Saturday, October 23, 2004

Most of you know, if you've read me for any length of time now, that I'm completely fascinated by the music and artists that were recording under the Warner Bros. and Reprise labels in the late 60s and early-to-mid 70s. Among these musicians were Frank Zappa and his Mothers of Invention, and as was the tendency among many record labels towards their recording artists in the late 60s, Zappa was presented by the Bros. Warner with his very own record label, two to be precise, to do with as he pleased. It should come as no surprise that several idiosyncratic and offbeat artists released records under his "Bizarre" and "Straight" imprints, such as LA groupies the GTO's (Girls Together Outrageously), Tim (forever to be known, apparently, as "Jeff's Dad") Buckley, and Alice Cooper. But none of them were as genuinely weird as the homeless LA street musician and certified paranoid schizophrenic Larry "Wild Man" Fischer. Fischer's Zappa-produced (with backing by the original Mothers) An Evening With Wild Man Fischer was one of those musical experiences which come along only once in a great, great while. Of course, it didn't sell diddley, soon fell out of print, and the double LP has become the stuff of legend, fetching high prices when copies turn up, usually on eBay. Fischer was soon disassociated with Zappa, persevered by touring when he could get gigs, never got treatment for his illnesses, released a few early 80's albums on Rhino which didn't sell either, and continues to be an obscure, but fascinating figure- cultivating his legend (among those who tend to revere this sort of thing) as each day passes and maintaining to this day that Zappa ripped him off.

Myself, I've never owned a copy of An Evening With... . I've only heard two cuts from it, on one of those Warner-Reprise Loss Leaders promo double albums of bygone days. They were "The Taster", which weds the melody from "Unchained Melody" with a sing-songy lyric which WMF intended to be a sort of continuation of "The Twist". It's catchy as hell, and the nonsense lyrics are amusing- "C'mon, let's do the the Taster, when my love was so gray-ster, when the things of the past were just as good as the rest" and so on. The other was "The Story of the Taster", a spoken-word track in which he rants for about 5 minutes, in his inimitable style, about the genesis of the preceding song. I liked what I heard, and wanted to hear more, but it was many years after the album's release and it had already become quite the collector's item, so I never got a copy even though I've tried to keep an eye out for one.

Now, the fine folks at Top Shelf have published The Legend of Wild Man Fischer, a veritable compendium of all things Wild. This bio-slash-comic-slash text piece collection is mostly written by Fischer's post-Zappa tour promoter (of sorts) and friend, Dennis Eichorn, and illustrated (mostly, and kinda crudely) by J.R. Williams, an alternative artist, sculptor, animator, and all-around creative guy of some renown whose style reminds me a bit of Pete Bagge, only not as fluid. I wasn't wild about his art, but it fits Eichorn's reminisces of his experiences with Fischer in the 70s well enough, so it's all good. The text pieces by Williams and Jim Pierron are interesting and informative, and my favorite of all this was the Holly Tuttle-illo'd Eichorn story "WMF Meets The Shroom People". Tuttle's style is even cruder than Williams', but she draws Fischer better and does some nice facial expressions. The Legend of Wild Man Fischer is a great read, even if you're not cursed, like me, to be drawn moth-like to that 60s-70s Warners product. Can't imagine what the audience will be for this, but I hope it brings the Wild Man some well-earned attention and maybe even persuades some suit somewhere that AN EVENING WITH WILD MAN FISCHER NEEDS TO BE RELEASED ON CD! NOW! A

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