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I'm the co-host of THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO with Dana & Carl (Sunday nights, 9 to Midnight Eastern, www.westcottradio.org).  As a freelance writer, I contributed to Goldmine magazine from 1986-2006, wrote liner notes for Rhino Records' compilation CD Poptopia!  Power Pop Classics Of The '90s, and for releases by The Flashcubes, The Finkers, Screen Test, 1.4.5., and Jack "Penetrator" Lipton.  I contributed to the books Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth, Shake Some Action, Lost In The Grooves, and MusicHound Rock, and to DISCoveries, Amazing Heroes, The Comics Buyer's Guide, Yeah Yeah Yeah, Comics Collector, The Buffalo News, and The Syracuse New Times.  I also wrote the liner notes for the four THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO compilation CDs, because, well, who could stop me?  My standing offer to write liner notes for a Bay City Rollers compilation has remained criminally ignored.  Still intend to write and sell a Batman story someday.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

THE EVERLASTING FIRST, Part 4b: My First Exposures To Some Singers And Superheroes

Continuing a look back at my first exposure to a number of rock 'n' roll acts and superheroes (or other denizens of print or periodical publication), some of which were passing fancies, and some of which I went on to kinda like. They say you never forget your first time; that may be true, but it's the subsequent visits--the second time, the fourth time, the twentieth time, the hundredth time--that define our relationships with the things we cherish. Ultimately, the first meeting is less important than what comes after that. But every love story still needs to begin with that first kiss.

Yesterday's coverage of The Damned and Doc Savage ran a bit long, so we've saved the letter D's Quick Takes for a separate post.

Quick Takes For D:

DAREDEVIL BATTLES HITLER: On a trip to New York City in the sweltering hot summer of '72, Dad agreed to take me to 909 Third Avenue for a visit to the office of National Periodical Publications, better known as DC Comics. I was hoping for a tour, but we were informed that there wasn't any such thing. I guess we needed some reason to justify why we were there, so Dad asked how I could buy back issues. The gentleman who greeted us gave me the information for a comics dealer named Bill Thailing, and I ordered Thailing's catalog. The back cover of the catalog featured black and white reproductions of a quartet of Golden Age comics, including Daredevil Battles Hitler # 1. I was fascinated by that book, with its cover image of Der Fuhrer being assailed by Daredevil and his heroic compatriots. A few years later, I was able to buy a black-and-white reprint of Daredevil Battles Hitler, published by an outfit called DynaPubs. I was initially disappointed by the book, but it's become one of my all-time favorite comic books. (Oh, and the Golden Age Daredevil, originally published by Lev Gleason, was no relation whatsoever to the familiar Marvel Comics hero of the same name.  But be honest now: wouldn't ya love to see a Netflix adaptation of Daredevil Battles Hitler?)

DAWN: "Knock Three Times" was a huge AM radio hit when I was in sixth grade. When it played in the lunchroom at school, all the kids there naturally pounded on the table when the song prompted us to, y'know, knock three times. We were warned of dire consequences if we didn't stop that infernal pounding, you worthless kids! As the song continued, I figured that I could toe the line and continue enjoying myself by playing air drums, and silently swatting the air instead of smacking the table.  Perfect plan, right? But Mr. Shannon saw the downward movement of my arms, and pronounced me guilty, my protests to the contrary be damned. I've never forgiven him, the rat!

THE dB's: As a voracious reader of Trouser Press magazine in the early '80s, I must have read all about The dB's and their first two albums, Stands For Decibels and Repercussions. Probably. My first exposure to the group was two live tracks, "We Should Be In Bed" and "Death Garage," on a live sampler LP called Start Swimming. A couple of years later, I fell in love with a dB's album called Like This, which we played in-store when I worked at a record store in Buffalo circa 1985.  A few years later still, a reissue of Like This would become (with Past Masters, Volume Two by The Beatles) one of the first pair of CDs I ever owned. Saw The dB's at Syracuse's Lost Horizon in the late '80s, as the final incarnation of the group was touring in support of its last album,  The Sound Of Music.

DC SPECIAL:  Ah, I loved this one!  I bought DC Special # 1 off the supermarket spinner rack in Aurora, Missouri during the summer of 1968. That first issue spotlighted the work of artist (and soon-to-be DC Comics publisher) Carmine Infantino, with choice reprints of Batman, The Flash, Adam Strange, Detective freaking Chimp, and even an episode of Strange Sports Stories. I dug many of the subsequent issues just as much, including a collection of police stories in DC Special # 10 and an epic Plastic Man assortment in DC Special # 15.

:  Yesterday's discussion of The Damned mentioned an album called New Wave, a sampler LP put out by the good folks at the Vertigo label. We'll be coming back to that album in at least two more future editions of The Everlasting First, but it's also where I first heard The Dead Boys (specifically "Sonic Reducer" and "All This And More," two tracks from The Dead Boys' debut album, Young, Loud & Snotty). My favorite Dead Boys track would ultimately be "Third Generation Nation," the lead-off track from their second and final album, We Have Come For Your Children. Dead Boys lead singer Stiv Bators would later release an incredible cover of The Choir's pop classic "It's Cold Outside," and his version is The Greatest Record Ever Made


DEADMAN:  1968 again! The Brave And The Bold # 79 was among a short stack of comics my parents bought for me to read while traveling that summer. I had previously seen DC Comics house ads for Deadman's appearances in Strange Adventures, but this issue's team-up of Batman and Deadman was my first direct exposure to the character. It was also the first time artist Neal Adams was allowed to draw a Batman story; that would ultimately have a positively seismic effect on my development as a comics fan. 

DAVE DEE, DOZY, BEAKY, MICK & TICH:  I guess it's easy to be snarky about the clunky pop music of Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich, but I was intrigued by them. I believe the first mention of 'em I ever saw was in the booklet that accompanied a Sire Records double-album sampler called The History Of British Rock, Volume Two. That set didn't contain any DDDBM&T, but just the mention of the group and a manic record called "Bend It" was enough to whet my appetite. I later found a used copy of the "Bend It" 45, but it didn't make much of an impression on me, I fear. "Zabadak" also left me cold. But when I heard their song "Hold Tight" a few years later, I knew I'd found a new favorite. I've purchased CD reissues of three DDDBM&T albums, but the debut album (which includes "Hold Tight" and "You Make It Move") is my go-to.

THE DEFENDERS:  The Sub-Mariner, The Hulk, and Dr. Strange had appeared in a couple of previous adventures together, but I caught up with them in Marvel Feature # 1 (December 1971). This was the first time this team-that-wasn't-a-team was billed as The Defenders, and I thought it was so, so cool. I mean, look at that cover! Yeah, penciled by that Neal Adams guy, again. I don't think I quite knew who he was yet, but from those issues of The Brave And The Bold and X-Men in the '60s, through his early '70s work on Batman, The Mighty Avengers, and Green Lantern/Green Arrow (plus some awesome Superman covers), he was sure making an impression. Interior art was by Ross Andru and Sub-Mariner creator Bill Everett, while writer Roy Thomas put our heroes through their paces. The Defenders appeared in Marvel Feature a couple more times I think, and then graduated to their own regular title. Netflix's current Marvel TV universe is building to The Defenders, but the group streaming into your living room will not include any of the original Defenders; the TV group will be Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist. It might not be my Defenders as I remember them, but it oughtta be really good, I betcha.  

DETECTIVE COMICS: Batman made his debut appearance in Detective Comics # 27 (May 1939), and I wish I could tell you a mint copy of that issue, lovingly preserved for me by an uncle or grandparent or kindly random bystander, was also my first issue of Detective Comics. But no, I jumped on the 'Tec bandwagon with the relatively unremarkable Detective Comics # 362 (April 1967), which featured the villainy of my then-favorite Bat-foe The Riddler (and a back-up story starring that stretchable sleuth, The Elongated Man). I have, of course, purchased many more issues of Detective Comics since then, including several older than ol' # 362 (but not anywhere near as old as # 27). In the '70s, my all-time favorite Batman story, "Night Of The Stalker!," was published in Detective Comics # 439 (February-March 1974); just a bit later, Detective Comics # 469-476 housed my all-time favorite arc of Batman stories, all written by Steve Englehart (who had also written "Night Of The Stalker!"). I dropped Detective Comics (and all Batman titles) from my pull list at Comix Zone a while back, but reinstated them in the wake of the current DC Comics: Rebirth, and they've been pretty good again.

THE DICKIES: I'm sure I saw print ads for The Dickies' album The Incredible Shrinking Dickies, and I probably saw it on the racks at various fine record retailers in the late '70s. I knew the group's repertoire of supercharged covers included a take on The Monkees' ace garage nugget "She," but I don't remember hearing any of it at the time. Which means my first Dickies sighting was on the Don Rickles sitcom C.P.O. Sharkey in 1978. My memory of that episode is that it was condescending and smarmy in its dismissal of punk rock, so screw 'em anyway. My favorite Don Rickles appearance was alongside his comic-book doppelganger Goody Rickels in the pages of Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen, written and drawn by the King, Jack Kirby. The Dickies went on to much better thing beyond the aegis of C.P.O. Sharkey, and the group's cover of The Banana Splits theme song has long been a favorite. TRAAA-LA-LAAAA, TRAAA-LA-LA-LAAAA! The Dickies also did an original power pop tune called "Rosemary" on their 1983 album Stukas Over Disneyland, and it's one of the all-time great underrated pop tunes. 

THE DICTATORS: Another group I first heard of via Phonograph Record Magazine, but my first taste of The Dictators' music came via the unlikely venue of a film called Jabberwalk in 1977. My only memory of this weird, disjointed documentary (if that's even what it was) is that it was...um, weird and disjointed. That, and it included footage of The Dictators performing a live rendition of "America The Beautiful" at the Miss Nude America beauty pageant. See, that's how you break a band! At college in Brockport that September, I pestered campus station WBSU to play me some Dictators, and the jocks responded with the pretty ballad "Sleepin' With The TV On," from the group's then-current Manifest Destiny album. Subsequent WBSU requests yielded tracks from The Dictators' first album, Go Girl Crazy!


DOLL MAN: It's easy to dismiss the worth of a tiny superhero with a seemingly-precious name, but Doll Man was originally quite popular. The character made his short-statured debut in Feature Comics # 27 (December 1939), and he remained a Feature feature through its 139th issue in 1949. His solo title, Doll Man Quarterly, racked up 47 issues from 1941 until 1953. Doll Man was one of a number of characters (including Plastic Man and Blackhawk) sold by original publisher Quality Comics to DC Comics in the mid-'50s. DC had no real use for the character (and subsequently developed its own shrinking superhero called The Atom), so Doll Man lay dormant with the rest of yesterday's playthings. Doll Man's DC debut was in Wanted: The World's Most Dangerous Villains! # 5 (January 1973), reprinting a Golden Age Doll Man adventure. As an adolescent devotee of Golden Age superhero reprints, I considered Wanted my favorite comic book at the time, and I never missed an issue. Wanted's perch at the toppermost of my poppermost was toppled by the return of the DC 100-Page Super-Spectaculars in '73, and Doll Man appeared in the first issue of that revived series. In the summer of '73, Doll Man appeared in his first new adventure since 1953, fighting alongside fellow Quality Comics alumna The Ray, The Black Condor, The Human Bomb, Uncle Sam, and--swoon!--The Phantom Lady in that year's Justice League/Justice Society team-up.  


THE DOOM PATROL: A group of misfit superheroes led by a man in a wheelchair. Sounds familiar, but DC's Doom Patrol just barely beat Marvel's X-Men to the newsstands. Neither title was particularly successful in the '60s--The X-Men's big success came later--but both are remembered with fondness by Silver Age comics fans. The Doom Patrol was in some ways the closest DC had to a Marvel book at the time; writer Arnold Drake frequently had his bickering stars--The Chief, Robotman, Negative Man, and Elasti-Girl--at each others' throats. This was a very interesting series, and I aim to read the whole thing from beginning to end one of these days. I didn't catch much of it in the '60s, though. I think I first heard of The Doom Patrol in a DC house ad for The Brave And The Bold # 65, which teamed The Doom Patrol with The Flash. My first (and perhaps only) Doom Patrol adventure during the original run was Doom Patrol # 115 (October-November 1967). This book was weird, maybe too weird for me when I was seven (or maybe not). The Doom Patrol apparently perished in their final original appearance, Doom Patrol # 121 (September-October 1968). Nonetheless, they've been revived periodically in various less-odd and much-odder incarnations ever since.

THE DRIFTERS:  My first Drifters record was The Drifters' Golden Greats, which I purchased in the mid-'80s (and which prompted me to remark with some frequency that, if we presume there must be music in Heaven, then we must presume the music in Heaven sounds like The Drifters). But my first exposure to The Drifters? "On Broadway." That TV commercial for Radio Free Europe in the '60s and '70s. On Broadvay...!  'Nuff said.