Personally speaking, I can solidly claim that the very first record ever released on Greg Shaw‘s Bomp! label, The Flamin’ Groovies‘ 1974 seven-incher “You Tore Me Down,” actually caused the sonic earth to move beneath me in ways matched only by, I kid you not, you-know-who on The Ed Sullivan Show, my first discovery of Elvis Presley‘s Sun sessions and my pal John’s bringing the first Ramones record home to our innocent little Canadian turntables via the Bowery, very very late one long-lost Friday ago.
Yes sir, that little Groovies record, and the joyous singles (and albums and magazines) Bomp! faithfully sent my way duly inspired yours quite truly start my own fanzine. Then my own band. Then even my own record label! You could say, then, that “You Tore Me Down” single-in-handedly spared me from a life of university study and squarely set me down the road to where I type today.
So, just who was this Greg Shaw fella then, you might well be asking?
He was born in San Francisco in 1949, raised on a healthy diet of Presley, Fats Domino and sci-fi zines, and when not hovering backdoors at the touring rock ‘n’ roll revues of the day could be found not only hanging with such folk as Robert Silverberg and Philip K. Dick, but immortalizing all of his thoughts and adventures of same in a series of crude, mimeographed broadsheets he fearlessly circulated to an ever-growing circle of friends, fans and followers.
Why, he’d soon published over 200 such “fanzines,” as today they’d be called, one of which even earned him a writeup in The Saturday Evening Post. Come 1966, our hero happened upon a nearby street-corner labeled “Haight” and “Ashbury.” Needless to say the next Shaw fanzine, Mojo-Navigator Rock & Roll News, became no less than the socio-musical template upon which another local rag, Rolling Stone, was soon to be intrinsically based.
Too bad. As usual, Greg was there first. But the scene, and the spoils, went Jann Wenner‘s way.
His blueprint ruthlessly high-jacked, but energy and enthusiasm stubbornly unbowed, Greg by the 1970s had joined that elite-and-then-some tiny circle of scribes who not only knew, but actually wrote about such things as Raw Power and the still-New York Dolls … and in publications that us fellow music addicts could actually unearth and devour at the neighborhood newsstand! Consequently, Greg’s newest publication – and soon label – Bomp! quickly found a rabid, wide-eared audience that truly transcribed the globe.
Lest those ill-informed now be wont to cast all things Bomp! onto the nostalgia heap, here’s a short-list of just some of the bands Greg helped bring to our attention. Ready?
Devo, The Plimsouls, The Romantics, The Soft Boys, Black Flag, Redd Kross, Bad Religion, Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Black Keys.
Some names therein you may not be intimately familiar with, but each and every one of ‘em are without a doubt acts that have proven, and shall continue to prove, instrumental in laying groundwork for most every pop ‘n’ rock genre-du-jour. And once again, each and every one of those acts, to varying degrees, owe their influence – not to mention their initial recording contracts – to Greg Shaw.
Closing words? They should really belong to the man himself. Listen closely, all of you (especially those who deign to nurture musical talent in whatever capacity yourselves), for here was a man who knew of what he spoke:
“I guess I’d most like Bomp! to be remembered as a label utterly dedicated to the people who care most about music: the fans and collectors. I think it comes down to the fact that Bomp! is an outgrowth of my love for music. Where many would view it as a marginal business that barely breaks even, I prefer to see it as a hobby that’s profitable enough to allow me to build my life around it. The opportunity to make more money elsewhere has never once tempted me – but it has drawn many talented people away from this business.
“But we’re still here, doing what we want, on our own terms, answering to nobody, dealing with people in an old-fashioned ‘mom and pop’ kind of way. It’s a satisfying life that I’d never trade for, say, David Geffen‘s.
“If nothing else, maybe we’ve set an example that might offer an alternative to this increasingly corporate, impersonal society. Or maybe not. At least we’ve had a good time trying … and we’re not done yet.”
Greg Shaw passed away five years ago on Oct. 19.
Musician/writer Gary Pig Gold is the co-founder of the To M’Lou Music label.