Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Bomp – Saving the World One Record at a Time – Suzy Shaw & Mick Farren

After reading this great book, I realized that Bomp has been a part of my life for over 3 decades now – considerably longer than most people that I know! Greg Shaw was a true believer in r’n’r and despite any faults that he might have had, he did his best to bring his visions to the world through his writings and his records. Of course, he was helped by many people along the way, especially his ex-wife, Suzy Shaw, who continues the business to this day.

This book is a collaboration of excerpts from the zines, writings from Greg and other contributors and anecdotes from people involved, including many remembrances from Suzy.

Some of the most interesting segments for me comes at the beginning, with pieces from Greg’s original zine, Mojo Navigator, that he created with collaborator David Harris. I have never seen these and found the pieces written in the mid-60’s to be fascinating bits of r’n’r writing. There is the Grateful Dead talking about Big Brother’s “new singer” (Janis), Big Brother talking about 1st single ("Blindman" & "All is Loneliness"), club gigs in Chicago where no one knew them (maybe their first out of town gig), first recordings, and recording studios, a very long Country Joe & the Fish interview – apparently they were a local fave that never really reached the acclaim of their counterparts - and a cool Doors interview from just after the first record came out but before “Light My Fire” hit, talking about clubs, dances, ballrooms, etc – and drugs, which seemed to be the part that excited Jim the most. Mojo Navigator dissolved and Greg & Suzy left San Francisco, relocated to LA and moved on.

By the 70’s Shaw started Who Put the Bomp zine, along with the Bomp! label. Tales abound about these days and a number of articles are reproduced. Some of the reproductions are a little small and grainy, making it difficult for me to read with my lousy eyes. But, there are tons of super writings - the zine published the legendary “groin thunder” Lester Bangs amphetamine fueled lengthy (and ultra cool) Troggs rant. There are great articles on the Standells, the Runaways, the burgeoning punk scene, a cool bit about the early '70's “New New York” scene, which at the time meant Blue Oyster Cult and the Dolls!

A couple articles on Sky & the Seeds are included, which is especially appropriate as Greg got Sky to come to Shaw’s Cavern Club and sit in with just about every band that appeared there – sometimes whether they wanted him to or not! This is how many of the local scenesters appeared on the 80’s Sky record and how Redd Kross hooked up with him.

A British punk special is something I specifically remember from my pre-LA days, when I was reading any r’n’r zine I could get my hands on. Of course, Greg took up the flag for the new punk bands and there are plenty of articles on Blondie, the Ramones, the local LA bands (several of whom recorded for Bomp) and plenty more.

Also included are the lay outs for the last, “lost” issue #22, which they thought had disappeared. It’s a shame that this never saw the light of day before now.

My favorites sections are definitely Suzy’s recollections and behind the scenes commentaries. She understands and appreciates the importance of the business that she & Greg ran, but she doesn’t try to deify Greg – she brings up as many of his infuriating traits as his endearing ones. But, she is never mean, she is funny and factual and for someone who has been involved peripherally with Bomp at times (mostly through friends), the tales are revelatory at times, bring back memories other times and often just make me laugh!

One of Greg’s most annoying traits for Suzy was his avoidance of all aspects of the business side of the music business. But if not for this “fault”, he might not have helped Lee Joseph start up Dionysus Records in LA, which helped start my “career”, such as it was. While I never recorded for Bomp specifically, I did appear on a compilation or two, as well. Greg always encouraged bands and I will always appreciate his help.

For anyone who is interested in the evolution of r’n’r writing, fanzines and independent labels, this is a terrific read!