Rockers: Kings of the Road

John Stuart

“‘The Rocker image reflects the experience of working-class life in the mid 20th century—boredom and disenchantment on the one hand and an intoxicating energy and escapist thrill on the other. There is a potency, an epic simplicity about bikes, leathers and rock ‘n’ roll during this period.”
Along with the advent of the “teenager” in 1950s England came the Rocker. Modeled after such icons as Brando, Dean and Elvis, the Rocker’s style was “a very English interpretation of American ‘glamor.’” This book is a chronicle of the evolution of that style, the classic look that has never gone out of fashion. This volume is lavishly illustrated with black-and-white photos and news clippings of Rockers leaning on things, smoking cigarettes, hanging out, dancing, rioting, posing and interacting with motorcycles. Little details such as the cut of jackets and boot types give the pictures a distinctly British feel. Nuances and variations on the theme are illustrated. This book covers a huge hunk of time (by fashion standards) in which a style has remained remarkably constant. SA

Publisher: Plexus
Paperback: 128 pages

Rollerderby: The Book

Lisa Carver

“I started Rollerderby in 1990, and I’m not sure why. When a magazine editor is asked what their influences were, they usually list a bunch of other magazines. But, as far as I know, there were no other magazines like Rollerderby before Rollerderby. My influences are just being female (thus I am confessional, plain-speaking, nosy, laugh hysterically much more often than a man would, and have a hard time sticking to one topic) and being fortunate enough to be the rulingest sign of the zodiac—the sneaky, sex-obsessed Scorpio.”
What can you say about a magazine where young women are reviewing their cats (actual feline pets) on one page and conducting a lucid and intelligent interview with Boyd Rice on the next? (Screw magazine noted its: “psychotic charm”). Anything seems possible in the unique and utterly unusual world of Lisa Carver. She writes about whatever damn well pleases her, and it’s usually a lot of fun to read about, however unpromising the topic. Perhaps a list of sample Rollerderby topics might speak best. These are just some of the highlights: Glen Meadmore and Vaginal Davis, Psychodrama, Boss Hog, “They’re Sexy, They’re Old, They’re Men” (William Burroughs, Joseph Biden and Eddie Money!), “On Killing Yourself”, “On Being a Teen Prostitute,” Matt Jasper on Richard Rand, Yamatsuka Eye, GG Allin, loss-of-virginity stories, Royal Trux, Dame D’Arcy, Cindy Dall, “I had psoriasis,” “horse girls” and “How Did You Find Out About Sex?” SA

Publisher: Feral House
Paperback: 104 pages

Sleazy Business: A Pictoral History of Exploitation Tabloids, 1959-1974

Alan Betrock

“Sleazy Business is an attempt to cover all known exploitation tabloids of the years 1959-1974 and show a sampling of their representative covers, along with a bit of history and an evaluation of each title. Few people realize the number, the style and the content of these numerous papers as few examples exist today. It is true that these tabloids, published some 20 to 30 years ago, were more explicit and graphic than just about anything mass marketed today, and they remain an important part of exploitation publishing history.”
These publishers seem to cater to the collectible paper market, and seem to know about every obscure title’s history and have a lurid example of each. Since the tabs were often regional, printed on the cheap and considered disposable, this is a truly impressive collection. The bulk of the book consists of several cover pages from each tabloid. The introduction is a well-written overview of the circumstances that helped these publications flourish. SA

Publisher: Shake
Paperback: 128 pages

The Tapestry of Delights: The Comprehensive Guide to British Music of the Beat, R & B, Psychedelic and Progressive Eras

Vernon Joynson

This encyclopedia of British pop and rock is very specific about what it covers (1963-1976) and for the sake of defining an area of coverage, it excludes early ‘60s instrumental combos and any punk or industrial groups which were starting up in 1976 and which the author sees as the beginning of a new era. Given those parameters, the author has done a mind-boggling job of managing to document nearly everything committed to vinyl by British artists (as well as others like Jimi Hendrix and Gong, whose careers were based largely in England) during the specified dates. Listings include the personnel (including guest musicians on albums), title, U.K. catalog number, year of release and highest chart placement where applicable. SA

Publisher: Borderline
Paperback: 600 pages

That’s Blaxploitation! Black Badass Pop Culture of the 1970s

Darius James

“That’s Blaxploitation! is not an exhaustive, encyclopedic or definitive work on the era and its films. Nor does it pretend to be. What it really is, is a celebration and a memoir with loads of unlawfully sarcastic ‘film comments’; hundreds of mediocre reproductions of black-and-white movie stills; bizarre, self-serving interviews; smutty comics; parodies; and promotional books of the era’s most popular films.”
Clutching that caveat firmly in your craw, this book can be a hoot. It has more to do with the aesthetic of zines (imagine Lisa Carver’s Rollerderby, only male and black) than serious film studies. It’s completely subjective and personal, which can be its greatest charm if not taken as a work of great thoroughness or scholarship. It looks messy and homemade, but then so do some of the best and funniest zines.
Among the topics that are tackled by this “tome” are: Shaft, Fred “the Hammer” Williamson, Jim Brown, Jim Kelly, Fab Five Freddy, pimps, Ralph Bakshi; interviews with Melvin Van Peebles, Pam Grier, Antonio Fargas, Iceberg Slim, Pedro Bell (P-Funk cartoonist) and the Last Poets. SA

Publisher: St. Martin's
Paperback: 195 pages

Will Pop Eat Itself? Pop Music in the Soundbite Era

Jeremy J. Beadle

This book gets off to a splendid start. The first three chapters illustrate the history of music and literature and how they came to be “modern.” Cases are made for the precedent of “recycling” in music and literature long before sampling technology and the cut-up method of William Burroughs. The whole concept of recorded music is subjected to recontextualization (for instance, whereas the early recordings of Caruso were souvenirs of a live performance, later operatic recordings were never intended to be simulacra of live performances). Beadle explores the impact of technology on such bands as the Beatles and the Beach Boys and provides an overview of the history of black music leading up to the advent of rap, then comments on current times in which recordings are the end product of samplers, soundbites, collages and lawsuits. The author then visits a modern recording studio where he creates a track using mixers and samplers and does a great job of describing the whole process in lay terms.
A case involving the KLF (Kopyrite Liberation Front), in which the use of an ABBA sample led to the court-mandated destruction of all existing copies of the record in question, segues into a rather precise account of the KLF and their various contemporaries in the British dance music scene between the years 1988 and 1992. This final section becomes frustrating since the legal situation is in a constant state of flux and these bands were not making the great artistic strides in their use of sampling technology. SA

Publisher: Faber and Faber
Paperback: 269 pages

Shocked and Amazed! #1: 1st Amazing Issue

James Taylor

“The sideshow is the metaphor for the turn of the millennium”—James Taylor. “This is a book about people’s motives, their drives, their joys. It is not intended as another exposé of the sideshow business nor as a collection of cheap shots at the showmen and performers who appear here.”
If the Shocked and Amazed books are “periodicals,” as the author claims, then they are the sort that encourages one to collect the entire set to put into a pissy binder in order to lord it over friends because “these are all the original issues.”
Everything but the covers is in black and white, but that’s not a major loss. There are some great all-color titles to be had on sideshow art. The stock in trade of Shocked and Amazed are stories and information using first rate source material. And what a wealth of information it is!
This first volume includes James Taylor on the true nature of sideshow publishing; an account of Ward Hall, renowned “King of the Sideshows”; the Supreme Court ruling that gave the green light to sideshows; a tour of sideshows within spitting distance of the Big Apple; a portfolio of the work of the photographer Kobel (a specialist in the unusual); a piece on a lady sword swallower who was immortalized by Diane Arbus; a chapter from Jim Tully’s Circus Parade, a guide to sideshow lingo, a source list for sideshow collectibles and a bibliography. SA

Publisher: Atomic
Paperback: 80 pages

Shocked and Amazed! #2: The Only One in the World

James Taylor

Volume 2 proves that Taylor has tapped into a rich vein of source material. Once again, the theme is sideshow lore. Taylor’s attitude toward his subjects is “Nobility is what you make it.” Indeed, they are treated as the greatest nobles alive, whether they are “playing the hand they were dealt” or purveying an unusual skill. There is nothing mean-spirited about this presentation, only a genuine love of the unusual.
Includes: “the world’s strangest married couple” (Jeanie Tomaini, the half girl who’s all heart at 2 feet 6 inches and the American giant Al Tomaini); a photo spread of “half people”; the intimate lives and loves of the Hilton sisters (Siamese twins); Sammy Ross, the world’s smallest entertainer; sideshow fat man Bruce Snowdon; a reprint of a whole magazine that is dedicated to midgets; a sideshow memoir in the spirit of Daniel Mannix by Walt Hudson, an in-depth look at a flea circus; a profile of a knife thrower; assorted short features; and more sideshow lingo. SA

Publisher: Atomic
Paperback: 104 pages

Car Culture

Frances Basham and Bob Ughetti

This book about car culture hails from England, which gives it a certain objectivity. It also means that European cars are placed in a historical context. Included is a lot of design history and its relation to consumer priorities: “But even here, and perhaps above all here, logic and necessity play only a small part. The architectural dictum that form should follow function rarely entered the thoughts of most car designers until very recently. Their job was, and is, to stimulate and satisfy desire; to express an ideal of proportion and line, and to provide a symbol of the aspirations of the age.” Roland Barthes called their work the exact equivalent of the great Gothic cathedrals: “The supreme creation of an era, conceived with passion by unknown artists and consumed in image if not in usage by a whole population which appropriates them as purely magical objects.”
A large part of the text is devoted to customizers and hotrodders and their impact on design. Even the Ant Farm’s “Cadillac Ranch” logically works its way into the mix. We are introduced to the world of specialized hotrodding publications and the influence of icons like Ed “Big Daddy” Roth. Custom-car shows are described: “The quest for show points reached ludicrous heights. Cars were set on clouds of cotton wool, bathed in sympathetic light and finished in such extravagant detail that they had to be towed to the venues.” The role of the car as an image in advertising and movies is scrutinized, and the automobile in fine art is also given its due, including examples by Warhol, Rauschenberg, Lichtenstein and Dali. But this very well-conceived text takes a back seat to the copious stroke-book quality photographs. Being caught actually reading the text is akin to claiming that you’re only reading that issue of Playboy for the articles. SA

Publisher: Plexus
Paperback: 144 pages

Confessions of a Rat Fink

Ed “Big Daddy” Roth

During the “lost years” between the initial burst of fame of Ed “Big Daddy” Roth and the rediscovery of his work by the world of fine art as “Kustom Kulture,” Roth became a Mormon and worked for 10 years in the sign department at Knott’s Berry Farm. These facts and many other surprises await the reader of this 1992 autobiographical memoir, which isn’t chronological and is written in an idiosyncratic “hep speak” reminiscent of Lord Buckley. Mr. Roth is ultimately a decent fellow. He likes his grunge with a “G” rating. His cartoon mascot Rat Fink is no Fritz the Cat, despite his grooming and other “unsavory” habits. What Big Daddy loves most of all is cars—customizing cars and showing them off. He respects women. He dislikes loud music and air conditioning. He digs computers. He’s a free spirit but a good role model (although he alludes to a past in which this wasn’t always the case). He hasn’t let success go to his head. He’s made business mistakes. He’s quick to acknowledge the contributions of others. Given the somewhat specialized presentation of the information that this book contains, it is probably best enjoyed by the true aficionado. It contains many illustrations and a special fold-out Rat Fink poster. SA

Publisher: Pharos
Paperback: 169 pages