Sunday, February 26, 2006

Disaster #4 (Summer 1987)


A lot of people know that Bill Callahan was a fanzine guy way back but not many people have seen it. Bill and I had a short letter writing relationship back in the '80s and I contributed to this issue although I'm too embarassed to reprint those reviews. I finally met Bill at the Suckdog show. I went home and later wrote a song lyric about him called "Billy Storm" (never put it to music) - the night I met him, he looked like he had a perpetual black cloud above his head that was so heavy it forced his head down and his body into a slouch. I guess he saw that cloud but interpreted it as Smog instead of a black cloud. That night I went home with one of Suckdog's band members and we lay on my bed kissing all night. I promised (in the throes of passion) to drive them to Ohio, a promise I later reneged on when I came to my hungover senses the next day. A few weeks later, I got a letter from Bill informing that he was going on the road with the very same person (Debbey Puff) and starting his career. It was like he had joined the circus. I never heard from him again.

His most recent work (A River Ain't Too Much to Love) is bar-none my favorite record of 2005 - a year that had many noteworthy releases.

Disaster was a superlative fanzine which was anchored by Bill's careful yet often funny writing (he still does that in his lyrics). There's a reprint of his review of a Broken Siren show (a strident feminist Dischord band that got to play a lot of shows in DC in that period) that just "kicks the dust" out of me. He's got the snarky letters, lots of name checking, tons of reviews, interviews with bands that indicate his superlative taste (well, Sex Clark Five and Halo of Flies). Funny piece on what Tom Pig does during a typical day ("6:30PM Pig has an apertif while watching the sun and his neighbor's wife, go down.") and Bill's trademark Desert Island Discs (who knew Tom Hazelmeyer liked the Soft Boys? and Rob Straker listened to Mozart)

Here are a few pages from Issue 4 which I think is the only one I ended up contributing to.

Some observations:

In Bill's review of GG Allin's Hated in the Nation tape, he admires him for "not faking it" and putting his life "however fucked up -- on the stage." Just for comparisons sake, here's a sample lyric from last year's "Running the Loping":
I lay on the bed in the dark
laughing at things I think of
Getting off on the pornography
of my past

One the same page, he also expresses that he is "increasingly puzzled" by Beat Happening because they are "more of an excuse to get together with friends as opposed to some sorta soul-purging act or whatever"... he obviously chose the latter in his work.

The pictures of Alex Chilton offered without comment include one with Alex and Bill's original teen crush, Paul Westerburg who is receding into the background as Chilton moves up front.





the masthead and Bill's misanthropic editorial...

A sample of Bill's show reviews *click to see it larger*

More reviews by Bill and a Calvin drawring...


A splash page for his Halo of Flies interview - whoo hoo...


Halo of Flies interview continued *click to make larger*


Halo of Flies interview continued


Halo of Flies and the uncommented upon Chilton/Westerburg photos...


Bill's back page "Desert Island Discs" - not the contribution of a certain blogger...

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

He also did the Replacements fanzine "Willpower."

-trickknee

squirrel said...

i always wondered whether the smog bill callahan was the same one who did willpower. wow. i think i still have a full set of them...

Jim H said...

Yeah, I knew about Willpower - I guess I was being stupid and assumed everyone else did. Anyway, that's the reason I mention the Chilton photographs. Apparently they are Bill's own photographs. The way they are taken, though, is interesting to me because they are different from standard fanzine photos - they suggest young Bill is really studying Chilton like almost surveillance photos. The image of Westerberg receding while Chilton stands there waiting also seems symbolic of the way Bill was going at the time - from the unadulterated punk rock band leader to the iconclastic pop icon. Anyway, it's probably just bullshit I'm spewing so take it for what it's worth.

Anonymous said...

There was a Smog/Disaster mention not too long ago somewhere else (Agony Shorthand?), and none seemed to know the Willpower connection, so I thought I'd throw that in there. When Smog first started putting shit out, I always thought of him as "that zine guy who started recording," and actually didn't take it seriously (even after hearing it) for some time afterward....for no good reason. Turns out he's a pretty good writer, but a far better musician.

-trickknee

Joshua said...

Do you know if the Disaster interview with Sex Clark Five is published anywhere online? The print issue is pricey...Callahan meets sc5 has got to be a trip.