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

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Vegetables, Belle & Sebastian

I'm one of those hopeless people who can't stand vegetables. Awful things! Best to leave them in the ground, where they belong. But parsnips, on the other hand - parsnips are a different story altogether. Wintry, crunchy, lovely things. Coat them in a little oil and sprinkle them with parmesan, put them in the oven...you honestly can't go wrong. My sister knows how much I like parsnips, which is why she brought me this bag all the way from Manchester when she came to visit recently. It's now on the wall in our living room.

If you like Belle & Sebastian, then surely you'll like "Another Sunny Day" from the upcoming album. You can download it from the Matador site, here. The rhyme with "football" is inspired.

USA Today, proposals, and a video

Whitney Matheson, USA Today's pop-blogger, has Kim Cooper's book in her suitcase. You have to scroll down a little. (Thanks to J. for spotting this one!)

With about 36 hours to go, we currently have 72 proposals for new books in the series, and they're arriving in my inbox roughly every ten minutes now. It's very very hard not to read them as they come in. But I have work to do, and it's best to save these for the weekend.

If you want to watch a music video, try this one. It's by My Latest Novel (a truly awful band name that could be rectified simply by changing that N to an H), and it's called "Sister Sneaker Sister Soul". I love it. (Bottom left of the page.)

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Just a little streaming, early in the morning

A handful of things that might be worth listening to, depending upon your musical proclivities...

There's a new Voxtrot song here.

Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan do their Nancy and Lee thing rather well on "Ramblin' Man" the first single off an album that comes out early in 2006. I think you can stream the whole album on the V2 website, but if not you can get hold of the single here. (Scroll down a little.)

And the Kevin Shields/Go Team match-up is probably old news already, but that doesn't make it any less magical. It's streaming here.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Bee Thousand

From Robert Pollard's website:

From the author of Continuum's 33 1/3 Series Bee Thousand Book:
Continuum’s 33 1/3 series to include a book on Bee Thousand

I’m working on a book about Bee Thousand for Continuum’s 33 1/3 series and would like to receive responses from fans of the record. I can't make any promises to those of you who write to me, but I'd very much like to make listener responses part of the book if at all possible. I’ll need your responses to be directed specifically to the record Bee Thousand and the songs on it. I'm interested in memoiristic stories about how the songs intersect with your lives. I’d also like to receive "readings" of the songs (what you think they’re about or what they might mean: your interpretations). If any of you misheard lyrics (known to some as “mondegreens”), I’d like to collect those as well. I’m sorry that I won’t be able to respond to each of you who sends something in, but I’ll be grateful to read what you write and consider it for the book. It will be most helpful if I hear from you in the next month or so--the sooner, the better. Thanks in advance for your help and all best wishes, Marc Woodworth.

Please send responses to me at the following email address:


My only encounter with George Best was at 6.15 one lovely summer morning in London, 1996. I was walking to work, up the Kings Road in Chelsea, as George staggered towards me, a pint of milk his hand. He didn't look good.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Interactive Cartography Exclusive!

Just received this message from Kim Cooper, author of the Neutral Milk Hotel book:

While copies of my new 33 1/3 book "Neutral Milk Hotel's 'In The
Aeroplane Over The Sea'" are sitting in trucks and planes on their way
to stores and distribution centers, I've built an interactive map of
some special places in the band's history. Many locations have
excerpts from the book in their descriptions, so it's a sneak peak.

Please drop by and visit, and if you'd like to contribute comments or
additional locations, sign up for a free account and click away.

The World of Neutral Milk Hotel

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Bill F-W in The Onion

Noel Murray has a thoughtful review in The Onion this week of Bill Friskics-Warren's book I'll Take You There:

In his introduction to I'll Take You There, critic Bill Friskics-Warren promises "to gainsay the logocentric tendency" of most rock writers, and listen beyond song lyrics to what the music has to say. He's set himself a hard task, and while he isn't always up to it, that's only because it's tough for a gifted writer to leave words entirely behind. I'll Take You There weaves together a series of essays about rock, punk, pop, country, techno, rap, and soul musicians whose work eases—or even pushes—listeners out of their own bodies, toward heaven, toward other people, or toward oblivion. Friskics-Warren offers an infectious appreciation of Van Morrison, New Order, Johnny Cash, Sly & The Family Stone, and Sleater-Kinney, explicating their gifts as performers and returning, inevitably, to what they have to say for themselves.

Sometimes his faith in their words gets him into trouble. Friskics-Warren puts too much stock in the spiritual quests of Madonna, which impress him in ways that U2's similar public anguish apparently doesn't. And though he smartly considers Eminem as part of a soul-sick trinity with Iggy Pop and John Lydon, he credits the rapper with more self-awareness than he's likely due. It's also a little odd that Friskics-Warren bemoans Mekons' lack of commercial success without acknowledging the extent to which abrasion plays a role in the band's music. It's especially odd given that when he covers artists with a broader populist appeal, like Bruce Springsteen and, again, U2, he seems to consider their massive audiences a strike against them. By undervaluing the phenomenological aspects of some of these careers, he often misses the transcendent, communal pleasures to be had in enjoying a hit record alongside millions of other people.

Of course, if I'll Take You There's arguments were shoddy, they wouldn't be worth contending. It's because of Friskics-Warren's patient probing that I'll Take You There is as disputable as it often is. His last book, Heartaches By The Number (co-written by David Cantwell), followed in the footsteps of Dave Marsh in elucidating a single song's power to transform the soul. This new book has Friskics-Warren aping Greil Marcus, applying academic techniques and an enthusiast's eye to popular culture. His passionate descriptions of how the music of Public Enemy and Moby works to shock and hypnotize becomes transcendent just on the page. At the least, I'll Take You There is like a sublime literary mixtape, designed to get snatches of "Caravan" and "Family Affair" hopelessly stuck in readers' heads, until they're transfixed anew by their deep spiritual promise.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Various tiny (and awesome) updates

1. If you want to enter the quiz and stand a chance of winning the awesome One Kiss Can Lead to Another Box-Set on Rhino, you have until Friday to do so. Scroll down two or three entries to see what you need to do. The guesses we've received so far are all over the map...

2. If you've pre-ordered either the Band book or the Neutral Milk Hotel book from our website, those will start shipping out on Friday. No copies of these have yet reached Amazon, so when they say "usually ships in 1-3 weeks", they're making it up.

3. If you're looking to write a book for the series and you didn't make it on to the list of interested writers that was put together last month, I'm very sorry but we're now officially swamped, and we can't cope with any more proposals!

4. Many, many congratulations to my brother Paul and his wife Diana (who, several years ago, used to work for this company in our London office) - Diana gave birth today to baby William, who looks completely adorable.

5. Dan Rhodes was one of the first people I ever spoke to about writing a 33 1/3 book. It never worked out, but this part of his website ("Dan Rhodes is disliked by...") is wonderful.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Bill Friskics-Warren online chat, 1pm today

Washingtonpost.com is hosting an online discussion at 1pm Eastern Time today, in which Bill Friskics-Warren will be fielding questions about country music and about his Continuum book I'll Take You There: Pop Music and the Urge for Transcendence. You can send in questions ahead of time, and I'm sure Bill would love to hear from you.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Bruno & Niimi in Chicago Reader

There's a good article by Bob Mehr in the Fall Books issue of the Chicago Reader, which includes a delightful mugshot of the two authors in question.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The album chart (quiz included!)

As of yesterday, here's the current sales chart for the series...

1. Meat is Murder
2. The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society (gaining on the Smiths)
3. The Piper at the Gates of Dawn
4. Unknown Pleasures (relentless in its pursuit of the Floyd)
5. Forever Changes
6. Let It Be (Beatles version)
7. The Velvet Underground & Nico
8. Harvest
9. OK Computer
10. Dusty in Memphis (sales still ticking along thanks to Jerry Wexler)
11. Electric Ladyland
12. Pet Sounds (gaining fast on Jimi)
13. Exile on Main St.
14. Led Zeppelin IV (neck and neck with the Stones)
15. Sign 'O' the Times
16. Let It Be (Replacements version - Meloy about to overtake Matos)
17. Grace
18. Abba Gold
19. Ramones
20. Armed Forces
21. Live at the Apollo
22. Murmur
23. Born in the USA (one copy behind Murmur)
24. Endtroducing... (off to a flier)
25. Aqualung (barely treading water)
26. Low (would be above Murmur if we hadn't briefly run out of stock in the UK - Hugo, this is being fixed)
27. Kick Out The Jams

A prize for anyone who can predict where in the chart the Neutral Milk Hotel and the Band books will be, by the end of March. (Hint: I don't have a clue.) Answers to me via email (david at continuum-books.com) by the end of next week - the 18th.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Daydream Nation

Another of the books we'll be publishing in the spring is on Sonic Youth's Daydream Nation. (Which reminds me: how on earth did this batch of books end up being so late-80s? Aside from the Joni Mitchell and Sly Stone albums, these were all released in either 1988 or 89. Weird.) Matthew Stearns is in the midst of writing this Sonic Youth book, anyhow. Here's a taste:

“Screwdrivers, drumsticks, LP records, rubber bands, screws and small metal objects.”
–Lee Ranaldo, on objects that have been forcibly incorporated into the bodies of his (many) guitars.

The pregnant void awaits you!

Listen close and you’ll hear it in those moments of not-so-silent silence before the music surfaces. It lives in the split-seconds of aural emptiness that teeter on the edge of any album juuuuust after the needle engages the vinyl (or the magnet snuggles up against the tape, or the laserbeam hits the compact disc—though the needle landing on wax seems the most potent of the three mediums) and juuuuust before the start of recorded sound. It also lives in the space between tracks. And its there lingering at the end of an album, after the last notes have dissolved. Like me, you’ve probably seen it hush large roomfuls of people—inciting a pindrop silence similar to that of sacred rituals (group meditation, prayer, public moments-of-silence), focusing the collective attention, and introducing a sense of drama and anticipation. It exists in a kind of liminal state—it is audio, but not music. And yet, depending on the particulars of the record and those listening, it can contain whole fields of emotion, history, evocation, and narrative associated with the music it surrounds. It’s a charming, aggravating paradox: an emptiness with content.

On our most beloved records, these pauses get incorporated into the overall listening experience and become nearly as important as the music itself. Sequences of sizzles and knocks on vinyl, the hiss of a cassette tape, and the rhythmic cadence of the digital spaces between tracks on CDs—all get lodged in our memory as permanently as the songs they bracket. On the albums most familiar to us, during the pauses between tracks, you can literally hear the upcoming song before it starts.

There are entire worlds contained in these vacant spaces of records.

Just before the opening guitar strains emerge on Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation, we’re given a moment or two to collect ourselves, take a deep breath, and brace for impact. In those first few moments, with the right ears, I swear you can hear all of the following:

1. New York City (including but not limited to: rumbling subways, screeching taxis, various municipal operations in disarray, the distribution and receipt of goods and services both legitimate and criminal, etc).
2. An overboiling frustration with the deathsuck of Reaganism.
3. Both the necessary culmination and regeneration of a rock sound that helped change how rock could sound.
4. Four people about to throw an extended claustrophobic fit.
5. A revision of the role of femininity in rock.
6. The deliberate mapping and construction of a double-album.
7. A rock band about to do something perfect.
8. The sound of a drumstick being forced into the body of a guitar.
9. Both a rejection and an embracement of various manifestations of rock cliché.
10. A whisper and a scream.

Monday, November 07, 2005

The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia

If it gets a little quiet around here at any point in the next few months, it's probably because I'm devoting my time (whenever possible) to our forthcoming Bob Dylan Encyclopedia, by Michael Gray. It's shaping up to be an absolute monster of a book (the kind of monster you just want to buy and keep in your house) - no final word count yet, but it won't be too far off 1,000,000. If you're not familiar with Michael Gray, you ought to be: he's the author of the staggeringly good Song & Dance Man III: The Art of Bob Dylan, which we published in 2000.

We'll have occasional updates on this book as work progresses, but for now here's a (not utterly finalised) list of entries for the letter B. Enjoy!

‘Baby Let Me Follow You Down’
Baez, Joan
Baker, Arthur
Baldwin, John
Ball, Gordon
Band, The
Bangs, Lester, Black Panthers & Bob
Barker, Derek & Tracy
Barnes, George
Basement Tapes, The
Baudelaire, Charles
Bauldie, John
Baxter, Bucky
Beatles, The
Beats, The
Beckett, Barry
Beecher, Bonnie
Before the Flood
being unable to die
Belafonte, Harry
‘Belle Isle’
Berry, Chuck
Best of Bob Dylan, The
Best of Bob Dylan Vol. 2, The

Betts, Dickie
biblical text, Dylan’s capacity for modernising
Bikel, Theodore
Bjorner, Olof
Blake, Norman
Blake, William
Blake, William, beat/hippie revival of
Blakley, Ronee
Blind Blake
‘Blind Willie McTell’
Blonde on Blonde
Blood on the Tracks

Bloomfield, Mike
Blow, Kurtis
‘Blowin’ in the Wind’
Blue, David
blues, external signals of Dylan’s interest in
blues lines smuggled into Dylan lyrics
blues, inequality of reward in
Blues Project, The
Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan at Budokan
Bob Dylan Scrapbook, The
Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits
Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits Vol. II
Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits Vol. 3

book endorsements, unfortunate
Booker T.
Boone, John
Bootleg Series Vols. 1-3, The
Bootleg Series Vol. 4, The
Bootleg Series Vol. 5, The
Bootleg Series Vol. 6, The
Bootleg Series Vol. 7, The

‘Born Again’ period, the, a slow train coming to
‘Born Again’ period, the
Bowden, Betsy
Brady, Paul
Brecht, Bertoldt
Bremser, Ray
Bridge, The
Bringing It All Back Home
Bromberg, Dave
Brown, Richard Rabbit
Browning, Robert
‘Brownsville Girl’
Bruce, Jack
Bruce, Lenny
Brumley, Albert E.
Bruton, Steve
‘Buckets of Rain’
Bucklen, John
Bunyan, John
Burke, Gary
Burnett, T-Bone
Burnette, Billy
Burton, James
Butterfield, Paul
Buttrey, Kenny
Byatt, A.S.
‘Bye and Bye’
Byrds, The

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The Toast of Los Angeles

Dan LeRoy's book about the Beastie Boys will be coming out in the spring, documenting the ever so slightly chaotic creation of Paul's Boutique. Here's a short taste of it:

Under the terms of the deal with Capitol, Horovitz, Yauch and Diamond received an advance of about $750,000 for Paul’s Boutique. They wasted no time putting it to use, setting up headquarters on the ninth floor of the Mondrian, a luxury hotel on Sunset Boulevard. A favorite stop for traveling rock stars, it was the perfect location for the Beasties to perfect their spendthrift philosophy.

“It was this whole thing that money doesn’t matter,” Tim Carr says. “And if it costs money, it’s funner – especially if it’s somebody else’s money.” Not that using their own money stopped the three from any pranks. “They would tip each other. Ad-Rock would order iced tea and charge it to Mike D’s room, and give a $25 tip,” Carr recalls. Of course, having some fun at their new labelmates’ expense was better still. “We’d be sitting by the pool, and they’d yell to Bret (Michaels) from Poison, ‘What room you staying in?’ Then they’d sign tons of shit off on his room. I’d be going, ‘God, is this really happening?’”

The band would purchase more than iced tea and tips, as Carr would learn during the trips he made to Los Angeles every six weeks or so. “It was the early days of cell phones, so the Beasties would walk around with these, like, walkie talkies and call each other, from one side of the bar to the other. And they all had unbelievable cars. These guys dove headfirst into the L.A. car culture. But everything they had was that way.”

Capitol received an early warning of this attitude. One of the band’s first official acts after signing to the label, according to Matt Dike, was to commandeer a conference room and arrange a phony “video casting call” to meet girls. “The record isn’t even conceived of at this point,” recalls Dike. “But what could be better than having 500 hot chicks show up in their bikinis?” The Beasties and Dike watched the aspirants dance to some of Dike’s instrumentals, while seated at a table “drunk, with huge joints, and stacks of money in front of us.”

Such conspicuous consumption, combined with the Beasties’ already larger-than-life image, quickly made them the toast of Los Angeles. “They were treated like gods,” says photographer Ricky Powell, a friend of the band often referred to at the time as “The Fourth Beastie.” “Wherever they went. Clubs, parties -- you name it. They had a lot of female admirers and a lot of male groupies too.”

Powell would be flown to Los Angeles many times, one of several old friends – like Sean Carasov and Cey Adams – who remained part of the group’s inner circle. But the group was rapidly building an influential new group of acquaintances as well. “These kids were actors and musicians,” Adams remembers, “the sons and daughters of Hollywood royalty.” Among them were Balthazar Getty, the grandson of billionaire J. Paul Getty; Mick Fleetwood’s daughter Amy; and Karis Jagger, daughter of Mick.

“None of these kids had jobs, and they all had these huge houses and were driving these fancy cars,” marvels Adams. “I was just amazed at the amount of wealth.”

Two others who drifted into the Beasties’ orbit were the children of folk singer Donovan: his son, Donovan Leitch, and daughter Ione Skye. “All Ad-Rock would talk about was Ione Skye, and how hot she was, and whether she’d go out with him,” says Dike. “I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s never gonna happen.’” In fact, the actress would end up married to Horovitz for most of the Nineties.

With money to burn and new friends to make, it was little wonder that work on the new album was progressing at a less-than-frantic pace. Even the group’s afternoon writing sessions at the Mondrian, work “which involved a good deal of red wine and marijuana,” according to Mike Simpson, would soon become dominated by one of the Beasties’ favorite sports. “We noticed that every day at a certain time, people would line up outside the Comedy Store, which is right across the street. So, someone – I don’t know who -- had the idea that it might be fun to throw eggs at these people. So it sort of became a daily ritual.”

“One night...there was a line of people waiting to see Billy Crystal. And the Beasties went up on the roof, and lobbed from across the street. So these things hit like boulders,” says Tim Carr. “And the Comedy Store called the Mondrian, and the Mondrian security and the police were there. And nobody was taking any blame for anything.”

The egging would spread to drive-by excursions throughout downtown Los Angeles, and even inspired a new song, “Egg Man.” “There was a certain amount of research going into all these stunts,” Carr admits with a smile. “But they knew no bounds.”

The Mondrian staff would address the mounting complaints in a “very politically correct letter” to the band. “It said that there were complaints of things falling out their window, and that if there was a problem with the window, they could have maintenance come up and address it,” recalls Simpson. “It was just hysterically funny.”

The man who would have to answer for the Beasties, Tim Carr, was beginning to disagree.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

November Spawned a Monster*

So, the witching hour has passed, and with it the deadline for getting your name on the list for future 33 1/3 books. And quite a list it is, too! I had no idea that we'd end up with quite so many people, or quite so many interesting album choices. Everyone on the list will be hearing from me by the end of this week, with some basic guidelines/instructions/suggestions on what we're looking for, and then we'll take it from there.

*A song worth loving, if only for Mary Margaret O'Hara's plucky attempt to "give birth" in a recording studio.