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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, February 24, 2018

Comics And LP Cover Cavalcade # 6

A lightly-annotated but otherwise random collection of images of comic book and rock 'n' roll album covers.



Yes, this is indeed a great and sexy cover, and it's correctly considered iconic. There is also some music on the record. On both sides of the record! The album's thrift store ubiquity has become a joke in itself, but please, forget about all of that for a second. Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass cut some flat-out terrific sides in the '60s, from "The Lonely Bull" through "Mexican Road Race," and Whipped Cream & Other Delights is an integral part of the sheer wonder of pop music's best year ever, 1965. Awright, you don't really have to forget about the cover. I wish there were a decent Tijuana Brass best-of CD, with just Herb and the Brass and none of his solo material, but I don't think there's been any such thing since a late '80s compilation from A & M. I generally find CDs from that era lacking, and I'd prefer something fresher. I do have (legal!) audio files of most of the Tijuana Brass material, so I burned my own Best O' The Brass. It contains many tracks from Whipped Cream. And yeah, of course my CD-R uses this cover graphic. It's a classic!



I loved Vampirella when I was in middle school and high school. I was, after all, a boy. I saw my first issue of Vampirella on a magazine rack at a smoke shop within the White-Modell department store; it was displayed right next to the first issue of Penthouse I ever saw, so it would be absurd to deny the pulchritudinous aspect of the character's appeal. Thing is, these actually were decent fantasy/horror comics, bordering on a (somewhat) mature-readers superhero series. Legendary thrill studio Hammer Films planned to adapt Vampirella for the big screen, and cast actress and model Barbara Leigh in the title role. Leigh appeared in costume for a few Vampirella magazine covers in the late '70s, but the movie was never made.



In spite of my oft-stated worship of Badfinger on AM radio in the early '70s, No Dice was the only Badfinger LP I owned until many, many years later. I had 45s of most of their hits--the Paul McCartney-penned "Come And Get It," the swooningly sublime "Day After Day," and The Greatest Record Ever Made, "Baby Blue"--but I didn't have the group's other big hit, "No Matter What." I scored my copy of that essential track when I succeeded in digging a very used, very battered copy of No Dice out of the dusty 'n' magical bins in the dusty 'n' magical basement of Record Revolution in Cleveland Heights. Dilettante that I was, I still only paid attention to "No Matter What," basically ignoring other LP tracks like the forgotten original of Nilsson's hit "Without You," a "Love Me Do" that was not written by The Beatles, and a freaking amazing cut called "We're For The Dark." Stupid dilettante. I'd learn better over time. (Though the CD reissue of No Dice added a previously-unreleased track called "I'll Be The One," which should have been issued in the '70s, and which should have been a hit. Guess I wasn't the only dilettante at the time.)



Man, dig this swell, pulpy Green Hornet cover! This is from 1953's Four Color # 496, and it was the Hornet's only appearance in that long-running Dell Comics title (which featured a different star in each issue). It was, in fact, The Green Hornet's only appearance in any Dell comic book; he had starred in his own 1940s series published by Harvey Comics, and returned briefly in the mid '60s for three issues of Gold Key Comics's Green Hornet TV show tie-in. Although one of the greatest and most influential of radio heroes, and though both the vintage movie serials and the TV show were pretty cool, The Green Hornet was not served very well in print media. The '40s comics were pedestrian. The '60s comics weren't really any better, and the cover is the best thing about this 1953 one-shot. Latter-day Green Hornet comics have been improvements for the most part, though I'm really still waiting for a definitive, compelling comic-book take on the character. One wishes there had been a Green Hornet pulp magazine in the '30s (and paperback reprints of 'em in the '70s!), graced with covers like this Four Color gem.



Former Playboy Playmate Bebe Buell's biggest immediate claim to fame within my own pop cosmology is that her daughter Liv Tyler appeared in The Greatest Movie Ever Made, That Thing You Do! Still, there's nothing wrong with her 1981 Rhino Records EP Covers Girl, which enlists assistance from Rick Derringer (Side One) and Ric Ocasek with his fellow Cars members Elliott Easton, Ben Orr, and David Robinson (Side Two). The choice of material is very early-'80s retro new wave cool: Love's "My Little Red Book," Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers' "The Wild One, Forever," The Nightcrawlers' then- (and now-?) obscure garage classic "The Little Black Egg," and Iggy Pop's "Funtime." It's neither distinctive nor particularly memorable, but nor is it a waste of time. I still have my copy, purchased new at Main Street Records in Brockport. We played one of the tracks--"Funtime?"--on an episode of This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio some years back.



Unbelievable as it may seem, there was never an ongoing Jonny Quest comic book series in the '60s, just a one-shot published by Gold Key in 1964. Comico acquired the comics license in the '80s, and the company's Jonny Quest ran for 31 issues, plus a couple of scattered spinoffs (including a Jezebel Jade mini-series). Written by William Messner-Loebs, Comico's Jonny Quest was just rock-solid comics storytelling, and it cries out for some comprehensive retrospective lovin'. Dave Stevens' cover for Jonny Quest # 5 combines the nostalgic appeal of the original TV cartoon, a dramatic tension that assures us the material is being taken seriously, and the sheer sex appeal of Stevens' rendition of Jade. Jonny has made a triumphant return to comics in the recent past, as one of the Hanna-Barbara cartoon action stars of DC Comics' Future Quest mini-series. Jonny Quest and his crew teaming with Space Ghost, Birdman, The Herculoids, Mightor, The Impossibles, and Frankenstein, Jr.? My barely-concealed inner seven-year-old was thrilled.



AM radio surrendered to ABBA's "Waterloo" in 1973. I may have struggled with some indecision over whether or not I liked the song at the time, and I can't explain why. It was a pop song. I like pop songs. And I sorta liked ABBA, even before I realized how cute its female members were. Ultimately, I decided that I liked "Waterloo," too. "SOS" was my favorite among ABBA's initial run of hits, though the only ABBA singles I bought were "Knowing Me, Knowing You" and "Take A Chance On Me." I also loved "Dancing Queen." I had no use for "Fernando." I was indifferent to "Mamma Mia" and "I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do." Reading in Bomp! magazine's 1978 power pop issue about "So Long," a purportedly great ABBA power pop song I'd not yet heard, was reason enough for me to buy my friend Jay's copy of ABBA's Greatest Hits. "So Long," "SOS," and a slightly later track called "Does Your Mother Know" are generally my go-to ABBA tunes, with "Dancing Queen" not far behind. I was perfectly okay with ABBA's induction into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.



1968's Showcase # 79 was the one and only Silver Age appearance of the underwater DC Comics character Dolphin. Created, written, and illustrated by romance comics veteran Jay Scott Pike, Dolphin's tale was moody and gorgeous, benefiting from atmospheric presentation and wonderful, evocative artwork. Its soap-opera elements were instantly reminiscent of the best qualities of comics like Young Love and Young Romance, but crossed with science-fiction, fantasy, and even (almost) superheroes. The "almost" would be removed in Dolphin's (much) later revivals, as she joined a group called The Forgotten Heroes for a Superman story in 1983's Action Comics # 545. The character has subsequently appeared (in various continuities) as a supporting character in Aquaman comics.



If I tell you I first saw Cherry Vanilla in Penthouse, you might get the wrong idea. Ms. Vanilla retained proper possession of her garments in the magazine, a photo of her face accompanying a piece she'd written about (as I recall) libidinal urges, rock 'n' roll, underwear, and growing up in the '50s. I think. Her memoir was appropriately provocative but not pornographic; it seemed instead rather matter-of-fact and genuine. I don't remember whether or not any mention was made of her association with David Bowie, for whom she worked as a publicist. Her subsequent debut album Bad Girl (1978) plays up the presumed naughtiness of her origin and the trendiness of '70s punk, but transcends expectations with a simply stellar track called "The Punk." Like The Kinks' "Prince Of The Punks," Cherry Vanilla's song is a dismissal of a pathetic poseur claiming to be cutting edge; but, surprisingly, "The Punk" is the more engaging of the two tracks. No, really! (It's okay; The Kinks more than redeemed themselves with many, many other songs in their catalog of, y'know, one of the finest bodies of work in rockin' pop history. Jeez, get a grip. But yeah, score this battle of the punks to Cherry Vanilla.)



I was six or maybe seven when I spied my first Marvel Comics house ad with this character called Dr. Strange. It might have been an ad for Marvel's line of t-shirts circa '66 or '67, or it may have been an ad for Strange Tales, the comic book title our Stephen Strange shared with Nick Fury, Agent Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Or it might even have been an actual issue of Strange Tales rather than an ad. I really should have kept better notes when I was six. I do remember that I wasn't yet familiar with the abbreviation "Dr.," so I thought the character was called Der Strange. I liked ol' Der, though, whatever he was called. This particular issue is from 1982, and I spotted it on the rack at a Victory Boulevard candy store/soda fountain on Staten Island. I recognized that the art was by Marshall Rogers and Terry Austin, whose 1977-78 work on DC's Detective Comics is something I'll likely always regard as my all-time favorite run of Batman stories. Coincidentally, those Detectives had been written by Steve Englehart, who had written Dr. Strange before moving to DC to craft the definitive Batman. Dr. Strange # 50 was ably written by Roger Stern, and I had to have it. I later wound up picking up a couple of preceding issues I'd missed, and began reading Dr. Strange regularly. I was just getting back into comics. And I was loving it. Thanks, Der.

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Our new compilation CD This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4 is now available from Kool Kat Musik! 29 tracks of irresistible rockin' pop, starring Pop Co-OpRay PaulCirce Link & Christian NesmithVegas With Randolph Featuring Lannie FlowersThe SlapbacksP. HuxIrene PeñaMichael Oliver & the Sacred Band Featuring Dave MerrittThe RubinoosStepford KnivesThe Grip WeedsPopdudesRonnie DarkThe Flashcubes,Chris von SneidernThe Bottle Kids1.4.5.The SmithereensPaul Collins' BeatThe Hit SquadThe RulersThe Legal MattersMaura & the Bright LightsLisa Mychols, and Mr. Encrypto & the Cyphers. You gotta have it, so order it here.