Suzy Shaw and Mick Farren: Bomp! – Saving the World One Record at a Time

In 2017 we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the book about Bomp! record label and magazine, told by Suzy Shaw, Mick Farren et al. A story like Bomp! – Saving the World One Record at a Time [Ammo, 2007] deserves to be informed about regularly (as Gary Pig’s previous PopDiggers’ note does). This flashback contributes further to that praise and is commemorating for all of us who acknowledge the huge impact Bomp! have had as a mouthpiece of non-mainline pop and rock music over the last 40 + years, but hopefully this message will also reach out to a new generation of committed music lovers.

Busy Man Greg. He’s got the whole DeMilitarized Zone in his hands (if you take a close look).
It is not entirely wrong to claim that the life of Greg Shaw (1949–2004) to a big extent overlapped with Bomp!, because he was the master mind and driving force behind it all. His life was certainly intertwined with the record label (almost until his untimely death) and the magazine (until 1979). What I especially appreciate him for – besides his burning passion for good music – is his ability to unveil the broad lines in the music landscape and present them in an analytical way without any academic pretention. Everything he accomplished – and that was quite a lot – seemed to be propelled by endless energy which was not curbed by any kind of setbacks. Maybe his total focus on music matters explains why he was somewhat detached from some of the everyday aspects of life – like economy, physical complications (whether they showed up as poor health or indoor flooding) and office tidiness. Yet strict order was in command when he published systematically arranged discographies as a result of his passionate record and information collecting. In the Shindig! # 44 Suzy Shaw interview, she estimates that his record collection peaked around 150,000!

Bomp! – Saving the World One Record at a Time
shows that Greg Shaw’s first steps in music writing were a little bit shaky. In the late ‘60s he mainly monitored Californian hippie music in the mimeographed newsletter Mojo Navigator (which there are excerpts from in Bomp! – Saving the World One Record at a Time). Redirected by the hippie era’s self-inflicted implosion, a quantum leap along with his alternative music fanzine Who Put the Bomp engagement was prompted by Bomp! Record’s first release (Flamin’ Groovies You Tore Me Down; 1974) at a time when he also was editing the United Artist funded magazine Phonograph Record while writing for other music magazines parallel to compiling the reissues Legendary Master Series (UA) and History of British Rock (Sire).

Shaw’s appetite for spreading not only the word about music, but also the music itself, was whetted by the launch of the new label and probably also by the commotion all new unsigned punk bands caused. From there went on releasing and producing records by artists whose common denominator seemed to be that they were stuck in a limbo situation with the majors at that time. The first Bomp! generation consisted of a diverse bunch of groups as, amongst others: The Wackers, Iggy Pop & James Williamson, The Zeros and DMZ. Bomp!, and its sub-labels, was also operative in re-releasing forgotten ‘60s’ music – such as the impressive, mainly garage punk, compilation series Pebbles, that started to make overlooked nuggets (sic!) known to a wider audience in 1978. Greg Shaw’s persistent curiosity kept him signing bands for several decades. The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Beachwood Sparks and The Black Lips belongs to those that formed the last generation of Bompers!

Mick Farren (left), co-author of Saving the World One Record at a Time was a proficient writer, editor and musician who ended his days during a performance on the Borderline Club stage in London (2013). Patrick Boissel (right) founded – as a next of kin to the Bomp! label – Alive Records with his current wife Suzy Shaw in 1993. Alive Records is more rootsy and seems to be specializing in bands beginning with the letter “B”: Brimstone Howl, The Bloody Hollies and The Black Keys.

Bomp! – Saving the World One Record at a Time is primarily a chronologically arranged scrap book interleaved with informative and interesting comments from luminaries such as: Greg and Suzy Shaw, Mick Farren, Lenny Kaye, Iggy Pop, Mike Stax and Peter Case. Their remarks unite the collection of scraps into one completed and well balanced book. Among the numerous excerpts from the Bomp! Magazine outlet, the reproduced pages from the last – and up till then – unissued # 22, are particularly interesting, not only because they are shown for the first time, but also since they give insight into what the old school cut and paste technique was all about in the making of zines at that time.

Early photo of Suzy Shaw who has run the Bomp! business since many a year. She keeps contact to this day with Bompers! all over the world by frequent e-mail alerts.
With the benefit of hindsight, you may argue that all contributions in the book are not top notch. On the other hand, it never gets boring since the reader gets the unfiltered facsimiles straight in the face telling what really went down at that time, suggesting that a historical value is added at the same time.

It is hard to comprehend how big Greg Shaw’s influence actually was, and how great his aftermath still is. By a combination of independence and an under-dog perspective, he managed to come up with sustainable alternatives both in the magazine and record fields. His substantial and high-class output affected and inspired many amateur music fanzines. Likewise, Bomp! records can be seen as a predecessor by its DIY-style that became the alternative way to make records during the mid-‘70s.

Few non-musicians are worth a tribute album as much as Greg Shaw. That is way you should listen to He Put the Bomp! In the Bomp [2007].

Moreover, there is a follow-up book to the one presented here; Bomp! 2 – Born in the Garage [2009] that further underlines Shaw’s grandness and is a book you favorably read in conjunction to this one.

Playlist Bomp! Records

The TwinkeyzLittle Joey [1977]
ZerosDon’t Push Me Around [1977]
The ShoesOkay [1978]
Earle MankeyMau Mau [1978]
Stiv BatorsThe Last Year [1979]
M & M’sI’m Tired [1980]
The Lazy CowgirlsBullshit Summer Song [1987]
Brian Jonestown MassacreEvergreen [1995]
Beachwood SparksMake it Together [1998]
Black LipsStranger [2004]

Pebbles Bonus:

Jefferson HandkerchiefI’m Allergic To Flowers [1967]

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