Wednesday, April 28, 2010

BOOK REVIEW---IN THEIR OWN WRITE (ADVENTURES IN THE MUSIC PRESS) by Paul Gorman, foreword by Charles Shaar Murray (MPC books, UK)

On the heels of Nick Kent's autobio/retro-seventies rock histoire comes this decade-old pickup that was recommended to me by none other than THE HOUND BLOG's very own Jim Marshall. And of course, wanting to know the intimate details of the Mick Farren/Julie Burchill "tryst" and the Rev. Tommy Parasite's thrashing of Farren in its wake I just had to get this 'un in order to avoid yet another round of sleepless nights brought on by unbridled curiosity! Of course I'm kidding but really, don't you just salivate at the thought of a book chronicling the birth, flowering and eventual demise of the Golden Age of Rock Screeding (and the press that nurtured it) like I do? If so this book will help you out TREMENDOUSLY.

Rock writing (or criticism if you will though in no way do I consider the likes of Lester Bangs or Richard Meltzer "critics" per se) has been about as much a part of the whole fun of rock & roll as the music itself, with magazines like CREEM and fanzines like BACK DOOR MAN having their own cults of personality equal to that surrounding the cattle that both magazines promoted on their covers. And so a book like IN THEIR OWN WRITE does assist in pudging up my already bulging concepts of how the rock writer/press mythos worked with its rock star/label counterpart as both fed off each other and were (are?) so parasitic in nature that you'd think NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC would've done a special on this strange shark/remora like symbiotic relationship.

IN THEIR OWN WRITE purports to be a history of the "rock press" put together into one of those cookie-cutter slam a buncha quotes together and watch the fur fly books where everyone contradicts each other and loads of bad blood is spilled to the point where you'd think the offices at THE NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS circa 1977 looked like the slaughterhouse at the Chicago stockyards. Sometimes I think this cut-and-paste style of writing is just an easy cop out, a way for the "author" to get by w/o having to ruin his reputation by making a stand or criticizing the wrong mobster-backed manager, but at least this method of postmodern writing lets the perpetrators and standbys say what they want sans chance of editorial prerogative. Thus the commentators placing their wee-wee on the guillotine get to vindicate or damn themselves with their own words which I must admit is context-shifting or second takes here which makes this book a must steal if you can get it at the right price (sorry Mr. Marshall, but I hadda pay a whopping $15 for it including postage since there ain't any remaindered bookshops in the tri-county area that I know of).

I'm sure most of you couldn't care less about the growth of the "serious" rock press (for all the bad and good that implies), but it is a subject that I obviously have more than a passing interest in especially when the names Lester Bangs, Richard Meltzer, Charles Shaar Murray and the rest of the legit/punk cusp writers of the seventies pop into motion. Thankfully the book refrains from being a self-back-pat and self-serving for that matter industry felchathon, dealing hard and heavy with the dirty underside of the music press biz both here and over in Blighty where things actually were hopped enough for the survival of three (maybe even more!) strong weekly publications. Y'know, the gears in motion that gave way to the Golden Age of English Music Publications in the early-seventies, an era which was so hopped up that it's no wonder Iggy used to hit the NME offices on the hunt for speed whenever he was in the vicinity!

The book does leaves a lot out both good and bad, though "editor" Gorman showed good taste in ignoring any of the idiotic ramblings that would come out of the "minds" of the likes of Chuck Eddy or Doug Simmons which would have damned this book to an even greater obscurity than it already has earned. But where in hell is Byron Coley who was perhaps the ONLY great talent to come out of the eighties anyway? Doing about about the rock press/writing scene and leaving him out is like what they're trying to do in Texas leaving Thomas Jefferson out of history books! The private, underground "fanzine" press is pretty much ignored as well, as if such writers as Don Waller or Jymn Parrett weren't as "important" to the growth of the big megamonster press as Robert Christgau. (They weren't, but they were more important to the music and its growth at large given their own grassroots efforts in bringing attention to the likes of the Stooges and heavy metal at a time when such subjects made the rock press uncomfortable.) Surprisingly enough, none other than THE NEXT BIG THING's own Lindsay Hutton is amply represented giving his naturally above-par musings on a range of subjects including what he would do if marooned on an elevator with Tony Parsons, but that's only because he's over there and we're not so he obviously gets the one up on everyone else. Still the prejudice or shall I saw outright BIGOTRY that Gorman chooses to show does detract quite a bit.

But as far as this pop press in the rock age history goes, very little can beat this book which at least acknowledges the all important roles that the likes of Bangs and Meltzer, who have been pretty much spat upon and marginalized in the new, entertainment-weekly-style publications as if they never mattered one iota, had in the growth of the very medium that the current crop of hypesheet recyclers revel in. And as far as that history goes, the book pretty much begins with Gloria Stavers at 16 and goes up through its early trembling roots (ROLLING STONE and CREEM) along with the English papers into the raving seventies and eventually the eighties denouement which frankly we never were able to dig ourselves up from. It's a wlld emotional rollercoaster ride as we watch the music press and scene gain momentum and become power brokers in themselves before the backstabbing and oneupmanship began to get to just about everyone. And as far as this utter vitriol to be seen twixt the managers, artists and press goes even an old hand who's been around the block at least three times such as myself must admit to being surprised by the level of hatred and wont to destroy others which ran rampant in the music press scene. You may be shocked at all of the goings on behind the doors at your favorite publications which certainly weren't as peacenlove as some may have made the new journalism gig out to be!

But still you get to read a whole lotta vindication like in Meltzer's unabashed praise of Lillian Roxon or the point/counterpoint bantering about the importance of Bangs in all this (with Greg Shaw a surprising naysayer...I hope this wasn't because of the affair that then-wife Suzy had with Bangs and besides weren't the Shaws having one of those hip open marriages you used to read about in THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY anyway?). Or Burchill's smug haughtiness over being the new Simone DeBeauvoir to Tony Parsons' Sartre as well as some pretty funny anecdotes like the time when Parsons gave Iggy some laxatives under the guise that they were amphetamines and they hadda have a bucket handy backstage for Iggy to empty himself into that night at the Hammersmith Odeon!

However, I must admit that whoever was transcribing the saga Meltzer was relaying about the big rift between him and Lou Reed on page 80 left out a huge CHUNK. What reads makes no sense at all as anyone can see, since somewhere down the line the joke Lou was telling to Meltzer and Richard/Lisa Robinson was cut making for some really uneasy reading. I guess this was because of the nature of the story which some might deem racist, but anyone who wasn't in on the joke and wonders what kind of a punchline would end with someone sharply inhaling would certainly be left out inna cold. It makes me wonder why they even decided to include this story inna first place, but I guess stranger things have happened in the world of rock critiquing.

Anyway a great read (even though by the time ya hit the eighties the info is just about as boring as the music, and what can you really say about a genre that went from the likes of Roxon and Lenny Kaye to ANN POWERS???). This book admittedly does tie up some of the loose ends regarding what really did go down in the rock criticism game and best of all justifies your own hatred for some of the movers and shakers on the music fronts. (I for one was glad to know that Robert Christgau had been attacked not only by James Chance but a member of Suicide, probably Alan Vega. Too bad...Vega failed to kill him that is!) It should also bolster your appreciation for the heroes of the day like Bangs, Meltzer, Saunders and the rest...people whose ability to appreciate and discern what was worthy about this music managed to set the stage for a lot of positive, healthy rock & roll growth that might not have appeased the business bigwigs that be, but at least helped sell a lot more Stooges albums that anyone woulda guessed. And if it weren't for the likes of these where would we be other than...still reading ROLLING STONE????

Saturday, April 24, 2010


Which is an apt way to describe this week's post I guess. But what else can I say about my current sluggishness other than maybe the current warm weather situation is relaxing enough to make me want to revert way back to days of old and to what some might want to call happier times. This is the time of year that really brings back those old happy memories of a carefree if over-protected youth, unlike the cold autumn and chilling winter that usually remind me of torrid schooldays and putting up with the "man" (or in my case the "teach"). And what more than a sunny day can rush those happy kid memories to the front of the brain like nothing else outside of maybe a collection of old, long-forgotten comic strips or pre-relevance DC titles!

Ah yes, once the thermometer hits sixty degrees those halcyon times when all I had to worry about was getting out of bed early enough to watch the cartoons just come rushing back, as does all the fun I had visiting my now long-gone relatives whom I'll never see again which only drives in the point that maybe I should make good with what I have because who knows when I will be left all alone to rot! Ennui city y'know. A day like today also makes me wish that I was going with mom to the local department store (now torn down of course!) and making her buy me a toy car lest I cause a big fuss and embarrass her to all heck like any good decent kid would do! And while I'm there I'll also marvel at those body leashes that parents used to put their kids in so's they wouldn't get lost...I remember asking my folks to get me one because I thought they looked so cool and I could act like a dog while my folks would drag me around Mason's just like the rest of those unruly kids! Boy that looked like fun, kinda like that time when Rocket From The Tombs played the Agora and Craig Bell dragged Gene O'Connor onstage by a leash as the future Mr. Chrome scratched and snarled!

Of course afterwards we'd all go to Kiddie City at the plaza and take in a few rides before it was time to go home. Later on we'd stop at the Dog House across the street for a bite, another treat I sure would love to relive from my single-digit days early division! Sheesh, how I do cringe at the thought of those days being long gone and not only forgotten but loathed by people who could never have fun in a million years unless they were bitten on the butt, or at least had a tongue stuck way up it! And call me Dave Lang if you will, but I really do pity the young 'uns of today for not having the opportunity to experience life the way I did with tee-vee your best friend and a father to read you the (then high quality) funnies every evening, something which truly made me the man I am today and I'm sure inspires every little throbbing piece of muscle, bone and gristle in this very blog!

But enough of my rheumy memories which have been bulldozed over thanks to "progress" and life in general. You put-on decadent snobs who have nothing but raging hatred for midclass fun suburban living wouldn't understand or care one bit now anyway, wouldja??? But I'm sure the vast majority of you hairy-chested manly readers do. Of course!

Various Artists-ARTROCKER AT CMJ 7-inch EP (Artrocker, UK)

I remember when the gig that produced the four tracks on this EP transpired during October of '03 at the CBGB Lounge that was next door its more famous big brother, and I must admit that even at that time I exhibited a bit of curiosity as to what the bands playing at this particular CMJ "showcase" were laying down amidst the rest of the flavors of the week that were performing. Naturally it was the term "artrocker" which was being used to describe the four groups here that originally grabbed my attention, and considering just how all-encompassing of the best and worst of that sound we know and love as rock & roll has been tagged as art rock how would I know if these particular acts were English (the nationality of these groups) progressive rock types to warm Chris Welch's heart, or much better yet the kind of art rock that had been transpiring on the New York scene since the early seventies. Well, there was one way to find out, and that was to buy a copy you pongo you!

I know that if you've read this far down the line that you're probably wondering whether or not the bands featured on this commemorative EP were performing the art rock of ELP or the kind that was being accredited to the likes of Patti Smith and Talking Heads during the days when even Bernie Kugel would put them on the cover of his magazine! Well, fortunately for you these groups aren't either grandiose pomp nor studious art student dribblings but downhome all-out rock & roll, the kind that drove a lotta people to ditch their ROLLING STONEs back in '76 and pick up Kay guitars at flea markets nationwide. True it's English (and you know how trendy they can get even if their hearts are in the right place) but it's good English, like the kind you got back when it was 1981 and you poured through the latest NME and Rough Trade catalogs for the newest in high energy musings that kinda cured your pangs of loneliness once that sixties clocked out. And I think I already know what you think you're getting from groups with handles like Gin Palace, the Two Tears, the Flash Express and the Hells (wonderful names all), but in this case you're not getting the worst aspects of English flash and instant obscurity but fun high energy hard pop rock & roll that would even make Spunky Spider blush!

All of these groups have a great sense of pop reality and hard rocking aesthetics. At times I'm reminded of the best of those eighties "psychedelic revival" outfits and Television Personalities-related groups that were the rage of the fanzine world then, only without the usually expected "twee" that detracted from the raw meat of it all. Other times the best of Amerigan seventies rock with a sixties soupbase that fueled the first two issues of KICKS comes to mind. In fact this EP is so outta left field surprising us all good that I'll betcha Alan Betrock himself coulda been fooled about its origin has he'd only lived long enough! This packs a punch, and really I can't recommend this enough especially with such wonders as the Hells' "He's The Devil (But I Love Him So)", the Flash Express' "Ride the Flash Express" (that one sound like it was ripped from the grooves of some unreleased Freakbeat compilation that Greg Shaw has sent us from the great beyond), or even the Gin Palace with their vocalist who seems to have learned how to sing from listening to Olive Oyl and capturing those wavering nuances just perfect!

So when you see the word "artrocker" don't cower in fear...these groups really do bring back a lot of the excitement that was missing from rock & roll since the seventies and nothing gets me all hot and bothered like a fast rockin' number to wash away the bogus pretension that I usually have to endure thanks to the likes of "Classic Rock" and other latterday answers to the Jan Garbers and Eddie Duchins of yore. And you can bet that as soon as I get this thing posted I'm gonna do some heavy-duty research on each and every one of these groups just like I did when I was ten doing a book report on Japan just so's I could get a peek at some of them topless pearl diver gals!
GRAPHIC ILLUSIONS #6 (fanzine published by Robert Gustaveson, 1971)

In the wake of WITZEND there was a rash of what some would call more "intellectual" and "professionally-oriented" fanzines, publications that were less concerned with detailing histories of long-gone superheroes from long-gone publishers and bent on showcasing the works of artist both budding and popular which couldn't get into a mainstream mag if its life depended on it. These "upscale" fanzines would also include fare that might have seemed a bit more provocative and perhaps even "adult" (talking cursing and partial femme nudity) thus proving that the comic book idiom was beginning to attract an older, more (perhaps) phony sophisticated clientele. GRAPHIC ILLUSIONS was but one of these newer breed of 'zines, a professionally-printed and saddle-stapled effort that in many ways resembled an early issue of WITZEND with its portfolios as well as stories that not only surpassed the typical "crudzine" kiddie art of the day but the standard fanzine heroes who, although certainly worthy of praise in their own right, came off more or less like translucent imitations of the Golden and Silver-Age heroes these artists and fans undoubtedly worshiped.

The GRAPHIC ILLUSIONS that I recently latched onto (#6) is probably a typical one for the course. Nice layout and printjob here akin to the early WITZENDs and the rest of the higher-grade pubs, and for an "amateur" fanzine GRAPHIC ILLUSIONS spared no expense in putting out a quality rag even managing to use some red ink on the back cover as part of the MR. A. panel they had the good sense to use 'stead of a drawing of a superbunny or something equally cutesy. The use of color on this particular panel made for a wunnerful effect even though I don't know how this would have gone down with Steve Ditko, a perfectionist who wanted his personalist work to display a strong black/white imagery in order to relay his morality tales in the proper perspective. (I hope that editor Robert Gustaveson personally okayed the use of color with Ditko in advance, for it would seem the righteous thing to do in a situation like this especially considering Ditko's exacting standards.)

Speaking of MR. A., there's also a five-page story of his on the inside, the undisputed highlight of this issue not only because this is an important work of Ditko's but because this one was not reprinted either in the Fantagraphics collection of his work nor any recent exhumations that I've come across! Dunno why, but I guess that since the story and the moral being used have been part of the Ditko oeuvre for quite some time the editors in question would have felt it redundant to reprint it. Still, the saga of a man tightroping between good and evil playing it corrupt while assuaging his intentions is pretty neat, especially in these days when the story would probably end with the man either being totally forgiven (with the forgivers blaming themselves for the deeds of the corrupted one) or coming out on top getting away with his deeds since "everybody does it" I guess.

The rest of GRAPHIC ILLUSIONS fares "ok"-like, with folios that really don't tingle the visual cravings in us all as well as another history of the EC comics line that doesn't shed any new light on its subject especially next to the reams of EC fanzines (some of them of pretty exceptional quality) that have been coming out since the fifties. But still I really dig these self-produced efforts to the utmost just for the fact that they exist and continue to serve an important purpose that really hasn't gone away. Frankly, I discovered long ago that I can find more pertinent information in even the lowest-fidelity of crudzine than I can in any issue of ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY so you know where my filthy lucre's going!
Various Artists-THE ELECTRIC ASYLUM VOLUME 4 CD (Past & Present, UK)

On the heels of GLITTERBEST not forgetting my own personal CD-R collection comes this release which I assume is part of a series featuring rare European glam rock singles that somehow didn't make it to our mitts back when they were being churned out in the early-seventies. The compilers had the good taste to include a few rarities such as the Ning single amidst the familiar tracks that had already ended up on GLITTERBEST, but the inclusion of plenty of standard hard rock single sides only waters down the impact the good punkier stuff makes. Computer savvy people should just make their own platters for personal use, though given the lack of hard punk obscurities Purepop has been posting as of late it looks as if part two of my own personal collection's gonna hafta wait a good five or so years! C'mon Mr. Wills, I know you gotta lot more proto-punk up your sleeve!
Ultimate Ovation with Force of Power-"It's the Weekend"/"Girl, You're All I Want" 45 rpm (Eleganza, no address but various mailorder outlets have it in stock)

Lastly but not leastly comes this strange surprise outta nowhere, a brand new 45 rpm complete with the big hole inna middle featuring this retro-soul trio that I and perhaps you have never heard of! And for a guy who thought that the self-made 45 was dead (and soul music was deader) this arrives as a breath of fresh air in a stagnant pond of music that pretends to be new and cutting but ends up sounds like every other mainstream product on the market at around the second trimester.

Both sides top just about everything I've heard outta the soul genre over the past x-teen years with a slow burning intensity that I didn't know still existed. There's a little bit of seventies reggae influx here/there as well, and naturally the overall garage production doesn't hurt one bit and in fact heightens the pressure gauge. Reminds me of some of the better acts that used to scurry around the CB's 313 Gallery scene in the early oh-ohs working a similar soul/rock hybrid and doing rather well at that. And the backing group Force of Power, not only featuring Detroit legends ex-Gorie Dan Kroha but Jeff Meier who used to be in the Detroit Cobras, provide more'n ample assist to the Ovation's guttural pleas without being overpowering. Scour the internet hard and it shall be yours for a mere pittance!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Here's one that brings back loads of weirdie memories of my childhood! I remember this outta nowhere surprise because all the boys in the neighborhood were really going "hoo-hah" over the title thinking that THE HONEYMOON KILLERS was gonna be some hotsy totsy dirty movie from the title alone. All because of the mere word "honeymoon" with all of the promise of carnal oompah and other degrading goodies like that! Of course, what could be so sexy about a movie that had the tub female lead seen in the poster posing in a bikini anyway, but that didn't stop the guys from conjuring the most triple-X thoughts about this one! Those were the days when the sight of two casaba melons side by side (ditto balloons that weren't totally filled up and had what looked like pert erect nipples at the tips) or mere mention of an off-color word even when used in a totally different and innocent context (like if you were talking about pussy willows or titmice) could get any self-respecting secks-mad kid off on a laughing jag that would never end!!! I'm sure by now you could see just how much havoc a moom with the title THE HONEYMOON KILLERS could create amongst the more "immature" (as our teachers would say) amongst us. And boy when THE HONEYMOONERS was on tee-vee...

Well, don't expect anything too spicy, and while yer at it don't expect THE HONEYMOON KILLERS to be some jaw-drop-in-awe cinematic excursion that the advance hype surrounding it makes the thing out to be. It's a nicety true, but not exact engrossing the way a variety of 1969-75 (H-wood revival years) features still have you thinking grit and trauma. I'm sure repeated viewings'll make this film "grow" on me, but for right now THE HONEYMOON KILLERS is just a nice average "there" film that doesn't offend, yet doesn't excite either.

Shirley Stoler (Mrs. Steve from the old Pee Pee Herman show) plays this ugly bugly head nurse at a Southern hospital who (thanks to her friend who plays the mother on EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND) hitches up with this suave Spanish Lothario (Tony Lo Bianco) through a lonely hearts club ad. Turns out that the guy's runnin' a racket stringin' on a whole load of over-the-hills for their loot, but whaddaya know the guy actually falls head over Cuban Heels in love with our nurse friend even if she does make Mrs. Kruschev look like Brigette Bardot. After filling her in on the scam, the two go off posin' as brother 'n sister in order to keep the filthy lucre coming in, and eventually the grim spectacle of murder figures into the game before the whole thing unravels in a good enough climax but...

...frankly I was hoping for some more to it, like more violence, gore and shock surprises that keep these films at a high enough level of tension. There are some moments of blood and high intensity to be found like in that one scene where the pair kill with the deft blow of a hammer to the head this aging spinster who looks like Bea Benadaret. I mean other'n that this really ain't nervegrip central...they even hadda drown this one kid off-screen which kinda got me bummed because if anything, ya never get to see kids offed in movies and I for one woulda like to've seen the brat meet her match!

I also woulda hoped for a bit more oomph here'n there to keep me on my tootsies the same way a classic like say, THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT could. THE HONEYMOON KILLERS does have some things going for it but it all got wooshed away somewhere in between Francois Truffant mentioning that it was his favorite Amerigan film and the solace that you'll have in knowing at least Stoler won't be doing a nude scene!

Shot in b&w (which might make this the first retro b&w film to be released 'stead of THE LAST PICTURE SHOW), THE HONEYMOON KILLERS at times takes on a NAKED CITY-like ambiance because of the monochrome gloss. The matter-of-fact presentation from the badskis' point-of-view does give this a bit of edginess akin to an old episode of that fabled series sans Paul Burke's sullenness, and if I were to recommend this film it might just be for the way it handles itself w/o leaping into modern Hollywood chic "morality" and other disturbing trends I sure could do without. But man does this film need more of a li'l somethingorother to push it over into acceptable BLOG TO COMM levels of unbridled appreciation.

(And by the way, is that one intended victim who got away after she caught the lovebirds kissing and smooching in the ocean after the attempted suicide of Stoler the same broad who played the sickening straight mother in the infamous anti-punk rock episode of QUINCY? Yeah, Barbara Cason, right? Boy talk about a career that was stuck in neutral considering her appearance on shows like MAMA'S FAMILY; this film must have been the highlight of her career!)

If any of you are doing a MAD-styled fanzine or are planning on doing one (like I think we all wished we could have at one time or another), how about this for an idea...THE HONEYMOONER KILLERS with Ralph and Alice going around doing the same Lothario/sister lonely hearts scam where they knock off unsuspecting ladies on the hunt for some manly companionship! Where Norton and Trixie figure in I do not know, but it's a hotcha idea for a comic dontcha think?

Saturday, April 17, 2010


Swiped that title from an old issue of TEENAGE WASTELAND GAZETTE (special no-prize if you can guess which ish!), but lack-of-originality on my part aside here's my latest excuse. At least I managed to write up some relatively-recent releases which I hope keeps this post uppa date 'n current even though I've been so drenched in the past that many of you readers probably do think I still live in my own time zone! But hey, for a guy who sure misses the years that used to start with "19" what more would you expect anyway?


Okay okay, I'm reviewin' these as a favor, or shall I say favour because Bruce Mowat up there in Bumfart Alberta'r wherever he's laid his carcass was actually down on his knees beggin' me to write about these two recently-released disques of Canadian heritage courtesy this long-gone band that he loves so dearly patriotic last refuge scoundrel that he is. Well gee, what can I do anyway? I mean the guy was making an outright fool outta himself with his pleading, and it wasn't like I was gonna spit on him'r anything and tell him to go take a long intercourse trek in the woods. Besides I was gettin' two freebies in the process so why should I deny myself of some booty that, given its date of origin (1977-1978) was not gonna be the latest flash in the pan precocious sensitive mewling that has become so accustomed to my spleen.

With a title like SUNSHINE WORLD I would've expected some hefty peacenlove vibes more akin to the mellow out early-seventies mindset, but this tinkler ain't exactly alternative pus the kind we know and love 2010 (or 2000, 1990, 1980...) style! Naw, the Scenes, benefiting from their seventies origins, are way beyond the whole hippie shuck 'n jive presenting us with a platter that not only comes off late-seventies original (in the face of pale imitation punk and water-weak "high energy" musings), but knows how to put up a killer racket with just three members! This ain't no power trio scrangling a la fellow countrymen Triumph, since the Scenics knew how to put up a holler that really does make me reminisce about all of those records I wanted so bad back in '77 only fortunately they were gonna be cutout by year's end anyway so why spend a lotta bucks when you can end up savin'!.

Mighty original stuff for the time too. Well, not totally original but at least the Scenics knew enough to "swipe" from the very best. Most of the time they do remind me of Simply Saucer Mark II with their smartpop punkiness that seemed to go against the grain of the more UK-defiled, while on "O Boy" I even flashed back to John's Children mainly because singer/guitarist Ken Badger sounds like he's vocalizing a rewrite of "Strange Affair"! Let's just say that if you're expecting punk rock rewrites with all of the fury yet none of the spark this might disappoint a bit. As if I have to second-guess everything that goes through all your collective beanies this late in the game.

The Scenics' other offering entitled HOW DOES IT FEEL Cee-Dee really had me thinking "throw for a loop" time. I mean can ya believe it, another Velvet Underground tribute album in a world already saturated with Velvets tributes from all of those wanky acts we've been feasting off the corpse once that became safe! And really, how many faint praises passing as tributes from reams of bright 'n bushy amerindie types have we been subject to these past thirty years. Sheesh, it's like one can't even walk into a bar or pass some buskers onna street w/o some perky Mary Tyler Moore 2010 type saying "Here's a song by a group called the Velvet Underground" before launching into one of the lamest versions of "Sweet Jane" imaginable! But hey, the Scenics are different if only because their entire oeuvre is based on a seventies fanboy base 'stead of the eighties/nineties/oh-ohs watered-down variety and this disque does the proverbial cooking because of it!

Appearing on this release are nothing but hotcha covers of a whole buncha VU familiars done live or in the rehearsal outhouse with that low-fidelity 99-cent cassette feeling that adds to the knotty-pine-ness of it all. It even can boast of a ten-minute closer of "Sister Ray" that seems more or a rewrite of that venerable number the same way the Pink Fairies re-did it as "Uncle Harry's Last Freak Out" or Eno and Phil Manzanara's "Miss Shapiro" for that matter. And as far these "tributes" go HOW DOES IT FEEL succeeds if only because these songs were recorded at a time when being a fan and follower of the VU was kinda like being the member of an advanced race that knew all the true meanings of life and energy, along with the myopic self-absorption that goes along with it. REM should've been tied up and made to listen to this until they cried for mama's boobies!
Various Artists-ONE STRING BLUES MASTERS CD (Delta Cat)

I must admit that ever since the demise of KICKS as well as Bill Shute's frequent phone calls I've not been as dutiful to the early raunch of blues, pre-moptop rock & roll and rockabilly like I should've. Those two sources of info were whatcha'd call mighty impetus-making when it came to stimulating my brain w/regards to a whole load of musics that one just can't read about in the trendy press, and frankly if it weren't for both Billy Miller and Miriam Linna's infrequent pub as well as Shute phone pestiness (just kidding!) I'd probably still be totally in the dark about such musical movements w/special regards to the blues, a genre that for some odd reason I had been associating with delinquent white men who were aping every move the J. Geils Band were making right down to the mirrored shades, jeans and leather jackets (not forgetting the facial hair and humongous drug intake)!

In the absence of these two powerhouses at least I've found one place to get my non-punkitudenal information from and that's Jim Marshall's HOUND BLOG. Marshall is another great source for seeking out old 'n exciting music you just haven't et yet, he not only being the founder and editor of the old NEW ORDER fanzine but a proud front and center member of the KICKS team back when they were flailing away at the godless ragings of gnu-waveism. Heck, I even remember when Marshall was contributing articles on such subjects as Esquirita to THE VILLAGE VOICE's music section which is a surprise since then-editor Robert Christgau was a sworn enemy of Miriam Linna (the rivalry coming to a head at a future CMJ panel discussion) and you'd think that anyone even remotely associated with her would be given the bum's rush from the pages of that fishwrap like pronto! Yeah, it's a surprise Marshall lasted in the VOICE's music section so long with his reviews that really stood against all of the offal they were tossing at us in the form of Chuck Eddy's high school pimplefarm reminiscences or some dumb cluck trying to tie in every offbeat reference in the latest alternative trough dump with repressive sodomy laws. After all, I distinctly remember those days when the battle lines were being drawn up and it was the boring heavy metal dudes, imitation country bumpkins and spandax new music fops on one side and of course the KICKS people on the other. Things were much simpler then, weren't they?

And really, if it weren't for Marshall how would I know that such things as one-stringed Deep South blues guitarists even existed in the first place? Well, actually I did have the up on that, since I remember seeing this one special on the local PBS station some weekend afternoon back in the seventies which first brought such things to my attention. I even remember a segment showing this young guy who strung up the post on his front porch and make his own guitar that very way and it all seemed so interesting and exciting hearing the kind of music that could come out of such primitive and "backwards" methods especially to some equally backwards kid like myself who was soaking it all in for the first time.

Thanks to Marshall's relatively recent post I'm now the proud possessor of a Cee-Dee containing a whole slew of these one-string wonders of both a primitive and even home-made electric guitar variety! The latter really did dredge up some memories since I remember when I was ten and in possession of an old issue of MECHANICS ILLUSTRATED which had an article on how you could make your VERY OWN electric guitar, an idea that thrilled me to no end. I remember pestering my dad into helping me make my own (complete with any old radio as an amplifier) but he steadfastly declined, perhaps in an attempt to further keep me away from the decadent and downright evil influence of that hippydippy rock music that he read about in the papers. Didn't work, but then again I never did make that homemade guitar either! Anyway these one-string numbers are whatcha'd call the cat's guts, not only with the primitive field recordings made by real under-the-radar guys who made their own axes from simple broom wire and two-by-fours such as the one that illustrates the cover above, but with more advanced self-made gear that were constructed by such wonders as Willie Joe Duncan, guys who were good 'nuff to actually make it into the hot urban blues scenes with their amplified twangings that made it to such "specialty" labels like (what else but) Specialty.

Face it, the snobbier amongst us (even those who claim to worship at the altar of such respected blues icons as Robert Cray and others whose music sounds so smooth they can get played on Sirius Radio) will probably upchuck at these hallers and twangs, but then again it's kinda reminiscent of those FM rock purists who used to go apopleptic when they'd hear some low-fi garage band single from the mid-sixties so who sez anything really changes! Yeah this really is the way down home isolated from everything 'n everyone blues that's only heightened by the self-made instruments and primitive situations that mirror a reality that I must admit is far removed from us pampered menials who sure had it comfy, especially when compared to the harshness that such men as Napoleon Strickland and the various "one string"'s (Eddie Jones and Sam Wilson) had to endure living in the middle of rural drudgery in a world that to ours would be like what Papua New Guinea is to Transfer PA!

For being such a "limited" instrument the players sure can get a lotta sound and range outta their one-string guitars or "unitars" as Willie Joe Duncan calls his. And these things "swing" whether they be accompanying their masters on straight-on blues (usually having a dobro-like sound, probably thanks to the attached bucket used as a resonator of sorts) or even accompanying a swinging r&b band such as on Louie Dotson's "Twitchy". Either way these recordings, the instruments and expecially the creators really know how to shake things up w/o the aid of a ton of equipment they read about in the pages of MUSICIAN that'd set 'em back more money than they ever made in a lifetime. Whaddeva, this is a nice change o' pace especially for those of us who love to revel in the primitive and just can't seem to find any of our BACK FROM THE GRAVE albums right now.
The Hollywood Squaretet-TESTOSTERONE! CD (Gulcher)

Yeah I do have a sore spot in what's left of my heart when it comes to SST records, or at least a sorta sore spot because mine was the only fanzine that they refused to advertise in (and back then a feller needed all the help he could get even if the product he was advertising wasn't quite up to standards). Yeah I know that in retrospect it probably was better that they didn't; after all I have my own personal sense of dignity to uphold and all, but back then you could say that I feel like I was being passed-over and I'm not even Jewish! But rather than have some people think I'm a petty fool for dredging up something like this from outta the past lemme just say that some of those later-on releases were pretty tasty in their own way especially when they got into this strange jazz-cum-rock mode that just wasn't being heard anywhere else at the time. (Of course SST released some mighty dog platters as well, but fortunately I put all of those outta my mind, and out of my collection come to think of it.)

This in the latest of Hollywood Squaretet releases reminds me a bit of some of those later-on SST albums, as well as this obscure MX-80 Sound project by Pluto called THE FIELD RECORDINGS which not only had a drummer/ranter like the Squartet do but a cover that'll dispel any ideas one might have of a nudist colony being the equivalent of PLAYBOY magazine in the flesh. Hmmmm, no wonder there's an SST lilt to this since that's none other than ex-Saccharine Trust guitarist Joe Baiza's in the fold. And that's not all, but (keeping with the under-the-ground El Lay aesthetic) ex-Angry Samoan/Mooseheart Faith member Todd Homer's also here trying to do his best to arouse the spirit of Charles Mingus from his Double Bass w/o having to punch out any bandmembers in the process. Larry Copcar's vocals are the price o' admission as he rants/raves/reels and swears his way into infinity doing everything from beat sputter to infantile jokes as well as mind-addled synape-snapping. The horn section holds it together loose enough w/o reminding you of some blues losers you stumbled upon during your night onna town. If you missed the Squaretets' first two you'll probably miss this one but as for the one who have latched on, you know what your doody is.

Hate to admit it but the Dark Sunny Land Cee-Dee that made my evening listening hours so precious this past winter has been pushed to the back of the collection, replaced by other recordings both old and new that have a certain way with my pre-beddy-bye brainwave patterns in helping me slip peacefully and soundly into slumber. Don't get me wrong, I still love the thing to the dickens but it's like I'm looking through my vast collection and suddenly I'll see an old favorite I want to reacquaint myself with and...well there are only a few hours I have to myself in the evenings anyway. But never fear, one of these days I'll find those 12-Cent Donkey discs and until I do at least this little tasty'll tickle my stirrups rather pleasingly while I thunb through my ever-tattering collection of fanzines and Velvet Underground-related bookage.

JAS is the trio of Steve Painter, also known as Dark Sunny Land, along with an Anna Koala on Moog and Jerome Raisin on guitar and effects, the same doody that Painter handles on his very lonesome as well. Together the trio create a thicker yet vaguely similar wall of sound to the Dark Sunny Land Cee-Dee, amorphous and free, and come to think of it sound a lot like what I would have expected that whole experimental underground rock trajectory to have ended up in 2010 'stead of as stale lower Manhattan reverse-snobbism. It is pretty engaging material that's uptight yet relaxing and experimental but in the same way this music was back before it all devolved into just another artsy post that's become so diluted even the podunks in Lackawanna Township know all about it. Y'know, I have the feeling this'll also become a late-night fave, at least if it's as conductive to DR. STRANGE reprints as Dark Sunny Land was.
Barr-Nevai-LABRYNTHA CD (UGexplode)

The last 'un from the recent UGexplode package that yielded a couple Weasel Walter free jazz revivals, LABRYNTHA certainly ain't in the same bag as those Big Bang bonanzas! Info is sketchy (look it up on the web fer yerself!), but this disque really takes the listener on a trip often heard since the days of METAL MACHINE MUSIC with wild oscillating tones and buzzing electronics accompanying distorted vocals that kinda sound like Kryton with his nipple-nuts caught in a blender. This definitely ain't gonna be one of my standard nighttime relaxers to peruse old NANCY collections by, but I certainly can see the validity of alla that energy and crunch that's been poured into this particular slice of electronic pain. Reminds me of some of those '90s outta-nowhere releases that tended to offend me more than anything. Hmmmm, my acceptance of this one must only prove what I've suspected for years...that I'm dead but the message just quite hasn't reached my nervous system yet.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

BOOK REVIEW!---APATHY FOR THE DEVIL by Nick Kent (Faber and Faber, 2010)

Boy do I love the seventies! I mean it!!! Yeah I know that for many of you high energy maniacs they were dog times especially if one could still remember the fifties and sixties (see Billy Miller in the opening remarks found in the second issue of his fanzine KICKS) and I certainly can see their point-of-view, but for unaware cloistered from nowheresville jerks like myself they were pretty invigorating days to have wallowed in. No, I wouldn't want to once again experience the humiliation and degradation of school and forced patterns of "acceptable" behavior that were being thrust upon me by people who claimed they "knew better", but my overall experiences of existing throughout the seventies still hold a special place in what's left of my heart.

After all, the seventies were the decade when I first became aware of just about everything rather than accept my environment at face value. During the early part of those years I began closely studying comic strip/book art and history instead of treating the subject matter as just more disposable product. Rock & roll first gained meaning for me in the seventies as well, first with the bright flash of AM brilliance via T. Rex, the Hollies and Alice Cooper and later on (thanks to my exposure to CREEM amongst other under-the-counter publications) the Velvet Underground, Roky Erickson and Pere Ubu. Television (we're talking the medium though I was fully aware of and listening to the group back then) was always an obsession of mine, but with the glory days of syndicated tee-vee bringing back the "original" Golden Age circa. 1957-67 there was plenty of exciting programming for all of us to re-live or perhaps even experience for the first time. And with an upswing in entertaining programming beginning in the middle portion of that decade (even with the usually stodgy/politically snobbish PBS airing long-neglected silent movies, MONTY PYTHON and Ernie Kovacs reruns) there was no reason for anyone to be tubeless. Yes, the seventies were a decade which I entered into a sniveling young maladjusted ADD-riddled boy, and exited a sniveling young maladjusted ADD-riddled man (who's still taken by such predictable-yet-fun puns like the one you've just read!).

Maybe that's why I really squeezed so much pleasure out of this all-engrossing book by onetime enfant terrible rockscreeder Nick Kent. It's just what the Doc (Rock) ordered, an autobiography of the man and a take on the seventies rock music scene as witnessed through the comparatively addled yet fully-aware eyes of an intelligent-if-strung out genius, the results of which are mighty invigorating. Since such things have a such a high rating w/regards to my own personal sense of energy how could I ignore a promising deep-dive into the ocean of rock & roll mythology as this?

I'm sure the majority of you readers don't really needs any introduction as to who Kent is, and it's about as plain and clear as the polyps on your hineyhole that if anything Kent, along with Mick Farren and Charles Shaar Murray, were the three heavyweights on the UK publishing scene roughly analogous to the likes of Lester Bangs, Richard Meltzer and Mike Saunders here in the United States. Proto-punk badboys of the printed page to put it mildly, and although I'm a relative newcomer (mid/late-eighties at best) to Kent's wit and wisdom (definitely due to the lack of NME's that were making their way to Sharon) I find that this book, because it covers the seventies and rock writing scene in one sitting, is definitely a rock & roll event in an age when such happenstance seems to be about as common as functioning hair follicles on our collective pates!

Yeah, I know that Kent's one of those guys who some might feel like loathing strictly for aesthetic purposes (which I can understand, in my own simpleton way), but he's well beyond the ol' Chuck Eddy stage of putting on a populist pose to stick it to the truly enlightened rock & roll snobs like us. More than a few "typical" BLOG TO COMM readers would find his championing of such mellow mush as Joni Mitchell, David Crosby and his IF I COULD ONLY REMEMBER MY NAME (heck, Byron Coley once got beat up for wearing a t-shirt with that album's cover emblazoned!) and Rod Stewart to be "beyond the pale" but really, once ya get down to it why should we care! Unlike the usual champagne-sipping rock fanboys mooching off the business types, Kent was spending most of his time in between getting wasted creating a massive legend with his contributions to FRIENDZ and later on NME as well as cultivating a whole load of starry-eyed (and often jaded) friendships with everybody from Keith Richard, Marc Bolan, Johnny Thunders and best of all Iggy and his Stooges to the point where for one stray moment we all thought Kent was going to be joining that band in a matter of moments! And really, what have I (let alone you) done lately?

Really, so what if the guy actually championed a number of surprising restrained and unexciting (at least using my own personal set of values) recording acts...I mean, you used to see Lester Bangs spilling loads of ink all over some of the hokiest Southern rock acts of the seventies imaginable (and he wasn't even from the South which always was a good excuse) while Richard Meltzer seemed to lead the rah-rah section for Mahogany Rush a little more than anyone shoulda. And even to this day Kent's onetime friend/eventual adversary Charles Shaar Murray still expresses his kinship for early Jethro Tull singles and I really don't see much of a difference between these well-respected scribes' guilty pleasures and you still having an affection for the tiresome amerindie singles that have been cluttering up the landscape these past thirtysome years. In fact in some ways seeing the seventies vanguard dabble in these commercial atrocities comes off a lot cooler in its own strange fashion than championing the same old "hip" items that helped ruin the late-eighties for me, if not you.

As we've half-expected, you get the whole sordid kitten-kaboodle lowdown on Kent about his humble beginnings from teen fan to lowdown punk who worms his way into writing record reviews for the post-ROLLING STONE fortnightly FRIENDZ whilst making quite a hot underground credo name/image for himself in the process. Of course this is all before Kent does his doody by saving the NME from total annihilation with a whole ream of definitely post-hippie rusty-eyed articles on everybody from the MC5 (OK, that one was for FRIENDZ), Can and Syd Barrett making that paper one of the most read amongst the hip thrillseekers perusing the early-seventies English weekly fishwraps. Much of it is high-lariously funny like the time he was interviewing a coke-strung Led Zeppelin and just happened to mention what most people knew about them ripping off old blues toons only to have the entire entourage walk out on him while manager Peter Grant's screaming at the top of his lungs at the poor bloke who set up the meeting! Or howzbout the time when Kent was in Detroit stoned and lost and happened to walk into some tough bar in the black section of town when three big guys cornered him only to ask if he played guitar with Elton John! (Turned out these guys really liked the guitar part on "Crocodile Rock" and Kent's Caucasian skin was saved with his little white lie affirmative which not only got him free passage but one of the men's wife an autographed beer mat!) Talk about laff-a-minnit knee-slappers! APATHY FOR THE DEVIL might just be one of the funniest books to have come out since THE MAD AVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KLUTZ!

The wild parties Kent observed first hand (sometimes as a willing participant in the decadence) and chance meetings are priceless as well, and although this book coulda been titled something like "Guys Who Took Drugs Every Second Throughout the Seventies And Lived" I gotta 'fess up to the fact that without drugs this book woulda been a lot less interesting, even if a lot less tragic in its outcome.

As one would expect APATHY's been drumming up quite a bitta controversy over in England, especially when it comes to the brief bits regarding Kent's association with none other than former-NME contributor and overall walking blunderbuss Julie Birchill. Birchill herself has made a big "stink" (operative word) in her recent "review" of the tome especially with regard to Kent's mention of not only her cutthroat "Myra Hindleyesque nature" (good one, Nick!) but Burchill's supposed lack of personal daintiness in the olfactory department. (But don't feel too left out Julie, since Kent says that his first meeting with Charles Shaar Murray at an early-seventies rock festival left him with nostrils totally reamed as well, though strangely enough nada is mentioned about onetime mentor Lester Bangs' legendary reekiness which I understand was at times just too hard to stomach!) As we'd all expect, in typical pot-calling-kettle-black fashion Birchill's response re. Mr. Accuser himself brings up the supposed (but I would believe it given the circumstances) fact that Kent wasn't one to inhale deeply next to either and that little Julie was always as dainty as a daisy and your sinuses were naturally safe in her company! Of course the Briton to end all Britons has to add to the fray the little cutting comment that if anything Kent is in all probability just another "poseur" (hippie punk word), a definitely-to-be-loathed member of the bourgeois who got into the heavy drug scene unlike Ms. Nibbs, she being the humbly proud daughter of a communist who dabbled deeply in her own English socialist/feminist wanker rockcritiquing making it into the nineties having gone neocon whilst fighting it out with Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins to see who could be the most nauseating royal subject ever!

As you'd guess these fightin' words of both Kent and Birchill have created quite a little bit of teapot tempesting on-line, but when all was said and done I guess we can just take her spleen venting to be another example of that typical menopausal feminism revealing itself at its most odious testosterone level. As if we could take anything the chub (and this is coming from a bonafide tubbie himself!) says, from her infamous English Snob assessments of El Lay in an early-eighties NME to (get this!) a particularly cringe-inducing bitchslapping of Irishmen celebrating St. Patrick's Day with a march through London. Oh, they being Irish and all even in Celtophobic England was OK, but celebrating that evil misogynist gay-hating saint...too much for this working class post-feminist yob to handle no doubt!

Boy do I love these digressions especially when dealing with that womens-"lip" blowhard as well as her ex-hubby dork Tony Parsons (who comes off as a turd, but here mostly by association), but anyway it's these juicy personal blabbermouth tidbits that really make APATHY FOR THE DEVIL such an eye-gouger. Speaking of eye-gouging, there just happens to be, for some reason or another, a lotta ink spilled on Led Zep manager Grant, a former "enforcer" who comes off at times like a benevolent yet still-to-be-feared giant who could either be Kent's best friend or worst nemesis depending on the drug du jour working its way around Grant's professional wrestler build. (A funny aside, given my inexplicable sieve-like memory I had totally forgotten about the legend surrounding this man the time Mike Snider told me about his passing way back '95 way...for some reason I had pictured him as the exact opposite to his burly maddening self, a gaffe for which no logical explanation can be given. Almost as bad as the time I totally forgot that Lou Reed's paramour of the seventies Rachel was actually a transvestite causing me much due embarrassment!) And speaking of Lou, he comes off like a zombie in this book though strangely enough nothing is mentioned of the time (recounted by Kent in a '76 ZIG ZAG interview) the rumor was out that Reed wanted to lock himself in a room with Kent and beat the tar outta him, something that never did happen though I know by the end of this book you'd think that half of the rock world would have loved to have torn Kent apart with glee! (In one of the funnier segments the Bee Gees were on the warpath after a Kent review but nothing happened then either! Of course seeing those three pansy brothers slapping Kent would have made for fun press but as far as Kent could tell, the only thing a stoned Maurice could do was sneer at the man!)

Boy I am getting carts before horses here so let me just tell you about a few other tasty bits in this read, like Kent's trek to Detroit to study rock writing from Lester Bangs himself, which also made for an exciting time on my behalf (the part where Kent espied Bangs crying after reading the ROLLING STONE expose of idol Jack Kerouac was something that I'm positive inspired ol' Lester's article entitled "I Don't Want To Be Like Kerouac And End Up Living With My Mother" for BOOGIE #6) though I certainly have my doubts about the saga Kent relates dealing with time Lester was mouthing off anti-English epithets regarding the state of the rock over there and Kent "allegedly" delivered a stinging comeback saying that while the English were creating art and culture and acting all pip pip cheerio and the like us Amerigans were shooting up whorehouses and acting like a buncha wildassed cowboys (kinda sounds like the pro-Greek/Anti-English remarks that got Taki kicked outta the place long ago!). I mean, cuh-MONH! Lester even in the worst drug haze coulda topped Kent's comeback with a real zinger 'stead of being "put in his place" like the guy claims happened! But since this is Kent's book I guess he can make himself the top dog in any situation he can get away with!

There's plenty more fun crud jammed in from the time Keith Richard was speeding all over the place in his Ferrari with Kent in tow just to show how above-it-all these decadent types could be (kinda reminds me of the story where Peter Laughner took Bruce Springsteen to the airport at breakneck speed and Springsteen was actually impressed by the recklessness of it all), or his on/off/on relationship with future Pretender/then NME hotshot Chrissie Hynde which shows her to be pretty imbalanced in her own female bitch way. Even more startling is the strange Jeckyll/Hyde relationship that the Sex Pistols contingent had with Kent, he originally helping the seemingly clueless circle of Malcolm McLaren and crew (pre-Lydon) by getting them outta their late-sixties pop rut and into the Modern Lovers and Stooges only to have the entire crew turn on him before making up then turning again in a cycle that isn't exactly "vicious" (intend the pun if you like) as it is redundant. The great amount of agony that Kent had to suffer at the hoards of fans who blindly emulated the Sid Vicious/Jah Wobble bike chain incident in their own unique ways (usually with straight out knives) seems like the worst case scenario for any writer to go through and if the guy is to be trusted Kent really had to go through a whole lot thanks to the onetime lovey-dovey generation that turned psychopathic seemingly with the drop of a hat. (But oh man I can see the reason for the ire in my own twisted way, as if I wouldn't want to "off" Anastasia Pantsios, Dave Lang or Jay Hinman myself or at least have them endure a load of humiliation that nobody could ever live down which I can tell you about first-hand!)

But then again it's when the down-home stars kick off their shoes that you find out they're just like Lawrence Welk, regaling stories that really make APATHY such a winner. Like the time Kent runs into an overweight and perhaps overwrought Marc Bolan and galpal Gloria Jones in some flophouse and Kent and Bolan have this real nice downhome chat about Syd Barrett with Bolan ranting about the time he finally got to meet Dylan who asked "aren't you in the Incredible String Band" much to the elf's dismay! Ot the part where a terminally down-and-strung-out Kent is attacked at a bar by some guys who are clearly not fans of his which, perhaps because of his nervous system buckling from all of the drugs, makes Kent break down and sob like a hurt kid when who else but the long estranged Chrissie Hynde comes to his aid...sheesh, who could ever expect warmth and kindness in a brazen and hate-strewn world as rock & roll anyway?

I dunno...let's just say that if you liked the seventies as well as discovering the new and energetic music that decade produced. and perhaps even considered the rock writers to be just as important as the stars who tried to beat them up you've just gotta get this. It's about as fun as pouring through a stack of old fanzines or even your own personal clippings of Kent and his cronies' efforts which, not surprisingly, were often shunted away in favor of something more attuned to the sickening sweet demeanor we've been drenched with ever since those days. Let's just say that buying your own copy of APATHY FOR THE DEVIL might just send a personal message to all of those nameless imitators who I assume still contribute to THE VILLAGE VOICE as to what good rock writing is!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Various Artists-LIVE AT CBGB'S 2-LP set (Atlantic); MAX'S KANSAS CITY 1976 LP (Ram)

It's not that there's a dearth of new material for me to gab about this weekend, but for now I feel like talking about the "old" even if I am breaking my long-held promise of not rewriting too much material that originally appeared elsewhere...again. And hey, when it come to "old" I remember people telling me back in '80 that the material on the LIVE AT CBGB'S and MAX'S KANSAS CITY 1976 albums was not exactly spring chicken fresh so obviously this stuff must be ancient by now! Of course a musical movement that had gone from such by-then outmoded groups as the Electric Eels and Television to such above-and-beyonds as Bow Wow Wow and Culture Club (true they were more 1982 than 1980) would seem so far advanced that the bands that appeared on these compilations came off like yesterday's papers, but hey I like that old (or, as some would say, "proto punk") stuff more than I do the patented commercial kitsch it more or less "led to." And in many ways these two albums (of which I have already written more than a few reams of paper on in the pages of my old fanzine and elsewhere) typify just about everything that I like about underground rock. Or at least the breed of animal it was before it got tagged with a number of handy adjectives that more or less diluted its original meaning/thrust to the point where THE NEW YORK ROCKER was actually concerned about covering whatever flavor of the week group there was as if it somehow still had any connection, any meaning with 1976.

I remember when both of these albums were making the rounds back '76 way, with Atlantic giving the CBGB one a big push (usually in conjunction with their plugging of the latest AC/DC record which doesn't seems strange since those guys would play CB's within a year or so!) while there must've been a big bankroll pushing the Max's one because you used to see ads for the thing all over such rock publications as HIT PARADER and ROCK SCENE not forgetting some of the higher-echelon fanzines like BOMP! And coupled with all of the much-earned hype that was being churned out of the New York Scene thanks to a variety of publications like ROCK SCENE and THE AQUARIAN it's no wonder more than a few midwestern goofs were ruff 'n ready anxious to gobble both of these albums up considering all of the promise they held w/regards to satisfying their heavy duty rockism needs.

And I'll bet more'n a few midwestern pimplefarms were pretty surprised, nay, angered when these albums eventually graced their ears, especially after these teenage tubs spent night after night reading about how all of those New York groups were supposed to be the "new" Velvet Underground or "new" Stooges. Sheesh, a whole load of 'em had trouble being the new Hullabaloos let alone new Poppy Family. With all of the promise these groups just seemed to ooze only a few of the ones who appeared on these albums reflected any of the outright high energy that was being promised. Or at least they were considered lame enough to the majority of listeners because for years the acts appearing on both efforts used to get tagged as being "bar bands", a term which conjures up greasy blues guys in leather jackets about one step away from a stretch in the hoosegow for various antisocial infractions. And what was so special about En Why See when there were plenty of groups like that in your very own backyard?

Yeah "okay", maybe some of 'em were "bar bands" in the loosest sense, but that doesn't mean I have to HATE 'em! Let's face it, what was being touted as new (wave), underground and punk back in the mid-seventies was a mighty varied doggie that would probably stymie the bandwagon jumpers of the late-seventies on with the variety of sameness that could be found on the stages of many a club during those days. But that won't stop me from championing, even enjoying these groups even if they lacked the ability of crashing on from the promising mid-seventies into the bared-wire latter portion of that decade. And frankly, I don't care how many of the groups on either of these albums were "influenced" by the FM rock dinosaurs or the AM pop fluffsters of the day because although they might have "emulated" them, these groups surpassed them hands down.

The LIVE @ CBGB one has gained a certain amt. of "notoriety" since its release, with people "in the know" either singing its praises or damning it to rock & roll hell for the past thirty-four years. Most people I admire, like Don Waller, loathed it 'cept for certain watermarks like Mink DeVille that appealed to their sense of (West Coast?) punkitude, while I've noticed that many who were on the more localized certainly not big names level of rock writing actually dug it to no end. Maybe it was a provincial thing, with a variety of California fans expecting more hardcore rock & roll and the New Yorkers thrilled to no end, with everyone else in between confused as usual.

But I like this Atlantic Records product to the livin' end since LIVE captures a halfway-decent cross-section of just what good (and yeah, some bad) was going on in the garages of Ameriga and perhaps the world in those days before punk became pUnk became "punque". The groups appearing on this set weren't necessarily presenting anything they thought was going to get the earth spinning in an opposite direction, and sartorially they were still stuck in the long hair and beards groove long before the English had more than a few Amerigans going trend-dee, but that was only part of their success in not trying to jump a whole lotta guns looking like a buncha doofs they most certainly could've in the process.

The live ambiance works perfectly just like every other live tape you've heard (whether recorded via portable cassette or soundboard) with the just right party atmosphere that always made these small club live recordings so nice 'n cozy intimate, not forgetting energetic. And the performances really are top notch even though you know that a few of the groups here snuck into the studio when nobody was looking to overdub and rehash their numbuhs which is why some like the Laughing Dogs' "It Feels Allright" sounds as if it could have been a 1976 AM pop single taken from some cutout-bound album you know never woulda cracked the top 500, let alone 200.

But I gotta say I like it all and, naturally, some tracks more'n others. I find that the way most of these groups take the same popular FM/stoner music or AM pop and do something out of the ordinary with it to be pretty invigorating, a whole lot better'n had they just taken their faves and churned out a pale imitation like some cover band of the day who got to do their one original which was nothing but a pastiche of all of the groups they've been imitating all evening.

And not surprisingly, I think that the material that pops up on this album which captures a scene before the groups involved became jaded in any sorta way (there's still some of that teenage altruistic innocence to be found, but I guess that all changed when the Dead Boys hit New York) shows these groups long before they decided to break up or change their sound and style to fit more of a punk or "new wave" motif. Tuff Darts (one of the few groups here w/hefty hype backing them) still had Robert Gordon in their ranks and sounded like what I would have thought a punk rock group woulda sounded like had I knew what the thing was back in 1976. (I remember asking someone what punk rock was that very year and getting this reply to head straight for the Flamin' Groovies cutouts then going for a whopping 99 cents!) The Shirts, for being part of the beardo breed of groups who were playing CBGB at the time, fortunately weren't honing their sound for the new wave megabucks like they did on their three albums, taking their Yes and Led Zep influences to garage band depths that I'm sure would have shocked members of both acts profusely. Mink De Ville are captured at the time when they went from their r&b/reggae influences to punk and then right back (at Hilly Kristal's insistence) sounding as Spanish Harlem leather as you would have wanted them to. The Laughing Dogs also do fine with two tracks that might have made interesting singles for the teenybop pop charts if that mode wasn't as open to disco as it eventually became.

As for the rest of these so-called also-rans...the Miamis also coulda been late-seventies AM radio contenders but really, their stuff was too good in an era where heavy metal mongers like Kiss were being forced to do sappy ballads and, more shockingly, people were actually buying 'em up! Sun (soon to be Son after the disco group with the same name got their legal machine in gear) were hotcha sub-Hendrix heavy metal though if that clip of a post-Nikki Buzz version of the band recorded at CBGB's two years later (with some Robert Plant clone doing the patented metal mike stand moves etc.) is any indication of what the rest of their act is like no wonder I never read a good review of these guys anywhere! Stuart's Hammer sound kinda Wayne County post-glam/punky which does seem neat in a pre-Sex Pistols sorta way. And as for Manster...well as you know these guys are my fave band on this set and their wild cover of the Yardbirds' "Over Under Sideways Down" as well as an original entitled "I'm Really Not This Way" show that there was at least one act in the mid-seventies who could take their Frank Zappa and John McLaughlin fusion influences (as THE NEW YORK ROCKER stated) and not miss their intended targets 100%, in fact sounding even fresher and more exciting that the originals! If anything, Manster remind me a whole lot of fellow travelers MX-80 Sound, a group who were also utilizing some Mothers/Mahavishnu moves in their act and not looking like total bums in the process, in fact coming off pretty snat to the point where you wonder why more people weren't buying any of this stuff at the time until you remember how everybody but YOU was brainwashed by the dread duo of FM prog and AM disco. And if you aren't PROUD OF YOURSELF for eschewing those hideous musical bowel movements then you really aren't giving yourself ample credit!

It's too bad that the second CBGB album recorded later that year didn't materialize since that seemed to have promise with the inclusion of not only the Dead Boys (during their bass-less quartet days) but the Planets, Just Water, Charles Street Choir, De Waves, the Demons and Orchestra Luna. Rumor has it that Kristal burned the tapes in a fit of anger which I for one certainly hope ain't so, and although there were yet some other "volume two"'s recorded in '79 and even '80 I doubt they would have had the same impact as the original. The closest there actually was to a second CBGB live album came with that sampler of groups taken from the limited edition run of cassette tapes that were unleashed in '86 featuring a couple post-Shirts acts, hardcore punk and a whole lotta new waveiness some good some eh. I've written about these items before in case you care, but frankly "underground" rock music 1986 was nothing at all like it was a decade then it was way more squeaky clean and wholesome, and really any rock bacteria that could grow in such sterile conditions was bound to have something wrong with it. But when it was good, it was something that lasted strong for a long while.
The Max's album on the other hand had a lot more going for it, if only because an act like Wayne County had garnered a lot of publicity via the pages of ROCK SCENE and at least a few rock mag bin scourers knew who he was. Ditto for Cherry Vanilla, who at least was "known" by more than a few disc jockeys nationwide and a lot more than in the "Biblical" sense! Unfortunately the MAX'S KANSAS CITY 1976 album does suffer from consisting of nothing but studio tracks (that is, if you count the Suicide recording as such!) thus lacking the immediacy that can be found in droves on LIVE AT CBGB'S. But don't let that get you down for the selection of groups here was perhaps even better than on that double-header, if only for being reflective of the Max's booking policy which seemed to live up to Lillian Roxon's old adjectival dictum of being "futuristic".

The proliferation of synthesizers on a good portion of the tracks would lead one to think of the album's let alone club's forward-looking attitude, and keeping with Max's ten-year tradition there were heavy references to New York's past permeating throughout these sides, particularly the mid-sixties gutter drive of the Velvet Underground and the Silver Apples' anti-technology electronic drone. County clocks in with three tracks which pretty amply represent his/her party mood stage act with the title track name-dropping a whole load of acts that were playing the club at the time (woulda been really fun if some of the very obscure groups that played there like the Screws or Master Radio Canaries got the mention but at least Day Old Bread did, they later becoming the Rousers and ultimately the Jupiter Jets who surprisingly enough ended up getting released on the CBGB label in the mid-eighties!). One listen to the buzzy power pop synth rock of the Fast'll tell you why many people couldn't stand 'em but I can even if their music wasn't exactly the reason I was following the goings on at Max's in the first place. Nothing offensive mind you, but certainly lacking this kinda oomph of doom and degradation which always made for find music. And Cherry's still hard to define exactly where she was coming from then (this being before she vamoosed to England and got the Police to back her up). Sometimes I'm thinking a nicer looking upscale Patti Smith, yet others a scenemaker who just happened to hop upon a musical career. Maybe the Beauty to Edith Massey's Beast, and by-the-way howcum Massey ain't on either this 'un or the CBGB album anyway??? I'm one who'd enjoy a live album of hers to the max, or from Max's for that matter.

The John Collins Band also fare well. Talk about a career that never did go off like it coulda, or shoulda...this Collins guy was around since the early-seventies and he lasted on the New York scene for quite awhile later ending up in the Terrorists, the Delancy Street Hawaiians with Billy Tony Machine of latterday Dolls fame and Tijuana Bible with Mick Farren. I even recall him doing a solo set at the CBGB Gallery in the oh-ohs if you wanna talk about longevity. But in '76 he was the star of his own group and the guy's strong voice really carries "The Man in Me" as if it were a fifties hit from Frankie Laine, even if the drenching of an ARP synthesizer all over makes this sound like "Dream Weaver" towards the end. (Maybe that was not unintentional...I mean, why argue with success even if it is on the shoulders of a duff single of the day?). Suicide's "Rocket USA" is frightening enough being recorded in a closet, and at least it gave us an idea of what else was going to be happening at Max's (like no wave) in a good year or two. Harry Toledo's one who always seemed to get knocked by the critics at large, but his "Knots" is perhaps another all-defining moment on this platter with a heavy Velvet Underground drone and a celeste-like electric piano sound that reminds me of the one on the Stooges' "Penetration". Of course the presence of Pere Ubu and their "Final Solution" only did more to heighten their notoriety not only in New York but in Cleveland, THE PLAIN DEALER's Jane Scott even going as far to write a small item on Ubu's appearance at the Max's Easter Festival gathering her information from a phone call from former Viking Saloon owner/Rocket From The Tombs drummer Dick Korn (he tagging along for the ride) who gave Jane the lowdown on Max's and how the Warhol crowd used to hang out there back in the sixties, Jane relaying all of the news to us dumboid kiddies who were perhaps hearing about this stuff for the very first time. Talk about eye-opening wowzer epiphanies!

Braver souls might want to try the second in a series of who knows how many (third being NO NEW YORK, fourth being this one unreleased offering that was circulating on tape for awhile, fifth being NEW WAVE HITS FOR THE EIGHTIES, sixth that weird album that came out in Europe 'round '86 and seventh that Rat Cage sampler of a few years back) Max's albums, the one of the '77 variety that actually got Max's owner Tommy Dean death threats from disaffected punks who were expecting something a little more crunchy. It ain't bad, though it's probably worth the $2.00 I spent on a sealed copy back in early '80 (same day I scored PARABLE OF ARABLE LAND as a used Radar reissue!) and not much more with a LIVE AT CBGB'S attitude (none of the groups here being that particularly well known) yet with perhaps a spark of redeeming value. Just Water score well enough with their late-sixties Who-derived stylings as do the Andrew Pearson Band and their commercial-yet-engaging Elliot Murphy-ish suburban takes on electric Dylan. Even Phillip Rambow who stunk up the already odious new wave even more with his 1980 album sounds palatable here with his song about some kids going to a rock club to hear Television. The heavy metal of Lance and Grand Slam isn't offensive like metal was to get in the eighties let alone already was in the late-seventies (come to think of it, just about everything was offensive back then!) and even the Brats doing a Kiss-styled pop metal number sure sounded better'n (again) the soft ballads like "Beth" that we didn't need any retrospect to know was utter crap.

And one interesting aside...the "intro" and "outro" cuts actually were recorded live, the opening one revealing a group ending their set to a round of applause before the jukebox gets turned on to the Troggs playing "Love Is All Around" (a good two years before the Troggs played Max's a handfulla times!), the "outro" being presumably the same group (who turn out to be Phillip Rambow and company) starting their set up!

Both the CBGB and Max's albums are relatively easy pickups via ebay (where I scored an original CBGB label pre-Atlantic pressing complete with autographs of most of the participants on the inner gatefold sleeve!) or maybe even your local flea market which has the standard Cee-Dee dump booth where you can find many an item for relatively feeble prices. The digital versions of both are worth the picking up since the surface noise on the CBGB album is eliminated allowing for at least some clarity while the Max's one adds the Brats track from that failed '77 followup and various other self-released rarities that made up a new wave collection back in '80 just as much as your two-tone and Stiff compilations bought for mere peanuts! And for those of you who haven't picked these up being frugal or just plain too young, they do tend to make me feel a lot better than the kind of music these groups ultimately led to once 1982 rolled around and you'd see the new wave tag being used on everything the way "atomic" was the commercial buzzword of 1956!
Excuse the fuzzy wuzzy photo on the right which matches the sight in my fuzzy wuzzy eyes, but for history's sake here's a snap I think you'll all want to cast orbs upon. Taken at the album release party for the MAX'S KANSAS CITY '76 album here are the two Peters, Crowley and Laughner, acting totally disinterested and nonplussed for the cameras as I'm sure we all would have expected from the two. 'Tis a photo that if anything tells us about the fleetingness of time...within the year Laughner would no longer be with us and within five neither would Max's. Crowley's still alive which is at least one good thing in this ever fragile existence of ours, and if anything I find the entire attitude and devil-may-care attitude of what the mid-seventies were really all about frozen in this very photograph. But I do get sentimental like this sometimes, probably because here in 2010 what is there to get sentimental about?

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

PUNK, Volume 1, Number 1 (fanzine published by Billy Altman, 1973)

Dunno how you readers feel (nor do I care), but I've always considered Billy Altman to be a major league schlub when it came to rock & roll writing or "critiquing" if you will. Well, maybe I didn't always feel this way since I didn't even know who the guy was when I was three and besides, although his name really didn't STICK OUT in the pages of those mid-seventies issues of CREEM that I was reading at the time the way Lester Bangs and Richard Meltzer's did, his complicity in the downfall of that mag and it's limping throughout the entire eighties (ferget about the latterday imitation SPIN revival) is enough to make any true Third Generation rocker's blood boil. But then again, like such notables as Paul Morley, Russell Desmond and Chris Stigliano, Altman was a soul ingenious enough to create his own fanzine in order to coax the Powers That Be in the rock scribing game to give 'im a job in the BIG TIME, and like Morley and unlike Desmond or Stigliano the ruse actually worked which is good for him. But as far as the general state of rock screeding goes...

And brother, did Altman's insidious plan work wonders for his livelihood! Not only was he writing for CREEM but that granddaddy of kountergulcheral sway ROLLING STONE published his professional wankings as well! Yes, Altman became such a big player in the rock movers and groovers game that somehow-or-other he even became the executor of the Lester Bangs Estate meaning that if you wanted to publish any posthumous rankling from the primo gonz rock writer himself you hadda go through none other than Altman. Not Meltzer or Saunders or someone who at least thunk in the same direction which is why I think that putting Billy Altman in charge of the Lester Bangs Estate is like putting Larry Flynt in charge of Mother Theresa's, and yeah the story was out that all of those Bangs collections contained his "nicer" and "Politically Correct" material because of Altman's "judiciousness" which is why very little if any of his racial slurmongering and infamous misogyny is to be found via the two Bangs readers that have appeared since the late-eighties. And there was plenty of that, only you'll be hard-pressed to find any of it TODAY unless you happen to be the fortunate owner of an old issue of DENIM DELINQUENT or HYPE

So therefore all of Bangs' less "scabrous" and "caustic" opines are to be forever left to some small fanzines rotting away in my closet while Bangs at his NERDIEST gets the royal carpet treatment thanks to the likes of Altman and his spiritual brothers in the whitewashing of the past. And I should know since I wanted to reprint some Bangs item (which was since been circulated on the web and can be downloaded with ease and without Altman's OK) in an issue of my own crusty crudzine and wouldn't you know it but the guy wouldn't even respond to my note, not even a pithy rejection slip was to come my way which only proves to all of us what a real stuck-up this man could be if he would dare to ignore the torchbearer for the new underground breed of writing that I was (and shall remain) in the late-eighties.

So you see, I do hold a seething grudge against Altman and for a good reason, but I will not let that color my review of this obscurity, a fanzine with the title PUNK that actually predated the better known mag by a good two years (of course by the time that one upped this one was dead 'n buried so it's like no lawsuits would incur). You may have remembered some gabbin' 'bout this particular mag on THE HOUND BLOG posting regarding Bangs late last year, and for awhile there was a lotta speculation as to what this mag was about and what kinda innards it sported since most of us weren't privvy to having a copy of this in our possession. Which is how it stood with me, at least until the here and NOW!!!

So better-late-than-never I can now actually claim fame to owning the very first ish of the original PUNK, a tabloid (dated 7 May 1973) that physically reminds me of the last issue of CAN'T BUY A THRILL not to mention a variety of freebee mags that can still be found at Cee-Dee supermarkets even today. And hey, despite any previously-held (or currently-held for that matter) grudges I may have against Altman I gotta say that this is whatcha'd call a pretty snat Solomon/Jay Gruberger creation or DENIM DELINQUENT mind you, but a very good virgin endeavor that stands the test of time or has rock writing really degenerated that much since the birth of the gonz back in the late-sixties?

One of PUNK's greatest assets is not the writings of editor Altman (which are good if par for the course early-seventies college kid dabbling) but the presence of none other than the coulda been infamous Joe Fernbacher. Y'know, I used to think that Fernbacher was just about as much of a problem at the post-Bangs CREEM as Altman and the rest of the newer breed who began writing for 'em during the days when they seemed to eschew the late-seventies underground for arena rock cash in, but his contributions to SHAKIN' STREET GAZETTE had me reconsidering his overall statute in the annals of rock scribedom as does his work here. And thankfully Fernbacher does his share of beefing up for this otherwise well-intentioned yet missing a little "something" effort with his boffo writing which I'm sure still rankles some furs out there in "what constitutes 'good' rock critiquing" land. I guess that's why you can read Parke Puterbaugh all you want to these days and not Fernbacher!

Take his cover story on none other than the Seeds. It's nothing spectacular especially compared with stuff that Jymn Parrett or Ken Barnes wrote about 'em at the same nanosecond, but it's sure a wonderful appreciation scribbled from the heart of some guy who grew up hot and heavy for the early-sixties and "came of age" right when "Pushin' Too Hard" was saying more about teenage drive-in Ameriga than UP WITH PEOPLE tryin' to tell us that the color of God's skin was black, brown, yellow, red and white when everyone knew it was chartreuse. And howzbout his page-long tribute to the one called Iggy and the recently-unsheathed RAW POWER, a writeup that true, might not measure up against the likes of Lenny Kaye's or Mark Jenkins' opinions on that famed longplayer but prove that it wasn't only the rock underbelly intelligentsia who liked the thing but REAL SLOBS like he. (BTW...I've yet to read a duff review of RAW POWER anywhere...if someone knows of one could you please direct me to the nearest source because I haven't been angered in quite awhile.) Perhaps Fernbacher was the only reason why this magazine shoulda been called PUNK inna first place, and you better believe it!

Fernbacher also clocks in with an article on good old pre-WWWFFFE or whatever it's called now wrestlin' with a hep rundown on the sixties scene even including a snap of the young Joe with some long-forgotten grappler named Bill the Brute that looks like it was taken in the magic year of 1963 and don't let anybody tell you different! Fernbacher's contributions to PUNK sure make the paper a winner making me wonder whatever did happen to this guy anyway even if I don't think his CREEM material at least after '76 measures up to his initial outbursts. But next to what CREEM eventually did wrought (Chuck Eddy anyone?) Fernbacher might as well have been Bangs reincarnate.

As for the rest...Altman does the Beach Boys' HOLLAND album right with a writeup that makes comparison to the current BB sound being a weird fusion of Don Ho and "Telstar"! A piece on avant garde jazz written by a Norman Salant is a nice touch, but I felt something essential seemed to be missing from it like a reason as to why the doofs reading PUNK should buy any free jazz elpees in the first place. The sports section is pretty humdrum (just like sports generally can be) 'cept for the aforementioned wrestling story, while the record reviews mix old and new with a rather neet early-seventies twist on the jaded teenage lament. The review of the Jerden Sonics album (uncredited but probably Fernbacher) is priceless, especially the line where the mystery crit compares their sound to "eating p***y with lockjaw" which seems revolting in itself until you realize that this was writ in 1973 and the insidious government plot to assassinate Lester Bangs was only a good nine years away! So ya better get your punkitude while the punkitude's good because frankly, it's NEVER gonna come back.

Overall I would give PUNK a "C", but Fernbacher clearly raises the property values quite a bit. Layout is fine and attitude is there, and although the entire foundation this magazine is built on seems wobbly they do show good taste in choice of material plus had the insight to publish a two page comic dealing with "Dr. DeFriesendorf" and his evil efforts to turn Marc Bolan into the same kinda zomboid that he made outta Bowie and Reed (Bolan being miraculously rescued by Flo and Eddie, who even toss a few funny Zappa refs our way in the process). So how shall I rate this 'un anyway? Howzbout a "B"? Next ish got some good contributors like Meltzer so I'll bet that one'll tickle my psyche, as we used to say.