Ham on Trial (in the EW Stand) #6

Swamp Dogg


One of the worst record covers of all time (Swamp Dogg’s Total Destruction To Your Mind)

I love that cover. All the Swamp Dogg covers, in fact. I would hold the best up as perfect models for how to be tasteless and tacky, weird and wacky, on zero budget. (The pink suit picture is sorta the antimatter version of 50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong.) Actually, I find his Jesus-on-the-cross one too high tech.

Without cracking the charts or drawing crowds commensurate with his ego on the endless tour that is his life, he believes so profoundly in his pact with the devil that he remains unbowed. Here that faith is both made manifest and recorded for posterity, which otherwise never happened on the same night. Admirers attribute this ungodly miracle to one emotional resource or other, but I find Lewis so impenetrable psychologically that I hesitate to put a name on it.
This is all very true and no question the best approach. It is, however, a fun rock-and-roll psyche puzzle. My own notion (I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a theory) is that, because Jerry Lee will always have more worlds that he will never conquer that he knows he should have, more than any other performer he relies on defiance as a Fountain of Youth.

“You suckers think I’m outfoxed, outmaneuvered, outgunned and over with? I’ll show ya!”

For years I would flip through the cutout and used LP bins for copies of his Mercury country sides. Not least for the covers where he radiates his “what the hell are you lookin’ at, mo-fo?” stare (Another Place Another Time, The Killer Rocks On and even Sings the Country Music Hall of Fame Hits. Vol 1).

And I heard defiance all over that surprising collection of duets from 2006, Last Man Standing. I like the image of him shuffling around in a bathrobe like an old feeb at death’s door, then flinging off the years and turning into the Killah at the keys when the moment came.

Aha — I see that Duke asked about bands of no special distinction who shine on a cover or two. So, I’ll throw out Earth Quake’s version of “Friday on My Mind.”

First thing I ever heard by them — on the quasi-landmark Beserkley Chartbusters — and I thought ohboyohboyohboyohboy. Then I heard the other cuts by them on the anthology and I looked like the kid used to illustrate the old joke:

Q: Why do they have mirrors on gumball machines?
A: So you can see how you look when you put in your nickle and the gum doesn’t come out.
On another topic, picked up a copy of the Cory and Me reissue (wish somebody, anybody had let me know it was coming out — I would have gotten some sort of notice out there) and gets a hearty endorsement for fans and the curious. Good liner notes tell the whole story. There was a belated, sorta follow-up album, in 1987, but boy, it must have been “limited release” indeed, because crazed fan me would have been all over it.

Tough task to overcome the onetime “stigma” of “has-been disco diva.” Even the Regina herself, Donna Summer, faced monumental hurdles. But, some honor delayed is not honor denied. Enjoy, I say.

I get Bon Iver mixed up with Bon Jovi and Bon Scott and the Bon-Ton and their common ancestor, the Bon Bon. After a while they all seem like small, round, gooey things.

(this is because “sharpsm” wanted to run up comments)

Well I have a couple interesting stories about my name. One is that I was named after an 11-year-old child who died from blood poisoning after catching a bit of skin between his forefinger and thumb when he was shooting off a celebratory cocked-hammer gun during the Fourth of July celebration in 1908.

My father was very fond of Milo. You can still see ol’ Milo’s grave in Livingston, MT.

I get Bon Iver mixed up with Bon Jovi and Bon Scott and the Bon-Ton and their common ancestor, the Bon Bon. After a while they all seem like small, round, gooey things.

The Nonesuch Explorer series was an important sequence of LPs. In addition to the titles already mentioned, the Japanese shakuhachi showcase, A Bell Ringing in the Empty Sky, was another standout. But there were dull installments, too.

And while several enduring African albums came out under Nonesuch Explorer (Zimbabwe: Soul of Mbira comes to mind), that’s also the site of their greatest blunder. Operating with, I assume, folkie-purist bias, the label missed the chance to introduce America to the grand masters of Congolese rumba, Nigerian juju and South African township years and years before anybody else. The closest to a current “pop” record they came was Voices of Africa: High-Life and Other Popular Music. And as I recall, that was quite weak tea.
For the record, I should add that I have no tolerance for the all-audiophile-talk-is-pretentious-nonsense crowd, either.There’s upper limits and the point of diminishing returns is more real than advertisers like to admit, but great stuff is great stuff, no question. Over at Slate not too long ago, Fred Kaplan got some of the most appalling rude ‘n’ crude feedback for a perfectly reasonable audiophile piece he wrote. Here’s a link —

burraburrahttp://www.slate.com/id/2279137/#add-commentcheckit out.

Turned me against the anti-audiophiles forever. Strut’s doing good work these days. Hope they included the delightful cover illustration from It’s Time for Juju Music somewhere.

Bob’s plug for Marshall Berman’s wondrous All That Is Solid … was such a fine grace note to the last thread I decided to move my pop-quiz answer over here.

What Shrek and Dr. Benway have in common (probably the only thing) is that they are both characters created by serious Willhelm Reich (or at least orgone box) fans, William Steig and William S. Burroughs.

List of Top 10 Reasons Not To Make Lists Early
1. If you make a list early, some things that should get taken off later will be left on just because they’ve been on the list since way back when.
2. Don’t bother because, I’m tellin’ ya, the can’t-miss, knockout, over-the-top, killah releases of the year haven’t come out yet. My boss said so.
3. If you stay in the water too long, you tend to list to port or starboard.
4. Even Santy Claus only checks his list twice — you got any idea how many times you’re gonna have to check this if you start now?
5.Mom might mistake it for a want list and duplicate a bunch of your albums.
6. You’re sure to get razzed later for some wack premature judgment if you show it to anybody.
7. Left in a drawer or an obscure computer file, too easy to confuse with the Enemies List.
8. If you like too many hottie performers, you’ll get shitlist (so to speak) for composing a list of pop stars you have a crush on.
9. Unless it’s really short, you’ll feel like a BS artist for some selections.
10. The dog will just eat it.
Derek Jeter’s less obnoxious than a horde of Yankees. All of which are less obnoxious than the endless “Yankees Suck” contingent in Boston. I’ve managed to go to about 12+ Red Sox games without ever paying for a ticket. I intend to keep that record intact, which means I’ll probably never set foot inside of Fenway again. I loved the games with bleecher seats where they wouldn’t bust you for lighting a joint. That was long ago. The last three or four have featured more and more barbaric fans who obviously figure since they paid a fortune for their spot they get to act like antisocial tyrants.

The game I’ll remember (a fading flower itself) was the last one more than a year ago where bud Mark Caro kept score on the sheet as the White Sox lost at Comiskey Park. And the subway ride there and back.

Michael Freedberg
Longtime Phoenix writer, of course. Though he could be quite a pill — and certainly one of the few who was both an all-out disco hound and an all-out Republican — I would count myself as an admirer. His underground fanclub put together a little illustrated book called The Sayings of Chairman Freedberg. I wish I knew what became of it. A couple quips I remember are:

“Living in New York is like living inside an atom!”

Too much heavy metal is “just the sound of tools falling down stairs.”

He was fervent in his conviction that the world’s most neglected dance-club scene was Montreal. Made a pretty good case for it. Explains some of the more unconventional best-of selections. I forgot John Leonard was on that list and it’s an unfair choice because pop music is just a weak spot in the guy’s enormously varied writing. Rory O’Connor scribbled for The Real Paper in Cambridge and for a long time he’s been a documentary filmmaker. In his defense, I would bet he’s as eager as anyone to leave his gee-whizzy music writing in the sink disposal of history.
It’s a lot harder to be “wrong” on a single than on an album. Singles are visceral, and there’s no arguing with someone’s gut.

This is a crucial point. It was one reason Pazz and Jop was wise to make it Top 10 Songs — not necessarily only those released as a single.

On the many year-ends I’ve drawn up, albums and singles played clearly different roles. I expected the selected albums to at least sound like excellent records in five, 10, even 20 years (maybe they would have fallen out of a Top 10, but still had to last as hi-quality work).

Singles were much more the soundtrack of the year. The songs that best colored the past Jan-Dec. For me alone, sometimes, but also for me and the world (screw the ones that mattered to the world but not me).

So it counted that “Fawk You,” the final hurraugh of the F-word, became a major hit. Jollied me over the line on it (in my much-enfeebled state as a singles listener). Certainly wasn’t interested in any other track on Lady Killer.
Cocteau Twins/Jandek/Shaggs

[smacks forehead]

Which item does not belong with the other two?

[Gives up. Puts on Contact High with the Godz. Wishes the whole phenomenon had begun, peaked and ended with this one brilliant record. But NOOOOoooooooo …]
Maybe it has. Ended that is.

Hhmmm. You know, you may be right. Last “new” atrocity I can think of is The Langley Schools Music Project and that was way back right when irony died in 2001. The most significant projects Indefatigable Irwin Chusid has come up with since are books about Jim Flora (shame on you, Irwin — he’s talented in a completely conventional sense).

And “Why Won’t the Oldies Get Off the Stage?” is a pervasive problem. Maybe I should relax and take the trash out to the dumpster of the past.

Hasil Adkins

Oh, ho-ho — now you’ve hit upon a particularly difficult case. Just discard all the overinflated hooey about his vast genius blah-blah-blah. Thing is, the guy’s done about a half-dozen or so songs that have an unusual (I can’t bring myself to claim “unique”) pipeline to the unhinged subconscious. For example, “No More Hot Dogs” is a more convincing psychopath-killer song than the ones recorded by the real deals.

I donno. Those few numbers just sit there. Like the legend of walking by a street performer who changes your life with a searing declarative tune you can’t remember the next day. (Or is that Ted Hawkins?)

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