Get Your SPIDEY Groove On With This Awesome ’70s Record

Buddha Records’ Spider-Man “Rockomic” holds up decades later.

UPDATED 7/13/19: Spider-Man: Far From Home is still killing it and we’ve been having fun re-presenting some of our most popular stories featuring ol’ Webhead! So dig this fave from 2017’s SPIDER-MAN WEEK! — Dan

For a guy I’ve only run into once in the last 43 years, Phillip Tagliaferri has had an inordinate impact on my life.

Phillip — and if you’re out there, man, let me know! — was a childhood friend and maybe the funniest kid I ever knew. He ended up a comedian and actor, which we should have predicted, though I have no idea where he is now.

Anyway, Phil was the first guy to show me Megos. He had Batman and Robin and when I saw them for the first time, it’s not a stretch to say that my life was forever changed.

But Phil also had this really cool record, a Spider-Man LP produced by Buddah Records subtitled From Beyond the Grave! Dubbed a “Rockomic,” it was an audio play interspersed with a handful of pop songs by “the Webspinners,” aka Ron Dante, best known as the front man of the Archies.

When Phillip got his copy, he went to a store where “Spider-Man” was appearing. He brought back an autograph for me on a small, white piece of paper that read in thick, black marker, “Spidey.” It’s long gone, sad to say.

Nevertheless, this 1972 album, along with the 1967 cartoon series, was instrumental (pardon the pun) in making a virtually lifelong Spider-Fan out of me.

Right off, you start with the gorgeous Jazzy John Romita cover, featuring an iconic image of Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man exceeded in its potency only by Marvel Treasury Edition #1 (click here for more about that). If you’re lucky, you can still find a copy that has a large poster of the image tucked into the jacket.

My sister Paula, Phillip and I would sit in his room, listening to the record, with the album cover opened on the floor, revealing an almost wordless comic strip by Romita that illustrated what we heard coming out of the speakers.

The story’s surprisingly complex: It opens with Spider-Man beset by both the cops and three of his most heinous villains: the Vulture, the Lizard and the Green Goblin. As Spidey tries to survive the onslaught, he hears the ghostly voice of an older man calling out, “Spider-Man… Spiiiderr-Maannnnn.” Turns out (SPOILER ALERT) it’s a dream. Peter Parker wakes up to a phone call from the Kingpin, who’s kidnapped Aunt May. The big man wants Petey to kill Spider-Man — or else Aunt May gets it. Out of the nightmare frying pan and into the fire.

The opening segues into the first, and best, tune on the album — a catchy, head-bopping song complete with wocka-chicka guitar that name drops Stan Lee and improbably refers to Spidey as a “sex machine”:

Everything pretty much follows from there in the Mighty Marvel Manner: Spider-Man has a self-pitying crisis of confidence; we get a recap of his origin; we find out (SPOILER ALERT AGAIN) that the disembodied voice was Uncle Ben; Spidey rallies and remembers his mission; Aunt May puts up the good fight; the Kingpin is appropriately intimidating; and our favorite wall-crawler meets up with the only Doctor Strange with a better voice than Benedict Cumberbatch (John Heffernan). (Hey, if this Dr. Strange could have a British accent, why did the movie producers make Cumberbatch talk American?)

Years later, I’d learn that it was character actor Rene Auberjonois playing Peter Parker in a startlingly inspired bit of voice casting. To this day, it’s either his voice or Paul Soles’ from the ’67 Spidey cartoon that I hear when I read comics. (Fun side note: The Kingpin is voiced perfectly by character actor Thayer David, perhaps best known as the slippery fight promoter in Rocky.)

It all culminates in a battle royale featuring a spectacular sonic display of smacks, cracks, crunches, smashes and jaunty music that leads to a downright terrifying finale. By the way, the web-shooting sound effect, which I can’t even describe in words, may be the most evocative in any medium.

This is a recording that despite some of its hokier elements and one unforgivably schmaltzy ballad, holds up as a crackling 36 minutes of top-notch superhero storytelling. You can download the whole thing from iTunes if you want to listen without hunting down a copy on eBay and buying a turntable.

The script, music and lyrics are all credited to Stephen Lemberg, who also gets a co-producing credit with Barbara Gittler. There’s very little I can find about him — so if you have any info other than the scarce mentions on the internet, let me know, True Believers. His name looks like a pseudonym for Stan Lee, though it’s evidently not. (Besides, of all people, Stan Lee wouldn’t shy away from the credit.)

The liner notes bill this as the first in a series of Rockomics that never came to pass. There were other Marvel-related albums in the ’70s, of course, most notably Power Records’ output and the mostly-song Spider-Man: Rock Reflections of a Superhero.

So, in the end, Spider-Man: From Beyond the Grave! stands as a unique piece of pop ephemera that’s very of-the-moment, yet still brightens my earphones today.

Thanks, Phillip!

MORE

— The Complete SPIDER-MAN WEEK INDEX of Features. Click here.

— REEL RETRO CINEMA: The Not Exactly Amazing 1977 SPIDER-MAN TV Pilot. Click here.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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7 Comments

  1. I remember buying that in the store with my paper route money back in 1972 or so. I later bought a UK only picture disc, and finally found a CD version of it in the late 1990’s (probably the version on Youtube as side 2 really is heavily flitered). I’d love to see an official release of this, as well as the songs as bonus tracks without the dialog intros. “So Maestro, if you will”… please make it happen. Excelsior!

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  2. OMG. So, I got nominated to do that 10 influential albums in 10 days thing on Facebook and was trying to think of albums in my life that really hooked me. That I would sit and listen to over and over. THIS album was the first! I must have been 4 or 5 given the dates mentioned. I cannot believe you found it and created this absolutely spot on post about it – with great photos! I had forgotten how cool this thing really was. Thank you so much for posting this!!

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  3. I still have my copy (complete with poster), purchased from Readings For Records, in Clapham Junction, Battersea, London, around 1972/73.

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  4. Thayer David–the voice of the Kingpin–was a family friend and autographed my album. He was a regular on Dark Shadows, a heavy (literally) on the first Spider-Man TV movie, and a brilliant Nero Wolfe on a TV movie in the 1970s–alas, he passed away before a series could be made…

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  5. Im so happy to see this article! I’m 52 and have never seen any mention of it though I have seen it on eBay and actually purchased my current copy from there. My original was given away to charity long ago. This was one of the first LPs that I ever owned and if memory serves I took it to school for show and tell one time. I don’t think it had the impact there that it had on me! I loved the theater of the mind that this produced in me. Spideman became my favorite super hero of all time and he still is. I believe I knew of him before Batman and even Superman. But in that long ago early 70s era it wasn’t cool to be into superheroes or sci-fi. I learned to tamp that side of myself down so as not to get harassed.
    Thanks for the info on the voice cast. I have often wondered who portrayed Peter/Spiderman and to find out it was Rene Auberjonois makes perfect sense to me. I have listened to several books he has read on Audible and he is a great talent. I have watched him on TV for decades. It just stuns me that I never placed the voice. One listen now and it is obvious! I should have been able to pick out Thayer David as Kingpin too since he was in the first TV spiderman movie but I was young and all this was pre-internet!
    All that being said, this is one great piece of the marvel universe that has never really seen much love. Thanks for shining a light on it!

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Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The SPIDER-MAN WEEK Index | 13th Dimension, Comics, Creators, Culture - […] — Get Your SPIDEY Groove On With This Awesome ’70s Record — SPIDER-MAN: A “ROCKOMIC.” Click here. […]
  2. 13 CLASSIC TOYS We Want to See Re-Released | 13th Dimension, Comics, Creators, Culture - […] “Rockomic” From Beyond the Grave!, which is my all-time fave superhero recording. (Click here for much more on that.)…

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