Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Thought on Dylan Going Electric in 1965

© Text by Robert Barry Francos /
Images from the Internet

It was inevitable that Bob Dylan would go electric, sending the folk masses either running towards or away from the electronic medium.  It wasn’t as much a rebellion when he showed up and plugged in his Strat during the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, shocking and rocking the status quo with “Maggie’s Farm,” as a growth spurt.

Dylan’s previous albums started out professing their loyalty to what preceded, nodding a head to Woody Guthrie, Delta Blues, and his upbringing in small city Minnesota.  When he hit the folk circuit in New York, his retro sound and vocal meanderings were as shocking to that audience used to the more subdued folk sounds of the Weavers, the Kingston Trio, and Peter Paul & Mary, as his hard hitting excursion in 1965. However, the first time was a revivalism to the hootenanny crowd who grasped his sincerity and bravery, putting him at the head of the pack. This became especially true when he started producing original numbers that were not about sea shanties (“Greenland Fisheries”), lost loves (“Barbara Allen”) and murder (“Down By the River”, “Willow Garden”), but of current events (“Blowin’ in the Wind”) and the changes in society (“The Times They are A-Changin’”); he even wrote nasty ditties about people he didn’t like (“It Ain’t Me Babe”).

Much like the beginning of rock and roll, where the smaller songwriters were copied and homogenized by the larger, and more mainstream sounding artists, this also followed in the folk milieu, with many artists such as Peter, Paul and Mary covering Dylan, or even Judy Collins having a hit with “Suzanne” before its creator, Leonard Cohen. But as with the examples for both folk and rock, having the smoothed out versions led the way for the lesser known artists, especially Dylan, whose voice was hardly AM radio friendly.

Dylan was in a constant mode of expanding and stretching, each album being more progressive and far reaching, with fame and ego pushing him ever forward. By the time he played England in spring of 1965, it was obvious he was bored. As much as he was influencing the whole folk genre, spurring on new sounds from the likes of Phil Ochs and Simon & Garfunkel, he was also, in turn, tuned into the newer, relatively harder and updated eclectic electric sounds of the British Invasion, as well as the more harsh music that was coming out of the Pacific Northwest, with bands like the Kingsmen and the Wailers. Most likely drugs were also spurring him on, as evidenced by the classic footage of Dylan and John Lennon completely in an outer range of mind alteration in the back of a limo, as they mumble and burble along; it’s as painful as it is unintentionally funny.

If Dylan had not plugged in, surely someone else would have eventually, as technology manages to eventually change everything, but it was the combination of Dylan’s stature as a folk artist and being in the bailiwick of the traditional celebration of the genre that broke the folk rock sound barrier. If Dylan had played somewhere else, even Folk City on Bleecker St., or it was someone else who had electrified Newport, the shock wave would not have been as big and certainly not as electrically instantaneous at that moment. It was all the elements forming into a perfect time-binding flash that changed not just one genre, but many, and forming a completely new sound that would spark the likes of the Byrds and Buffalo Springfield. This kind of moment would not occur again until the Beatles would release Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1967.

Side note: Music historian Tom Bingham states that “Some of us would argue that the release of Pet Sounds a year earlier was a far more groundbreaking moment (and current historical perspective seems to corroborate that).” While I agree with him on some level, I believe the effect of Pet Sounds was more on a music industry level, and Sgt. Pepper’s was more on a mass cultural one, i.e., everyone had the Beatles record, but the Beach Boys’ excellent release was less populous.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Catching Up With Some FFanzeen Contributors 1

Text by Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2013
Images from the Internet

In the years I was publishing FFanzeen as a print ‘zine, from 1977 through 1988, I was incredibly fortunate to have so many talented writers and photographers come through my pages. Here, in no particular order, are some of the wonder women of FFanzeen.

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When I first met Mary Anne Cassata, she was already writing for a number of other higher-end magazines, including a New York-based Music Paper, but she would rise way above that. Even when she was writing for me in 1984, she was interviewing some of the top artists of the time, including those who did not fit into the concept of my ‘zine, such as Elton John, Cher, Boy George, Cyndi Lauper, Alice Cooper, and just about every hair band you can think of that was popular at the time, including Iron Maiden and Ratt. These were published worldwide in so many different glossies, that I know I could never keep track, such as Tiger Beat, Hit Parader, Variety, Hollywood Reporter, USA Today, Goldmine, American Songwriter, People Weekly, and even Rolling Stone. For FFanzeen, she used her magic touch to bring in interviews like the Animals (I went with her for that one), Mike Love of the Beach Boys, Spanky McFarlane of Spanky and Our Gang, Gary Glitter (went to that one, too), Patti Smith, and Iggy Pop (who had originally refused unless he was on the cover).

After the hard print version of FFanzeen was put to bed, Mary Anne has kept going, interviewing and writing, as well as being Editorial Director of Faces and Popstar! Publications for a number of teen-based magazines, and some special projects including whoever was big at the moment, and even one on Elvis. She is also known for the numerous of books she has written about artists of many genres, such as Michael J. Fox: The Year of the Fox (1986), Hey, Hey It’s the Monkees (2002), The Cher Scrapbook (2002), The Essential Jim Carrey (2010), and The Elton John Scrapbook (2002). Other books she has authored include biographies of Britney Spears, 'NSync, Kirk Cameron and Alicia Silverstone. And her star still rises.

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Mary Anne also brought photographer Cathy Miller into FFanzeen’s domain, when they were working on joint projects, and I am incredibly grateful. Cathy's work is stunning for capturing musicians at their best, both onstage and off. At some point, she must have a book published of her work (she has had a number of gallery shows). Why she was so willing to have me use her output, I do not know, but I’m not going to look a gift photo in the flash. Even though I was taking pictures myself, I happily gave her the covers and photo posters of the last few issues, including The Blasters, Jerry Lee Lewis, Gary Glitter, the Cramps, BowWowWow, and Dave Edmunds. She also supplied snaps for articles about Divine and the Vipers, among others. I also remember enjoying hanging out with her, and how excited she was when she saw Prince back in the ‘80s.

She quickly graduated to bigger mags, like Spin and Rolling Stone. She’s even done album/CD covers for Johnny Thunders’ Gang War, The Rockats, The Fast, Dirt Club Compilations, and Quimby Mountain Band.

These days she still covers live events, but also does headshots and lots of corporate work for different agencies in New Jersey, including Planned Parenthood of Greater Northern New Jersey, and for publications like Inside Jersey Magazine, The Express-Times, The Arc, and The Aquarian Weekly. Be sure to check out her link below to see some of her stellar work.

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Nancy Foster is known by many names: currently it’s Nancy Neon, but she was also Suzy Q, and when I met her via letter in the late 1970s, she was going by Nancy New Age (New Age was the name of her fanzine out in North Carolina). I knew of her way before I met her, and when she moved to NYC, we became instant great friends, frequently hanging out at CBGBs, but especially Max’s Kansas City. I saw countless Heartbreakers / Heroes / Waldos shows with her, with her powerful voice repeatedly shouting out “Wal-tah!”(that’s Walter Lure, in case you didn’t get it) in a Greensboro twang.

Nancy introduced me to a new level of pop writing, using terms such as “gr-8” to punctuate her excitement. That high intensity love of music always came through as a baseline to whatever she wrote, and she did that often for the mag. Some of Nancy’s pieces include in-depth interviews with Walter Lure (of course; it was in the infamous back room at Max’s night they closed that section down for good), Leee Black Childers, Nico, and other pieces on Nikki and the Corvettes, the Rockats (we sold our tickets to see the Clash at Bonds to go to the recording of the Rockats’ live album at the Ritz; she sang Chuck Berry’s “Round and Round” with them during their finale, which is not on the recording), comedian Dave Street, Levi Dexter, and the late ‘60s songwriting icon Tommy Boyce (I met him in her living room at 111 Third Ave, NYC).

These days, Nancy lives in Boston, married to ex-Real Kids guitarist Billy Borgioli, who now fronts the Varmints, that Nancy manages. For about a decade, she booked shows for the Kirkland and Cantab. She is the associate editor for the music mag, The Noise, as well as working on her memoirs. In the works is a Borgioli painting exhibit and a new Varmints EP, and if that isn't enough, Nancy is currently working on interviews with members of the Lyres, which may grow into a book.

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Julia Masi is a Brooklyn girl, through and through. And behind that unassuming “how you doin’?” outer shell lurks quite a, well, brilliant mind, as well as an honest, deep blast of a laugh you can hear from blocks away (actually, come to think of it, volume is something that many of FFanzeen women writers share). She has earned many academic degrees, and works in high charitable social stratas, such as being a Board Member at Children of the City and volunteering at several non-profits that help those living with HIV/.AIDS; she even learned Mandarin.

But even back when she was writing for the ‘zine, she had a razor sharp sense of humor that got a rise out of whomever she was in contact, I’m sure a reflection of the eccentric Italian family from which she was raised. Her dad was a big, gruff, intimidating guy who liked to scare her boyfriends, but also made the most delicious and delicate cheesecakes you could imagine; her mom was sweet from one end to the other, always making sure the was food and drink to be offered, and occasionally was baffled by the whole punk crew that would occasionally show up at her door (our interview with Würm and Powertrip guitarist, the late Ed Dankey, was priceless as he tried to understand the full frontal assault of Julia, myself, and her parents). After my first managing editor left because I didn’t want to print an article about a local talented-but-dull band, Julia quickly rose to the occasion and remained in the post for the run of the ‘zine.

She probably wrote more articles than anyone else, including a raucous one with Joan Jett, Jim Carroll,Cheetah Chrome’s Skels (a rare piece on the band; I was there for that one), R.E.M. (one of – if not the – first articles on them outside of Athens, GA), Urban Verbs, the Stimulators (one of the first hardcore pieces we published), the Undead (even getting Bobby Steele’s then girlfriend, Lori Wedding, to pose for the cover of one issue), The Blasters, Tav Falco’s Panther Burns (I was present then, too), Annabella Lwin of BowWowWow,Jeffrey Lee Pierce of Gun Club, quirky violinist Walter Steding, Divine, Diamanda Galas, Clint Ruin of Foetus on the Wheel, Salem 66, Hoboken’s own The Cucumbers, the Mad Orphans, and even some fashions pieces, including one about the infamous Natasha Adonzio, and that’s not even the full list.

She definitely helped make FFanzeen what it was, and I am grateful to her, and everyone else on this list. Thank you all.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Waiting for the Diodes: A Pig Paper Reprint from 1978

Image copied with permission from the Pig Paper, printed in Mississauga, Ontario, 1978.

Though I remember the incident well, I had forgotten I'd even written this until the publisher and pal, Gary Pig Gold, reminded me by sending me this image of a page of his excellent fanzine, The Pig Paper No. 8. Here is the Internet Archive's description of that issue:

Issue 8 of the Pig Paper came out in April 1978 and featured pieces on Elvis Costello, the Viletones, The Forgotten Rebels, The Dishes, Teenage Head, the Diodes, a show review of the Runaways and the Heartbreakers, some photos of Elvis Costello, Mickey Skin, Margeretta Passion, Frankie Venom, Carole Pope, Robert Gordon, and loads of gossip.

Free reprints of the entire fanzine's releases can be found here:

The page can be made bigger (and is easier to read) by clicking on it.