Sunday, April 30, 2017


Last year, Cotton Mather put out a new album called Death Of The Cool. This year, Cotton Mather has already put out another new album, Wild Kingdom. Going back a bit, Cotton Mather released a short string of brilliant stuff from 1994 to 2001 or so. We've been playing Cotton Mather on This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio for almost as long as there's been This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, ever since our fourth show on January 17th, 1999. Hmm. Seems like it's high time that Cotton Mather was our Featured Act awready. Tonight, we'll mix in a bunch of great Cotton Mather tunes alongside our usual beguiling mix of The Spinners and Iggy & the Stooges, and we'll even throw in a '60s classic by The Kinks (a Kinks songs that I don't think we've ever played before). And a lot of Cotton Mather. Payday! The cool rises from the dead on our before and after, Sunday night 9 to Midnight Eastern,

Saturday, April 29, 2017

LOVE AT FIRST SPIN: Rocket To Russia

This is the 500th published post on Boppin' (Like The Hip Folks Do).

Love At First Spin looks back at albums that I immediately loved, from start to finish, the first time I heard them. The concept was suggested by Steve Stoeckel, and was detailed here.

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THE RAMONES: Rocket To Russia (Sire, 1977)

By the end of 1978, I was well and truly a fan of The Ramones. I'd heard "Blitzkrieg Bop" on the campus radio station at Brockport State College, I'd absolutely flipped out when I heard "Sheena Is A Punk Rocker" for the first time, I'd purchased all three of their most recent 45s, I owned a copy of their eponymous debut album, and had even seen a live Ramones show (with The Runaways and The Flashcubes) over Easter break. If The Ramones weren't quite my favorite band yet, they were on their way, at typically breakneck speed.

There were times when it may have seemed like my first three semesters at college passed just as quickly as that, and other times when everything felt like it was moving at the glacial pace of a Grateful Dead jam. That is not meant as a compliment. But here I was as Christmas break '78 commenced, a young power-pop punk about a month shy of his 19th birthday. And furthermore: a young power-pop punk in love.

I met Brenda in October. I had kept all of my previous relationships short, never staying with one girl for more than two months at the most. The previous year, the fall semester of my freshman year had been a brief parade of distorted passions and discarded promises, leaving a trio of broken hearts in my well-meaning but hapless wake. It wasn't that I was such a prize catch--plainly, that wasn't true--but nonetheless, I burned three bridges in short order, without ever meaning to play with matches in the first place. Their disappointment with my selfish, clueless actions was justified, and I knew it; I was just as disappointed in me as they were. But I tried to learn from my (many) mistakes. As '77 became '78, as the calendar pages flipped from cold winter to dreary spring to Syracuse summer and finally back to the season of the fallen, I tried to be better. Just...better.

My past faults and failures were still in my mind as Brenda and I set to sparkin' in late '78. I liked her. A lot. Like, immediately. Although not a specific special moment, I remember her sitting next to me in my dorm suite, falling asleep on my shoulder as WCMF-FM in Rochester played The Ramones' latest album Road To Ruin in its entirety. I didn't want to hurt her, like I'd hurt the others. Better. Somehow, I wanted to be better. But, as Christmas break approached, I remembered my good intentions from a year ago. I'd liked that girl, too. Broke her heart anyway; I'd panicked, gotten scared of things moving too fast. I wrote that girl a letter over the break, and told her goodbye. I hadn't heard The Ramones' "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow" yet, but its lyrics were prescient: Someone had to pay the price....

I didn't want to do that again. I for damned sure didn't want to do that to Brenda. So no promise, no guarantee. We hoped to meet again in January.

Couldn't stop thinking about her over the break. Granted, part of this was because she'd left me with a particularly nasty stomach bug, which hit me square in all of my insides just as my parents and I were leaving Syracuse for the drive to Cleveland and then Southwest Missouri, where we'd be spending the holidays. God, that was a rough trip. But we finally arrived in Aurora, Missouri. And my thoughts of Brenda were fond. I missed her. I wished we were together.

This Christmas in Missouri, at the house where my grandparents lived, also included family from Florida, and more family from California. The California contingent included my cousin Mark, one of my best friends since childhood, the continent between us notwithstanding. Although our tastes differed, we were both music fans. My Dad drove us both to a fantastic little record store outside Joplin, its shelves filled with offerings by The Flamin' Groovies, The Rezillos, and other hip acts one might not expect to see in a tiny shop in a small suburban Missouri shopping center. We also made a trip to Battlefield Mall in Springfield; while there, I used Christmas money to buy myself two LPs I'd wanted for a long time: Live In Japan by The Runaways and Rocket To Russia by The Ramones.

My parents didn't want us to disturb the placid atmosphere of my grandparents' house (and I don't remember whether or not there even was a turntable set up there), so listening to my new acquisitions would have to wait until my return to Syracuse. My stomach was still feeling sensitive, but Mark and I decided to go for a walk.

Visually, we didn't quite fit in with our surroundings in Aurora, Missouri at the end of 1978. Mark had long hair and a mustache; I was decked out in what could best be described as disco clothes; I was a punk, sure, but a fashionable punk. As we walked along a busy road near our home base, a passing car seemed to slow down, and a kid in the back seat just stared at us, open-mouthed, while the adult driver scowled and looked ahead. As the car went by, I said to Mark, "You know what the conversation inside that car was, right? The kid said, Daddy! What're those...?! And the father said, Them's Communists, son. Now hush up."

We laughed the giddy laugh of teenaged co-conspirators. When we got back to the house, I added the anecdote to the letter I had been writing to Brenda. Man, did I ever miss her.

Back in Syracuse by New Year's Eve, I called Brenda at her home in Staten Island to wish her well. She was surprised, and pleased. She hadn't received my letter yet. But the phone call and the eventual arrival of that letter made my intentions clear. I could be better. I would be better. We would be better together.

Within this rush of teen emotion and nascent young adult wishes, a year-old Ramones record might seem anticlimactic. Please. As pop fans, our hearts live within the grooves of the music we love, and the people and things and places we love are all immersed in that music. It's connected. It's all connected, inextricably, as it should be. The Runaways' live album was fine, really good. The Ramones' record was love at first spin.

I already knew (and owned) five songs from Rocket To Russia on 45: "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker," "I Don't Care," "Rockaway Beach," "Locket Love," and a cover of the Bobby Freeman/Beach Boys/[Bette Midler?!] classic "Do You Wanna Dance?" (The B-side of "Do You Wanna Dance?" had been the terrific, non-LP "Babysitter.") In retrospect, I wonder if the fact that I possessed nearly half the album on singles before I bought the LP may have fed my de facto decision to delay its purchase. If so, well, no matter--I got it at the right time.

Rocket To Russia opens with the smashing ka-pwing! of "Cretin Hop," which careens pinhead-first into "Rockaway Beach," which surfs into the ballad "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow." Bomp! magazine's Greg Shaw and Gary Sperrazza! had waxed rhapsodic over that tune, and I recalled hearing Joey Ramone introduce it in their live set the previous spring. It's a gorgeous little pop gem that implies--no, hints at--a greater depth and maturity hidden beneath The Ramones' leather jackets and Carbona-huffin' sensibilities. The album side hits the familiar single cuts--"Locket Love," "I Don't Care," and the magnificent "Sheena"--before barging into the domestic chaos of "We're A Happy Family." Side Two commences its own blitzkrieg with "Teenage Lobotomy" and the irresistible, over-the-top candy treat "Do You Wanna Dance" (perhaps the greatest cover ever made), and then just shimmers with the full-bodied punk-pop of "I Wanna Be Well," "I Can't Give You Anything," and sweet sweet little "Ramona." TheTrashmen are channeled (and absorbed) in a cover of "Surfin' Bird" (the first version of that song I ever knew), and the fatalist bop of "Why Is It Always This Way?" brings Rocket To Russia to its toe-tappin', wrist-slittin' conclusion. Hey, hey, hey/Why is it always this way?/Last time I saw her alive/She was waivin', waivin' bye bye/She was contemplating suicide/Now she's lying in a bottle of formaldehyde. Profound!

The cumulative effect of this combination of downbeat lyrics and upbeat, bubblepunk rock 'n' roll was like being mugged by an amphetamine-driven incarnation of The Archies, chewin' out a rhythm on their bubblegum. There's no stoppin' the cretins from hoppin'! Do you wanna dance? It was transcendent. It was nothing short of magic. It was The Ramones.

I was speechless, amazed. I loved The Ramones anyway, but this? This album was flawless. I already had Ramones, and I would add copies of both Leave Home and Road To Ruin in short order. Sensitive, artistical soul that I was, I may been an eensy bit squeamish about some of the cartoon violence and (presumably, but maybe not) faux depravity found in abundance on those other albums. I grew to love 'em all anyway, but Rocket To Russia? Rocket To Russia was the only one I fell for, start to finish, on first spin.

Just like I'd fallen for Brenda.

Brenda and I survived Christmas break '78. We're still together, nearly thirty-nine years later. There were times when our future was bleak (Ain't it neat?), but we've remained a happy family, and we've continued to count off 1-2-3-4! and power our way through. I wound up seeing The Ramones nine times, getting all of their records, reviewing 'em all for Goldmine, and even interviewing the 1994 lineup in marathon sessions of over-the-phone conversations. Johnny Ramone himself told me that he agreed that Rocket To Russia was The Ramones' greatest album. Better. Pop music is better because of The Ramones. I'm better because I allowed myself to become better.  I wanna be well. I do care. Hey, hey, hey--why isn't it always this way?

Friday, April 28, 2017

COMIC BOOK RETROVIEW: DC 100-Page Super-Spectaculars, Part Six

Continuing a look back at DC Comics' 100-Page Super Spectaculars in the 1970sBegin with Part 1, move on to Part 2, then Part 3Part 4, Part 5, and we pick it all up here:

I was six years old in 1966 when I saw my first issue of Justice League Of America. I stared at its cover, thumbed briefly through its pages, intrigued, but still opted to buy an issue of Batman instead. It would be another eleven months before I finally bought a copy of JLA to read and own and cherish. From the missed opportunity in the summer of 1966 to my gateway to DC Comics super-team action in June of '67, these two issues of JLA had one very significant thing in common: both of them guest-starred the Golden Age heroes of The Justice Society of America.

I didn't really understand what was going on, but I knew one thing for damned certain: more superheroes! The annual teaming of the JLA and the JSA had been a summer tradition for DC since 1963. I soon learned that the Justice Society was a group of heroes from an alternate dimension, Earth-Two, heroes who'd fought bad guys since the '30s and '40s. Editor Julie Schwartz and writer Gardner Fox concocted the alternate-earth scenario so they could bring in DC's older heroes from past decades, including the original (and usually quite different) Golden Age versions of The Flash, Green Lantern, The Atom, and Hawkman, and an Earth-Two Wonder Woman who was virtually identical to her Earth-One counterpart. (The Earth-Two Superman was also originally depicted as identical to the familiar JLA Man Of Steel, though some differences were tweaked in by the '70s; the Earth-Two Batman didn't participate in a JLA/JSA team-up until the '70s, but was established as a "semi-retired" hero, his caped crusadin' now mostly the responsibility of his all-grown-up former partner, Robin.)

Beyond the doppelgangers (albeit original-issue doppelgangers) of our JLA stars, the JSA included a number of characters unique to Earth-Two, including Dr. Fate, Wildcat, Hourman, Mr. Terrific, Dr. Mid-Nite, Starman, Black Canary, The Spectre, The Sandman, and Johnny Thunder and his magic Thunderbolt. Maybe it was heresy. Maybe it was hubris. But, nearly from the start, I loved the Justice Society even more than I loved the Justice League.

(Over time, I eventually learned how to pronounce the names, too. At the age of seven, I thought they were the Justice Lagoo and the Justice Sockatee.)

The first time I recall seeing an actual vintage image of the JSA from the '40s was in the pages of a book called All In Color For A Dime, a wonderful collection of essays chronicling the Golden Age of comic books. This was, I dunno...1971, maybe? Early '72? Whenever it was, when I saw it on the shelf at World Of Books in North Syracuse, I was just plain hypnotized by its photo section, a small collection of color photos of old comic books. Spy Smasher! Minute Man! Ibis the Invincible! The Young Allies! Marvel Comics # 1! But the most magic among these magical sights was the image of All-Star Comics # 3, and its cover depicting the first meeting of the group Johnny Thunder described as "A swell bunch of guys!" The Justice Society of America.

I wanted this comic book. Lord, I wanted it! My desire for All-Star Comics # 3 might have rivaled my yearning for a Beatles reunion or Playboy Playmate Lorrie Menconi. I didn't need to own an original copy. I just needed to read it!

The summer of '72 treated me to my first real trip to New York City. I attended Old Timer's Day at Yankee Stadium, where I got to meet Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio and Whitey Ford and Phil Rizzuto (Rizzuto, in particular, was the nicest of all), and I got see Mantle, my baseball hero, hit a home run (even though it was just in exhibition). I dined in Little Italy. I saw Charlie Chaplin's film The Great Dictator. And my Dad took me on a side trip to 909 Third Avenue. National Periodical Publications. The company's name was National, but most kids just called it DC.

I was hoping that DC offered tours of its offices, but no, no, a thousand times no! Looking for a reason to justify our visit to this Fortress of Solitude, Dad told the receptionist I was trying to find out where I could buy back issues. A DC emissary--never did get his name--gave us the address for a dealer named Bill Thailing, so I ordered his catalog. Thailing had a copy of All-Star Comics # 3 for sale! For only...300 dollars?! Oh, the humanity! It was my introduction to the idea of comics--collectibles--being sold for more than cover price. No way in hell I could ever afford that. I still wanted it anyway. If anything, I wanted it more.

And I would have settled for a reprint. Eagerly. But DC wasn't reprinting Golden Age JSA stories; even as publisher Carmine Infantino repeatedly raided the company vaults for old inventory that could be re-used for nuthin', and as more and more 1940s adventures made their way into the back of 25-cent Giants and scattered throughout the 50-cent 100-Page Super Spectaculars, the Justice Society remained on the inactive list, at least as a team; there were a bunch of individual JSAers appearing in reprints, but never the assembled might of comics' first supergroup. The JSA stories were too long to be used as filler; they'd been book-length affairs in All-Star Comics, far too lengthy to reprint as a backup, nor even to take over an entire issue of a regular-sized reprint book like Wanted or Secret Origins. The 100-Page format was the only thing around at the time that could have contained an All-Star JSA adventure (with room to spare even!), but the 100-Pagers vanished before DC announced any intent to present an All-Star encore.

So, when the 100-Page Super Spectaculars returned at the end of 1972, one of the first promises that editor E. Nelson Bridwell made to readers was that a near-future Super Spec would finally--finally!--present a 1940s Justice Society story for discerning comics fans in 1973. Hallelujah! 

With a cover date of June 1973, 100-Page Super Spectacular starred the Justice League of America, who appeared in two reprints from the '60s. Yeah. Good. Fine. There was a Golden Age solo adventure starring The Sandman, one of my favorite JSA members, seen here in his original Green Hornet-inspired gas-mask motif rather than the later Simon & Kirby skintight costumed heroics I'd seen reprinted as backups in Kirby's The Forever People., actually. But c'mon. The main event? The reason I'd been pacing and waiting and haunting drug stores and grocery stores and any other damned place with new comics on its spinner racks, ever since the last Super Spec a freakin', interminable month ago? Well, there it was, at long last. Reprinted from All-Star Comics # 37, November 1947: The Justice Society of America in "The Injustice Society Of The World!"

Goosebumps. And again, no--you get a life.

It wasn't the JSA's first appearance from All-Star Comics # 3, but good enough for me. I read it, re-read it, re-re-read it, over and over, all summer long. I copied its format for an original JSA script I wrote, and I re-read it yet again. I scribbled covers of more imaginary 1940s All-Star adventures in my notebooks. I re-read it again. If you can't understand that adolescent fervor, then I suspect you've never been a young, enthused fan of anything. 

It would be a little while before DC reprinted any more old JSA stories. Several of them would appear in the ongoing Justice League Of America book, when that title was switched to the Super Spectacular format. In 1975, an oversized dollar title called Famous First Edition (which had taken on the mission of reprinting some key Golden Age DC books in their entirety) presented a complete reproduction of that elusive All-Star Comics # 3, the first JSA story, the first appearance of any comic-book super-team. I still own my copy of that Famous First Edition. I'll never forget how much it meant to me.

In the '70s, I did purchase one vintage issue of All-Star Comics: a coverless copy of # 51 from 1950

In this far future world of 2017, I own at least three physical reprints of that important third issue of All-Star Comics. I have a digital copy, too. In this millennial age of convenience, I can read any old Justice Society story whenever I wish. The yearning, the ache, is gone, and one hopes it hasn't quite been replaced yet by complacency or entitlement. Because I still remember that feeling, that burning desire to discover these superhero adventures that had once been commonplace, all in color for a dime, to immerse myself in something from long ago, seemingly a million miles away, but something I still felt that I could almost touch, if only. No amount of jaded modern shrugging can wipe that away. In my head, I'm still at least in part that kid I was then. And in my head, the Justice Society of America can still save the day. A swell bunch of guys.


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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Blogkeeping At 90,000 Views

Boppin' (Like The Hip Folks Do) willed itself into existence on January 18th, 2016, prompted by the unexpected emotion I felt when I heard of the passing of David Bowie the week before. The blog was briefly called CC Says before I decided the title was too generic; Boppin' (Like The Hip Folks Do) may not be much more distinctive, but it's a nod to my first ever rock 'n' roll opinion piece, Groovin' (Like The Hip Folks Do), and it's staying put. It took just under a year to log 50,000 views, and just over four more months to bring that tally to 90,000. Now, 90,000 is not quite a cosmic number, and is quite modest in this age of clicks, but I maintain it ain't bad for a virtually unknown writer, hawking his bid for notoriety via Facebook and word-of-mouth.

The blog's original foolish goal was to post something each and every day. But damned if we haven't met that goal and then some; Saturday should see Boppin' # 500. While I have a large inventory of older writing to use as needed, it takes me almost as long to retype a previously-published piece as it does to write a new one. And I tend to be wordy, so this is a lot of content generated in a short time, and on an ongoing basis. If I'm able to continue, I want this blog to become a daily destination for interested parties, folks who just like to see me riff on pop music and comic books, or whatever other shiny object captures my fickle gaze. Shiny! Because so much of what I write is autobiographical, there is a lot of criss-crossing of subject matter, and some inevitable repetition of reference points. While I hope the reader doesn't grow weary of me mentioning AM radio, Phonograph Record Magazine, spinner racks, Batman, and Suzi Quatro, I will at least try to gussy these familiar refrains into interesting narratives. (Still, if you're sick of Suzi Quatro, I suspect you're reading the wrong blog.)

Running a number of series has been helpful in generating content here, and most or all of my recent series will continue for the foreseeable future. Comic Book Retroview will continue its (popular!) look back at DC's 100-Page Super Spectaculars, which should run for at least a few more chapters. My album retrospective series Rescued From The Budget Bin! will be joined by Second-Hand Sound, the latter focusing on used-album purchases, though both series are otherwise identical. Love At First Spin will return with a piece about Rocket To Russia by The Ramones; I hope to have that completed in time to run as my 500th post. I have yet to publish an installment of Groove Gratitude (A Gift Of Music) publicly--the sole entry thus far, my reminiscence of receiving The Beatles' White Album as a high school graduation gift, was distributed only to my $2 a month paid subscribers--but there will be public Groove Gratitudes a-plenty before long, covering KISS, Elvis Costello & the Attractions, and The Spongetones, among others. The White Album piece will be available to the public this summer.

A glimpse at a few of the more than 60 items in the Boppin' draft file
What else? More Virtual Ticket Stub Gallery memories of concerts I've seen, the returns of Lights! Camera! REACTION! My Life In Movies, Batman's Degrees Of Separation, and The Greatest Record Ever Made, and the continuing A-Z chronicle The Everlasting First, recalling my first exposures to various singers and superheroes. The Everlasting First has reached the letter O (for The Ohio Express and Batman's crew The Outsiders), and will barrel forth thereafter into Gene Pitney, The Punisher, Suzi Quatro (of course), Quicksilver & The Scarlet Witch, and then...? It might not be The Ramones! It probably will be, but it might not!

And there will be non-series pieces, like my recent Batman Meets The Monkees (which I'm told will be receiving a mention at the cool comics blog 13th Dimension). Those come unbidden, unplanned, and are an absolute blast to write. I am still thinking of going back to complete my unfinished, unpublished Goldmine retrospective on Nuggets; the introduction from that abandoned piece will be May's private post for subscribers. I'm sure I'll have something to say about The Flashcubes and their 40th anniversary this year, and I always have a lot to say about This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, the weekly radio show I co-host with Dana Bonn. And there will be much hype regarding our forthcoming compilation CD, This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4. Keep watching this guy!

Writing a blog is an exercise in narcissism. It is not necessarily substantively different from jumping up and down and shouting LOOK AT ME!!! But I love writing. And I really love writing this blog. I'm grateful to all of you who come here and notice me as I jump and shout. No cause for alarm. It's just the normal noise in here. Awright, maybe normal isn't the best possible choice of words in this space....

On to 100,000!

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