Time To Play B-Sides
The following is a true story, cause really who would bother to make this kind of shit up. Only my name has been changed and that was a mistake on someone else's part.
So I was sitting on the john drinking a margarita on the rocks and reading the letters to a Creem mag from 1978 (to each his own) with Johnny Rotten on the cover, while a fairly awful Blue Oyster Cult record blared in the background. The record was Fire of Unknown Origin, which is notable mainly for 'Burnin' for You' (lyrics by R. Meltzer no less) an early 80's radio hit of which I'm fond. There are a couple of other things on that record that are tolerable, like 'Veteran of the Psychic Wars', which was featured prominently in the animated film Heavy Metal (if you care), but overall it's kind of a crap record. But I had it on cause I felt like hearing 'Burnin' for You' - nuff said.

Any case, I'm getting it together on ye old slow afternoon drunk tip, cause its been that kind of day, in fact I'm already partly in my pajamas, but with the button down shirt I wore to work still in place, if a little disheveled. Tomorrow is my birthday (St. Patty's day) so I figure like your boy James Osterberg, I gotta right. And I'm very much in my own world there in the privacy of my own bathroom when suddenly there's a loud pounding on mah front door. Unfortunately this is a regular problem in my neighborhood- random people banging on your door at all hours, usually wanting to cut your front lawn- and I've learned through hard experience that they don't give up easy. So I figure I better answer, I get up slow, and yes maybe I'm a little embarrassed at the BOC blaring (but its important, to me at least, to have music for ALL occasions -weddings, parties and bongo jazz etc. never know when you might have to pull out Humble Pie at the Fillmore to illustrate some arcane point or other) and we're way past 'Burnin for You' by now anyway so I take the BOC off first then go look through the peephole.

It's this odd, but not unlikable, older fellow from across the street who unfortunately saw me toting an amplifier to my car a couple of weeks past and ended up talking me into selling my band's c.d.s at this stand he runs downtown that specializes in Austin music. I say unfortunately cause I tend to dread conversations about music with strangers, especially older rock n' roll types, you might have noticed I'm pretty opinionated, and though I get what they are talking almost too well, I'm pretty sure they don't get me, or they won't once they find out what kind of music I make. The most recent live review of my band said that we "increased the wussiness factor tenfold" or some such nonsense, we certainly aren't twee but its pretty fucking far from macho rock too (and anyway the writer in question was more interested in promoting the wife of a "famous" independent record label owner of the 90's who was also on the bill, but that's neither here nor there, as long as we know the score on how these things work, and we do).
So back to our story, the damage is already done and I figure this guy is flakey enough that I don't mind talking to him half drunk in my pajamas so I open up the door. He greets me with something like "Hi Craig!" Seems he has problems with both his vision and his hearing, I knew this before the confusion over my name, because he volunteered this information in one of our first conversations. When people tell you about their physical ailments and shortcomings in initial conversations it's usually a red flag, but this guy is older like I said and so I figure its just par for the course. I ain't getting any younger myself, a fact driven home by my recent inability to stay warm when temperatures dip below 50 Fahrenheit, so I would be more than a little hypocritical not to cut my elders a break. Anyway he's dropping off paperwork for the c.d.'s; it's a business arrangement, a goddamn contract no less. I let him know my name's not Craig and he's a little embarrassed and apologizes offering "too many Led Zeppelin concerts" by way of explanation. Indeed. I look over the paperwork on which he's got me down as Craig Williams. So I politely tell him I will make corrections and drop the stuff off in his mailbox tomorrow.

Back to my drink, the Creem mag and some early ZZ Top records, I am swearing by Tres Hombres these days, but really every thing pre El Loco has its moments, though only on vinyl, somebody actually added synthetic drums to the c.d. versions of all the early ZZ Top records, plain awful I tell ya. How do decisions like that get made? I feel so out of the loop. "Oh demon alcohol sad memories I can't recall"- actually my memory from as far back as I can remember (heh) has always been for shit, the bit about alcohol, as the quotations probably cued you in, is just a lyric from a great Kink's song called, appropriately enough, "Alcohol", you can find it on their Muswell Hillbillies album, which has lots of other beautiful tings on it like "20th Century Man", "Here Come the People in Grey" and "Oklahoma U.S.A."

Speaking of Creem, this cat on the internet has bought the copyrights to the name and is trying to resurrect the beast, which might sound like a good idea for maybe a nanosecond, but really and truly its not. Because obviously its not gonna work, especially with the apparent 'lets resurrect the real Detroit rock' kind of attitude they are carrying. Times have changed. It will be about as convincing and fun as these modern bands that try to look and play like hard rock bands from the 70's, plus the Creem I remember most fondly (late 70's early 80's) was as committed to new music as to any kind of hard rocking aesthetic. It did its work and now it's gone, lets leave it that way and not soil the memories.
Now something I would recommend looking out for is Lalo Schifrin's soundtrack to Dirty Harry, which has been reissued on c.d.. The movie itself is dumb early 70's fun, featuring a patently ridiculous vigilante cop incensed over the straight-jacketing placed on him by mollycoddling liberals and their silly concerns for such things as protection from illegal searches, police harassment, and being innocent till proven guilty in a court of law, you know individual civil liberties and the right to not be blown away by a cop working off a hunch and a bad day. Some have gone so far as to call the movie fascist, and there might be a case for that, if you take it seriously, which some probably do. America's a scary place. Anyway even if it was birthed as right wing reactionary propaganda it transcended itself into art of the comic book variety (which is a compliment!), and the drum heavy psych-funk soundtrack by Schifrin kills on any day.

Another piece of propaganda turned art, this time of the communist variety, is Soy Cuba, a joint Russian/Cuban collaboration from 1964. Directed by Mikhail Kalatozov the movie features 4 b&w vignettes meant to illustrate the oppression in Batista Cuba and how the people's hopelessness is slowly replaced by the will to fight via the coming revolution. Despite the heavy handedness, it's actually pretty tasteful in the way it focuses on the importance of the people and not Fidel, and some of the more kitschy elements, like the over the top portrayal of Americans by Russian actors, just adds to the fun. But my god the look of the movie and the movement of the camera is a godly thing- some of the most beautiful cinematography you could ever hope to see, watch that camera and try to figure how they did it.

Ok folks I gotta skedaddle I got a lot of important things to do. What? a guy like me without important things to do (old Steve Martin bit)? But there's more in the pipeline on such far flung topics as the genius of the Bonzo Dog Band, Tom DiCillo's Johnny Suede and the strange rockabilly motifs in films of the early 1990's, ESP disk obscurities, why the Dictators are way overrated and the Ramones still rule, especially Pleasant Dreams their neglected bubblegum masterpiece, and a think piece on why some British bands are so highly valued in America but not in their home land and vice versa. Really there's so many things I'd like to talk about that I think are the bees knees let me just list some; anything by Lee Dorsey, Lena Horne's version of "Love for Sale", SCTV on DVD, the Wiper's Youth of America LP, Truffaut's Fahrenheit 451, The Girl Can't Help It, the Misfits' Static Age c.d., the song "Launderette" by Vivienne Goldman, Panorama by the Cars, the song "Come Tomorrow" by Townes Van Zandt, Lester Young reclining in a sadness beyond resignation on "These Foolish Things", the genius of Fatlip, Ken Nordine's voice, building fires in my backyard and Gabor Zsabo's Gypsy 66 album on the Impulse label.

Ok seriously I gotta go, I got a book I need to burn. House of Leaves, a real piece of shit that came my way a while back, I cracked it a week back and its so bad its just got to be cleansed by fire. So till we meet again - don't take any wooden nickels and if you do name 'em after me.

© 2005 William Crain