Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Weekly BOMP!: The Voxx Rebellion


By now it’s an old story: It’s 1979, the last few spurts of punk drizzle into either the testosterone jockstrap of hardcore, or the twinky commercialism of “new wave.” And to make matters worse, not even the Real Kids can save power pop. Underground R’n’R looks to the past again for inspiration & direction, to what is still a largely bypassed trip, it looks to 60s punk.

Greg Shaw temporarily folded both Bomp Magazine and the BOMP! label in 1979. He then launched the Voxx imprint to “offer a home to bands working in a purist '60s garage/punk/psych tradition.” At least that’s the story (never mind that Bomp continued releasing classics like Stiv Bators’ "Disconnected" and the Taxi Boys mini-LP). So you can credit Voxx for getting the drop on 80s garage revivalism. At first business was slow, with only a few bands answering the call. Still, the label probably reached its zenith with its first few releases, namely two by San Diego’s Crawdaddys, their 1979 LP “Crawdaddy Express,” a veritable slab of ’64 time-traveled to the Year of the Voxx, and their 1980 EP “5 x 4.” Mike Stax, also of the Tell-Tale Hearts, and editor/publisher of Ugly Things magazine, in a short piece on Voxx included in the book Bomp: Saving the World One Record at a Time, tells of hearing these records on John Peel’s show as a lad, then writing a fan letter to Crawdaddys leader Ron Silva. Silva replied by inviting Stax to come to San Diego from England to play bass for his band. Stax hopped the next plane and the rest is garage revival history. Here’s a couple of cuts from “5 x 4”.

Mono Man

If the Crawdaddys took the purist’s approach, Voxx stalwarts DMZ, fronted by Jeff “Mono Man” Connolly, who would go on to lead one of the greatest of 80s garage bands the Lyres, hammered out a crazed hybrid sound, at times made of equal parts Sonics, Stooges, and 13th Floor Elevators. Shaw helped DMZ get signed to Sire records for their eponymous debut, which kicks ass despite a few flaws like closely mic’d, clicky drums, but which flopped on the sales. Shortly after Sire dropped them, Voxx released some truer sounding DMZ tracks, originally recorded in 1977, on the “Relics” LP. Here’s “Do Not Enter” plus their version of the Standells’ “Barracuda.”

Paula Pierce & the rest of the Pandoras

Low-budget recording and packaging was a major part of the Voxx ethos, and Shaw booked cheap studio time at a place called Silvery Moon, in Los Angeles, the city which, with the Cavern Club as its live showcase, functioned as the scene’s ground zero. Unfortunately, it being the 80s and all, the studio featured modern equipment more suited to recording Hollywood hair metal than 60s punk. One of the cuter bands on Voxx, the Pandoras, who came out swinging on their debut LP “It’s About Time,” from 1984, got the Silvery Moon treatment. Then, as if too much of the studio’s effects rubbed off on them, the Pandoras evolved from 60s punk purists to a hair metal band themselves. By ’89 they looked and sounded more like Poison. Leader Paula Pierce died suddenly from some type of brainurism in 1991, aged 31. Here’s their version of the Invictas “Do the Hump,” plus one Paula Pierce original, both from “It’s About Time.” Don’t they sound like nice girls?

So, yes, today’s post offers but a small sampling from the Voxx roster. There were lots more bands, like The Gravedigger V, The Tell-Tale Hearts, The Miracle Workers, The Eyes of Mind, and The Things, to name a few. Also excluded from this post are the great & influential Battle of the Garages comps, just because I don’t own any, and the Acid Visions comp, which, actually, I do have, so maybe down the line I’ll add a couple of tracks from that as an update to this post.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Washing Down the Holidays with Colorado Cool-Aid

Malcom Yelvington & Band, sometime in the mid 1950s.

Portrait of Red Sovine by Jesse Weidel

Neighbor there's no need to let any holiday give you the blues, whether you're talkin' about Christmas, Hannukka, Kwaanzaa, or the passage of our new compromised health care reform bill. Why, all you gotta do is blow off all any and all of it that doesn't involve bright shiny lights, time off from work and school, and all the free grub you can eat. Then skip out to your local non-Judeo-Christian ethnic restaurant and order up some Aloo Vindaloo, extra spicy. And be sure to wash it all down with a couple of nice, cold cans of Colorado Cool-Aid. Which brings us to the real point of today's post, which is to give you, dear reader, a special holiday gift. Introducing Gemini Spacecraft's Washing Down the Holidays with Colorado Cool-Aid playlist. Just download and play. Not a single Christmas song in the lot. And don't say we never give ya nothin'. Happy Holidays.


1. Lester Roadhog Moran - Intro + Liza Jane
2. Donny Young - Shakin' the Blues
3. T. Texas Tyler - Texas Boogie Woogie
4. Red Sovine - Colorado Cool-Aid
5. Lester Roadhog Moran - Monologue
6. Wanda Jackson - Swinging Doors
7. Delmore Brothers - Hillbilly Boogie
8. Guy Drake - Welfare Cadillac
9. Lester Roadhog Moran - Monologue
10. Malcom Yelvington - Yakety Yak
11. Tommy Blake - F-Oldin Money
12. Glen Glenn - One Cup of Coffee
13. Eddie Bond - Boo Bop Da Caa Caa
14. George Jones - Sparkling Brown Eyes
15. Lester Roadhog Moran - Monologue

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Andy Shernoff Solo

One test of a good song is if it plays well as an acoustic number, or so says Dictators songwriter & mastermind Andy Shernoff. And play ‘em acoustic is exactly what Shernoff did for about an hour last night at the Lakeside Lounge, in New York City, in the final installment of the amazing Monday happy hour thing he’s been doing there for the past few weeks. And play ‘em ain’t all he did. He told a few too--stories, anecdotes, and jokes to introduce the numbers, revealing something new about each song. For example, writer Richard “Jimmy Borneo” Meltzer apparently loved party gags, and would sometimes place a cup of his own piss among a soiree’s snacks & hordy-orvys, and the death of Joey Ramone, for whom Shernoff wrote the great “Stop Thinking About It,” was even sadder than you know.

Something about the interplay of these stories and songs lent extra impact to the proceedings, producing some rare effect that these two elements working separately would never hit. The more he talked and played the more exhilarating and trance-like the set became. When introducing “New York, New York,” a song about a city that no longer exists, Shernoff remarked that “Now New York is one big mall filled with hillbillies.” How ironic to hear him play the song, moments later, and stare through the Lakeside’s window at the street outside, watching the passersby, the bourgeois bohemians and neat bankers who now roam Avenue B. Occasionally these passersby would glance inside at the oddity onstage. What did they see? Just some guy strumming an acoustic guitar?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

New Arrival to the GS Bookshelf: Folk Photography by Luc Sante

Luc Sante, author of that great history of vice on the Bowery, Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York, apparently collects early 20th Century picture postcards. From his collection of more than 2500 cards he assembled his latest book Folk Photography, The American Real-Photo Postcard 1905-1930 (Yeti/VerseChorus, 2009).

Clare County voted to go dry.

Sante distinguishes Real-Photo Postcards from the more widespread photo-litho cards of the day, as the former were printed in darkrooms, on photo paper, and in limited runs. They originally appeared as a result of several key convergences. In 1905 the postal service inaugurated the penny postcard rate, and then Rural Free Delivery the following year. At about the same time photography became more accessible to the layman thanks largely to the advent of simpler developing processes and cheap cameras. Before long every lonesome whistle-stop in Prairieville had its local photog, ready and able, for a fee, to document people and events in sepia tone to show to the folks back home.

A scene from the Mexican border war.

This plain-faced popular form, which Sante reminds us was an essential means of communication during its day, was derided by the guardians of more self-consciously arty-farty photography of the time. Alfred Stieglitz considered the subjects of most photo postcards too banal, and their execution too amateurish. However, in his accompanying treatise, Sante argues for the democratic quality of the real-photo postcard. Borrowing crit-speak from Barthe’s Camera Obscura, he insists that the best RPPCs qualify as art, as they possess both studium and punctum. That is, they both capture something essential about their time and place, the studium, while also “puncturing” the viewer with their emotional power.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Burn K-Doe Burn!

Ernie K-Doe: The Black Liberace, Emperor of the Universe, and posthumous mayoral candidate for the City of New Orleans. The following WWOZ aircheck gives a good example of his dynamic, on-air personality, while offering useful wisdom for roosters, hens, and charity hospital babies.

Thanks to WFMU’s Rock ‘n’ Soul Ichiban for originally posting this aircheck.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Lucky Wray & Little Walter: Teenage Twin-Pack

Lucky Wray

“Teenage Cutie,” Lucky Wray & The Palomino Ranch Gang, a/k/a Link Wray in his Stetson-wearin’, cowboy movie-watchin’ days, waxed this one for Pappy Daily’s Starday Records back in 1955. I’m pretty sure that’s Link on the vocals, just before a bout of consumption would claim one of his lungs, which is largely why he played mostly instros for the rest of his career. Doctor’s orders!

“Teenage Beat,” Little Walter (Checker 845). A blazin’ instro from 1956. Basically a looser, improvised work-out on the same groove that drives “My Babe.” But this track--something to get the teenies dancing, no doubt--rocks harder than the big hit, presented here in the same scratch-o-phonic hi fidelity you've come to expect from Gemini Spacecraft.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Roy Hall & Amos Milburn

The paths of Roy Hall & Amos Milburn may never have crossed in any notable way, except in the annals of Unsung Heroes of Rock ‘n’ Roll, by Nick Tosches, which features excellent profiles on them both. Still, here at Gemini Spacecraft, the Cohutta Mountain Boy and the slick Chicken-Shacker have come to resemble two hands on the same boogie piano.

Both Hall and Milburn cut their earliest sides in the late 40s, back in the days of the 78 single. Both knew the blurry, bleary wonders of the after-hours joint. While Milburn had a string of hits, most notably 1948’s “Chicken Shack Boogie” (Aladdin 3014), none of Hall’s own great records would ever hit, although his most famous song “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin On” (Decca 29697) obviously blew the world wide open for Jerry Lee Lewis in 1957.

Like the booze he loved and sang so well about, Milburn’s genius was concentrated, in this case, in the decade spanning 1946 to roughly 1956. During this period, while recording for Aladdin, he cut the aforementioned “Chicken Shack Boogie,” plus the dirty dittie “Walking Blues,” also “Let’s Rock Awhile,” “Good Good Whiskey,” its remorseful inverse “Bad Bad Whiskey,” also “One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer,” “My Happiness Depends on You,” and my personal favorite, his version of Don Raye’s “Down the Road Apiece.” Both Chuck Berry and the Rolling Stones did their own great versions of "Down the Road a Piece." But where those acts each rocked it as a full combo, Milburn, accompanied only by a snare drum, pumps that piano boogie until it sounds like an entire, crazy band. Not long after, Aladdin Records folded. Milburn migrated over to the King label, and, in the early 60s cut a couple of duets with Charles Brown. Eventually the hard drinkin’ caught up with him, and after several strokes, Amos Milburn died in Houston in 1980.

Put a lascivious, drunk hillbilly behind what is essentially the same twelve-bar boogie, then hit the drums a little harder and crank up the gee-tar, and you get Roy Hall. His first band, Roy Hall and the Cohutta Moutain Boys, were among the earliest on the legendary Fortune label, who in 1949 released “Dirty Boogie” (Fortune 126) and five other sides. After that, Hall returned to Nashville where he ran an after-hours joint called the Music Box, cut a few sides for the Bullet label, “Mule Boogie,” (Bullet 704) from 1950, among them, and played piano for Webb Pierce. Webb helped Roy get a deal with Decca Records, where Hall’s music moved a few steps away its earlier hillbilly blues stylings toward something much closer to rockabilly in songs like “Diggin’ the Boogie,” “Three Alley Cats,” “See You Later Alligator,” and “Don’t Stop Now.” Despite a lack of hits, and music biz rip-offs, Hall kept rockin’, seeming to get raunchier with each new record. By the late 50s he’d returned to Fortune, recording for their subsidiary, the Hi-Q label. Here he re-worked a couple of earlier gems like “Dig, Everybody, Dig That Boogie” and “Three Alley Cats,” while also releasing the great “Bedspring Motel.” Then, in 1960, for his former boss Webb Pierce’s short-lived Pierce label, under the name “The Hound,” Hall made one of the dirtiest records you’ll ever hear, “Flood of Love,” b-side to the great “One Monkey Can’t Stop the Show.”

Both men quit drinking in the last years of their lives, and while those strokes left Milburn an invalid, unable to stomp out that piano boogie thanks to the loss of a leg, Hall kept rockin’ into geezer-hood, until his card got punched in 1984.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Weekly BOMP! - The Zantees "Out for Kicks"

Released by Bomp in 1980, the Zantees first long player Out for Kicks is like some old V-8 lunging off the line, building power and speed as it goes. Here at the Gemini Spacecraft archive it gets shelved beside the Blasters’ American Music and Alex Chilton’s Like Flies on Sherbert, two other great 1980 LPs that helped spark that branch of postpunk that Greg Shaw dubbed “Real Rockers,” rightfully reclaiming the word from “the same creeps who took over new wave,” who were then trying to apply “Rocker” to “that lethargic sludge they worship as reggae.” Shaw asserted that only “records with that frantic beat that makes you want to go hog wild” deserved to be called “Rocker.” And Out for Kicks definitely lives up to Shaw’s criteria.

The Zantees line-up included Billy Miller and Miriam Linna, on the vocals and tubs respectively, then of Kicks Magazine, soon to launch Norton Records, teamed up with guitarist brothers Paul & Bill Statile and bassist Rob Norris in a sort of proto A-Bones, if you will. As for the words to describe their sound, let Shaw say it, “Some folks call the Zantees a rockabilly band, but they’re not. They’re so much more than that. They’re a Rock ‘n’ Roll band in the strongest sense, having grabbed inspiration from all the high points of the past 30 years including not only rockabilly but punk, invasion, surfing, and maniac R&B and bashed it all into a style that’s indefinable.”

On Out for Kicks, dig how the Statile brothers' string-wringin' calls to mind that of Paul Burlison, Cliff Gallup, and others, then mixes it all together, sometimes simultaneously, sometimes even in the same riff! And Billy Miller’s wild vocals here display a spastic youthfulness not as apparent on later A-Bones records. Add Miriam Linna’s “hog wild” beat, and a heapin’ helpin’ of reverb on the vocals, guitars, drums, and, hell, everywhere, and you get a real classic. Now out of print, but not too hard to track down.

Greg Shaw quotes originally from Bomp! Magazine, now reprinted in Bomp! Saving the World One Record at a Time (Ammo, 2007).

"Blonde Bombshell," "Big Green Car," and "Gas Up," from Out for Kicks (Bomp! LP 4009).

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Print Ephemera #2: WFMU's "Crackpots & Visionaries" Trading Cards

...Or, WFMU Record Fair Finds Part II: Crackpots & Visionaries trading cards.

Pictured here is Volume I, from 1992. Ya get 36 cards with captioned bios of a wide range of characters from William S. Burroughs to Jesse Helms, each illustrated by some luminary of 1990s underground comics. Artists include Dan Clowes, Roy "Trailer Trash" Tompkins, Julie Doucet, Joe Coleman, and lots of others.

#30 The Patron Crackpot of this blog, the Legendary Stardust Cowboy, drawn by J.R. Williams.

WFMU Record Fair Finds

Last weekend brought the big annual WFMU Record Fair back to New York City. I slogged through the rain and the thick crowd of fellow record hounds at the Metropolitan Pavilion and managed to catch a couple of songs from the Trashmen's very short set, which sounded great and proved they still got it. My only gripe is that it ended so soon. What the hell tho, I guess if I'd wanted to hear more, I could have made the shlepp over to Maxwell's later that night. Anyway, at the record fair, I kept walking past all the Tropicalia and Jandek LPs and managed to snag the following 45s.

From the Filling-Out-the-Collection-with-Much-Needed-Classics Department: Slim Harpo's "Don't Start Cryin' Now," from 1961 (Excello 2194), B-side to "Rainin' In My Heart." I love how LOUD this record is.

From there the fingers did their own walkin' through various 45 boxes to come up with this pair from the under-researched genre of Cow-Milkin songs. First of these two classics is another from the Excello label (Excello 2268), the Blues Rockers' "Calling All Cows," b/w Jerry McCain's "Courtin' in a Cadillac," from 1965.

Next is Red Foley's 1952 country boogie "Milk Bucket Boogie," on the Decca label. I like the milk-in-the-pail percussion effect on that one.

From the Norton table I also picked up a copy of Andre Williams' brand new novel Sweets and Other Stories, recently published by Kicks Books, edited by Miriam Linna. Gemini Spacecraft will post a more detailed review of Sweets shortly. For now I'll say it kind of reminds me of a cross between Iceberg Slim's Mama Black Widow and Babs Gonzales' I Paid My Dues (see previous GS post about that last one).

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Greased Griddles & Poodle Dogs: The Raunchy Rock 'n' Roll of Johnny Buckett, Roy "The Hound" Hall, and Others

“I’m a Griddle Greasing Daddy”... “Let Me Play With Your Poodle,”... “I call her my Eager Beaver Baby,”... Yessir, sometimes singers said a lot more back when they couldn’t come right out and say it all. Sandwiched between the pre-war era of explicitly nasty blues & hillbilly lyrics and the suggestive 70s country music of Tanya Tucker, et al, lies a body of raunchy RnR double entendre. A comprehensive survey of these dirty ditties could, of course, fill an entire book, and to dwell the subject for very long is to expand it beyond what fits neatly into a blog post. So today the GS brings you a quick sampling.

Now, Poodle-owners out there, ask yourselves, would you let Johnny Buckett and his Cumberland River Boys “Play With Your Poodle” “...I mean your little poodle dog”? While considering Buckett's offer, you might recall that it's a sort of two-for-one deal, because when you flip the record, he also promotes further services in “Griddle Greasing Daddy.” Originally released as a single for the Renown label, both cuts reappeared on Fortune EP 1330. Note how Buckett cops song-writing credit for himself, despite the fact that Hank Penny had already cut "Poodle Dog" for the King label back in 1947.

The moniker “Roy the Hound” was but a mask for the boogie pianist Roy Hall, who wrote “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On”, and whose Coahutta Mountain boys had been doin’ the “Dirty Boogie” since the late 40s. Out there ahead of me somewhere is a more fully fleshed-out post on my main-man Roy Hall--like he says himself in “Bedspring Motel” ...“Boy I sure dig that Roy Hall on the piana”. In 1960 he cut one of the dirtiest numbers you’re likely to find anywhere in the Rockabilly ouvre “Flood of Love”. Personally, I like to think the listener’s shock is anticipated and embodied by the Big-Bopper sounding back-up singer’s shouts of “Now what you say?! A Flood of LOVE?!” Hall’s occasional employer Webb Pierce owned the short-lived label that released this slab o’ salaciousness.

While Johnny Burnette employs the double entendre in “Eager Beaver Baby,” ostensibly a tale of unrequited love interest with obvious connotations, Jerry Lee Lewis dispenses with this device nearly altogether in “Big Legged Woman”. Aside from its clever biscuit dough metaphor, the latter is a raw, unabashed poon-hound anthem. George “Thumper” Jones, on the other hand, sounds like an unwitting accomplice to kink in “Slave Lover,” putting away his paper and pipe with a sigh to go “uptown and downtown” at his master’s bidding.

In RnR, just as in blues, male performers didn’t hold a monopoly on the raunch. Wanda Jackson’s “Cool Love” comes on panting in red lipstick, so don’t’cha be no square. The Miller Sisters offer their ode to variety, in dance partners and lovers, in “Ten Cats Down,” while Barbara Pittman growls for it outright in “I Need a Man,” and Charline Arthur--really more of a western swinger than a rocker--expresses a certain self-sufficiency in “I’m Having a Party All By Myself.”

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Marlon Brando, Preston Epps, and Other Bongo Beatin' Beatniks

The late 50s and early 60s were rife with bongo beaters--with all the bongo-rific riffery seeming to reach some sort peak around 1959. What follows is another scatter-shot round-up of some favorites.

First up, Marlon Brando, making the scene with Jack Costanzo in this 1953 television interview. So, okay, technically those aren't bongos they're playing, but rather congas. Still, check out the old, hep meaning of the phrase "losing his mind." And dig that set! Looks like the Corleone-to-be descends a staircase into some kind of swinger’s grotto.

Joe Hall and the Corvettes “Bongo Beatin’ Beatnik” (Global 751, 1959). This one plays on the beatnik’s reputedly sophistimacated preference for jazz over greasy kid stuff, with Hall chanting “I’m a bongo beatin’ beatnik and I just don’t dig RnR” over and over, ironically enough, to a groovy RnR beat. Can still be found on the Sin Alley volume 2 compilation.

Andre Williams and the 5 Dollars

Andre Williams “Mozelle” (Fortune 827, 1956). What’s left to be said at this point? This is possibly the greatest bongo song of all, while it also rates highly among the Greatest RnR Songs Ever.

Preston Epps' single “Bongo Rock” (Original Sounds, 1959) also appeared on the 1960 LP Bongo Bongo Bongo. After a couple of late 50s – early 60s trips to the top of the Billboard charts, Epps settled into a career as session player. He appears in the 1968 film Girl in Gold Boots, and the following title clip contains not a single Epps bongo beat, as far as I can hear, but I include it anyway for its obvious...uh, cultural/anthropological significance.

Finally, here's Henry Mancini’s title theme to Orson Wells’ classic from 1958 Touch of Evil. Factoid: for the set they didn’t use some Tijuana border town streets, but rather Venice Beach during its late 50s bohemian heyday. Lawrence Lipton gives a detailed account of the Venice Beach of that period in the oft-maligned The Holy Barbarians (J. Messner Books, 1959).

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Introducing the Weekly BOMP!

Pet project of uber-fan Greg Shaw, BOMP! Records evolved from the early-70s magazine Who Put the Bomp--prototype for all Rock fanzines to follow--which in turn grew from its 60s predecessor, that mimeograph monument to San Francisco psych, Mojo Navigator.

Shaw’s obsession for cataloging and collecting, and his admiration for Ralph Gleason’s writing (SF Chronicle jazz crit who was among the first to give “serious” consideration to that newfangled rock music), along with his ability to operate that mimeo machine laid the groundwork for him to eventually become one of the earliest rock critics. Shaw wrote not only for Who Put the Bomp, but also contributed to CREEM, Phonograph Record Magazine, and others, his work appearing alongside Dave Marsh, Richard Meltzer and Lester Bangs. Meanwhile he also compiled and released the legendary Pebbles 60s punk series. Shaw’s influence grew during the 70s and he eventually became instrumental in bringing the Flamin’ Groovies, DMZ, and others to Seymour Stein’s Sire Records. It’s safe to say that without Greg Shaw the Sire catalog, and thus the whole golden temple of CBGBs NY RnR as we now know it, would look a lot different.

Greg Shaw

Anyway, you can read all about Greg Shaw, who died in 2004, and his various projects in the recently published pair of books BOMP! Saving the World One Record at a Time, edited by Suzy Shaw and Mick Farren, and BOMP!2 Born in the Garage, edited by Suzy Shaw and Mike Stax, of Crawdaddys and Ugly Things fame. Both are worth checking out, even if there seems to be considerable overlap between the two. Among the highlights are essays by Bangs, Phast Phreddie, Marsh, the Ig, Kim Fowley, and others, plus lots of great pix and repro’d pages from various past issues.

Gemini Spacecraft would like to offer its own sort of tribute by launching a new series called The Weekly BOMP! Just as the name suggests, the idea here is to turn the GS spotlight on another BOMP! (and BOMP! imprint VOXX) band each week until we run out of records or the game ceases to be fun, whichever comes first. And since BOMP! is still very much in business, etiquette and copyright rules limit use to two or three streaming tracks only. (Thanks Suzy!)

Nikki Corvette

First up is the great Nikki and the Corvettes. Hailing from Detroit, Nikki Corvette cut her teeth on MC5 and Stooges shows, girl groups, and other vital ingredients of good old RnR. She talked long enough about wanting to start her own band that Romantics guitarist Pete James finally booked a show and pushed her in front a microphone. Thus began the career of Nikki Corvette, or so the legend goes, and this during a time when a female’s contributions to the form tended to garner less attention than they would in later years. The original Nikki & the Corvettes LP, from 1980, while something of a forgotten milestone of power-pop, left the singer less than satisfied with vocal mix. “The original LP left us sounding like the Chipmunks,” Nikki has said. So what you get here are a few tracks from the remastered eponymous album released in 2000, twenty years after the original.

Nikki Corvette circa '80 or any of a thousand Williamsburg girls 2009?

BOMP! Saving the World One Record at a Time (2007 Ammo Books)
ed. Suzy Shaw & Mick Farren.

Songs: Nikki & the Corvettes LP, BOMP! 1980/2000:
Young and Crazy
Criminal Element
He's a Mover

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Soma Records Roundup

Soma: Ancient Hindus used this word to describe a magical beverage, drink of the gods, or more accurately, the Drink-as-God. In Brave New World, Aldous Huxley imagined a drug called soma which, when ingested, induced visions. So many dreams. So many visions. Midwestern businessman Amos Heilicher may or may not have had visions, but in 1957 he did think to spell his own name backwards. Then he used the handle for his new record company, Soma Records.

Minneapolis born and based, Soma epitomized the great American independent label. During its heyday, 1959-1966, it thrived largely beyond the reach of national trends, and, thanks to a number of favorable conditions, it functioned as linchpin for a uniquely regional rock ‘n’ roll scene. For one, Heilicher owned probably every juke box and “rack job” (record vendor for dime stores) in Minnesota, and he had the power to sway local airplay in favor of his co’s records. Then the kids themselves, ever hungry for danceable tunes, and living in a region largely crossed-off the tours of big national acts, threw favor at homegrown heroes like the Trashmen, The Accents, Underbeats, et al. In such relative isolation, a taste for rough rockin’ instrumentals developed. Most of the action took place at the dozens of weekly dances held around the region. By playing these dances, many of the bands earned exceptionally good money, even by today’s standards. Such conditions had a way of reversing the usual formula where the show promotes the record. Records became calling cards for the shows. Still, many of ‘em--released by a slew of labels, but especially the Soma discs by the Fendermen, Bobby Vee, The Gestures--charted, and charted big.

What follows is by no means a comprehensive roundup, but it covers the classics. There's a streaming playlist at the end of this post.

The Fendermen “Mule Skinner Blues” b/w “Torture” 1960 (Soma 1137). Jim Sundquist & Phil Humphrey shred the Jimmy Rodgers original, achieving some kinda pinnacle of hickoid mania while landing a surprise spot in the Top 10. Thirty years later, the Phantom Surfers lifted the riff from the instro “Torture” as the basis for their own classic surf stomp “Wave Hog.”

The Fendermen “Don’t You Just Know It” b/w “Beach Party” 1960 (Soma 1142). The cover tune backed by an original instro works again.

The Gestures “Run, Run, Run” b/w “It Seems to Me” 1964 (Soma 1417). Now a classic from the Nuggets comp, this one got released midway through Soma’s great run.

The Gestures

The Trashmen “Surfin’ Bird” b/w “King of the Surf” 1963 (GA 4002). Does this one really need an introduction? On Soma subsidiary Garrett records, named for Soma engineer George Garret.

The Trashmen “Whoa Dad!” b/w “Walkin’ My Baby” (GA 4012). A-side’s a Felice & Boudleaux Bryant composition, and one of the coolest records ever!

The Trashmen

Dave Dudley “Six Days on the Road” b/w “I Feel a Cry Coming On” 1963 (GW 3020). On another Soma subsidiary, the C&W imprint Golden Wing. Immortal trucker classic backed with one of the sappiest titles ever. That’s Dave Dudley for ya, who shoulda steered his big rig wide round the countrypolitan pile-up.

Dave Dudley

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Soul City, et al.

Went to the Millennium Film Project in New York City last night to catch screenings of "Blank Generation" "Punking Out" & M. Henry Jones' 1978 animated film "Soul City," featuring the Fleshtones. That last one, essentially a music vid from the days before the birth the monster MTV, was fucking great--the images of the Fleshtones are actually animated stills! This YouTube version, great as it is, pales next to the actual 16mm print.

All the filmmakers were present to introduce their work. Amos Poe and Ivan Kral talked about making "Blank Generation," essentially an un-synched home movie from the CBGB heyday. Maggie Carson introduced "Punking Out." As a young documentarian, Carson bravely interviewed Stiv Bators, Jimmy Zero, and Dee Dee Ramone, and got some of the best live footage of Richard Hell & the Voidoids and the Heartbreakers I've ever seen. And M. Henry Jones detailed the painstaking work that went into "Soul City." Each stressed how radically the world, especially New York City, has changed since they made their films, and how dramatically digital technology has transformed media.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

"I Got To Be Drivin' Off Into the Sunset" - Henry Gibson RIP

Henry Gibson, cast member on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In who also played country star Haven Hamilton in Robert Altman's 1975 film Nashville, died today of cancer. He was 73. Here's a link to the NY Times obit.

And here's Gibson from an old episode of The Beverly Hillbillies, playing western movie star Quirt Manly. In fact, Quirt even appears to be driving Webb Pierce's old custom Caddie, designed by Nudie Cohen of Hollywood.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Pop Surf Culture: Moondoggie's Short, Glorious Ride

A somewhat depressing theme begins to emerge from the heaps of great documentary books appearing these days, namely, that ALL THE COOL STUFF IS OVER.

Such is the case with the subject of Pop Surf Culture (Santa Monica Press Books, 2008) by Brian Chidester and Domenic Priore (Priore also being the creator of Dumb Angel Gazette). Here the authors successfully delineate a history and cultural commentary on that brief, early era in surfing--what they term the Bohemian Surf Boom--before it was overrun by the jocks, ugly clothing, godawful music, and corporate sponsorship that now dominate that scene. So what you get here is a great look at the golden years, mainly the period between the mid-1950s to 1970. And, much like modern surfing pioneer Bob Simmons, who for decades combed the California coast on a perpetual search for uncharted surf spots, Chidester and Priore have combed the annals of surf mags, movies, music, and ephemera. In Pop Surf Culture they’ve assembled their findings into the definitive book on the subject, one that’s as entertaining as it is graphically rich.

Among the highlights of Pop Surf Culture is the chapter on Mickey “da Cat” Dora, the original Malibu surf punk, whose story of unmatched surfing mastery, party crashing, media pranks, global lamming from the man, and finally jail time, earns a place in the cool hall of fame. Also, readers would be hard-pressed to find more comprehensive guides to essential surf records, movies, and vintage mags than those presented here.

So yes, another great document about another extinct American scene. Although, on a more upbeat note, the book closes by hinting that a few youngbloods known as the Mollusk Crew (associated with the Mollusk Surf Shop of SF, CA, but there’s even one in Williamsburg!) are currently picking up the “bohemian” torch again.

Pop Surf Culture cover art by Frank Kozik
Surfink sleeve art by --do ya really need to be told?
My Son the Surf Nut sleeve art by Rick Griffin

The Beach Boys - "Moon Dawg"
The Trashmen - "King of the Surf"
Ronnie & the Daytonas - "California Bound"
Jack Nitzche - "The Lonely Surfer"
The Ventures - "The Lonely Sea"