Thursday, April 29, 2021
Freddies, 2021) Freddies, the Bridgeport Italian ice/pizza slice/Italian beef/insanely large freshly made pizza puff joint on 31st is now offering a burger to celebrate rookie White Sox Yermin Mercedes' amazing batting skills this season. It is $4.95 (to honor the length of the third longest homer in New Comiskey ever socked by a White Sock, which he did on our Opening Day) and delicious. While it is not particularly safe to assume that anyone in Bridgeport knows anything about traditional Dominican cuisine I am willing to believe that they did their homework, and that the meat is seasoned with DR flavors, that pickled onions, cabbage, and tomatoes are the right toppings, and that this chimichurri sauce they made relates in some way to what would be on chimiburger in Santo Domingo (or at least in Washington Heights). Traditional or not, it is excellent and a solid value, and Yermin has seven more hits in three games since they launched this. He is the Cadillac of Mercedeses! As is this burger.
Wednesday, April 28, 2021
(UNITED ARTISTS, 1971)
GUEST REVIEW BY GARY PIG GOLD
There’s Brian Wilson and his B.Boys, most obviously. Then there were Crosby, Stills, Nash and sometimes even Young, the Eagles, and my own personal favorite Turtles, Byrds, Mothers of Invention and possibly even Runaways. Not to mention Lindsey Buckingham’s Big Mac.
However, whenever the songs and stories of California are sung and strung, one name – one very important name – is most often left out. A man who, beginning in the late 1950s with a bank of audio equipment in his Bel Air garage actually invented, or at least kick-started, the entire Los Angeles independent rock scene. By writing and performing songs in his home studio which, taken into the Hollywood recording studios proper were meticulously crafted into bonafide hit records back when young Wilsons, for example, were still getting in trouble for staying out after the street lights went on at night.
The man I speak of is William Jan Berry; a singer, songwriter, arranger, producer, actor, promoter best remembered as one half of that certifiably zany (e.g.: vinyl Side 4 of The Jan & Dean Anthology Album!!) albeit boldly pioneering SoCal rock duo Jan & Dean.
By adding their Pacific-blonde good looks to East Coast doo-wop hooks, the records Jan and his highschool pal Dean Torrence made not only formed the vocal template for all surf-rock to come (starting right from the start with the “bom, bomp dip-de-dit”s of that very first Beach Boy song) but in their production employed various members of what came to be known as the Wrecking Crew when Jan’s sessions outgrew his garage and moved into Western, United, and the other fabled studios Uncle Phil, most notably, would later build his Walls of Sound within.
Yes: but before Spector, there was Berry. And before “I Get Around,” “Good Vibrations” and [gulp] “Kokomo” there was a sun-kissed little classic called “Surf City” which, with Jan’s assistance, gave co-writer Brian Wilson his very first Number One record back in the Summer of ’63.
The string of hits Jan went on to write and produce throughout the mid-Sixties, with their double-drum attack welded to lush orchestrations were, and remain, just about the best records ever to come out of El Lay. Credit for innovations both technical and musical which continue to go Spector’s and Wilson’s way – with the latter’s Pet Sounds most often cited – again are more than evident in Jan Berry records from years earlier. Most unfortunately however, an utterly debilitating road accident in April of 1966 (just down the road from J&D’s “Dead Man’s Curve”) kept Jan out of peak action for much of the rest of his life and career. Although brought back to the public’s attention via a 1978 made-for-TV biopic, the titanic twosome’s hit-making days never returned, though they continued to keep countless thousands of concert-goers throughout America well-versed beneath waves of harmonious California Myth until Jan’s death in 2004.
Thankfully, one man above all is helping keep his life and legacy, both on record and off, alive and well: Mark A. Moore’s landmark Jan & Dean Record (McFarland, 2016) remains the reference book on all things Jan, in the process recounting the very birth and growth of the Los Angeles rock industry.
Mark’s new biography, titled Dead Man’s Curve: The Rock ‘n’ Roll Life of Jan Berry is due out this summer. It can be pre-ordered through Amazon or publisher McFarland. You can view the Table of Contents on the author’s website, and watch the book’s promo video on YouTube.
Meanwhile, all Roctoberites are also urged to dive deep into my extensive interview with Mark and all things J&D which appears in Issue # 2 of Vulcher Magazine. What better way then to recognize, salute, and roundly honor Jan Berry on what would have been – what should have been – his 80th (!) birthday this April 3rd.
Tuesday, April 27, 2021
Monday, April 26, 2021
Sunday, April 25, 2021
Saturday, April 24, 2021
(Kracie) This is some bullshit. Or some genius shit and I am just a dumb ass. It looks on the box (a $4 box, btw) like this is some magnificent candy sushi, but it's a just a bunch of bags of colored sugar powder and insane instructions on how to shape them into faux-sushi. That's like saying every pack of Lik'n Stick is a candy lasagna dinner with stick utensils if you work hard enough. You might as well throw a bag of sugar and some food color into a package and say you can make a candy Last Supper mosaic...with a little work. It was some good tasting bags of sugar, though, I'l give them that.
Friday, April 23, 2021
(https://robertdayton.bandcamp.com/album/my-is-full, 2021) Over so many odd (and I do mean odd) years, Robert Dayton has made funny music, creepy music, scary music, and genius/lunatic music. A pandemic-inspired EP by a man who does not even know where the kilter is, let alone what it means to be off it, is kind of a scary prospect. Hearing Dayton make weirdo songs about social media and isolation and negotiating real life doomsday stuff proves to be deliciously jarring (the cringe funk of "The Algorithms of the Night" should be experienced by everyone...as long as all of them thoroughly brace themselves first). But (pen)ultimately he gives us some joyous relief at the end with an old school Slade/Gary Glitter party glam rave up about getting a dog...which (actual)ultimately somehow morphs into an ASMR soft assault on any feelings of comfort and joy you might have been experiencing. This record is better than COVID!
Thursday, April 22, 2021
Wednesday, April 21, 2021
(Warner Brothers, 1980) I guess this LP of Sesame Street-style children's songs sung mostly by singer/songwriters and easy listening superstars is supposed to demonstrate that these kinds of songs are as good as anything on the pop charts, but to me it really sorta demonstrates that James Taylor and Carly Simon are not as good as puppets.
Tuesday, April 20, 2021
Monday, April 19, 2021
(Ontel) It's funny because it kinda sounds like vagina! And it's ridicuous, because you can't convince anyone that squash or carrot in string form is pasta, least of all a vegetable-negative four year old. And despite the new improved safety holder, you can only cut about two thirds of the way down on a chunk of nature before giving up or risking finger pasta. But it's pretty cheap and sounds like vagina so I am still recommending the thing.
Sunday, April 18, 2021
(University of Missouri Press, 2020) So many of the histories of MAD magazine, and its Kurtz-maniacal comic book predecessor have been written by MAD contributors and/or published in conjunction with MAD itself that it is not hard to say that this exhaustive, massive, scholarly collection of essays, interviews, and historical indexes about MAD's artists, influence, history, and insanity may be the best book about to subject. It deftly and critically examines the way the most important humor magazine in American (possibly world) history made authority-questioning, rascally, 12 year old boys of all of us, regardless of age or gender. Ironically, one of the most insightful pieces is actually the kind of inside baseball thing we've seen before, as Paul Levitz, who oversaw MAD as a DC editor, interviews Al Jaffee and Nick Meglin about their experiences and work at the magazine. While largely laudatory, this collection is not another hagiography. Ann M. Caisullo critiques mainstream American culture's (and MAD's in particular) uneasy approach to tackling issues of gender and sexuality while at the same time celebrating the mundane magnificence of Dave Berg's humor. Nicholas Labarre exhaustively examines every appearance of Nixon in the magazine and suggests, perhaps due to untimeliness caused by the tyranny of the publishing schedule, they may have let him off easy. And Kerry Soper's analysis of Al Jaffee's Fold-Ins...well, it doesn't say anything bad about Jaffee because he's an artistic saint! Soper even, aptly and eye-opening-ly, compares him to Hieronymus Bosch. There are so many strong pieces in here by outstanding humor and comics scholars, and so much of it is written to be accessible to non-academics, that I cannot praise this brick of a book enough. I'm surprised they used the modern logo on the cover and not the classic one, so I can't praise them without caveat, but still can't do it enough.
Saturday, April 17, 2021
Marvel, Haymarket) Nobody really cares what I have to say about post-1980s comics or poetry, but reading Ewing's recent New York Times piece about positive fan feedback experiences and negative racist hater attacks related to the poet/scholar's comics career inspired a few thoughts I really wanted to get out. In contemporary comicbookdom a number of actors, filmmakers, authors, comedians, podcasters, and other celebrities have dabbled or dove into scripting mainstream comics. Some have been great at it and some have been pretty bad, but what is most striking about it to me is the idea that anyone can just write a comic, like it isn't a specialized skill. In the late 60s and especially the 1970s, when the Marvel age was established and DC was experimenting with younger, more boundary-pushing creatives, comics writing became more convention-challenging and cosmic and timely and I think it's really important to note that even the people who were really good at it were often really bad at it. Writing serious or compelling or funny or critical stories featuring superheroes in 20 page segments meant to appeal to a broad range of ages and locked into tyrannical continuity is super hard if you want it to be good (though pretty easy if you don't care). What fueled the 70s breakthroughs, which were honed in the 1980s, is understood to be the fandom generation joining the party: people who breathed comics from birth took over. And maybe (ok, definitely) Brian Pohsen and Kevin Smith were just as goony and nerdy as Roy Thomas or Steve Gerber as kids, so it's possible they can be good at bams and pows and zaps despite establishing another career before taking up comics. I am not going to say which ones I think are great or not-so-great at it, with two exceptions. I feel hesitantly comfortable being critical of one genius because he is the most successful carpetbagger comics writer. I, like pretty much everyone, think Ta-Nehisi Coates is a brilliant writer. And one of the things that makes his writing so good is that he does not take easy paths or spare details. In his most revered work he gets to arguing compellingly for reparations by taking a long, winding path through Chicago, and wonderfully including so many thoughts, stories and arguments that the journey is an illuminating, painful, joyful revelation. But because comics are a medium that combines words and pictures in a way that the artwork and visual language can allow a richness of storytelling to happen with a lot less text, the best comics magically balance words and pictures. Thus, many of Coates greatest skills do not make for comic writing I like. To be fair, I only read his earliest comics work, his initial run on Black Panther, but I didn't dig it. The ideas were great, but I just felt that the power of a good comic was not served by the way all those words and ideas were set out. Conversely, I think Eve Ewing is the best comics writing part-timer I have ever read. As a poet (and to a lesser, but not insignificant extent, as a 280 character limit social media master) she know how to parse words and pick perfect prose. Her poetry books, specifically "Electric Arches," feature powerful pieces that never speak down or intimidate readers outside of the Academy or unversed in verse. Her anger at injustice, her reverence for culture and elders, and her love of the people and places that made her, are profoundly powerful because she knows how to say more with less. And that deftly translates to the comics medium. It is obvious why a young Black woman from Chicago would be the perfect writer to tackle Ironheart, a black teen girl superhero. That said, she had her work cut out for her. Miles, the teen Spider-Man, and Kamala, the teen Ms, Marvel, were rich, fantastic characters, and Riri still needed some work when Ewing took over (characters whose tech genius is front facing are frequently some of the least compelling, which is why nobody's fave is Mr. Fantastic, and Batman and Spider-Man stories play down their engineering skills). But Ewing triumphed, really finding authentic voices for Riri and her friends and family, and telling stories with the poetry one would expect, but also a recognition that the poetry of comics can involve a pared down language that says more with less. This was really brought home by one of the most enjoyable comics I read in the last few years, a multi-part Spider-Man/Ms. Marvel comic that was an all-ages, gimmick laden, body-switch tale that was just a purely super fun comic book. This completely regular tale of heroes and villains and families and friendships and action and humanity and silly superhero stuff was executed with chef's kiss perfection. Plus Ewing gets to take jabs at the academic life that is her own secret identity. Anyone who sends hate Ewing's way just didn't even try to read her comics, because she is a superhero of comics scripting. (Also, I am pretty sure I will read Coates' Captain America sometime soon and hopefully change my first impression; his cameo in Ewing's NYT article was better than an MCU after credit sequence).
Friday, April 16, 2021
Thursday, April 15, 2021
(Paramount, 2014) Worst. Adam Sandler. Movie. Ever. The masturbating is way less funny than in "Grandma's Boy." He plays a defeated, depressed shell of a man who stays sadly calm in the face of terrible circumstances so he doesn't even tell his cheating wife to "SHUT UUUUP!," which is an admirable approach to problem solving, but may not be taking advantage of all Adam has to offer. Also, Worst. Timothee. Chalamet. Movie. Ever.
Wednesday, April 14, 2021
(snackworks.com) That got rid of the cages and bars on the box, which I guess is cool, but why won't they get rid of the sheep...what kinda circus animal is that? I always get a bunch of them and usually zero monkeys and have not seen a zebra in a buncha boxes. I guess you can make the lion lay down with the lamb, so that makes this a good Sunday school snack.
Tuesday, April 13, 2021
(Columbia, 1991) This movie is incredibly good. Goldthwait got acclaim later for his Robin Williams autoerotic asphyxiation teen movie but all of his absolute genius director chops are on display here. This flick has deft, sometimes breathtaking cinematography, fantastic editing, and most of all, just unreal commitment by everyone involved to make a solid movie about a world where clowns are a caste with their own society and bars, fighting for scraps of birthday party money and the golden ring of a D-list cartoon show hosting gig. Goldthwait is a strong lead but the terrifying performance by villain clown Tom Kenny makes Pennywise look like 1986 Ronald McDonald. And everyone praises "Uncut Gems," but Adam Sandler's acting in this is stellar, with a masterfully understated performance that has him demonstrating genuine concern for his addict friend that is evident and palpable even behind greasepaint. Yes, this is a screwy, ridiculous, naughty, absurdist comedy, but the thrills, perils, and stakes all feel real. Also features clown makeup cameos by La Wanda Page comparing her vagina to peanut butter to shut up clown barfly Milton Berle. A masterpiece!
Monday, April 12, 2021
Sunday, April 11, 2021
(Warner Brothers, 1982) This band featured what is clearly one of the greatest collections of talent ever assembled. Roscoe Mitchell, Lester Bowie, Malachi Favors, Jospeh Jarman, and Famoudou Don Moye were all in the same group! This 1980 Munich concert also proves they were some of the best performers in our planet's history. Your life is better if you listen to this album. GREAT BLACK MUSIC - FROM THE ANCIENT TO THE FUTURE. That is an accurate description. There's some whimsy and some quiet and some drumming that is from another planet and some (also otherworldly) instrument sounds that uplift beyond the ozone layer. And they wore better makeup than KISS. And Chicago is proud that our City is in their name. And I am going to stop typing and just lie back and listen for the next coupla hours.
Saturday, April 10, 2021
Friday, April 9, 2021
Thursday, April 8, 2021
Wednesday, April 7, 2021
Tuesday, April 6, 2021
Monday, April 5, 2021
Sunday, April 4, 2021
GUEST REVIEW BY GENTLEMAN JOHN BATTLES
(Rhino, 2020) I didn't have $250 for a ticket to see this tour when it came through Chicago, so it's nice to have this and hear what I missed. Strangely billed as "The first official live Monkees album" (as if Rhino's own "Monkees Live 1967” doesn't count), the two surviving Monkees, Mike Nesmith and Mickey Dolenz, offer an enjoyable array of hits and "deep cuts" from the Monkees' back catalogue that are sure to please longtime fans and newcomers alike. The fact that their voices are still strong, and they are supported by a crackerjack band should surprise absolutely no one. Nesmith shines on "Sunny Girlfriend," ''The Door Into Summer," and "Tapioca Tundra," while Dolenz does his thing, and does it well, on tracks like "Mary, Mary,” "For Pete's Sake," and "Randy Scouse Git.'' Other standouts include the psychedelicized "Sweet Young Thing" and the more recent "Death of an Accidental Hipster,'' plus solid raveups of "Circle Sky,” "Goin' Down," and “I'm Not Your Stepping Stone." The camaraderie between the two Monkee men is sincere and infectious. The music is given the respect it deserves (producer, Andrew Sandoval is largely responsible for making the Monkees take stock in themselves and elevated them from Oldies status to elder statesmen of Rock), and you can feel the joy and elation of the crowd. A dedication to Davy Jones and Peter Tork is real class, and they're there in spirit. The Monkees have always been about having a good time, and the spirit of fun remains intact, all these years later.
Saturday, April 3, 2021
(Madmag.com) This is the "Predicts the Future" issue, and there is one great article (with a nice Tom Richmond illo) featuring Al Jaffee archival art that predicted actual inventions that came to be. I expected a lot more of that here, but it's mostly just reprints with future themes like Back to Future parodies and fortune teller jokes. Johnny Sampson's Fold In is great, and the Jim Woodring cover is magnificent.
Friday, April 2, 2021
(comicshopnews.com) I love Fred Hembeck! Such good drawings and such good jokes! His annual CSN Spring Preview cover is a WandaVision joke, a corny good one that only the biggest comics nerds could even consider chuckling at. Viva Fred!
Thursday, April 1, 2021
GUEST REVIEW BY GARY PIG GOLD
The first Friday of most every month throughout 1967 and into ’68, I was formally excused from school so that my mother could take me all the way into Toronto for orthodontic appointments. As my due reward afterwards, I would be treated to a tasty french-fry-and-chocolate-milk lunch in the sumptuous Eaton’s Department Store cafeteria, then left for an hour alone in the adjacent Music Department while dear mom ran her errands elsewhere.
Gawd, I truly was deep in pre-teen heaven in there, believe you me: Guitars – just like the one Tommy Smothers played on TV every week! – lining each wall, while right over there were more record albums gathered alphabetically together in one place than my wide young eyes had ever ever seen.
But it was while methodically flipping through that “Misc. M” bin one innocent Friday in search of the latest Monkees long-player that I came across an image which shook me to the very core of my hitherto safe, sound, Micky’n’Mike-loving spine:
A foreboding, dark purple sci-fi sky shot through with lightning bolts, beneath which were strewn an above-motley crew of comic-book cut-outs – some of whose eyes were obscured with sinister black bars! And in front of all that stood what appeared to be a group of bearded, ugly, definitely NON-Monkee-looking men wearing… wearing dresses and standing by a mess of rotten vegetables which for some reason spelled out the word “mothers.”
Subconsciously at least, I recognized this was sort of, for some reason, like the picture on front of my latest Beatle album. But I also instinctively gathered something BAD was afoot.
So for the next several months, as if revisiting a decaying body rotting in the back woods, I’d patiently let Dr. Shanks, D.D.S. rip around my mouth, rush with Mom to scarf down some Eaton’s fast-food, then creep back towards those record racks to check if …IT… was still hidden there. Why, one grave Friday I even showed the offending, but somehow alluring record jacket to my mother …who, immediately sensing things untoward indeed, said “put that down, Gary. We’re going home.”
Flash forward a couple’a years: By now, my comparatively straight teeth and I were enrolled in the local high school, specializing in Fine Arts and pouring over my latest charcoal still-life when the most incredible music suddenly burst from the record player at the back of the room. It was Eric Shelkey’s turn to bring vinyl in to accompany the day’s lesson y’see, and Eric, being by far the most freeeky, out-there student in all our Grade 9 Specialty Art class – I mean, the guy wore little round eyeglasses just like John Lennon, and his hair actually reached below his shirt collar! – certainly did not disappoint with his choice of music. Yep, instead of the usual docile strains of Tommy Roe or, at “worst,” Blood Sweat and Tears, the room was this morning filled with fully-stereophonic snorks, wheezes, electronic noises (much like those the microphone made in the auditorium downstairs when it wasn’t working), and some creepy voice which kept whispering “Are you hung up?” over and over again.
Understandably I suppose, just like my mother had back in Eaton’s music department, our hitherto pretty patient art instructor Mr. Pollard walked quickly to the back of the classroom, turned the volume all the way down, removed the offending twelve inches from the turntable, inserted it back in its sleeve, and told Eric he could pick his record up after class, thankyouverymuchnowpleasegetbacktoworkeveryone. Of course, me being me, I made sure to follow Eric out into the hall afterwards to ascertain the name labeled in the middle of this wondrous, forbidden twelve inches. Most obligingly indeed – but being careful to check both ways first to see if anyone was looking – he pulled the album slowly from his portfolio case.
AND THERE IT WAS. That same diabolical image which had haunted my post-orthodontic Fridays all those years ago!
Winking at me most conspiratorially, Eric invited me over to his place to listen to the entire record that day immediately after school. In fact, we even tried calling the telephone number which preceded “Bow Tie Daddy”! Then, I naturally saved up my allowance and bought my OWN copy a couple of months later, locked myself in my room… and it would be quite some time until I ever listened to Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones Ltd. – or anything else, for that matter – quite the same way ever again.
We’re Only In It For The Money was released 53 (!) years ago this month. I couldn’t say it then, but I surely will now:
Thank You, Frank Zappa.