Sunday, February 28, 2021
Saturday, February 27, 2021
Friday, February 26, 2021
Thursday, February 25, 2021
Wednesday, February 24, 2021
Tuesday, February 23, 2021
Monday, February 22, 2021
GUEST REVIEW BY GARY PIG GOLD
1. MALCOLM McLAREN
Never before in the long and illustrious annals of popular music history has a man been handed so much raw talent atop a potentially platinumous platter, at such an opportune time and location, as when Steve Jones, Paul Cook and Glen Matlock, fresh from hiring a new frontperson named Johnny Rotten, strolled into London’s cleverly named Sex shoppe circa 8/75 and asked its proprietor, suede-o bohemian entrepreneur Malcolm McLaren, if he’d be interested in helping them invent punk rock, revolutionize – or, failing that, destroy – the music business, and earn a million pounds (of dollars) in the process. And never before has a man so swiftly and slyly enacted his master plan and seen it bear fruit in greater abundances than even he, in his wildest Col. Ahmet Loog Epstein fantasies, would have believed possible (within a mere twenty-three months, the Pistols swept from crashing obscure British art college balls to bumping Linda Ronstadt off the hallowed cover of the Rolling Stone)… and Never Before, and hopefully Never Again, has such a superfluity of potential and promise – not to mention profit – been so thoroughly and effectively botched, blundered, and bludgeoned. For, thanks to Malcolm McLaren’s brilliant mismanagement, the Sex Pistols, an act of unlimited wit, fire and socio-musical import, are recalled today as little more than the great rock’n’roll swindle Sid Vicious played in before he set his hotel room on fire, sliced open his girlfriend, and joined Elvis and Kurt in that big cabaret revue in the sky.
2. GLEN MATLOCK
Unceremoniously hoofed from the band on the virtual eve of their anti-success for professing admiration toward the wrong people (Paul McCartney) in the wrong place (the pages of Melody Maker) at the wrong time (1976), the Pistols, in one fool swipe, lost not only their most accomplished musician (well, not that that mattered much: after all, his replacement was Mr. Vicious, fresh from the Dee Dee Ramone hunt-and-plonk school of bass playing) but their one true resident songsmith (yes, it was GLEN who cooked up some of the Seventies' catchiest guitar hooks; ie: "Pretty Vacant" and "God Save Whats'ername"). Relatively unperturbed, Glen took his talents elsewhere (Iggy Pop, plus big Pig faves The Rich Kids) while the new and "improved" Pistols resorted to dismembering old Eddie Cochran tunes and warbling cute li’l ditties about the Holocaust with some Great Train Robber.
3. VIRGIN RECORDS
In refusing to press enough copies of "Anarchy In The U.K." to allow the Pistols' debut disc to creep any higher than #38 in the British charts, EMI Records actually (though probably unwittingly) helped establish the band at this most crucial stage of their tragically brief career as not only Euro-youth’s latest cause célèbre, but Fleet Street's most potent front-page fodder since Beatlemania itself. Then, with characteristic ineptness, Malcolm trotted his cultural icons elsewhere: inanely into the open arms of Virgin Records, at the time widely known – and ridiculed – as the graveyard of such synthesized Seventies casualties as Mike "Tubular Balls" Oldfield. Under Virgin's laughably feather-brained wings, the emphasis was quickly placed more on Amusement than Anarchy, and the band was now forced to attack the airwaves with such duds as "Friggin' in the Riggin',” "Rock Around The Clock" and, in a rare display of Virgin forthrighteousness, Some Product. (NB: said discs now populate your local pop shop's delete zone... right alongside Mike Oldfield's).
4. WARNER BROS. RECORDS
No doubt experiencing sudden pangs of guilt in the midst of their post-Rumours coke 'n' caviar indulgences, and in nostalgic remembrance of their label's maverick infancy when record contracts were bravely being handed out to the likes of Wild Man Fischer and The Fugs, Warner Bros. decided to test out the new waves of 1977 by arranging a distribution deal with Seymour Stein's legendary Sire label (who in turn had such bright hopes as the Ramones and Talking Heads under contract). However, soon growing discontent with simply marketing Seymour's signings, Warners set out to land a punk act of their very own Stateside, and spent untold amounts of Fleetwood Mac royalties to graft Malcolm's boys to the dotted line in October of '77. No sooner had WB issued Never Mind The Bollocks, here’s John, Paul, Steve and Sid on their very doorstep as it were, about to embark on that ill-fated first, and last, American tour. Now, to say Warner Bros. had absolutely NO IDEA how to handle, let alone capitalize upon, the Pistols' arrival on the U.S. scene is akin to accusing John Lydon of having certain flaws in his personality... to say nothing of his choice of diners (for example, it's been alleged Warners hired former CIA goons to roadie the band's tour). Nevertheless, despite a decade of non-promotion, Bollocks was finally awarded Gold Record status in 1987... and Warners went on to reap additional billions from Seymour Stein's signings (ie: Madonna).
5. ROGER EBERT
It's a hitherto closely-guarded secret that 'way back in the Summer of Hate one esteemed Chicago Sun-Times film critic was, by some inSidious twist of faith, hired by Russ “Beyond The Valley Of” Meyer to script the Sex Pistols' eagerly-awaited silver screen debut, Who Killed Bambi? ("Remember, without me, there wouldn't be any mention of Bambi in this movie," boasted Ebert to Rolling Stain). Yet despite both a healthy budget (courtesy of Warners' film division) and truly inspired casting (Marianne Faithfull as Sid's mother), the movie never made it past the screenplay stage, denying not only the Blank Generation of a Hard Day's Night they could call their own, but theatre-goers the world over a larger-than-life Technipallor dose of charisma Rotten & Vicious-style. Who Killed Bambi appeared years later in wholly bastardized form as The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle, Meyer quickly high-tailed it onto the pages of Film Threat magazine …and Marianne Faithfull was, bless her great big heart, recently spotted sipping wine in a Paris hotel lobby with none other than her far-from-broken Englishman Keith Richards. See? Even this screenplay has a happy ending!
6. THE I.N.S.
At 11:30 PM on the night of December 17, 1977 every North American who still believed rock’n’roll had some spit left in it was tuned to their local NBC-TV affiliate, anxiously awaiting the Sex Pistols' long-rumored appearance on Saturday Night Live: a television event which promised to equal, if not surpass, Elvis and them Fabs' Ed Sullivision barnstorms of decades previous. Alas, it was not to be. For several days before The Great Event That Couldn't, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, lamely citing several Cook and Jones criminal offenses (nothing serious, mind you... just the usual r'n'r roster of B and E's, concealed weapon and assault-with-a-Fender-bass charges) ruthlessly denied both Malcolm and his anti-Beatles permission to enter the Big Apple. That is, until after the comparatively meek and mild Elvis Costello had replaced the Pistols on the SNL in question. Perchance it's simply virtual paranoia running away with me again (excuse me, I think my mouse is tapped...) but this seems to me to be but the first of several high-level attempts to squash the horror known as p-u-n-k-r-o-c-k by the post-Watergate White House. Read on.
7. JIMMY CARTER
Unlike British Prime Minister Harold Wilson, who shrewdly rode to Downing Street beneath the coat-tails of four fellow Liverpudlians in 1964, Jimmy Carter was not so willing to embrace the latest pop/rock peculiarities in order to secure a power base amongst his nation's young. Quite to the contrary, at a closed-door pow-wow with the recording industry elite in 1977, the peanut-pruning President reportedly suggested to a gaggle of America's leading radio programmers and promo honchos, in a most sinisterly Agnewesque fashion, that, quote, "Boys, we really don't want this new wave music now, DO WE." As a sorrowful result, the Pistols' stylus-shaking debut LP soon vanished from the airwaves and sales racks of the land, only to be replaced by the safe, sterile, sickly-slick sounds of, amongst far too many others...
8. THE CARS
This late but wisely little-lamented combo epitomized America's squeaky-clean response to the Pistols’ furor: They looked, and sounded about as menacing as Pat Boone had twenty years before, when he too helped rid the USA of "dangerous new sounds" by musically castrating the likes of "Tutti Frutti." Ironically, it was Pat's dippy daughter Debby whose deceptively darkened "You Light Up My Life" held a 439-week stranglehold atop the Billboard Hot 100 at the very moment such classics as "Bodies" and "I'm A Lazy Sod" languished unheard in some obscure Greenwich Village import bin.
9. THE BEE GEES
And while America was being force-fed such pablum as "My Best Friend's Girl" and "Heart of Glass” under the guise of New Wave, those Brothers Gibb, designer chest-wigs intact, were busy dominating both the AM and FM dials with their eunuch blend of down-under falsettos and bubbleyum R'n'B. Their glory daze already far behind them, these once-imaginative Aussie chart-toppers pioneered the utterly detestable genre known and loved/loathed to this day as Soundtrack Rock, thanks to such full-length promotional vehicles as Saturday Night Fever and (pause for blanching) Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The veritable upchuck of billion-sellers which resulted left precious little room in your home entertainment center for Messrs. Vicious, Rotten, Cook and Jones.
10. JOHN SIMON RITCHIE, 1957 - 1979
R.I.P(unk): No Future indeed.
Sunday, February 21, 2021
Happy Madison, 2001/2015) Noble and I have been watching every Adam Sandler/Happy Madison/Happy Madison adjacent movie for the last few months, as he fills out a spreadsheet he created documenting Sandler-signature tropes and peccadillos (Sandler wearing shorts; cruel bullying portrayed as a virtue; hiring Allen Covert; Rob Schneider ethnic impersonation; audible fart, etc.), with a goal of creating a database revealing the Sandler-iest of the Sandler pictures. We are in the home stretch now, and to be thorough we are checking out DVD releases to see if deleted scenes change any tallies, or to find short bonus films to add to the list. Anyhow, you get a few surprises along the way, and the most pleasant one came on my recent viewing of David Spade's reliably, if mildly, funny tribute to White trash culture, Joe Dirt. The two-decade old comedy has aged well, not only because juvenile potty humor is relatively timeless, but mainly because Spade seemed really invested in creating a sympathetic, ethical, innocent, humble hero, whose lowbrow taste and toothless braggadocio define him less than his innate likability. As in Spade's far inferior, Dickie Roberts, which is jarringly closer to an MOR family comedy than almost anything else in the Sandlerverse, things shake out so that in the end the lovable loser gets way more lovable and way less loser-ish.
Saturday, February 20, 2021
(Taekaenoi, mfd 8/20, exp 8/21) I am not sure exactly what this Thai snack is. The first one I bought was just a piece of rigid rolled up seaweed, soaked in something sweet. The cone/tube formed a cavern that was confoundingly empty, so I thought maybe this was the snack equivalent of some kind of zen koan for me to ponder as I snacked, but considering the prominent "Central Islamic Council of Thailand" stamp on the back I dismissed that. Instead I went back and bought a variant that had a picture of something inside. Since the "Z" in the name is parenthetically rollspained to mean "sea" on the wrapper, I expected something fishy, but the giant self-peeling potato graphic suggested a spud theme. However, the spotted green, phallic/horror movie creature graphic declaring "Original Flavour" threw that easy explanation off. The ingredient list suggests this it is a seaweed wrapped, meat and fish-free potato/corn grit hydrid chip ziggurat flavo(u)red with sugar, mushrooms, soy sauce and liquid smoke. But the sticker attached next to the ingredients declaring "California Proposition 65 WARNING Cancer and Reproductive Harm" made me stop analyzing the wrapper and just enjoy this sweet, crunchy, mysterious, dangerous goodness. I like it. And I've lived long enough and am not pregnant, so will continue to risk it.
Friday, February 19, 2021
centurysnacks.com, 2021) The Snak Club is a club I join without hesitation, and if they serve this snak at meetings I hope the Zoom era ends soon. This is basically mini-corn nuts with Tajin on them. It is a perfect portion size and though I feel these could use one extra shake of what I refer to at home as Lime Salt (in contrast with Lemon Pepper, as these are the two seasonings I consider first and second, before even standard S&P), I am able to accommodate that shake, so no problem.
Thursday, February 18, 2021
People Suck, 2021) Just enough joy! And that is not really me being lazy, or jokey (this time). This is not a band that I particularly connected with historically, but sincerely delivered poppy pleasantness with humor and a balance between shiny veneer and DIY earnestness is welcome these days. If everything wasn't web-based now, I'd be well served to to listen to this while I waited in the IRL unemployment line.
Wednesday, February 17, 2021
Keefe, 2021) These are very good chips, and the "super-seasoned" thing is deftly finessed, offering a lot of flavor without being overly salty or unpleasantly hot. I only see these is certain spots on the South Side and I thought maybe these were being awkwardly marketed to Black communities with a slang product name that does not seem to have that much resonance or specificity but it turned out the real story is about super specific tastes. This brand apparently is such a popular snack amongst the incarcerated that the company began offering it outside of prisons and jails because of demand by freed or paroled Shabangers. So if you see a store stocking this feel secure and proud to be surrounded by those receiving second (or greater) chances. And we now know prison populations are fine arbiters of snacky goodness. I would suggest paid focus group taste testing as a new prison job, but obviously that would devolve into some Tuskegee shit in a matter of weeks, so this is a case where we will just have to count on capitalism to help us get guidance from discerning inmates on our leisure food options.
Tuesday, February 16, 2021
https://www.oxfordamerican.org/, 2013) I usually just read the music issue, but for some lucky reason, I own the whole 2013 run, which were sitting unread in my home, just waiting for a pandemic. I read them all during my fun COVID hiatus, and man am I glad I did. I am not Southern and have spent less than 2% of my life living down South, but who doesn't dig Southern music and/or writing? This was my favorite issue of the batch. Fine work in this issue includes a piece on Hiss Golden Messenger by Amanda Putrusich, whose 78 record goon book makes her my perpetual music writing hero; an explanation of, and recipe for, Bible Cake by Chris Offutt; Robert Gordon on Tav Falco (with devastating photos making it 1000x cooler than the recent similar piece in Third Man's mag); some jarring fiction from Delaney Nolan; some meta-maybe fiction about the possibly true story behind a fictional story about teenage fake cowboy work, by Ron Rash; and Stanley Crouch stanley crouching to the extreme in response to Django Unchained. But the money pieces are by two women who do not mess around when it comes to getting at the goods. Wendy Brenner writes about going deep into the Internet detective hole after becoming obsessed with a mysterious, seemingly enchanted eBay seller poetically hawking hundreds of thousands of pieces of bizarre costume jewelry. Her eBay drowning occurred while housebound due to illness and while I am sure this was a stellar read in 2013, in late 2020, deep into an international pandemic of houseboundness, it resonates chillingly. Also...Jennifer Percy spends a week at the Vent Heaven ventriloquist convention! I don't feel I need to even tease why this is interesting, but what it is hard not to mention is the conventioneers (also more resonant in the post-Trump era) constant suspicion of journalists, specifically, their relatively media savvy awareness/fear that they are going to be made to look like weirdos if they cooperate with the writer. ALL DECLARED WHILE ACTING AS WEIRD AS POSSIBLE! This back issue is available relatively cheap, and is highly recommended, and as soon as I have actual income coming in I will subscribe. I sure hope that over the last decade it hasn't gone south. (rimshot)
Monday, February 15, 2021
TwoMorrows, 2012) Marie Severin is definitely one of the most interesting figures in comics history, but she is also possibly one of the greatest comic book artists. One can make a strong case that we don't know the answer to the latter declaration because of sexism, but it is also possible that her other talents kept her from that fate; that she made a more secure living not going that path; or even that she just didn't want to do it. Unfortunately, we do not know the answer to that question after reading this book, but considering the resources available, we are fortunate Mr. Cassell and Mr. Sultan dedicated themselves to give us even this much. Like all TwoMorrows publications, reprints of rare, wonderful artwork makes this book a genuine treasure. Unfortunately, like many (certainly not all) of TwoMorrows' books, this isn't really a book, more like a squarebound fanzine, and a lot of this is transcribed interviews with figures who had varying levels of familiarity with Marie's work, plus some reprinted archival interviews, and a chapter structure that arranges interviews and short blurbs and artwork into categories. What we do learn is about the path of her fascinating career. As sister to the great (greatest?) Western comics artist and Cracked cover/parody king John Severin, Marie was introduced into the industry and became a colorist for the legendary EC horror, war, and humor books (including the original run of MAD). Her dynamic artistic talent meant that the colors deftly enhanced the frights, intrigue, excitement, and laughs, but when an anti-comics crusade led to MAD becoming a black & white magazine she no longer had a role at the publisher (more on that later). She ended up with Marvel where her value, if not necessarily her talents, were recognized. Marie had an amazing design sense, was a remarkable caricaturist, was incredibly funny, worked quickly and very hard, and was a good teammate. She was on staff, coloring or overseeing others doing the coloring, but also made last minute corrections, did the artwork for house ads, special projects, and fan club material (she is credited here as the artist for the delightfully infamous Hulk sweatshirt where he is pulling the toy ducky on the back of the shirt), and could be relied on for pretty much anything visual needed at the company. She did do several runs of full issues on major comics in between other artists, had her own comic briefly (Beware! The Claws of the Cat), paired with her brother for the sublime Kull series, and most prominently, had a run where she was the signature cover artist across almost all titles (Gil Kane and Jack Kirby both had long stretches where they did most of the covers across titles as well, it was a thing they did back then). This was because she genuinely, innately knew how to design a perfect, dynamic comic book cover. This was an incredible skill, and what I did not know before I read this book was that she also for a long while designed nearly every Marvel cover, drawing out loose, gorgeous preliminary covers for other artists to follow, which are now the original comics artwork I most covet. She was truly one of the masters of superhero cover art (Kirby fans are familiar with a solid Kirby Thor cover that was rejected and replaced with a brilliant Severin cover of a sword-yielding Loki lording over a supplicant Thunder God...Loki's sneering face on that cover is a high point in Marvel art history). So, should she have been given more chances to be the lead artist on Marvel books in the 60s and 70s, and did sexism hold her back? Clearly there was sexism, but drawing comics was a thankless, low paying job with little security. Even the greats at Marvel, Jack Kirby especially, were freelancers on the hustle. Did being a staffer provide a better, or at least a more secure, living? It is unclear from this book what the financial stakes were. Also, was her wide range of talents too valuable to lose by making her a full time penciler? Perhaps there was no path at Marvel that would have brought her more security and riches. However, as is the case so frequently in TwoMorrows publications, the most knowledgeable, insightful input comes from Mark Evanier, who speculates that her natural humor and incredible caricaturing (frequently used primarily for office morale, as her coworkers valued the cartoons she made of them, even the ones that were truth-tellingly critical) meant that EC should have hired her back to work at MAD. They knew her and knew what she could do and just were seemingly unable to conceive of a woman being a valuable part of the Usual Gang of Idiots. MAD was second only to Playboy in pay rate, and Marie could have really done well if she was doing some movie parodies and article illustrations for them. Marvel created a few short-lived comics that applied the early 50s comic book MAD approach to toothless parodies of Marvel characters or current pop culture (Not Brand Ecch, Spoof, Arrgh!), and that became Marie's signature work for the company. When Marvel did Crazy, their knockoff of MAD magazine in the 70s and 80s, she did great work, but the pay was miserable. Though she held Marvel together during some of its most important eras, maybe her glory could have came elsewhere. Or maybe she wouldn't have wanted to do that. I don't know from reading this book, which interviews her without getting at a lot of insights, and does not pretend to be a deeply analytic, research intensive biography that is in a position to make any kind of bold statements or hypothesis (Evanier's theory is an outlier). And that is what it is. As I write this I notice that copies of the book are on super sale at TwoMorrows site so I definitely think you should get this, even if it just to see the sketches, the illustrated envelopes to friends, the rare layouts, the original art reproductions (including color guides and commissions), and a beautiful color section. Her legacy deserves more (maybe a coffee table collection of her cover breakdowns?) but it is great that we even got this, and I'm grateful the author and publisher got the ball on Marie studies rolling.
Sunday, February 14, 2021
Saturday, February 13, 2021
Friday, February 12, 2021
Neil Hamburger "First of Dismay," "Still Dwelling," The Yellow River Boys "Urinal Street Station," On Cinema live, Mister America
Thursday, February 11, 2021
Wednesday, February 10, 2021
Tuesday, February 9, 2021
Pravda, 2021) Pravda is one of my favorite Chicago labels, and not just because they gloriously refuse to die. When I was a teen my neighborhood band, The Farmers, was on the label. My musical hero, Andre Williams, was welcomed with open grooves. Their series of live albums with outsider musicians (Tiny Tim, Cordell Jackson, Hasil Adkins) were some of the first concerts I attended that were immortalized with releases. Their retail space (when it was by the Music Box) was friendly, had great punk singles, and generously sold me many, many good records. When the New Duncan Imperials were funny it appealed to my dementoid novelty DNA, and when their jokes were corny, awkward and fell flat it had a satisfying Dick DeBartolo MAD movie parody thud. Chicago off center legends like the C*nts and Cheer-Accident made the label historically crucial, in an asterisk way. And the label's inkling to lean into fun rootsy rock & R&B every so often is a repeated reminder that their sensibilities line up with mine. Musically they have been so all over the place for the last 35 years it is hard to compare them to other labels (except maybe Cash Money, if you're taking Trump pardons into consideration), but while that variety may have kept them from having the success that a narrowcasted label might achieve, it sure kept things fun. I am also a Hideout superfan, and no Chicagoan needs to hear justification for digging that gem. I am not particularly invested in the Smoking Popes, so take away the Kenn and Tutten connections and maybe I come in cold on this one, but factoring those in I went in with open ears, and was pleasantly rewarded. Obviously I am not going to complain about any record with a sincere Sammy Davis, Jr. cover, but I waas also delighted by the sincerity, simplicity, and grace Caterer and the rest of his trio (the always classy bass of John San Juan and the tastefully forward-in-the-mix drumming of John Perrin) bring to standards, while never dipping into lounge schmaltz or even nostalgia. This is a low key slice of calming loveliness, which is a nice treat after the last million years we went through in the last twelve months.
Monday, February 8, 2021
Sunday, February 7, 2021
Munster, 2013) I don't speak Spanish, I don't know any of these bands, and I lost the liner notes. But I'm 666% sure all two and half hours of these songs translate to "Bela Lugosi is Dead" over and over and over...and I LOVE it! Though I feel like even I know how to say "Bela Lugosi," "is," and "dead" en Espanol. So maybe this is all regional dialects.
Saturday, February 6, 2021
Friday, February 5, 2021
Thursday, February 4, 2021
Wednesday, February 3, 2021
Tuesday, February 2, 2021
spitandahhalf.com, 2020) If I were David Allan Coe and John P. were Steve Goodman and he told me this was the perfect King Cat I woulda told him it was not the perfect King Cat because he hadn't said anything about mosquitos or koans or, I guess, a Bears logo, though we know what's on the cap he's wearing...shit, I can't think of anything else...so on second thought, this is close enough to perfect for me. In fact, I'd call it a BLOCKBUSTER issue! There's a wedding! A pet dies...and they get a new pet! His mom kisses a monkey! That last one isn't really prototypical King Cat, but anytime any mom kisses a monkey I'm throwing points their way. Plus so much nature art! So many dreams (some surprisingly sympathetic to Trump...but it is a dream sequence)! Extra long blowout Top 40 list (and Professor J's Criterion DVD made Top 10!)! Madonna's clitoris earns a mention! Obviously I cannot recommend this highly enough.
Monday, February 1, 2021
Saustex, 2020) The cover art is literally rat-fucking! And there are actually songs about rats and roaches and Gumby on this, so all kinds of pests are celebrated. I expected there to be mostly Texas White Trash tongue in cheek honkin' tonkin' on this, but it was pleasantly surprised by the sonic diverse (not always pleasant, as righteously indignant lo fi white rap is included), and I loved the rock n roll and word jazz and metal and everything else. I also liked how raw and cheap and loose most of this was, recalling cobbled together pre-Garage Band comps of yore. Req'd, Pussy Gillete, and Gools are my fave new-to-me bands, and I was pleased with Saustex vets Churchwood, who delivered a Lone Star rock masterpiece, Hamell On Trial, who took on Trumpsters, and Hickoids who turned the classic rock up to 11.5.