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