On “Binky Brown”

Reading about this groundbreaking undergrounder in Hillary Chute’s Why Comics? reminds me of the time I first came across it (I believe it was the second printing) in a Missoula “head shop.” The cover alone was “WHAAAAAAT?” This will fill you in on its history and significance.

I couldn’t believe this comic — every page was a revelation (as well as disturbing) that touched on society, the sexes, religion, growing up, and of course psychological disorder of the OCD type. It’s a bit like Elvis — it’s impossible to convey the jolt of surprise as one encountered “Binky Brown” when it was new.

I was on the inexperienced and naive side myself. I was certain Justin Green was going to become a prolific comix genius. For a long time I thought of him with a twinge of disappointment. Older and at least a couple (white) hairs wiser, I now see what an unrepeatable performance “Binky Brown” was. But hey — lots of artists have long and large careers without producing even one masterpiece. I bought the fancy 2009 reprint and thought Green’s work deserved every bit of the celebration.

End of an Era for Cuneiform

One of my all-time favorite labels.  Intelligent, experimental, all high-quality even on the rare occasion the music wasn’t my thing. Thanks to all — esp. ace publicist Joyce — for generous promotional material and enlightening sounds for many years.

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Fred Cole, Pt. Two: Wowsers and YIKES!

Continuing the process of trying to hear everything Cole recorded. To start at the start, I knew The Lollipop Shoppe’s “You Must Be a Witch” from the original Nuggets collection but for many years I did not know, out of raw ignorance, that this was Cole’s first band (only album came out in ’68 when he was 20). Then, since I never even saw a single copy of it, I smoothed over my curiosity by assuming (like the dummy I was) that Just Colour suffered from the usual Nuggets Curse (that is, aside from the one marvelous track, the album was either too derivative or outright bleh). I got the definitive 2008 reissue on Rev-Ola and wowsers was I wrong — one of the best garage-classic-containing LPs I’ve heard and a Rilly Weird. Piece of Work. “Underground Railroad,” “Who’ll Read the Will,” “Don’t Close the Door on Me” and the last track, “Sin” show Cole’s angry, morbid/supernatural and proto-punk attitude in place already. Only [small] defect: the two unreleased Bonus Tracks are weak. The sort of simpering stuff you were afraid the whole album would be like.

The YIKES is that on what I believe is the Pierced Arrows final album, Descending Shadows, the songwriting and performing remain intact, but Cole’s voice sounds wracked and ravaged. Not surprised this was the end. Still, perfect final song for a free spirit who flew his own way decade after decade: “Coming Down to Earth.”

Rot in Hell: Uncle Charlie

I have, surprise, two positive notes about the end of this psycho:

He has come to be viewed, not as a transgressive antihero or the depraved underside of all rebellion, but as a freaky product of freaky times.

Unlike what a lot of people feared, he’s become a smaller and smaller footnote to the story of the Beatles. Not least because their work remains undiminished.

R.I.P.: Fred Cole

Lifelong incarnation of “indie spirit rock and roll.” I discovered him and Toody when they were playing a Pierced Arrows album at Rockin’ Rudy’s in Missoula and I asked “who in the hell is this dandy item?” It was some early version of Straight To the Heart that doesn’t look like the one you can get now. Loved it, but sat around in ignorance until I read this definitive presentation by Bob Xgau. The double-CD is clearly where to begin, but I wanna snatch up anything I can find by Fred and Toody.