sixties garageoidisms. I mean, those two platters were pretty revelatory, proving that the music that I thought was of the late-seventies under-the-gnarl strata was in fact up and functioning a good twelve years prior to the news hitting finally hitting the boonies! At least to me acts like the Strangeloves had the same overall impact and meaning as alla them new groups that Sire was cluttering up their roster with and really, was there that much of a chasm between the likes of the Seeds and the Fleshtones other'n maybe a few years of gulcheral development?

However, I began singing a different tune when I found out that the Strangeloves weren't exactly some outta-the-'burbs teenage group but a buncha seasoned Brill Building businessmen pretending to be Australian sheepherders which certainly did lower the property value in my record collection! After all, manufactured music sure didn't light my kindling the same way that rock & roll created by the same kinda jamokes who came outta my neighborhood might've, and yeah I could relate to the likes of the Elevators and Standells as far as my own ranch house existence went, but having my kultur presented to me by a buncha oldsters pretending to be of the same teenage credo as I was a totally different, and perhaps incediary thing in my mind!

But although it didn't take me a while to realize that yeah, the Strangeloves obviously were phonus balonuses but then again in this world of ours what is real? Just about everything is phony once you get down to it, from the news you watch to the blatant emote of your favorite actress-cum-social planner to even the "real" musical stars like the Stones who were always three-dollar bills once you got down to brass tacks. And as any kid knows, sometimes the plastic imitation is a lot better'n the real thing! And way cheaper too, so why should I get worked up because the Feldman/Goldstein/Gottehrer team weren't really the Strange Brothers (Niles, Miles and Giles) from Armstrong Australia anyway? Last time I looked, the Rolling Stones weren't the World's Greatest Rock Group either, or at least they ain't been ever since "Angie" became the musical equivalent of chemical castration.

And because these fakes could put up a good real life sound encompassing mid-Amerigan dribble, English imitation and white guys pretending to be blackisms there's no reason why anybody who tunes into this blog without malice should enjoy the Strangeloves for what they were or maybe even weren't. And hey, I WANT CANDY's got a nice chunk of what made 1965 such a boss time for rock & rollers with everything from the snat hits to the obligatory covers of the charttoppers of the day and even "Hang On Sloopy" (which was considered top durty song extant when I was a wee tyke!) using the original McCoys backing tracks and it's all so good that you don't even notice the clunkers, if there are any that is!

Not only that, but Feldman, Goldstein and Gotterher can sing up a storm so it ain't like this was some vanity project where a buncha over-the-hills try to re-live past glories and have the bux to back it up! I WANT CANDY proves that the Strangeloves were mid-sixties contenders during an era when rock had clearly burst into its second generation, and frankly most applications of it were so good even Brill Building vets with little garage cred could muck it up!
ANOTHER FREE PLUG DEPT.!: Maybe I should charge for these, but being the giving, courteous and stupid type of person I am I most certainly won't!

"We accept every rejection within the tight slope of ideas," says Matthew Wascovich, frontman of Cleveland-based music group, Scarcity Of Tanks. Wascovich founded SOT during the summer of 2004 after stints in a bunch of unheard-of Cleveland bands. Scarcity Of Tanks has toured throughout the U.S. and released two acclaimed records for Total Life Society (Cleveland, USA) and Textile (Paris, FR). The group will play a limited number of shows in 2011 including stops in Pittsburgh, Brooklyn, and Cleveland during March. Scarcity Of Tanks are anti-heroes with no message, "We exist so that you do not have to. We create rock music playing the form as we play the form and that's by our own rules. Distortion. Bass and drums that make one move. Guitars that make you feel sick or alive. Vocals that you cannot relate to most of the time. This would partially describe the SOT experience; a living response," says Wascovich. The current line-up features top notch Clevelanders: Andrew Klimeyk, Jeff Deasy, Theodore Wiggs Null Flynn The Younger, and Brent Gemmill. This is a rare chance to catch the all-Cleveland group playing out of Northeast Ohio. They will be playing songs from all their albums including SENSATIONAL GRADE to be released May 1st.

See Scarcity Of Tanks live at these upcoming gigs:

3/11/11 - Brooklyn, NY at Psychotropa - SCARCITY OF TANKS with Tall Firs (Ecstatic Peace Records), Man Forever Duo (mem of Oneida), Chris Grier/Gibby Haynes (Butthole Surfers) Duo

3/12/11 - Pittsburgh, PA at The Shop - SCARCITY OF TANKS with Sic Alps (Drag City Records), Magik Markers (Drag City Records), Kim Phuc

3/19/11 - Cleveland, OH at Beachland Ballroom - SCARCITY OF TANKS with Pere Ubu (playing the Modern Dance album and more)

More information about Scarcity Of Tanks: click here .

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Although there's not exactly a glut in the field, it should be noted that a few fanzine titles devoted to the lives and antics of that ever-popular rock & roll band the Velvet Underground have managed to make their way into my ever-bulging collection. And, contrary to what any normal curmudgeon along the lines of myself might think, some of them have actually been pretty good! The first and best of 'em was WHAT GOES ON, the brainchild of teenager Philip X. Milstein who unleashed three grandiose and (especially for the time) information-laden issues before handing the entire project over to one MC Kostek who expanded the magazine into a larger, professional looking rag that although worthy of your gynecologist's magazine rack lacked a great deal of the style and energy of the earlier issues. A fellow named Sal Mercurio did his own fanzine named after his favorite rock & roll group as well, and it was a noble venture complete with interviews and tantalizing tidbits of information though it suffered from poor distribution and general obscurity whether intended or not. There may have been others (I dunno if you'd count the Nigel Trevena booklet as a fanzine in the truest sense) but one that I haven't heard of nor seen before has made its way into my mitts a month or so back and hey, if any of the legit Velvet Underground sites around ain't gonna mention the thing I guess the job's left up to me, and have """""I""""" ever been one to shirk from duty?

DIFFERENT TIMES is the 'zine's name, or is it really a fanzine in the truest sense or just a bunch of single-sided papers stacked up and ready to go? Sheesh, the people who put this particular publication out didn't even bother to staple the thing inna corner (fortunately my copy comes in a plastic booklet so's I can read it like a book which comes in handy for those privvied times) and if you end up losing pages due to neglect it's not entirely your fault! But who could deny that DIFFERENT TIMES is yet another boss entry into the hallowed halls of Velvet fandom, a grouping that seemed like such a noble and worthwhile cause back when the VU spirit was infiltrating every worthy aspect of seventies music but nowadays has been over-abused and misused to the point where even the lowliest jinglejangle tattoo'd coed is aware of their history. Not that it really affects the overall Velvets impact...but hey, that's been washed away loooooong ago.

With the fuzzy photocopied look one could easily call DIFFERENT TIMES a "crudzine", and frankly I never really thought that term was as derogatory a epithet as the creators of that particular fandom-oriented descriptor intended for it to be. After all, the infamous and well-loved psychiatrist to the stars (that is, if you consider Albert Fish a star, or for that matter a star-fish) Doctor Fredric Wertham in his WORLD OF FANZINES mentioned that even the cheapest, most addled crudzine in the spectrum has something of benefit and value to it, and although the Good Doc certainly did not live long enough to read many of the crankout rags that permeated the underground rock scene of the eighties and nineties (most of which had NIL redeeming social value whatsoever) I can see his point at least in regards to this particular piece of Velvet esoterica.

The ish I got is #3, dated winter 79/80, and its got 26 pages inc. covers of not only the expected Velvet homage but loads on solo Lou fodder which would figure given how he was riding his career into superstardom at that very nanosecond and hey, why knock a cash cow when one sees it. You get the expected fanzine standards here, Velvet lyrics, recent news, a cartoon and even a crossword to do while listening to TAKE NO PRISONERS I'd surmise. As you'd expect the lyrics don't quite match up with what we eventually found out Lou was really singing, but given all of those poor pressings and cheapo stereos we hadda rely on back then it's any wonder these guys got as many words outta them speakers as they did. The cartoon is OK, no KICKOUT D. JAMZ mind you but fine enough, especially the part where Lou starts singing "Jesus, help me write a decent song"! And although I never do crossword puzzles (they remind me of a sad time in my life) it was kinda interesting to read the clues and then figure out the answers w/o marking up my copy thus letting it go down in value if I decide to sell the thing and retire.

Other bits range from "hokay" (a list of recent Velvets covers) to hunh? (a spoof review of the Lou Reed Xmas LP on RCA Camden that doesn't quite hit the mark the way those fictitious CREEM and TEENAGE WASTELAND GAZETTE writeups did earlier). A review of Lou at the Hammersmith Odeon was good if only for historical purposes. One article I did enjoy was the one on the perhaps not-so-strange attitude that the now-defunct English weekly MELODY MAKER had towards the Velvets. Not that anything other than derision was to have been expected...after all MM were banking their bux on the progressive rock market which they pretty much cornered in the music weekly field (leaving NME to fend for the high energy punk segment of society) and bashing the paper as well as its spiritual figurehead Chris Welch might just be as futile as berating ELP for not sounding like the Velvets themselves! Still it is a fun exercise detailing the paper's disdain then sheepish acceptance of solo star Lou trying to eke anything outta his own fame that they could to pump into their own coffers!

Nice labor here. I gotta say that I enjoyed DIFFERENT TIMES even though it doesn't have the all out capturing of the Velvets' energy and mystique that WHAT GOES ON had not forgetting the in-depth scrutiny of Mercurio's pub. But hey, given that this one was cranked out at the tail end of an era of rock & roll as a force for teenage decadent energy thus containing many of the same powers that still permeated music and print I can't complain. As far as these crankout fanzines go at least DIFFERENT TIMES has a good feeling to it and captures at least some of the same qualities that I love about the Velvets' music within their faint, third-generation xeroxed pages.