Greg Shaw was one of those rare non-musicians whose influence on the development of pop music was incalculable. First as a publisher of fanzines and later as the head of the Bomp! Records label, Greg was in the forefront of chronicling and championing underappreciated music of the ’60s and ’50s, as well as supporting and promoting the burgeoning punk and new wave scenes. This book is primarily an anthology of articles and features by Shaw and other writers reprinted from his various publications, plus a historical and biographical overview provided by Mick Farren and ex-wife Suzy Shaw.
A teenage publisher of sci-fi and fantasy zines, including Entmoot, the first American J.R.R. Tolkien publication, by 1966 Greg was the co-editor of Mojo Navigator, after Crawdaddy the first "serious" rock music magazine. Reprinted here are perhaps the earliest in-depth interviews with the Grateful Dead, Big Brother & the Holding Company, Country Joe & the Fish, and the Doors. By the dawn of the ’70s, disillusioned by the various turns the music scene had taken, Greg began "Who Put The Bomp!," devoted to celebrating garage punk, surf, rockabilly, girl groups and all other insufficiently appreciated styles of rock. As much as someone like Andrew Sarris rehabilitated the reputation of B-movies and commercial cinema disdained by the critical establishment, so did Shaw and cohorts like Ken Barnes challenge the orthodoxy of "Rolling Stone" and other counter-cultural Brahmans. As punk and new wave began to emerge, "Bomp!" switched its emphasis to the present day, playing up the flash and excitement of the scene, while also providing insightful and considered commentary. Yet by the end of the decade "Bomp!" had ceased publication, Shaw already disappointed with punk’s descent into formula. This is about the time when the Bomp! Records label was born, a still on-going enterprise comprising punk, power pop, new wave and neo-psychedelic releases as well as the hugely influential Pebbles series of garage reissues.
Mick Farren’s text is yet another recap of the history of Rock ‘n’ Roll from a standard post-punk perspective, quite expendable, however Suzy Shaw’s account of living with a guy who was as irresponsible as he was irrepressible is witty, good humored, personable. Near Messianic in the over-reaching promotion of his enthusiasms (take note of the book’s title) Greg tended not to tend to the little things in life – paying taxes, landlords, musicians; taking care of his health;etc. Considering all she had to put up with, first as his wife and continuing as his business partner, (Suzy still rules over the Bomp! empire) the portrait presented is remarkably affectionate.
I recommend this book for anyone interested in the counter-counter-culture, the true under-ground of Rock as it existed from the ’50s through the ’70s. And, yes, Lester Bangs’ "James Taylor Marked for Death" is reprinted, possibly the most important polemic in all of Rock criticism.