Frank Gutch Jr: Zineville: The Words Behind the Music…..

FrankJr2Hear me when I tell you that No Small Children is a force with which to be reckoned (that’s literary speak for “force to be reckoned with”, sports fans).  Solid music, good vids and a dedication to doing music the way they want, and they’re schoolteachers by day!  I mean, I had my fantasies about my teachers, but if they had played in a band?!!!  I don’t know if I would have made it through.  This time around, they pull a handful of punches aimed at old music vids and have me rolling on the floor laughing.  I would tell you that they are, but why should I? You have a mouse and (hopefully) a hand with which to operate it.  Click on the video below and treat yourself.

For my money, these ladies are one of the best things going in music today.  If they sold stock, I would sell my house to buy it.  Ladies and Gentlemen, if you haven’t already seen this, I invite you into the world of Drunk Creepy Guy.  This is what is known as a little truth in every joke:

And before we get into those wonderful, wacky magazines and, later, fanzines which had so little power in the music industry yet so much ptocameronhouseinfluenced the fans, I have good news to tell the denizens of Toronto:  Picture the Ocean will once again grace the halls of Cameron House with a residency, which I think means that they will be playing there each Monday for the next few Mondays.  Well, October 14, 21 and 28.  Which makes me wish I lived there because PTO released a self-titled album which impressed me enough to name it my Album of the Year for 2012.  Since then, they have been traveling the North, following caribou herds, robbing banks and getting married (No, the whole band didn’t get married but after that album, I would not have said anything if they had)— basically honing down the act before their next assault on the recording studio, right after the first of the year.  The reason that I mention it here is because Toronto now has the chance to see and hear what I’ve been seeing and hearing for well over a year— a tight-but-in-a-loose-way band with a depth of talent you cannot help but appreciate after the fifth or sixth song (or the third or fourth beer).  They are, thank the gods, neither Americana nor hipster, but straight rock with numerous twists.  Their strength is in their songs and in their stage presence and in their humility.

When I saw them at the Alberta Street Pub in Portland, Oregon last summer, they were only three.  For this trip, they have added bassist Shari Rae who, in the publicity photos for the upcoming tour, looks downright badass.  That’s three Mondays in a row, Toronto.  If you can’t make one of them, you flat out aren’t trying.  And you will never know what you missed.

Zineville:  A Very Informal Look at Music Mags…..

rollingstonemansonROLLING STONE—  I will bet that close to 100% of the Baby Boomers would point to Rolling Stone if asked what they thought was the most influential magazine related to rock music and they would be partly right.  RS hit the market at a perfect time, a time of political unrest among the young, soon to be labeled by RS as “the counterculture”.  It would grow into an international phenomenon over the next number of years before going GQ on all of us, articles of substance sandwiched between ads for clients like Calvin Klein and hawkers of perfume and body wash which soon dominated not only the pages but the direction of the zine.  I stopped reading RS around ’74, tiring of articles and interviews with the same lame stars they had been covering since inception.  Every once in awhile, the magazine would publish something of real worth, but more and more they keyed on fashion and politics rather than music.  But when they started…..

When they started, they were a godsend to music freaks on the West Coast.  From their first issue (Nov. ’74), they raised the bar of music zines by covering local and regional as well as international acts.  That first issue featured The Monterey Pop Festival, a natural for connecting with music of an international scale.  The zine was miniscule by today’s standards, a handful of pages printed on newsprint with no color, but it was gargantuan in impact.  Subsequent issues grew not only in size but in content, the zine not content with just covering local concerts and shows but that growing counterculture previously mentioned.

Ralph_J_GleasonWhile Jann Wenner was the driving force, credibility was courtesy of co-founder Ralph J. Gleason, a journalist who wrote at the time for the San Francisco Chronicle as well as the very respectable Downbeat Magazine.  It was Gleason who keyed on the counterculture, who had the vision of RS as a spearhead of social change which solidified the magazine’s place with the young.  Maybe music was the common denominator but the changing society was the catalyst.  In its infancy, RS reflected the voice of the young in that transformation.  Later, the magazine would hire writers the likes of Hunter S. Thompson and Jon Landau and Lester Bangs and Ben Fong-Torres, to name only a few, and those would become the names that later generations would point to when talking of the zine, but without Gleason, those names might not have even been there.

Gleason wrote a column he titled “Perspectives” in the early issues which were the real soul of the zine.  He asked the questions where are we going and how do we get there and constantly looked back to make us look at the paths taken.  He had a real hope that the counterculture could make serious inroads toward making the government and society as a whole more transparent and more responsible.  Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?  And we still don’t get it.

Yes, RS had a huge impact on music and society, mainly because they had an impact on the young.  They were rock music’s base.  They were the future.  When RS stopped looking into the future, they became yet another formula mainstream mag.  I don’t know if that coincided with Gleason’s death in June of 1975, but it seemed like it to me.  I think the mag had already started its decline by that time, though.  At a time when supposed hippies became, to the mainstream press, consumers.

crawdaddylightfootCRAWDADDY!—  Not that long ago, when I heard that Paul Williams had died, I took some time to leaf through the few issues of Crawdaddy magazine I still have in my collection. Shocked by the relevance to the music in each issue, I had to wonder why it was that the zine wasn’t looked upon with the reverence of RS, because it never was— by the mainstream.  I suppose you could call Crawdaddy the first real fanzine, the real difference being that fanzines were started and maintained by the people who loved the music and its correlating scene as opposed to just writing about it.

The truth was, and it is a truth few outside the circle of music and zine fanatics realize, that Williams started the zine before RS and Creem, two of the early heavyweights.  This zine more than others was the template upon which fanzines were going to be built, though it was neither recognized nor even thought about at the time.  Its existence could be summarized in a partial statement published in Issue No. 1— “the specialty of this magazine is intelligent writing about pop music.”  While they would delve into subjects outside of music— film, politics, fashion, etc.— music remained the core of the zine throughout its existence.  At least, while Williams was in charge.

I came late to Crawdaddy!.  I discovered it in 1974 thanks to a move to Los Angeles from Eugene, Oregon and a music scene covered from bottom to top.  Whereas the zine was hard to find in Oregon outside of the largest of the stores, in L.A. you found it everywhere.  All of my friends read this zine first.  Of course, most of Los Angeles read RS.  The schism between cultures was growing.

boyhowdyCREEM—  I used to read Creem all the time, but I never bought a copy.  I didn’t have to.  I had friends who grabbed the new issues the day they hit the shelves and I only had to wait a day before they would hand it to me for a read, always with the proviso that it be returned.  I had a buddy who had a few boxes of old issues that I would pull out and look through.  The people whom put the zine together were usually cutting edge in their choices, picking the edgier artists to feature— the Twisted Sisters and the Iggy Pops— while also covering the mainstream.  I think it made for better covers or something.  The mag always had the cream of the crop when it came to writers (which could mean that they paid), so it was no surprise that they got blanket coverage in magazine and record stores.

Weird thing, though.  For all the zines I’ve read over the years, the only real memory I have of Creem is Boy Howdy, created for the zine by famed illustrator R. Crumb.  The one pic I can’t find is the weird Mortimer Snerd-looking dude planting the ice cream cone in the middle of his forehead.  I loved that pic, but this graphic will give you an idea.

fusionmagFUSION—  I locked onto Fusion because it was out of the East Coast (Boston) and I always had trouble getting information on bands east of the Mississippi.  What I found was that it had more of a soft view of life outside of music— politics, think pieces, the occasional historical slant on music— and I enjoyed it immensely.  So much so that I sent reviews to them on speculation and had a few published.  They were always in a section called “Not Overlook”, which is a fancy way of saying these albums aren’t new and hot which was fine because I wrote about what I liked and they were mostly not new and hot.  The first piece they published was my review of Cargoe‘s self-titled album, the album released just before Big Star‘s #1 Record on Ardent.  I didn’t find out that they had published it until I received some promos of Big Star‘s Radio City and a new Hot Dogs album with a note thanking me for being the first writer to place a review of Cargoe in a national magazine.  To my surprise, not long after, they published reviews of Magma‘s Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh and Capability Brown‘s two albums.  Also, to my surprise, Barry Glovsky, Fusion‘s publisher, contacted me not too long ago and we have established a loose friendship based on the magazine’s early days.

kicks-4KICKS—  I have no idea how Billy Miller and Miriam Linna and I met, but we did and I ended up writing a piece on Pac NW rock for their then brand spanking new zine, Kicks.  Miller and Linna both had musical backgrounds and continued playing, but other ventures slowly took over their lives and we now know them as the founders of New York’s Norton Records, a label and distributor of amazing substance.  What they have done we call “building an empire”, for empire it is, various labels under their wing reissuing music which to their ears needed reissuing.  Their fascination for the fifties and sixties continues to this day and their catalog of at one time super-collectible items grows as I type, one of the latest being a couple of doo-wop collections put together in the tradition of Relic Records, who prided themselves on uncovering gems left for dead by people who loved the music but were somehow forced to leave it behind or maybe just forgot what they had in the vaults.

Kicks didn’t last all that long— what?  Eight?  Ten issues?  Out of the magazine came Norton Records and a business which grew so fast that the magazine was left behind and the rest, as they say, is history.    One thing I do remember about the piece I wrote for them was that they inserted a picture of Paul Revere & The Raiders, the only known group shot which included both Drake Levin and Jim Valley.  Of course, the way things are today, they could easily have uncovered a few dozen others by now.

What I loved about this zine was that they were true to their roots.  Lots of Vince Taylor and Gene Vincent and other fifties rock ‘n’ rollers (including the until then forgotten Esquerita) and sixties new wave and punksters from the sixties (think Flamin’ Groovies and the new wave scene out of NYC).

zigzagZIG ZAG—  There was a time that I almost completely gave up domestic releases for imports.  It didn’t take much.  I walked into Music Millennium in Portland, Oregon and that was it.  Bee-you-tee-full English and European pressings, bands I’d neither heard nor heard of, Kraut Rock, Eye-tal-ian rock— everything I had ever dreamed of under one roof.  They used to import Zig Zag, but I could never find one there.  No matter how many they imported, they were always sold out by the time I made it through their doors.

 It wasn’t until I moved to Los Angeles that I finally got my hands on a copy.  I mean, I’d heard about the zine from friends— how they covered the UK scene better than anyone right down to “family trees” which followed members of bands through their careers.  The first I ever saw was a double page spread locking down what I assume was the scene in Wales in the early- to mid-seventies, including bands such as Man, Help Yourself, Ducks Deluxe, and Brinsley Schwarz.  It was a thing of beauty and a forerunner of so many more.

Pete Frame was the genius behind the “trees” and later turned those linear histories into books.  It is fascinating, the lineups and the lineup changes— who played in which band and where they went right after.  I ate it up.

The zine itself fluctuated per issue, many of them keying on US music as well as European.  Bands such as Quicksilver Messenger Service and Family and Jackie Lomax and even Elektra RecordsJac Holzman were given spreads worthy of superstars, which made the zine very much sought after in the States.  There was at least a five part rundown on The Byrds and full articles on artists such as Ben Sidran, Richard Greene, Bees Make Honey, John Stewart, and Captain Beefheart, among a few hundred others.  It was the best of the best when it came to depth.  I miss this zine.

But the zine I miss most, Toto, is….

WHO PUT THE BOMP—

GregShawOf all the music magazines I have ever read, Who Put the Bomp (later, shortened to BOMP) struck the deepest.  It was the brainchild of Greg Shaw a geek music kid who had an earlier go at a music zine with the rough though excellent Mojo Navigator.  Shaw was young and was feeling his way like a blind kid in those days.  By the time he put BOMP together, he had learned, and with each issue the zine got better.

Shaw was a pop freak of the first order, see, and he went out of his way to cover the genre.  Not mainstream pop, though he loved that too if it was good.  His specialty as he progressed was the odd stuff.  The good stuff.  The music which the major labels hesitated to record or at which they even scoffed.  And Shaw, with help from his friends, found shitloads of it.  Some of it was lost, some of it ignored, some of it buried after initial success.   Didn’t matter to Shaw if it was #1 or only sold twenty copies to friends and relatives, if the music was to his liking, he was all over it.

He had a problem, though.  As my mother used to say, his eyes were bigger than his stomach.  He wanted everything— family trees, complete discographies of labels and artists, reviews.  He wanted behind the scenes stories to fit in with the press releases to separate truth from fiction.  He wanted to cover albums and singles in depth and he wanted to be able to also look into the future.  Music just plain meant that much to him.

Page 01.jpgAt a certain point, he dabbled in records, releasing artists on his own label, BOMP Records.  He found a band called The Romantics that he liked enough to send to Bob Segarini to cut a demo.  He wrote for other magazines when he found the time and published contributions from friends and colleagues like Ken Barnes and Alan Betrock, among others.

Oh, how I reveled in each issue, each based on its own theme:  Girl groups, surf and beach music, Brit pop…..  The entire issue, of course, would not be dedicated completely to the theme, but enough to make it seem so.  He even went so far as to break his articles up by city— Chicago, Los Angeles, New York.  My head spins just thinking about all Shaw accomplished in his all too short lifetime.

To Shaw, I owe my passion for the oddities of music.  He showed me that bands of real worth lived beneath the surface of the major label pool.  He pointed out to me the value of discographies, the importance of studying regions and labels, the tenacity needed to collect records wisely and for the music’ sake.

BOMP still sells records as well as merchandise from themselves and other labels.  I assume that Shaw’s wife Suzy is involved.  Last contact I had with her, she was running the BOMP warehouse, so the legacy lives on, even without the zine.  You can access the site through this page.  Look around.  They have some pretty cool stuff, some of it original.  I also recommend the book:  BOMP: Saving the World One Record at a Time.  A second volume is in the works and should be ready soon:  BOMP: Born In the Garage.

There were other zines out there— Bay Area Music (BAM), Rock, Trouser Press, Phonograph Record Magazine.  Lots more.  This was not intended to be a real history of zines, just a remembrance of zines which I loved and read over the years.  I mean, I could have told you about the issue of Tiger Beat in my collection (it has a short profile of Glass Harp) or the many issues of Seattle’s legendary magazine, The Rocket.  Maybe I will get to them some time in the future.  The Rocket would entail an issue by itself, or maybe two or three because that venerable zine covered many years of Seattle music history.  We’ll see.

For now that will do, though, for there are other things to spend time on, such as

Music Notes smallNotes…..  Here is a new video from Devon Sproule & Mike O’Neill, very short but encompassing so much of who Sproule is.  I have been following her for years and am downright astonished the directions music has taken her.  Consider this another turn in a fascinating musical journey.

I can be such a putz.  A couple of columns ago, I inadvertently left out a video of No Small Children and my conscience has been beating the crap out of me ever since.  You all should know by now that I love these ladies and anxiously await anything they have to offer musically.  I mean, they know how to play and the songs they record are right in my wheelhouse, but I am amazed at the support they get from so many different sources.  I have tried to find the words and I overuse the one which fits, which is cool.  What makes them cool is the way they do it.  They’re having fun!  So am I.  So can you, too.  Start with this video, backtrack to another on Youtube under the title “Might Get Up Slow”, then head to their Bandcamp page to listen to some rock, NSC-style.  Ready?  Go!

Nashville’s Kink Ador is still going strong, having recently announced an EP Release show at The Basement in Nashville on October 26th.  I have been following them for a few years now and can attest to their talent and uniqueness (or would that be uniquosity?).  They are freaky good and if you’re in Nashville on that date but not at The Basement, you lose out.  Here is the first video I ever saw of them from 2009.  They have changed personnel since then but the bass player, Sharon Koltick, is still there and they rock as hard as ever.

Things are happening down under as well.  Planting Seeds Records just announced the release of The Lovetones‘ outstanding Lost album in the U.S. on limited edition VINYL, no less!  The ‘Tones are waist deep in folk/psych, living off of vocals and harmonies reminiscent of the amazing Winterpills on their Tuxedo of Ashes EP.  If you haven’t heard the Tuxedo EP, give yourself a real treat and stream it here.  And if you want a taste of Lost, click here.  I love this stuff when it’s done right and both of these bands do it right and a half!

Just this past week, I received a message from one of my favorite singer/songwriters in the whole world, Audrey Martells.  She is also one of my favorite people.  She sent a link to a video recorded at The Bitter End recently featuring herself and some of the “next generation”, a double-barrel shot of talent.  Before you watch this, let me tell you about how we “met” (the apostrophes because we have not physically done so).  When I first started writing about music again, back around 2005 or 2006, I received an email asking me to review her new album.  It was hand-written and personal and so honest and sincere, I could not say no.  That album turned out to be one of my real treasures— life lines.  She put it together with a NY musician/producer named Mattias Gustafsson over a period of time and marketed it herself, something which is hard enough to do today but was even harder back then.  I gave it the review it deserved, which is to say glowing.  I came to find out in later years that she was the voice and sometimes song/jinglewriter behind numerous commercials and a background voice on many a recording stars’ albums.  We have remained in touch ever since, touching base whenever the situation warrants it, so when I got this latest message, I clicked on the link to the video without delay.  It isn’t short (it clocks around 15:00) and there is talking (you can learn so much about people from the way they handle themselves onstage) but trust me when I say that this clip shows the Audrey I have created in my head— singer, songwriter, mother (she does a duet with son Nile Bullock, who is quite the talented lad, himself) and a human being of immense worth.  Clips like this show you the person behind the talent.  Live at the Bitter End, Audrey Martells!  No embed code that I can find, but click here.  It will take you right there…..

eriniveyTexas musician Erin Ivey plugged in to the meowcon.com website last week and say a graphic she says she just can’t get her head around:  “Only 34 of the 287 acts or artists inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame include women.”  When I responded with the statistics showing a horrendously low percentage of women booked at last year’s Coachella, she had trouble with that too.  She asked if that meant that the people who booked Coachella didn’t think that that women artists could pull the crowds.  I’m asking the same question, though I’m thinking that to hit the extremely low percentage playing the festival this last year (barely over ten percent) they would have had to gone out of their way for such lopsided booking numbers.  I think the women artists are not the only ones who should bitch.  Music fans should too.  Everywhere I look, especially amongst the Indies, I see huge numbers of extremely talented women musicians.  Outstanding musicians.  To actively or even passively ignore the talent based on gender is misogyny, sports fans and bookers.  You can find the definition of the word online.  If you can’t, let me know.  I will find it for you.  And thanks for the heads up, Erin.  Digging your Dreamy Weather album.  Good stuff…..

el angelThey tell me that you always place the best first or last so I’ve saved this to finish the column.  Rick Maddocks just sent me an email regarding a new project he is involved with known as Sun Belt.  Rick, for those who don’t know, was the main man behind BC group The Beige a few years ago.  That band’s El Angel Exterminador album is one of the most creative albums I’ve ever heard.  Sun Belt just spent time in Tucson recording an album and they need your help to pay off the debt.  They arebn’t asking for money without recompense.  They are offering what they call perks.  Anyone interested in checking them out can click here to see what they have to offer.  One thing I know about Rick:  whatever he’s involved with is neither mainstream nor boring.  I personally am quite anxious to hear what they come up with.

=FGJ=

Frank’s column appears every Tuesday

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

DBAWIS ButtonFrank Gutch Jr. looks like Cary Grant, writes like Hemingway and smells like Pepe Le Pew. He has been thrown out of more hotels than Keith Moon, is only slightly less pompous than Garth Brooks and at one time got laid at least once a year (one year in a row). He has written for various publications, all of which have threatened to sue if mentioned in any of his columns, and takes pride in the fact that he has never been quoted. Read at your own peril.”

 

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