Friday, May 08, 2020

Peter Laughner Box Set

This limited edition, 5-LP box set comes from Smog Veil Records with a digital download and an amazingly huge, 12x12 hard cover book with an overview of Laughner's life along with an extensive grouping of selected writings (he was a renown r'n'r critic for years when not strangling his six string. I certainly read his words before I had a chance to hear his music). It is not cheap, but for what you get, the $100-ish price tag is actually pretty reasonable.

Laughner is, of course, best known for his time in the legendary Rocket From the Tombs (with my pal Craig Bell) as well as Pere Ubu, but he fronted and appeared in a number of other groups - garage bands, blues band, glam bands - and did acoustic performances, sometimes on his own, sometimes with other friends rounding out the sound. This heavily researched, 56 song compilation does its best to dig up plenty of rarities and give fans a well rounded view of this man's talents.

LP number one concentrates on acoustic numbers, showing the man's heavy Bob Dylan and Lou Reed influences, his original songwriting and a fantastic Jackson Browne-by-way-of Nico cover of "These Days". His voice may be a bit thin and his acoustic playing nothing fancy, but he certainly has r'n'r passion. The next disc, which is probably the most rock'n'roll of the bunch, has live takes from his glam band, Cinderella Backstreet (named after one of his songs), with more Velvet Underground covers (and an original titled "I'm So Fucked Up" in between "Heroin" and "White Light, White Heat"), Mott the Hoople's "One of the Boys", and an "All Along the Watchtower" that kind of mixes  Neil Young and Jimi Hendrix in a garagey r'n'r setting.

Back to acoustic workings on LP 3, with tributes to Robert Johnson as well as a number of originals - the previously mentioned "Cinderella Backstreet", "Baudelaire" and "Sylvia Plath" for the literary crew, and several other tales of debauchery, depravity and romanticism - along with more Dylan! Some more electric and eclectic musings on #4, with bands like Fins ("What Goes On"), the sole Rocket From the Tombs take ("Ain't It Fun"), "Amphetamine" performed as a duo, a few from his group Friction (named after the Television song and performing "Prove It", the Modern Lovers' "Pablo Picasso" and some originals) and more.

For the last vinyl outing, there are 13 solo, bedroom recordings on white vinyl, done late at night at his parents' house literally the night before he died! He does a few of his own, a couple from his pal Tom Verlaine (including an unreleased TV tune), Van Morrison, Richard Hell, Stones, Lou Reed (of course!), Robert Johnson ("Me and the Devil Blues", which some find particularly haunting considering the timing) but he has to end it on an up note with a short but rollickin' take on Eddie Cochran's "Summertime Blues'.

I assume that Smog Veil figured that any fan has the RFTT and Pere Ubu releases that are available so they strictly went for the rarities, which is appreciated. This does give a well rounded portrait of a man with varied tastes but generally in line with like-minded 70's rock'n'rollers and Creem magazine writers'n'readers. Don't come here looking solely for RFTT proto-pre-punk, but this is a pretty fascinating insight into this talented man's mind.

The book is particularly impressive, with hours of reading, packed with photos'n'fliers'n'clippings and other amusing musings. His rantin'n'ravin' from local, Cleveland-area mags'n'rags to the likes of Creem magazine concentrate on the amazing music coming out at the time - Lou Reed, Mott, Stooges, MC5, etc., etc.  - stuff that was underground then and now everyone alive references them as influences. Damn near worth the price on its own and particularly enjoyable for me as this brings me back to my teen days when I was discovering these wild sounds! As I said, it ain't cheap, but what you get for the price is pretty astounding!