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

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

"An astonishing excess of ukuleles"

I know David put up the ukulele cover of The Smiths song by Zoe Woodbury-High before he took off, but I also ran across this at the Dizzies blog, referring to review in The Nation of the new Thomas Pynchon:
The biggest surprise, not counting the space devoted to Lake Baikal, white slavery, Tamerlane's tomb and Jonah and the whale, is an astonishing excess of ukuleles. I mean, they show up more often than doggerel and puns. There is even a ukulele version of Chopin's Nocturne in E minor.
—John Leonard, "Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind," The Nation
To bring this full circle and relevant to the 33 1/3 series, I should mention that there is ALSO an astonishing excess of ukuleles in the Magnetic Fields' 69 Love Songs, and LD Beghtol's 33 1/3 field guide to the album devotes 2 whole pages to the instrument in the 69LS lexicon segment of the book (comes right before the entry on "unboyfriendable").

"Everyone looks cute playing the uke." --Stephin Merritt

Dylaniana, dinky and otherwise

Highway 61 Revisited is noticed on the Daily Dylan blog. I like the fact that Gerry follows describing the 33 1/3 books as "the dinky little series of album studies published by Continuum" by adding later that it is a "beautifully designed series."

There was also a quick mention of Michael Gray's The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's holiday gift guide for music fans, which at 700+ pages can be described as neither dinky nor little.

Monday, November 27, 2006

for your listening pleasure...

It's a quiet day at the office and there are still quite a few people out from Thanksgiving, so we were looking for something to listen to on the spare computers and ran across this archive of WFMU's Coffee Break for Heroes and Villains featuring guest Dan LeRoy, author of the 33 1/3 on the Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique. Enjoy...

Lots of Dust Brothers jams on the playlist (but thankfully no Hanson).

Highway 61 Revisited in Under the Radar

Welcome back from the holiday weekend. Highway 61 Revisited got a nice mention in Under the Radar magazine. It got 8 blips out of 10. I think a blip is a kind of star only music cognoscenti know about.
As one of the greatest albums in the history of recorded music, a turning point that forever grafted the depth and integrity of folk music into the flourishing tree of rock and roll, Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited has long deserved the kind of focused treatment that Mark Polizzotti gives it with his examination for the always excellent 33 1/3 series. Going behind the scenes and into the memories of those who were present at the album's recording, with particularly insightful recollections from keyboardist Al Kooper and producer Bob Johnson, Polizzotti adds to the legend of an album that helped complete Dylan's transition from folkie icon to genuine ranconteur. As expected, Polizzotti examines the album's significance in the rock canon, but he also goes deep into the myth and mystery of the album, from Dylan's rancorous fallout with purebred folkies to the enigmatic cover shot on the album. The sheer volume of annotated quotes and behind the scenes revelations that Polizzotti has dug up is mind numbing, but the material flows together well, and the studious nature of the examination is never less than enlightening. It's an essential read for anyone who wants to engage the mythology behind the man and the album.
And don't miss Mark's reading at the Harvard Co-op this Thursday, November 30th.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A well-deserved break...

Congratulations to David & Emma,
and a Happy Thanksgiving to the rest of you...

graphic from The Onion: 'Skywriter trailed by skyeditor.'

Monday, November 20, 2006

What makes a man start fires?

Just when it seems like order has been restored to the kingdom, and all was well in the land, something like this comes along and blows my mind...
"Mike Watt Guests on Kelly Clarkson Record"

No word yet on whether or not Raymond Pettibon will be doing the album art.

Michael Fournier's 33 1/3 book "Double Nickels on the Dime" by the Minutemen is on its way in March. If Michael ends up on American Idol when the book hits the shelves, then the order of the cosmos will have been re-established.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Highway 61 Revisited in Blog Critics

Sadi Ranson-Polizzatti has a nice review of the recent Bob Dylan concert in Boston over at Blog Critics.

"I was glad specifically for "Highway 61 Revisited" not only because I love the song but because my husband just finished an entire book about the album which is fresh off the press and published by Continuum in their 33 1/3 series (great series and recommended to anyone interested in music), with the simple title Highway 61 Revisited, by Mark Polizzotti. Yes, buy it. It’s good. No, I’m not that biased. If it sucked, I would say so. Really."
Well, there you have it.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


I don't know anything about Zoe Woodbury-High except that she's from Portland (wouldn't you know!), but this is delightful:

There Is A Light That Never Goes Out

An amendment to the correction

Marc Woodworth's Bee Thousand reading at Turn It Up! in Northampton has now sadly been cancelled.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A quick correction on the Boston readings

Hi folks, John Mark here. Actually, due to Bob Pollard tearing a muscle in his calf, landing him on the 15-day DL, Marc Woodworth's Bee Thousand reading in Boston has been cancelled, but he is soldiering on with the reading at Turn It Up! Records in Northampton on Saturday, November 18th at 6pm. We saw Marc at the Cakeshop in NYC and his bi-media extravaganza comes highly recommended. If you're lucky, you can pick up one of his hand-crafted indexes to the book at the event. More info on Pollard and Woodworth at Pitchfork.

The Highway 61 Revisited event at the Harvard Co-Op will go on as planned (details below). I guess Dylan never really got into the high leg kicks...

Boston readings

News of two November readings in Boston. This Friday at 7pm, Marc Woodworth will be presenting another GBV-related extravaganza in support of his Bee Thousand book. It'll be at Nuggets - 486 Commonwealth Ave.
(see the post above)

And then on Thursday November 30th, Mark Polizzotti will read from his excellent Highway 61 Revisited book at Harvard Coop. Timing not yet confirmed, but I'll guess 7pm, like most of their other events.

I'm sure both authors would be thrilled if you could make it along.

This is the last you'll hear from me for a few weeks, so I'll hand you over to my colleague John Mark, our Publicity Manager. Between now and December 11th I'll be attending this fun-filled extravaganza, getting married in England, and spending several days with the lovely Emma right here:

I thought it was pronounced "Imbruglia"

Ott vs Meloy.

Oh dear.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Bookstore of the Day!

The latest store to open its heart to the 33 1/3 series is Equator Books in Venice, California.

The store is located at 1103 Abbot Kinney Blvd in Venice, and specialises in books on:
Surf & Skate
Prostitution & Call Girls
Black Studies
Circus Freaks & Bullfighting
Drugs & Crime

Looks like a beautiful store. Let's hope the series fits right in.

Pixies and Pollard

First - thanks to everyone who's left suggestions on the previous post. Some very interesting ideas there!

Second, thanks to everyone who braved the rain last night, to attend the reading at Cake Shop. Ben Sisario read the first few excellent pages of his Pixies book, followed by a quick Q&A session. This was followed by Marc Woodworth's slightly less conventional reading from his GBV book, which included a randomly chosen 30-second taped snippet of his interview with Kevin Fennell, an anagram competition, some John Ruskin, some participatory collage poetry, and much much more. Thanks to all of the volunteers in the audience, and for Dan Carlson for taking the photos below.

Marc reading from the start of his book.

The charming volunteers (and Marc) spelling out the name of the professor whose student, Nolen Twinn-Johnson, so tragically died before completing his dissertation on GBV.

30 seconds of Kevin Fennell.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Dream Writers?

As the series chugs inexorably (ambles merrily) (strides manfully) (limps painfully) (hides dizzily) (yes, I've been watching too much Top Model) towards the possibility of signing up some more new books in 2007 - but please don't send me anything yet! - thoughts turn to potential authors. God knows if any of these people would even want to write one, but my dream list would include:

Scarlett Thomas
Mark Danielewski
Haruki Murakami
Robert Forster
Ian Rankin
Richard Powers
Louise Welsh
Helen DeWitt

If there are any people you would love to see write a book for the series, let me know in the comments section - thanks!

Friday, November 10, 2006

Cake Shop event on Monday 13th

Just to confirm: at 7pm on Monday, we'll have a reading (or, if you prefer, a "bi-media extravaganza") at Cake Shop on Ludlow St in NYC.

Marc Woodworth will be enthralling us with a reading from his brand new Bee Thousand book - in Marc's words "There'll be a randomly chosen interview cassette minute, the collective making of a found poem from Bee Thousand lyric fragments using the Tzara Dada method of anti-lyric composition, and a full-size anagram contest (prix d'honneur for the winner)."

And Ben Sisario will be on hand too, reading from his acclaimed Pixies book.
In other news, we've just received our first finished copies of LD Beghtol's field guide to 69 Love Songs, and they really look beautiful. More soon on that particular book...

Monday, November 06, 2006


A couple of quick things for today.

I haven't had a chance to listen to these yet, but there are a bunch of outtakes from the Stones' Exile on Main St. sessions here. Good to see a mention of Bill Janovitz's book in the comments.

Also, Matt Conroy has a long interview with Joe Pernice in Being There magazine, perhaps the most interesting section being here:

BT: Well, let's talk a little bit about your literary work. You wrote a book in the 33 1/3 series – a novella – inspired by The Smiths' Meat is Murder album. I loved it and I know there had been talk about turning it into a screenplay. Is that happening?

JP: It is definitely happening. The guy who I am writing it with is an actor on The Wire on HBO, so he's pretty busy. And right now I'm supporting a record, but we've been chipping away at a script. We just met this weekend and have been working on it. It is going to happen. We're closing in, dangerously close to finishing it. And then we're going to try to raise the money to make it. I don't really want to try to sell it, because I'm a kind of DIY person. I like the idea of having control. It makes processes more enjoyable when you can kind of run the show.

As long as I get a walk-on part as McManus, the steak-faced jarhead, I'll be happy.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Blog Thousand

Marc Woodworth, author of our Bee Thousand book, sets out to prove he can blog with the best of them, right here.

Already up: extracts from the book's index (the book doesn't actually have an index), and news about a couple of upcoming readings, in NYC and Northampton, MA - prior to Mr. Pollard's shows in those towns on those evenings.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Greatest Hits reviewed in Milwaukee

The current issue of Vital Source, Milwaukee's free monthly arts magazine, carries the first review (by Barry Wightman) of our series anthology. I like the way Barry has captured the spirit of the series by throwing so much of himself into the review:


Full disclosure: I am reviewing this book but I did not read the whole thing. And I don’t want to. Forget it. See, this is a greatest hits collection, and I only liked that record, that record and that record. Not that record. 33 1/3 is a series of books written about influential or legendary music albums, and while this anthology does contain many extraordinary pieces about great old albums (e.g. Stones, Kinks, Beach Boys, Led Zeppelin, Hendrix, Neil Young and others), I won’t read an essay, however well-written, about albums that I don’t care about.

Okay, maybe I will. But I am a musical snob. Don’t you remember me from college? I was the guy with the rock & roll posters all over the walls, the one with the great stereo, who waited reverently for the next issue of Rolling Stone like it was a letter from home. To quote Homer Simpson, “Everyone knows rock attained perfection in 1974. It’s a scientific fact.”

That little Homerian nugget was in the article about Radiohead’s OK Computer (1997). See, I’m not mired entirely in the distant past.

Who should read this book? Certainly not my wife. Or my brother-in-law. They weren’t or aren’t obsessed. This isn’t for my kids, either. My kids are of the wildly fragmented mp3 generation, and they don’t buy albums. They buy songs. Nobody knows actual song titles anymore, just track numbers. “Play number 5!” The idea of the complete statement, the album, and the old 33 1/3 RPM vinyl record is a baby boomer anachronism. Like the Concept Album, you know, a record with a unifying theme or idea or even a narrative. Gone. Loved and revered by some graying elders like me, but a relic of a bygone era.

Here’s what I don’t like about this book: it’s got a lousy, dumb cover. I’m the target market and I’d flip right by it based on the cover alone. It’s like Tony Orlando and Dawn for crying out loud. So if you read it, try to get past that. Another thing. Who are these authors? There’s no quick little “who’s who” in the book, so there’s no way to determine slants and angles, biases and, of course, age and credentials. This is important stuff when dealing with dusty old records such as these. Despite that, I’m impressed. I suppose if I really cared, I could Google them.

What this book is, at its core, is a loving, obsessive inquiry into music that is terribly important to certain people. The essays are like New Yorker in-depth profiles – inventive, quirky, well-researched and fun. Hell yes, I’ll read a long cozy article about Exile on Main Street on a cold autumn night. And I learned a thing or two. And not just inane who-played-what-guitar sorts of things. These writers have thought long and hard about old records and, as we age, if the music produced by these masters is truly art and remains valuable, we can continually be nourished by the depth and heart of that cosmic American music that is rock & roll.


It's a fair point about the author biographies - I should have included those in the book.

This series has infected my brain to the point where I now think that if I just say the words "Nicholas Rombes" to someone - the bagel guy, our downstairs neighbours, my Dad - they'll instantly respond "Ah yes - the Ramones author! Teaches at the University of Detroit Mercy! Writes about cinema, too!" But of course, that's not the case.