Sunday, February 28, 2010


Being on a Can kick throughout the past two or so weeks (this being brought on by a mention in an Ian MacDonald "Letter From England" column that appeared in a 1975 issue of CREEM), I thought I'd share my mania with you by posting this pretty hot performance taken from German tee-vee. If this only got out to us Amerigans at the time maybe we would have seen Iggy on a weekly basis!

Saturday, February 27, 2010


Sheesh, a reg'lar weekend post! After all of the little bits I've been tossing out at you over the past seven it's a surprise that I could find enough hot and pertinent beefiness to slam into this one! But given that this is the age of immediacy I felt it my duty to get the latest shards of gossip and hotcha information out at'cha as soon as it happened rather'n wait until Sunday to divulge of such important musings, and (as usual) you better be more than thankful you're getting your BLOG TO COMM as often as you do especially considering all of the computer-less children there are over in India just starving for this information!

Anyhoo, here're a few newies that graced my ears this past week that I know you could care less about but I feel I should let you know because...5000 years from now they're going to study this in universities.

Various Artists-SPIVEY'S BLUES PARADE LP (Spivey)

The Victoria Spivey album reviewed a week back really got me hankerin' to hear more of these "primitive" blues moans which is why I latched onto this sampler that came out via Spivey's own label that's not surprisingly named after the songstress herself. A pretty vast and varied sampler too, featuring not only Spivey doing her country blues but a whole lotta her friends and acquaintences, some of whom were big enough names in the black entertainment world at the time. Sonny Boy Williamson appears as do some pretty hotcha blues/r&b movers and shakers from a whole lotta people I never knew about before and probably never will hear again. And there ain't no dud in the batch which'll keep you well jelled form the big band-ish shouters to the backwoods wax-paper and comb bouncers. There's even a comedy routine here from Billy Mitchell, "the colored Charlie Chaplin" who moans and cries through his skit which sounds dirty, but frankly you have to listen hard to make out what he's sayin'! What I would call a great introduction to the pre-pre-Robert Cray style of blues back when it was a phenomenon that was pretty much confined to the chitlin circuit and backwoods radio stations.

Word (actually, Wikipedia) has it that the Spivey label's been digitized with Cee-Dee takes on their entire catalog (which even surpassed its namesake's demise) availabe out there somewhere in the great unknown. A tasty proposition to be sure, especially since the label actually released a Screamin' Jay Hawkins album around the mid-eighties which I must admit I never knew existed but sounds pretty desirable (as do most of Hawkins' outta the way releases) to say the least! Anyone familiar with this particular platter as far as contents or even worthiness goes? If so, howzbout dropping a line!
Riot-ROCK CITY LP (Ariola Germany)

As you may know, discovering whatever you can about the under-the-underground New York bands of the seventies can be a mighty difficult and sometimes unrewarding task. True, many of those groups whose names appeared on CBGB and Max's bills were satisfying to the BLOG TO COMM modus operandi, but others weren't quite as entertaining as a few treks to the used record shop might have pointed out for a whole lotta kids who were suckered into buying "the next big kahuna" and got instant douse. Take these Riot guys f'rexample...their name pops up on many a Max's bill throughout the mid-late seventies usually opening for yet another nth-string group or even a verifiable "New York Rock" favorite like the Poppees, giving me the impression that they might've been yet another one of those under-the-radar punk groups with their chops down pat but unable to go anywhere with 'em.

Which only goes to show you how wrong I can get, for Riot were actually a heavy metal group that, right around the time they were finally thinking of cashing their chips, somehow got rollercoastered on the British New Wave of Heavy Metal bandwagon where they gained some fame and fortune with that particular crowd. True they were probably confused with Quiet Riot a good portion of the time, but at least a string of albums and some notoriety in the eighties heavy metal fanbase should prove that Riot were much more'n just Wednesday Night fodder at the rock clubs.

That doesn't mean that I have to like 'em, for Riot, at least evidenced by this debut album from early '77, were nothing more than typical late-seventies mainstream metal w/o the energy, conviction or just plain air-shredding tendencies of a Motorhead or Blue Cheer. Very fluff-weight in fact, more geared to the worst aspects of "classic rock" in that knock-'em-out-with-the-conditioning-impulses way to the point where the lead vocalist sounds so bad you'd swear he was that guy from Boston singing "People living in competition" ad nauseum. I guess that the presence of Riot on the New York Scene does prove one thing about CBGB...they were right having a policy of allowing people who didn't want to hear a certain group to leave and re-enter when the act they came to see would appear. Otherwise, I can see the club emptying out pronto ne'er to be filled again!

If you've ever wondered what the remnants of the old Orchestra Luna/New Luna Band were up to around the time 1980 rolled around this is the answer. I don't think that there's much of a membership change if any twixt these guys and their previous outfit in case you're interested, but I will admit that they put out a pretty good early-eighties album that offers some of the better aspects of what was going under the "new wave" banner along with a few obvious Meatloaf moves that don't seem to agitate me that much. I guess that if you like some of the music that was popping outta the 1981-82 cusp like the Comateens or Get Wet you'd like this as well. At least they didn't hire Frank Frazetta to do the cover.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


An article that made my day just as much as it will ruin those of the hardcore leftists, 21st-century conservatives and liberterian-lites amongst us. Feel free to be discouraged.


Found this on Barry Goubler's Facebook page and decided to cop it for myself, unoriginal person that I am. Live on local tee-vee (Providence RI) in 1960!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


You might have heard this already but not from a trustworthy source, but anyway the venerable record collector, dee-jay and scenemaker Imants Krumins (see latest issue of BLACK TO COMM for more) had a brain tumor removed this past Sunday which is news that certainly has come as a shock. It was rather sudden...feeling sick Friday night, rushed to the hospital by Saturday evening then an emergency surgery Sunday. Last I heard he'll need chemo and undoubtedly plenty of rest after this ordeal. The strangest thing is that he's probably home from the hospital by now (supposedly due to be discharged yesterday?!) making me wonder if those horror stories about the Canadian health care system are as true as naysayers make them out to be? Whatever, I really feel bad for the guy because he is tops in my book. He's one who would go out of his way to make a tape or Cee-Dee-Are of a recording that I needed, plus he'd even give to me gratis fanzines or whatnot that I was looking for that he himself didn't personally want to hang onto. (This is how I latched onto my copy of DENIM DELINQUENT #6...thanks again Imants!) Not only that, but once when I was really down in the dumps he outta the blue gave me a phone call just to tell me how much he dug the then-recently released twenty-second issue of my very own rag! I really appreciated that one since it came at just the right time when I was that close to (figurative speaking) slitting my throat, so if there's anyone to blame for me being alive (spiritually, that is) it is he. I mean, I've heard of corporal works of mercy, but this was a sergeant work! As Ed Norton would say, Imants is "one of the good ones" and I mean it! Anyway I'd say that our thoughts and prayers are with Imants and his family at this time, though I don't want to offend any stringent secularists out there so I won't.


Via a certain blog that shall remain humorless:

"I would like a blow by blow by account of the battle between you and the 50 year old homophobic hermit who lives with his mum (you forgot father as well, not to mention sister who hangs around here enough that she should be considered part of the household-editor) and writes the otherwise excellent Blog to Comm."
Now, faint praise will do you no good (I mean, I don't find homophobia exactly something not to be proud of especially in the face of your homophilia), but really, if anyone should know about detailing a battle "blow by blow" as you say, it should be that ol' blogster Dave himself.


The estimable Bill Shute saw this movie upon its release in 1975, and remembered recently that AIP put it out despite the MGM lion being all over the packaging of this DVD re-release. Me? I dumped my clothes into a washer at the laundromat the other day, then came back from the change machine and started the washer adjacent to the one containing my clothes.

So much for comparing memories, let's compare mammories, Raquel Welch's incomparable pair being the main reason why AIP picked up this movie when it couldn't find a home. Welch plays "Queenie", a former wanna-be actress who latched onto James Coco, a one-time silent movie star now being marginalized by talkies and changing tastes in comedy. His character is loosely based on Fatty Arbuckle, who as we all know was found INNOCENT in the Virginia Rappe bit of unpleasantness but had to endure years of snickering when having a bottle of hootch delivered to his table in a restaurant.

Welch is serviceable here, and the director relaxed her in the presence of Broadway vet Coco by making acting "suggestions" and cannily getting her to believe they were her idea. Her character once had genuinely deep feelings for the faded funnyman but now stays with him mainly out of convenience and loyalty.

Coco's character (I forget his name, I sent the DVD off to Bill Shute and I already told you that I have no memory) has risked everything he owns by bankrolling a comeback picture which he screens to an underwhelmed gaggle of invited Hollywood guests and prospective backers. Coco chews up the scenery and emotes like he is still on Broadway. He seems to be trying to reach a rube from Paducah in row ZZZ who is more interested in swatting a fly with a PLAYBILL.

In fact this flick feels a lot like a filmed stage play. If it were not for one outdoor scene where an Italian stereotype manning a fruit stand recognizes has-been Coco and gushes broken-English compliments while insisting that his daughter kiss the great man, it could have all been shot on one or two stages.

Brief snippets of the movie-within-a-movie Coco screens are included to convey that his pet project is dated and hokey, but anyone in tune with this blog will no doubt wish they could see more of Coco in a pot of water being menaced by cannibals, as you are no doubt under the belief that filmed comedy has declined steadily since the early 20's.

The fairly debauched for the time party scenes no doubt got cut but good when this aired on network TV way back when, and apparently the entire narrative was messed with in the editing room. It is restored to its original running order here. In a director commentary piece, it is claimed that today's politically correct climate would prevent him from including the bawdy, lesbian targeted "Put Your Finger in a Dyke" piano number, or the scene where a drunken Coco is prepared to ravish a starstruck underage girl. Has this man watched any cable TV lately?

This endless party finally winds down with a melodramatic finale as pronounced as Coco's profile. Worth a look, even if blogmeister Chris S. would tut-tut the musical number skewering historically wronged president Herbert Hoover, whom he once described as a lovable old pooperoo. or endearing fuddy duddy, or something similar. Or maybe that was George Bush. Or George Herbert Walker Bush. Or was it Lamont Cranston?


Funny, I never would have believed that the "Camden" branch of RCA was still up and running, but judging from this updated "twofa" I guess this noted company's "budget" line (most famous for those cheap-o Elvis soundtrack reissues of the seventies) continues even to this day. Too bad I hadda pay far from budget prices for these slow movers, but I guess I can't have everything at depression-era wage prices!

I really would have preferred that AQUASHOW was packaged with LOST GENERATION (Murphy at his early suburban Dylanest) and NIGHT LIGHTS with JUST A STORY FROM AMERICA (Murphy at his more mature art rock best) but since label logistics wouldn't allow it I guess I'll just have to settle for the guy's two RCA albums the way they're available in the present tense and just shut up!

LOST GENERATION is admittedly my least fave Murphy disc next to AQUASHOW's brash early-seventies suburban teenage pill pop haze, but that doesn't mean I have to hate it. Once again Murphy relies on a number of well-seasoned session men 'stead of his backing group (most of whom I believe left in disgust!) and perhaps because of this there is a lack of warmth which I won't deny. Despite these amputations Murphy fortunately came up with some rather powerful songs that evoke everything from Olde Tyme Hollywood to what I thought was a love song from an aged Adolf in Argentina to Eva but (according to Murphy's booklet notes) was actually a commentary on the fascistic trend in the pop music scene of the day aimed straight at a certain Thin White Somethingorother. True, LOST GENERATION's nothing really that spectacular even in light of the albums Murphy was competing against, but it has a certain swerve to it that just might goosestep its way into mein heart.

'76's NIGHT LIGHTS fares much better even if a good portion of the rock intelligentsia really seemed to go after Murphy with a vengeance once this classic was unleashed. Most of the tracks feature the guy with his late-'75 Boston supergroup that consisted of ex-Modern Lovers Jerry Harrison and Ernie Brooks plus onetime Sidewinders leader Jonathan Paley on drums, and that combination makes for a natural winner with my if not your own personal underground rock plateaus. Murphy and band sound just as current as the groups on the New York Scene not only with the reliance on electronic gadgetry (ARP strings a la the first Max's album) but a strong (Velvet) Underground sense of dynamics and energy. Who woulda thought that Doug Yule, taking a break from ruining whatever of a legacy he might have had with American Flyer, would ever had been this beneficial? (Note how I'm not even mentioning Billy Joel's tough-pose piano on "Deca Dance", a number which I gotta admit grew on me like the skin tags across my eyelids.) As usual, the lyrics can get in the way a bit (Murphy never was as deft in this department as many of his fellow rock poets) but at least they don't get in the way of the energetic rock riffing. Don't miss "Lady Stiletto" which, again according to Murphy, may not be about Patti Smith but I don't buy it for a moment.

I still can't see how just about everyone 'cept BACK DOOR MAN really trounced upon NIGHT LIGHTS, for this has the right mix of mid-seventies punk, panache and general teenage angst w/o the self-mutilation. It's kinda what I was hoping mid-seventies Dylan woulda come off like but hanging around Joan Baez can do things to ya.

One thing about this reissue that's even better is that over half of the NIGHT LIGHTS disque is taken up by outtakes and rough demos which is wonderful in case you're Mister Tight Sphincter and wanna study the development and evolution of such things as album tracks. I like it because you're getting more music for your buckskins even if us peons were never meant to listen to these embryonic takes, plus I think we're mature enough to give it ALL a listen, don't you?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


From David Solomonoff via his Facebook wall, here is perhaps the first ever solid information to be disseminated on Harlan and the Whips, his late-seventies "avant garage" group probably best known to readers of THE COVENTRY SHOPPING NEWS (like myself) and nobody else. Dunno about you, but I know this little bit has gotten my salivary glands working overtime and hopefully those tapes he mentioned will eventually turn up somewhere and be released more sooner than later, if only to help sate our undying Velvet-drone fixation. Solomonoff, Marotta, Shetler, Dromette....whoever...if you're (still) reading this look through your vaults asap! History awaits!!!

"Harlan and the Whips was one of the first garage bands I was in. I also played
with Bernie Joelson a little - he really encouraged me. The Whips included Paul
Shetler on bass, Lin Hopkins on guitar and occasional vocals, and me on slide
guitar. We sounded like a mix of the Twilight Zone theme, Sister Ray-era Velvet
Underground with a little Beefheart influence as well. In general, very crude -
Paul and I were just learning to play. We mostly rehearsed in the back of
Coventry Books. As far as I know, Paul had the original cassettes and lost them.
Johnny Thompson was interested in releasing a single from one of the cassettes
but it didn't happen. I went to Paul Marotta's studio, cleaned up the recording
and transferred it to reel. I don't know where that is now."

Saturday, February 20, 2010


Back in the early-nineties when I was (more-or-less) in touch with noted Max's Kansas City "musical director" Peter Crowley, the noted entrepreneur casually mentioned to me the unadulterated FACT that out of all the acts that played his famous dive during his 1975-1981 stay the one that he was most proud of booking was blues vocalist Victoria Spivey. I clearly remember Crowley regaling me with the story behind getting her into Max's and how she was pleased as punch to play there because despite being considered a leader in the "country blues" field she was strangely enough having trouble getting gigs. Ironically, Spivey's June '76 appearance was probably one of if not her last performance since the "Queen of the Blues" wouldn't even make it out of the Bicentennial Year alive, dying of a cerebral hemorrhage a good three-and-a-half-months later.

Now I must admit that at the time I was told this such a revelation really didn't hit me that hard up the noggin. Y'see, for some maybe not-so-hidden reason or another I had developed what some might call a relatively neutral opinion regarding the blues, perhaps due to the over-rambunctious handling of the genre by whites who discovered it via the Rolling Stones and suddenly thought they knew all about it hook line and plagiarism. Maybe the memories of hippies churning out fuzzed-out powerchords to Willie Dixon numbers just didn't settle too well with my constitution. But it's not like I disavowed the genre...I remember once watching a film of the James Cotton Blues Band (which believe-it-or-not was being aired between the afternoon classroom instructional programming on PBS and the SESAME STREET/MISTER ROGERS block!) that I thought was "cool", but that was obviously an anomaly since what do doofus kidz know anyway. Overall, my opinion of the blues was similar to those I had about early country music and's there and if people like it wunderbar, but this stuff just doesn't ZONE me the way the Velvet Underground or a good portion of the acts that were playing Max's at the time would, had I the opportunity to hear 'em that is.

Now (in order to stave off any vicious attacks from the blues purists amongst you readers), I must admit that I do own a couple Howlin' Wolf recordings that get the spin every-so-often when they float to the top of the pile and that I have enjoyed a wide variety of bluesy white groups from 15-60-75 on up (and although I am not as well versed in Bo Diddley as I'm sure many of you are I am willing to learn!). Heck I even dug all of those blues tracks that Bill Shute sent me back in '83 that were recorded in the rear of Joe Van Battles' body shop back in the late-forties so it's not like I'm 100% blues-handicapped. But for the most part the blues are just about as alien to me as I'm sure personal hygiene is to many of your regular readers, and actually going out and absorbing the stuff seems like just a bug hunkerin' waste o' time that could be put to better use like hunting down each and every rock & roll fanzine of pure carnal energy released between 1967 and 1976. As they say, that's my problem.

Well, perhaps I'd better do some realigning w/regards to my listening parameters if only to broaden my horizons since I don't know how many more of these sixties/seventies hard-edged outta-nowhere rockism recordings I'm going to have the luck to latch onto before I vamoose outta here. And what a better place to (re)acquaint myself with da blooze'n with the very platter that was released via Smithsonian Folkways and not Victoria Spivey's very own Spivey label, recorded right around the time she made her grand Max's debut and probably represents just exactly what the woman was laying down on that famous stage that held quite a bit of hot raw talent along with the dudsters who continue to pollute the "classic rock" genre with their paens to middling sameness.

It sure is a credit to the audience at Max's that they gave Spivey the same rousing roar of approval that they gave the Ramones, for THE BLUES IS LIFE contains primitive blues of a "country" variety, played like it was back when Spivey was just starting to crank out the 78s for labels like Okeh and Vocalion a good eightysome years back. Done in that Authentic Style t' say the least (so authentic you'd think that each album would come with a swig of White Lightning [pardon that unabashed Dave Marsh-ian comment]), this does bear the fact that it was recorded in a state-of-the-art (I assume) studio and in the jaded seventies t'boot.

Don't let that scare you off...Spivey sounds as young as ever as she strums her ukulele to a steady drum accompaniment (hmmm, an interesting combination for you budding alternative rockers huh?) with occasional rollicking piano and kazoos tossed in here and there to add a little spice to the proceedings. If by some chance you think this stuff is "monotonous" then you're an even bigger jerk than I believed you to be in the first place! True, a number of these blues have the exact same chord patterns/changes to the point where you might be under the delusion that the Cee-Dee box is set on "replay", but then again if you think these songs "all sound the same" then you could probably say the same about the Ramones and Amon Duul I. A big "SO WHAT!" to you and yours for that!

Not only that, but Spivey sure had a way with words singing about everything from hangovers, getting whooped by yer lover 'til the welts show and cooking "sissages", and let's face it you loved it when Petti Smith and Janis Joplin were doing Bessie Smith and here's more of the real deal 'stead of some homelies to give you the blues taste!

Take it from this decidedly non-blues fan, this is the ritz and a nice breather from listening to Can day in and day out. A rollicking winner outta nowhere that thankfully is easy enough to purchase with the touch of the correct keys on your computer...all you have to do is go to Smithsonian Folkways to latch onto a copy for yourself, which I assume some of you "more astute" readers are doing as we speak, right???.

While you're going online to order the Spivey disc you might also wanna give these two croakers a go. Remember back in '81when Lester Bangs did that "Reasonable Guide to Horrible Noise" article for THE VILLAGE VOICE? I sure do, since that particular piece was being talked about in my "circle" for a good day or two afterwords and why wouldn't it be since Lester was pretty much laying it down on the line about the noisier sounds to come outta the rock idiom (and only a few short months before he was to leave the planet for an indefinite period of time)! Looking back I gotta admit that this article was one of the better ones Bangs wrote during his post-CREEM days amidst many that certainly don't hold up that well, and along with the mentions of such noise-laden offerings as the Stooges' FUNHOUSE and Blue Cheer's VINCEBUS ERUPTUM Bangs name-dropped a pair of albums that seemed so bizarre in origin that I'm sure many people considered them to be about as real as SNOWFLAKES FALLING ON THE INTERNATIONAL DATELINE. (In fact, the rumors of these albums being just another Bangs leg-yank continues to this very day re. one of the comments left on THE HOUND BLOG last autumn---check the Hound's boffo Bangs post for more info!) THE SOUNDS OF THE JUNKYARD was one of the platters in question that promised nothing but atonal scronk splendor and guess what, Bangs was not lying to us like we thought because not only did that record exist in 1964 but it exists again thanks to the magic of reissuing!

Well, I guess that if METAL MACHINE MUSIC could get re-released on CD this noise monster could as well! Thrill to such tracks as "Acetylene Torch" and "Steel Saw Cutting" then come to the realization that the real abstract geniuses in the avant garde weren't those post-Cage "new music" types working in universities but yer Uncle Ed down at the scrapyard operating the shearing machine! For fans of Industrial Music, John Cage, and alla those kids who used to get mesmerized by the sound of the washing maching churning away. Maybe he should get a government grant instead of those hate-filled effetes putting down all we hold near and dear, but then again you know that Unc'd only spend it all on bowling shoes anyway.

If you want more everyday thrills it would be smartsville to also latch onto STREET AND GANGLAND RHYTHMS, a '59 vintage release featuring "Beats and Improvisations by Six Boys in Trouble" who entertain and enthrall you with their rhythmic bongo drum and "sticks" playing. All of which underscores these kids' songs and recitations dealing with their sleazy slum existence and budding delinquency natch! The general mood of this platter kinda reminds me of that down and dank depressing style of En Why See art and emote that seemed to spring up around that time which was embedded into a whole lotta episodes of JOHNNY STACCATO (maybe even the original SHADOWS) and Shirley Clarke films, with the bad boys performing everything from "Bo Diddley" while telling us sheltered souls of street crime horror and cop dodging as the bongo beats get faster and the pace even more frantic.

Now, on one level I kinda get the feeling that these ghetto youth just might be playing "compiler" E. Richard Sorenson for a fool in order to build up some more of that ever-ragin' white guilt, but since this was '59 I don't think the kids were that "wizened" about such things yet. But we all know that fifty years later they would have been signed to some major label in a flash which sure says a lot about how far street cred'll getcha these days! But whaddeva, I must admit that these pre-pube kids really could grip me with their frightening and realistic street sagas a whole lot more than any rapper could and besides, they really know how to whip up a pulsating beat! Assuage your personal shame and sorrow the classy way with this recorded live as it happened bonanza!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Courtesy Gavin McInnes @ TAKI'S TOP DRAWER, here's a message for all you CRASS-narchists out there who still want to fight war and not wars, unless it's a war that's right up your anti-capitalist alley!

Niagara-BEYOND THE PALE 3-CD set (Amphetamine Reptile)

Yes, there are a lot of things in this world of our that I find WAY beyond the pale. Same sex attraction. Same sex "marriage". Children's entertainment with flatulence "humor". Womens suffrage (at least in its current form). And worse of all, supposedly "normal" people who support all of the above in a bizarre case of lackeyism (worse'n the time Leonard Bernstein was cozying up to the Black Panthers!). But one thing I don't find "beyond the pale" is this three-CD set which not surprisingly enough goes by the same name, a limited edition collection on the "Gee-I-didn't-know-they-were-still-around" Amphetamine Reptile label featuring none other than the ever-moaning PUNK magazine pinup gal herself, Niagara! Of course she's fronting her various aggregations from o'er the years Destroy All Monsters and Dark Carnival, and who in their right mind can argue with three disques fulla that anyway?

Dunno how many overlaps there are between this reputedly limited edition (500 copies) set and the HOT BOX collection that came out three years ago...didn't do a side-by-side comparison so I can't tell you. I've been playing selected disques from both the past few days and it all seems to run together, but either way the material on these platters REMAINS must to gets especially since most of the "high energy" music that has been played in its wake is kinda middling at best.

All of the single sides do reappear so ya got some double dipping there plus the Dark Carnival tracks sound surprisingly similar (as if there was that much of a variation between shows), but I don't care cuz this is all hard Detroit Rock the kind that people who think they like hard rock hate with a passion. As we've known for thirty-plus years, this type of rock & roll is just too raw and feral for people who claim to adhere to the stuff, and that's been the ENTIRE STORY of commercial mainstream rock for the past fortysome years so why should I continue on this soapbox anyway???

I must admit that there's one thing about this set that's beyond the pale, and that's the fact that disque #3 seems to stop and restart with an annoying frequency which does bother me especially when Dark Carnival's getting into this very tasty for once Velvet Underground tribute, performing exemplary versions of "Here She Comes Now", "Venus In Furs" and "Sister Ray" that remind me more of the purity of 1975 Velvets homage than '85, '95 or even this very second! Even after running the thing through my disque cleaner twice some of the residue, and the sticking, remains. But am I gonna complain? NOT ON YOUR NELLIE, for my copy was actually numbered (91/300) and autographed by Niagara herself! I mean, she really touched the very box set that I am now holding in my sweaty palms!!! Oooooh, I don't think I'll ever wash my hands again!!!!!

Saturday, February 13, 2010


Hi. How'm I feeling? Right now pretty washed out. I think you can tell that by reading last week's post as well as most of the ones I've written since November, May 2004 at the earliest. It's an on and off feeling I must admit, but right now that old spark that gets me into blabbing off about a thousand different subjects in as many directions just ain't popping with me. If I were Lester Bangs I could blame it all on excessive amphetamine/romilar usage and living a life of depravity...I wish I could blame it on that but to be honest I can't. Maybe I should just quit doing this blog because it's obvious that nobody is getting anything out of it and what's the use of some hasbeen neverwas popping off about whatever flavor of the week whim hits him upside the head anyway? So that's more, nada, nyet!

OK, that must have been the shortest retirement in blog history. Thanks to all of the fans and followers of BLOG TO COMM who didn't write in pleading with me to keep this monstrosity going. I guess if there's anyone out there who deserves to read this it's you little people, the wee-wee folk who need some big kahuna to guide you throughout your everyday lives and travails and point out exactly where to stick that hard-earned when you hit the local flea markets as well as the on-line emporiums. Well, it's sure good to be back, and I think that twenty-second rest really did me some good y'know...

LIVE SKULL 12-inch EP (artist's label as they used to say)

Not being that huge a fan of the post-no wave groups that came out of the Lower East Side anymore,it is kind of a wonder why I latched onto this '83 debut by local noisemongers Live Skull in the first place. Maybe it was because I wanted to refresh myself as to what the early-eighties underground scene in New York was all about given that this came on the heels of one of the most productive and fertile times in rock & roll. Perhaps I felt like rekindling some of the feelings I may have had towards these groups after reading the pair of no wave books that came out awhile back. Maybe I still felt sorry for Live Skull after famous bigtime rock critic Chuck Eddy referred to them as "Live Tull" during one of his more "lucid" moments of creative writing. And who could forget the way Gerard Cosloy "handled" 'em during their Homestead days crying crocodile tears when they blasted him in the press. (I guess if people can twist certain "facts" about me and get away with it like Mr. Cosloy etc. have maybe I can do the same!) If you must know, actually, it's alla da above.

Still this debut doesn't quite excite me the way that I had hoped, perhaps because of the thin sound (I was probably playing it too low so's I wouldn't disturb the neighbors) or perhaps due to the group's struggling to shed various 1981 new wave cliches and halfheartedly succeeding. I'll admit that this has some on-target riffage lifted from various seventies punk rock watermarks remade/remodeled for a bleak future (which was then...forget about the future future of today!) filtered through what was left of the punk as art scene making for halfway decent entertainment. Thankfully this ain't as pretentious nor as New York snob elitist as I had remembered some of these offerings from the New York decadent scene of the eighties to be. Maybe a few additional spins under the right circumstance will align myself with these hotshot artistes, but right now I find this a more honest attempt at creating an exciting, high energy art rock that just falls a tad short of making a strong mark on my ever-growing musical parameters (whoopee!).

This is one of two Pretty Things "Harvest Heritage" budget releases (the other being the self-explanatory SINGLES A's & B's) that I believe were plopped out to cash in on the group's success at Led Zep's Swan Song label. However, if you were espying this one in the import bins back in the mid-seventies you wouldn't exactly be seeing any bargain prices slapped onto this baby! In fact, I recall chancing upon a particularly tantalizing copy wallowing in the Musicland import section sporting the then-harrowing price of $12.99 on it, way too much for a kid like me to afford at a time when I had to look for the $4.99 price tags on the albums the stores didn't up one dollar on yet! I even remember when I was near those very bins and overheard some older guy and his gal looking at the price on this 'un as he went on in a typically adult, restrained way about how unbelievable these import duties were to the point where this 'un cost a good three or four dollars more than it shoulda. (Hey guy, if that was you who said this and you just happen to be reading this blog, write in and maybe we can get together sometime to discuss overpriced import albums of the seventies...wouldn't that be a mindblower!) Never mind that Rare Earth in the United States was about to reissue this as a budget double with this garish Victorian pseudo-porn cover on way did I want that! I much preferred having the English version with the space-y Pink Floydish sleeve that, as turns out, was actually designed by none other than future Throbbing Gristle member "Sleazy" Pete Christopherson, and why would anyone want the domestic version with this 'un floating about!

Well, now that I'm older and so rich that I can buy out the candy store and give it to the poor just like Eddie Haskell, I finally got the original Harvest Heritage version of this "twofa" into my hairy palms perhaps for the same reason I bought a Tootsietoy I wanted when I was three. Didn't have to pay much for it either because I guess this double-LP set is just lying around in aging hippie collections all over the UK and can be picked up for a mere bag o' shells and yeah, I'm really glad that I have one of these even though it is about 35 years too late for me to fully enjoy the thing like I woulda back then when I was a lot younger and even more impressionable! Now if I could only find a way to wing this copy back to 1975 maybe it would've been for the better lest I bore you with even more insignificant anecdotes from a life I sure wish I coulda lived a whole lot differently than I had.

Naturally (like you wouldn't doubt it after 42 years of existing) SF SORROW remains a psychedelic w/o the patchouli 'n body odor classic. Not having heard it in about twenty years this record sounded totally fresh to me, and I gotta admit I eked a magnum amount of pleasure from it even during the moments when the Things were obviously ripping off SGT. PEPPER ideas like most of the other psychedelic groups both here and abroad. Unlike many of the late-sixties psychedelic acts who took SGT. PEPPER as a cue to get a little too sunshine happyhappy, at least the Things could still produce some jarring, emotive sounds that perhaps owed more to Pink Floyd than to the mop topped brigade. I was particularly surprised at how "Baron Saturday" begins almost like an old Kongress rant with Geofrey Crozier at the helm!

PARACHUTE doesn't fare as well, but sure sounds better than I had remembered with the Things still in their psychedelic period but starting to branch out into the very-late-sixties hard rock that typified their seventies material. Surprisingly enough I actually got a kick hearing 'em use harmonies and admittedly pleasant melodies at one moment while adding some decent hard rock manuevers the next, and even the likes of "The Good Mr. Square" did not offend a terminal balditis like myself (re. the line "he has no hair" which usually reminds me of my days of luscious glory but strangely enough emits no nostalgic feelings of being fur-impaired). Gotta admit that FREEWAY MADNESS which came out three years later didn't quite whet my whistle (or at least I don't think it would given I've only heard a live tape from that period), but after finding PARACHUTE a lot better than I recalled perhaps that one's a go as well? Any readers out there willing to tell me otherwise?
John's Children-THE COMPLETE... 2-CD set (Voiceprint England)

This 'un's about as complete as Dave Lang's cranium because the entire ORGASM album is missing, but since you can find that on another Cee-Dee complete with the "Smashed Blocked" promo vid on CD-Rom I wouldn't complain that much. Y'see, these disques have everything else by this outside-of-time English bunch who'd probably be about as famous as Content Providers had the elf known as Marc not passed through their portals. This 'un's got all the singles, the alternate takes and even the great BBC session which came out on an EP twenty-one smackin' years back (and you know how those get lost in the collection!)...heck even a few of those instrumental backing tracks show up in case you wanna do an Andy Ellison in the privacy of your own bedroom! Can't think of enough good things to say about this group and this release of 2005 origin other'n if you were on the lookout for any previous John's Children archival dig-ups now you can ferget it! Finding a place on my laser launching pad the past five nights, and it might yours too!
New Legion Rock Spectacular-WILD ONES! LP (Spectacular)

Sometimes you just don't know what you haven't got until you got it. That's what the wizened old bald men with the beards who sit on mountain tops always say, and you know that ain't hooey. Here's a group that had made a few small waves in rock & roll circles back in the seventies and I knew that they were "around", but I never bothered to pick up either their album or a single they released about a year afterward. Maybe I thought that the New Legion Rock Spectacular was one of those fifties "revival" groups that were so plentiful when this album was released (1975) and even the supposedly better ones like Flash Cadillac and the Continental Kids never did have a hold on me so like, why should I spend my money on this when there was always a good Abba album waiting right around the corner?

Well, for once I was WRONG because the New Legion Rock Spectacular were a pretty hot hard-edged rock & roll band more on the same lines as the Kama Sutra-era Flamin' Groovies or even that latterday version of the Sonics that nobody except me seemed to care for. None of those flaky pompadours and leather jackets poses for these guys! Speaking of the Groovies the Rock Spectacular (not "Spectators" as they were billed at CBGB!) even recorded two Groovies covers and both were from FLAMINGO which ought to prove to you that when it came to their execution of fifties rock ideals using seventies standards they really knew the right places to draw their energies from!

The songs these guys had the decency to lay down really do fit in with my own sense of midwest toughguy rockism from the earnest covers to the power-packed originals that seem to border on English pub thunkers of the time as well as various hot New York upstarts nobody seems to know about. And really, out of all of the songs the Spectacular included on this high energy spin the only real duff I could find was this track called "Bully of the Bayou", a backwoodsy kinda thing that seemed a little too Fess Parker for my tastes (especially since this was just a Louisiana-bred take on the ol' Jim Croce "Don't Mess Around With Jim"/"Leroy Brown" tough guy torn apart by scrawny guy motif!). The rest ranges from hard-edged fifties music to even some 1965 folk rock and it all goes down so great that you just know that the Spectacular were too good for the record buying populace of the time that was more preoccupied with some of the lamest jive to go down until...well, frankly that jive just keeps goin' on and on. Hopefully I can wrangle a copy of their single (which actually has the Groovies' "Second Cousin" on the flip) which would make for a decent sorta posting as the years drag on and we move further and further from the original bared root of it all.
THE "AND WHILE I'M AT IT" DEPARTMENT: There were at least a few of you who paid attention to my Big Fat Pet Clams From Outer Space writeup a few months back, and amongst those people was none other than the singer for the Big Fat Pet Clams guys himself who actually sent me three offerings of Clam-baked material just to see what I'd wanna do with the things! And brother, are they great releasese that prove that the BFPCFOS were certainly a way better group than all of those New York "effetes" who spent the early-eighties bopping to Madonna at Danceteria would lead you to believe. It must have been refreshing to hear a group like this playing pretty much a seventies underground pop style at the time when they did, when that particular genre had just gone out of style to be replaced by the usual rockmag-driven trendiness. It's a shame that groups like the Clams and others of their ilk, groups who were kind of lost in the eighties because they played music of an earlier stratum, didn't get out or else I'd've had a whole lot more better things to write about during the earlier days of my...ahem..."career".

MY TRUE STORY and O.L.P.B. (I'm afraid to ask what that stands for) really helped me kick up my feet and relax during the evening hours. It's punk-y but not quite punk rock, kind of the style that got stuck somewhere between the 1975 art rock generation and the hard-edged punkers that came after, commercial in some ways yet this would turn off your average "classic rock" fan like a light. Naturally I diggit perhaps because it does woosh around the various categories and makes for a kinda music that isn't trying to make any out-there brash, youthful and precocious statement but just wants to be rock & roll.

While yer on a roll you might wanna try GRAY ON GRAY, the solo album from Clams member Gary Applegate. Frankly this one doesn't jibe as much as the Clams proper (sounding like too much like a bunch of those New Jersey singer/songwriters with the sperm-lined throats) but perhaps if you adjust your mind to more of an Elliot Murphy mindframe rather than a Springsteen one you might be able to ooze the right amount of proper enjoyment outta it. Don't let three Dylan covers scare you...this ain't 1971 James Taylor/Melanie redux nohow!

If you have any interest at all in getting these platters let me clue you in that they're all available via CD Baby and affordable as well!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

High Rise-BLACK BOX VOLUMES 1 and 2 10-CD set (Illegal Alien/La Musica, Germany)

Remember a good five or so years back when some enterprising souls were releasing their own Les Rallizes Denudes box sets? They came in quantities of ten disques per "title", and as far as I can tell all of them were being sold on ebay. You couldn't miss 'em if you were a fan of that group like I am. True the cover art on these boxes was dippy home computer stilted cheapo crankout, but despite the low budget these sets featured a wide variety of tracks spanning that epochal Japanese group's three decade career. And the material that was used was, true, at times picked from previously-released offerings (which had almost instantly gone o.p.) but these sets covered a lotta ground especially for those of us who were just then discovering this purposefully obscure entity. I've lost count as to how many of these CD-R sets there were (frankly I pretty much skipped on most of the latterday releases other'n the one recorded in France that was rumored to have Maureen Tucker sitting in on drums), but there were at least seven, and even at the seemingly whopping price of $75 a smack for ten tea coasters I thought they were a pretty good bargain. Of course I had loads of money to toss out back then, and thankfully I dished out for the more important ones because it's old items like these that keep me going through times of no money than no money keeps me going through times of these old items! Or something like that, I think.

All kidding aside, the krauts who released those Denudes sets also put forth a few boxes worth of Japanese underground rock of a decidedly non-Rallizes bent. One was a collection of a number of Japanese underground groups of a more modern variety barnstorming their way across Europe and the United States with their total distorted, clipped and cropped sound that was akin to sticking one's head in the mixmaster. The other featured tracks exclusively by one of the groups from that tour, High Rise. They're a still-functioning trio that had wormed their way into the already wormy hearts of many a nineties underground rock aficionado with their extreme overdrive sound and heck, I even remember reviewing what I believe was their debut US of Whoa album in the pages of some underground crud read way back in those dank days of alternative-to-what? confusion. I'm still searching for that record which is languishing somewhere in about 35 years of albums gathering dust in my basement, but until I do find the darned thing I'll just spin this collection which I'm sure will help resensify my already-ailing brain synapses and just might help YOU TOO live a fulfilling, healthier lifestyle.

Nanjo Asahito might not exactly be another Mizutani Takashi (he of Rallizes fame), but he's sure boss enough as the ringleader of this group which, like LSD March and a slew of other Nipponese underground entities, seems to feed off of the psychedelic madness that Les Rallizes Denudes inflicted on the few who were lucky enough to experience their music throughout their sporadic existence. Not that High Rise are some carbon copy of Rallizes and the vast array of Japanese groups who claim undying homage...far from it, for where Takashi and the Rallizes guys would intersperse their atonal feedback howls with ballads and even updated fifties riffage to do Peter Laughner proud High Rise takes it to you with total overload atonal thrust with no break in sight. Kinda like Blue Cheer with an even more feral ideal, or Motorhead taken overboard to the sonic disembowelment of "Sister Ray". No quarters asked or given here brother! You may shake, you may shudder, but High Rise are the facts of (rockism) life!!!

And you can bet that it's all HARD AND HEAVY and without the marshmallow as High Rise singlehandedly bring back the Golden Age of Heavy Metal (not the simplistic fluff that has posed as metal these past thirty-five years) with their high energy sound and inspiration that draws from everyone from Blue Cheer and the Velvet Underground to all of those sadistic Japanese performance artists who like to shove thin slivers of steel into their veins. The guitar riffs are straight out of FUNHOUSE's musical college of metallic knowledge (that is, if you still consider that platter to be the ultimate in bared-knuckle HM that made Ted Nugent wet his loincloth in jealousy) destroyed even more by Asahito's up and down the scales loose goose playing. And really, I can't think of anything noisier, gratier and downright earwig-bending as High Rise unless you want to count some mad Japanese free jazz record by some guy who sepuku'd himself outta existence only a few short days afterwards.

For the sake of brevity let's just say that these ten disques are the perfect distillation of the Japanese underground rock infatuation with the Velvet Underground at their most psychic ("not" emotional, as Wayne McGuire once wrote) coupled with that strange ideal of violent lifesexdeath that permeates their culture all rolled up into a pretty noisy package. Whatever, it's bound to knock off frilly Velvets-pretenders like J. Neo Marvin at ten paces, and we know we could sure use a lot more music like that these days!

Saturday, February 06, 2010


Before we begin with today's typically weekendish schpiel I thought it'd be a nice gesture to inject a little more regarding former Big Brother and the Holding Company guitarist James Gurley, who as you probably have found out by now passed away last December. I'm absolutely positive that many a devout followers of the rock as scronk form are already hanging their heads in misery, for Gurley was definitely one of the first and perhaps best of the high energy outta-control players to have emerged from the late-sixties rock scene. His primitive and atonal stylings definitely being some of the best to have been heard throughout the late sixties, and considering that this was an era which produced more than a few guitarists who were stretching the bounds of what was and wasn't acceptable in an ever-twisting rock scene that is no mere feat. And while most other musicians were making the transition into the "new rock" by making their sound "clearer" and studying jazz guitar in an attempt to look mature and perhaps even "break new ground", Gurley was acting the cromagnon that he truly was cranking out a total maddening fashion of guitar playing that combined not only his self-taught fretwork but feedback, amp noise and an overall sway that could be akin to the scraping of fingernails on a blackboard or the shattering of glass.

Like the best of the late-sixties rock mavericks, Gurley was a fan of avant garde jazz with the energy play of Ayler and Coleman easily heard in his far-from-smooth lines that vastly differed from fellow Haight denizen Jerry Garcia, who also approached the free jazz idiom yet from a totally different mindset. (In some ways it is startling that people who were using avant garde jazz as a rock [& roll] influence could come up with extremely varying approaches to basically the same music, but once you get down to it there just hadda have been some other cozmik forces at work. I mean, why else would groups like the Dead and Airplane be playing their particularly commercial brand of music while Big Brother, the MC5 and the Velvet Underground would soar for the outer reaches?)

No wonder Gurley's playing compares to what people like Lou Reed had been doing at the exact same time not to mention the antics of other hard-edged guitarists like Leigh Stephens and Ron Asheton. It does make me wonder why Gurley was never ranked with them or with any of the other "guitar heroes" of the sixties even though you might have read something here or there, like in the letter pages of BACK DOOR MAN where some astute reader would make the connection with ease. One can only imagine on what tangent rock in general would have headed had the likes of Gurley been taken to heart instead of that of Garcia and his technoproficient ilk, and the simple fact that he's not mentioned or honored in any wayshapeform only goes to prove that rock & roll's "success" (meaning a world where Journey rules while Lou Rone starves) was pretty much due to its stupider, more "proficient" aspects appealing to a load of braindead idiots these past four or so decades.

A man ahead of his time while defining the time that he lived in, Gurley is but one and perhaps the ONLY reason you should give a listen to Big Brother because if anyone can make you wanna sit through Janis Joplin wailing her dog-in-heat trashcan yammer (which I have come to love in my own peculiar fashion) it is he.

Oddly enough, if one were to have told me a good thirty earthspins back that I'd ever give this guy any sort of thumbs up I'd've cussed the man out in a way to make a Marine drill sergeant blush! Really, I could stand looking at mangled bodies that Larry Flynt published as the "real" pornography and all sorts of genetic and atomic bomb mutations while merely yawning, but back then even the mere sight of James Gurley with a feather in his long hair was enough to send me into unbridled fits of hippie-hating rage! It wasn't until after I read Lester Bangs' various articles mentioning Gurley's exemplary guitar work in the pages of NEW WAVE ROCK and even that whore-y old ROLLING STONE (a mag that pretty much ignored Big Brother throughout the group's life because they were too raw and aggressive for the peace-loving denizens of Marin County) that I came to think differently not only of Big Brother, but the early San Francisco scene no matter how kaftan and tinkle bell it might've gotten right before the switchover to 1970. Yeah, Gurley and the rest of the Holding Company were the epitome of hippie excess, but his prowess (as Bangs had mentioned) was clearly marinated in his Motor City roots and who knows, perhaps if Gurley hadn't skedaddled to San Francisco when he did the guy might have ended up in some boss outta-the-way local Detroit act that nobody would have ever heard of! Well, at least we'd have fun discovering some obscure single of his a good four decades after the fact!!!

If you still harbor any doubts you might find some halfway decent downloads on the web. First off, try getting an earfulla "Light is Faster Than Sound" from the group's Mainstream album which not only features Gurley's spider-y guitar line but this solo which sounds like a veg-o-matic shredding electrified bared wires. Even better is "Oh Sweet Mary" from CHEAP THRILLS which has this particularly good Stacy Sutherland-ish line circa EASTER EVERYWHERE. Come to think of it, this song wouldn't've sounded out of place on that epochal longplayer but whatever you do, don't listen to Gurley's "aww shucks" vocalizing on "Easy Rider" from that aforementioned Mainstream disc until after you've listened to the variety of exemplary solos throughout his career (including his playing on "Ball and Chain", even the one from the MONTEREY POP soundtrack where he can be seen tuning up mid solo!). It's total amateur hour (third-place at that!), and it just might lead you to believe that his voice box might be anything like his effects box.

The Grateful Dead-CREAM PUFF WAR CD (Red Robin bootleg)

Speaking of San Fran, everybody knows that the Dead were the winners in a scene where Big Brother, Moby Grape and even Blue Cheer were considered the losers! It only goes to show you the entire unjustness of it all...I guess being in the right place at the right time with all of the right "connections" (hint hint!) can make or break a group, and if any group's necks deserved to have been broken it was these guys!

All kidding aside, it's no big secret that I never did cozy up to the Dead even though when I was first buying records and reading rock mags during my mid-teens I was tempted to give 'em a serious try. If you must know, I was even under the impression around that time that these guys were yet another freakout Mothers of Invention avant garde over-the-edge aggregation from the vast uncharted late-sixties that would have pleased me the way those early Mothers albums had. Perhaps I was buying into the history, the influences (Cage, Sun Ra...) and the hype whole heartedly. A few television appearances on DON KIRSHNER and SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE quickly changed my opinion before I could plunk down any money, which only proves that I had some discerning tastes even back then.

But that didn't mean that the Grateful Dead were totally out of my life even though I had certainly hoped so. For years people who should have known better were telling me that I should pay more attention to 'em and that their early records would really appeal to me if I only gave 'em that much desired chance. Of course a few trotted out that old argument that, being a fan of NUGGETS garage band ideals and all, I really would like the first side of their debut and maybe even some of their more extreme early material back when they were treading all of that territory that was bubbling under the youth movement scene even that early in the game. These same people were also telling me that I'd really enjoy Bruce Springsteen's early sides as well, so really just how much could I trust any of these pongos in the first place?

(Come to think of it, I did "plunk down" at least some spare change for that SEASTONES album when it hit the cutout circuit back in '79 after I read that this Grateful Dead in all but name album was not the hippie excess swill that the band had become famous for by the late-seventies! According to the write-up [in the WKSU-FM program guide of all places!] SEASTONES was a really engrossing, deep listening experience that even rabid Dead haters would enjoy and how could I pass a bargain like that up! Naturally I found that one to be more boring than an anal cavity seminar only going to show that if something is "avant garde" it doesn't mean it has to be good! The presence of David Crosby and Grace Slick sure didn't help much, and besides wouldn't you way that the Dead and their hippie friends taking a trek into experimental music were nothing but mere slumming, right?)

In preparation for a number of Dead bootlegs that Eddie Flowers sold me over a year ago (but hasn't sent out yet probably due to his using up all of his spare time house hunting) I decided to drag this particular one out of the compost heap to hone myself for what's to come more sooner than later (I hope). It's a live at the Fillmore November '66 offering that I had the sneakin' suspicion would have retained some West Coast garage aesthetics a la the Chocolate Watchband or at least some of those suburban groups who were on the way out while the Dead were truckin' on in. And maybe, on some higher plateau, it does. But mostly it's the Grateful Dead before they became the great spokesmen for a generation I never really wanted to bother with and all these years later all I can muster up to say is, so what else is old?

Overall it's got good enough sound and a performance that I must admit is...OK. Far from spectacular, on this disc maybe the Dead do sound like your typical mid-sixties punks that might have put up a good show at any local battle of the bands, but they would've lost to one of those BACK FROM THE GRAVE thudmongers hands down. That is, if they weren't laughed off the stage because Pigpen looked like an insane gypsy even then.

The West Coast trend of the day (folky post-garage) can easily be discerned, at least to the point where you can hear echoes of the likes of the Mystery Trend and Vejtables in the Dead's early oeuvre. However, in no way are these guys their equals. The Dead, from the lackluster vocals on all parts to Garcia's frankly bland playing and Pigpen's sub-sub-? and the Mysterians organ (actually sub-sub-Augie Myers, no slight meant to anyone), come off as if they're stuck in a genre-warp between the 1965 garage-punk scene and the Ralph Gleason-approved "San Francisco Sound" (TM) a few years before that fell into hack city. Yes it is pretty, pleasant enough at even driving in spots, but it was all done ten times better by groups who weren't exactly getting hyped up by Gleason as well as other out to overtake him on the old fogey hipster front. I dunno, there's just this dinge to it that doesn't sit quite too well even with their rip of Love's "My Flash on You" otherwise known as the title track.

Maybe the image of the Dead as what they became dance o' ecstasy and all still lingers on in my mind. Maybe they always were a buncha overrated hacks who just happened to appeal to some of the wimpiest, most anti-rock & roll people who only pretended to like it once it became respectable amongst the pseudo-intellectuals to do so. Maybe the boots Flowers sold me will suit me better? Only time will tell.
The Electric Eels-AGITATED: 1975 LP (no label bootleg?, Germany???)

In his tirade against your humble writer back in 2004, famed somethingorother Jay Hinman criticized me for what he perceived was my incessant repetitive praise o a variety of musical acts, some he claims he even liked. such as the Electric Eels amongst a few others whose names escape me at the moment. Kind of a foolhardy thing for the noted free thinker to say, especially since he's a guy who used to repeatedly namedrop his top notch amerindie heroes like Mission of Burma at the drop of a hat. The surprising thing about Mr. Hinman's smear was that frankly, at the time of his character assassination I hadn't written a word about the Eels for nigh on five or so years let alone given them a listen which only goes to show you that if you're gonna go out and ruin an upstanding guy's reputation and his chances at selling a stiff of a fanzine it don't matter what you say as long as you have an eager beaver audience out there to eat it up! Ketchup anyone?

But soldier on I must, and while I am doing just that I thought I'd clue you in on this strange affair, an Electric Eels album which I never even knew existed. It claims to be of kraut origin, supposedly only 1000 were pressed up, and all of the numbuhs here were taken from legit Electric Eels CDs which were in print at the time this was released and are probably easy enough to latch onto even now. There's even an enclosure with Michael Weldon's liner notes from the old HAVING A PHILOSOPHICAL INVESTIGATION WITH THE ELECTRIC EELS album which only adds up to a great hunkerin' mass of redundancy in our collections. And with a lotta unreleased Eels material waiting to be released, especially some rehearsal tracks from the late-'76 version of the group going under the Eclectic Eels moniker featuring such stellar rockers as a cover of the Sonics' "Strychnine" as well as John Morton's "China Pig"-styled "In a Pig's Eye" why were/are we getting these reruns anyway?

Well, I'd rather have more Electric Eels in my collection than say, the repackaging of the Rolling Stones' greatest hits in fifty different variations and three formats t'boot, and although this is probably a bootleg consisting of previously and easily-enough available recordings I ought to admit that AGITATED 1975's a fitting homage that will at least give devout fans something to ponder about if not some newcomer wanting to hear a sweet taste. Even the more jaded amongst you must admit that tracks such as "Cyclotron", "Giganto" and "Refrigerator" are top notch high energy mid-seventies punk rock classics, and few have been able to capture the Eels' energy and snarl no matter how hard they tried being offensive and confrontational in their own acidic ways. And many, from the Dead Boys on through the Crummy Fags and Silver Daggers, have attempted to duplicate the Eels' prowess with all their might and even though I think none of 'em totally succeeded you must admit that they were pretty spot on in their attempts. You can't do wrong with picking up any of the easily-available CDs that are out but if you can latch onto this you'll really have a nice treasure in your stack o' wax, Jay Hinman's cries of redundancy to the contrary.
The Rats-"Don't Let Go"/"Dragon Child" 45 rpm (MAM England)

One thing about discovering various flotsam and jetsam dealing with the punk rock scene of the seventies is that more and more shards of information and pieces to the puzzle seem to be making themselves evident to people like myself as the years go by. Instead of seeing a past dying out before our eyes and rapidly disintegrating before we can save it like some shards of old nitrate film it looks as if more magazines, myspace pages, recollections and general ephemera regarding groups both well known and obscure is being revealed right in front of our very eyes. Really, for a guy who spent a whole lotta time combing whatever resources were available just so's I could discover whatever about my favorite obscurities, I sure know a whole lot more about this music and what it doth represented now than I did then even to the point where I wish I could take all of my seventies punkism knowledge and somehow inject it into my 14-year-old bean so I could have enjoyed it right as it was happening rather than latch onto the bulk of this underground swing of things a long time after it was all dead and gone only to be replaced by this corporate conglomeration that went under the moniker of "new wave".

I ain't exactly sure which Rats these guys are out of many sporting the same name, but they do typify what a good portion of punk rock groups, or at least those who kinda got shoved under the weight of the Ramones and Dead Boys, sounded like in the mid-to-late-seventies. And these Rats put up and really good hard rocking bomp here even if the vocalist tends to sound like Jon Anderson about midway through puberty. "Don't Let Go" is a boogie-ish yet steady enough rocker that, with the Anderson-ish vocals, might have sounded like what Yes coulda had they gone punk around '70 after repeated spins of FUNHOUSE and a few personal lessons courtesy the Pink Fairies. In some ways this reminds me of the English group Mustard whose "Good Time Comin'" was a snat hard crunch punker with some boogie tossed in though don't let that scare you away. "Don't Let Go" even features a strange solo from what could be a saxophone or a melodica, or even a synthesizer going to show us all that a $2000 instrument can do what a cheap ten buck one can do just as easily!

"Dragon Child"'s equally bone-crunching with a weird sound that could be any of the above instruments filtered through each other for all I know! Hopped up rock & roll which Robin Wills said sounded like Van Der Graaf Generator at 78 but I kinda think it comes off like some 1975 punkers at CBGB who never went anywhere but they still did a good job sorta bridging the old and new guard with their metallic glam slam style.

It's not that funny that EMI-subsidiary MAM released this, because even though they had such outright wimps as Gilbert O'Sullivan and Julio Iglesias on their roster they also sported Dave Edmunds and Slowload going from one extreme to the other! And the Rats fit in with it all just beautifully. Hopefully this will end up on one of those mid-seventies punk collections that have been all the rage, but until then you'll just have to gnash your teeth like I've been all these years!

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

MR. A. #1, SECOND EDITION (published by Robin Snyder and Steve Ditko, 3745 Canterbury Lane #81, Bellingham WA 98225-1186)

There have made a few superficial dabs on my part with regards to writing about or perhaps even critiquing if you will the fanzine/self-published works of SPIDER-MAN co-creator Steve Ditko; you can click here and here for two measly examples of my thin attempts. And, for some not quite-so-odd reason (like maybe there is a market for Ditko's art despite him being treated like a pariah by the same comic book industry that he helped rescue from a post-Comic Code miasma), it seems as if more and more examples of Ditko's most recent comic work have been coming out via longtime publisher Robin Snyder. Despite the comparatively simple art and story lines perhaps due to Ditko's advanced age, I find a good portion of these various titles to be pretty readable and, perhaps due to the less cluttered art, pleasing to the eye. At least I believe it to be a whole lot better than the over-ambitious dross that has plagued the comic book industry for the past three and a half decades.

Now that the eighties-vintage Fantagraphics collections of Ditko's fanzine work are long out-of-print it's definitely time for a repro of the first MR. A. title to enlighten yet another comic book generation as to, as the Amish say, "what good is." Some of you readers who were in on comic fandom in the early-seventies might remember this particular issue being advertised all over the fanzine world back in '73; I guess just about every big name fanzine of the day had an ad for this 'un at the time and, considering just how much Ditko's "Moral Avenger" was appearing in the fanzines of the day I'll bet this issue was a pretty hot seller in itself. I sure recall spotting an ad in an issue of THE MENOMONEE FALLS GAZETTE (that being a tabloid which published a wide range of comic strips that probably didn't appear in most newspapers world-wide) seriously considering sending away for a copy, me being a huge fan of Ditko's fantasy and early SPIDER-MAN artwork and definitely wanting to see what the guy was up to all those years later. I thought this MR. A. title was perhaps some new and innovative twist on all of that SPIDER-MAN brouahaha that comic wonks were still talking about almost ten years after Ditko left that title for good, and it sure was nice to know that Ditko was continuing to draw comics even if it was for some small publisher I never heard of. (This was long before I knew he had been working for Charlton, a company that I gotta say I never did bother with in all my years of picking these titles up!) I didn't send for my copy like I should've because y'see, 75 cents was WAY too much for me to "squander" on a comic book especially when the 20-cent cover price of the day was considered, at least by the old folks, to be pretty ritzy in itself! And lemme tell you that not getting this magazine was perhaps one of the biggest mistakes I made in my life because when I was 13 I sure could have used a lot more Steve Ditko and a lot less Barry Smith I'll tell ya! Besides, the philosophical bent of these sagas would have suited me a lot better'n the peace and love jive that was still permeating not only the left-leaning comic book fodder of the day but the wishy-washy humanist drivel being injected into all of my school lessons ad nauseum!

Well, thirtysome years later long after I re-arranged/honed my own political/philosophical bent a few times over I get this new edition of that very first MR. A. title, something that tingles my nerve-nodes even though I already have THREE originals wallowing somewhere in the abode! If six-bits was bad enough in 1973 then I wonder what the family would think of me dishing out five smackers for this reprint! It ain't exactly a carbon copy of the original tho...while that one looked like one of the classier comic book/sci-fi fanzines of the day with its color cover and larger dimension this is more or less like a flimsier comic book with a glossy b&w cover which I'm sure suits Ditko because he once groused to Bill Schelly for printing a Mr. A. cover for Schelly's SENSE OF WONDER fanzine on colored paper saying it defeated the whole purpose and credo of his message!

The innards have been changed around a bit, with the stories now presented in a different order while the inside front merely lists the contents as well as the other Snyder-published Ditko titles. Originally there appeared a nice essay on Ditko written by then-publisher Bruce Hershenson who, amidst criticizing the then-current revivals of Captain Marvel, Wonder Woman and Doc Savage as being symptomatic of a comic book industry stuck in neutral, also waxed on about Ditko's philosophical beliefs stating that the libertarianism of not only Ditko but Ayn Rand and Robert Heinlein was destined to become a major strain of political thought in the near future. Obviously that particular prediction turned out to be yet another misguided missile that is probably still wavering on in space, undoubtedly one good reason why that schpiel was axed for this "revised" edition. Well, at least it might have seemed like the way things were heading sometime during the late Nixon/Gerald Ford era, but as we all know it's been the same old etcetera ever since and here in the teens I see little change comin' across the horizon.

Lousy predictions aside the stories in MR. A. #1 were and remain loads better than most of the competition on the pro and fanzine levels even with Ditko's messages permeating everything from fight scenes to brutal deaths. Mind you, there's nothing here as good as the sagas in the second MR. A. let alone the magazine-length Question story (he being Ditko's attempt at a Mr. A. for the mainstream publishers) that appeared under the Charlton imprint back in the late-sixties, but compared with the drivel that at times was being passed off as "precocious" and "innovative" this does smell all the more like roses. Hokay, perhaps a good portion of the writing was in need of at least a little structural development, but since Ditko was doing in seven or so pages what he should have done in three times the number of pages should any of us really be complaining?

You get the four original stories (some even previously published in fanzines!) plus a repro of the wraparound cover that graced the 26th issue of THE COLLECTOR back in '72 as a centerspread of sorts. The first tale, "When is a Man to be Judged Evil?" features the saga of an ex-con out to get Mr. A.'s alter-ego, avenging journalist Rex Graine, whose seething, murderous rage against Graine totally dissipates by page five for some strange reason as we suddenly and without warning find out in a scene where a hitman tricks the former crime boss into knocking Mr. A. unconscious. Maybe I should quibble about the storyline development but the art's so durn good and if I can overlook the lack of logic in an East Side Kids film why not here?

"What Happens to a Man Who Refuses to Uphold the Good?" has a committee of respectable and well-to-do men hiring Graine to investigate crime in their un-named megalopolis. Naturally Graine does his job with with typical unerring accuracy and all is well and good until Our Hero starts getting hold of some damning information regarding some less-threatening yet still corrupt members of the local social/industrial scene thereby hitting a little too close to home. Y'see, at first it was OK when Graine was naming local known criminal elements but the people now being indicted are businessmen and politicians who have connections with the men who've hired Graine. Predictably the Men of Standing turn against Graine with a vengeance after he continues on his crusade without their backing, "sicking" everything from a hired thug to an ACLU-styled organization humorously called "The Committee To Protect Criminals From Justice" on him all to no avail. The surprising thing about this tale is that there is no conclusive ending...after Graine is more or less hounded by these leading businessmen to the point where just about any normal person would go insane, up springs Mr. A. who grabs the group's ringleader and shows him point by point the errors of his way. It's all interesting enough I guess, but I would have preferred a standard comic book ending where Mr. A./Graine triumphs and the well-dressed captains of industry end up buried for their wretchedness. I guess that would eventually come to be in later MR. A. sagas, but not today.

The following, untitled story at least has a conclusive ending even if we're still bombarded by Mr. A.'s lessons of good and evil (and remember, you can't have it both ways like the characters who permeate Ditko's world always tend to assume!). In this one, a juvenile delinquent named Ken swipes a car, kills a pedestrian in a hit and run and crashes the vehicle into a street lamp before taking it on the lam. In a replay of the Kitty Genovese murder all of the witnesses to the crime plead ignorance and, as the early seventies canard went, "don't want to get involved" except for who else but Graine. Despite Graine's testimony the kid goes free thanks to his lawyer who comes off like a cross between William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow in his early-twentieth century socially-redeeming ways. (This conjecture is really not that surprising since both men were playing off different sides of the pre-McGovern-era liberal/populist equation even if they were bitter rivals throughout the Scopes Trial, the true paleoconservative/libertarian in that episode of Amerigan History being none other than H. L. Mencken.) If you think this kid's acquittal's the end of this saga you are sadly mistaken, for Graine won't let the case die much to the chagrin of the bleeding heart lawyer who has since become Ken's "benefactor". Meanwhile Ken hooks up with a local hood while playing his lawyer guardian like a violin, tugging on his emotions just as bad as when you'd see these street-smart kids being poured pity and empathy all over 'em by Bill Moyers and Phil Donahue, who then would recoil in shock and disbelief when these kids end up knocking somebody up, or is that off??? Before long Ken gets his guardian in just as deep into his treachery as he is leading to both of them murdering the local hood and dumping his body into the local pier at which point Mr. A. suddenly appears outta nowhere, dishing up some justice or better yet acting like a nagging conscience with Ken madly running away into the abyss still wanting his way while the lawyer does the only reasonable thing he can at this point in the story and blows his own head off! (I know, at least Flattop Jr. went mad with the ghost of the girlfriend he murdered clinging to him until he eventually did himself in, but I'll take this over having the kid "rehabilitated" by even more do-gooder types like he would've had say...Denny O'Neill written this story!)

Closing out the mag is "Right to Kill" which I must admit is the weakest of the bunch but's at least worth reading to see Mr. A. shoot some flipped-out chick who looks like Grace Slick through the head. A relatively simple kidnapping yarn, this story has less of a punch and more philosophy crammed into it than the others, and if you're looking for some interesting plot changes and story development ferget it! All that happens is some little girl dressed as if it were still 1957 gets snatched by some hotcha twentysomething swingers (come to think of it, everything looks 1957 in a Ditko comic 'cept for the evil youth who of course are all swinging mod "hippie" types!), then Mr. A. rescues her while killing the female of the bunch as she's about to slit the girl's throat! The other two kill each other while quibbling over the ransom as Mr. A. walks away with the kidnap victim as the two thugs cry for mercy with their final breath. OK, that's wonder they put this one right at the end. At least there are some nice touches here like when Mr. A. explains to the freed child just why he doesn't rescue evil people who wanted to kill the child while they're writhing in agony begging for forgiveness. I really like that attitude, it's almost as good as the things Ted Nugent used to say in his prime but then again what has he done lately?

In all, a great piece of work from Ditko, a downright classic which I believe just might rank as one of the top 100 comic books of all time if I would dare to take on a task such as compiling one. BLOG TO COMM readers who have some serious cravings for early self-produced underground/alternative comic works, or readers who just have some serious problems, might want to give this one a try if only to readjust your own personal focus on life and how you loathe it! But watch out, the next one in line is gonna be THE AVENGING WORLD and that made MR. A. look like pea soup!