Strangely, you won’t find him on wikipedia, but if you spent any time hanging around the New York City music scene, you’d already know that James “the Hound” Marshall (left) is the undisputed king of living rock critics, a mantle he inherited from Lester Bangs.
I didn’t become aware of Marshall’s talents until I bounced into the East Village Eye soon after the SoHo Weekly News folded. I’d left the Village Voice in disgust and had a special contempt for their rock critic Robert Christgau, who’d torpedoed my piece on the first rock diva, Arlene Smith, because her manager didn’t like the tone of my piece. Marshall had recently resigned as the rock critic at the Eye, but was still writing a column called The Real American Underground. Actually, he resigned as Music Editor after the editor (Leonard Abrams) refused to give a column to Lester Bangs, who, like me, had shown up and was offering to write for free due to lack of any counterculture journals left standing. That would be one of many mistakes made by Leonard and before long, Lester would pass on without receiving his proper due.
Right away, I noticed Marshall paid zero attention to what was happening in popular music, while seeking out the best combination of the old originators of R&B and country, people who never got their due, along with the current under-appreciated rock bands of today, bands like the Seekers and the Fleshtones.
At the time, I was the first journalist documenting the history of hip hop, which had been going on unnoticed for many years. Marshall was not a big fan of the music, and why would he be, since many early records contained a lot of trash, like the Sugarhill Gang, an over-the-hill bunch of fake rappers soft-talking over a mainstream disco hit. I’m sure if he’d gone to any of the real South Bronx jams I attended, he would have had a completely different take on the music. Let’s just say, he preferred Hank Ballard to the Sugarhill Gang. Flick Ford was the art director at the Eye at the time, and I was really impressed with his work.
It was around this time that I decided to return to my roots in the original garage band movement, and I convinced Flick and the assistant art director at High Times, Brian Spaeth, to join me in creating a garage band super group. See, I knew one of the drummers for the Finchley Boys, the greatest garage band in Central Illinois history, had recently arrived in New York. His name was Brian Moorse. I also knew one of the greatest R&B guitar players from my town was also living in New York. His name was Bob Brandel. When I heard Brian Spaeth had been an original member of the Fleshtones, the reigning champions of New York City garage rock, I felt we had the makings of something really special. Flick had so much charisma and creative energy he seemed like the perfect front man. Much to my surprise, Marshall showed up at one of our earliest gigs, and came backstage after the show to tell us how much he liked our sound. That’s when we knew we were for real.
The Seekers also loved us, by the way, and we played a couple of gigs opening for them. We never opened for the Fleshtones, but they came to our shows as fans and really dug our dueling guitar sound since we were one of the few garage bands around at the time with two guitars.
Around this time, I commissioned Marshall to write a feature on the worst things in rock history, and I also commissioned Flick to illustrate the article. It would be the first of many collaborations between them.
The result became one of the most notorious articles ever published in High Times. You can download it off the new High Times Hits smashwords site for 99 cents (see link below). And please check out Marshall’s entertaining blog at: thehoundblog.blogspot.com.
And will somebody please do The Hound justice with a decent wikipedia page?