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

Thursday, February 08, 2007

T minus 6 days

We've now had exactly 100 proposals emailed to pitches33@yahoo.com so thanks for all of those. The deadline for getting them in is the end of Wednesday next week, the 14th. And if you missed the call for proposals, scroll down the page a little - all the guidelines are there.

Also (and perhaps this is just asking for trouble...), what would you like to see less of in the series? Which books do you think really missed the mark? Or are there certain genres of music that we've covered too much already? Constructive criticism in the comments section would be gratefully received - thanks.

40 comments:

Anonymous said...

The only disappointment I've ever felt with the series has been when I've read books about specific albums that only discuss said albums peripherally or in the final quarter. I enjoyed THE WHO SELL OUT but it was really a book about the history of British rock broadcasting, with not too many revelations to offer about the Who album. DUSTY IN MEMPHIS has more to say about the mystique of the South than about Dusty, her album, or the musicians who recorded it; I still liked it, but it wasn't quite what I expected to read. I haven't yet read the book on the Replacements, but I've read similar complaints about it. So far, I have been least impressed by the book on ENTRODUCING, which is essentially a book-length interview; it felt more like an extended article than a book. I am most engaged by the books that take their chosen albums to heart and write openly about how and why it engages them personally, emotionally, and intellectually. Unique approaches like the novellas are fine with me, because I know that fiction is sometimes the most direct path to the truth. I would even give high marks to the HARVEST book for coming to the conclusion that the album was not as compelling or successful as the writer originally thought, because such a statement reflects a journey taken with the music.

Anonymous said...

I *think* that I agree with the above. I read a lot of magazines and whatnot and am very tired of the "record review" format. I actually liked The Replacements book quite a bit.
-Erin.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I enjoy a book that explores the author's own account of a particular album. It's interesting to see how albums change people's lives.

Album review type books - especially that go on for pages and pages and pages - tend to get tedious after a while.

Anonymous said...

Of the books in the series I have read, the Replacements is by far my favorite. Maybe it is due to being such a big fan of both the author and subject, but I found it very interesting and compelling.

I have to agree with the person above who expressed disappointment with the Entroducing book. I found it very bland and had a hard time motivating myself to even finish it, which is the only title in the series I've had to say that about.

Really looking forward to picking up the Loveless and Use Your Illusion books...

Anonymous said...

I've read more than half the books in the series now, and I love it when the author not only brings you into the presence of an album but takes obvious pleasure in their pursuit of the mot juste. Case in point: Erik Davis' book on LED ZEPPELIN IV (sorry, I don't have the special "four symbol" fonts), which I would not change one iota -- though I'm not the album's or the group's biggest fan. The book is the work of a superior artist.

Pete M said...

I disagree with the first comment. I like the Dusty book and the Who book for giving me something in the SPIRIT of the album rather than a tedious and academic track by track review. Thats what i would like to see less of, or at least see it handled better in the future. Murmur was going great until the author starting breaking down the tracks. I like the unique approach books like the Live at the Apollo, Armed Forces, Meat is Murder. 69 love songs looks interesting but I haven't gotten to it yet. Of course one can keep a "bland approach" and still come out with a good book. I would much rather read a book length interview with DJ Shadow than the term paper approach to lyrics,etc..

Anonymous said...

That's what makes horse races!

Anonymous said...

High points in the series-Highway 61 was a very well written, well researched book. Polizzotti's passion is matched by his skill. Low points-Sometimes(unaviodable really) the author is too much of a fan-the recent books on Lovelesss(McGonigal becomes an apologist for flaky Kevin Shields) and Byrd Brothers(Can the author really know what the tension was like between crosby and mcguinn?) at times suffered from this.
Overall the series is great. I've read 38 of them and found even weakest titles to be at least interesting enough to finish.
A genre to explore-rap(is that de la soul book ever gonna happen?)
Also-remove the one album per artist rule. At least for the beatles and dylan anyway....

Anonymous said...

I really liked the books that dug under the skin of near-mythological albums, offers new details, and treats the musicians as characters in a story: pixies, low, aeroplane.

I also liked the unqiue approaches of book like forever changes and armed forces, giving you the sometimes subconscious and nonmusical influences you wouldn't always think of.

My least favorite have been the overly academic ones that get mired in pointless details, in this case ok computer and the beatles let it be. i'm just that interested in breaking down the lyrics by how many times a single word appears, or what happened each and every time the beatles entered a recording studio.

Jugi said...

Least favorites, let's see... "OK Computer" seemed to have been penned by a musicologist who was writing for a group of academics. Way over my head. Likewise, "Murmur" was far too analytical and seemed to go off on a major tangent about the nature of Southern Gothic. Which admittedly is central to one's understanding of the album, but I felt far too much time was devoted to the subject. Best thus far: the two "Let It Be" books, "Doolittle," and "Pet Sounds," all for their mix of personal recollection and non-fiction (although the Meloy book was more in the former camp).

Anonymous said...

I've read a handful of the books and I think I liked the Low book the best. Wilcken's approach shed light on the human drama of Bowie's Berlin years without suffering the album information I expected to get when I picked up the book. That said, the experimental nature of the series is what makes it so great... so forget what a handful of people like and dislike and just keep doing what you're doing. I would think that the hardest line to walk would be choosing which artists to cover seeing as how your core demo has probably already read so many Dylan, Beatles, Bowie books, articles, interviews, etc. But again... you're moving forward with the series so why change now.

Anonymous said...

I agree. I think the pleasure of the series is due in part to the surprise of how each author approaches each album. I can understand trying to please most of the people most of the time, but it would be a mistake to try to fix something that isn't broken, or at least isn't broken most of the time.

Anonymous said...

When I pick up a 33 1/3 book, I want to know about how the album was created and why it's so special. I expect that the book is about the artist and not the author. Unfortunately, some of the books focus too much on the latter. LeRoy's book on "Paul's Boutique" is great because it is straightup journalism and tells the great story behind the record's creation. I was disappointed in Weisbard's take on G'N R's "Use Your Illusion" because it was more about the author throwing eggs at Axl Rose and the record's "blockbuster" legacy than the record's creation.

Anonymous said...

Would love to see a 33 and 1/3 on comedy. Maybe Lenny Bruce.

Anonymous said...

I doubt it would happen, but a graphic novel on one of the great concpet albums would be incredible.

BurnYrHouseDown said...

In response to the poster who expressed distaste for the books that don't focus on the records' creations--I've always seen 33 1/3 books as an alternative to the conventional rock books. Sure, some of them are conventional (I'm reading the book on "Harvest" now, as a matter of fact), but honestly, most of these albums have already been chronicled in conventional ways and I like to see different approaches as well. So I guess that puts me on the, 'the series is already great due to its diversity' train.

Anonymous said...

What happens if you submit a proposal for an album that has been also submitted by someone else for this round? Will one perhaps be contacted to submit something for a different album instead?
Thanks

David said...

No, in general there's an element of luck involved in all of this - if we get two or three submissions for the same album, we try to pick the best one.

Anonymous said...

I'm tiring of the books that are journalistic - that tell the story of the album in terms of who did what when. I like the books that present a unique slant on the album, whether it's personal or analytical. I like the books that make me think of the albums in a new way.

And genre doesn't matter. I've loved books on albums that I dislike.

It would be great to see more books on the less-covered genres like hip-hop, country, jazz. But only if those books are good!

Anonymous said...

just thought i'd put in a good word for the musicological approach and the OK Computer book, which i enjoyed. i actually thought this book could've taken its analysis further. sure, it's interesting to know which songs have the greatest density of language, but what in the end does this say about the record and the way it was constructed?

Chris Stangl said...

Viva term papers! Suggestions: better writing, more analytical and interpretive criticism of the art.

Personally, that's where I lean as a reader and listener, though the more journalistic volumes documenting the recording process are a treat, when they are vivid and well-researched. LOW, for example, encompassing both approaches, is a model of form. I'm less interested in writers' personal experiences with the music, more interested in academia. The diversity of approaches is what makes the books fun as a series, though admittedly it causes more chance for missed opportunities.

Anonymous said...

I'm aware of the deadline this Wednesday, but is there a particular time that we have to have our submissions in? For example, by 11:59PM on Feb. 14th?

David said...

I guess by the time I check emails on Thursday morning, the 15th - if your proposal has arrived by then, it'll be fine!

Anonymous said...

Getting rid of the one-book-per-artist rule is a sound idea to me. I can understand completing a few waves of books before doing another Bowie or Beatles title just to ensure a diverse mix, but in the meantime a lot of really potentially great 33 1/3 titles aren't seeing the light of day because the (quite wonderful) "Doolittle" book trumped someone else's super-bitchin' "Surfer Rosa" book pitch. Plus, from a weaselly marketing perspective, you can eventually "bundle" together multiple titles covering the same artist...people love that gifty crap.

Joseph Kyle said...

I can't help but wonder if the initial rules imposed on the subjects of publication should be relaxed a bit. Understandably, you ultimately have to sell books--a daunting task at the beginning. But the series is no longer a new one, and it's somewhat well-established, and you've developed a readership that's going to trust your judgment about what you publish and are willing to buy based upon your name brand. Personally, I've liked most of the books, and the things that I've generally disliked about them consists not of the writers or the subjects, but by the fact that...gee, how many more regurgitations of the same stories can one really stand? Being a reader of magazines like MOJO, the Nirvana book was somewhat a waste of time, because if you've read MOJO or any of her other writings, then you've read what she's had to say before. Personally, I'd rather read a book about The Waterboys than another book about The Who or Neil Young or whoever. Why? Because, well, I can guarantee that the book is going to contain new information, it's going to contain stories I don't know, and it's going to be interesting. It's not going to bore me with details that, as a lover of music, will be published every few months in magazines dedicated to the history of music. I know that when I read a book, I want to learn something new.

To totally dispute someone's previous point, I think academic writing about music sucks out the passion and the vividness of the music. After all, a band or an artist doesn't go into the studio or the writing process with a mind of wondering how their music fits into an academic school of thought--they make music because they want to create art. They make music because they love to make music. Serious, intellectual dissection of music in such a way misses the point, and is, ultimately, boring.

I also think the series should branch out into more modern subjects. Of course, I do realize I'm saying that with a bit of self-interest, considering I submitted a proposal!

Anonymous said...

I think it depends on the financial health of the series. Yes, music fans who read MOJO etc. (myself included) are probably not as interested in the books about Dylans or the Beatles, but if doing 3 Dylan books means you can do a couple books on some great though slightly esoteric albums... well that's not such a terrible compromise. Just like a director or an actor who does a silly dinosaur/asteroid movie so they can afford to do that low budget disease/drugs/modern alienation movie they've always wanted to do. And it's not like doing more books by the big artists would be selling out or anything. I wouldn't be as interested in them because I've probably heard enough about the White Album at this point, but if it means you can do your Angels With Dirty Faces book... or that Waterboys book... why not?

David said...

I rather like the movie director/actor analogy - hadn't thought of it in those terms before. The series could be the Nicolas Cage of books!

Anonymous said...

It would be nice to see a broader range of subjects, something a bit beyond the realm of rock. I wonder if the books would sell better if they had a broader audience in mind. With a few exceptions, most of the records written about could all be in one person's record collection. They're all seminal, yeah, but in a pretty narrow realm, with a few exceptions.

It would be nice to have the occasional classical and pre-rock album that has had influence beyond its apparent genre.

Why not Philip Glass' Einstein on the Beach or Laurie Anderson's United States I-IV, for example.

Maybe Glenn Gould's Goldberg Variations.

And maybe Martin Denny's Quiet Village.

More than anything, I'd like to see more hip-hop books -- classic stuff like Nation of Millions and Paid in Full, more recent concoctions like Late Registration and Illmatic.

I've read about a dozen and I agree that the DJ Shadow is the least impressive. It really is almost entirely a lightly edited interview -- you almost wonder why the writer got his name on the cover. It's unfortunate, 'cause it's such a great record.

Anonymous said...

Hi! Only "solo" authors can try their luck on being published with a book on an album they love, or are partenerships allowed, kind of: "two people can love more an album than just one"? Thanks!

Anonymous said...

The books I've liked the most are the ones that treat the albums in a non-journalistic style and offer some kind of musical analysis, such as the OK Computer book. I would like to see more titles by and about women artists.

David said...

We'll certainly look at proposals for co-authored books.

Anonymous said...

Nicolas Cage? Let's not sell this short. I was thinking Johnny Depp.

Anonymous said...

This may seem like a small detail, but is it ok to go a bit over the word count for submissions?

David said...

Word count: shouldn't be a problem!

Anonymous said...

I feel like i should step in and say I loved the DJ Shadow book personally, he is one of my favorite artists and I loved reading about his mindset throughout the recording of the record. I also thought the author inserted just enough personal stuff to make it interesting on that side also. I really love the books that talk about the studio stuff, what was happening around the recording of the album. I thought the worst one that I had read so far was "In Utero", which pretty much told me nothing i didn't know already. "Paul's Boutique" was genius also, but I would have loved more focus on the lyrics of that one. While the album is a masterwork of early hiphop sampling, the lyrics are also great and the Beasties never came close to that level again...I wonder why.
Please do a "Tusk" book. PLEASE.

Anonymous said...

There should definitely be more punk rock records covered. I think that's been overlooked a little.

Anonymous said...

There's a dearth of albums by women...it'd be nice to see more diversity all around since your readers aren't just white men.

Anonymous said...

altho i understand the licensing might be a nightmare, any possibility of including companion cds w/ the books? obviously, you can just play the album, but when authors compare, inference, allude to...other songs or albums, it'd be nice to have an excerpt or something. and, once again, it could be a possibly lucrative addition and a good way to "spice up" the series. (this idea might be best w/ any future "best of" compilations you publish)

Anonymous said...

Not to pile on, but I too found the DJ Shadow book disappointing -- not necessarily because of its interview form, but mostly because the book offered neither a creative personal take on the record, nor a great deal of critical analysis, nor an insiders' view of the making of the album. The interview didn't delve particularly deeply, and so the book left me unilluminated -- disappointingly so, because it's an album that has always remained awfully mysterious to me.

A Wu-Tang or Flaming Lips graphic novel would be outstanding.

Anonymous said...

"Serious, intellectual dissection of music in such a way misses the point, and is, ultimately, boring. "

Emphatically disagree.