Beatsville (Outré Gallery Press)

A celebration of beatnik explotation stuff. Dan Geddes enjoys the first half, but isn't too keen on the contemporary schlock that pops up in the later part of this book.

Beatsville (Outré Gallery Press)I've been a collector of beat generation and beatnik "exploitation" stuff for years, so I was kind of excited to see this book appear. Some of you may recognize the name of Domenic Priore as one of the contributors. He is perhaps best known as the Brian Wilson/"Smile" fanatic who compiled the "Look, Listen, Vibrate, Smile" book awhile back. He also has a forthcoming book titled "Riot On Sunset Strip: Rock 'n' Roll's Last Stand in Hollywood 1965/1966" (Chronicle Books) which has been in the works for years.

"Beatsville" focuses on the "beatnik" angle, instead of the real "beat" movement. This of course means the Maynard G. Krebs cartoon-style, caricature of the beat as played by Bob Denver on the CBS sitcom "The Many Loves Of Dobie Gillis" (1959-63). I personally love this kitsch, and was happy to see many of my faves pictured. Items like the Kreiss beatnik ceramics are of course pure exploitation (as well as being funny) but other examples such as Del Close and John Brent's "How To Speak Hip" LP, Shorty Petterstein's "Wide, Weird, World of..." LP, Ken Nordine's "Word Jazz" LPs, and even Rod McKuen's "Beatsville" parody LP, actually ARE very cool and give a subtle wink to the real hipsters. I can't imagine many squares of the time being fully clued-in to when they were being put-on.

There is definitely a line that they don't wish to cross here. You won't find a genuine "history of the beat generation", nor will you find any in-depth discussion of literature, art or jazz. This is simply a celebration of exploitation. Perhaps a bit more of a beat history lesson would have improved the book somewhat, and added some context, although they do mention Laurence Lipton's very cool 1959 book about Venice Beach beats called "The Holy Barbarians", and proto-hipsters Lord Buckley and Babs Gonzales get name-dropped as well….albeit only in passing. Rhino's "Beat Generation" box set booklet is a good companion to this book in order to fill in some gaps. For REAL beat history, there are numerous other sources available.

The excuse given for not crossing the line to encompass a bit more was lack of space. Color books like this are expensive to print, so I would buy that explanation if it weren't for the fact that HALF of the book is dedicated to contemporary schlock such as Shag, Coop etc. I've never really been a fan of these guys, and don't have much interest in seeing contemporary paintings filled with the hackneyed beret-wearing beatnik stereotype. Yawn-o-rama. If the exploitation is from the ORIGINAL period, then it holds some interest for me, but not this stuff. I just didn't really get why it was included. Then I noticed that the publisher, Outré, also has a gallery that specializes in selling this "low-brow" style of art. Suddenly it all became clear. Go to their website and you can BUY works by the same artists from the last half of the book. It's all a big catalog, really.

Shag to me is more about "pick out the cultural icon". A "Where is Waldo?" kind of thing. Look! There is a Nelson bubble lamp! An Eames chair! A Vespa scooter! Whatever. That holds about as much interest to me as a stupid Paul Frank monkey on a Vespa, or that Bon Bon kiddie thing with targets and shit. Aren't we a bit savvier than to buy everything that has a target or a scooter on it? Who is really the monkey on a scooter there?

Uh, like, endsville.

© Dan Geddes 2004 - 2015
[Published 24 February 2004]
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About the author

Dan Geddes lives in San Francisco, and in-between annoying people on-line, he gets his high-octane thrills by riding his Vespa GS around town like Steve McQueen in "Bullitt".

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Beatsville Pad
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Helenfeb 27 2004 11:49AM
I really love Agle's stuff, but it does seem a bit ridiculous to fill half a book with it, especially as nearly all his paintings can be seen on his website!
Ogfeb 26 2004 12:49PM
Thanks for keeping us fed, Ged. While you liked half the book, I like half the work of these new kids and don't like a whole half, all for the same freezin' reasons!
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