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Archive for the '33 1/3' Category

33 1/3: Armed Forces

[Editor's Note: In honor of our 33 1/3 salebuy two new (not used or sale) books from Continuum Books' 33 1/3 series, featuring critical writing on seminal albums, and get a third free — we're pleased to feature blog posts from some of the people behind the 33 1/3 series.]

There's probably some text up above this sentence making introductions redundant, but because I value clarity above all things: today's dispatch from the album-obsessed today comes to you from Franklin Bruno, which is to say the foolhardy soul who held forth on the subject of Elvis Costello and the Attractions' Armed Forces for Continuum Books, series editor David Barker, and a reading public starved for a detailed analysis of the relationship between the piano parts of "Oliver's Army" and "Dancing Queen." We've been told that this space is ours for the day to fill as we wish, so I guess I'll do the most straightforward thing possible to repay (or sustain) your gracious attention, and let you know a bit about my contribution to this fine series.

If you haven't seen the ...


33 1/3: What’s So Cool About Cool?

[Editor's Note: In honor of our 33 1/3 salebuy two new (not used or sale) books from Continuum Books' 33 1/3 series, featuring critical writing on seminal albums, and get a third free — we're pleased to feature blog posts from some of the people behind the 33 1/3 series.]

When my book Pet Sounds was published by Continuum, I decided to do a different kind of book tour, one unlike the four I'd done in the previous years in support of my novels — arrive, read, A some Qs, sign, leave, and hope the wake-up call wasn't automated so I could ask the desk clerk for the date and the name of the city before I left the hotel bed.

This time, I brought along my guitar to play as I sang a couple of stripped-down versions of Brian Wilson compositions from the album. "Caroline No" was an obvious choice: it's fairly well known and stands on its own without Wilson's quirky and wonderful arrangement. I also performed "That's Not Me" and "I Wasn't Made for These Times." Though obscure by Wilson's standards — music he made with the Beach Boys in the '60s is instantly recognized by even casual followers of American pop — those two songs summarize the overarching themes of the album Pet Sounds: alienation, the loss of innocence, and the seeming abyss that exists between childhood and maturity, among them.

Fans of the album seemed to appreciate the mini-show, and I think I might've made the point that, absent the abundant and artfully arranged voices, and the unusual blend of instrumentation, Wilson and lyricist Tony Asher, with a few lines here and there by Mike Love, had crafted a startlingly frank look at Wilson's troubled journey toward adulthood. People who sort of wandered into the bookstores, or who knew me through my novels rather than my journalism, were no less gracious. But afterwards, when I was finished signing books and would look for people to hang with — after all, only an empty hotel room beckoned — I'd be asked over and over one maddening question, which I still get now and then via e-mail, inevitably by someone who's a baby boomer. The preamble would be something like, "I'll admit that Pet Sounds is a great album but..." And then: "How can you say you're a Beach Boys fan? They were so uncool."


33 1/3: Digital Mumbo Jumbo

[Editor's Note: In honor of our 33 1/3 salebuy two new (not used or sale) books from Continuum Books' 33 1/3 series, featuring critical writing on seminal albums, and get a third free — we're pleased to feature blog posts from some of the people behind the 33 1/3 series.]

The other night William Gibson was in town reading from his book Spook Country. About ten years ago, he and I interviewed each other for a magazine in Canada called Dolomite. The guy who set up the interview was named Chuckie the Skunk. The Skunk had heard William on CBC Radio talking about how he was a fan of my old band Scud Mountain Boys; the record Pine Box in particular. It struck me as a little odd that William would be into that album because it's about as spare as three people playing instruments can get. Like a boob, I assumed he'd be into nothing but Faust and Eno's weirder stuff. I asked a buddy of mine if he thought it was odd, and he said, "Necromancer is a messed-up movie, but I can see why ...


33 1/3: Guilty Pleasure

[Editor's Note: In honor of our 33 1/3 salebuy two new (not used or sale) books from Continuum Books' 33 1/3 series, featuring critical writing on seminal albums, and get a third free — we're pleased to feature blog posts from some of the people behind the 33 1/3 series.]

Writing about Dylan's Highway 61 for the 33 1/3 series made me explore the reasons why the album, and Dylan's music in general, have had such a long-lasting emotional pull on me. But it also dredged up some other, less fashionable musical allegiances, one of which I feel the need to confess here: I still like the Moody Blues — there, I said it. Not the really cheesy stuff like "Nights in White Satin" (my love isn't that unconditional), nor much of what they put out after Seventh Sojourn (it isn't that constant, either). I'm talking about the string of albums they recorded in their late '60s, early '70s heyday, the ones that stamp their ticket to prog rock heaven, especially In Search of the Lost Chord, To Our Children's Children's Children, ...


33 1/3: Who Owns the Art?

[Editor's Note: In honor of our 33 1/3 salebuy two new (not used or sale) books from Continuum Books' 33 1/3 series, featuring critical writing on seminal albums, and get a third free — we're pleased to feature blog posts from some of the people behind the 33 1/3 series.]

My dinner companions were a fairly mixed group. Musicians, software engineers playing at being musicians, models who fancied themselves as deejays, comic book artists who played instruments, writers, keyboard dilettantes, and me. I have been called "an emerging writer," a "wordsmith," and an "author." I think that last designation was slapped on me because I have been published and paid for how I put words together. It's strange how one little shift — from writer to author — changes how people perceive you.

Being known as just a writer, you get the word hobbyist hurled at you. Being known as an author — instant cultural legitimacy. Not that I'm complaining about how I am now perceived. It's just a strange thing. Now, when I say things in relation to artists and their endeavors, people listen to me with different ears. ...


33 1/3: Exile on Main Street

[Editor's Note: In honor of our 33 1/3 salebuy two new (not used or sale) books from Continuum Books' 33 1/3 series, featuring critical writing on seminal albums, and get a third free — we're pleased to feature blog posts from some of the people behind the 33 1/3 series.]

Much of my book The Rolling Stones: Exile on Main Street is focused on nostalgia, seeing the record through that prism, the rock & roll myth-making sort of narrative that runs through my head and throughout a continuous conversational currency from speaking over decades with friends and fellow fans about the songs — songs we shared, stories about the record we passed along, gleaned from books and interviews, scraps, whatever we could find.

Forgive me while I quote one of my own lyrics: "Some nostalgia holds you hostage and will not let you go."

Who Were the Beatles?I'm singing to myself in that one. It's true. I would like to chalk it up to age, and fatherhood, which is certainly making more acute

...


33 1/3: The Music of Disaster

[Editor's Note: In honor of our 33 1/3 salebuy two new (not used or sale) books from Continuum Books' 33 1/3 series, featuring critical writing on seminal albums, and get a third free — we're pleased to feature blog posts from some of the people behind the 33 1/3 series.]

Punk was the soundtrack to a wrecked decade. It was the music of disaster. It was ugly, and that was precisely what made it so beautiful. As a boy growing up in Northwest Ohio (I was eleven when the Ramones released their debut album in 1976) I barely knew about "punk" (I knew a heck of a lot more about Fleetwood Mac and Boston and Yes) but what I did know was a revelation. Finally, there was music harsh enough, absurd enough, scary enough, loud and fast and melodic enough, to keep pace with what seemed to me was a world that was falling apart. This falling apart was both terrifying and thrilling, and looking back on it I realize how very lucky I was to have come of age in flat and fertile Ohio with its beautiful ...


33 1/3: Radiohead’s In Rainbows

[Editor's Note: In honor of our 33 1/3 salebuy two new (not used or sale) books from Continuum Books' 33 1/3 series, featuring critical writing on seminal albums, and get a third free — we're pleased to feature blog posts from some of the people behind the 33 1/3 series.]

Every record from Radiohead draws quite a bit of attention in music circles: From message boards to The New Yorker, Radiohead have served as a go-to example of the power and possibility of rock music — until they swung too far to the weird for some and instead wound up becoming one of the world's largest cult bands.

As Radiohead have since learned, that's not such a bad thing to be. With a loyal, built-in audience in tow, the group have been able to sidestep many of the supposed necessities in music marketing — singles, videos — and with its new record (it's named In Rainbows, by the way), they're initially attempting to outflank the entire industry: In Rainbows is currently only available via a band-created website. "Radiohead Says: Pay What ...


33 1/3: The Man Behind the Books

[Editor's Note: In honor of our 33 1/3 salebuy two new (not used or sale) books from Continuum Books' 33 1/3 series, featuring critical writing on seminal albums, and get a third free — we're pleased to feature blog posts from some of the people behind the 33 1/3 series.]

While the assignment here is only loosely defined — 500 to 750 words or so — there is no reason to avoid the most obvious matter relating to the 33 1/3 books: David Barker, the editor of the series. Likely I won't be the only 33 1/3 writer to use the Powell's site as an excuse to focus on the man behind the books. But, rest assured, no amount of words will diminish the air of mystery that surrounds this widely misunderstood man of letters.

Described as "passionate," "aloof," "brilliant in his own way," "visionary," "confused," "uncomfortably sexual," "selfless," "selfish," "a man who wields his Englishness like some kind of weapon," "an elitist," "a populist," Barker is most certainly an object of controversy. His lot is that of the cult figure.

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33 1/3: An Introduction

[Editor's Note: In honor of our 33 1/3 salebuy two new (not used or sale) books from Continuum Books' 33 1/3 series, featuring critical writing on seminal albums, and get a third free — we're pleased to feature blog posts from some of the people behind the 33 1/3 series.]

Apologies if you're one of the handful of people who knows all about our 33 1/3 book series already, but I thought it would make sense to introduce the Powell's readership to a little of the background to the project.

33 1/3 was launched with six books in September 2003. Each book in the series focuses on one album, and we started with albums by Dusty Springfield, Love, Neil Young, the Kinks, the Smiths, and Pink Floyd. How did we end up starting with those? Well, when I first had the idea for the series back in early 2002, I put together a list of around 50 albums that seemed like they might be fun to write about, and read about. Then I started emailing that list ...


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