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Boppin'

THE EVERLASTING FIRST: The Easybeats

Continuing a look back at my first exposure to a number of rock ‘n’ roll acts and superheroes (or other denizens of print or periodical publication), some of which were passing fancies, and some of which I went on to kinda like. They say you never forget your first time; that may be true, but it’s the subsequent visits–the second time, the fourth time, the twentieth time, the hundredth time–that define our relationships with the things we cherish. Ultimately, the first meeting is less important than what comes after that. But every love story still needs to begin with that first kiss.

This was originally posted as part of a longer piece covering both pop music and comic book characters. It’s separated here for convenience.

Building upon our influences plays a large role in shaping who we are, and what we become. As a kid in the ’60s, and as a teenager in the ’70s, my personality, and my likes and dislikes, were molded in part by the pop culture I absorbed via TV, comic books, movies, and AM radio. A Hard Day’s Night. BatmanThe Monkees. Pulp paperbacks. Jukeboxes. DC ComicsMarvel ComicsGold Key Comics, all kinds comics. WNDR-and WOLF-AM in Syracuse. Throw in some baseball, some random 45s, some more TV (from Gilligan’s Island to The Guns Of Will Sonnett to Star Trek to Supersonic), some books on World War II, some DisneyMarx Brothers, and Jerry Lewis flicks, and some surreptitious glances at Lorrie Menconi and Barbi Benton in Playboy, and you have a partial portrait of the blogger as a young man.

Y’know, it ain’t polite to stare, mister!

And throw in some rock ‘n’ roll magazines, too. I’ve already written at length about the importance of the ’70s tabloid Phonograph Record Magazine, and I will still have more to write about PRM in future posts. I saw an issue of Circus some time in the mid-’70s, and I fell in love with Suzi Quatro when I saw her on the cover of the Rolling Stone. Later on, I’d immerse myself in Trouser PressCreemNew York RockerRock ScenePunkThe Pig Paper, and also a little thing called Goldmine, for which I freelanced for almost twenty years. But the most important single issue of any rock mag I ever read? No contest; that was the February 1978 issue Bomp! magazine: the power pop issue.

The way I read and re-read and re-re-read that issue, it’s a miracle its cover is still attached. I was 18. I was a fan of The BeatlesThe MonkeesThe KinksThe Raspberries, and The Ramones. I’d just seen The Flashcubes for the first time, so I was already a fan of theirs, too. The power pop issue of Bomp! was Heaven-sent, a manifesto for what I already believed, but couldn’t yet articulate. And its pages contained scores of recommendations for more acts I should check out as a nascent power pop acolyte, bands like The Flamin’ Groovies (whom I’d already heard, but needed to hear more), The CreationThe Dwight Twilley Band, and The Nerves; and there was quite a bit of coverage of some band called Big Star, and some group from the ’60s: an Australian band named The Easybeats.

Greg Shaw and Gary Sperrazza!, the auteurs behind Bomp!‘s power pop extravaganza, cited The Easybeats alongside The Kinks and The Who as power pop’s founding fathers. That’s pretty heady company to keep, so I certainly wanted to learn more about The Easybeats. If there were any Easybeats records in print in the U.S. in ’78, I wasn’t aware of them; I don’t think I could even find an Oldies 45 reissue of the group’s lone American hit, “Friday On My Mind.” So Easy Fever had to be deferred for me.

It may seem odd in retrospect that I’d never heard “Friday On My Mind,” but I don’t think I had. I finally heard it in–I think–the summer of ’78. Tip-A-Few, a bar on James Street in Eastwood, specialized in playing oldies while thirsty patrons tipped a few (or, sometimes, more than a few). The DJs at Tip-A-Few were armed with a massive collection of 45s–no need for LPs, because they would only play hit oldies–and I was there with decent frequency, tippin’ a few while requesting singles by Gene Pitney, The Beau BrummelsThe Knickerbockers, and The Fireballs. And, one night, I requested “Friday On My Mind” by The Easybeats.

I liked it, of course, It wasn’t immediately revelatory, but it was catchy rock ‘n’ roll music, and that was fine by me. That fall, I picked up a used copy of David Bowie‘s covers album, Pin Ups, which contained the former Mr. Jones’ take on “Friday On My Mind.” That track was, in fact, the very thing that prompted me to buy my first Bowie album, so yes indeed, thank you, Easybeats! I did eventually score an Oldies 45 of The Easybeats’ “Friday On My Mind,” a record which I grew to love more and more with each easy spin.

It took me a while to expand my Easybeats stash beyond that one 7″ single. In the mid-’80s, Rhino Records‘ The Best Of The Easybeats rewarded me with a glimpse into the true and enduring greatness of The Easybeats. “Friday On My Mind” was their only Stateside hit, and on some days I’ll agree it was their best track. But most days, I’ll dig in my heels, and I’ll insist, Yeah, “Friday On My Mind” is great, but “Sorry” is better!  “Sorry” struck me as the perfect melding of The Monkees and the early Who, so sign me up for a new religion based on those Australian pop gods, The Easybeats. “Good Times.” “Made My Bed (Gonna Lie In It).” “St. Louis.” “She’s So Fine.” “Sorry.” “Friday On My Mind.” Scripture. Chapter. Verse. Easy!

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Boppin'

THE EVERLASTING FIRST: Hoppy The Marvel Bunny

Continuing a look back at my first exposure to a number of rock ‘n’ roll acts and superheroes (or other denizens of print or periodical publication), some of which were passing fancies, and some of which I went on to kinda like. They say you never forget your first time; that may be true, but it’s the subsequent visits–the second time, the fourth time, the twentieth time, the hundredth time–that define our relationships with the things we cherish. Ultimately, the first meeting is less important than what comes after that. But every love story still needs to begin with that first kiss.

This was originally posted as part of a longer piece covering both pop music and comic book characters. It’s separated here for convenience.
My 50+ year love affair with comic books is based primarily on my fondness of superheroes. But I’ve dabbled in other comic-book genres at times. Carl Barks‘ Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck stories are recognized classics, Sheldon Mayer‘s Sugar & Spike deserves wider recognition, and I’ve been known at various points in my life to follow the four-color sagas of ArchieEnemy AceBat LashGroo the WandererMs. TreeTomb Of DraculaLove And RocketsFish Police, and Fission Chicken.

Although it was never a specific interest, I’ve occasionally had some affection for funny-animal superheroes, too. My first such passions were Mighty Mouse and Underdog on TV, followed by Henry Boltinoff‘s single-page (or less) Super Turtle fill-in strips in various DC comic books in the ’60s. And I also dug Super Goof, a Gold Key Comics title, which starred the familiar Disney character Goofy; whenever our dear Goofy gobbled down one of his secret supply of Super Goobers, he’d upgrade into the costumed, super-powered Whatever-The-Hell-Goofy-Was Of Steel, Super Goof. Sure, you can laugh, but it was the closest Disney comics ever came to an ongoing superhero book. Er, unless you count Zorro….

But neither Underdog nor Super Goof was the first anthropomorphic critter to don a cape and fly through the sky to punch evil in the eye. One of the first–if not the first–was Captain Marvel Bunny, better-known as Hoppy The Marvel Bunny.

In the 1940s, the original Captain Marvel was so popular that Cap’s real-life masters at Fawcett Comics figured that spin-off characters would be well warranted. Cap gained a younger counterpart, Captain Marvel Junior, and a sister, Mary Marvel; each of these characters was popular enough to star in separate cover-featured series (in Master Comics and Wow Comics, respectively), and to appear in his/her own solo comics, as well. The three teamed up (often with non-powered, non-starring supporting character Uncle Marvel) in the pages of The Marvel Family, too. Someone at Fawcett must have decided that a funny animal version could sell to even younger readers, so Hoppy the Marvel Bunny was born.

Hoppy’s first appearance was in Funny Animals (aka Fawcett’s Funny Animals# 1 in 1942. His debut revealed that the soon-to-be-magic bunny rabbit was a big fan of Captain Marvel–wasn’t everyone?–who discovered he could also become the World’s Mightiest Lagamorph by speaking Cap’s magic word, SHAZAM! In a flash of lightning, Hoppy became Hoppy the Marvel Bunny, and adventure was afoot. (A rabbit’s foot! See what I did there?)

Hoppy remained the star of Funny Animals for years, and also starred in 15 issues of his own comic book. In the early ’50s, the Captain Marvel connection was dropped, as Hoppy became a more traditional funny-animal feature. When Fawcett folded in the mid ’50s, Charlton Comics picked up the rights to Hoppy, and reprinted some of the Marvel Bunny tales under the name Magic Bunny.

Hoppy was never much on my radar; he was gone from the comics racks long before I was born, and never had sufficient pop-culture oomph to merit a nostalgic revival. I probably first heard of Hoppy while studying comics history in the books All In Color For A Dime and Steranko‘s History Of The Comics, tomes that I devoured in the early to mid ’70s. Even when DC Comics acquired Captain Marvel and company, Hoppy was certainly the lowest of priorities.


Well, at least until DC Comics Presents # 34 in 1981. For the second and concluding chapter of a team-up between Superman and The Marvel Family, writer Roy Thomas pulled Hoppy the Marvel Bunny out of his hat as a climactic surprise guest star. This was clever, unexpected, and so cool. Hoppy saved the day, and even told Superman that he was his favorite comic book hero.

Heh. I thought Hoppy was supposed to be a Captain Marvel fan! Traitor. Just can’t trust a rascally rabbit.

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Our new compilation CD This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio, Volume 4 is now available from Kool Kat Musik! 29 tracks of irresistible rockin’ pop, starring Pop Co-OpRay PaulCirce Link & Christian NesmithVegas With Randolph Featuring Lannie FlowersThe SlapbacksP. HuxIrene PeñaMichael Oliver & the Sacred Band Featuring Dave MerrittThe RubinoosStepford KnivesThe Grip WeedsPopdudesRonnie DarkThe Flashcubes,Chris von SneidernThe Bottle Kids1.4.5.The SmithereensPaul Collins’ BeatThe Hit SquadThe RulersThe Legal MattersMaura & the Bright LightsLisa Mychols, and Mr. Encrypto & the Cyphers. You gotta have it, so order it here.

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Now Showing

Black Widow

Long before the Black Widow movie was even in the works, I thought that it was great subject matter for a stand-alone movie, outside of The Avengers franchise. Through previous MCU adventures, we’ve gotten hints that Natasha Romanoff’s life had been spent as a covert agent and assassin. In my head at least, I imagined what a great opportunity it would be to explore her early adventures, a sort of spin on the Bond and Bourne movies. Awesomely, the Black Widow movie is all of that and more.

For my family, this was our first outing to the theater post-covid. While we felt comfortable knowing that the theater we were going to was still taking multiple precautions for safety, we opted to attend the first show on a Monday, when we knew attendance would be fairly low. For further peace of mind, we purchased a buffer seat on either side of us. Since it was a matinee, it was more than affordable to do.

It was so great to be back, sitting in comfy recliners, chomping on buttered popcorn again. Our family loves going to the movies, and the pandemic really put a damper on that. Needless to say, we were very excited as the house lights dimmed.

If there was any handwringing at Marvel or Disney, over whether or not Scarlett Johannson could carry her own movie, the opening weekend box-office take of $215 million squelched that. Serving as both the star of the film and producer, she was able to flesh out a hero that was in need of fleshing out, beyond occasionally remarking, “Just like in Budapest.” 

As the following was revealed in the trailer, Romanoff meets up with her sister, who appears to have had a similar upbringing as an operative. While the two initially go for each other’s throats, they are equally inquisitive about the sister that they barely know. Their mission turns into tracing their own family tree, and trying to separate fact from fiction.

I really don’t want to say anything more about the plot, because it twists and turns in a few unexpected ways. Coupled with unbelievably first-rate action sequences, Black Widow more than holds its own against any of the Cap, Ironman or Thor outings. In fact, I can’t wait to see it again.

By Dan Pavelich

Categories
The Wayback Machine

A Star Wars Christmas

The Christmas of 1977 was pretty much devoid of Star Wars toys, as the possible demand for them was grossly underestimated. In truth, who could’ve imaging that the Star Wars universe and everything associated with it would be such an incredible phenomenon?

Christmas of 1978 looked a little more promising, with manufacturers having an entire year to make up for their error the previous Christmas…

Underneath my Christmas tree that fateful morning in ’78 were several coveted Star Wars items. I’ve written about the remote-controlled R2D2 I received in a previous article, but I also got action figures of C3PO and R2D2 and Luke’s land speeder. For a grade school kid like me, this was like getting a bag of gold bullion. I remember with fondness, the hours of fun I had, dreaming up my own Star Wars adventures. Next to my G.I. Joe, these were my favorite toys by far.

Unlike me, my brother hung on to all of his Star Wars stuff over the years, and a few old pieces of mine now reside at his house, with his. It’s nice to know that they still exist and are being looked after.

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Welcome

May The Fourth be With You!

Greetings to our new friends and readers from around the galaxy today, as we celebrate all things Star Wars!

Categories
Birthdays

Hayley Mills

Born on this day in 1946, in Marylebone, London, actress, Hayley Mills. As a child, Mills was a Disney kid, starring in The Parent Trap and Pollyanna. She continued to appear in films through 2011, and also starred in Good Morning, Miss Bliss, an early incarnation of Saved By The Bell.

Categories
Double Take

Emily Osment / Carrie Underwood

Here at Pop-A-Looza HQ think that actress and former Disney kid, Emily Osment, looks an awful lot like country singer, Carrie Underwood. We think the two could pass for sisters!

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Now Showing

Mary Poppins Returns

I have to admit that I wasn’t all that thrilled to hear of a sequel to Disney’s “Mary Poppins,” starring Emily Blunt in the title role. My apprehension, however, was allayed as soon as I heard Julie Andrews talk about how much she loved Blunt, and thought that she was practically perfect in every way to fill her own button-down shoes.

It would be impossible to overstate just how much care Disney took over this production, getting absolutely every detail beyond just-right. Cherry Tree Lane and The Banks Family are alive and well, albeit in need of Mary Poppins’s saving graces once again.

Michael Banks is grown up and living as a widower in the house he grew up in, along with his three children and Ellen, the maid. Banks has had a string of bad luck, beginning with the passing of his dear wife, which has left him in the position of having the family home foreclosed on. This is a job for Mary Poppins, if ever there was one.

Just as in the original movie, Mary Poppins arrives on the wind via umbrella, with a discerning eye focused on setting right multiple family problems, including saving the Banks home. I won’t spoil the story for those who’ve not seen it yet, but it’s relayed through really wonderful musical numbers and dance sequences that really do live up to their legacy.

Blunt, Van Dyke & Miranda

Lin-Manuel Miranda is well-placed as Mary’s lamplighter pal, and with a bright smile and pleasant demeanor with the children, is instantly likable. His Cockney accent fares far better than Dick Van Dyke’s did in the original, so that what many have felt was a distraction (me, too) in the first film, is no longer. When Van Dyke puts in a cameo as the senior bank president near the end of the film, we happily find that his accent & dancing feet are both right where they need to be.

The closing scene of the movie is happy-tear-inducing, wrapping up an emotional sequel that hits all of the right marks. I haven’t ever seen a contemporary movie even come close to creating a sentiment and charm that so many golden-era movies do, until “Mary Poppins Returns.” Returning to Cherry Tree Lane is a dream come true.

D.P.

Categories
In The Stacks

Bloodline/Claudia Gray

Since 2015, when The Force Awakens came out, Disney has supplement-ed its on-screen world of Star Wars with books. Referred to as the Star Wars Disney Canon on Goodreads, these books flesh out the wonderful world that George Lucas created over forty years ago. They follow characters that we love, and new characters that we have yet to meet on screen. As a fan of Star Wars, I am always happy to be in that world, so a few years back I started to read some of the books set in the world of Star Wars. The first one I picked up was Claudia Gray’s Bloodline.

Bloodline is the story of Princess Leia, now Senator Organa, and how she navigates the universe post Return of the Jedi. She has the struggles of a politician, but also that of the daughter of Darth Vader. Gray digs into feelings and themes not explored in the Star Wars movies. What would it be like to know your father is Darth Vader? What would it be like if people found out? Gray tackles the psychological side of Leia, and it’s very moving. Leia is obviously a great favorite among Star Wars fans, as she is a strong, powerful, and inspiring leader. It was really nice to get to see even more sides of her, and to get to know her better as a character. 

The other main thing that has stuck with me after reading this book, is its focus on politics. I’m one of the (what seems like) few people who actually enjoy the prequel movies. Like I said above, any chance to be in the universe of Star Wars is a win for me. Queen Amidala was always one of my favorite characters, along with The Phantom Menace being one of my favorite movies. I always found the focus on politics and galactic relations to be fascinating. Bloodline delivers on that front as well, but with the beloved Leia at its heart. I also really enjoyed getting a closer look at the politics behind the new government that formed after the Empire was destroyed. 

I highly recommend this book for anyone who loves Star Wars, wants to get to know Leia better, or just wants a good political thriller to read. May the force be with you.

P.S. I also highly recommend getting the Barnes and Noble Exclusive Edition of this book (which can be found at this link: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/bloodline-claudia-gray/1123475598?ean=9780425286784) because it comes with a really awesome poster!

Categories
Quick Spins

Selena Gomez/Rare

Selena Gomez

Rare (Interscope)

http://www.selenagomez.com

“Lose You To Love Me,” the first single from “Rare,” became Selena Gomez’s first number one, last October. January 10, 2020, would find the album sitting comfortably in the top spot on release day. Internationally-impressive chart positions would also help propel this release to be her biggest yet.

Gomez is coming into her own as a songwriter and a person, which is often reflected in these up-to-the-minute contempo tracks, but even more so in the less commercial selections. While a lot of the style preferences feel inspired by Taylor Swift’s “Lover,”  the rapid-fire vocals and sparse production, there are some pleasantly inspired moments.

Acoustic bass and simple percussion make “Ring” sound like a jazz song straight out of a film noir, and the electric piano of “Crowded Room” recalls the soft soul songs that permeated radio in the 1970’s. “Cut You Off,” featuring guest Kid Cudi, flips the bird at a relationship drowning in nonsense. More moments like these, please.

By Dan Pavelich