Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Book Review: Swedish Sensationsfilms, by Daniel Ekeroth

Text © Richard Gary / FFanzeen, 2011
Images from the Internet

Swedish Sensationsfilms: A clandestine history of sex, thrillers, and kicker cinema
By Daniel Ekeroth
Translated by Magnus Henrikkson
Bazillion Points Books (Brooklyn, NY), 2011
320 pages; USD $19.95
ISBN: 978-09796163-6-5

This review is by guest reviewer, Richard Gary.

Just what is Swedish Sensationsfilms, you may be asking? This is cinema produced in Sweden mostly from the late 1950s into the 1990s, but mostly whose heyday is the mid-‘60s through the mid-‘80s, that push the boundaries of taste, topics, and usually patience. Much of the focus includes crime, spies, adventure stories, and pseudo-documentaries, but mostly they are about sex. The American equivalent would be Exploitation Cinema; however, unlike the US subgenre, horror and gore was frowned upon by a strong Swedish governmental censorship board, but sex was accepted so the films were wide open in this area (not sure if pun intended or not).

Back in New York during 1969, I remember after the Mets won the World Series, and any member of the Mets baseball organization could get in free to see Jag ar Nyfiken – Gul, or as we knew it, I Am Curious (Yellow), which paved the way for the wave of Swedish films that would start showing up in art houses such as the Thalia and along 42 Street, pre-Giuliani’s gentrification / sterilization.

Author Daniel Ekeroth’s previous book was Swedish Death Metal, which takes an in-depth look at the harsh music genre. Here he looks at sensationsfilms cinema from his Swedish homeland in a very detailed, thorough, and fan-based loving way.

Here is the general format of the book: each page has the title alphabetically with literal English translation directly beneath, and other names the films have been released under at the bottom. The director and actors are listed on the side. Each citation is, on average, three paragraphs. Usually the first is about the plot, the second about the making of the film, and the third some anecdote or juicy details about the actors, director, critics comments from the time, and such. While that is par, sometimes the info is shorter and summed up in a single paragraph, other times it fills the page.

To add to this, about every fourth or fifth page is filled with images from the films, posters, VHS or DVD boxes, and the like, with average of three per page. Most are black and white, but there is a multiple leaf color section in the middle. All very exciting and labeled with descriptions.

It’s pretty obvious who some of Ekeroth’s likes and dislikes are by his consistent commentary. After all, there are a limited amount of actors and directors coming out of Sweden, so it’s easier to see a person’s work in retrospect. For example, he is apparently not fond of prolific directors Mats Helge Olsson, the Jesus Franco of Sweden, if you will, and Arne Mattisson. He is also fond of actresses like Marie Forsa, and has an obvious crush on period stalwart Christina Lindberg (who has her own few autobiographical pages near the beginning titled “Christina Lindberg, Exposed; as told to Ronny Bengtsson,” where she talks about her career for a few enjoyable pages).

Because the text was translated from Swedish (by Magnus Henriksson), sometimes the syntax feels a bit strange, but that does not interfere with the contents in any way, and in fact, keeps it from getting clichéd. But mostly what matters is he speaks his mind. For example, for the 1982 film Blodaren (The Bleeder), Ekeroth firmly states, “…a group of high school media students could produce a better film than this in a matter of hours” (that only makes me want to see it more, which is possible since it is available in segments on YouTube). For Jag, en Oskuld (aka I, A Virgin, 1968), he jokes, “foremost the one where Inga masturbates accompanied by a wild fuzz guitar – as we all do from time to time.” In a further self-deprecation, both personally and nationally, he posits that Lamna Mej Inte Ensam (1980; otherwise known as Don’t Leave Me Alone and The Score), is “a relic from the most insane period in Swedish history – when child pornography and prostitution was legal, yet horror movies were uniformly banned by censors, and homosexuality as by law considered a mental illness. It’s a miracle any kid survived those years – and I should know!”

It is also admirable that Ekeroth includes some extremely obscure releases, such as The Frozen Star (1977), an early Mats Helge Olsson film which Ekeroth explains, “The original print was only screened once for about ten people at the Metropol theater in little Varnamo…” Apparently, this is also an early example of the Swedish sub-sub-genre of “Lingonberry Western” (the Swedish version of the Italian “Spaghetti Western”). On the other end of the spectrum, there are a few Ingmar Berman inclusions, such as Jungfrukallan (1960), which we know as The Virgin Spring (and on which 1972’s Last House on the Left is based).

The author’s pedigree in music makes its presence felt occasionally, such as for 1971’s Sound of Naverlur (The Sound of the Birch Trumpet, where he comments, “For those of you interested in fast music and very short songs, Dalarna [Swedish province] is also the birthplace of grindcore, as genre godfathers Asocial recorded their 1981 demo tape ‘How Could Hardcore Be Any Worse?’ there in the town of Hedemora.”

There is plenty of trivia related information added, such as for Karlekens Sprak (1976), where he notes that this “is the highly inappropriate film Travis Bickle takes Betsey to see on their date in Taxi Driver (1976).” Another interesting aspect is how many American actors appear in these films, including Rod Taylor, Christopher Lee, Valerie Perrine, Dennis Hopper, and Clu Gulager, and especially those of the golden porn era, such as Harry Reems, Sharon Mitchell, Bob Astyr, Eric Edwards, Darby Lloyd Rains, and Kim Pope.

Towards the back of the book, appear a few appealing appendixes. First up is a “Glossary of Curious Swedish Culture” (including Fritidsledare, Kickers, and Raggare). Next is a “Rogues Gallery” that includes bios and brief filmographies of stars of the genre, such as the likes of directors Mac Ahlberg, Andrei Feher, and Joseph Sarno (born in Brooklyn!), and actors including Marie Ekorre, Heinz Hopf, and Marie Liljedahl. Finally (after the Acknowledgements page), Ekeroth lists the “Twenty Sensationsfilms To See Before You Die.”

And what is missing? Nothing much, but I do have a couple of wish-list kind of additions. First, I would have liked to have seen an index of the films by their English names in the back, so I would not have to go through page by page, as the titles are listed, of course, by their original Swedish names. Second, and this is possibly being unreasonable, how about an included DVD with some of the trailers to these films? Sure, some can be found on YouTube and on the Something Weird label, but having it in the back of the book would have been great, though most likely financially unrealistic.

For the fan of exploitation films, this book is an absolute must. A fun read whether you’ve seen the films or not (or even intend to do so), this book fills a needed hole in the history of world cinema.

Bonus trailers:
Thriller: En Grym Film, possibly a framework for Kill Bill.

Jag – En Kvinna (known in the US as I, A Woman)

Maid in Sweden

Mats Helge Olsson’s The Ninja Mission

Sunday, May 22, 2011

DVD Review: Stripperland

Text © Richard Gary/FFanzeen, 2011
Images from the Internet

Directed by Sean Skelding
Independent Media Distribution, 2011
103 minutes, USD $19.95

When there’s no more room on the pole, strippers will walk the earth!”

“First they dance, then they kill!”

The basic premise to this comedy is that a virus turns young-to-middle aged women into zombies who like to dance on poles, dress in heels, spandex and lingerie, and dine on men’s body parts. Four people join forces on their way across the country to Portland, Oregon, where two of the passengers’ Grambo lives. It’s a mixture of a road movie, a buddy film, a love story, and, of course, the walking half-naked dancing dead.

Despite the title, an obvious play on 2009’s Zombieland (more on that later), this film is a lot less salacious than one may imagine. If that is a good thing or a bad one, guess that’s up to the viewer. While there is very little nudity, there are plenty of body parts, both attached and detached, mostly in something tight fitting.

Unlike some broad stroked comedies, such as Vampire’s Suck was to Twilight, or even the milder Scary Movie was to Scream, this is more of a comedic homage to a large number of zombie flicks, including all of the …of the Dead series (including the remakes), Return of the Living Dead, 28 Days/Weeks Later, Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive, anything from Tromaville, Shaun of the Dead, Evil Dead,, even Star Wars (yes, I know there are no zombies in SW), and so many others. [Okay, another quick digression: do you realize that flesh eating zombies did not exist prior to 1968? Before that, zombies were mostly related to voodoo culture.]

But it’s definitely Zombieland that is the basic paradigm, sometimes accurately, such as relying on lists (in this case, typically “strippers are all about the money”; “never eat in a strip club”) and characters being named for states, for example, but usually twisting it a bit, having one look for baked goods rather than Twinkies (do I need a trademark stamp after that?), and Portland as the goal rather than an amusement park. But the two sisters are there (though a bit older than the ZL version for obvious reasons), the tough as nails Hummer driver with the shotgun and straw cowboy hat, and the nerdy (read: annoying) guy.

The director here, Sean Skelding, only has a couple of films under his belt (such as the same level of spoof, I Am Virgin), but he has been a set designer for some very A-level films and TV programs, such as Maverick, Party of Five, and yes, Twilight. This has led him to know quite a few recognizable B-level actors that are willing to appear in his films for the fun of it, usually outshining the four main characters, who I will get to after this…. [Well, after this brief side-step, once again. The AD, Tyler Benjamin, directed the zombie documentary Walking Dead Girls, reviewed in this column earlier. He created the word “zimbie,” or bimbo zombie, which the rapper character Double D uses at some point as a throwaway line here. Okay, now back to our show…]

The main character, Idaho (Ben Sheppard) – who does not come from that state – is based on Jesse Eisenberg’s Columbus. Ben plays Idaho like a manic depressive stuck on “up” mode. He chatters and smiles and is goofy, reminding me of a chipmunk, and is obsessed with strippers from before the infection. He’s so into looking at them on the Internet, he has no idea of what is actually going on in the world, even to his step-mom, until she bursts into the room with black electric tape over her nipples a la Wendy O. Williams.

At this point, the first guest star of the film shows up, none other than Troma chief and Toxic Avenger creator himself, Lloyd Kaufman. Ever notice how Kaufman’s personality is similar to Mel Brooks, with a quick mind for ad libs? Come to think of it, they even look a bit alike. Anyway, Kaufman hams his way joyously through his lines before his demise, the way in which reminds me of the fate of the Joe Silver character in Cronenberg’s Rabid. Not sure if that was intentional or not.

Idaho is joined, after a rescue in a supermarket, by Frisco (Jamison Challeen), the only character named after a city rather than state here, who is based on Woody Harrelson’s Tallahassee. He’s rough, he’s quiet, he’s good with a shotgun (and chain saw, apparently), and just pinning for his lost love, who was a great baker, it seems. Challeen plays it a bit over the top at times, but definitely has the character down pat, being fun to watch as his slow-burn bursts of anger surface.

One of the two sisters (I’m not sure which is supposed to be ZL’s “Wichita” or “Little Rock” because they had to up the ages due to the content, as I stated above, and rightfully so) is “Virginia” (Maren McGuire, who has a Karen Allen/Genevieve Bujold appeal). She is mostly quiet until she has a reason to put herself on the line. Her character has the most range of the four leads, going from quiet and shy to, well, lets just say bombastic. While the others stay in their niche, McGuire gets the opportunity to stretch, and handles it well.

Her sister is “West” (short for “West Virginia,” embodied by Ileana Herrin), who is a match for Frisco’s fire. Rather than a shotgun, her specialty is two machetes and a very short haircut. While Herrin’s acting is the stiffest of the four, the viewer is having fun, so it is just part of the show. [Note that three of the four main actors have mostly no other IMDB credits listed; only McGuire has had a career, with around 15 credits, including some still in production].

As fun as the set-up is, the heart of the film is the set pieces with the guest stars. The next one we meet is Daniel Baldwin, who plays the rapper (you heard me) Double D, which stands for the double-decker bus he rides around in while on tour, rather than what may be obvious for this film. His song “Club Life” is, well, horrendous (unintentionally so, I assume, from the way it’s used as the chapter head music on the DVD). Our stalwart foursome run across him rapping in the middle of the road beside his bus, with huge bodyguards by his side, arms folded of course. There are a bunch of zombies dancing in front of him; apparently, as long as he’s rapping, they’re dancing rather than attacking. He speaks the “yo yo yo” kind of talk that always sounds either stupid or exploitive when middle-aged whites do it (seems a common enough device on sit-coms, yaknowwhatahmsayin’?). Baldwin looks like he’s having fun, though, and that’s conveyed onto the audience, despite the – err – music.

When they get to a mall (Jantzen Beach, in Portland), as you know they must if you follow the …of the Dead films, they run into a gay pimp with fur and reflections of Alex DeLarge of A Clockwork Orange via Bowler and eyeliner on one eye. He is played by Moose Jaw (Saskatchewan) native Boyd Banks, who has made a reputation by being in a number of George Romero’s later zombie films (not to mention Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle and Kids in the Hall). The commentary track has some fine info about the development of his character.

Thom Bray plays an insane doctor living in a casino that’s trying to train the zombies into doing housework, or what he called “retro wifery.” Yep, not only is he based on the insane, always blood-soaked doctor from Day of the Dead, but he’s even named Dr. Logan. Bray is another one who is obviously having fun at this day’s work, even (re)writing his own shtick (such as a mother fixation, among other things). He’s a blast to watch at work.

The guest-star-that-wasn’t is Gilbert Gottfried, who was supposed to mirror the Bill Murray character from ZL, but as he couldn’t make it due to a another (I’m reading that as “paying”; I say that respectfully, not as a dig) commitment, the much lesser known Hank Cartwright fills in as Guy Gibson (they had already shot the scene with the “GG” on the gate), and he actually steals the scene, all the while being macho aging action star and dressed in drag.

Present scream queen Luna Moon has a bit part as a chained zombie in Dr. Logan’s laboratory. She’s into the role; you can tell by the gusto she presents. She’s occasionally seen in the background of the shots, and she is always pacing and strongly into character. She’s obviously not just a horror hostess.

And playing her first granny role (Jeez!) is ‘80s supreme scream queen Linnea Quigley (wasn’t she just a teen in Savage Streets and Return of the Living Dead?), dressed in a girl scout uniform. She gets a fine chance to chew a cigar (and some scenery), which she does in all her glory. I met her once in the early ‘90s, and she was as nice as can be.

There are two full-length commentaries, something more extensive than a viewer may associate with an indie horror film, but unlike most independents, they are worth watching, especially the one with the director, writer and producer. Their narrative is full of inside stories of particular days, how things got done, actors’ personalities, and everything that is interesting about a commentary (as opposed to the Farrelly Brothers’ lazy style of “Oh, there’s our neighbor; oh, there’s our mailman” or Kevin Smith’s insulting-each-other drunken/drugged out mess). This is really what a commentary should be. You’ll have to watch it if you want to find out the meaning of the “G.A.S.” signs that are placed all over Portland. There is a second track that I’ve listen to most of, and which I will finish, by the person in charge of the physical (make-up and applications) FX, and the one who did the digital ones. It’s also interesting to hear how they finagled things the last minute, though they occasionally focus on their own particular work, stepping on each other (not often though), and being cordial about it. Speaking of effects, there are literally hundreds of digital SFX through green screen, erasing, placing, blood, and the like, some of it a bit fakey (such as the Kaufman demise), but impressive nonetheless. As I’ve always enjoyed the prosthetics effects, make-up, and like (John Carpenter’s The Thing is still the one to beat), I was impressed by how much they were able to do with such a small budget. Overall both kinds of effects were remarkable for a film this size.

Other extras include three documentaries (averaging about 8 minutes each) on SFX, the guest stars, and interviews with some of the women who play the stripper zombies; some of them are dancers (one sounds so mercenary, I found her scarier than her character), or adult actors. There are also two music videos (including the dreadful Double D’s “City Life”), some company trailers (such as for Skelding’s I Am Virgin), and a few older refreshment theater ads that are on many of the Cheezy Flicks releases.

Sometimes the comedy falls flat in the film, and it certainly helps to be conscious of the zombie culture that has existed since someone stated, “They’re coming to get you, Bar-ba-ra” (yes, there is a character here with that name in honor, but no one says the line, and I don’t remember if anyone wore racing gloves). In the commentary, they make the suggestion that you use the recognition as a drinking game (know the source, take a drink). It’s the association of references that especially makes the film a fun voyage, more than the jokes, more than the dress code, and more than the gore. You really need to be a zombie fan (which I am) to derive the true flavor of the film, and if you are, it’s especially worth it.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

DVD Review: Bloodsucking Nazi Zombies, by Jesus Franco

Text © Richard Gary/FFanzeen, 2011
Images from the Internet

Bloodsucking Nazi Zombies
Written and directed by A.M. Frank (aka Jesus Franco)
Re-released by Cheezy Flicks, 1981/2011
82 minutes, USD $14.95

This was written by guest reviewer, Richard Gary.

Sometimes one can tell how bad a film is just by how many names it goes by, especially if it came out in Europe during the 1980s. Now, the director is Jesus Franco under the pseudonym A.M. Frank (I’m guessing as in “I Am Franc[o]), so the expectation should be low in the first place. While it’s original incarnation was as L'abîme des morts vivants, it’s English releases alone include The Treasure of the Living Dead, The Oasis of the Living Dead, Oasis of the Zombies, The Walking Nazi Dead, Nazi Zombies,, and this release of BNZ.

Here is the basic premise of the plot: Nazis were trucking gold through Northern Africa (Morocco?) during Dubbya Dubbya Dos, when they were attacked by the Allies at an oasis in the desert, and now they have returned from the dead to protect said gold in the form of flesh-eatin’ zombs. The college-age son of one of the sole Allied survivor decides to find the treasure after his dad is killed by a greedy turncoat. Along with a couple of buds, they run into the traitor, some hot women who come along for the ride, and, of course, some of those pesky, slow-moving meat chompers.

While the whole shebang is a bit of fun (after all, it is a Franco film), it’s also a lot of fluff (after all, it is a Franco film). There are more questions than answers by the end, and on so many different levels. For example:

If it is Nazi zombies protecting the gold, how come we never see any Nazis? Yes, there is a swastika on an overturned jeep, but all the zombies have (relatively) long hair and no uniforms. I’m guessing these are supposed to be the victims who have turned into zombies themselves, but there is not a single Nazi in sight, nor any of the post-dead over the age of, say, mid-20s.

I’m just guessing here that the original, foreign-language dialog was written by Franco, but the English translation I am assuming was not? There is almost a Firesign Theater-type disconnect from the action actually happening on screen and what the characters are saying. As an example, the night after a zombie attack where part of the son’s troupe is killed, this lighthearted dubbed interchange takes place:
Male: Shit!
Female: You say “shit” like you’re from Brooklyn.
Male: Yeah, a real native.

What the hell?

Another is a scientist, commenting on the zombie attack, who makes that old grade school joke, “They came out of the sand which is there.”

And as for that attack, I wonder, would these kids really be making out, joking around, etc., that soon after a violent run-in with the post-dead? For me, I would be out of there soooo fast. A part of Eddie Murphy’s routine from Delirious when he’s discussing the film The Amityville Horror comes to mind.

The zombies seemly attack at night during the main part of the story (they fade into the air when the sun hits them), but how come they came out during the day to attack two women tourists during the prolog? And if the victims come back to be zombies themselves, how come all the zombies are male? And why only when women are attacked, do the zombies rip off their clothes before eating… well, I can guess the answer to that: it’s the 1980s!

Despite the cheesy writing, amateurish special effects (including puppets), grainy and sometimes unfocused film (actually, this may be a transfer to DVD taken directly from a VHS), inconsistent tone of the characters, an over the top hammy death scene (play the trailer below), and some of the serious questions I’ve listed below, only one piece of dialog really bothered me (even more than the Brooklyn comment): After the only survivors of the attack come out alive, a rescuing Bedouin asks one of them, “Did you find what you were looking for?” The response is, “I mainly found myself.” Well, bully for you! What about the rest of your friends and others of your party who are toast? So glad he found himself at the expense of so many others. Yes, I talked back to the screen, possibly even insulting the character’s mother.

Oh, and I realize this is looking back to the 1980s through a post-9/11 rearview mirror, but watching long leggy beautiful actresses walk around Muslims praying made me just a little, well, self-conscious of Western imperialism.

This film is typical of many Euro-trash horror genre of the ‘80s, with a weak story and made on a low budget (some exceptions are those by Fulci and Argento), but also characteristic is the factor of enjoyment in their ineptitude, perhaps even more so because of it, and this is no exception. I’ve been watching some indie films that have been released in the last few years, such as Bill Zebub’s Worst Horror Movie Ever Made, Creep Creepersin’s Frankenstein, and Matthew Kohnen Ahhh! Zombies!!, and nearly all of them are usually equally entertaining (if not more so), have a stronger factor of creativity (well, Zebub’s work is usually borderline as much as I like some of it), and especially a robust sense of not taking themselves too seriously that most Euro releases from the period severely lack.

That being said, BNZ is the kind of film that is a lot more fun to watch with a crowd than in a lonely garret, so grab your food and beverage of choice (mine would be, of course, some White Castle and Manhattan Special Espresso Coffee Soda), and hunker down to groan in delight. And feel free to yell at the screen.

Bonus video :

Monday, May 16, 2011

“King" of the Tex-Mex: Joe Carrasco Crows

Text by John Jorge, introduction and photos by Robert Barry Francos
© 1982, FFanzeen; introduction / photos © RBF, 2011
Videos from the Internet

The following interview with Joe “King” Carrasco was originally published in FFanzeen magazine, issue #9, in 1982. It was conducted by John Jorge.

Calling Joe “King” Carrasco a dynamic performer is an understatement on the level of saying the Alamo didn’t go well for the Americans, or George W. Bush isn’t too bright. The man is a human form of double-caffeinated espresso

I had the extreme pleasure to see him (and the Crowns) play at the short-lived Sheepshead Bay club, the Brooklyn Zoo (where I took the photos attached to this piece). They rocked the place.

Time passed and after a few great albums, Carrasco and the Crowns went their separate ways. Carrasco moved on from Tex-Mex and jumped into reggae with full heart. But, and this is part of why this is being republished now, he has reformed with the original Crowns, and is heading back on the road to tour. Whether it will be Tex-Mex or reggae is anyone’s guess, but I’m going to assume it’s going to be a bit of each. Whichever way, it’s all good. – RBF, 2011

Joe “King” Carrasco and the Crowns. The name alone makes one think of perhaps some obscure “doo-wop” group of the late ‘50s. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Joe “King” Carrasco, along with the Sir Douglas Quintet, are the main exponents of Tex-Mex music. This style is hard to adequately describe, but listening to farfisa punctuated songs such as “96 Tears, “Wooly Bully,” or “Double Shot of My Baby’s Love,” one will know what Tex-Mex is all about. Call it Tex-Mex, nuevo wavo, or DOR, whatever you want, it’s difficult to keep still at a Carrasco concert.

“King” Carrasco may resemble the Police’s Sting, but he acts more like Steve Martin: a wild man unbounded. The tall, blond-haired Texan has made a name for himself in the past two years, since he formed the Crowns. Appearing on stage dressed in what has been termed “cheesy garb” and sporting a cape and an Imperial Margarine crown, this Texan oddball will do anything to win the adulation of the audience. He leaps and splits on stage, and armed with a sixty-foot guitar cord, jumps off stage still playing his guitar through the aisles, or on top of tables or the bar. He has brought his infectious dance-oriented music to such rock venues in New York as the Malibu, Mudd Club, Privates, as well as the Lone Star Café and Saturday Night Live. The Crowns include Dick Ross on drums; Brad Kizer on bass; and the comely Kris Cummings on keyboards.

Joe “King” Carrasco is as high-strung as a squirrel on Dexedrine. To conduct this interview (at the girls’ locker-room at Stoney Brook University), Carrasco had to be tied down and given a 20cc intramuscular injection of liquid valium. It did not have any effect on him.

FFanzeen: What is the question most asked of you?
Joe “King” Carrasco: “Why do you call yourself ‘The King’?” Well, I don’t know! [Laughs] I never knew why I called myself the King. Why does Prince Charles call himself “Prince” Charles? I don’t know.

FF: Who were you crowned by? Or was it a self-coronation?
Joe: One night in a dream, an angel came into my dream and crowned me. There’s this strange mystique in Texas. This is the real honest truth. I had a band called El Molino [The Grinder – RBF, 2011]. We were going to put out an album and we wanted to play New York, but some of the people in the band couldn’t make it up. So I couldn’t say it was El Molino and honestly say it was El Molino. I was called Joe Carrasco. And I said, Joe Carrasco is cool, but it doesn’t have anything to it. Sir Douglas Quintet are really big heroes of mine. And Augie (Myers), who plays organ for Doug (Sahm), is called “Lord August.” And there’s all these royal names down in Texas. Bands in Texas are really into royal names, so I thought, “King” Carrasco – it works! So I went for it.

FF: Name some influences to your music and style.
Joe: In the seventh grade, we played Sam the Sham stuff and Chicano music a lot. Sonny and the Sunliners, Steve Jordan, and Little Joe and the Familiar, and people like that. Those people really inspired me a lot. I used to always want to just end up playing in the lounges, and that’s what I really wanted to do. And all of a sudden, it wasn’t that I was tired of playing Mexican lounges, but we started playing this place called Raul’s in Austin, a punk club ran by Chicanos, and ended up playing more and more stuff that people loved. And all of a sudden we ended up in New York with Stiff Records, and now we’re here (at Stoney Brook). Weird! It’s weird. I didn’t start out to do any of this.

FF: What other places in Texas have you played?
Joe: Skip Willies, in San Antonio. That’s a big city down there, but no clubs. Skip Willies – it’s the only one. It’s kind of slow in San Antonio, but it’s trying. I played Kelly Air Force Base one time, at the Officer’s Club there. We got run out on the first set. And we didn’t get paid for it, either. The government still owes us $180. They told me, learn some commercial stuff. So I learned a couple of K.C. and the Sunshine Band songs. I didn’t play them – but I learned them.

FF: What kind of image would you say that you project?
Joe: I guess that a lot of people think I’m crazy or something. But I think what we’re trying to do is – not that I’m bored with the world, but I think that people should have a good time and start dancing. I’m used to going to a lot of parties and seeing people having fun. That’s kind of what I expect to see when I play: a lot of people having fun and dancing, and everything. Staying up late.

FF: What exactly is Tex-Mex music?
Joe: To me, Tex-Mex is Chicano music, like Steve Jordan or Little Joe. That’s Chicano music, but to me, it’s hardcore Tex-Mex. Roots. But to me, pop Tex-Mex, which I’m into, is more like “96 Tears” and “Wooly Bully,” or stuff like that. It’s not like I’m trying to carry on a fucking ‘60s tradition, because I don’t really care. [The] ‘Sixties is great and cool, but I’m talking about something that has to do with Tex-Mex. This is just a way of style and life and music. And that’s where it’s at. If you ask a Chicano what ‘60s is, they’ll go, “What?” They don’t know what ‘60s is. They don’t even know what year it is, right? They’re into having fun.

FF: I’ve noticed that more traditional music that is played in Mexico is more rigid or stiff than what you do.
Joe: The thing about Chicano music is that they’ve heard a lot of British music, right, and they tend to throw a lot more English influences into their polkas. Chicanos – Mexicans – came to Texas and heard the German polkas and adopted the German polkas into their thing. It’s really interesting how it all started. What I’m concerned with, mainly in Chicano music, is the melodies and a little bit of the rhythms. But mostly the melodies are just really good to add. You just put a Mexican melody to a rock’n’roll beat and you just have a great song. And that’s what they’ve done on “Wooly Bully,” “Mendocino,” and our songs.

FF: How do Latin audiences respond to you and your music?
Joe: They like us. They like us a whole lot. I’m gabasco – a white cat. That means really a lot, you know. I’m sure a lot of Chicano fiends of mine would rather like to hear me sing in Spanish. But I don’t speak very good Spanish. I speak a lot of Spanish down in Mexico, but writing and singing pure Spanish is hard for me. My songwriter partner is Spanish, so he puts a lot of Spanish in the lyrics. But they seem to like us. When we play for a solid Texan-Chicano audience, we play polkas, which we don’t do up here [in the North].

FF: Speaking about your songs, what are they about? Where do you get them from?
Joe: The songs I do are based on things that have happened to me, or stuff I’ve heard about from people. (The title of my song) “Caca de Vaca” means cow shit, you know. The song’s about a place called Palenque. That’s where all the mushrooms are. And the mushrooms come out of the cow shit. Caca de vaca’s the real thing down there. Guys go out at six in the morning, before the sun comes out, and pick them. And they sell them or give them away. Everybody’s eating mushrooms.

FF: Coming from Dumas, Texas (about 60 miles north of Amarillo), it would seem natural for you to go into C&W, or even rockabilly music.
Joe: Well, to me, rockabilly is good. And there’s a lot of rockabilly down there in Texas. Country and Western people do not understand these rockabilly people here in New York. There have always been rockabillies in Texas. They look at these guys and don’t know what to make of it. They take one look and it freaks them out. I think rockabilly’s great. To me, though, the end of it was in Chicano music, because they listen to James Brown and they’re into soul music more so than anything else. They just do a lot of soul music. And if you’re ever at a Chicano dance and you know you don’t like AM radio, but you want to know the cool songs, go to a Chicano dance. You’ll hear the cool songs. They got an ear for the soul stuff, the good ones. It’s weird. I never figured it out. “Groovin’” was a cool Chicano song, 'cause they’re into groovin’.

FF: What was your first gig like?
Joe: Our first gig? Oh, wow! We did our first gig on the Texas border. And a fight broke out. It was a place called Joe’s Barbeque and Dance. And God!, it was like, 14 people were there and a fight broke out. And we only made about $15, and we drove six hours to make that $15. It was really wild! And we were late, too. An hour and a half late for the gig – totally Mexican.

FF: How do they receive Joe “King” Carrasco and the Crowns in Europe?
Joe: We’re big in Europe. Our single’s, like, number 24. We’re big in places like France, Belgium, Spain and Portugal. I’ve had people record my songs in Europe. I like playing in Europe. It’s a blast! Last year at this time, we were playing in Portugal in the Stiff tour, and we all want to go back. We just got off a tour with the English Beat. I think they’re great. And we’ve got about a month’s tour with the Go-Go’s.

FF: Do you have anything to add?
Joe: Viva! Viva Carrasco!

Bonus Video:

Friday, May 13, 2011

DVD Review: Worst Horror Movie Ever Made

Text © Richard Gary/FFanzeen, 2011
Images from the Internet

Worst Horror Movie Ever Made
Directed by Bill Zebub
Bill Zebub Productions, 2008
110 minutes, USD $9.95

This was written by guest reviewer, Richard Gary.

If a viewer is questing for Spielberg-Lucas-Scorsese-type mastery of cinema and suspense, well, you’re looking in the wrong direction. However, if one is more into the likes of Craven, Carpenter and Hooper, well, you’re still aiming way too high. What you have here is, simply, a film directed by Bill Zebub.

And if one is willing to suspend disbelief (via will power, or other substances), his guaranteed-to-offend-everyone is a laugh a minute joy ride that will not make any sense, not leave you better for the viewing, but may satisfy something deep inside that speaks to the DIY-punk ethics and may remain with you past the end, even if it’s a “what the hell was that?”. This is sloppy fun that may actual make you think, “Hey, I can make something as good, if not better, myself!” Bill, I get the feeling, would encourage that. As he warns on the back of the box: “Contains nudity, creativity, and a complex plot.”

This entire film probably cost less than a coffee. Well, perhaps more because it was filmed once before in 2005, but scrapped and redone. Officially, the name of this is actually The Worst Horror Movie Ever Made: The Re-Make. Unfortunately, I never did get to see the original.

There are two main protagonists: Bill (played by Zebub) and his girlfriend, Danish Jeanne (portrayed by Andrea Szel; she’s not listed in the credit on IMDB, so I’m wondering if this was her choice – which would be understandable – or if she didn’t get along with Bill, and he snubbed her.

The film is fired off in the first of a number of set pieces, during a card game of strip poker. While some guests are being murdered in the kitchen by an ax murder who maniacally states lines like “Ax-acty,” and “I’ll bet you’re ax-periencing ax-crusiating pain.” Bill and Jeanne are arguing, and during a game of 52-card pick-up, Bill ax-cidentially –now he’s got me doing it! – kills one of the guests (see the DVD cover above), all by the six of diamonds. Bill and Jeanne take off to escape, only to fall into every (intentional) horror cliché one can possibly think up.

I won’t give up all the jokes or nods, but here’s a few, both interesting and cheesy. Well, it’s all cheesy, but you know…

Bill pulls down his pants in the woods of New Jersey (all of Zebub’s films are done in Jersey, and a large portion take place in the woods for some reason). A woman sees his bare butt and claims, “Oh, no, a full moon,” turning into a werewolf. Well, a rubber wolf jowl that fits over her face that they probably picked up in a Halloween shop. Jeanne is attacked by a monster made of Bill’s poop (though you never see her or it in the same shot), and at the end she has what looks like chocolate pudding on her face. Of course, Bill states when he sees her, “You look like shit.”

From here Zebub mocks Catholics (Jesus, with a southern accent, is a villain), Muslim jihadists, the military, gays, and mostly himself. When Jeanne becomes the 50’ woman, the army shoots Bill into her, and her comment is, “As usual, I can't feel Bill when he’s in my vagina.” Yes, that’s a quote, folks.

Then there are zom-bees (yes, undead insects), spider puppets, ravaging trees (Evil Dead), and marauding rednecks. Oh, speaking of that, here is where the largest piece of suspension of everything comes into play: After being in the woods, Bill and Jeanne come out of a basement into a house. Jeanne, now mysteriously a blonde for only this segment, verbalizes how a flood came and took them from the forest and deposited them here, and she thinks it’s the deep south. Whaaaa?! I’m telling you, I replayed this comment three times because I was laughing so hard. While in that southern house, they get attacked by a mad scientist who wants to experiment on them, I should add, this is before the cretinous rednecks make their presence known.

That stretch of credulity though is just one of a series of head-scratching moments. Another is when members of the army are looking at a 50’ Jeanne through their hands shaped like binoculars, with nothing in them.

At one point, Bill ends up overmedicated at an asylum, filmed at what is obviously a food establishment (the Clash Bar in Clifton, NJ), and Jeanne manages to get him out by offering her body. They escape, and Bill then kicks her out of the car because she packed Monopoly money. While she is then attacked by Zombie Jesus (obviously a Zebub theme), Bill is picked up by two lesbian vampires. He threatens them with his own “wood” which brings derisive laughter at his “splinter.” There is a lesbian sex scene obviously here just so there could be a lesbian sex scene.

A lot happens in this film, much more than I described, all of it of questionable taste and certainly nothing socially redeeming in any stretch of the imagination. But what it does have it a ton of fun if you like this kind of out-there filmmaking.

Shot on a digital, handheld camera, this truly is DIY. The acting is stiff (especially Szel), the writing is non-existent, the effects are – what part of chocolate pudding don’t you get? – though there are some digital effects that were interesting, like Jeanne’s 50’ treatment, and Jesus flying through the air while nailed to a cross. The music, mostly death metal, is supplied by Sophia, Leaves Eyes, Septic Flesh, Korova, Beau Hunks, Hollenthon, Parzival, and the Jethros. There is also the incidental music from The Little Rascals and Laurel and Hardy thrown in (along with an evil Hardy puppet a la a sexual Chucky.

Watching the 15-minute outtakes and bloopers, Zebub comes across as either the fun guy at a party, or a complete jerk (suddenly screaming in the face of his costar without notice to scare her, is one example), I’m not sure. I do bet that his shoots are memorable.

Two shorts are included, both of which are extended scenes: Elyse Cheri does bikini strip in the wood for 3 minutes (feels longer), and Kathy Rice leads the lesbian vampire scene for a lengthy 8 minutes.

All 10 of the coming attractions are Zebub’s releases, such as Bad Acid, Dirtbags: Evil Never Felt So Good, Revenge of the Scream Queens, ZombieChrist (reviewed in this column earlier), and the metal documentary Metal Retardation.

The real bonus, however, is the inclusion of one of Bill’s earlier releases, Assmonster: The Making of a Horror Film (2006), about a trio of friends who find the DIY spirit when they realize that someone is selling bad DVR films at conventions for $30 apiece, and they sell because they include nudity and – and I use this word loosely – horror. This film is also fun, and actually is probably closer to autobiographically how Zebub began his career, such as it is.

So, bad film, bad acting, bad writing, no talent to speak of, but from beginning to end, it will hold your attention, make you laugh, raise your ire on many levels, and if you’re like me, lead to you wanting to see more of Zebub’s work.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Announcing the Birth Day of Robert Barry Francos: A Photo Essay

Text (c) Robert Barry Francos, 2011
Photos credited where known; from RBF archive

I was born the same year rock'n'roll was proclaimed, on May 10, 1955. I have often commented that if I was born five days earlier (as it was I was over a week past the due date), it would have been 5/5/55. Still, it's a cool number.

Sharing a birthday are the likes of Fred Astaire, Nancy Walker and Bono. Oh, and Mark David Chapman was actually born the same day I was, but don't hold that against me.

I drew my first breath at 12:10 AM, at Brooklyn Doctor's Hospital, which closed soon after I was born. Bensonhurst was where I was raised and lived most of my life, with some exceptions being two-and-a-half years in Soho (Elizabeth and Houston, just around the corner from CBGB), and another two-and-a-half years in Astoria. It wasn't until a couple of years ago that I did the big move, coming to Saskatoon to live permanently.

The photos below are semi-chronological, or in groups, but I have tried to keep them as realistically in order as reasonable. I have given credit for the photo where known.

This photo was taken in the Catskill Mountains, upstate New York, probably the summer of 1956, when I was a year-and-a-half old. I don't recognize any other the people in the background. [pic: Helen Francos?]

In a stroller in front of our apartment building at 8109 20th Avenue, in Brooklyn. The person on the right side of the picture is unknown. [pic: Helen Francos]

Sitting on the couch in our apartment with older (and only) brother, Richard Francos (on the right). [pic: Helen Francos]

While I don't recall in which playpark this was taken, I actually do remember that sweater as being one of my favorites. It was soooo warm. [pic: Helen Francos]

Just before a second or third grade dance recital (my only one) which was to be held in Lafayette High School (the big time!). From left to right: Julie Ann Dobies, RBF, Elise Mendato, and Patty Roman. It was a rare moment when we all got along. I apologize if I misspelled any names. [pic: probably Helen Francos]

Official First Grade photo.

Third Grade.
Fourth Grade.
Fifth Grade.
Sixth Grade.

Sitting in our kitchen, a mess at the moment. I don't really remember that wallpaper, but probably out of mental self-defense. All four of us used to have dinner around that tiny table in that small kitchen, for my entire childhood. [pic: Helen Francos]

With my mom, Helen Francos, by the Dino Sinclair Oil pavilion at the 1964 World's Fair in Queens. I was nine years old. Blinking at the sun would become a common theme, as my eyes proved to be photosensitive. [pic: Richard Francos]
Sitting in front of our apartment building at 10 years old in 1965. [pic: Helen Francos]

The day of my Bar Mitzvah, May 18, 1968. You may recognize the same couch from the third photo above. [pic: Helen Francos]

With my mom at my Junior High School graduation, held on the grounds of Brooklyn College. I was already taller, as she stood an even 5-foot. This blurry image is a perfect example of why my dad did not take too many of the family photos. [pic: Leo Francos]
Washington DC during a family vacation in 1965. [pic: Helen Francos]

At the piano at a then-friend's apartment. I actually could not play (except for that thing with the knuckles, and a bit of "Heart and Soul"). Note the braces, and the photo behind my head. Look familiar? [pic: Marilyn Saffer]

While I loved my time at H.E.S. Sleepaway Camp for most of the 8 years I was there, 1969 was not one of them as I was severely bullied by a group of bored teens. This self portrait was taken the day they first landed on the moon. [pic: RBF]

In 1970, when I was 15 years old, our family made a trip up to Canada, here at Niagara Falls. Little could I know back then that Canada would become my home in 2009. [both pics: Helen Francos]

Here's a few of hanging out with my pal Bernie Kugel. The first one (twin set) was taken around the time we became friends in the early 1970s, while still in high school. [Pic: Gertrude Kugel] The second was at a Rock Ages conference in 1979, where we tried to sell copies of our fanzines (FFanzeen and Big Star), but they put us in the middle of nowhere. So rather than sell any, we befriended some of those stuck in the same situation, including Suzanne Newman, who's husband put out Time Barrier Express. For this photo, we jokingly tried to look "punk." And yes, that is my bracelet. [pic: Suzanne Newman].

During FFanzeen publishing days (1977-88), I had the honor to interview Ronnie Spector at Polish Records headquarters (run by Genya Ravan) in 1980. Just after we took this picture, she jokingly grabbed my crotch, a memory I've held dear all these years! [pic: John DeCeasre]

I worked as a floor manager / photographer / videographer for a cable access show called Videowave for most of the 1980s and '90s. This was at the Blue Willow (Broadway and West 3rd). The show is still on the air, and in re-boot.

Taken during a punk show in 2002 at the Punk Temple, in Bensonhurst. I was in attendance often from 2001-2003. I had "my spot" on the stage by the right side. By far the oldest one there besides parents of both the audience and bands, and the building's caretaker, who was in his 80s and not happy to be there, I felt very at home thanks to open heartedness of many of its regulars. My presence also help calm the parents who talked to me believing I too was one of them, rather than a willing participant in the scene. The place and people are still missed by me.

Taken at another punk show sponosed by the band The Nerve! at Peggy O'Neill's in Coney Island, around 2007. [pic by Iz]

At a party with co-workers from MultiVu, some of whom have become good friends to this day: (from left to right) Dariusz Liszkiewicz, Kellie Allen, Dermont Bruce, RBF, Gena Sabin, Nick Cuccia, and Laurie Eimers Wheeler. [pic: James Hall]

In business dress at an awards dinner in 2008 for the advertising field, in which MultiVu was nominated: (left to right) unknown, Todd Grossman, Risa Barkan Chuang and RBF. [pic: event photographer]

A 2008 self-portrait during a garage sale held by my brother Richard, and his wife Bernadette. [pic: RBF]

Just before leaving for Canada in 2009, a gathering of some of my buddies: Dennis Concepcion, Alan Abramowitz, Walter Ocner, and RBF. Since this picture, I have lost 20 lbs. I have lots of pictures of myself with another great pal, Bernie Kugel, but they need to be scanned. [pic: Sandra Bossert]

My life is now in Saskatchewan, taken on a trip to Alberta. [pic: ML]

On a summer of 2010 camping-drive to and from Yellowknife that took nine days, taken by the camera set on time delay as we crossed the border from Alberta into, well... From left to right: Ian Dowle, RBF, John Penner. [pic set up: RBF]

Yes, this is a real street name in the city of Yellowknife (not to be confused with White Horse). Oh, just a technical FYI, my arm is actually floating because the sign was flush against the fence. [pic: John Penner]

At a 2010 opening at the Mendel Art Gallery in Saskatoon. I'm the fourth standing person from the right, in the blue jacket. [pic: Event photographer; taken from the Mendel Website]

Taken in our living room in Saskatoon. We have beveled glass windows, and when the sun hits them, it produces rainbows all through the downstairs of the house. It's one of my favorite features about our place. I have new glasses since this was taken in the spring of 2010, but still use this as my Facebook avatar. [pic: ML]

Friday, May 6, 2011

The NW Rivals form to take Seattle (and beyond) by storm

Introductory text © Robert Barry Francos, 2011
Text supplied by the band © 2011
Image © Ernie Sapiro, 2011

Jim Basnight has been a staple on my turntable, and then CD player, for a number of years. His melodic pop punk style is an excellent introduction to the sound of the Northwest (NW), predating Nirvana by well over a decade. While Nirvana may have “broke” the scene, it did not invent it.

When I heard he was forming the NW Rivals, a new band made with members collected from classic indie musicians from “the day,” I thought publishing the chronicle of the band was worthwhile because of the lineage of those involved. One could say this is a press release, as it was supplied by the band, but it is actually more than that, as it is a history lesson of the scene back then, one that deserves more of a second look, such as has been done with Toronto recently. – RBF, 2011

The NW Rivals are more than just your average band. Guitarist Steve Pearson, bassist Jack Hanan, drummer Mark Guenther and guitarist Jim Basnight bring a combination of great songs and style from bands that have truly helped define music in the Northwest since the mid-to-late ‘70s.

These four have been creating great songs, recordings and shows to this day. Almost as if by design, they've been closely connected. Jim started Lovaboy (from the NY Dolls song "Trash": "How do you call your....”) one of the West Coast's earliest "pre-punk" bands in 1975, with the late drummer Dean Helgeson, Jack's high school friend.

Though Jim never met Jack then, he heard Dean talk about a guy at his school named Jack Starr, who could play Beatles songs just like the record. When Jack finally met Jim in '76 they instantly hit it off. After staying in touch and being mutual fans from then on, Jim and Jack put together Sway in 1992, followed by the Rockinghams in 1993.

The Rockinghams were never able to gain major success, but released a fun and very catchy CD, Makin' Bacon, in 1999, after the band had gone their separate ways. Steve met with Jack and Jim when they first got together in '92, but at the time he had just put together his own band. Basnight and Hanan also talked to Guenther at that time as well.

The timing was wrong, but it was obvious that these guys always wanted to make music together. In the 2000’s, Steve and Jim put a number of shows together, just so they could collaborate, and Jack also contributed as a bassist and co-writer on half a dozen tracks in Basnight's Recovery Room CD in 2004.

Lovaboy, as we travel back to '75, broke up after Jim's high school talent show, where the student body and faculty reacted in shock and amazement. Inspiring literal violent objection as well as "if these guys can do it, so can I" to their post-glam/pre-punk posturing, Lovaboy led to the formation of other bands, and more importantly, original songs.

Within a year, Jim's new band, the Meyce, debuted at the TMT Show in Seattle's Oddfellows Hall, where the NW Rivals took pictures in April 2011. The TMT show has been found to be the first DIY punk show on the west coast by historians. One of the musicians in this small group of kids that dared write their own songs was Mark's brother, the late David Guenther.

Mark met Jim in May ‘76 and briefly played with the Meyce toward the latter stages of the band in early '77. Mark also met Steve at that time (July '77), while playing with his brother David and Don Short, a future band mate of Steve's in the legendary Seattle band the Heats.

The Heats went on to have major regional success and tour nationally with the Knack, the Kinks, and many others. They released the Have an Idea LP in 1980, and the Burnin' Live LP in '83, before breaking up in later in that year. Steve also saw the Meyce at a midnight show in '76 and was inspired.

Not so much by their abilities as players, Steve was impressed by Jim's songs and by his sheer audacity and commitment to originality. At that time, Steve was arriving as a writer too. After working in cover bands for a few years, while quietly working on his songs, Steve joined up with Jim in an early version of the Moberlys in mid-'78.

Jim had released a single in late '77 after leaving the Meyce to move to NYC earlier in the year. His attempt to take Manhattan by storm had fallen short for Basnight, but it also gave him tremendous inspiration. The 45 rpm single ("Live in the Sun” / “She Got Fucked") created a little buzz around the Northwest, and even a bit elsewhere.

Prior to Steve playing in the embryonic Moberlys, the other guitar spot was filled by a Washington DC area transplant named Jeff Cerar. After Jeff was replaced following the Moberlys’ first recording session and before their first gig with Steve, Cerar joined up to form the Cowboys with the late and certainly great singer/songwriter Ian Fisher, Dean and Jack.

When Ian passed away in late 2007, Pearson, Hanan, Guenther and Basnight helped put together a fantastic show in Seattle in tribute, where they performed many of Ian's best numbers from the Cowboys. Fisher, Hanan and Helgeson had been in the Feelings along with ex-Lovaboy, the late Geoff Cade. Though Jim may have released the first "punk" single on the Seattle scene, the Feelings predated that by a track on local FM station KYYX's compilation titled Destroy Destruction in '77.

The Cowboys went on to be, along with the Heats, at or near the top of the list of premier bands on the Seattle scene in the early ‘80s. Their original songs clicked, and received airplay from local radio, as well as major success in the clubs.

The Heats single "I Don't Like Your Face” / “Ordinary Girls" and the Cowboys 45 "Rude Boy” / “She Makes Me Feel Small" were local radio hits. The Cowboys followed the single up with a self-titled EP release in '81, and then a full length LP release in 1985, How the West was Rocked, before they started slowing down in 1986.

The band continued to do reunions, but Jack stayed active, playing bass in numerous local original bands up until he hooked up with Jim in '92. The Heats followed up "I Don't Like Your Face" with "Rivals" (hence the NW Rivals) in '81, which was a tribute to the relationship with the Cowboys and the Moberlys.

The Moberlys went through two guitar players, Short and the late Ben Rabinowitz, with whom Basnight later wrote "Summertime Again" and "Hello Mary Jane," two of his best. The Moberlys finally found their man in Ernie Sapiro, a former schoolmate who had played in Uncle Cookie, the other band at the midnight show where Steve first saw Jim play.

The Moberlys played with Ernie from mid-1978 to late '79. The band split prior to the release of The Moberlys, the first full length LP that this scene produced. Ernie took the NW Rivals' recent band pics, and also played in the Cowboys after Cerar.

Jim moved to NYC after a year with the Pins, a band made up of three Seattle guys just off the road backing Doug Kershaw. Jim worked the clubs with the Pins long enough to save enough money for another crack at the Big Apple in the fall of 1980.

The Pins continued as a three piece, but joined with Pearson to form the Rangehoods in 1984. The 'Hoods had a successful career, yielding two full length albums, Rough Town in '84 and Long Way Home in '90. They toured outside the NW more than a few times, garnered nice reviews and were a strong club draw locally.

Guenther joined the Cowboys in '83, after playing with Sapiro in the Lonesome City Kings in the early ‘80s, and the Features, with members of Uncle Cookie in the late ‘70s. Mark also made his mark as a recording engineer, with scores of records (engineering credits on the first Presidents of the USA record, and the Supersuckers, just to name a few).

Guenther has mastered over 1,500 records (early Death Cab for Cutie, Brandi Carlisle, Daz Dillinger, mastered two Grammy nominated releases, the Posies, and many more). Jim formed another version of the Moberlys in NYC in the early 1980s.

After playing with numerous New York notables, writing and recording some great songs while coming back to Seattle for short trips with the New York band and pick up groups made up of from locals, Jim moved back to Seattle in '84, but not for good. Back in town, Basnight formed the third and final version of the 'Mobes, which for a while included Rabinowitz.

That band released a 45 ("I Want to Be Yours” / “Cinderella"), a 4-song EP, and compiled their recordings with tracks from previous Moberly line-ups for Sexteen, a full length LP for Lolita Records in France. The Moberlys then moved to Los Angeles in '85, and lasted for almost five years. They recorded most of an album with Peter Buck of REM for EMI in '87.

In LA, Jim wrote and recorded hundreds of tracks before and after the demise of the band. The best of those, including the Buck tapes, were released on CD in three collections (along with previous works), Pop Top in '93, The Moberlys Sexteen on the Bear Family label (Germany) in ’96, and Seattle-NY-LA on the Pop the Balloon label (France) in 2001.

After the Rockinghams, Jim released The Jim Basnight Thing, mastered by Guenther in 1997, and proceeded to earn a living traveling the NW with the Jim Basnight Band, as he does today. Steve, less inclined to work the road, instead chose to play gigs closer to home and focus on writing and recording.

Pearson released solo CDs Battles & Ballads in 2003, and Impatient in 2007 to many rave notices and fans who still value his enduring music. That's really what the NW Rivals are about. Enduring music done for fun by friends who have always crossed paths. They are all great individually, but together there is a chemistry that is undeniable.

Their debut performance is scheduled for Club Venus in Seattle on May 22, 2011. For more information about ether the band or the show, please email Jim at jim@jimbasnight.com. The NW Rivals can also be found on Facebook.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Rare Boston scene photos from the 1980s by Rocco Cippolone

Text © Robert Barry Francos, FFanzeen, 2011
Photos © Rocco Cipppolone 

Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them

I met Rocco Cippolone in the early 1980s, through a mutual friend, and when I started traveling up to Boston twice a year during the first half of the 1980s, we would hang out together by going to shows. We developed a friendship that I certainly enjoyed.

Rocco, who often went under the nom de photo of Peter Parka, loved the Boston scene and would go to as many shows as he could. He was a bit shy with his thick Italian accent, but as the bands all got to know him, they trusted him to do them justice in the lens.

About twice a month, I would receive some 5x4 black and white photos that he would process himself (a skill I never learned), which would be of musicians he had seen over the previous weeks.

Not only did he like the milieu of bands and the music they produced, he particularly fond of female musicians, especially Salem 66, but his fixation was Barb Kitsen, of the band The Thrills (who would go on to retool as City Thrills). Perhaps it was her addictions making her that unavailable bad girl, but he would talk about her often, and send a lot of pictures of her performances on stage.

Rocco was, obviously, an excellent music performance photographer, and he captured a lot of the scene throughout the ‘80s. Some time in the mid-‘80s or so, he started his own fanzine, Bang!, which was 8x10, well printed, and looked great.

Somewhere in the early ‘90s, Rocco changed the focus of Bang! to exploitation and “b” movies. Then he seemed to disappear off the face of the earth. There was some speculation that he ran off, back to Italy, but it’s that just a theory. He has not turned up anywhere on social media that I could find, so if you’re seeing this, Rocco, please get in touch.

Two things to note: first, I scanned these from the photos he sent me, and they have certainly lost some definition in the process. His pictures are quite sharp, though they seem a bit grainy and washed out here. Second, I am making no profit off of these photos (and don’t expect anyone else to do so, other than Rocco), and am doing this blog to honor his work. I would love to see a Rocco Cippolone book of photos one day.

Johnny Thunders [d. 1991]

Nico [d. 1988]


Willie Alexander

X: Excene Cervenka

John Sebastian

Iggy Pop

Jim Carroll [d. 2009]

The Go-Go's: Belinda Carslile

The Cramps: Poison Ivy

The Gun Club: Jeffrey Lee Pierce [d. 1996]

Bebe Buell

The Lyres: Jeff "Monoman" Conolly

The Neighborhoods

Salem 66

Joe Viglione: The Count

Legal Weapons: Kat Arthur

Boy's Life: Johnny Surette

City Thrills: Barb Kitsen [d. 2006], Johnny Angel, Sean McDonough