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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 NewsThe Syracuse New Times, Big Stir magazine, and AHOY Comics.  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.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Comics And LP Cover Cavalcade # 7

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

The items in today's image gallery share a common theme of TEAMS, some of which may seem more unlikely than others.

The Archie characters have been seen in a number of varied and expansive interpretations in recent years. I was never interested in the walking-dead shenanigans of Afterlife With Archie; the only Zombies I care about are the ones who sang "This Will Be Our Year" and "She's Not There." The TV drama Riverdale hooked me initially, but ultimately drove me away; my daughter, who was a big fan of the Archie comics for many years, detested everything about Riverdale, and she rejected it outright as an insult to characters she loved. But I do enjoy the current ongoing Archie comic book, a straight, character-driven teen drama that succeeds more often than not. I'm also following The Archies, a separate-continuity series detailing the trials and tribulations of Riverdale's Finest trying to make it as a struggling rock 'n' roll band on tour. Hijinks ensue. The Archies was introduced as a terrific stand-alone one-shot comic last year, and it became a monthly series by the end of 2017.

In the pages of The Archies, our gang has encountered real-life musical acts Chvrches and Tegan and Sara. Even before this series, the traditional version of the Archie gang met KISS and the characters from Glee in previous comic book adventures. Later, the magnificent one-shot Archie Meet Ramones was my favorite single comic book of 2016. In 2018's The Archies # 4, a bonk to ol' Archiekins' head during a gig sends him into a dream sequence, where he and his pals 'n' gals meet The Monkees circa '66-'67. It's a match made in Pleasant Valley, lovingly evoking the spirit of The Monkees TV series. Alas, The Archies book is slated to end with its eighth issue, though not before the band meets Blondie in The Archies # 6. (Pop culture crossovers will continue, however, with the six-issue Archie Meets Batman '66 commencing this summer. My offer to write Batman '66 Meets The Monkees still stands. I've already written my Archies story.)

Long before they met The Archies, Forest Hills' answer to The Beatles met producer and future murderer Phil Spector with mixed results. Spector and The Ramones might have seemed an incongruous match to some and a perfect match to others. It made sense to me at the time, because The Ramones' punk persona never masked their true identity as rockin' pop fans and performers. Their first three albums were absolutely brilliant, and their fourth (1978's Road To Ruin) was likewise a thing of wonder. Spector approached them, asking rhetorically, You wanna make a good album, or a great one? Schmuck. Spector got on well with Joey Ramone, but the rest of the band hated the experience. End Of The Century is a good album--a very good album--but not a great one. "Do You Remember Rock 'n' Roll Radio?" does benefit from Spector's Wall Of Sound, and the only failed track is the way-too-fancy cover of The Ronettes' "Baby I Love You." The rest are mostly great Ramones songs that sound fine, but woulda been finer if Ed Stasium or Tommy Ramone had produced them. Of course it was The Ramones' best-selling album. But it wasn't the massive hit record everyone wanted it to be.

Even when I was a kid drawing home-made comics where Batman knew Iron Man and all was right with the world, it wasn't long before I realized that DC Comics and Marvel Comics were competitors, and never the twain would meet. The impossible became possible with Superman Vs. The Amazing Spider-Man, a 1976 tabloid-sized one-shot published jointly by DC and Marvel. I had some quibbles with some of writer Gerry Conway's characterizations at the time, but even then I couldn't deny this was epic. Lex Luthor and Dr. Octopus became the first DC and Marvel characters to meet, and their evil alliance brought the Man of Steel and your friendly neighborhood wall-crawler together. Inter-company crossovers resumed in the early '80s with Superman And Spider-Man (which I loved without reservation), Batman Vs. The Incredible Hulk (which I like much better now than I did then), and The Uncanny X-Men And The New Teen Titans (which I adored). A flurry of bad feeling between the once-and-future rivals killed a planned Justice League-Avengers combo. DC and Marvel have occasionally and intermittently agreed to speak with each other over the ensuing decades, and they are not speaking with each other now. The four-issue JLA/Avengers miniseries in 2003-2004 was their final collaboration to date, and it is my favorite among all of them. But you can't knock this one: the one that started it all.

I've never owned a vinyl copy of The Everly Brothers' fab Two Yanks In England LP from 1966, and I have no idea how much (if at all) the general public knew that the great British Invasion pop group The Hollies worked with Don and Phil on some of this record. Eight of its twelve tracks--"So Lonely," "Signs That Will Never Change," "Like Every Time Before," "I've Been Wrong," "Have You Ever Loved Somebody," "Don't Run And Hide," "Fifi The Flea," and "Hard Hard Year"--were written by Hollies Allan Clarke, Tony Hicks, and Graham Nash under the nom du bop L. Ransford, and The Hollies also released their own versions of each. The Hollies themselves backed the Everlys on much of the album. Man, this is a terrific record, and the opening cover of The Spencer Davis Group's "Somebody Help Me" is just as great as the songs The Hollies wrote. I refuse to pick favorites among whether The Hollies or The Everly Brothers did the better versions of their songs, though for "I've Been Wrong" I might give the edge to a cover by The Buckinghams. But it's close!

I would presume the success of Marvel's comics based on Robert E. Howard's pulp character Conan the Barbarian prompted DC to look for a sword-and-sorcery license of its own. DC was already doing well with a number of Edgar Rice Burroughs' fantasy characters, from Tarzan to John Carter Of Mars, and in the early '70s it added Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser to its line of superstars. Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser debuted in pulps in 1939, and continued to appear in purple prose for decades thereafter. DC put 'em in a new comic book called Sword Of Sorcery, which ran for five issues in 1973.  But incongruously, the pair made their comics debut in Wonder Woman in 1972. They appeared in the final panel of Wonder Woman # 201, and more actively in # 202, a two-part story featuring Wonder Woman and Catwoman. This was the period in Wonder Woman's history when she had relinquished her super-powers and her distinctive costume to become a mortal heroine adept in martial arts. The first part was written by Dennis O'Neil, the second by science-fiction author Samuel R. Delany, and both were gorgeously illustrated by Dick Giordano.

Motown billed itself as The Sound Of Young America. My wife Brenda was a city kid in the '60s, born in Brooklyn, raised in government housing in a section of Staten Island nicknamed Little Harlem. I was a suburban kid in an overwhelmingly white neighborhood. We both knew Diana Ross & the Supremes. Everyone knew Diana Ross & the Supremes. I didn't really become aware of The Temptations until "Papa Was A Rollin' Stone" in 1972. Brenda knew all of it, the soulful soundtrack of her youth. Years later, she would help me discover The Sound Of Young America for myself (and I in turn would help her develop a taste for The Beatles). Diana Ross & the Supremes Join The Temptations is one of the relatively few LPs Brenda still has from her childhood, a summit meeting of two of Motown's top acts in top form.

Strange Tales # 130 was one of the dozens and dozens of '60s comic books passed on to me by my sister's boyfriend when he put aside such juvenile ephemera upon graduating from high school in 1970. Thanks, George! Long before Spider-Man met Saturday Night Live's Not Ready For Prime Time Players or an Avengers comic book depicted Earth's Mightiest Heroes appearing on Late Night With David Letterman, The Fantastic Four's squabbling twosome The Human Torch and The Thing encountered the Fab Four of John, Paul, George, and Ringo. The lads from Liverpool made only a cameo in this short tale, and one presumes with certainty this was not authorized by Beatles manager Brian Epstein in any way. I wonder if The Beatles themselves ever saw this. If so, I would imagine they were amused. Paul McCartney's post-Beatles tune "Magneto And Titanium Man" would indicate he was at least something of a Marvel Comics fan at one point.

The presumed depravity of The Sex Pistols was set to be spotlighted in a feature film called Who Killed Bambi?, a punk-rock Hard Day's Night written by movie critic Roger Ebert with Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren, to be directed by sexploitation legend Russ Meyer. Ebert had previously written Meyer's over-the-top Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls, a film which also concerned a rock group (in the latter case, an all-female trio called The Carrie Nations, two of whom were played by former Playboy Playmates Dolly Reed and Cynthia Myers, lip-syncing to vocals by singer and future Penthouse Pet Lynn Carey--we ARE the world!). Who Killed Bambi? mighta had the makings of a classic or a disaster--or both!--but the film was never completed, and the Pistols broke up amidst pronounced acrimony at the dawn of 1978. Instead of Who Killed Bambi?, Pistols fans got Julian Temple's audacious Sex Pistols post-mortem The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle. The 2-LP soundtrack album was released in 1979, well before Temple's film, and I snapped it up my first available payday that summer. My friend Jay dismissed the record as an accurately-titled swindle, but I was fascinated by its mix of previously-unissued Pistols and miscellaneous nonsense (like a medley of Pistols songs covered by a disco group, and a symphonic version of "God Save The Queen"). Nowadays, the only thing I'm likely to listen to here is Sid Vicious' surprisingly effective cover of Eddie Cochran's "Somethin' Else," but I wouldn't dream of removing it from my collection.

From The Sex Pistols to The Partridge Family? Yeah, that sounds like me. Although I was a fan of The Partridge Family TV show at the time, this was the only issue of the companion Charlton Comics funnybook I ever owned, a coverless purchase at Van Patten's Grocery in North Syracuse. It holds a weird but important distinction in my development as a pop culture maniac: the lead-off story "The Nostalgia Bug Bites Reuben" finds Partridge manager Reuben Kincaid reminiscing about the golden age of radio, with illustrations depicting his old-time radio icons like The Lone Ranger, Charlie McCarthy, and The Shadow. This was the first time I had ever seen a picture of The Shadow, a character who would become one of my all-time favorites. Before my Shadow original radio broadcasts LP, before the many Shadow comic-book revivals, before my immersion in The Shadow's history in Steranko's History Of The Comics, before those stacks of Shadow pulp reprints in both trade and pocket paperback forms on my shelves, my awareness of The Shadow started with The Partridge Family. Who knows what oddities lurk in the hearts of men?

I never owned this on LP, but received a CD reissue to review for Goldmine back in those halcyon days when I wrote for money. Ah, those were the days! The album fell short of revelation, but I was pleasantly surprised at its simple, capable accomplishment. It wasn't bad. That may seem like damning it with faint praise, but I wasn't much of a Bobby Vee fan, and I had low expectations. I mean, c'mon--Bobby friggin' Vee effectively subbing for the great Buddy Holly with Holly's old mates The Crickets? Those expectations were easily surpassed by what turned out to be a genuine meeting of like minds and compatible talents. I haven't heard this in years, and my copy fell victim to one of the periodic purges of the ol' collection, the essential winnowing process that prevents my vast accumulation of stuff from engulfing my entire home and property. But my review was positive, and rightly so. Well...all right!

As we conclude today's gallery of teams, don't forget my own unlikely meeting between Baron Daemon and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Grab a hold of your baby and hold her tight!


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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. 

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