I don’t know if it’s “fair” to classify the monthly big-city punk/underground tabloids of the late 70s/early 80s – Slash, Damage, Boston Rock, Take It!, NY Rocker – as fanzines per se, but they certainly served the same purpose, often employed the same tastemakers, and were about as on-the-ground and in-the-clubs as any drooling fanzine impresario such as myself would be ten years later.
I’ve been slowly assembling a small collection of NY Rocker issues over the years. I never bought any when they were around, but I remember seeing them on sale at Rasputin’s Records in Berkeley when I was 14, probably right around the time this September 1982 issue came out. They’re more wide-ranging in both taste and remit than Slash was, and by the time the issues get to 1981 and 1982, there’s a great deal of positive coverage of “the new wave”, i.e. synthesizer-driven bands from England, coexisting quite uncomfortably right next to articles on strange American underground bands by Byron Coley and plenty of US hardcore 45 reviews. By this issue, it’s quite clear that if an act in question had “funny hair”, they were fit to be covered in the New York Rocker.
But oh, the on-the-spot treasures to be found here! There are photos of personal favorites of mine like Red Cross, Salvation Army and The Flesh Eaters that I’d never seen before. Byron Coley’s piece on Vox Pop and 45 Grave is tremendous (and hilarious) and goes a long way to explaining the mysteries of the former while helping re-illuminate the positives of the latter. Oliver Lake, who is the early 70s helped lead wild free jazz quintet The Black Artists Group, is by 1982 doing some sort of funky dance music called Jump Up, and he’s interviewed in this issue about it & his career to date. There are X and Richard Hell interviews; the former has just jumped to a major label and are touchy about it, and the latter has just released Destiny Street, and there’s much obfuscating and hemming & hawing about his drug usage and its effect on his ability to keep a band together.
I reckon my two favorite things in here are two particular live reviews. One’s a Salvation Army/The Last/Bangs review by Coley. No one’s coined the term “paisley underground” yet, thankfully, but I’m especially pleased to see Coley so incredibly smitten by The Bangs – soon to be the Bangles. I wish I’d seen them around this time; I totally love their first single and EP and their all-encompassing adoration of The Byrds, Monkees and Mamas/Papas.
The review that really takes the proverbial cake, however, is Don Howland’s relaying of the 1982 Loretta Lynn/Ernest Tubb concert at Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Columbus, OH. For those of you who know Howland from the work he’d later go on to do as a musician (Gibson Bros, Bassholes), he was also one of the finest and most subversively funny music writers ever to put pen to paper. Maybe he still is! To wit, some snippets from the show review:
“…Now Loretta attracts fans of all ages, from 3 to 103, and 10pm is bedtime for a good percentage of them, so glazed eyeballs were the order of the evening. And it looked like bedtime was a long time ago for show-opener Ernest Tubb. …He looked like a cross between a man who died a year ago and a man who died ten years ago.”
“…It was Ernest who introduced Loretta to the Opry stage a couple decades ago when she was still a timid little housewife. Woooo! ‘Little’ is still the word! What a shrimp! Those were my thoughts as the Coal Miner’s Daughter idled on stage after a brief intermission, belting out “If You’re Looking at Me, You’re Looking at Country”. I had imagined this idol of mine to stand about six-foot-six…..the whole sensation was a lot like the first time I saw Iggy up close – really.”
“…But the (song) I remember best was an homage to her Indian heritage (1/16th or 1/4th or something)” ‘Red, white and blue / Wa-oo, wa-oo, wa-oo / And proud of it too,’ set over some thumping tom riffage.”
Yeah. Get familiar with Don Howland as a writer if you’re able. I’ll take you through some other NY Rockers in this space at some point in the not-too-distant future.