Tuesday, March 30, 2010

From the fanzine archive under the stairs

I've been rummaging through my fanzine stash, most of which is in a box under the stairs. Probably not the best storage solution since it's hot and, well, under some stairs, from an entry point in the garage. Even worse is that I've been keeping my old films and videos in there while living in a geographical area known for summer heat. I'm letting go of my past by letting it molder away slowly.

Anyway, let's revisit the golden era of zines, which was anytime before the Internet hit. Y'see, long ago, before computer communications, people with creative obsessions and a love of suffering would put all their thoughts and blossoming layout skills to good use in print format. If the zeitgeist was working its mojo, some of these fanzines caught on and were read by countless weirdos, musicians, and future and fallen celebrities. If not, they still make a fun read from under the stairs.

I don't have any permissions to post this stuff, so just a smattering will do. Click on the images to read them.

A very early example of a music zine: Greg Shaw's "Who Put The Bomp!", is from 1974. I found this issue at Saturn Records in Oakland, which is more of a mail-order house than a store now, but that's how it's going, isn't it? Saturn always had an interesting array of books and magazines on its front rack. The only reason I'm going into this detail is that I still marvel that I could pick up a 20-year-old zine for $2.95, and it's in good condition too. The 90s were affordable, I guess. I especially liked getting the whole Sky Saxon/Seeds article since my band She Mob had played with him once. The print throughout is so small, that I suspect this might be a reprint edition. I mean it's SMALL with my reading glasses on. The Bomp! label continues to soldier on...

Can you guess what band this ad was referring to? Hint: they're now a major motion picture starring Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart.

I found this ad so inspirational, I made it into a She Mob flier for one of our East Bay shows. I'm sure anyone who took the time to read the (slightly altered) copy had to wonder what the hell was going on here with this She Mob situation. Let 'em wonder. Fliers without in-jokes are only half finished, in my opinion.

Look at how cool Trouser Press's 10th anniversary issue is. There's Joey and cake and everything.

Then you open the cover and find this full-page ad for the BOSS hand clapper. Just not cool at all! The cowboy in white, and the berating tone ("Who taught you guys to clap--Lady Di?"), plus an offer to buy the poster of this really sad concept in advertising, is almost 3D-unfortunate. But at least TP got some advertising, which most small-sized zines could barely manage what with their sporadic publishing dates and irreverent tones.

Speaking of tones, I hope Andy and the Kools were able to put that hot, uptempo clap beat to good use.

An exploration of the 70s was rich, fanzine loam to writers in the 90s. Candi Strecker's "It's A Wonderful Lifestyle" was a multi-volumed look at the 70s which refrained from sneering by using a pleasant, archival tone throughout its pages.

Here's a helpful sidebar on how to make a bong with a Pringle's can. So 70s, yet practical even today.

Part Two (published three years after the first issue--nothing wrong with that) featured an article on terrible cars of the 70s. You know you want to read this.

Don and Erin of "Teenage Gang Debs" knew there was a certain TV viewer out there who felt that Eve Plumb's Jan of the Brady Bunch had it all going on. Her suffering with glasses, braces, and Marcia (did Jan ever get a real, not imaginary, boyfriend?--no, thanks to the sadistic Brady Bunch writers; meanwhile Marcia got dozens before she graduated from high school), made her the focus of all the other neglected suburban preteens. Ahem. So yes, I bought this issue.

I'm not going to post the Eve Plumb interview, even though it's swell (and she doesn't like talking about the Bunch at all). But here's a little segment on brushes with celebrities. The Ted Koppel supermarket conversation is notable.

"Greed" lasted for three years and nine issues in the late 80s (pretty good run) and featured a lot of comic-book artists that I liked, such as the Hernandez Brothers and Chester Brown.

Here's an article on the horror of trying to locate underground music on that newfangled compact-disc format in 1986. We hipsters worked hard for our indie cred back in the day. You young'uns with your downloads and streaming content have NO IDEA.

I have so much more under the stairs, like "Ben Is Dead," and the one-shot "I Hate Brenda" newsletter. My cherished "Monk" magazine issues from New York, Santa Fe and Las Vegas. "Nancy's Magazine," "Rollerderby," "Snipehunt," "Bunnyhop," "Beer Frame," "Chin Music," "Thrift Score," "Guinea Pig Zero," and even my own zines that got shuffled around the Bay Area back in the day.

Let me tell you something about making a zine: it gave me valuable PageMaker skills which were in demand until PageMaker was completely obliterated by QuarkXPress, which might be obliterated by InDesign, which will be obliterated by...? It also probably got me into grad school (I think) when I included my zines in my application. I met lots of writers, editors and comic-book artists through zines, and I interviewed such luminaries as Mojo Nixon, Eugene Chadbourne, Camper Van Beethoven, and other long-ago musical mayhem-makers. I rarely got dates though. I should have worked that angle more.

Kara Herold's documentary, "Grrlyshow," portrays the feminine side of zine-making. Here's a clip.

Wiki Zine is an Internet encyclopedia of zines that for some reason barely comes up in Google searches. I'll be adding to their list using my collection, no doubt.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Another fine Ramones biography

I never get tired of them. Ramones biographies just keep coming in book and documentary form. The most dysfunctional-functional band seemingly of all time, how they managed to produce anything at all for more than a decade is a major miracle. The melding of all of their addictions, neuroses, mental illnesses and sociopathic tendencies, really created some beautiful rock and pop music.

The latest I've picked up (and can't put down) is Mickey Leigh's and Legs McNeil's "I Slept With Joey Ramone." Mickey is Joey's little brother and has been playing in bands for...ever. Bands even more hapless than the Ramones. Leigh is an intelligent, funny writer, (OK, OK, so is McNeil--contributing from his rock-historian storehouse brain).

All the classic Ramones biographical tales are here: their unlikely formation and prolific songwriting junkets, their early apocalyptic CBGB shows, the drugs, the booze, the girls, Joey getting third-degree burns on his face backstage while steaming his vocal cords, Johnny's admiration of Manson, Hitler and Reagan, Dee Dee's in-your-face nuttiness, Marky's missed concert and subsequent firing due to his impromptu drinking binge with baseball great, Roger Maris; being held hostage in the recording studio by gunpoint by manic Phil Spector--yes it's all here. The formation, duration and heartbreak of the Ramones.

Leigh adds much more about Joey's close-knit and tragic family life, his influences, his early struggles with OCD and fitting in with their peer group. And then eventually, the twisted family rifts caused by bickering, fame, money, credit-where-credit-was-due, all coming from a knowledgeable musician and composer who worked on quite a few Ramones songs and never got proper credit. And never got paid, except for the $50 a week he made as their first roadie. No one said the Ramones were fair. You'll laugh, you'll cringe, you'll definitely cry. I did (a lot).

Sometimes Legs acts like a jerk. And sometimes he's not acting - Mickey Leigh and Legs McNeil read from the book and take some questions in Tribeca, 2009.

Some Mickey Leigh bands:

Mickey Leigh & Stop - Questioningly / Ring of Fire

The Rattlers - Slug (a Ramones song given to The Rattlers)

On The Beach on the Uncle Floyd Show

Mickey was in a band with Lester Bands called Birdland. I can't find any Birdland on YouTube but here's Lester Bangs and the Delinquents doing his ode to agoraphobia, I'm In Love With My Walls. Birdland played this too.

Joey wrote I Wanna Be Sedated after he got third-degree burns on the lower half of his face and throat from a very unfortunate steam-kettle malfunction back stage. He went to the emergency room, returned, and sang a great show anyway, before swelling up like a balloon, which required more hospitalization. He was an artist.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Sandra Bullock kicks some ass

Generally I'm not an advocate of violence. I'm sure we can talk this thing out, and all that. But once in a while, someone needs a good ol' fashioned ass kicking. I'm not naming names, but I'm convinced by this scene from the late, great, one-season-wonder satire, "Action," that Sandra Bullock is the woman for the job. I have faith in you Sandy. You're big enough to do this scene (and do it excellently) and you're big enough to get through life's crappy traumas. By kicking some. Serious. Ass.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Demon With A Glass Hand starring Robert Culp

Written by Harlan Ellison (one of sci-fi's most imaginative authors), "Demon With A Glass Hand" is a beloved Outer Limits episode, starring Robert Culp. I don't know exactly why I'm so saddened by Robert Culp's fall and death on a sidewalk in Los Angeles. I think it's because he was such a lively, funny, sparkly presence on television for so many years.

There was something very likable about Robert Culp and he seemed to enjoy acting more than most. You can tell when someone's getting a kick out of their life. Bonus Robert Culp fact: he and Bill Cosby made a conscious decision on "I-Spy" to make their friendship forefront in the show during a time of terrible and open racism in the U.S. That's what gets to me the most.

Young Robert Culp and his glass hand. You'll recognize the set (and concept) in Part 6 from "Bladerunner."
Part 2
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

Here's "Harlan Ellison on God," because he's so intelligent, entertaining and crotchety.

CNN obit

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Architects and Photographers: documentaries at the NW Film Center

I haven't posted anything on architecture here in...ever. I've never done that. So here's "Infinite Space," which is playing at the NW Film Center in Portland this week.

Also this week in the special screenings series: "Rem Koolhass - A Kind of Architect." Hmmm, modern.

This one has screened and gone: "Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Shulman." This looks like it's worth seeing some way, some how.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Happy 100th Birthday, Akira Kurosawa

The greatest filmmaker ever would have been 100 today. Nearly all of Kurosawa's films are eminent philosophical, epic, poignant, funny, entertaining, influential works of art. He was a cinematic genius who put everything together so perfectly. Bonus: Kurosawa's main muse, Toshiro Mifune, was one of the most captivating leading men onward to infinity. Together, along with a stock company of exceptional character actors and a collaborative crew, they were life enhancing!

Criterion trailers for the celebration:

Friday, March 19, 2010

Don't worry - it's going to be OK

I'm not worried about health care reform. No sir, not I! I just sing a happy song and hold my head up at a jaunty angle as I stroll along the boulevard of Satisfied Street. Try it--it works for me!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Be the best Leprechaun you can be

Have a good one. Please don't drink and drive. Or ride a bike. Or confront me. Thank you.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

March is Women's History Month -- who knew?

My friend Richie informed me that it's Women's History Month. That's why he's an historian--he's doing his job; a rock historian actually--a title he chuckles over. But it's true. He's written ten books on rock history, particularly hidden, obscure rock history. He's providing us with a needed service and it's fun to study. Plus he holds informal talks at local Bay Area libraries where he shows rare film clips of amazing performances, plies us with trivia questions, and makes rock and pop music a community event. Here are some performers he recently featured at the Moraga Library for women in music day. Thanks, Richie. It's good to unearth the unearthly.

Brenda Lee and her incredible voice. Also known as Little Miss Dynamite, he was singing professionally as a child due to her wonderful throaty growling abilities. And she caught the ear of many rockers throughout the years. She helped create rock & roll.

Wanda Jackson is as cool as anyone you'll find in the history of rock. She's a pioneer of rockabilly. She was Elvis' girlfriend. She still plays live shows and records. She's a goddess with a guitar.

The Crystals--I love their classy look.

And the fabulous Ronnettes. I love Phil Spector's wall of sound, but I hate that guy for (among other things) forcibly "retiring" Ronnie Spector during their marriage. What a loss to the 60s sound.

Nina Simone was a musical and poetical force of timeless emotional intensity.

Nina Simone 2-fer.

Pentangle, 1968 with Jacqui McShee on vocals. I don't usually notice the rhythm section of a folk ensemble, but this rocks.

Patti Smith is so comfortable leading a band and flat out being herself.

Shonen Knife has always been true to their brightly colored childlike aesthetic. It's not their fault that this point most of their fans are a bunch of annoying hipsters.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Eight Years Ago Today...

It's Jackson's birthday and we've been reminiscing. He's learned so much, especially in the past seven years. I mean, he's gone from this:

to doing word problems containing fractions. He's still cute though. It's just that fractions don't make him giggle as much.

And his fascination with common household objects has expanded. From this:

to getting sore muscles from over-playing his Wii sports game.

I don't normally post baby videos but I thought this one makes the case for the ridiculousness of parenthood. And I've really worked on my abs in the past seven years as well, so we're both growing and changing, hopefully for the better.

Happy birthday, little man.

Friday, March 12, 2010

From the realm of the unspeakably bad

I've been busy. Kind of. So postings have been slender around here. It's not like I get paid for this, but I can't leave it as is for days at a time. I just can't. It's like a drug with no high. Maybe the high is knowing I've enriched one person's life who was looking for that perfect link to Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot. Not that I've done that, but I have goals and I have dreams.

Next week, I'll work extra hard to realize my linking potential. I'll get up at 6:45 instead of 7:00 A.M. I'll skip lunch and I'll start in on that YA fantasy novel trilogy that I have yet to outline (or think about). I want to make it big with money and everything. I have to build a better toothbrush. I'm 45 and time no longer seems to stretch out indefinitely ahead, but is rather rapidly shrinking, like a pocket tape measure heading back into its holder. Which reminds me, I need to find my tape measure and put up those shelves in the family room.

These are the things that get stuck in my head when I'm stuck. They're not good things. They're my "what the fuck?" head things. I used to be a depressed sort with lots of negative internal dialogue going on. I've overcome that trait by making fun of the critical voice, or exaggerating it so much that it's like something out of a Grade Z monster movie (another way of making fun of it, plus it's entertaining). Now I get these little bits of junk media stuck in there instead and I can't mental floss them away until I accomplish those mysterious and obsessive goals that I set for myself (sometimes with no plan--intuitive OCD). I know I'm rambling so let's get to it. I hope you can overcome the stupid things and move on with your lives. I'm off to Grocery Outlet which is like a rummage sale of food. Very exciting.

This Lindsay Lohan Fornarina commercial is bad in a way that never leaves me entirely. It looks like she's reading cue cards, even though her lines consist of "click, pow, wink, bang..." It also looks like someone is off-screen telling her how to pose. She can't even lie down effectively. I hope the people who worked on this have recovered their sense of dignity by now.

More bad: Andy Warhol's Factory as portrayed in the movies. I always imagine working on these sets and watching the actors "get debauched," because these scenes always look like that: a bunch of people acting debauched. Like a rock show, it's impossible to film this scene in any kind of realistic way. It was probably really dull around the Factory most of the time. People working on art and lying around while someone yammered away without pause. If the yammerer was witty--fine. But how many speed freaks have you been stuck with who were witty? There's a few out there, but it's not a vast majority.

Oliver Stone used "wavy cam" in "The Doors" to give off the weirdo vibes. Nico is sort of like an escort-service girl. Jim Morrison can barely string sentences together. At least Stone got permission to use actual Velvet Underground songs, along with his take on the vampiric NYC bohos and a Native American medicine man, looking on disapprovingly. Crispin Glover is always appreciated for being genuinely odd.

"I Shot Andy Warhol" couldn't get the VU permissions, but attempts were made to get the Factory right until bad casting of Edie Sedgwick. This girl (at 4:20) is way too substantial to be Sedgwick, who was a wisp. This girl is from a Maybelline commercial.

"Basquiat"--David Bowie can't lose his British accent while playing Andy, who was from working-class Pittsburgh. Good wig though.

You'd think he would have studied up, having met the man.

"Factory Girl" immortalized the phrase, "You're the boss, applesauce," which isn't a very impressive legacy, for all the attempts at veracity, which end abruptly at the introduction of the unnamed Musician. I don't have to say anything more than Hayden Christensen is Bob Dylan.

Take a lesson from Ms. Cate Blanchett--perhaps the ultimate Dylan impersonator. I like her drug-addled nasty Dylan in "I'm Not There." (Not officially in my unspeakably bad pantheon, although some of this movie did grate).

Peter's voice in Time To Change. I don't care what Greg thinks--this ruined the song.

Here's that Johnny Sokko clip so I can cross it off my "to do" list.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Mental Beach Party Movie Moment

Jesus--have you read the news lately? Everything's endlessly falling apart. People are destroying one another with any weapon available including neglect and starvation. The U.S. is trillions of dollars in debt and our public schools are being threatened with the wrecking ball. The wars continue. How long was the Hundred Years' War again? Can that be repeated?

My kid has a probable somatoform disorder and who can blame him? A physical ailment resulting from mental stress is the only sane response to today's world. I'm doing the one thing I know of to relieve my own stress level. That's right--wallowing in beach party movies. How can these early 60s gems be of the same world we suffer through? There is no answer. There is only this: by the end of the second reel, Frankie and Annette MUST be reunited for there to be order in the beach cosmos.

Buster Keaton does a bit near the end here. Don't feel sorry for him. He was glad to get the work, being a workaholic. For a few years, beach party movies were good for something--a steady pay check.

"It ain't nuthin' without the stuffin'." Have wiser words ever been spoken?

Yes, it's the Beach Boys in their matching sapphire-blue blazer ensembles. When I go on a mental vacation, I go ALL out.

Oh Annette--you'll always be my pineapple princess. I'm sincere. She's adorable.

The horror! The horror!

Closing credits are part of the experience.

Monday, March 08, 2010

UO Free Music Mondays

Urban Outfitters offers five free music downloads every Monday. See? Monday's not so bad. Unless you hate the songs, of course. But I found some good ones. I'm embedding last Monday's mix because I like the Danish band, Oh No Ono. There's a conscious effort to feature some women musicians, so good deal, UO.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

What's On Your Wall? - Mamiel

The ongoing wall series continues with blogger extraordinaire, Mamiel of Impotent Rage. If you take the time to read even a few of Mamiel's posts, you will guess that her walls must be of interest. And you would be right.

When I'm having a somewhat cruddy day, like when I'm dealing with childhood iron-deficiency anemia, stomachaches that don't dissipate after two weeks, stool-sample chemical mix-kits and limited lab drop-off times, plus confusion regarding over-the-counter ferrous sulphate dosages at Kaiser Permanente's multiple pharmacies, while doubting our pediatrician's grasp on reality; colorful, personal artwork really lifts my spirit. So thank you, Mamiel, for that.

Mamiel painted the shoe and the bamboo. Who among us does not love this subject matter? Shoes and bamboo are two of my favorite things.

Here's a tin roof tile from a roof with character.
Use your imagination.
Unknown artist - bear painting.

More walls:
Captive WW

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers - New England

Way back in 1977, "Jonathan Richman and The Modern Lovers" had to compete for our attention among such mega-hits as Rod Stewart's putrid Tonight's The Night and Mary MacGregor's maudlin Torn Between Two Lovers. Although I Like Dreamin' by Kenny Nolan was number six on the charts, there was only so much room for simple lyrics and catchy melodies sung with naive (and deceptive) childlike candor.

It was tough finding radio airplay for Modern Lovers' songs such as Lonely Financial Zone, Abominable Snowman In The Market, and Hey There Little Insect, especially among the slickly satisfying production of the disco era. Society was boogieing down to, well, I'm Your Boogie Man, and dancing the night away to--that's right, You Make Me Feel Like Dancing. It would take early-80s college-radio DJs to fully appreciate the playfulness of Richman's musical style. And then a lot of bands, headed by Calvin Johnson at K Records, followed suit. Richman stayed true to his gentle muse and continued to crank out the charming tunes in his nasal twang for three decades.

I'm glad, because Jonathan Richman is a completely musical person. His songs are somewhat raw but are perfect in their execution. His live shows, especially when he was playing with the several incarnations of the Modern Lovers, were loose and spontaneous, yet tightly composed and clearly directed by him, urging his band to "Give me an E. Make that an open E. That's good. Well, here we go now..." It was like watching a fantastic music teacher demonstrating *How to play music proficiently and with enjoyment.* You can hear that throughout his career.

The 1957 footage is courtesy of Robbins Barstow from his epic, two-part documentary of his family's camping trips across the U.S., "Family Camping Through 48 States." His films are available for viewing on the Internet Archive and he's been making and showing movies for more than 70 years. Twenty-five of his films are archived in the National Film Registry. He is also a founding member of the Cetacean Society International, and has worked for decades to protect whales and dolphins, worldwide. His whale-watching films are on YouTube.

There you have it: two creatively passionate guys, working hard for world betterment.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Alice in Wonderland has always been freaky

Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland is finally opening this week after much CGI to-do. It will definitely be a colorful, twisty, springy-haired experience. But hold on a minute; have any of you been audience to the 1933 version of Alice? Directed by Norman McLeod with an adapted screenplay by Joseph Mankiewicz and William Cameron Menzies, who according to The NY Times was the real powerhouse behind the film's look, as the uncredited art director; this freakish, unnatural, uncomfortable world was mostly Menzies' idea, springboarding from Lewis Carroll's scary imagination.

With a mostly unidentifiable cast of all-stars featuring Gary Cooper, W.C. Fields, Cary Grant (as the Mock Turtle!), Billy Barty and Mae Marsh, you'd think this would be a delightful childhood romp. But no. I saw this on television a few times as a child (they used to show old movies a lot in the 70s), and it was very unsettling. Even on a small black & white screen, I could not turn away even though at times, I wanted to. Alice in Wonderlandwill finally be available on DVD on March 2. Enjoy!

This scene with Tweedledum and Dee frightened me terribly. It still does.

This is right out of the John Tenniel illustration from the book.

Talking food. Scary people. Poor Alice.

W.C. Fields as Humpty Dumpty. Gaah.

The Mad Hatter didn't need technicolor to hold my attention.

The Cheshire Cat, made with phospherescent paint and some artful lighting.