Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Miriam Linna Zines

Straight Out of Brooklyn

Cleaning up the house, I rediscovered a lot of old zines I hadn't looked at in years, including three associated with Miriam Linna, erstwhile Cramps drummer and the entrepreneuress behind the Norton Records empire (along with her longtime partner and A-Bones and Zantees bandmate Billy Miller).

Joined at the Hip: Billy Miller and Miriam Linna

If RE/Search Books ever came out with an Incredibly Strange Hipsters volume, Miriam would surely be their first point of contact - and by strange, I mean interesting, cool, and curious. She's just a compendium of knowledge about all things strange and unusual, be it books, mags, music or what have you. Naturally, Miriam and Billy live in the Hipster's Mecca, Brooklyn, NYC. Back in the day I called the Norton Records phone number (a NYC area code, natch) and Miriam herself answered the phone...I recall we shot the bobo yapping about music and pulp novels for a good while until I was giddy with excitement. This ranks up there in my memory banks with meeting Miriam and Billy's West Coast equivalent Hipster Couple, Mike Vraney and Lisa Petrucci of Something Weird Video and Tease magazine fame.

Anyway, here are some fine Linna publications from yesteryear.

The Norton Records catalog itself was already something of a zine, often providing the only reference to or photo of rare vinyl platters and bands hitherto unknown. So it was only a matter of time before Miriam and Billy boy branched out with a music zine (and later full-fledged, full-color-cover magazine) called Kicks. They published two issues in 1979. Then, after a 5-year hiatus, came out with Kicks #3 in 1984.

No. 3 (1984)
Edited by Billy "The Big Fish" Miller and Miriam "Scamp" Linna

Anyone familiar with Norton Records (or the A-Bones, Zantees, or Cramps, for that matter), would know what kind of music interested Billy and Miriam: Strictly Old School "Rock & Roll" - i.e., American rhythm and blues, rockabilly and anything recorded at Sun Records. In that sense they were like Baltimore's John Waters, who always accused The Beatles of killing real music (i.e., Little Richard, Fats Domino, Doowop and other ebony tones) in 1964 when they ushered in the whitebread British Invasion. But, just in case people didn't know, Billy laid it all out in the Kicks #3 Editor's Manifesto, reprinted below:

For those who have trouble with small print, let me excerpt a few choice Miller morsels:

"We don't deal in ROCK MUSIC here at KICKS. If you're a fan of David Bowie or Devo, take this magazine back to the store. You've obviously bought the wrong thing. To me, rock music means asshole Roger Daltry swingin' a microphone around his head while leagues of stoned out squares gaze in wide-eyed ecstacy waiting for MTV or Lisa Robinson to tell 'em where they ought to take their zombie butts to next...WHENEVER YOU BUY A RECORD BY DURAN DURAN YOU ARE SPITTING ON THE GRAVE OF EDDIE COCHRAN! It's a big sham and you are the sucker. Do kids get in front of a mirror and pretend they're Spandau ballet? You tell me, Jack." And so on...but I think you get the point now! (Though Billy must have given Miriam a pass for her brief foray into New Wave music with Nervus Rex - whose "Don't Look" b/w "Love Affair" is one one of my all-time fave singles, btw.)

But the Kicks manifesto also hinted at future publications, because uber-hipsters Billy and Miriam's interests couldn't be constrained to just music. Defending the "non-musical" articles, Billy contended that "...White Castle, Lois Lane, Vic Morrow and The Golden Spike reek of the same heart-pumpin' fodder that sets a Sun record spinnin' and bodies wailin'." (There was even an homage to Shemp Howard in its pages!)

In fact, a feature on JD paperbacks in Kicks #3 called "1,000,000 Delinquents" by one Miriam "Bad Seed" Linna eventually spawned a sister publication called...

Bad Seed
#1 (1984)

Taking its name from ye olde scriptures ("the fathers have eaten sour grapes and set the children's teeth on edge" - Jeremiah 31:29), Bad Seed was dedicated not just to books, but any and all movies, mags, or music relating to "bad" (i.e., cool)teens and juvenile delinquents. Bad Seed's themes probably inspired like-spirited zines like Chip Rowe's Teenage Gang Debs and John Marr's Murder Can Be Fun.

Here's the Bad Seed creed:

And last, but not least...Miriam's interest in bad seeds led inevitably to the bad boys and girls of '60s adult paperbacks and...

Smut Peddler!
"The astonishing world of paperback exotica"
Vol 1, No 1 (1992)
by Miriam Linna

Here's the editor's Mission Statement:

Ah Smut Peddler! Before Feral House came out with Sin-a-Rama, this was the definitive reference guide to sleazy '60s adult pulp novels. As she says in her "Intro of Sorts" (above), "Folks say you can't judge a book by its cover, but I can pretty much assure you that BIG BANGOUT AT THE SIN SHORE and CONVICT LUST and LOVE ADDICT and PERVERTED LUST MEN deliver. Deliver what? THRILLS, AND PLENTY OF 'EM!...This stuff is luscious, enervating, astonishing, and unaboundingly exciting reading." Though she cautions her readers that the sex depicted in these naughty nightstand readers is relatively tame by today's "anything goes" standards, Linna - ever the old school rocker - makes the argument that, "Like rock & roll, a good adult novel gets your immediate attention with a solid beat and keeps you glued to the pages with action, action, ACTION!" Yeah boy!

Now I gotta find my Shake Books, the extinct publishing empire founded by Alan Betrock, whose books are all out of print. Betrock covered turf quite similar to Billy and Miriam, stuff like adult movie posters, tabloids and cult scandal magazines, and the wonderfully self-descriptive I Was a Teenage Juvenile Delinquent Rock 'N' Roll Horror Beach Party Movie Book: A Complete Guide to the Teen Exploitation Film, 1954-1969.


Blogger m. linna said...

Happened upon A.D. just as I began to blog up a storm myself at kicksville66. I'm going backwards first, then shifting gears so look for fanzine memoirs sooner than later. ML

6:11 PM  
Anonymous mike the knife said...

Just happened across Bad Seeds #1, 2 and 3 that were tucked away. cool reads.

2:30 PM  
Anonymous gangbang said...


2:40 PM  

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