Our guest columnist for this issue is well-known layabout, Spin Turlock. A raconteur, bon vivant, a Man of The World, if you will, Spin is perhaps best known for writing the insightful essay that graces the CD sleeve of Ted Hawkins, “Music For 2:47 A.M". (an excellent collection, by the way, of jay-uzz n' blooze interpretations, available whenever Ted plays out in public). He's also been linked to the Canadian micro-indie recording act, The Kewpies, but he has never publicly admitted this.
"That would be tantamount to admitting you wallow in your own vomit," quips the Spin-ster, and really, who could blame him?
The rest of the column is his story...
People like reviews, because they are essentially opinions, which form the basis of a good argument. They can be educated, heartfelt, stirring or - more often than not - rewritten press releases passing for news copy, but they are still opinions. No more and no less.
My drinking buddy Glen Nott, a sport section writher and lay-out jockey @ The Hamilton Speculator, used to tell me: "make 'em mad, sad, or glad, kid." He told me this years ago, when I was a freelance advertorial writer there, writing descriptive copy for ladies undergarment ads. That was before the lightbulb turned on, and I realized a) there was more money to be made out in Beaverlodge, Alberta and b) "kid???!!"...he's younger than me fer chrissakes!
We're going to review Don Pyle's "Trouble In The Camera Club" It's a book, a physical book, one with 297 printed pages that came into my possession. I don't know how that translates to Kindle-bytes, but hopefully people of all ages can appreciate the time I took to read this coffee-table sized tome.
If you're thinking of doing something similar in the future, may I offer some advice? First of all, pick a title with lots of pictures. It helps buffer all that print, which can get claustrophobic. As the title implies, there are many photos to be had here. Second of all, pick a topic that people have an interest in, but very little actual first-hand experience with. The Toronto punk scene of 77/78 qualifies for that in spades. The number of that scene's participants could fit quite comfortably into a modest Latvian social Club- and only then if you counted the imports from Hamilton/London/et al.
Thing is, there's a rose-coloured mystique about that era and milieu – ‘scuse my French - that young people seem to enjoy reading - and writing - about.
Look at Liz Worth, for example. A seemingly bright, young person who has made a name for herself writing about the long-ago and far away exploits of middle-aged folk with saggy butts and expanding waistlines.
Thing is, she correctly sensed “Punk” was the source, the ground Zero of her generation's current DIY MO. It started there, and others built on it, albeit to the point where the current edifice bears little resemblance to the original foundation. That’s the way it goes
Pyle - who I think I may have met once or twice on the carny circuit - goes further with this book, though. He is perhaps best known as the drummist of the Toranna instrumental trio, Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet. As it turns out, he was also one of those few people who both actively participated AND documented his activities with sometimes grainy, sometimes blurred, but always accurate photographs of such Punk rock pioneers as the Ramones, Iggy Pop, The Viletones & Teenage Head.
The photos do the talking here, the first-person commentary provides the context, and there are some good stories told here. To use an example: if one ever wanted to know how punk rock "works" in a media vacuum, read how Freddie Pompeii of the Viletones initiated the sequence of events that led to the formation of Crash Kills Five which begat the Shadowy guys, and so on and so on and they told two friends. There's also personal slant offered up here: tales of cheap vinyl finds & hard contact lens use, both of which I can, like, relate to.
Full disclosure: Pyle is my age, separated by only one year. Whereas he was able to public transit it to gigs in Toranna, I could only wing it in Wingham some 200 klics away, or read about the thing second hand in the pages of the Toronto Star.( And lemme tell you, you got looks when you bought Ramones or Sex Pistols vinyl in a small-town furniture store "back in the day"...)
I'm digressing again.
The point I'm making here is the combo of words and pictures in the book brings it all home, even to young people. With any luck, they should walk away with a tangible sense of what those old farts actually accomplished & experienced before they started sagging - and staggering - toward Sheol.
Fug me, this is depressing. Let’s talk about living. I got this cassette tape (the cheap-o medium of the 20th century – ask your parents) in the mail from a Brantford, ON. outfit called Plant Magic, the bandonym of one Katie Iarocci.
She sings and plays an assortment of instruments seemingly selected, I swear, by the Ghost of Lewis Brian Hopkins Jones. We have harpsichords, sitars, and other period effects galore here (although I don’t think Jones ever got around to jamming on the bul bul taraang), that period being roughly defined as somewhere between the buttons of Baroque Stones and early progressive rock. That kind of thinking eventually led to the stylistic impasse the people described in Pyle’s book worked against, but here, in its most guile-less flowering, it works as an out-of-time, almost otherworldly, artefact. Part of the levitation effect comes from the neo-communal bliss invoked in the songs and part of it comes from the tea-cozy, homemade sound quality of the recordings.
And speaking of tea cozies, a word about the cassette packaging. The recording comes in a wee flour sack, much like the copy of King Biscuit Boy’s “Good Uns” LP. Since I don’t currently own a cassette playback machine, I resorted to downloading the MP3s. I guess I’m just a modern guy..
Plant Magic share a split release with Eiyn Sof, the bandonym of Melissa Boraski. ES has its own strange quirk-ness and charm: low-tech pop/rock with lyrics about The Big Hurt. Enjoyable, but I prefer the Magic side. Perhaps the suggestion of that great escape to the commune in Paris…Ontario is what’s working here. It’s just my opinion, man, but I would buy it. Straight from the source..
Well, that’s more than 1000 words, not counting the overlong intro by the editor, who owes me a bottle of Forty Creek’s finest.