A blog about Bloomsbury Academic's 33 1/3 series, our other books about music, and the world of sound in general.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Cultural Dictionary of Punk: 1974-82

We've just sent Nick Rombes' wonderful book off to the printers, so it should be on sale from early-mid July onwards.

And Publishers Weekly clearly enjoyed the book, too:

***

A Cultural Dictionary of Punk: 1974–1982

Nicholas Rombes. Continuum, $24.95 paper (320p) ISBN 978-0-8264-2779-3

At a cursory glance, Rombes’s compendium has the form of a dictionary, covering punk bands from the Adolescents to the Zeroes, but scratch the surface and you’ll discover a profoundly weird document, where the notion of “punk” expands to include discussions of Angela Carter, Thomas Pynchon, Don DeLillo and Barry Hannah—although even Rombes (Ramones) admits the last is stretching the point. The tone veers from the academic to the confessional: “How can you hesitate about a song that has saved you more than once from the black depths you are prone to fall into?” Rombes asks in an entry concerning the British band Wire. There are several forays into the fictional, including stories about imagined versions of Patti Smith and Joey Ramone, as well as entries written by “Ephraim P. Noble,” who is almost certainly a fictional alter ego. If it were touted as a definitive guide to punk culture, the dictionary’s omissions would be glaring—but this is something altogether different: a personal investigation into the significance of punk rock, an attempt to inject critical studies with “a big dose of chaos and anarchy” and thereby create a compelling cultural narrative.

***

Friday, May 15, 2009

Happy Birthday, Brian!

With her usual, uncanny sense of timing, Geeta Dayal delivered her manuscript for Another Green World this morning - on Brian Eno's 61st birthday.

We shall endeavour to get this book published, and into your hands, as soon as we possibly can.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

All over the place

Because that's where my head is at these days...and I lost a whole bunch of bookmarks I was saving up for an epic blog post.

It's Madness I Tell You!
Strange that I should hear from David that Terry Edwards' Madness - One Step Beyond manuscript is in on the same day that YepRoc sends me an email about preordering the Madness box set they are releasing in the US in June.

Big Star news
Bruce Eaton's most excellent treatment of Big Star's Radio City has been reviewed in Under the Radar's Winter 2009 issue:
"The 33 1/3 series is always a fun read for record obsessives and Bruce Eaton's coverage of THE GREATEST ALBUM OF ALL TIME here is no exception. Eaton speaks to Alex Chilton, surviving bandmates, producer John Fry, Chris Bell's brother, and other regulars in the Ardent/Big Star crew, doing a good job of presenting different viewpoints on the who/what/why. You get background on those involved, their convergence at Ardent Studios, and a rundown of track particulars, There also some content for the geeks: amplifier details drum mic setup, etc.
Much has been mad of the drama and tragedy surrounding Big Star– and you can't escape some of it–but the focus here is music. It's clear everyone involved loved being in the studio, and would have been there, perfecting their craft, regardless of the other factors. Any fan of the album will find this a quick, worthwhile read..."
  • Bruce also has a blog up and running here. And Los Angeles' Book Soup has the Big Star(s) book charting at #7 on their bestseller list. Not quite a #1 record yet...beating Christopher Hitchens, and almost up to Spinal Tap.
Miscellany
Here's a guy who is going back and re-designing all of Wu-Tang Clan's LP covers taking cues from old Blue Note sleeve designs. Awesome.

And this fellow has been nice enough to collect original versions of songs covered by The Fall. Be sure to read the paragraph following the playlist, which contains this choice quote from Mark E. Smith, "A lot of people say I'd be a really good dad."

I had more, but ah well, so it goes....

UPDATE:
Stevie Wonder drum solo. Enjoy it.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Announcing Vol 65: Big Star's Radio City, by Bruce Eaton

Bruce Eaton's really excellent book about Big Star is now fully available throughout North America. It's a great combination of power pop history and in-depth interviews with all of the main players, as I hope you can tell from this extract...

***

At a time when record company promotions knew few limits - whether financial or legal - the Rock Writers Convention, held in Memphis on May 25 and 26, 1973 still stands out as one of the most unique and colorful events of the era. Over 150 rock critics and record company representatives were flown into Memphis and put up at the Holiday Inn. While a few made an earnest effort to organize a trade association for rock writers - the ostensible reason for the gathering - most found it more worthwhile to avail themselves of the free-flowing hospitality and the local sites than to figure out how to protect their future interests from the likes of Jann Wenner.

If there were ever to be such a thing as a Rock Writer's Hall of Fame (and let's pray there never is - a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is bad enough) the list of inductees would overlap quite a bit with the guest list for the Rock Writers Convention, which included Vince Aletti, Lester Bangs, Ken Barnes, Alan Betrock, Stanley Booth, Marty Cerf, Richard Cromelin, Cameron Crowe, Ben Edmonds, Chet Flippo, Pete Frame, Simon Frith, Robot Hull, Lenny Kaye, Richard Meltzer, Richard Robinson, Bud Scoppa, Gene Sculatti, Greg Shaw, Steve Simels, Nick Tosches, and Ed Ward. Also among the attendees was one David Gest, the future ex-Mr. Liza Minelli. The Encino, California resident evidently liked Memphis well enough to establish a residence there and to this day John King is jokingly referred to as "the man who brought David Gest to town."

Big Star performed on the last night of the convention at Lafayette's Music Room. Today one might imagine a band virtually trembling in fear at the prospect of playing in front of Lester Bangs, let alone the entire assemblage, but Big Star approached the gig with a casual nothing-to-lose attitude.

Jody Stephens: I don't remember that much about anyone's personality - it was all so low-key and their writings had been so complimentary, there was nothing other than the usual intimidation of going onstage. It was also my perception, right or wrong, that we really weren't the feature band. Stax had just signed an English band called Skin Alley and there was Larry Raspberry and those were the folks that they still had a business interest in or had more recent releases. It made it easy for me anyway to step up and perform. We weren't featured - we were the underdog. Just go up and play and have a good time.

Andy Hummel: I didn't know any of those people. I didn't associate with them. It was something King said we needed to go do so we did it.

Alex Chilton: When I lived in New York I'd known a bunch of them or a few of them. Anyway, some of these people I knew fairly well. It was a gig. I don't know who preceded us on stage that night but apparently it wasn't much. We just played, did the best we could and that was that.

John King: I remember Alex was just in a particularly good mood which means everything. Everybody's playing in key. They were just happy. They were interacting with the writers and the writers were dancing even. It energized them, gave them something to go on with - some reason to put the record out and go tour.

Andy Hummel: It was far and away the most real gig we'd ever played - with real people who were there to listen to us. We didn't play out much but we played a lot - I'm guessing that we'd gotten pretty good. When you think about the progression of the band...We'd played all the way through the first LP. We'd played practice sessions for that first tour thing. We did the four-track demo so we knew how to play some songs. From a musicianship standpoint and playing together standpoint - which is extremely important - we were about as good as a band to play out as we ever were. So it was very timely that it occurred when it occurred. Jody had started singing quite a bit - he was singing backup with Alex on quite a few songs.

Richard Rosebrough: It was the gig of their lives - like watching Marc Bolan. And they were partly terrible, too. They were falling over their amplifiers and pulling their guitar chords out. It was chaos, but that's just what I heard. I think I probably walked in the back door and walked up to the sound booth with Fry and we stayed up in the sound booth and were only there for Big Star's set. We were doing our thing up there, making microphones feed back. Something happened on stage and they all said, "It's over, let's go." John turned to me in the control room and said, "Richard, do you know the last thing the captain of a sinking ship does - he sets the controls for normal operation and he jumps off." With that I turned the P.A. back on and right under the line of feeding back and goosed it a little bit. John said, "Fine let's go." We walked downstairs out the back door and got in the car and left. That's totally John.


Ripping through a set that covered much of #1 Record, several songs that would later appear on Radio City, and a few choice covers, including an impromptu take on 'The Letter,' the performance was a roaring success. What separated this gig from virtually any other was the power the audience wielded with their pens. The affinity the writers had for Big Star had been reinforced and new fans had signed up - now they needed a fresh reason to write about the band. Big Star decided to oblige.

***

Friday, May 08, 2009

The Chosen Eleven

Six months and one week after we started this process, I'm very pleased to announce that we've - finally - selected the proposals that will become books in the series during 2010 and 2011. They are, in no particular order:

Portishead's Dummy, by RJ Wheaton
Johnny Cash's American Recordings, by Tony Tost
Television's Marquee Moon, by Bryan Waterman
Liz Phair's Exile in Guyville, by Gina Arnold
AC/DC's Highway to Hell, by Joe Bonomo
Ween's Chocolate and Cheese, by Hank Shteamer
Radiohead's Kid A, by Marvin Lin
Dinosaur Jr.'s You're Living All Over Me, by Nick Attfield
Aretha Franklin's Amazing Grace, by Aaron Cohen
Slint's Spiderland, by Scott Tennent
The Rolling Stones' Some Girls, by Cyrus Patell

I really wish we could have signed up closer to 20 titles, as was the original idea, but in the current climate we at Continuum - like most other publishing houses - have to be a little careful.

Anyhow, a huge Thank You to everybody who participated in this process, whether by sending in a proposal or by voicing your opinions on this blog. It was fun, exhausting, wonderful, infuriating, educational, and mindboggling in equal parts.

(And let me be the first to point out that, yes, the Portishead proposal wasn't on the final shortlist. I changed my mind on that one, late in the day.)