Hello again, RPM-people, it’s been a while. A limited skirmish with a failing hard drive meant that I lost the first attempt at this article for the cultured readers of this fine web-based tome and, as with all tortured artists, I found myself shaking a fist at the Gods of technology rather than simply getting back on the horse and writing it again while the effortless cool (possibly) was still fresh in my mind. This article’s featured item was going nowhere, however, so new words about old stuff came easy.
Now, if you’re hitting up this webzine regularly then I would imagine that you are well-versed in all forms of rock ‘n’ roll rebellion; trouble is, many of those rebels that litter our record collections are now asking for new dress socks on gig riders or peddling butter on shit TV channels. With that in mind I have had to roll back the decades to find, not only a true rebel of the music business, but also an item of music memorabilia that is as decadent as it is delicious.
And that’s where Andy Gibb comes in.
“Andy Gibb?!” I hear the RPM head honcho exclaim as this hits his inbox like the late Scott Columbus hit those cymbals in Manowar’s ‘Blow Your Speakers’ music video, the Double Diamond tearing at the neck of his Maiden shirt, Ozzy-style. Hear me out: Andrew Roy Gibb was a true rock ‘n’ pop tearaway, and the ultimate piece of merchandise released to tie-in with his all-too-short career is collectable excess par plastic excellence. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves…
Andy Gibb was the youngest of the Gibb kids: brother to Barry, Robin, Maurice, and forever-forgotten sister, Lesley. He was born in Manchester, was raised in Australia until the age of eight before the Family Gibb returned to the UK. When his brothers were looking nailed-on for pop stardom, Andy was looking for trouble: he quit school at the age of thirteen and, armed with an acoustic guitar given to him by big bro Barry, he toured the clubs of Ibiza and the Isle of Wight (both places where his parents lived at some point). He was married, divorced, and had fathered a child before he was even out of his teens. Minor pop stardom came a-calling when he returned to Australia, but it was when Bee Gees manager, Robert Stigwood, signed him to his label and persuaded him to relocate to Florida that things really started to take off for Andy Gibb.
With Barry producing, and Joe Walsh guesting on guitar for a couple of tracks, Andy’s debut album, ‘Flowing Rivers’, sold over a million copies and, by the time the lead single from his second long player, 1978’s ‘Shadow Dancing’, hit the top spot, he had become the first male solo artist to have three consecutive Number One singles on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. He dated Dallas star, Victoria Principal, starred on Broadway in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, sang with Queen (on a version of the song, ‘Play The Game’, which has never seen commercial release, with some believing that a recording doesn’t actually exist), and co-hosted American television music show, Solid Gold. He would, however, be fired from both the television and Dreamcoat gigs due to absenteeism, with the blame laid firmly at the door of his cocaine binges. The fall was rapid. Guest appearances on US shows Gimme A Break! and Punky Brewster followed, as did gigs in Vegas, but Andy was now tabloid fodder; the Betty Ford Center now a date on his tour itinerary.
In early 1988 it was announced that Andy would become an official member of the Bee Gees – the six-legged tooth machine mutating into quite the quartet – but it was never to be: just two days after his thirtieth birthday in March of that year, Andy was hospitalized in Oxford complaining of chest pains. He died on March 10th as a result of myocarditis; an inflammation of the heart muscle caused by years of cocaine abuse.
Dying young is a sad by-product of rock ‘n’ roll excess the history of which many of you are well-versed in, I’m sure; but I am here to wax lyrical on music-related memorabilia (I had to get there eventually!) so I have to roll everything back to 1979, when Andy was on the covers of teen magazines, on the walls of pop-smeared children’s bedrooms, and on the Toy Fair brochures of the Ideal Toy Company.
Now, there’s a saying amongst the elite of vintage toy collectors that goes, and I’m paraphrasing here, “buy mint and you buy once, buy not mint and you buy many times.” I’m not sure of the exact words because I always scoff when I hear it as, in my humble opinion, it is utter bollocks. Who wouldn’t pick up something über-cool for their shelf because some bloke on the internet has one in better condition? Not me, and that’s why I back-flipped all the way to Nerdtopia when I found myself a vintage Andy Gibb doll.
In 1979, Ideal graced the toy shelves of the coolest US stores with the Andy Gibb ‘Disco Dancin’ With The Stars’ doll. There is, in collector circles, many a debate over whether a toy is a doll or an action figure: never call a middle-aged white guy’s Action Man a doll for Gawd’s sake! Well, let me tell you, the Disco Dancin’ Andy Gibb toy is a doll. He came packaged in neon-littered box art with the supreme tagline: “move him to a disco beat on his dancin’ disc!” Yes, the disco dance stand that came packaged with the doll would actually move mini-Andy’s feet so that it looked like he was actually disco dancing. Sublime Seventies innovation, right there.
Thing is, I don’t have the box. Or the stand. Forgive me, men in sensible footwear in village hall toy fairs the length and breadth of the UK. I do have a mint condition Andy Gibb ‘Disco Dancin’ With The Stars’ doll still attached to its original box inlay, though, so I guess I’m still a winner at life. Also, someone, in their confused wisdom, decided that penning “one of the Bee Gees” on the back of said box inlay was going to help with the identification of this toy. All it did, however, was make me love it even more. Who needed to read that curious inscription anyway? The doll is wearing a lurid pink waistcoat with the “Andy Gibb” logo printed on it!
So let’s recap: a mint condition (save for a few age-related garment marks) Andy Gibb doll, still attached to its original cardboard inlay, wearing a white jumpsuit and pink waistcoat, and with a piece of inked graffiti completely lacking in irony administered to its forever home? Who the frig wouldn’t want one of those?! Not me!
This toy sits happily in my collection alongside the Sonny Bono, Cher, ABBA, KISS, Boy George, Rob Zombie, Alice Cooper, Sex Pistols, and Elvis toys and, do you know what? They all get along. Now, if we all just got along a little better then this revolving rock that we call home would be a little easier to negotiate. Not those people who told me not to buy the Andy Gibb doll because it didn’t have the box, though – they can fuck off.
I’ll be back as soon as possible, technology permitting, with more curios from the Pop Culture Schlock collection. I might even get my studded wristband back out for the next installment. Thanks for reading, keep watching the skies and, most importantly, don’t be a twat!
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Good to see ya again, RPM-people! Could there be a better time to sit and read retro articles on badass music websites? A better time to visit auction sites, PayPal account set to stun, searching for those “essentials” that you’ve just been reading about and simply MUST HAVE? Of course not.
For the eleventh of my PCS columns for RPM I have returned to finger the longboxes in the Schlock archive, searching for a couple of classic Seventies comics with a punk rock attitude and a hard rock guest appearance, all aimed to tie-in with the recent merchandise collaboration between KISS, the hottest band in the world, and Marvel Entertainment… and that’s where Howard The Duck comes in. But let’s backtrack a little… You may know Howard The Duck from the critically-mauled motion picture that was released in 1986. Yes, the feature film released in certain territories as Howard: A New Breed Of Hero. Yes, the flop flick that showed us that everything George Lucas touched DIDN’T turn to gold (dice) before we’d even heard of Mannequin Skywalker and Jar Jar Binks. You may know Howard The Duck from the modern Marvel cinematic universe: that post-credit scene in Guardians Of The Galaxy (and a cameo in its sequel); a quack-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance in Avengers: Endgame. For us cool kids, however, it was all about the comic books.
Howard The Duck made his debut on spinner racks in 1973 in issue 19 of Adventure Into Fear. Created by writer Steve Gerber and artist Val Mayerik, the duck, plucked from his home world and dropped into the Florida everglades, was originally intended to be just a secondary character (alongside the likes of Korrek The Barbarian and Dakihm The Wizard) in that comic’s Man-Thing strip. Within a few short years, though, and via his own back-up strip in issues 4 and 5 of Giant-Size Man-Thing in 1975, Howard would have his own comic book.
Running for 31 issues, Howard The Duck (the comic) found Marvel at its most subversive: social satire wrapped up in pages headlined by a creature deemed so similar in appearance to Walt Disney’s Donald Duck that complaints were inevitably made. Steve Gerber, surely one of the most expansive of writing minds at Marvel in the 1970s, railed against US politics by having Howard run for President in a storyline that tied-in with the 1976 presidential campaign, then in the infamous Howard The Duck issue 16 railed against his employer’s deadlines with the biting ‘Zen and The Art Of Comic Book Writing’ “rant”. But where does KISS come into all this, I hear you exclaim?
In 1977, Marvel released the first of its Super Specials. It featured rock superstars KISS, then wilfully teetering on the brink of total commercial success, battling against Doctor Doom and Mephisto. The red ink infamously contained the blood of Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley, Peter Criss, and Gene Simmons (not all of it, of course), and the story was written by… wait for it… Steve Gerber. Now, if only the writer had an ongoing monthly title where Marvel could covertly publicise the upcoming KISS comic book…
Howard The Duck’s presidential campaign failed in somewhat spectacular fashion. A fake sex scandal saw the duck fall from the cusp of political success to the depths of nervous breakdown. So bad was his fall that he found himself (in issue 12 of his monthly title, cover-dated May 1977), in a tale entitled ‘Mind-Mush!’, held in the Sauerbraten County Mental Facility. Winda Wester, a new supporting character introduced in the previous issue who spoke with a speech impediment that surely meant that her real name was ‘Linda Lester’, was possessed. Who could
feature in the “swirling, seething, savage nightmare rising in billows from Winda’s skull” on the final page of issue 12? You’ve guessed it… KISS!
“Aw-riiight! Sauerbraten County, Ohio – let this old cosmos… Rock, Roll Over, and Writhe!” yells the Starchild on the opening page of issue 13. Freezing security guards with a wild eye laser that would later be utilised in the classic KISS meets the Phantom of the Park (aka Attack of the Phantoms) television movie par excellence, the Starchild then passed the mic to the Catman who told Howard “The Word”. The Word? “When you meet reality head-on – Kiss it, smack it in the face!” More than one word, really, eh? “And then, with one awful WHOOSH, they were drawn back into Winda’s brain.” Five pages, thirteen panels, and that was KISS done with Howard The Duck. Daimon Hellstrom would turn up at the facility, Howard become a duck possessed himself, but that’s another story for another time.
Those five pages, though, as blatant an advert for the upcoming Super Special that they were, worked a treat. Okay, they weren’t the only thing pointing fans in the direction of issue 1 of the Marvel Comics Super Special – KISS was every-frigging-where – but they must have added to the swell of attention towards that blood-inked comic book that would go on to sell around half a million copies over two printings.
KISS would return to the pages of Marvel in issue 5 of Marvel Comics Super Special in 1978 in an occult adventure and, in the Nineties to tie-in with the reunion tour by the original band members, would later meet the X-Men in the KISSnation publication. The band has since met Archie, the Martians from Mars Attacks, Vampirella, and had ongoing titles published by IDW, Dynamite, Dark Horse, and Image Comics. There was even a 2013 comic series entitled KISS Kids which should not be interpreted as a command.
For all those comic book appearances, however, the first ones that you need in your collection are the two Marvel Super Specials and issues 12 and 13 of Howard The Duck. Why? Because, if you’re a child of the ’70s, or simply long to have been one, then there is little cooler than your favourite larger-than-life rock band, alongside a wise-cracking duck, in a Marvel Comic. ‘Nuff said.
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Good day to you, RPM-people – I hope this finds you well in somewhat troubled times. At time of writing I find myself at the start of some annual leave from my (key worker) day job, catching up on some isolation entertainment: the beauty of having a vast collection of physical media, I guess.
My recent reading has been music-related: the fabulous new ‘Broken Greek’ autobiography from music journalist, Pete Paphides; Garth Cartwright’s chronicle of the UK record shop, ‘Going For A Song’; and ‘Talking To Girls About Duran Duran’, the coming of age book from Rolling Stone’s Rob Sheffield. It’s the latter that inspired this month’s column and had me digging into the Pop Culture Schlock archive for a particular item…
After the 1970s gifted the rock ‘n’ pop culture-savvy consumer with dolls/action figures of everyone from KISS to Cher to Andy Gibb, you’d have thought that the 1980s, forever carrying a “bigger, bolder, brasher” tag, would have upped the ante considerably; the post-Star Wars merchandisers giving Walrus Man’s right arm for the rights to make small, plastic likenesses of some of the most iconic music stars ever. But, the Michael Jackson and Boy George dolls (no fear of an ‘action figure vs doll’ debate concerning the latter) from LJN Toys aside, toy companies fumbled the ball when it came to immortalising music stars of the decade into toys for children to play with, and for grown men to hoard. Ahem.
Imagine a Barbie-style ’80s Madonna doll with a bazillion Action Man/GI Joe-esque costume changes? It would take that dodgy Dick Tracy movie in 1990 to finally get a miniature Madonna Louise Ciccone into consumer’s hands. Imagine Duran Duran dolls at the peak of their mid-eighties stardom with a bazillion costume change options: from their pastel-coloured designer suits to sub-Road Warrior post-apocalyptic garb. It would take, crazily when you really think about it, until the dawn of this decade for Funko to finally capture Duran Duran in their full ’80s pomp as part of its Pop! Rocks vinyl figure line. These were released in the same wave as the retro Def Leppard Pop! Vinyls which featured one of the company’s most quirky figures – the one-armed Rick Allen figure. I’m sensing a theme here… But I digress.
I love Duran Duran. Can’t help it. I’m sure the band is a guilty pleasure for many a rock fan: John Taylor’s bass playing, Andy Taylor’s guitar, etc. – but guilty you should not feel when you feel the love for Duran Duran. Three things jump out of my memory banks when I think back to how DD infiltrated my rock leanings: the charity gig the band played at Villa Park, the home of football, in 1983 that even saw them feature prominently on the cover and centrespread of an Aston Villa match programme; the music video for ‘The Wild Boys’ debuting on the BBC on Hallowe’en night in 1984 as they tried to compete with MTV; the sounds of ‘Arena’, the album from which that classic single came, pumping out of my sister’s bedroom… on cassette. This column, of course, is dedicated to pop culture collectables and, though a tsunami of wholly unofficial merchandise swirled around the band’s success – annuals, postermags, badges, photo patches, those particularly classy screen-printed silk scarves – actual official items were in shockingly short supply. Topps, famed trading card producers, released a 33-card Duran Duran card line in 1985 complete with stickers and stick of gum (I have a sealed pack in my collection, 35-year-old bubblegum forever calling to me, siren-like, in a quest to snap my teeth at the friggin’ roots), but it would take The Milton Bradley Company, the American board game manufacturer founded in 1860, to be brave/cool enough to dip a tucker-booted toe into the depths of the band’s chart success to produce the ultimate official piece of Duran Duran merchandise.

‘Duran Duran: Into The Arena’ was released by MB Games in 1985 and it remains one of the ultimate pieces in any rock ’n’ pop memorabilia collection. A true objet d’pop. Right up there with 1978’s KISS on Tour, this board game, if you are lucky enough to have one (guilty, sorry), will mean so much to you, like a birthday or a pretty view. Getting one of these games these days, though, is about as easy as a nuclear war. If you’ve already Googled how much they go for you’ll already understand what I’m on about. This is not a pop pissing contest, however – this is a celebration!
Almost every Internet search for ‘Into The Arena’ for research purposes furnished me with beige articles about the actual gameplay of this vintage toy par excellence. That, my friends, is even too nerdy for someone like me! To me, this board game is one of the ultimate shelf pieces – meant to be looked at, to be adored, marvelled over. Okay, I’ll admit that a games night where chauffeur-driven chums laden with cans of Tizer and Top Deck limeade and lager arrived for an evening of Eighties pop-related faux combat sounds appealing, but until then I’ll just look at this game and love the fact that I have it.
That aforementioned gameplay? Go on, then. Two to four players start off in the outer circle of the game board. The aim is to collect five matching pairs of disc cards – the cards featuring the group’s most popular singles! Each matching pair provides the player with a matching video card for the respective song. Once the player has made their five matches, they are bumped-up, good-looking girl at a concert-style, to the inner circle. There, they must collect and play band member cards (Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, Taylors Andy, John, and Roger for those
readers new to Planet Earth), each with a different scoring value. There’s a Duran Duran Wild Card in there too, and a points subtraction thing, with the winner being the lucky mofo whose added video- and band member-card totals are the highest.
Actually playing a vintage board game aside, the thing looks fabulous: Arena-like graphics everywhere; classic singles artwork reproduced on their respective cards; stills from epic music videos captured on theirs; the band members in all their teen idol glory on crescent-shaped cards that just feel more decadent than the usual oblong cards in your common or garden board game, somehow. There’s even a cardboard insert featuring a great band shot from ‘The Wild Boys’ photo shoot which doubles as a place to pile the game cards, but also carries a great little history of the band from 1980 to the end of 1984.
Rule #32: Enjoy the little things. You don’t need me to tell you that we are currently living in unprecedented times. People that have been a part of my story are no longer with us and, no matter how or why, we find ourselves in an uncertain place where every day feels like a fucking test. If you surround yourselves with the things you love then life, in any circumstances, always seems that little bit more manageable. And it’s never too late to start accumulating stuff – any stuff, just stuff that makes you feel better in whatever way. Trust me, I’m a master of stuff.
When this shit is all over we’ll have ourselves a Duran Duran board game night – you bring the Tizer…
Stay safe, stay sensible, stay beautiful.
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Author: Gaz Tidey

Season’s greetings to all RPM-People! This time of year is prime for accumulating all manner of collectables that you really don’t need, but really must have: Christmas is coming, the goose is getting tat, and all that. With that skewed mantra in mind, for this latest of my Pop Culture Schlock columns I present a righteous rockin’ relic that I found loitering under the Xmas tree at my childhood home on December 25th, 1981…

I have extolled the virtues of the annual previously in the virtual pages of RPM; detailing the must-have Rock On! annual from Christmas 1979 in an earlier column. It would be very remiss of me, however, to not dip a cowboy-booted-toe into the waters of this hard-backed veteran of youthful gift lore at the time of year when, once upon a happier time, an annual was as Christmas as mince pie.

 

The Record Mirror Pop Club annual 1982 – released in time for Christmas 1981 – was given to my then-ten-year-old self by a cool aunt. She had once won a beauty contest, almost got scalped in a car accident, and had got the top of one of her fingers cut off at a zoo so, yeah, she was cool. The cover photo of said annual was a great live shot of The Police, the first band that I, post-childish Showaddywaddy infatuation, really got into and had posters on my bedroom wall of. I guessed that this cover was the reason why this annual had resided in a pile of now-crumpled wrapping paper under my tree. But, no; a quick finger of the pages informed me that this gift was pointed in my direction due to the inclusion of my latest (and arguably greatest) musical infatuation, KISS!

Yes, a full-page colour feature entitled “The KISS of Success” was the reason why this annual found itself in my possession, where it would remain for almost four full decades. The photograph that accompanied the article was, and remains, simply awesome. Messrs Simmons, Stanley, Frehley, and Carr, the newest band member, looking slick in the photoshoot used to promote the band’s 1980/81 ‘Unmasked’ world tour. Now, I know that the photos were taken on the day of the band’s 1980 show at the New York Palladium – the only show where Eric Carr wore the original “silver fox” version of his make-up. Then, I, like many others, I guess, was left wondering just how this great new drummer looked a little different. The photos were used for the tour books of the European and Australian legs of the ‘Unmasked’ world tour with crude touching-up of Carr’s make-up to remove all traces of the silver outlines. I wouldn’t hold an ‘Unmasked’ tour book in my hoarder hands for many a year, so this was my first experience of the original (not to be confused with Carr’s hawk make-up trial which was mocked more than Gene’s future hair hats) fox look and it felt special.

 

The feature spoke to me of enthusiastic acclaim for ‘Attack of the Phantoms’ from Australia and Germany; of how the solo albums sojourn had seen the band members return stronger, with astonishing new energy, to produce sensational albums like ‘Dynasty’ and ‘Unmasked’; and of how former member, Peter Criss, would always “remain as a member of the KISS partnership.” As frothy as the feature was, the fact that I now had a full-page colour feature to drool over rather than the minuscule black and white cuttings collected by each and every UK-based KISS Kid meant everything.

The annual wasn’t all about KISS, though: the pages featured many intelligent articles on all manner of (then-)current bands and artists. The Daily Mirror Pop Club was, you see, an actual club that offered money off concert tickets, free to enter rock and pop contests, and a members-only cassette lending library which boasted over 5,000 titles. Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones were honorary presidents of the club. If proof were ever needed that the Daily Mirror once had a life beyond indentikit idiocy enabler then here it is.

 

“Things Look Good For Dire Straits” yelled a headline accompanying a two-page spread; “Go Quo in ’82!” another such piece. Cover stars The Police got a three-page article where each band member’s private life was dissected; guitarist Andy Summers revealed to have once shared an apartment with actor Paul Michael Glaser – yes, Starsky himself! Sheena Easton, Olivia Newton-John, Joan Armatrading, Kelly Marie, and Earth, Wind and Fire all got one-page features, as did Barry Manilow and Neil Diamond in a dedicated crooners section. To even things up a little, The Tourists, XTC, and Hazel O’Connor all featured, as did a lengthy John Peel article. With Elton John and Billy Joel spreads rubbing inked shoulders with features on Air Supply and Don McLean, the eclectic mix of the hit parade of the early Eighties was captured almost perfectly. But what of the rock and metal, I hear you cry over your Manowar records – full colour posters of Judas Priest and Thin Lizzy would surely quench any metalli-thirst.

Posters, you say? What kind of savage would cut up a frigging annual? Not me! If, however, you were some kind of imbecile then matt-finished photographs of Debbie Harry, Kate Bush, Rod Stewart, Madness, Sad Café, Cliff Richard, and Leo Sayer in a bike jacket could have covered up the woodchip in your boxroom.

 

I hope that an annual resides under the Xmas tree of all cool kids who have taken the time to read my retro ramblings on RPM this year. I shall return in 2020 with more tales of rock ‘n’ roll spit being swallowed by the worlds of comic books, board games, action figures, and the like. I know that the world appears to be more fucked up than it has for some time but, if you’ve ever asked the question offered by the theme tune of one of the greatest television shows of the twentieth century – “is the only thing to look forward to, the past?” – then I may be able to bring you brief moments of solace via my much-loved, well-fingered pieces of tat. Have a cool yule, y’all!

 

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Author: Gaz Tidey

POP CULTURE SCHLOCK at RPM: Exhibit D – The Black Crowes Rock ‘n’ Roll Comic

Greetings, RPM-people; I guess it’s time once again to dig into the Pop Culture Schlock archive and pull out something music-related to wax lyrical about. This month I’m fingering the comic book long boxes until I come across something particularly hard to handle…

Casting a dark shadow over both my comic- and music-buying in the late Eighties and early Nineties was a virulent strain of unauthorised biographies equal parts infamous and diabolical.

Inspired by ‘Hey Boss’, an independent Bruce Springsteen parody from the mid-Eighties, Todd Loren’s Revolutionary Comics launched its Rock ‘n’ Roll Comics strand in 1989 and, quite remarkably given that it came in the path of snowballing legal threats and action, the offbeat offshoot became the indie comic book publisher’s flagship product.

Hiring Larry Nadolsky, artist of the aforementioned Springsteen comic, to pen its debut issue, Rock ‘n’ Roll Comics hit the shelves with a first edition cover-dated June 1989. Guns N’ Roses were the subjects of this first issue and it was welcomed into the legal jungle via a cease and desist order from the GN’R lawyer, Peter Paterno. The subsequent press attention – Rolling Stone magazine covered the furore – saw the initial print run of 10,000 issues sell out completely within two weeks, with buyers assuming that the comic would soon be pulped as big business bulldozed small. As it happened, no actual lawsuits were filed and the debut GN’R issue would go on to have multiple reprints and eventually shift around 150,000 units. A first print copy resides in the Pop Culture Schlock archive, of course. Think it’s so easy to defeat legal issues when knocking on unauthorised material’s door, though? Think again…

 

Rock ‘n’ Roll Comics issues 3 and 4 – featuring Bon Jovi and Mötley Crüe respectively – garnered legal challenges which forced Revolutionary Comics to found a new distribution network outside of the traditional comic book store, instead focussing on music- and gift-related retail outlets. The gamble paid off and Rock ‘n’ Roll Comics ran from 1989 to 1993, publishing 63 issues. The final issue (cover-dated November 1993 and titled ‘Sci-Fi Space Rockers’ – featuring the likes of Hawkwind, Pink Floyd, Marillion, and Genesis) was actually numbered 65 as two issues – Number 8 featuring Skid Row, and Number 61 featuring Yes – were never published due to legal problems that simply refused to have the kinks ironed out. Surprisingly, the highest profile legal case brought against Revolutionary Comics, in regards to the New Kids On The Block issue from 1990, ruled in the indie publisher’s favour, even after Todd Loren had set up a 900 number – “Nuke The New Kids!” – to raise funds for the company’s legal fees.

 

So, Rock ‘n’ Roll Comics are pure, unadulterated, unofficial Pop Culture Schlock… but which issue should I feature for RPM? Scores of bands were featured: Aerosmith, Rolling Stones, Living Colour, Metallica, Anthrax, The Doors, Queen, Van Halen, The Who, Vanilla Ice – basically any popular beat combo or sex symbol that the artists couldn’t draw very well. Need proof? Check out the Bon Jovi issue; the poundshop rendering of JBJ on the cover as realistic as David Rashbaum’s hair extensions. I have, though, for the benefit of RPM’s flowery shirt and waistcoat-wearing clientele, decided upon Issue 34 of Rock ‘n’ Roll Comics, cover-dated September 1991 and devoted to…

 

The Black Crowes, by the time of the comic’s publication, had seen two of their singles – their cover of Otis Redding’s ‘Hard To Handle’, and ‘She Talks To Angels’ – crash into the Top 30 of the Billboard Hot 100, the band tread the legendary boards at Castle Donington, and be bell bottoms-deep into preparations for album number two, ‘The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion’. Being immortalized in comic book form would be the band’s then-high point, surely?

 

As with pretty much every page of Rock ‘n’ Roll Comics’ output, ‘Flying High With The Black Crowes’ was well-researched but dogged by poor, oft-shit artwork; exposition too often reduced to ludicrous sentences spat from inked rock star mouths – “You just wait! Any minute now you’ll hear the first single, ‘Jealous Again’, on the radio and before you know it, we’ll top the charts!” said Chris Robinson, never.

 

Ah, yes, Chris Robinson, one of the greatest voices of his generation, whose first word (“cool!”) in this comic comes via a thought bubble when he is still in the womb…

 

This is the kind of bollocks that you have to squint your brain and accept if you’re gonna have some Rock ‘n’ Roll Comics in your collection, however. That “Unauthorised and Proud Of It!” mantra from the company emblazoned across the comic covers carte blanche to interpret a beloved history in as ludicrous a way as possible.

 

“By the way, how’s your guitar playing coming along?” seventh grade Chris asks little brother, Rich. Pretty good you’d think, because seven pages later Mr. Crowes’ Garden have a record deal and a new band name. Soon band members are recording the sound of cars crashing into trash cans, supporting Junkyard, dissing Milli Vanilli posters, and getting career advice from Steven Tyler: “You could learn from [Aerosmith’s] mistakes, that stuff can kill you!” “Rock and Roll and safety have nothing to do with each other,” replies Chris Robinson. A few pages later he’s spitting at concert security for roughing up gig-goers. Silly Billy.

 

The band is accused of dabbling in black magic, of inciting a Dutch riot. Chris slags off Milli Vanilli again; this time in the face of an autograph hunter who complains about the sound at a Crowes gig. Cutting edge stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree.

 

“Quit calling us The New Stones!” Chris Robinson rages at a journalist. “We’re doing this in and for the ’90s,” adds Rich. “Acts like ourselves, the London Quireboys, and Lenny Kravitz are playing a NEW tune…”

 

…and then they are gone, forever to reside in the comic boxes of nerds like myself, a faint “the future holds nothing but high-flying promise for The Black Crowes” inked farewell floating on the winds of time.

 

If you think that the bands featured in Rock ‘n’ Roll Comics got their bank balances bludgeoned by the unofficial output of Revolutionary Comics, spare a thought for the company’s main man, Todd Loren. He was brutally murdered in 1992, the body of the 32-year-old found at his San Diego condo. He had been stabbed to death and, I shit you not, members of both Guns N’ Roses and New Kids On The Block were linked with the murder due to the previous legal issues. The case remains unsolved to this day, though many believe Loren was the first victim of Andrew Cunanan; the American serial killer who murdered Italian fashion designer, Gianni Versace.

 

You didn’t expect that bleak shit when I was writing about Milli Vanilli a few paragraphs ago, right?!

 

I’ll be back in October with some horror-related musical Schlock just in time for All Hallow’s Eve. Smell ya later…

 

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POP CULTURE SCHLOCK at RPM: Exhibit A – Alice Cooper’s 1st comic-book appearance

 

Step inside; walk this way; you and me, babe; hey, hey! Welcome, RPM-People, to the first irregular column dedicated to music-related items from the Pop Culture Schlock archive. Some will be cool, some will be curious, but all will be from a simpler time when music wasn’t just binary code on a smartphone stolen by some scally on a moped. So, pour yourself a Skol, slip into your Starsky cardigan, and wrap yourself in the warm embrace of nostalgia via a New York sanitarium by way of a Seventies newsagent.

 

Marvel Comics, before becoming responsible for almost every three hours you spend in the cinema, saw the late 1970s ripe for its own slice of the mass market appeal afforded to the rock stars of the day. Rather than living fast and dying young, your common or garden rock ‘n’ roll visage was more likely to be on the cover of a teen magazine or the panel of a game show than the front of a memorial service brochure.

 

After giving KISS its first appearances in issues 12 and 13 of its monthly Howard The Duck comic-book, Marvel rocked out no fewer than three times within the first five issues of its then-new title, Marvel Super Special, a 41-issue series of one-shots published between 1977 and 1986. KISS featured in the first (famously/supposedly donating blood to be used in the red ink) and fifth issues, The Beatles Story making up number 4. Now, any UK rock ‘n’ roll archivist with a shred of honesty who was in single figures age-wise when that first Holy Grail of a KISS comic came out will admit that it took until they were well versed in the art of mail order before they could add that piece of exquisite ephemera to their collection. Not so issue 50 of Marvel Premiere which hit spinner racks in the UK prior to its October 1979 cover-date…

Marvel Premiere was essentially a “try-out” comic; publishing a one-shot tale of a character to determine whether or not he/she/it could attract enough attention and/or revenue to launch their own regular title. After throwing around the idea of an Alice Cooper comic for a few years, Marvel finally took the plunge in 1979 with the special 50th issue of Marvel Premiere. That the legendary comic company did so with a storyline based around the Coop’s album from the previous year, ‘From The Inside’ (a concept record based on the then-troubled shock rocker’s time in a NY sanitarium where he was treated for alcoholism, with songs based around patients he met inside), remains bizarre to this day.

 

To be fair, the album – housed in luxurious fold-out sleeve and playing as I type – was pretty upbeat, musically if not lyrically, no doubt courtesy of Cooper’s collaboration with Bernie Taupin. It was with that in mind, I guess, that Marvel deemed the content suitable for adaptation in comic-book form. Of course, as an eight-year-old kid I read it all in a blur, oblivious to its roots, simply joyous that I could actually find a comic that featured one of the coolest rockers to grace my turntable in a British newsagents. Reading through it now, four decades later, that sense of wonder remains, even though I now understand the serious ramifications of the original subject matter. That Marvel decided to go for a lighter-hearted tone (albeit with a wicked bite) more in keeping with the commercially-accepted theatrics of the album now means that critical re-evaluation doesn’t come with the wince that oft-accompanies the remembering of once-troubled celebrities.

 

With artwork by Tom Sutton and Terry Austin, who also provided the stunning cover art, and a script by Ed Hannigan (based on a plot by Alice, Jim Salicrup, and Roger Stern) the comic version of ‘From The Inside’ opens with Alice trying to escape from his sanitarium cell via the time-honoured tying together of bedsheets. Caught by Nurse Rozetta (yes, she of the album track – also joined in ink form by Jackknife Johnny and Millie and Billie from the record) Alice is thrown into The Quiet Room by Dr. Fingeroth. Here, the Coop recalls the unfortunate series of events that saw him stuck there on the inside looking out.

 

Y’see, Alice, his mind undergoing a meltdown whilst trying to survive the “high-powered lunacy of the showbiz world,” had checked into a clinic in an attempt to dry up and calm his nerves. As (bad) luck would have it, Alice was confused with an Alex Cooper – a “certified paranoid schizo with a radical tyre fetish!” – and locked away by mistake. As our hero is treated to electro-shock therapy, ice water baths, and a crude haircut, Alex Cooper is about to be elected governor!

 

With Veronica (his trusty snake here, yet a dog on the album track, ‘For Veronica’s Sake’) stripped from him and locked away herself, Alice has to negotiate bed straps, sedatives, muscle-bound orderlies, and a doctor seemingly more crazed than the inmates of his facility, in order to get his story believed. Spoiler alert: doesn’t happen!

With a legion of background cameos and in-jokes for lynx-eyed readers (featuring the likes of Popeye, the Incredible Hulk, and Donald Sutherland’s character from 1978’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers remake), the comic is wildly entertaining, possibly more so than the album it is based on (‘From The Inside’ attracting much cooler critical acclaim than many of its long-playing predecessors), though that claim could well be down to my original childhood love for what was then the pinnacle of my fledgling comic buying.

 

“But what of the future?” asked the powers that be at Marvel Comics in 1979. “Should Alice be awarded his own regular Marvel title? Should we break him out of that Asylum and send him blasting through the Marvel Universe?” Well, it would be 1994 before Marvel featured Cooper again via a three-part, Neil Gaiman-penned comic series that tied-in with Alice’s 1994 album, ‘The Last Temptation’.

 

Dark Horse Comics would later reprint ‘The Last Temptation’ as a trade paperback, but Cooper’s comic book history doesn’t end there. 1990 saw Revolutionary Comics’ dubious Rock ‘n’ Roll Comics title (more on these chancers in a future article) feature an unofficial Alice Cooper history, with Bluewater Comics later picking up that company’s past monstrosities and lowbrow ethics. Much better was to follow in 2014 with an ongoing Alice Cooper comic book title from Dynamite Entertainment which lasted for six issues and was followed by ‘Alice Cooper vs. Chaos!’, another six-parter that saw the veteran shock rocker up against the denizens of Dynamite’s horror universe; including Evil Ernie, Chastity, and Purgatori. Oh yeah, also look out for the Coop in a Treehouse of Horror special Simpsons comic along with Rob Zombie, Gene Simmons… and Pat Boone.

 

It is Marvel Premiere issue 50 that will forever be the peak of comic-book Alice Cooper, however. With the guillotine of nostalgia cutting deep, that forty-year-old mass of paper, ink, and staples is a thing of beauty in a world turned ugly. As Millenials and Post-Millenials reminisce about their friggin’ iTunes playlists, us forever-cool-kids will always have stuff like Alice Cooper comics to read via torchlight under our covers at night, knotted bedsheets at the ready…

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Author: Gaz Tidey

 

 

“Do you believe in Jesus? Well, you’re gonna need him…”

Swedish death ‘n’ roll mofos Jesus Chrüsler Supercar blew me away with their debut long player, 2013’s ‘Among The Ruins And Desolate Lands’, and if that vicious slab of noise was a spree killing then its follow-up, 2016’s must-have ’35 Supersonic’, was a premeditated exercise in cold-blooded rock bludgeoning. How could the nefarious band members – Robban Bergeskans (vocals/bass), Nicke Forsberg (drums), Pär Jaktholm (guitar) and Tobbe Engdahl (guitar) – ever hope to top that? Well, they’ve gone for broke with their third album by being in league with Satan himself.

 

Named after the ultimate anti-establishment figure, ‘Lücifer’ is an eleven-track horned beast of a record that grabs the band’s grubby take on the legendary Stockholm Sound and rubs its nose ever-blacker in the filthiest, most glorious sonic hell this side of the Seven Gates.

 

That Stockholm Sound? It comes, as it did on the previous two albums, via the Scandinavian supremacy of über producer, Tomas Skogsberg (The Hellacopters, Entombed, I could go on for days). Drummer Nicke’s brother, Fred Forsberg, mixed the record and, in the search for a thuggish American tone to throw into the muscle car melting pot, Brad Boatright (Converge, Corrosion Of Conformity) undertook the mastering. The results are MASSIVE.

 

This record is housed within four gargantuan walls of guitar. From the opening seconds of the album’s opening (and title) track, no listener will dare keep his or her head still lest they be judged by El Diablo himself. Wood splinters, foundations shake, and auditory canals take an unholy amount of abuse as shit-kicking, brain cell-killing tracks like ‘Flesh ‘n’ Bones’, ‘High Times For Low Crimes’, ‘Never Sleep Again’, and ‘Boogeyman’ grab the speakers by the throat with zero intention of letting go.

 

Side One of the record – entitled ‘First Testament’ – motors along like Dennis Hopper has wired up a bomb to it, but Side Two – ‘Second Commandments’ – does offer the briefest moments of respite: the speeding strut smudged into a sludgier swagger on tracks like ‘Straight To Hell’. A major tour with heavyweights Clutch can do that to a band, I guess. Album closer ‘Black Blood’ is a revelation too: a murder ballad of grandiose proportions that I imagine few would have thought possible from this eight-legged, turbo-charged behemoth of a band. The impressively-titled ‘You Can’t Spell Diesel Without Die’ restores the balance on this fearsome flip-side, however.

 

For fans of Motörhead, Entombed, and Chrome Division, and just about anyone who likes their music as badass as Beelzebub, and their many guitars chugged like their many beers. It’s Death Race 2019 and this is the soundtrack. Buy it and play it like you stole it.

Buy Lücifer Here

Author: Gaz Tidey