Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Memoirs of a Bastard Angel - Harold Norse

 I have read Bukowski's appreciation for Harold Norse's poetry for decades but never picked up anything of his until now. This, however, is his memoirs, not poetry, so I'm not sure if this is really the place I should have started, but it is what I easily found, so here I am...

Norse truly was a bastard child - the son of an unwed mother who had been European royalty but, with the death of her father, the rest of the family fled penniless to America. While he was a smart child with a gift for writing, he remained poor for quite some time, as his writing career was slow to begin.

A proud homosexual at a time when this could be a death sentence, the beginnings of these memoirs are almost exclusively made up of his sexual exploits, including many escapades with so-called straight men, making it sound like people were more open minded back in the 20's and 30's than they are now. These days I don't really care about anyone's love life and so this can become a bit tedious, even if he does write with some wit and charm. But even in his early days he has encounters with famous writers, often with a sexual nature, but I do enjoy his descriptions of the writer and artist scenes of the times and his interactions - such as being the first person to read the manuscript of the then-unknown Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie!

He does do quite a bit of name-dropping, but it is somewhat fascinating how many people he met before they were famous - these stories are all captivating and reveals how New York was a true epicenter for all kinds of art at the early days on the 20th century. His literary gossip is far more appealing that his sexual conquests and he dwells less on the sex aspect as the book moves on, although he is not one for a strict chronological timeline, which can be a bit confusing at times.

From New York he went to Europe and moved around, with long periods in Italy (Rome and Florence) and Paris, where he eventually lived at the "Beat Hotel" and lived to tell the tale (and tell it he did, in a book by that same title). His work evolved in Europe and he found his own voice and his place among the Beats - Burroughs and Corso were living in the hotel at the same time, among many others, of course. And, of course, in that crowd, drugs were involved, but also some of his greatest successes - in writing as well as painting, which he did not continue to explore.

Lots more travels, more name-dropping (he hung out with pre-musician Leonard Cohen in Greece and met many more famous people), before an eventual move to Venice, California to be near his mom (where he spent some time with Bukowski and, oddly, Arnold Schwarzenegger!) and then to the Bay area, where he moved around but still remains.

It's a wild tale with some of the most famous names on the Beat scene mixed with musicians, actors, painters, royalty, hustlers, drug addicts, street urchins and innumerable others. Definitely absorbing!

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Doc Stearn: Mr. Monster - Eclipse Comics


I've begun the monumental task of cataloging our comics (almost as massive as out record collection) and started with a box that included, among lots of other fun stuff, my copies of the Mr. Monster series. 

In the 80', Eclipse Comics was publishing some of the most interesting'n'creative comics of the times - not quite underground but way too wacky, gory and sexy to be mainstream, with truly original - for the genre - concepts and characters. 

Mr. Monster originally appeared in two comics in the 40's that Michael T. Gilbert stumbled upon and he managed to get the copyright for the character and basically kept the costume and revamped everything else about him to manifest a camp. hero who fought horrors with plenty of humor and an insane amount of references to EC Comics, Will Eisner, B-Movies, sight gags galore and whatever else ran rampant in Gilbert's twisted mind. A fun recurring theme was the splash page's brief origin story for Doc Stearn, which changed dramatically (and ingeniously) with every issue. With the help of his curvaceous assistant, Kelly, Mr. Monster destroyed wild creatures in every issue and, at times, he hosted reprints of old-school horror strips from the likes of Basil Wolverton and plenty of others.

Fantastic artwork that explodes off the panels and runs amok, in the best of ways, through the pages and spills over the mere two dimensions that tries to contain it in traditional Will Eisner fashion. Even the lettering is artistic and creative and a work of art in and of itself.

I don't know if these stories are available in any manner these days, but they are well worth searching out, especially for vintage comic fans!

RIP Phil Spector

Phil Spector, pop producer convicted of murder, dies aged 81 
Yes, he was a horrible person in many ways but he did create some incredible music. 

Thursday, January 14, 2021

RIP Sylvain Sylvain


Sylvain has lost his battle with cancer at the age of 70. 

HIs book, There's No Bones in Ice Cream, tells his tale of a young immigrant coming to America and falling in love with rock'n'roll and fashion and he melded the two for the rest of his life.

While Johnny Thunders had the Keith Richards-ish buzzy flash, Sylvain furnished the tasty, melodic licks and co-wrote a number of the finest tunes.

Truthfully, I didn't know what to make of this band when the first hit and was a bit turned off by their lack of ability (although it was far, far superior to my own) and by Johansen's voice (which grew on me, and, of course, I loved his lyrics). I even missed my chance to see them in a small theater in the next town over, which I regret to this day. 

He left behind quite a legacy and an incredible fan base. Very sad news...

(BTW, I got this poster from a local guitar shop - and I had this guitar, as well - and signed it with Sylvain's name and gave to my then-girlfriend!)

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

RIP Tim Bogert

Tim Bogert, bassist and founding member ofVanilla Fudge, Cactus and supergroup Beck, Bogert and Appice, has reportedly died at age 76. 
While none of these bands were ultra faves of mine, they have been part of my life for as long as I can remember. Sad to hear of this talented man's demise at an early age.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

The Essential Bessie Smith

 Bessie Smith was the "Empress of the Blues" back in the 20's and 30's, performing in her urban/jazzy style - piano, horn section, etc. - and touring with the likes of Ma Rainey before Bessie embarked on her highly successful solo career. 

This 2-CD set is a fab collection of some of Bessie's best known works including greats such as "Aggravatin' Papa", "'Taint Nobody's Business If I Do", her take on Ma Rainey's "Bo Weavil Blues", her sultry version of "St. Louis Blues", the Dixieland Jazz-styled "Cake Walkin' Babies From Home", "Alexander's Ragtime Band", "There'll Be a Hot Time in the Old City Tonight", "Send Me to the 'Lectric Chair", "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out", the devilish "Moan, You Moaners", the lascivious "Need a Little Sugar in My Bowl", "Gimme a Pigfoot and a Bottle of Beer" and an incredible amount more! 

Truly a superior collection and a great deal - pick it up for a fine overview of this talented woman!

Monday, January 11, 2021

The Alley Cats - 1979 - 1982


The Alley Cats were, of course, one of the first wave of LA punk bands and guitarist/vocalist Randy Stodola is still rockin' his tunes today, more than 40 years later! With powerhouse drummer John McCarthy and the lovely'n'talented Dianne Chai on bass and vocals, the group was an important part of the initial LA scene and appeared on early comps like Yes LA and they even tear it up on the Urgh! A Music War! movie. Because life isn't fair and talent doesn't assure popularity, after a name change to the Zarkons and a couple of album releases, the group broke up for a couple of decades before Randy reformed the Alley Cats with a new rhythm section.

This, as the title clearly states, is a collection of some of their early recordings (without the epic "Too Much Junk", unfortunately), that showcases their musical talent and almost-post-punk (although they were at the beginning of punk) songwriting. Opening with "Nightmare City", they prove that they are more interested in the power of the song rather than speed, although they were not afraid to blast through numbers when so inclined, as the following "Today" is a bit more frantic. Randy's baritone vocals are a bit monotone-ish at times, but his melodic guitar playing really stands out here and the dynamics are strong. The brooding "Night of the Living Dead" moves from Randy's hammer-on intro to a gothic preview into a dark punk number highlighted by Diane's roving bass line. "Breath of a Barfly" is a bit likely a quirky, early Ultravox tune, while Diane takes the lead vocals for "It Only Hurts the First Time", one of my faves with its varied sections and wildly catchy, repetitive chorus, super effective leads and faux ending.

"When the World Was Old" isn't quite as effective, but still a solid rocker, but "Bitter Fruit" has hip riffs, nice changes and another fine lead vocal by Diane, while there's a bit of a reggae rhythm to "The Hotel" although Randy can't sit still so there are multiple changes throughout to keep it interesting, and this continues in "Waiting For the Buzz" before ending with the frantically up-tempo theme song "Just An Alley Cat".

The set also includes a cool DVD of the band lip-syncing (possibly in their rehearsal studio) to "It Only Hurts the First Time", "Today", two takes of "Night of the Living Dead" and "Escape From Planet Earth". Unfortunately, no pure live footage, although their is some spliced in.

Regardless, a great set of this under-heralded band - one of LA's finest!

Tuesday, January 05, 2021

Joe Maphis - Gospel Guitar

Joe Maphis has amazed me ever since I discovered him a few years ago and so I have picked up what I have found from this Mosrite Master of the guitar whenever I can. When the spirit takes him, his playing is beyond phenomenal but he isn't just a show-off - he plays with taste and tone and can be quite subdued when the song requires it. Someone posted something about this vinyl record online and I found it at a reasonable price (although the prices online vary wildly - from a few dollars to a few hundred!) because, while I'm a heathen, I am a trad gospel fan and I wanted to see what Maphis would do with this material.

I'm certain that he was a believer and he treats the subject with respect and for the most part, he keeps to the melody rather than letting his fingers fly, although he does let loose on a few numbers. Overall, it's a great gospel record with a wonderful cover! Look for it - it's worth the search!

Track listing - "Onward Christian Soldiers", "A Beautiful Life", "Stand Up For Jesus", "I'll Fly Away", "Softly and Tenderly", "The Church in the Wildwood", "Amazing Grace", "Old Time Religion", "Hear Dem Bells", "Jesus Hold My Hand", "Pass Me Not", "I Shall Not Be Moved", "Bringing in the Sheaves", and "Precious Memories".

Monday, January 04, 2021

Portions From a Wine Stained Notebook - Charles Bukowski


This is yet another posthumous release, this being a collection of Buk's works, starting from literally his first published piece, with an amazing amount of items following. His early writings are more, dare I say, intellectual, with several essays written about poetry and its place in the world of modern arts, among other subjects. I had actually forgotten how much he wrote about the politics of writing and the scene that he found himself entrenched in. He is neither afraid to praise those he deems worthy nor demean those he doesn't care for. Of course, it's all simply his opinion and it is a bit, well, pretentious at times, but his style is stronger than many others, so he can be forgiven. Of course, there are windows into the rest of his life, as well - the booze, the women, true tenderness for his daughter, the racetrack (always), etc. While he, naturally, never veered from being Bukowski, his style did - I suppose also naturally - evolve into a simpler line, which is what he always claimed to be striving for. Not sure that I would necessarily declare that the later work is better, but it seems that he did move in the direction he meant to.

In any case, this is one of the stronger collections of his prose/short stories that I have found - pretty comparable to books like Notes of a Dirty Old Man (some of those columns appear in this new compilation, as well), which has some of my fave writing from the man. Definitely recommended!

Sunday, January 03, 2021

RIP Gerry Marsden

Gerry Marsden, frontman of Gerry and the Pacemakers, dies aged 78 
While they created light weight pop, the songs were well crafted and damned catchy, Sorry to hear of his passing.

Friday, January 01, 2021

JImmy Page: The Anthology by Jimmy Page

I discovered this book from a review in the latest Ugly Things and while it is not cheap, this hardbound, coffee table-styled book is mighty impressive and well worth the cash. Jimmy tells his tale in a somewhat abbreviated way with an incredible amount of ephemera and glorious photos of his guitars and other equipment. Of course, he started with cheaply made instruments but soon graduated to incredible beasts like his early 60's "Black Beauty" Les Paul. Interestingly enough, he was fascinated with Indian music and in 1962 managed to purchased a sitar and then meet Ravi Shankar at a concert and get tunings and playing tips from the master! His session work is pretty thoroughly detailed, and in an aside about his recording with pre-VU Nico, he mentions how much he loved the Velvet Underground and would see them whenever he could - which would explain why the Yardbirds did "Waiting For the Man"!

He documents every period of his musical life with exquisite photos of his equipment and it is mighty impressive how many different instruments he has gathered and learned to play and the variety of situations he has played in - literally around the world with indigenous musicians in exotic locales. Some of these he incorporated into his work and sometimes he did this simply for fun! 

Naturally, I truly enjoy his earliest work and the instruments he used at the time, but it is fascinating how he would experiment with current technology right up through today. Of course, he would still compliment the new tech with old instruments, as well, just to see how they would work together. 

This is one of my favorite recent finds - any musician would surely enjoy this visual trip from the 50's through the 00's. Be prepared to be jealous of his collection though and of all that he has accomplished!

Thursday, December 31, 2020

James Carr - The Best of

 I can only imagine that I learned of James Carr from the It Came From Memphis book as I was not familiar even with his hits, which mostly charted on the Soul charts rather than the Pop charts. But this collection shows a man with a powerful voice, full of soul'n'passion who breathed life into some pretty damn fine songs. "These Arms of Mine" is highly reminiscent of Otis Redding's version, and there was some competition and even some songwriting sharing between the two. It's possible that Otis' Stax hits overshadowed James' chances, since they do sound a bit alike, but most likely his lack of Pop chart hits was due to his label lacking the promotional funds. In any case, fans of Redding-styled soul with certainly appreciate this fine selection of tunes, as well!

(Thank you, Milena, for the Xmas gift!)

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

RIP Dawn Wells

‘Gilligan’s Island’ star Dawn Wells, who played Mary Ann, dies of COVID at age 82 
Sad - you weren't a boy in the 60's if you didn't have a crush on Mary Ann!

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

The Best of the Box Tops

 Alex Chilton is now (deservedly) a legend, but back in 1967 he was a 16 year old white kid with an amazingly soulful voice who hit big in the Box Tops with their great tune, "The Letter". Following that hit with the equally amazing "Cry Like a Baby" and then "Soul Deep", they managed to be a three-hit-wonder with some fine album tracks mixed with some material that was simply so-so. The collections puts all of this in one place that gives a pretty sweet listening experience overall.

While the hits are truly the best of this collection, and there are some pretty lightweight numbers, some that became pop hits like "Sweet Cream Ladies" and "Neon Rainbow". There's also some hidden gems like Chilton's blues tune, "I Must Be the Devil", their cover of Dylan's "I Shall Be Released", the appropriate gospel of "I Met Her in Church" and the swing of "You Keep Tightening Up on Me".

Not super consistent, but when they are on, they are absolutely great and even the throwaways are all worthwhile. Some top notch blue eyed soul!

Monday, December 28, 2020

Stereophonic 61 Classics From the Cramps Crazy Collection

This whacked-out series continues to amaze, with a freaky selection of truly twisted numbers, with plenty of novelty songs mixed with surf, rockabilly, doo-wop, garage and various permutations of all of the above.

The set opens with the oddly named "Cast Iron Arm" before moving onto Ray Harris' "Come On Little Mama", which the Cramps covered/stole, more rockabilly with "That Crazy Little House on the Hill", not one but two oddballs both named "Tiger", some fab instros, rockin' novelty numbers, Andre Williams looking to get someone to "Pass the Biscuits Please", some jokey - and serious - C&W, the 50's warning song, "Chickie Run", a raucous take on "Froggy Went A'Courtin'", the demented "Slide Her Under the Door", the FLamingos' truly lovely "Only Have Eyes For You" coupled with other doo-wop classics, more hoppin' rockabilly in "I Got the Bug", hip, sultry swing in "Midnight Stroll", Johnny Burnette's rockingly lascivious "Eager Beaver Baby", Edwin Bruce's "Sweet Woman", another tune Lux and Ivy "borrowed from, and Bill Ward doing a maniacal take on Jan and Dean's "Jennie Lee".

By Disc 2, there goofy semi-instros like "Jungle" next to the surfy "The Vulture", "Thunder", and even the Ventures "Ya Ya Wobble" (is that where Jah Wobble got his name?!) to pure doo-wop like the Fleetwoods acappella "Unchained Melody" and "Nite Owl"by the Champs, as well as "Imagination" by the Quotations, to rarities like the Clovers "Rotten Cocksuckers Ball" (truly phenomenal!), more Andre Williams, road-ravin' rockabilly like Ronnie Dawson's "Action Packed" and the Storey Sisters' "Bad Motorcycle", Ric Cartey's rollickin' take on "My Babe", Betty McQuade's Wanda Jackson-ish "Tongue Tied", exotica from Les Baxter and Arthur Lyman and even the Legendary Stardust Cowboy's unhinged "Paralyzed", mixed in with untold others.

More nutty-as-a-fruitcake- fun! Dig it!

Magnificent - 62 Classics from the Cramps Insane Collection

 I'm not sure who is doing this series or where they are getting the records from, but I certainly hope that Ivy is getting her percentage from these cats using their name! In any case, these double CD sets are always a fun time and this is no exception.

With cuts ranging from straight rockabilly to country to wacky novelty numbers to doo wop to surf and many that are truly indescribable, you not likely to ever be bored here! On this set there's cuts from greats like Bo Diddley, Larry Collins, Wanda Jackson, Johnny Burnette and HIs Trio, Duane Eddy, Andre Williams and Charlies Feathers and goofiness like "The Blob", "The Purple People Eater" and "Everybody Outta the Pool" and even a Spike Jones number, alongside cuts that the Cramps covered like Ronnie Dawson's "Rockin' Bones", Lonnie Johnson's sweet city blues in "Tomorrow Night", horror-themed tunes, dance numbers, surf instros and a ridiculous amount of others!

Don't come expecting any one thing, these comps are a wild mix of all kinds of musical insanity - just like the Cramps were! 

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Classic Blues Artwork From the 1920's - Calendar and


We've been buying this series for years now and it never lets us down. The calendar is compiled from amazing images of ads from/for the blues records included on the CD and each day notes the birth or death of important men and women of the blues. The CD is always an extraordinary selection of blues classics - in this case from the likes of Sonny Boy Williamson, Leadbelly, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Boy Fuller, Victoria Spivey and more - and rarities - this time consisting of eleven tracks by Lost John Hunter, who was supposedly the first African-American bluesman to record at Sun Studios. How Blues Images managed to find the entire recorded output - that had been unreleased - is anyone's guess, but they do have their feelers reaching out all over the world.

Always worth the cash - get it daddio!

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Graham Nash - Wild Tales, A Rock & Roll Life


Graham Nash is, of course, one the the founding member of the Hollies and Crosby, Stills and Nash, as well as a prolific and creative solo performer. This autobiography takes us from his incredibly humble beginnings in a British ghetto to super-stardom and beyond.

The book opens with Nash at a crossroads - on his way to LA with plans to leave the Hollies, his wife and his country, all of which he does as he falls in love with Joni Mitchell, and starts works with David Crosby and Steven Stills - all over one weekend! But long before all of that, we get a picture of his youth as a poor Northern Brit with next to no luxuries and not many necessities. But at six years old he meets Allan Clarke, who he will later form the Hollies with, and they immediately start making music together - initially simply singing, then playing skiffle and eventually, harmonies-based rock'n'roll with duets like the Everly Brothers and the Louvin Brothers as influences.

I always say that I love reading about those who grew up during the start of r'n'r in the 50's and became part of the movement in the 60's - the times were exciting beyond words and the music made was truly magic. The music scene was exploding and there were places to play everywhere for upcoming groups - especially if they were any good and supposedly, Graham and Allan's new project was. I never really thought about where they got their name, but a new line up needed a title for a gig and they were almost the Deadbeats - hardly indicative of their sound - before they decided to dedicate themselves to one of their favorite singers, Buddy Holly!

After an incredible string of hits, Graham got bored with the teenybopper scene (although the fame, fortune and women must have been nice - not to mention the general respect from other musicians) and he wanted to get more experimental. He had been expanding his mind with drugs, something the other Hollies did not participate in, generally, and wanted to do more. He became friends with David Crosby, who had by then split with the Byrds and through him, Steven Stills, who had also left Buffalo Springfield and the rest is musical history.

I wasn't sure of the entire chronology, but Neil Young joined immediately after the CSN record was completed and they did their first two live shows with Neil - the second being at Woodstock! Work on Deja Vu began right away, as well, with a copious amount of cocaine screwing with their heads, despite making another fabulous record. They played some shows, but took a break to clear their heads pretty much as soon as they were finished with the album. As it tends to do, the drugs'n'excess took their toll and while the group never officially broke up and they did some extravagant shows/tours, it was difficult for them to really work together. 

The excesses become fairly grotesque, especially Crosby's free-basing, and they all move in different directions although they always end up back together - sometimes strictly for the music, sometimes simply for financial reasons. But Nash, ever the hippie with his heart in the right place, is integral in setting up and playing innumerable benefits and branches out into other artistic endeavours, particularly his early love for photography, but also music and painting and, of course, his family.

The man truly does seem like a good person - despite wallowing in an over-the-top rock stardom - and he tells his story well. While he's not my fave musician, he has been involved in so much of the music that I grew up with and he has written some terrific tunes. Truly enjoyable and recommended for anyone who loves this style of music.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

RIP Leslie West

Sad to hear - Mountain was definitely an influential group that I still listen to regularly.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Charles Bukowski - Slouching Towards Nirvana


Yes, I know it's kinda ridiculous how many Bukowski books I have at this point, but I like his style and there are a helluva lot of them out these days. This is another posthumous release published by his long time editor John Martin at the behest of Buk's widow Linda. Once again, the poems here are generally later works that reminisce about his younger days while also reflecting on his then-current success. He is confident in his writings and while they generally remain reasonably strong, I have to say that this one is not one of his best collections. Nothing bad here - I generally enjoy pretty much everything that I have seen of his - but just not as wild and, yes, poetic, as some of his previous works. Fans will certainly want to round out their collections, but for those starting on Buk, this is probably not the one to go with.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Ugly Things #55


Of course you know what you're gonna get with Ugly Things - tales of "wild sounds from past dimensions"! In this ish there's a huge exploration of Seatlle's Magic Fern, an excellent interview with Cheap Trick's Ben E Carlos detailing the band's history with plenty of hip, old pix, Cyril Jordan gives an overview of the Bay Area's garage bands that went on to greatness (Paul Whaley in Blue Cheer, Greg Rolie to Santana, etc.), there's a fascinating tale of photographer Eric Hayes, who captured some of the greats of the 60's just by being in the right place at the right time, an informative tale of the record Brian Jones Presents the Pipes of Pan at Joujouka, an interview with Swedish 80's garage rock'n'rollers, the Crimson Shadows, a lengthy dissertation on the author of the pulp novel The Velvet Underground, which the band got its name from, a bit of Porter Wagoner, a tale of Carlos Santana's early band and so much more it's kinda crazy! Of course, reviews galore, as well, with lots of great media releases that you should own!

It's Ugly Things - of course you should get it and read from front to back! Dig it!

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

recommended live streams

 12-16-20 The Souvenairs at 6:00 pm Pacific Time

Monday, December 14, 2020

Neal Cassady - The First Third

 I'm certain that I've read some of Cassady's writings here'n'there, but don't believe that I've ever read an entire book by him. This is an autobiography of his early years - "the first third" of his life - and he has a bit of a Kerouac-ian, spirited, freeform, breathless rant (possibly Kerouac got that from the fast-talking Cassady?) that gives us plenty of flavor and details of his youth in Denver. With an alcoholic father, a poor mother, and abusive half-brothers, he spends plenty of time on the street, sometimes with his homeless father and sometimes just exploring as far as his feet and his energy would take him. 

While he does his best to keep his story relatively chronological, he can't stop himself from going on innumerable tangents which revolve back'n'forth in time in a fairly convoluted way, which means that you have to really be paying attention in order to keep up with the man. These sidesteps can be quite entertaining but you/I tend to lose track of the original tale in the process.

There is a sudden jump from pre-teen to late teenager/early twenties, where he is dealing with different relationships but these overlap, as well, and are too many to keep track of. There's also a separate chapter that Allen Ginsberg dictated by hand while Neal explained the plot of a story that he wanted to write, which he told in his own tangled way while cleaning a batch of marijuana!

Towards the end, this collection of writings - as opposed to an actual biography, and there is a subtitle on the back "...and other writings" - compiles letters to the likes of Kerouac, Ken Kesey and others, which are written in the same wildly ravin' style.

In person, he must've been way too manic for a lot of people to handle, but his writing does captivate you. A helluva tale from a true original!

Tuesday, December 08, 2020

Spinning Off Bukowski - Steve Richmond


I am very purposefully going out as little as possible these days but made the trek out to a local bookstore that was sadly closing its doors and selling off their stock. I had never heard of this book but, being a Buk acolyte, I thought I'd see what this was about.

Richmond was an aspiring poet in the mid-60's who had self published his own debut book when he first met Bukowski. They became friends/drinking buddies and spent a fair amount of time together at each other's pads.While being a huge Buk fanatic, Richmond does not try to emulate his style, but his story telling is oddly detailed to the point of minutia in an unnecessary and almost annoying way - very different from Buk's use of detail, somehow. The story and the characters are interesting/compelling but there's something about Richmond's style that's a bit off-putting to me for some reason. Maybe he's trying too hard, in a way, maybe he's too insecure, maybe it's a bit of homophobia, maybe it's his Buk-worship - I can't say for sure, but it doesn't flow for me. I've got to say that I feel that I'm too much of Buk fan, in a way, as well, and I'll admit that a lot of Buk's fave writers tend not to click for me.

In any case, this gives the reader another viewpoint on Bukowski from someone who hung with him and knew many of the characters that Buk would write about. I'm glad that I found this but I have to say that I don't see myself looking out for any other Richmond works.

Friday, December 04, 2020

Charles Bukowski - What Matters Most Is How Well You Walk Through The Fire


I first found out about Buk probably close to 40 years ago through a woman I was dating at the time and while he sometimes is a bit foul'n'mean, there's a lot about him that I've related to - his desperation, his circumstances, his trouble with women - and I've always appreciated the way he could put the word on the page in a simple'n'direct, yet clever and, yes, poetic way. He certainly helped me formulate my lyrics, although you might never know that.

Anyway, this is another posthumous collection with works ranging from the years 1970 - 1990 when he lived in the same or similar neighborhoods as I did. Of course, I dig his tales of the old days in Hollywood, his struggles, the streets, the women, the booze, the race track and the words. He reminisces a lot about the past, whatever time that might have been at the time of his writing. The lines are strong, generally, the topics vary wildly, his mind jumping jumping, writing about the things that no one else thinks to write about. It’s best when he runs wild, the topics random, the words powerful - that's where he belongs.

He zeros in on the minuscule details in an offhand way, but with it he can create a scene or flesh out a fantasy. Sometimes it's dull'n'meaningless, sometimes something approaching profound. He might get a bit tired, maudlin or, gawd forbid, a smidge dull now'n'again, but a page later he is back with some true spark. 

No matter how many books of his I own - and I own an embarrassing large number of them - there always seems to be more to discover. I'm looking for more 40 years on, so I guess you could say that I'm a fan. I'm sure that you have your own opinion of him by now, but this is another good one.

Glenn Branca - Songs 77-79


I have been explored more no-wave and noize bands lately and somehow - I believe through the research of my lovely wife - I came across this gentlemen and found this CD. I knew the name of the Theoretical Girls but not the Static and this compilation gathers Branca's songs from the singles by both bands as well as some truly twisted home demos and live cuts. The packaging is minimal but has some brief but informative liner notes by Branca.

The Static cuts are fairly minimal'n'pulsating, with DEVO-esque vocal stylings and some nicely jarring guitar squawnk. The Theoretical Girls numbers follow some of the same ethos, natch, but with enough of a different feel to know it's another group. Driving/pounding rhythms, weird time changes, keyboard freakouts, and just general anarchic riffin' makes for some wild listening. The home cassette recordings are truly minimal - just Glenn's wanderin'/waverin'/MX 80 Sound-ian voice and some Shaggs/Half Japanese/Isaac Owens chaos-guitar. There are live cuts that include some squealing sax and abrasive keys backed by ramblin' drums and maniacal tortured guitar work. "TV Song" is, comparatively, almost a normal "rock" song - sorta a mix of Roky Erikson's "Bloody Hammer" and something by DEVO - sorry, his voice really reminds me of Mouthersbaugh! "You" is damn fierce'n'frightening, with a repetitive backing rhythm covered with angular, jagged shards of crashin' guitar chords and the finale, Glazened Idols" has jungle drums covered in anarchic noize and semi-insane, spit-fired, ranted vocals.

Wild'n'primitive, low-fi, no-wave noize - dig it!

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

Flea - Acid For the Children


Although I quite enjoyed seeing the Red Hot Chili Peppers when they started out playing Hollywood clubs that I was playing/hanging out in (and still thought that they were fun the last time I saw them in the 90's), I would never have imagined that they would have gotten as big as they did. Of course, the music was a bit tamed down for the masses, but they were a wild'n'energetic show, especially the the non-stop, whirling dervish psycho on the bass! I would also never have thought to read Flea's biography, but my lovely wife is more open minded than I am and bought this and I have to say, it's pretty damn good.

Flea (born Michael Balzary) is much smarter than I would have suspected (although throughout the book, he does some incredibly, stupendously, unbelievably stupid things, which I think i why I always thought he was kinda intellectually slow) and is actually a good storyteller. With chapters that are no more than a couple of pages he talks of his early years in Australia, moving to New York state and eventually ending up in Los Angeles as a young teen from a broken home, simultaneously a sensitive, bookworm loner and a bit of a fuck-up/asshole. 

He was also all over the place - into books, shoplifting, karate, skating, sports, getting high, running the streets, breaking'n'entering, various death-defying feats and a zillion other things simultaneously. Eventually, through meeting Anthony and Hillel, he learns bass (previously having been into jazz trumpet), learns to appreciate rock music and starts playing the Hollywood clubs and hanging out in the punk rock scene (although that is not what his first band was about). 

I have to give the man major props for putting his money where his mouth is and starting the Silverlake Conservatory of Music in order to help LA kids whose school budgets have been cut so that they don't get the music education that he had. Giving back to the community and to the kids is an amazing feat. (While he is more-or-less chronological in his story telling, he does fast-forward at times with a tangent related to his earlier years, which is why this came up in the middle of the book.)

Although he was certainly bright, he was also one of those wasted f'k-ups that would cause a commotion just for the helluva it throughout the scene and be a general annoyance. Flea's stories inevitably star some drug or another, to the point of being a bit grotesque - although he swears, in a believable way, that he was never an addict, he is constantly using something and it does get to be a bit much and it is fairly incredible that he is still alive today. After endless tales of the highs that he reached he does finally say that he wished he hadn't done as much damage to himself as he did, but he sure sounds like he was having fun at the time!

That said, it is kinda fun to reminisce about some of the old clubs/bars/hang-outs/rehearsal spaces/bands, etc., although I was a bit too uncool for some of the places, due to working a "regular", daytime job and being reasonably sober. I guess it just goes to show that being a druggie bum pays off sometimes! Of course, he does give some insight to his influences - Echo and the Bunnymen was a surprise! - but then he ends this tome just as the Chili Peppers come together for their first, one-song gig. He promises a sequel!

Anyway, it's a fun read and a nice snapshot of LA in the 70's and 80's. Much better than I expected!

Saturday, November 28, 2020

The Truths We Hold - An American Journey by Kamala Harris


Having made history by being elected the first woman (!) of color (!!) as the Vice President of the United States, I thought that I should learn a bit more about Ms. Harris, other than that she's the woman who made Brett Kavanaugh cry! Written as she was preparing to run for president, this is as much of an introduction to the woman as it is a stump speech, but it is a good one.

Her Jamacan father and East Indian mother were both brilliant students when they met in California and were deeply involved in the civil rights movement of the 60's. Kamala's passion for justice was instilled in her early and although her parents split up, her mother remained vitally involved in equal rights as she did in science. Music was also a big part of the family, with her father diggin' hip jazz - Monk, Coltrane, etc. - and her mom singing along to Aretha Franklin and the Edwin Hawkins singers! Harris even admits an early crush on Tito Jackson of the Jackson 5!

With so many friends and family in the civil rights movement, it is inevitable that they would sometimes need lawyers and there were some in their circle of friends that everyone looked up to and sought their advice and Kamal decided that is what she wanted to be, as well. From there she worked her way up until she became a senator, always working - per her own autobiography, so you have to take everything with a grain of salt, although her record is public - for the rights of others, be it the LGBTQ community, women's rights, immigrant's rights or the many other injustices in this country. She glosses over/ignores some of her more controversial portions of her life, which might have been a good idea to tackle, but maybe she doesn't have answers for some of those questions. As with any politician, or any person period, she is not perfect, nor do I agree with her on everything, but she does appear to have her heart in the right place and I believe that she will do what she can in her capacity as VP to help those in need, as she seems to have tried to do throughout her career.

The book is very well written - Kamala is obviously quite intelligent - but also pretty depressing. The amount of work that Biden and Harris have in front of them is staggering, especially considering the amount of sabotage that Trump is doing to hinder their administration, and the repugs have already said that they will do everything they can to block any meaningful work, but at least we will have an administration working for America again, instead of a traitor-in-chief. Best of luck to them!

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Rock'n'Roll Sweepstakes, the Authorized Biography of Ian Hunter by Campbell Devine


Although I didn't realize it when I bought this new bio, Devine also wrote a book on Mott the Hoople, All the Young Dudes, the Biography, which I enjoyed, so I think that this tome is already in good company. I have been fascinated with Ian and MTH since I first heard "All the Young Dudes" and I have played their records probably every week of my life since then!

A bit of a loner as a child, Ian drifted towards music and then was completely enthralled when rock'n'roll hit the British shores while he was a teenager, being especially enamored with Jerry Lee Lewis and the wildman Little Richard. Despite disappointing his parents, he had to join in and was soon playing'n'singing in local bands. As I've said numerous times, I always love reading about the rabidly exciting days of r'n'r in the 60's and Ian's tale is certainly no different - he played in all types of bands, including a Screamin' Lord Sutch take-off that sounds like it was literally out of control!

Of course, Devine brings in the other MTH members around this time, giving their convoluted, intertwined, innumerable bands-histories. There's a nice aside when the pre-Ian band, then called The Silence, played in Germany and Overend raves about the Monks! The Silence is eventually picked up by Guy Stevens and signed to Island records on the condition that they change out their singer - Guy famously desired a band that was a combination of the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan and that's where Ian Hunter came in and the rest is rock'n'roll history.

Recording four albums in reasonably quick succession, Guy Stevens' production sometimes hampers the group (he seems to have been literally teetering on the brink of insanity) and sometimes lets them go fairly berserk and the material varies dramatically from blistering rock'n'roll that obviously influenced punk bands, especially the Sex Pistols (Ian notes this, as well), to Dylan-ish ballads to country rock!

Although the albums were not big sellers, the band grew into a monstrous live act with a rabid fan base. The early albums are now considered classics, with their mix of blazingly hot rockers and Ian's more mellow ballads that are indeed, Dylan-esque. Unfortunately, they did not sell and the band had actually broken up when they got a call from David Bowie who offered them "All the Young Dudes" and sudden stardom. Everything moved at lightning speed, with big shows, tours, another critically acclaimed album, Mott, that produced a couple more (Ian-penned) hits (although I'm fairly flabbergasted that the group did not like the American album cover, with a fantastic photo of them looking ultra-rock'n'roll and preferred the blase, unexciting British version) followed by the departure of their incredible guitarist, Mick Ralphs. After already having lost organist Verden Allen after ATYD, this huge loss could have meant the end for them but they rush-procured former Spooky Tooth guitarist Luther Grosvenor and renamed him Ariel Bender. Unfortunately, although they put out an album and toured with Luther, he never really clicked with them (I never really cared for him in the band and feel a bit vindicated by this book's interviews that showed that the band agreed, despite their public approval) and he was asked to leave, with the plan to bring in Mick Ronson. This combo, which seemed perfect on paper, literally only lasted weeks, ending with the demise of the band altogether.

This books really is the story of MTH, with a sequel due in 2021 concentrating on Hunter's solo career. Devine does a great job of gathering everyone's input, especially Ian's, and putting the tale together in a highly enjoyable way. MTH created an incredible amount of fantastic r'n'r in a mere 5 years (boggling how short their career was!) and any fan of real rock'n'roll music should own all of their albums and this book!

Thursday, November 19, 2020

recommended gigs

11-21-20 - Johnny Zig and the Force LIVE at GOAT 

11-23-20 Thee Swank Bastards LIVE at the Golden Tiki

11-25-20 - *CANCELLED* the Delta Bombers, Shanda and the Howlers and the Ryolite Sound LIVE at the Fremont Country Club

11-30-20 Thee Swank Bastards LIVE at the Golden Tiki

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

The Real Frank Zappa Book by Frank Zappa and Peter Occhiogrosso

 I first heard Zappa when my sister brought home the Mothers of Invention's We're Only In It For the Money and was fairly well freaked out'n'fascinated. Then in my teens a good friend was a Zappa fanatic and we used to go see him whenever we could in Chicago, which was fairly often. I didn't really pay attention to him after the 70's, but always respected the man and his works. I have been revisiting him somewhat due to my more recent obsession with Captain Beefheart and this bio randomly came across my attention so I decided to check it out.

Turns out it's an autobiography in which Peter would prompt Frank and record his answers and compile them in a reasonably coherent form. This is actually pretty entertaining, actually, as you feel like Frank is simply talking with you. He goes on tangents and fiddles with chronology but Peter keeps the storyline pretty much under control.

As a pre-rock'n'roll teen, Zappa was enamored by Rhythm'n'Blues but one day discovered a record by avant composer Varese entitled "Ionisation" and this changed his concepts of what music could be. He never lost his R'n'B roots, though, and through them he formed various groups and became friends with another local loon, the afore-mentioned Captain. Eventually, he graduated, went through various odd jobs and by chance ended up owning a home made recording studio where he would work out his own compositions.

At some point he sat in and took over a group which became the Mothers and, due to record company insistance, the Mothers of Invention. Surprisingly, this collection of oddballs got signed to a major label and was able to release a double album as their debut! I love to hear anyone's recollections of my adopted home town of LA/Hollywood in the 60's and Zappa, naturally, has his own unique take on it. Funnily, although he has always disparaged hippies in general, he was obviously proud of LA and thought that it was more individualistic than other cities, such as San Francisco.

From there, the rest of the book is not a biography at all but simply Frank’s “philosophy of the world”. Fair enough, it's his book and he's always intelligent and highly opinionated and while I don't always agree with him, he's not boring! But, boy, when he goes on about how stupid America is, I can't even imagine what he would think in this time of the Trump cult! Of course, there is a chapter on the PMRC - remember them? This bit of censorship from Tipper Gore (among other things, of course) quite possibly cost Al the presidency.

I really enjoyed the beginning of the book where Frank does give a bit of info about his life and while I mostly (not completely) agree with his philosophy of life, his proselytizing throughout the later part of the book does get somewhat tiresome - I would have preferred more concentration on his music. But I sure would have liked to have seen the TV show that he talks about pitching - sort of a musical version of the Daily Show, sorta/kinda! Too bad that didn't happen!

In any case, fans have probably already seen this book since it was released over 30 years (!!) ago, but it's a good read overall.