I AM A MEDIA MAXI-PAD ABSORBING THE CONTINUAL FLOW OF POP CULTURE.

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Monday, April 23, 2018

Punk at 45 RPMs

Soul Jazz Records' "PUNK 45" Series
PUNK 45 Vol. 7 - Les Punks: The First Wave of French Punk 1977-1980

The only pride I take in my underwhelming career as a lowly public servant at a large urban library is in curating our pop music collection with worthy Jukebox Heroes. To wit, that means ordering anything and everything put out by Soul Jazz Records, the UK independent record label dedicated to the herculean task of documenting "the sounds of the universe."

Lately I've been listening obsessively to French rock 'n' roll - yes, that is NOT an oxymoron! - specifically, a Soul Jazz compilation called Les Punks: The French Connection - The First Wave of French Punk 1977-1980


PUNK 45: Les Punks: The French Connection - The First Wave of French Punk 1977-1980 (Soul Jazz Records, 2017)

This the latest entry (Volume 7 by my count) in Soul Jazz's PUNK 45 series, which documents assorted punk singles (many previously only available on vinyl) from around the world, though mostly by American punk and proto-punk groups. Les Punks follows on the heels of the previous PUNK 45 releases Kill the Hippies (Volume 1: USA Punk), There Is No Such Thing As Society (Volume 2: UK punk and post-punk), Sick On You! One Way Spit! (Volume 3: US proto-punk), Burn, Rubber City, Burn!(Volume 4: Akron, Ohio punk), Extermination Nights in the Sixth City (Volume 5: Cleveland, Ohio punk), and Chaos in the City of Angels and Devils (Volume 6: Los Angeles punk).

PUNK 45: Charting the forgotten corners of punk rock, one 7-inch record at a time


(Although this title and others in the series are available as LPs and MP3 digital albums, this review looks only at CD format releases, as this is the lingua franca of the Non-Hipster Modern World for us Baby Boomers - at least for now.).

PUNK 45 is an invaluable resource, collecting and digitizing songs otherwise lost in the record bins, as many of these bands either never released a long-player or disbanded into obscurity after a sole single or EP. Or as Louis Pattison observed in his Pitchfork review:


Soul Jazz’s Punk 45 series has made it its mission to chart the forgotten corners of punk rock, one seven-inch record at a time, training its magnifying glass on the obscure groups or regional scenes that familiar histories overlook. In particular, its more localized iterations suggest that how punk sounded depended very much on where its seeds fell. 

Indeed, Les Punks' accompanying 44-page booklet (another invaluable resource, with liner notes by S. Baker and interviews with major players like Marc Zermati of Skydog Records, Michel Esteban of Harry Cover/Rock News and Ze Records, Patrick Eudeline of Asphalt Jungle and Eric Debris of Metal Urbain) argues how punk in France "emerged out of the country’s history of rebellion and revolution" (from Serge Gainsbourg to the Paris ‘68 riots) and even how the seeds of its artistic and intellectual ideas (Dadaism, Surrealism, Rimbaud, Voltaire, et al) influenced punk's eventual emergence in New York and London.

"Parlez-vous anarchy?": Johnny Rotten goes Continental in Paris, September 1976

The Sex Pistols (whose manager Malcolm McLaren clearly learned a thing or two from the French Situationists) played in Paris in September 1976 and while that no doubt inspired a number of groups to emerge from their garetts to "dare it," bands like Marie et les Garcons ("Rien a Dire," "A Bout de Souffle"), Dogs (whose "Here Comes My Baby" sounds like a perfect Rezillos retro-rocker), Angel Face ("Wolf City Blues"), Les Olivensteins ("Euthanasie"), and Fantomes (here presenting a pretty straight-forward cover of "I Wanna Be Your Dog" - in English, no less) were already wearing the influences of the Velvet Underground, New York Dolls, Johnny Thunder's Heartbreakers and especially Iggy's Stooges on their French-cuffed sleeves.

This was due in no small part thanks to Marc Zermati's Skydog Records; founded in 1972, the label was one of the first independent record labels of its time (preceding Stiff, Chiswick, and Greg Shaw's Bomp! by three years) and was responsible for releasing the Stooges' legendary live LP Metallic K.O. (which documented the Stooges' last-ever show at Detroit's Michigan Palace), as well as important records by the MC5, Flamin' Groovies, and Johnny Thunders, while Zermati himself organized the first-ever European punk festival in Mont-de-Marzon in August 1976. Small wonder that eight of the 19 tracks collected here are sung in English. After all, as Marc Zermati observed, "If you sing in French, you reach a Belgian guy or a Swiss guy. In Africa, they don't care."


Marc Zermati's influential Skydog Records, founded in 1972

Iggy and the Stooges - "Metallic K.O." (Skydog Records, 1976)


Zermati recorded practically every punk band of the time (often under pseudonyms, in case a group was signed or planning to sign with a major label), but never released an full-length album - 7-inch singles and compilations were Skydog's modus operandi. As S. Baker writes in Les Punks liner notes, "The label's French punk releases captured a moment in time and place similar to that of, say, Dangerhouse in Los Angeles, or Factory in Manchester, Clone in Akron, Ohio, or Postcard in Scotland." That's elite company, indeed.

Despite Skydog's efforts, Punk Francaise was pretty much lost in translation across the channel and the Atlantic (where the Village Voice critic Robert Christgau famously quipped "Somebody tell Claude Bessy zat zere is no such thing as French rock and roll!"), unless your name was Plastic Bertrand (aka Roger Jouret, who wasn't even French - he was a native Brussels Sprout! And Bertrand not only wasn't French, but he didn't even sing his hit - later admitting that his producer Lou Deprijck sang as Bertrand in exchange for a cut of the royalties, making Jouret the Milli Vanilli of Punk!) Bertrand's hit "Ca Plane Pour Moi" inspired countless cover versions and prodded the major labels to try and land more Continental punks; Polydor quickly signed up the Stinky Toys (whose September 1977 single "Boozy Creed" was perhaps the first non-English punk record) and Guilty Razors, but they turned out to be commercial failures.

Guilty Razors - "I Don't Wanna Be A Rich" EP (Polydor, 1978)

Guilty as Charged

Which is too bad, because the Guilty Razors - represented here by two of the three songs ("I Don't Wanna Be a Rich," "Hurts and Noises") from their 1978 Polydor guillotine-sleeve EP (which was pressed but never released to the masses after Polydor got cold feet over the group's violent reputation and behavior) - sound pretty good. Though only a few copies of the (indefinite article-challenged) "I Don't Wanna Be a Rich" single that were sent to journalists for review were saved from being pulped, pirated audio tapes soon spread the word to avid collectors and bootleggers and created an underground buzz about the band.

Les garcons mal: Guilty Razors. Note the "Provocate" shirt, advertising a song from their 1978 EP.


Guilty Razors acting au so contraire

Guilty Razors didn't want to be "a rich" and thanks to their record label shelving their EP, they were'nt. A similar fate kept the full-length album they recorded for Polydor in 1978 from seeing the light of day until 2006, when Seventeen Records CEO Steve Hoffman tracked down the tapes from the surviving members of the group (singer Tristam Nada and bassist Jose Perez - R.I.P. guitarists Carlos Perez and Jano Homicid), as he considers them "probably the best punk rock band that ever existed." On his Music Forums page, Hoffman waxes:
They were more dangerous than Sid Vicious or the most hardened skinheads : they would threaten punters with knifes in front of gigs, in order to steal their wallets, and would smash their way to any party, drinking and eating anything they could find, including the ladies. Stories of stolen motorbikes from their own audience, trashing pop singers at parties etc abound, and are legendary. Some of them are true, other false, but you get the picture...

Guilty Razors were famously associated with The Slits - frontman Tristam Nada had a "love/hate" relationship with young singer Ari Up (whose mom Nora later married John Lydon) - who were in the studio when the Razors were recording "I Don't Wanna Be a Rich." (Hmm...I wonder if that's Ari's voice introducing "I Don't Wanna Be a Rich"?)

Slits singer Ari Up

Never mind les bollocks, here's the Guilty Razors playing "I Don't Wanna Be a Rich":




And here's the photogenic band lip-synching to "I Don't Wanna Be a Rich" on French television:





Though the French TV presenter above name-checks the Sex Pistols, to me Guilty Razors sound like they were more influenced by The Damned. They delivered short, fast and furious songs and "Hurts and Noises" even opens with a stolen riff (or is it a knowing loan) from the Damned's "New Rose."






Fight the Power: Paris Calling

Guilty Razors were also friends with Metal Urbain and played most of their gigs with them. The synth- and drum-machine propelled Metal Urbain stood out from the field, holding the distinction of being the first group to sign to - and release a single on - Rough Trade Records (1976's French Resistance homage "Paris Maquis"). Influenced in equal parts by the gnarly guitars of the Clash and Sex Pistols and the grating industrial noise of Lou Reed's experimental Metal Machine Music, they dispensed with the traditional bass-and-drums rhythm section in favor of an EMS synth-and-Linn drum machine base to create a unique electro-punk sound. They were post-punk before it was even a genre.


Metal Urbain - "Paris Maquis" b/w "Cle de Conact" (Rough Trade RT 001, 1977)

Watch Metal Urbain lip-synch "Paris Maquis" on French television:




And here's a clip of the band performing their first single, 1977's "Panik" on French television:





Metal Urbain were, briefly, the exception to the rule of not finding success across the Channel. "Ground-breaking, subversive, challenging and controversial - and perversely more commercially appealing than Stinky Toys, especially in the UK, even though they sang in French," was how S. Baker described their appeal. "Panik" was even named "Single of the Week" by New Musical Express in 1977.

The Dangerous Minds blog picks up the story of Metal Urbain in their "Anarchy in Paris" review:
Métal Urbain were Francophone contemporaries of the Sex Pistols and The Clash. Formed in 1976 by Clode Panik, Hermann Schwartz, Pat Luger and Eric Debris, the French punk rock group’s harsh and noisy sound replaced the rhythm section with a synthesizer and drum machine. Sonically, they came across as aggressive—if not more so—as their English or American counterparts with the exception of maybe Suicide or The Screamers. Lead singer Clode Panik sounds a bit like a French version of The Fall’s Mark E. Smith. 
The group’s second single, “Paris Maquis” was Rough Trade’s very first record release and John Peel showed his support on his BBC 1 Radio show, going so far as to record a “Peel Session” with them. Sadly they never really made it and broke up in 1979 as there was no appreciable French punk scene to begin with and the media in their home country just couldn’t be bothered with them. Métal Urbain’s distinctively raw guitar sound is said to have had an influence on Big Black’s Steve Albini and The Jesus and Mary Chain.

Listen to Metal Urbain's 1978 "Peel Session."






Metal Urbain later renamed themselves les Metal Boys and (later still) Dr. Mix and the Remix, continuing to tour and record into the early '80s until guitar-playing brothers Jean-Louis Boulanger (Hermann Schwartz) and Patrick Boulanger (Pat Luger) left to form Desperados. Metal Boys strike me as having a similar aesthetic to the John Foxx-era Ultravox (circa the Systems of Romance LP).

Listen to Metal Boys play their 1979 Rough Trade single "Sweet Marilyn":






Happiness is a Warm Gun

But while Guilty Razors and Metal Urbain may be the marquee names of this collection, for me the standout French punk outfit here is Warm Gun (formerly known as Bitch or Bitches). This Parisian quartet (energetic vocalist Paul Ersatz, guitarists Philippe K and Thierry Dioniso, and drummer "Patrick") released a lone four-song EP on Isadora Records in June 1977 (produced by Paul Pechenaert, ex-Les Dogs), from which Les Punks samples "Broken Windows"...





...but for my money this EP is the stuff of legend, a spiritual brother-in-arms to Buzzcocks' DIY classic Spiral Scratch.

Warm Gun EP cover sleeve (Isadora, ISE-110, June 1977)


Warm Gun EP, back cover


In "Broken Windows," Ersatz sings (in heavily accented English), "I would quit your boring jobs/That's just a threat from me to you...You wanna tell me about your pent-up frustrations/You wanna tell me I belong to the Blank Generation...Smashing windows, having lots of fun/Breaking glass, and watch us run/Smashing windows, don't need no gun/Breaking glass and a run run run."

I had previously only ever heard their "Crapy Hands" (aka "Crappy Hands"), but it was the stand-out track (and the only one not by a New York or London band) on a vinyl-only RCA Italian import 12-inch called Punk Collection.

Punk Collection (RCA, 1977)


Listen to Warm Gun play "Crapy Hands":





Though heavily influenced by the usual suspects (New York Dolls, Velvet Underground, Stooges), Warm Gun's embrace of melody sets them apart - they had a very commercial pop-punk sound and a charmingly charismatic singer.

The other outstanding punk bands gathered here are Marie et Les Garcons, Electric Callas, Dogs, Asphalt Jungle, 84 Flesh and A3 Dans les WC.

Tous les Garcons et la Fille

Marie et Les Garcons debut double A-side single was so strong that both tunes are reprised here: "Rien a Dire" (literally, "Nothing to Say") and "A Bout de Souffle" (perhaps a nod to Godard's "Breathless"?).


Marie et les Garcons - "Rien a Dire" 45 picture sleeve (Rebel, 1977)





This Lyon-based band was founded by in 1975 by a group of Lycée Saint-Exupéry students, whose core players were drummer Marie Girard (who was initially the vocalist), main songwriters Patrick Vidal (erstwhile bassist turned vocalist) and Eric Fitoussi (guitar) and bassist Jean-Pierre Charriau. Heavily influenced by American proto-punk, they were clearly big fans of Velvet Underground (listen to their cover of "White Light, White Heat") - you can hear it in Vidal's Lou Reed vocal stylings and "A Bout de Souffle" could easily have appeared on any VU album - as well as the early Modern Lovers (listen to their "Roadrunner"), Television (listen to their version of "Little Johnny Jewel"), Patti Smith and The Seeds.

Marie Girard a la batterie, 1978

Marie et les Garcons at CBGBs, 1978

Skydog Record's Marc Zermati invited them to perform at his Mont-de-Marzon punk fest and Michel Esteban released their debut single on his Rebel label in December 1977. After hearing their demos, John Cale produced their second single, "Attitudes" b/w "Re-Bop" in New York in March 1978, where they played in support of X-Ray Spex at CBGB's before returning to Paris to support Patti Smith and Talking Heads during their tours there. The teaming with the Heads made "heady" booking sense, because les Garcons definitely leaned toward the more New Wavish (or should I say Nouvelle Vague-ish) side of Punk; their debut album (again produced by Michel Esteban) even featured a Lacoste polo shirt - shades of the preppy attire the early Heads wore onstage. Blondie is another musical signpost.


Marie et les Garcons LP (Celluloid, France, 1980)


Marie et les Cretins - er - Garcons!

Listen to Marie et les Garcons perform "Rien a Dire" live at the Olympia Paris:





Marie Girard later left the band to join Electric Callas, where she reunited with her brother Patrick Girard, who was the original drummer in Les Garcons when they formed in 1975. Upon her departure, the remaining trio became simply (and accurately) Les Garcons. Alas, Marie Girard died of an aneurysm in 1996, age 40.

Lyon was a legitimate music scene at this time, with Electric Callas and Starshooter also calling it home.

Electric Callas shared the same American rock influences as Les Garcons, not to mention Roxy Music and David Bowie, as exemplified on their scorching "Kill Me Two Times."

Listen to Electric Callas play "Kill Me Two Times":





Dogs formed in Rouen (also home to Les Olivensteins) in 1973, recording two EPs during 1977-1978 before releasing their debut LP Different in 1979. They would go on to sign with Phonogram and, later, Epic Records. The Rezillos-sounding retro-rocker "Here Comes My Baby" is taken from their 1978 Go Where You Want To Go EP and features core members Dominque Laboubee (vocals, guitar), Hugues Urvoy de Portzamparc (bass, vocals) and Michel "Mimi" Gross (drums). Laboubee, who died in 2002, was the only constant member through the band's long history.

Dogs - "Go Where You Want To Go" 12-inch EP (Melodies Massacre, France, 1978)


Rouen's Dogs

Dogs' pedigree owes more to the influence of '60s American garage rock than punk, as the band was weaned on listening to Gene Vincent, Shadows of the Knight, Chocolate Watch Band, Flamin' Groovies, Pretty Things and other Nuggets-y influences, as well as Stooges, Velvet Underground and Brit Invasion bands like the Kinks.

Listen to Dogs play "Here Comes My Baby":




Asphalt Jungle was the brainchild of Best magazine scribe Patrick Eudeline, another journalist-turned-musician following in the footsteps of Pretender Chrissie Hynde (NME), Pet Shop Boy Neil Tenant (Smash Hits) and Morrissey (Record Mirror).



Eudeline was originally the frontman for proto-punks Angel Face, but left them after a year to join forces with Angel Face guitarist-turned-bassist  Riton in Asphalt Jungle, along with former Metal Urbain guitarist Rikky Darling and drummer Chino. Asphalt Jungle recorded just three singles for Skydog - including the one included here, 1978's "Plante Comme un Prive" - before ceasing to exist. As to why the group disbanded so early, Eudeline says, "Too much too soon. Ego and junk. When I split with Rikky the guitarist, it was the end. The band was Rikky and me."


Asphalt Jungle - "Plante Comme un Prive" 45 (Skydog, 1978, picture sleeve by Bazooka)


Asphalt Jungle - "Plante Comme un Prive" b/w "Purple Heart" (Skydog, France, 1978)

Listen to Asphalt Jungle play "Plante Comme un Prive."





Incidentally, the cover of Asphalt Jungle's single was produced, like many of the releases in this collection, by a Paris arts collective called Bazooka. Bazooka was formed at art school in 1974 by Christian Chapiron (aka Kiki Picasso), Jean-Louis Dupre (Loulou Picasso), Olive Clavel (Electric Clito), Berard Vidal (Banana), Ti5 (Phillipe Bailly), Dominque Fury and Lulu Larsen. Their provocative work eschewed galleries - preferring self-publication via newspapers, magazines and record covers - and was heavily indebted to the ideas of the Situationists. S. Baker characterized Bazooka's aesthetic as being "based primarily on the politicized use of collages using images taken from newspapers, comics etc., reworked with a variety of drawing and painting styles, taken to extremes and subverting original meanings," and acting as a graphic counterpoint to the music. They were, in the words of Loulou Picasso, "Political without an ideology" and "Activist without a doctrine."

Bazooka created signature work for numerous Skydog singles, including covers for 84 Flesh and Starshooter. They also did Iggy & The Stooges' 1977 "(I Got) Nothing" single, and later created works for Elvis Costello (working with Barney Bubbles) and James Chance.

Iggy and the Stooges - "(I Got) Nothing" (Skydog, 1977, cover by Bazooka)


In the liner notes to Les Punks, Asphalt Jungle's Eudeline traces the roots of Punk Francaise to New York and Detroit: "The turning point was The Dolls and the writers of Creem magazine. And a French book written in 1972 by Jean-Jacques Schuhl called Rose Poussiere. As John Lennon said, the hippy dream was over. We were dreaming of mods, rockabilly, decadent cinema or writers. A rock 'n' roll attitude, far away from a hippy way of life."

Jean-Jacques Schuhl's "Rose Poussier": a study of life's impermanence

Proto-punks Angel Face formed in 1975 and recorded demos with Cobra, Rough Trade and Pathe Marconi, but the tapes sat on the shelf until the mid-'80s. On the Stooges-indebted "Wolf City Blues," which first surfaced on 1985's A Wild Odyssey LP (Pacific Productions), the line-up is comprised of vocalist Eric Tende (who replaced Henri Flesh, who himself replaced Patrick Eudeline), guitarist Riton Angel Face, bassist Pascal Farrey and drummer Frederik Goddard.

Henri Flesh and Frederik Goddard would go on to join the short-lived 84 Flesh (previously named 1984), who thankfully released the rocking single "Salted City" on Skydog before splitting in 1978.

Listen to both sides of 84 Flesh's lone Skydog single "Salted City" b/w "D-Section":




84 Flesh - "Salted City" b/w "D-Section" (Skydog, France, 1978)


84 Flesh picture sleeve by Bazooka


Below is the lyric sheet included with 84 Flesh's "Salted City" single:




Another Rouen group, Les Olivensteins, took their unusual name from a French psychiatrist who specialized in addiction. Ironically, the real-life Dr. Olivenstein caused the band to split up after his refusal to let them use his name cost them a record deal with Barclay. Sacre bleu! Well, at least they got to record their lone three-song single in 1979 on the Melodies Massacre label.





Watch Les Olivensteins play "Euthanasie" in their one and only appearance on French television:





One of the most interesting groups appearing here is Gazoline. They were founded in 1977 by Alain Kan, who is considered one of French pop's great mysteries: after starting his career in 1964 with Paul Anka covers, he worked with Serge Gainsbourg and singer Dani in the '70s before embarking on his punk phase with Gazoline. According to legend, he disappeared without a trace after boarding a Paris subway train in April 1990.

Gazoline - "Sally" b/w "Electric Injection" singe (Egg, 1977)

Alain Kan (left) with Gazoline


Listen to Gazoline play "Sally":






Calcinator's brisk 2-minute rocker "Electrifie" is the final track on Les Punks. It was the B-side of the band's lone single "Billard" (F.L.V.M, 1978; later re-released on Euthanasie, 2013) and also appears on the compilation LP Skydog Commando (Skydog SGSC 0018, 1978). There's not much information about this band (unless you speak French) other than the group consisted of  songwriting guitarist-vocalist Mick Giani, bassist Jef Eddedguy and drummer Pat  Vandenbroeck.



Calcinator - "Billiard" b/w "Electrifie" 45 (Euthanasie, 2013)


Listen to Calcinator play "Electrifie":





Cold Wave, or New Wave Francaise

So much for the punk tunes. The remaining tracks by Kas Product, A3 Dans Les WC (aka WC3) and the cleverly-named Charles de Goal are actually a brand of minimal post-punk synthwave that France (and the Belgian trio Telex) embraced in the '80s called "Cold Wave."

The standout Cold Wave track is Charles de Goal's Wire-y "Dans le Labyrinthe" (from the 1980 New Rose LP Algorithms). Charles de Goal was the nome de sythnwave of Patrick Blain, who went solo after the 1979 break-up of his Devo-esque band C.O.M.A. An introspective programmer-turned-musician who didn't perform in front of audiences until 1985, Blain liked the anonymity of creating music behind a mysterious alter ego.



As he told French music blog Rockfort, "...it was about anonymity, not knowing who was in Charles de Goal because the group was really just me. I made the music by myself with the assistance of other people on some tracks. I was quite shy at that time and I didn't really want to put myself in the limelight. It had the added effect of creating a buzz, with people asking who Charles de Goal really was. So it was partly timidity and partly an artistic idea that was suggested by a friend Philippe Huart, a graphic designer and painter who played with me in the band I was in before, C.O.M.A. He had the specific idea of making sleeves that were anonymous, so you would never know who I was."

As far as his programmer background, Blain told Rockfort, "As much as you need a logical side for IT, I tried not to apply that to the music. In an analogue synthesizer it's the mistakes that are interesting, rhythms that are a bit unsteady, that kind of thing. However, I did apply the logical side to the writing of lyrics and the structuring of songs. For example, there's a song called 'Dans le labyrinthe' which I constructed as a labyrinth, so there's a phrase at the beginning which you find again later with some pieces removed, so it's as if you're in this maze and you turn around and find yourself back where you started... that relates to the programming side. Obviously with lyrics, emotions come into it, you write about what you know but there are some more artistic, intellectual exercises, even if I'm not someone particularly intellectual... I like mixing both, I'm not someone who goes just one way, I like mixing up experiences and information. I don't like things to be black and white."

Listen to Charles de Goal's "Dans les Labyrinthe":





A3 Dans Les WC (for "Water Closet")'s "Photo Couleur" (from 1981's Poupee Be.Bop LP) is also worth a listen. Later named just WC3, this guitar-synth tune is quite catchy.






A3 Dans Les WC


You can sample more from  A3 Dans Les WC/WC3 at Bandcamp, which sells their 1978/1980 compilation album in various digital formats.

Kas Product was the Nancy-based duo of Lydia Lunch-sounding chanteusse Mona Soyoc and former psychiatric male nurse Spatsz on synthesizers. Their "Mind" is an acquired taste, but if you like your synthwave cold, this just might be your cup of tea. Looking at photos and videos of the photogenic Mona and the crassly-coiffed Spatsz, I am struck by their visual similarity (i.e., ugly guy-hot chick) to UK popsters Haysi Fantayzee.

Kas Product - "Mind" EP (Punk Records, 1980)

And there you have it: tous les garcons et les filles de les Punk Francaise from Soul Jazz Records.

*** FURTHER LISTENING ***

Soul Jazz isn't the only label to celebrate French rock music. But it's the only one I've found that speaks my native language. But if, like moi, you're interested in checking out more French Punk, one of the best resources is one native to the Gallic nation: the Parisian imprint Born Bad Records.


Founded in 2006 by former art director Jean-Baptiste Guillot, Born Bad's awesome catalog offers Garage, Punk, Psyche, Ska, Rock Steady, '50s-'60s-'70s, R&B, Soul, Exotica, Hardcore, Surf, Post-Punk, Cold & New Wave, Electro, Street Punk, Shoegaze and more. Their Punk Francaise compilations include Paink: French Punk Anthems 1977-1982 (which overlaps with several bands and selections presented on Soul Jazz's Les Punks and features a cover designed by Bazooka's Kiki and Loulou Picasso) and BINGO: French Punk Exploitation 1978-1981 (featuring a cover design by Bazooka's Loulou Picasso).


"Paink: French Punk Anthems 1977-1982" (Born Bad Records, 2013, cover by Bazooka)

"BINGO: French Punk Exploitation 1978-1981" (Born Bad Records, 2017, cover by Loulou Picasso)

These come with booklets, but I'm not sure if they're in English.

Au revoir, mon amis!

FIN

***

Some More Related Links:
Punk 45 series (Soul Jazz Records)
Born Bad Records
Franco Mix: French Punk New Wave 1975-1985
Messthetics series (Hyped2Death Records) - Another singles-going-digitized catalog

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Shine On, You Crazy Arthur

Remembering Arthur Campbell, 1956-2017

This is something I posted on Facebook on May 8, 2017. I'm re-posting it here in blog format, due to interest from friends, as well as to archive it on the internet.

Arthur Vincent Campbell IV

(May 8, 2017) - Still reeling from news (via his brother Patrick on Facebook) of the passing of my friend Arthur Vincent Campbell IV, age 62, on April 20, 2017 in Summerville, South Carolina, after a long battle with cancer.

Arthur Self-portrait
Arthur Campbell was the coolest - and strangest - guy I met during my time at Towson State University in the late 1970s. On a campus teeming with clearly defined black-and-white stereotypes (Normals, Hippies, Jarhead Jocks, Date-Raping Frat Boys, Freaks, Geeks, Joe College, Future Suburban Housemoms, Future Young Republicans, Soulless Business Majors, Artist Manques), Arthur was always foggy gray - though occasionally rays of candy-hued day-glo-bright primary colors burst through when he strapped on his electric guitar to play those weekend Electric Anachronism Parties at Ward Hall, where the Kool-Aid was both spiked and electrified. To paraphrase Buzzcocks guitarist Pete Shelley, if Arthur Campbell was a painting-by-numbers picture, you'd be hard-pressed to find the colors with which to fill him in.

I didn't even know his real name until my Senior year, as he was nominally referred to by a slew of nicknames - Crazy Arthur, Wallflower, Wall, Boomer, Boomer Z. Wallflower, Wally Gator - and seemed to talk in code, his conversation filled with parables, word games and obfuscations. This was in keeping with family tradition, as his brothers, Jimmy (aka "Astro Boy," who also attended Towson State) and Patrick (aka "Dr. Waste," whose topical ballad "I Wanna Die on a DC-10" was later covered by my college punk band, Thee Katatonix) were also characters in their own right. I sometimes hung out with Arthur and Jimmy when they visited the nearby Ridge Avenue Girls (Terri, Debbie and, er, I forget the other one's name), and later went to shoot rifles with Arthur and Doc Waste at the Campbell's ancestral home in White Hall, Maryland (where Arthur claimed his parent's names were Igor and Morticia!).

Arthur was a true enigma, a guy who answered the call of all the classical muses - he spoke Latin, wrote poetry, read philosophy, painted, played electric guitar (influenced in equal measures by Jerry Garcia, Jorma Kaukonen, Manual Goettsching and Captain Beefheart's Zoot Horn Rollo) - yet also lifted weights (he had bulging biceps), boxed and studied martial arts, rode a motorcycle, and owned and regularly practiced shooting a veritable arsenal of firearms (I'm pretty sure he had Samurai swords and machetes, too).

He lived in a low-rent house behind the Burger King in East Towson that he christened The Embassy of the Dripping Moon (from a Captain Beefheart line "The moon was a drip on a dark hood" on The Spotlight Kid) where he played crazy experimental electronic tapes he called "Insect Fear Music" and where he parked his bullet-strewn VW Bug (which he shot full of holes with his beloved Beretta 9mm to provide DIY air-conditioning in the summer). In short, he was an intellectual with biceps who could not only verbally undress you with his wit (in multiple languages, to boot), but could literally kick your ass, as well. His head may have been up an Ivory Tower, but his body was primed to do battle in the ring with the American Gladiators.

He dressed and acted "Columbine" before anyone knew what Columbine was. But it was always just to get a rise out of people. And those of us who hung out with him soon adopted a similar look - favoring long dark wool trenchcoats (we called them "Deathcoats") in summer, sunglasses, cordoroys (never jeans!), fingerless gloves, etc. Needless to say, he scared me when I first met him. But he was so fascinating, he drew me in, making me want to know more about him and his unique worldview. He called me Tailspin Tommy and was later delighted to update my sobriquet to my punk band moniker, Tommy Gunn.

Somehow we connected through a shared affinity for William Burroughs novels, Grateful Dead music (yes, I was a Deadhead back then), the Dadaist sensibilities of the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band (Sir Henry Rawlinson!), cynical German philosophers like Nietzsche and Schopenhauer, underground comics, Blatz Beer, and a mutual distrust of all collegiate institutions from the glee club to mixers to Fraternity Row. When I became Features Editor on the school paper, I used my bully pulpit to publish Arthur’s comics and writings. They always were controversial and raised the hackles of the “Straights” – to our mutual delight! He even named his regular series "Strait Comics" (they were anything but!).

"Strait Comics" by Arthur Campbell


"Doc 'n' Vector Adventures." Comic by Arthur Campbell


A typical "Crazy Arthur" column by Arthur Campbell


Later, my older brother Billy went back to study English at Towson (Literature being his first love, after already getting  his Business degree at University of Baltimore so he could bring home the bacon) and met Arthur in some European Lit class. He was greatly amused by Arthur's wit and vitriol (e.g., "This is the most boring book in the history of Western Literature!") and to this day still talks about him and his teasing of a ditzy post-grad, "Miss Vicky."

I lost track of Arthur after college, but thanks to the Internet we reconnected years later, around the time his book SunBurn (2007) was published – the language and themes took me right back to the Arthur I knew in college. He called SunBurn (not to be confused with Laura Lippman's 2018 novel of the same name) "a beach book," explaining, "Too many people are reading the same old boring crap while sitting at the beach." In many ways, this "elastic biography" of protagonist Radical Pump Boy is Arthur's story, the fictionalized account of one man's fight against what Axis of Logic editor Les Blough calls the "psychic deprivations, sterilized cognitions and repressed imaginations" of western rationalism. But always with a knowing sense of humor and absurdity. It's a long, strange trip, but as Ken Kesey once said: you're either on the bus or not, and this is a magical mystery tour for those who choose the road less traveled.




To this day, I still quote his words and phrases for things - "stupids" (his term for fellow students), "Insect fear music," "Mom's robots killed the poets," "Towson State You Adversity."

Later, he sent me a copy of a work-in-progress about his upbringing as a country boy in north Baltimore County (he was raised on Xanatl Farm, a beef and thoroughbred horse farm in White Hall, Maryland). For some reason, he valued my opinion – I was flattered, to say the least, as I always thought he was a genius, especially with the written and spoken word. In fact, he was the one person I could accurately call a “Renaissance Man.”

Henry James said he strove to be “one of the people on whom nothing is lost.” Arthur was one of those people, with an insatiable lust for life and knowledge. Nothing was lost on him. The loss is ours, and he will be missed by all who knew him.

Following is his Baltimore Sun obituary, as well as a link to another blog post I wrote about him.

Arthur V. Campbell IV, 62, of Summerville, SC, died April 20, 2017 after a long and valiant battle with cancer. Born in Baltimore, Arthur was the son of the late Arthur and Laura Campbell and was raised on Xanatl Farm, a beef and thoroughbred horse farm in White Hall, Maryland. Arthur graduated from Towson State University in the 1970's, where he studied many subjects before he received a BS in English. He continued his education at Dartmouth College and the Wharton School of Business. Arthur was a gifted artist. While in college, he enjoyed film making, drawing comic strips for the college newspaper, and playing guitar in bands. Arthur was a long time resident of Williamsport, PA. Arthur worked in many capacities there before being employed at the Lunaire Limited (now TPS), where he was responsible for engineering & design, marketing, and sales. Arthur taught at local area colleges. He loved teaching and sharing his knowledge with his students. He received the Pennsylvania College of Technology award for Part-time Teaching Excellence in 2006. Arthur restored his home in Williamsport to its Victorian roots where he often entertained his friends at black-tie dinner parties. During his time in Williamsport, Arthur wrote and published his first book "Sunburn". At the time of his death, he had completed the manuscript for his second book "Code of the Manor." Arthur and his wife, Megan (née Brown, of Williamsport, PA) moved to the Charleston area of South Carolina in August 2010. Arthur worked for Horizon Scientific, Inc. as Manager of Strategic Planning. In addition to his wife, Arthur is survived by a sister, Laura MacLaurin of Berryville VA; his brothers, James Campbell of Baltimore, MD and Patrick Campbell of White Hall, MD; and a nephew, Dr. David MacLaurin of Durango, CO.
See also:
"Crazy Arthur's Strait Comics": A Remembrance of College Characters Past  (Accelerated Decrepitude)

Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Rain, the Park and Other Things...

Things like Books and Records and CDs!

A Celebration of "Good Stuff Cheap" at Second Edition Books, Daedalus Books & Ollie's

(February 16, 2018) - Friday was a rainy day, so to get in our hike without muddying our shoes, my wife Amy "Thrift Score" Warner and I headed to Columbia, the land of plentiful paved paths. Columbia is also known for being the mecca of meticulously maintained man-made lakes and in the course of doing a loop around the 37-acre Lake Elkhorn Park, we discovered  a path spur trailing off to Dobbin Road.


Lake Elkhorn in Columbia, MD

"Hey," I said, always wont to mix physical with mental exercise, "I wonder if this leads to that neat little used book store, Second Edition?"

Trailblazer Amy Warner leads the way from Lake Elkhorn to Second Edition Books

To answer my query, we took a chance and - lo and behold! - yonder she hailed: Second Edition Books and Music! Though we hadn't seen any woodland creatures in our walk through the wilds to that point, we immediately noticed that we were in "culture vulture" territory - quite literally, as two big turkey vultures sat perched in a tree directly across from the bookstore in this nondescript shopping center off of Dobbin Road. (Vultures prey on dead things, and nothing is more endangered these days than an independent bookstore. Thank god this one, unlike its nearby community cousin Daedalus Books, still breathes!)

Second Edition Books Music &More, 2640 Dobbin Road

I have been a fan of this local treasure since my days working at GSE Systems in Columbia back  in the late '90s, when I would stop by during my lunch break to grab more budget-priced, pocket-sized Peanuts and MAD paperbacks to add to my home collection. The store is ideally situated at 2640 Dobbin Road between an MVA Express on the left (where, if the lines look too long, motorists can grab something to read while they wait right next door!) and the Sushi King restaurant on the right (where shoppers can fill their bellies after feasting their eyes on literature).

The original Second Edition was acquired in April 2005 by John and Kathy, a local married couple who were frequent customers and longtime fans of the bookstore. When the opportunity to buy the business came along, they jumped at the chance, signing a contract on a napkin and ditching their real estate careers to pursue a lifelong passion for books. And they have carried on its tradition of offering a wide variety of discerning, off-the-beaten-track reads. Sure, you can find your Pattersons, and J.D. Robbs and Grishams here, but more importantly, you can find an eclectic and fathomless variety of lesser known discoveries here as well. John and Kathy sift through the junk that ends up at less-finicky bookstores like Ukazoo Books (now located in Loch Raven, "Where Businesses Go To Die!") to come up only with the pearls, not the grit.

Inside, the owners were playing a groovy Marvin Gaye classic hits anthology that made browsing through the finely-curated and organized stacks of books, DVDs, CDs and records all the more pleasurable. We were in no rush - heck, it was raining outside and killing time in a book store is what rainy days were made for. Remember Bogie doing just that in The Maltese Falcon, flirting (and getting "wet" indoors) with sexy Acme Book Shop proprietess Dorothy Malone?


"
Bogie checking out rare books (and Dorothy Malone) in "The Maltese Falcon"




Taking shelter from the storm outside, I followed Amy's lead of methodically sifting through the CDs, genre-by-genre and A-through-Z, which had rewarded her in the past with choice finds like obscure early Orb albums.

Second Edition's well-managed CD collection

Today she only found copies of things she's already obsessively collected by her usual "usual suspects" (Elvis Costello, XTC, Beatles, etc.), while it was my turn to make the Thrift Store Score of the Day, nabbing a coveted rare Sinatra concert album - Frank Sinatra with the Red Norvo Quintet: Live in Australia, 1959, which lists for $38.44 new on Amazon and that only last week I had spotted a used promo copy at Daedalus Books for roughly the same price (OK, minus a 20% discount for their going-out-of-business sale) for $7! Sinatra performed just two shows on his trip Down Under, in Sydney and Melbourne; fortunately, someone recorded this historic April 1st Melbourne show. It compares very well with my previous fave Sinatra live performance, his 1958 United Nations Refuge Fund charity concert (at the request of Princess Grace of Monaco), Sporting Club Monaco, June 14, 1958.

Frank Sinatra with the Red Norvo Quintet: Live in Australia, 1959 (Blue Note)

The muddy sound of this recording (unreleased until 1997) may be slightly sub-par (it's basically a glorified bootleg), but Sinatra himself is loose-as-a-goose out of control - swinging-like-a-mother, ad libbing at will ("Get your hands off that broad!"), and playfully toying with the phrasing and tempo against the solid backing of Norvo's stripped-down jazz combo. (Maybe he was in an ebullient mood because he was near his famous ex, Ava Gardner, who was filming On the Beach there.) This is Sinatra the pop singer showing that, had he gone in that direction instead of the Great American Songbook, he could have been a superb jazz singer as well - and make no mistake, Red Norvo's group was a swinging jazz group. The freedom of working with a small jazz group apparently enabled him to try different arrangements and vary his phrasing.

Sinatra! The Song Is You: A Singer's Art

As Sinatraphile jazz critic Will Friedwald writes in Sinatra! The Song Is You: A Singer's Art (Da Capa Press, 1995): "As loose and unfettered as he was throughout the '50s, Sinatra offers a more aggressive brand of jazz singing that points to his Basie albums of the '60s. He's never sounded more inspired and animated, generating so much happy energy, it's a wonder that the continent could contain him."

Red Norvo himself recalled, "I don't think he ever sang any better in his life than on that tape. I loved the way he sang with the small band. It was very free, and he was right on top of everything we were doing. He just melted into it, I thought. He took responsibility, he beat off the group and everything, he did his own thing. And the band played great for him, they loved working with him...He gave us the feeling he was part of the band." (Quoted in Friedwald's Sinatra! The Song Is You: A Singer's Art.)

Listening in the car later to Frank's litany of objectifying terms for females at this show - "broad," "chick," "dame," "tramp" - Amy observed, "Geeze, I guess Frank wasn't made for these PC times!" (In a later trip to the Land of Oz, Sinatra's sexist comments about female Australian reporters being "Two dollar hookers" pretty much cancelled out any goodwill engendered by his previous visits.)

Back in the book stacks, Amy found something called Maryland's Flavors, a 1980s American Cancer Society cookbook that contained one of my mom's favorite dishes, "Company Chicken," which was the featured dish at a dinner party we were invited to the next night. Company Chicken was one of my mom's specialties, and she used to make it for me on special occasions, like my birthday. (There are many variations, and my mom substituted creamed chipped beef and bacon for the originals ham and cheese ingredients.) Since the book had no price on it, I asked co-owner Kathy what she wanted for this nostalgic trip down culinary Memory Lane; when she said $5, I replied "Sold!"

Second Edition Books inside

Maryland's Flavors


Company Chicken

Amy was  trying to be good and limit her consumerism, but when I asked her if she had noticed the crate of 12-inch vinyl singles in the adjoining room, she stepped up her game as Thrift Score Queen.

Second Edition vinyl records room


She quickly amassed a stack of seven Kate Bush 12-inch maxi-singles that she (the Kate Bush Completist) actually didn't have! And, since she had conveniently left her wallet in the car back at the Lake Elkhorn parking lot, I ended up putting it on my tab. Passing up a Kate Bush recording might result in future marriage counseling, so I figured it was worth the price.

The Magnificent Seven: Kate Bush 12-inch maxi-singles

On the way out, I spied a Jack La Lanne exercise album and, being a Baby Boomer who grew up with the Godfather of Fitness' TV show in the 1960s (the longest-running television exercise program in history, from 1953 to 1985), gladly forked over a buck for Glamour Stretcher Time ("The wonderful new way to acquire a lovelier figure...done to the rhythm of delightful organ music") - on blue vinyl, no less! The original LP was sold with the very "Glamour" rubber stretch cord  shown on the cover but, alas, was not included with this bargain bin copy. Regardless, exercise evangelist Jack promised a lovelier figure, and I'm here to tell you, he delivers! (Bette Davis famously credited her lovely figure to The Jack la Lanne Show, and that's all the testimonial I, or anyone for that matter, need!)

"I'll buy that for a dollar!": Jack La Lanne's "Glamour Stretcher Time" LP (1959)

Unlike his TV show, where he always wore a form-fitting Devo-esque jumpsuit (as shown below), the LP cover featured JLL in a polo shirt and slacks as he stretched an elastic cord to show off his "guns." Besides his body-building feats of strength, LaLanne was also a nutrition nut, whose two simple rules of diet were "if man made it, don't eat it" and "if it tastes good, spit it out." The man born Francois Henri LaLanne lived a long and healthy life before passing away in January 2011 at age 96.




Unfortunately, the rain really started to pick up right as we were leaving the store, so we donned our hoodies and clutched our purchases tighly beneath our raincoats as we hurried back along the trail to Lake Elkhorn.

Since we were in the neighborhood, I suggested we bid adieu one more time to Daedalus Books & Music on Gerwig Lane, Columbia. Like mourners visiting the grave of a dearly departed loved one, we wanted to cherish the remains of this great discount book store.

Daedalus Books & Music, Belvedere Square, 2006-2011


Daedalus Books & Music Warehouse, Columbia, 2005-February 2018

Daedalus was founded in 1980 as a direct-mail remainder wholesaler ("remainders" are unsold books that are liquidated by the publisher at greatly reduced prices to recover some of their net loss), launching a web site for wholesale sales in 1995 and later adding a direct-mail consumer site (which Publishers Weekly says grew to become 60% of its business by 2013). In 2005, they added a brick-and-mortar retail sales store in Columbia, Maryland. But I only became aware of Daedalus when they opened their Belvedere Square location in Baltimore's Govans neighborhood circa 2006. Since I then lived a stone's throw away in Rodgers Forge, going to Daedalus became a weekly ritual for us and we got to know the talented staff there quite well. One of them, a woman named Michael, was planning on going to library school (I tried to talk her out of it!); the Asian guy there was really into music and had a blog and Internet radio show about underground indie rock; a young bohemian guy (whose name escapes me now) made jewelry out of watches ("I like to think time marches on even when it stands still," he said) and Amy bought one called "At the Beach" (as shown below) which was filled with sand and sea shells.

Quality time at the beach

The Belvedere Square store closed in 2011, but the Daedalus warehouse and retail outlet in Columbia remained open and devoted bibliophiles like ourselves soon started making periodic pilgrimages to this revered site.


Alas, in early February 2018, the Daedalus Facebook page announced that the Columbia store was closing at the end of the month; apparently, the owner was retiring and returning to Ohio. Daedalus still has its web site and will continue to sell materials online and via its print catalogs, but the days of browsing in a brick-and-mortar setting are gone.

Daedalus Books inside

Amy and I had already made two previous trips here, but I was curious to see what remained of the remaindered. Plenty, apparently, including some new items I hadn't seen before - sonic rarities and first edition books - that the staff explained at been cleared out of the owner's office.

The Completely MAD Don Martin

There I could not resist picking up one of these rarities (with assistance, since it weighed 30 pounds!): The Completely MAD Don Martin, a two-volume omnibus originally listed for $150 and that Amazon sells for $74 - for $24! (Actually $29,99, but with a store-closing 20% discount.) As a lover of all things MAD, especially the creator of Captain Klutz and other big-nosed, flat-footed klutzes who emitted unique sound effects, it was a "What me worry?" no-brainer.

Captain Klutz


Don Martin was arguably MAD's most recognizable artist (along with "The Great Masters": Wally Wood, Will Elder, Harvey Kurtzman and Jack Davis!) and this collection presents every cartoon he ever drew for the magazine, in chronological order, from 1956-1988. Even if I don't ever crack a page in this double-decker anthology, I can Crossfit train by lifting it and doing reps to build up my upper arm "guns"! (Or drop it - TWACK! KADOINK! STOOPFT! in Don Martin-ese!)

The many sounds of Don Martin

I also scored my new fave obscure hard-bebop jazz record, tenor sax man Harold Floyd "Tina" Brooks' Minor Move  (with trumpeter Lee Morgan, whose 1960 Lee-way album I had scored here just the week before!) for $5.98. Tina Brooks is one of the Forgotten Men of jazz. Most of his Blue Note work went unreleased in his all-too-short lifetime and he died a "bitter, penniless, incapacitated wreck" (in critic Jack Chambers' words) in August 1974, age 42. And if Michael Cuscano hadn't gotten access to the Blue Note vaults in 1975, we wouldn't have this album, Back to the Tracks, The Waiting Game and others by the introverted saxophonist see the light of day. Recorded in 1958, Minor Move wasn't released until 1980, 20 years after his milestone release True Blue.

Tina Brooks, "Minor Move" (Blue Note)

For more about the life and legacy of this neglected jazzman, see Jack Chambers' 2005 Coda magazine article "Who Killed Tina Brooks?"

I also couldn't resist picking up some music that I grew up with that is forever ingrained in my DNA: jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis' Beatles covers compilation, Ramsey Lewis Plays the Beatles Songbook, and Dutch jazz revivalists The Beau Hunks covering the soundtracks to Hal Roach's Little Rascals film shorts. (I may not have seen The Little Rascals/Our Gang shorts when they originally screened in the late '20s and 1930s, but thanks to Captain Chesapeake, I watched them religiously every afternoon on WBFF-TV as a kid!) I have loved Ramsey Lewis ever since I heard my brother blasting his The In Crowd LP (recorded live in 1965 at Washington, DC's Bohemian Caverns club) on his state-of-the-art stereo system.


Ramsey Lewis plays the "Beatles Songbook" while The Beau Hunks play "Little Rascals Music"

And I couldn't resist picking up Bonnie Raitt's first and bluesiest album, the self-tiled Bonnie Raitt (1971) for $6. Though she only wrote two of the 11 songs, her nine covers (including a inspired take on Stephen Stills' "Bluebird," Robert Johnson's "Walking Blues" and Sippie Wallace's "Mighty Tight Woman" and "Women Be Wise") show her to be well-versed in her chosen field. Backed by The Bumblebees, with Junior Wells on harp and the wonderfully named "Freebo" on bass, it's easy to see that stardom would follow this debut. And indeed, that would come with 1972's followup long-player, Give It Up, which remains her best-ever recording in my view.

Bonnie Raitt (1971)
Not to be outdone, Amy the medieval music afficionado took a chance on an album by John Fleagle, World's Bliss: Medieval Songs of Love and Death, that was listed for $3.98 ($3.18 after Daedalus' additional 20% discount). On Amazon, this album sells for $45.99!

John Fleagle, "World's Bliss" (Archetype Records, Inc., 2000)

Singer and multi-instrumentalist John Fleagle (lute, gothic harp, sinfonia, fiddle, bodhran and hurdy-gurdy - many of which he designed and built), who died in 1999, was known for his contemporary style of interpretation that, in the words of Magnatune.com, "breathed life into poems some seven or eight hundred years old - be they in Old French, Latin, Middle English or Gaelic." This album, on which Fleagle was accompanied by Shira Kammen (vielle, fiddle), was recorded in 1996 and released posthumously  in 2000.

Amy also picked up two great anthology collections by Tommy James and the Shondells and The Mamas & the Papas for, well, for a song! (Actually, many songs!).

Tommy James and the Shondells Anthology

I had been a Tommy James fan ever since my sister Nancy's non-stop playing of his "Hanky Panky" 45 became almost a mantra for me and I have since dedicated my life to making hanky-panky as much as possible! And if anyone ever doubted the Shondells relevance and timelessness, just check out how well "Crystal Blue Persuasion" (forever to be known by a new generation as "Heisenberg's Song"!) worked as a soundtrack to AMC's ground-breaking, meth-making Breaking Bad.



The Mamas & the Papas anthology is interesting because it incorporates a lot of interview snippets from John Phillips and Mama Cass Elliot. Listening to this in my car (yes, I quickly stole it from Amy!), I once again realized what a brilliant songwriter John Phillips was and how beautiful the four voices of John and Michelle Phillips, Mama Cass Elliot and Denny Doherty sounded (even better as a unit than the Beatles, in Mama Cass' opinion).


The Mamas & the Papas: "A Gathering of Flowers" anthology


This would be our last trip to Daedalus. Over the years, we had amassed quite the collection (and book piles stacked from floor to ceiling!), including most of my Peter May, Philip Kerr, Cornell Woolrich, Haruki Murakami, James M. Cain, Dashiell Hammett, Graham Greene, Lorrie Moore and Raymond Chandler novels. And, as far as what the French call "the Ninth Art," I amassed quite the comics and graphic novels library there, including works by Ivan Brunetti, Milton Caniff, Osama Tezuka, Jack "King" Kirby, Daniel Clowes, Herge, Yves Chaland, Peter O'Donnell's UK Modesty Blaise strips, and several anthologies of 1950s pre-code Harvey House horror comics. And that's not even mentioning all the reproduction vintage cards and postcards my wife and I purchased there over the years. Below are two postcards no Anglophile should be without, reproductions of 19th century artist William "Aleph" Harvey's Scotland and Wales maps, from the "Humorous Maps of Serious Countries" series.

The "gallant piper" representing Scotland plays an instrument strongly identified with Scots, but in fact it originated in the Middle East; a bagpipe appears on a Hittie monument dating to 1000 B.C.


Aleph's depiction honors Owen Glendower (Owain Glyn Dwr), a Welsh landowner who incited rebellion against the English in 1400

With that in mind, following is a brief detour, a scenic trip down Daedalus Memory Lane via a photo album of Some of My Favorite Titles scored at this remarkable store.

A stack of Daedalus Books in the Warner Archives

Peter May's Enzo Macleod series and Pulp Fiction pile


Most of my Peter May books are from Daedalus

Chandler, Cain, Hammett & Spillane courtesy of Daedalus Books

LeCarre Spy novels & Craig Johnson's Longmire series

James M. Cain books & Philip Kerr's Bernie Gunther detective novels

Daedalus made me Greene with Envy to purchase these

Max Decharne's "Hardboiled Hollywood" is one of my prized possessions, perhaps the best analysis of the great noir crime films and the novels they were adapted from. Films reviewed include "In a Lonely Place" (which introduced me to the works of Dorothy B. Hughes), "Point Blank" (Donald Westlake/Richard Stark) and "Get Carter" (Ted Lewis)

"Andy Warhol Screen Tests": $60 on Amazon, $25 at Daedalus. Warhol authority Callie Angel examines all 189 people captured by Warhol's lens, including celebs like cover girl Edie Sedgwick, Bob Dylan and Salvadore Dali.

I discovered the great Jonathan Lethem thanks to browsing through "Chronic City" at Daedalus. Its description of fictional Criterion DVD critic Perkus Tooth reminded me of my real-life film fanatic colleague Marc Sober.

No home - certainly no cineaste's home - should be without "The Complete Three Stooges," the definitive source book and official filmography for all things Stooges! At Daedalus' $10 price, it sells itself!


My love of Milton Caniff's "Steve Canyon" started at Daedalus with these budget-priced Checker comics reissues, starting at 1947 and continuing up to 1954.

The Collector's Edition Tintin box set (all 21 graphic novels plus bonus book Tintin and Co.). Lists for over $94 online but Daedalus had it for some ridiculously cheap price. I picked it up at their Belvedere Square store for fanboy David Cawley

If not for Daedalus, I would have never discovered Tintin-knockoff The Adventures of Freddy Lombard comics by French artist Yves Chaland. These Tintin-for-grownups adventures were the only works by Chaland released in English. Though indebted to the Franco-Belgian "claire ligne" (clear line) drawing school, Chaland championed the "Atomic Style" while creating these comics for Spirou magazine in the '80s.

UK "Valentine" comics, featuring "picture story romance" adaptations of popular song lyrics by Cliff Richard, Adam Faith, Elvis Presley and more!

Daedalus had lots of hardback and paperback editions of Harvey's pre-code 1950s horror comics

My Peter O'Donnell "Modesty Blaise" collection started at Daedalus!

"The Encyclopedia of Japanese Pop Culture" by Mark Schilling. This book changed my life. Anything and everything I love in one handy resource from the land that gave us Astroboy  and Hello Kitty

"52McGs" collects the best obits by the world's best obits writer, the New York Times' Robert "McG" Thomas, Jr. He wrote about lesser known people, like Toots Barber, Frederick MD's "Queen of Duckpin Bowling" who died in 1998 at age 85, and Nguyen Ngoc Loan, the quick-tempered South Vietnamese police officer whose impromptu execution of a Viet Cong prisoner in 1968 was captured on film and galvanized American public opinion against the war

"Japan Journals" by Japanese know-it-all Donald Richie for $2? It sells itself!

Baltimore naive Tom D'Antoni's "all made up" Sun tabloid stories are hilarious and well worth $3!

Where else are you going to find a book dedicated to the films of Hal Hartley (one of my favorite directors) and for $4?

Amy's coveted Julian Cope megalithic-sized antiquarian books were no-brainer buys at Daedalus. Though you can score a used copy of The Megalithic European for $22, new copies go for $99 on Amazon, while you can expect to pay $99-250 for The Modern Antiquarian. Amy spent no more than $20. I think we also scored Cope's Japrocksampler here, as well as Rolling Stone Bill Wyman's own excellent antiquarian collection, Treasure Islands.

Amy and I both scored copies of OHM+: The Early Gurus of Electronic Music, 1948-1980, a special edition 3-CD + DVD + 112-page booklet compilation of 20th Century electronic music pioneers, from Clara Rockwell to Raymond Scott to Brian Eno and synth-pop. Used copies on Amazon go for $61 and up, but I think we got ours for under $20.

Mark Perry's out-of-print "Sniffin' Glue" punk fanzine. $7.98 at Daedalus, $59.96 on Amazon!

Daniel Blythe's snarky "Encyclopaedia of Classic 80s Pop" highlights the last great decade for Top of the Pops singles, many by now-obscure one-hit wonders, like Haysi Fantayzee


Where else can you read about Haysi Fantayzee (Amy Warner's bete noire) but in Daniel Blythe's "Encyclopaedia of Classic 80s Pop"?

Speaking of one-hit wonders, another UK music book, Tom Bromley's out-of-print "We Could Have Been the Wombles," remembers them all

"'77 Sulphate Strip" collects Barry Cain's Record Mirror reports, reviews and interviews as he documents "the key moments, movers, groovers and shakers of 1977" - the year that changed everything. Cain was there before there was a "there," seemingly at the center of every momentous event


Sometimes, Daedalus offered some true oddities among its remaindered books. One of my favorites was this salacious photography flip book by Nerve magazine photographer Leslie Lyons depicting an a-peeling gal named "George" getting comfortable in her New York loft apartment. Well worth $3!

The Plot Thickens: "Georgie Girl" undresses in Leslie Lyons' "Strip Flips!: George"

Dian Hanson's gorgeous "History of Men's Magazines" series for Taschen Books. Taschen Books are beautiful but pricey and Daedalus discounts were the only way I could afford to buy them.

"Sex in Asia," a fascinating photographic record of East Asian working girls by Reagan Louie. How this ended up at Daedalus and not The Block is beyond me! (It's actually rather sad.)

Ivan Brunetti's "Shermy," one of many fine oversized publications found at Daedalus, along with the gigantic MAD Magazine Poster Book and the splendiferous works of Chris Ware


I like big books and I cannot lie! (3D glasses included!) The Big Books series covered other body parts, but I've always been a bottom feeder. Used copies of this out-of-print beauty range from $53 up to $1383 dollars on Amazon; Daedalus had it for $19.99.

Alex Raymond and Dashiell Hammett's 1934-1935 comic strip "Secret Agent X-9"


Spillane's cartoonish narratives find their perfect medium! Amazon sells it new for over $35. $12.99 at Daedalus and worth every penny!

"The Best of Boyfriend," an out-of-print UK import. Launched in 1959, "Boyfriend" was one of the first girls' magazines to put music first, each week featuring a pop star "boyfriend" (from Lonnie Donegan and Cliff Richard to the Beatles, Stones and Dave Clark Five) who would reveal his life story and share romantic advice. Besides True Romance comics, there were fashion and beauty tips and ads for things like "Beatles Sweaters" and "Beatmint" gum!

Official Beatles Sweaters ad from "Boyfriend"

Strictly Wowsville!: Beatmint gum ad from "Boyfriend"


Like Little Tavern burgers, at Daedalus you buy 'em by the bag(ful)!


Ollie's: Good Stuff Cheap!

The next day, Amy forgot her mom's birdseed and I had to drive her down to Dundalk just as the snowfall began. This turned out to be quite fortuitous, as it meant I could stop the Ollie's Bargain Outlet ("Good Stuff Cheap!") on Merritt Boulevard...

Ollie's Bargain Outlet, 1403 Merritt Boulevard

...and score a  treasure trove of Golden and Silver Age DC and Marvel comics (as shown below) - including the twin gems of the haul, a collection of the late great MAD genius Jack Davis (who passed away in July of 2016) and a DC Archives hardback of Jack Kirby's Kamandi (The Last Boy On Earth) Volume 2!!! Also on hand in that stack are classic Silver Age John Broome and Gil Kane Green Lantern collections (Volumes 1 and 2 of The Green Lantern Chronicles), Joe Kubert's Tor, and Superman in the Forties, Fifties and Seventies.

Comics relief courtesy of Ollie's Dundalk store

Most of these titles sold for $2.99-$3.99, with nothing more than the $7 I paid for Jack Kirby's Kamandi hardbook collection! Amy even got a Sandman graphic novel by her fantasy heart-throb Neil Gaiman. While most people don't think of Ollie's when it comes to classic literature, those of us in Ollie's Army (didn't Elvis Costello write a song about us?) know better!

Ollie's Army is here to stay!

With hundreds of outlets in 17 states, Ollie's may not be an indie bookstore; but, as a discount retailer specializing in mostly brand-name closeout merchandise, its model is similar to Daedalus Books. And its "Good Stuff Cheap" pricing attracts similarly loyal "treasure hunters" to make repeat purchases at their various stores.

And there you have it bibliophiles and audiophiles! I aim not to boast but rather to toast those cultural outlets that fight against the national big box stores (online and brick-and-mortar) that have gobbled up and muscled out the independent book and record stores.


As John Donne wrote in "Meditation XVII": "Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind/And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee." To which I would add, any bookstore's death diminishes us all, for all of us in the "The Digital Age of Distraction and Abbreviated Texts Tweets Thoughtspeak" are all involved in the fight to preserve cultural literacy. And intellectual curiosity is aided and abetted by "browsability," for bookstores (like libraries) can give you that most precious thing: what you never knew you were looking for.


So let us cherish the spirit and collections of the indie bookstores that remain, be they Normals Books and Music in Waverly, Atomic Books in Hampden, Amazing Spiral Books in Govans or Ivy Books in Mount Washington, to name but a few. That bell tolls for them, and Amy and I will continue to answer the call to help preserve them while they last to fight the good fight against the corporate giants.

***

Coda: Subsequent to this post, Daedalus extended their closing date to March 21, 2018 and upped their discount to 40% off listed price. Naturally, we went back one more time after yet another hike in the area. I got Luke Dempsey's terrific Club Soccer 101 for $3.50, William M. Starr's Whisky, Kilts and the Loch Ness Monster: Traveling Through Scotland with Boswell and Johnson for $2.50, editor Sloane Crosley's The Best American Travel Writing 2011 for 85 cents (it had a great "Birders" essay, as well as New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd's classic Vanity Fair piece "A Girl's Guide to Saudi Arabia"), and The Langley Schools Music Project CD for $2.50 - this CD, with what David Bowie himself called an "astounding" version of his "Space Oddity," had Amy laughing the whole ride home. By this time, our bibliophile appetites were well sated and we bid a final adieu.