Thursday, January 27, 2005

Nutty Ephemera I Love, episode one

It's getting harder to find queer old greeting cards. Thrift shops don't seem to have room for paper goods anymore-the countertop baskets are all full of broken Happy Meal toys instead.

I'm glad I found a few especially odd ones back when the pickings weren't so grim. Here are two of my favorites, both from indie publishers that could afford to be inappropriate. Maybe it's a reflection on these cards' complete unsuitableness that neither one was inscribed.

The text inside this weirdo/junkie card by Nellie (Box Cards, ©1956) reads “You're Getting To Be A Habit With Me.” The little pink creep is by I.M. Vogel (Hand Print Cards), and his fishy leer makes me very a photohappy indeed.

If you like this sort of thing, there's a cool paperback called “Greetings, Dearie!” that came out in '62. It reprints some of Hallmark's more visually inventive, thematically risqué cards of the cold war era, including tasteless gags about Hitler, beatniks, drunks, revolutionaries, pornographers, loose women and everyday neurotics. I found my copy via thebook search service Bookfinder for around $10, and so can you. And if your local thrift still has a stash of old cards, peel an eye for the early '60s American Greetings line-quite a lot of them were drawn by R. Crumb. -Kim Cooper

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Charlie Tweddle - Fantastic Greatest Hits (Companion)

The oddest things keep creeping out of the reissue woodwork. Charlie Tweddle (or Eilrahc Elddewt if you will) recorded and self-released one mystifying album in 1971 and '74 respectively. Tweddle's lo-fi cosmic country sounds like it might have been beamed down from a spaceship where a particularly rollicking party had been going for a week or more. With its barnyard and cricket sounds, collapsing rhythms, old timey feel, stoned humor, long silences and tape weirdness, it's hardly surprising Fantastic Greatest Hits developed a following among the lucky nuts who stumbled upon the original LP. It's definitely got the what-the-hell-is-this factor in spades and only gets stranger as it spins. -Kim Cooper

Links: Companion Records, Tweddle's high end metaphysical cowboy hat business.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Homestead & Wolfe - Our Times (Anopheles)

When Ernie Bringas was young and worldly, he was one of the Rip Chords of “Hey Little Cobra” fame. By the early seventies, the height of the Jesus People era, he was youth minister at Good Samaritan Methodist in suburban Cupertino. Inspired by soloist JoAnne Avery's impressive vocal, arranging and songwriting talent, Bringas took some of his church singers down to Gold Star Studios in L.A., where they recorded an album of intense contemporary Christian originals accompanied by the later Wrecking Crew (including Hal Blaine, Al Casey and Byrds sideman Jaydee Maness on pedal steel). With their topical lyrics, twangy arrangements and JoAnne Avery's powerful, Karen Carpenter-esque pipes, Homestead & Wolfe exceed all expectations for a private press church band album. Pick hit: “Beat of the Drum,” a psychedelicized, harmony-drenched chant that makes Christians sound cool, which was of course the intention of these musical ministers. This reissue includes extensive interview material, vintage photos, lyrics, and funny tales of the session musicians' bemused responses to the hyper-organized Homestead & Wolfe players. More info is at

Posted by Kim Cooper

Friday, January 21, 2005

Murder Can Be Fun #19

The digest-sized zine that spawned the oft-reprinted “Death at Disneyland” feature returns after a long nap with this all-aural edition subtitled Musical Mayhem. The cover story is a grueling account of Western Swing bandleader Spade Cooley's boozy decline, culminating in the murder of his wife in front of their teenage daughter. I already knew the barest facts of this case well enough to feel squeamish stepping over his star on the Walk of Fame, but Marr's pulled so many hideous details from period newspapers that from now on I think I'll cross the street! The issue also goes into David Cassidy's disastrous 1973 UK tour, Christian anti-rock propaganda, The Band's Richard Manuel's on-tour suicide and a chilling piece on wacky trombonist Frank Rosolino and his atypical final act. MCBF can be counted on for lucid, well-researched material calibrated to please the ghoulish and make true crime reading fun again. (Available for $2 in the US, $4 overseas via US cash or IMO, from John Marr, PO Box 640111, San Francisco, CA 94164-0111.) -Kim Cooper

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Petra Haden Sings: The Who Sell Out (Bar/None)

I think it was when the guitars didn't come in three words into “Our Love Was” that I fully submitted to Haden's offbeat, all-multi-tracked-vocal reinterpretation of the Who's great pop art disc. Where the original's an amphetamine spree through quick-cut sixties London, love, jealousy, faith and advertising colliding in a spray of perfect minor-key pop and warm baked beans, Haden's scat reinvention is a more intimate, playful, feminine flipside to Townshend & Co.'s schoolboy archness. By “Relax,” the fuzzed-out mouth sounds she's making become quite passable substitutes for electric instruments, and I'm thinking I'm never gonna be able to listen to the source material quite the same way again.

And Pete's reaction? “I love it. It is exquisite." Release date: Feb 22. -Kim Cooper

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Blue Öyster Cult: Secrets Revealed! by Martin Popoff (Metal Blade)

One has to be somewhat maniacal to compile a user's guide to BÖC, but Popoff's sober, academic tone almost never falters. Originally written for his own amusement and that of fellow BÖC insider/fans, the chronological tome (largely culled from his own interviews, supplemented by citations from Circus, Creem, Trouser Press and other topical rags) offers firsthand background on every album, putting the music at center stage and only incidentally revealing band rivalries that transformed them from near unstoppable force of brainiac faux-metal to unproductive road dogs who occasionally blinker better judgment to launch a new LP. Predictably, the post-Agents of Fortune era is least compelling, though certainly analyzed at length (especially in the chapter on Sandy Pearlman's magnum opus Imaginos, a project from whence many classic Cult tunes sprung). Neither occasional lyricist Richard Meltzer nor shucked svengali Pearlman pulls their punches in critiquing the later work, but no one states the obvious: once egos blossomed and the alchemical blend of outside lyricists and internal rewrite men was abandoned, BÖC collapsed under the weight of its own pretenses. Still, as a concordance for such compelling esoterica as “She's As Beautiful As a Foot,” “Harvester of Eyes,” and “Transmaniacon MC,” Popoff's book is something of a revelation. You'll never wonder about the meaning of “ocular TB” again. -Kim Cooper

Monday, January 17, 2005

Starry Eyed And Laughing - That Was Now and This is Then double CD (Aurora)

Incongruously chiming Byrdlike fringe through the polyester London pub rock scene, SE&L honed a gorgeous if familiar sound. This release comps their two hard-to-find CBS albums, plus bonus and alternate tracks from the band archives (including a lovely, topical take on Dylan's “Chimes of Freedom,” whence their name). The self-titled debut is trad and fine throughout, with a touch of country rock tempering Tony Poole's high-powered 12-string runs and haunting road-honed harmonies. On 1975's Thought Talk, producers Flo & Eddie give the band rope enough to explore a more progressive sound, with many songs running on towards the five-minute mark and beyond. That's not necessarily a bad thing: the late singles sound like Queen meets the Raspberries! -Kim Cooper

More info

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Plush - Underfed (Drag City)

Liam “Plush” Hayes' Fed was one of the great pop treats of 2002-all marzipan orchestration and yearning vocals, its dreamlike familiar catchiness worth all the trouble the songs had caused. The story goes that Hayes just kept overdubbing the material, year after year, despite Drag City balking at the cost, finally putting it out in Japan so that hardly anyone could hear it. It's a huge leap from the vagueness of More You Becomes You, and compulsively listenable. Underfed is the skeleton of the marzipan monster, a rough mix caught by Steve Albini in '99. Loving Fed's blend of funk and mist as I do, this feels kinda sparse and sloppy, but it's still a swell piece of Rundgrenesque orchestral pop, and much easier to come by than the fully stuffed edition. -Kim Cooper

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Links to Lost Grooves

So I've been sweating over a webpage that lists all the available recordings featured in Lost in the Grooves, with links to where folks can buy them. Some of them, like Linda Perhacs and the Orgone Box and the Sex Clark 5 (to name three that aren't even listed on the new page yet), are available at the Lost in the Grooves website as MP3s. I'm only up to the Loud Family, but what the heck, it's live.

No time for a longer post today, as I'm off to interview Robert Schneider about his production of Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane over the Sea. This is the first proper interview I'll be doing for the 33 1/3 book about the album, though I've been getting some great responses to email queries from folks who played on it, or were part of the Elephant 6 community. I've got far too many questions with which to torment poor Robert, who will be jetlagged and playing an Amoeba in-store (7pm if you wanna catch it) before I begin pestering him.

Oh! if any of you are in Los Angeles tomorrow, Friday the 14th, there are two neat things happening. Around 3, Linda Ramone is unveiling a statue of Johnny (avec Mosrite) to stand sentinal near Dee Dee's grave at Hollywood Memorial Park or, if you must, Hollywood Forever. Then from 8 to 9, there's a Queen tribute band seranading the skaters at the Pershing Square outdoor rink, and I've put out a call for all glitter rockers to show up with thick socks and suitably glitzy ensembles. Pershing Square is at 5th and Olive Streets. The cost is $6 for entry, $2 for skate rentals. -Kim Cooper

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Lost in the Grooves Comes Alive

Lost in the Grooves Comes Alive
After the release of Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth, David Smay and I met up in San Francisco to talk about our next book. Naturally it would be a music anthology, but what could we ask our contributors to do that would be as fun and transgressive and unexpected as their musings on ooey gooey Banana Splits, yummy-filled tummies and Joey Levine's miraculous whine?

David reminded me that my magazine Scram, ultimately, was dedicated to celebrating neglected genius. What if our next book was a series of essays honoring records that the writers loved, and no one else liked or even noticed? That should get folks agitated on both sides of the typewriter.

Out of this concept came Lost in the Grooves: Scram's Capricious Guide to the Music You Missed , recently released by Routledge and featuring the pet discs of dozens of impassioned record geeks. And whether your tastes run to baroque chamber pop or psychedelic children's music, Eurovision stars or lo-fi outsiders, swamp rock or le cabaret Française, or all of the above, there's at least one new-to-you record in LITG with your name on it.

But it's not like the LITG gang has been in suspended animation in the months since we turned in the manuscript. These cats are relentless vinyl archeologists, with ears that crave the next unknown kick. So we're bringing the discussion to the web, with this blog. We've invited the book's essayists to chime in, plus a select group of Scram contributors, featured musicians, and fellow scribes in the cause of heralding the great neglected.

And in keeping with Scram's mandate to celebrate all branches of unpopular culture, we're opening the table to topics beyond the musical. Check in regularly to see what the contributors are obsessed with, share your comments, and we hope discover new things to love.