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

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Guest blogs winding down, buy-2-get-1-free sale continues...

We are coming up to the end of the 33 1/3 guest bloggers at the Powell's blog... Carl Wilson has a post on Celine Dion, distractions, and digressions later this week, and Drew Daniel finish things up with a post on Throbbing Gristle next week.

BUT DO NOT FEAR! Powell's will be running the buy 2, get 1 free deal on 33 1/3's through the end of the year. So it's not too late to buy a book or fifty (ahem) for that certain special someone this holiday season.

Also, I should mention that finished copies of Wilson's 33 1/3 on Celine Dion just arrived from the printer and they look verrrrry nice.

The latest:
* Nick Drake - Pink Moon author Amanda Petrusich on Joan Didion and California.
* Music from Big Pink author John Niven on being the writer at the party.
* Tom Waits - Swordfishtrombones (coming in December!) author David Smay on Flann O'Brien.

Previously on the Powell's blog:
* Led Zep author Erik Davis on vikings, black metal, and pumping iron (seriously, folks!)
* Minutemen author Mike Fournier recommends various and sundry items for you to seek out and enjoy.
* The Smiths author Joe Pernice on William Gibson amongst other things.
* Pet Sounds author Jim Fusili on the Beach Boys, Brian Wilson, and the finer points of "cool."
* Armed Forces author Franklin Bruno on Elvis Costello and his R&B lineage (amongst other things).
* James Brown Live at the Apollo author Douglas Wolk offers up four books that influenced his book rather heavily.
* and My Bloody Valentine - Loveless author Mike McGonigal takes the reader on a virtual tour of Powell's and recommends one dozen rectangular things made of paper that he enjoys and thinks perhaps you might also.
* Highway 61 Revisited author Mark Polizzotti outs himself as a lover of the Moody Blues. (I used to own a well-worn copy of the 101 Strings tribute to Moody Blues! Guilty pleasures, indeed...)
* A Tribe Called Quest author Shawn Taylor on "Who Owns the Art?"
* Exile on Main Street author Bill Janovitz on the Beatles, parenthood, and nostalgia.
* The Ramones author Nick Rombes on Jimmy Carter, the 1970s, and the Electric Eels.
* The Smiths' Meat Is Murder author Joe Pernice on William Gibson.
* Editor David Barker on the 33 1/3 series here.
* Dusty in Memphis author Warren Zanes on the aforementioned David Barker here.
* Belle & Sebastian author Scott Plagenhoef on the online release of Radiohead's "In Rainbows" is here.

* Or you can just click here for the whole lot of them...

Monday, November 19, 2007

Short items for a long weekend

I'm only 5 months late in noticing, but the NY Times books department has a nice little blog going called "Paper Cuts." It features interviews and bits and pieces from the cutting room floor. Favorites include this slideshow of book ads from the "Golden Age of Book Advertising" (who knew there was ever a Golden Age?), and a feature called "Living With Music" which borrows the premise of Largehearted Boy's long-running Booknotes feature, in which authors provide a playlist for their books. Personal favorites so far are Kenneth "Kenny G" Goldsmith's entry, and the following from Miranda July:
2) I Break Horses, Smog. This whole playlist thing is a little hard for me, because most of what I’m listening too is reference material for a project I’m working, i.e., private, secret, alchemical implements that are helping me turn my feelings in to scenes. But this song was reference music for an old project, one I finished years ago, so I guess there’s no harm.
...and if you get tired of reading, there's always the pretty pictures at The Book Design Review. Or check out the AIGA's top 50 book designs of 2006...not sure why they're just now getting around to reviewing 2006. Probably a bunch of books missed their pub dates (not that that ever happens around here). From an entirely different school of design, someone just unveiled a new Speak'n'Spell. Or something.

...and finally, a short video about burning down the disco and hanging the blessed DJ:


Enjoy the long weekend...

"The Hyperlink Whisperer"

As mentioned below, Powell's Books is running a buy 2, get 1 free deal on 33 1/3's, and have asked 33 1/3 authors to write some guest posts for their blog...and here's the latest link-heavy update on where to find them. (This week Cesar Millan is also guest blogging at Powells, so it's one stop shopping for music geekery and dog whispering all week long.)

The latest:
* Led Zep author Erik Davis on vikings, black metal, and pumping iron (seriously, folks!)
* Minutemen author Mike Fournier recommends various and sundry items for you to seek out and enjoy.
*

Previously on the Powell's blog:
* The Smiths author Joe Pernice on William Gibson amongst other things.
* Pet Sounds author Jim Fusili on the Beach Boys, Brian Wilson, and the finer points of "cool."
* Armed Forces author Franklin Bruno on Elvis Costello and his R&B lineage (amongst other things).
* James Brown Live at the Apollo author Douglas Wolk offers up four books that influenced his book rather heavily.
* and My Bloody Valentine - Loveless author Mike McGonigal takes the reader on a virtual tour of Powell's and recommends one dozen rectangular things made of paper that he enjoys and thinks perhaps you might also.
* Highway 61 Revisited author Mark Polizzotti outs himself as a lover of the Moody Blues. (I used to own a well-worn copy of the 101 Strings tribute to Moody Blues! Guilty pleasures, indeed...)
* A Tribe Called Quest author Shawn Taylor on "Who Owns the Art?"
* Exile on Main Street author Bill Janovitz on the Beatles, parenthood, and nostalgia.
* The Ramones author Nick Rombes on Jimmy Carter, the 1970s, and the Electric Eels.
* The Smiths' Meat Is Murder author Joe Pernice on William Gibson.
* Editor David Barker on the 33 1/3 series here.
* Dusty in Memphis author Warren Zanes on the aforementioned David Barker here.
* Belle & Sebastian author Scott Plagenhoef on the online release of Radiohead's "In Rainbows" is here.
* Or you can just click here for the whole lot of them...

This week will bring us John Niven (The Band - Music from Big Pink) and Amanda Petrusich (Nick Drake - Pink Moon)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A Little Gristle With That, Sir?

Another of the books that's currently at the printers is Drew Daniel's study of Throbbing Gristle's 20 Jazz Funk Greats. Mostly written in a linear, track-by-track style, the book makes great use of interviews with the band members, and veers off on the occasional, fascinating tangent.

Here's an extract from the chapter on "Still Walking":

***

In certain ways, “Still Walking” is the shrillest, most difficult track on the album, and bears a certain family resemblance to harsher TG songs such as “D.o.A.” and “Hit By A Rock”. It is dominated by a drum machine pattern snarled into a textural traffic jam by Chris Carter’s Gristle-izer. The rhythm evokes a martial polka, but doubles back upon itself at odd times, suggesting dancefloor mutiny, or ischemic distress. The pronounced flanging makes the snare runs cast metallic, distorted, shadows across the beat. Reinforcing this sense of processing run amok, numerous elements in the mix are run through constant panning, modeling the titular walk as a nervous, side-to-side hopscotch across the stereo field. Inside this pattern-prison, Cosey’s guitar-through-processing and Gen’s violin-through-processing surface as the sonic main characters still walking through the halls of flanged rhythm in search of escape. Cosey’s guitar alternates between riff-like figures and firework trails of noise, with squeals and scrapes from Gen’s violin occasionally caulking the gaps. The spoken vocals which sidle into the mix at the one minute mark are the least distinct of any Throbbing Gristle song, and that’s saying something: one can almost always detect Gen’s signature keening through even the thickest soup of tape hiss and amp abuse, but here the four separate personalities of the members of TG dissolve into an indistinct crowd of deadpan mutterers, a non-specific gathering of males and females intoning staggered versions of what is gradually revealed to be the same text. Occasionally, certain words recur and interlock at random, muffled and just audible beneath the chaos and scree that surrounds them: “that’s the whole problem”, “each time he said”, “all of us do it”, “spell of semen”, but without the lyric sheet it is unlikely that the full text would be discernible (nor is it clear that the lyric sheet is entirely accurate). The oblique lyrical snippets hint at a resolution, a domestic, occult scenario kept just out of sight, and the panning of the voices and noises adds to this sense that you are only catching momentary, partial glimpses of a greater whole. The overall effect is a tease: one is being given too much information, and yet the band is also holding something back.

Drew: Who did what on “Still Walking”? Gen has said in previous interviews that you wrote the lyrics with him.

Sleazy: Have you got the lyric there?

Drew: Yes. [reads lyrics] Do you remember coming up with particular lines or images?

Sleazy: The second half of it is more of a cut-up. Cosey and I used to do this sort of thing spontaneously. It was almost like we were both having a separate conversation with somebody else, but the combination of alternating lines between us produced a third mind.

Drew: Sort of like automatic writing, but instead done through rhythmic speech? Each of you taking turns with rapid fire phrases, one after the other?

Sleazy: Right, and the two together would resonate. Individually the conversations we were having in our minds were with somebody else, but [we would speak in] combination. The lyric you just read me, it strikes me now that the first half is basically all Gen, but the phrases that have a banal aspect to them, that’s more likely to be me. [laughs] The point is that it’s the combination of all of them that is interesting, not any phrase in particular.

Drew: Do you remember what the book was that keeps falling open at the same ritual?

Sleazy: I don’t remember in particular. Gen at this time had an interest in the occult and was starting to investigate Austin Osman Spare. I know that by 1980 he had an [artwork] by Spare. The occult aspect was always something that was around in the background, though much less so with TG than with Coil. There was an occult sensibility.

Drew: I was wondering about “spell of semen”, if it was a reference to sexual magic?

Sleazy: Yes, I’m sure it is. The ideas and the practice of sexual magic and all of the things that became more developed in the first two Psychic TV albums were already beginning to be present and were beginning to interest us. But TG was so anchored in the banal aspect of popular culture that at that time those things still seemed very exotic and obscure. Not totally on message as it were. This is the first time that strand really became apparent.

Drew: I notice that in “Still Walking” there is a line “share of thee water”, with the “thee” spelling. That’s something that you’d been using throughout the Coum era; it predates TG.

Gen: And before. I started using “Thee” and “E” (for I) in 1966 for a book that I wrote called “Mrs. Askwith”. And one of the characters was talking in that way, with that spelling. To immerse myself in the character I began using it all the time, so that I could find out what the character was like, what her opinions were. It’s very much like method acting. There are characters that I meet at other levels of consciousness and I try to give them a voice.

Drew: What about the “spell of semen” reference?

Gen: It’s obviously from me, and it’s a reference to what became the rituals of T.O.P.Y. I began experimenting with it in 1961. I was first told that I was mediumistic in 1960 by my grandmother, who had also been a medium, a professional medium. And that is when I began to focus more consciously on magickal practice. I intuitively always included sexual magic in that practice.

***

Monday, November 12, 2007

Minor updates

1. Look out for an excerpt from Drew Daniel's excellent Throbbing Gristle book either today or tomorrow.

2. For those of you who haven't yet requested the PDF of chapters 1 and 2 of Carl Wilson's book about Celine Dion, the offer's still open - just send an email to letstalkaboutceline at yahoo dot com, and we'll fire off a PDF to you.

3. And we've received quite a few entries in our Celine Prediction Competition so far, in which you have to guess where on the league table that particular book will sit at the end of March next year. (Guesses so far range from #6 to #55 - I like the foresight of the latter, but I sincerely hope it's wrong.) Send your prediction, before December 1st, to predictingceline at yahoo dot com

And if I come up with any more Celine-related yahoo email addresses in the next few days, I'll be sure to let you all know.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Making Plans (for Nigel)

Given that the soonest we could possibly have another open window for proposals is around this time next year, it's a bit dumb to be posting this now, but hey: which albums would you most like to see covered in the series?

Bear in mind that the "one book per artist" rule is being discarded next time around, so feel free to suggest other albums by people who've already been covered in the series. Or albums that haven't yet been released...

I'll start things off:

New Order - Power, Corruption and Lies
Neil Diamond - Tap Root Manuscript
Bhundu Boys - The Shed Sessions
Radiohead - Kid A

Sunday Afternoon Update:

Thanks to everyone so far for some fascinating suggestions, many of which haven't come up much in the past. And thanks also to Zach for pointing out that several of the records mentioned are actually being written about, as we speak. As for the emerging/growing boner question, let's just say that I can see both sides of it. You've got to think there are still dozens of fascinating stories to be told (although it would be naive to assume that every great album has much of a story behind it) - we just need to find the writers who can bring those stories to life...

Your weekly Powell's guest blogger update....

As mentioned below, Powell's Books is running a buy 2, get 1 free deal on 33 1/3's, and have asked 33 1/3 authors to write some guest posts for their blog. Here is your update.

The latest:
* The Smiths author Joe Pernice on William Gibson amongst other things.
* Pet Sounds author Jim Fusili on the Beach Boys, Brian Wilson, and the finer points of "cool."
* Armed Forces author Franklin Bruno on Elvis Costello and his R&B lineage (amongst other things).
* James Brown Live at the Apollo author Douglas Wolk offers up four books that influenced his book rather heavily.
* and My Bloody Valentine - Loveless author Mike McGonigal takes the reader on a virtual tour of Powell's and recommends one dozen rectangular things made of paper that he enjoys and thinks perhaps you might also.

What came before:
* Highway 61 Revisited author Mark Polizzotti outs himself as a lover of the Moody Blues. (I used to own a well-worn copy of the 101 Strings tribute to Moody Blues! Guilty pleasures, indeed...)
* A Tribe Called Quest author Shawn Taylor on "Who Owns the Art?"
* Exile on Main Street author Bill Janovitz on the Beatles, parenthood, and nostalgia.
* The Ramones author Nick Rombes on Jimmy Carter, the 1970s, and the Electric Eels.
* The Smiths' Meat Is Murder author Joe Pernice on William Gibson.
* Editor David Barker on the 33 1/3 series here.
* Dusty in Memphis author Warren Zanes on the aforementioned David Barker here.
* Belle & Sebastian author Scott Plagenhoef on the online release of Radiohead's "In Rainbows" is here.

...and what the future holds:
* Led Zep author Erik Davis on vikings, black metal, and pumping iron (seriously, folks!)
* Minutemen author Mike Fournier recommends various and sundry items for you to seek out and enjoy.

...and many more to follow!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Top 49

Through the end of last month, this is the sales chart for the 33 1/3 series:

1. Neutral Milk Hotel
2. The Beatles
3. The Kinks
4. The Smiths
5. The Rolling Stones
6. Led Zeppelin
7. Neil Young
8. The Velvet Underground
9. Joy Division
10. Pink Floyd
11. Radiohead
12. Jeff Buckley
13. Love
14. The Beach Boys
15. DJ Shadow
16. Bruce Springsteen
17. David Bowie
18. Beastie Boys
19. Bob Dylan
20. My Bloody Valentine
21. The Replacements
22. The Pixies
23. Dusty Springfield
24. Jimi Hendrix
25. The Band
26. Prince
27. The Ramones
28. R.E.M.
29. Sonic Youth
30. Elvis Costello
31. James Brown
32. The Who
33. Jethro Tull
34. The Byrds
35. Abba
36. Nirvana
37. Guided by Voices
38. Sly and the Family Stone
39. Captain Beefheart
40. The Minutemen
41. Stone Roses
42. Magnetic Fields
43. Steely Dan
44. The MC5
45. PJ Harvey
46. Stevie Wonder
47. Joni Mitchell
48. Guns N Roses
49. A Tribe Called Quest

The obsessives among you may have noticed some big changes since we last ran one of these charts - this is due, to a certain degree, to Barnes & Noble running a big promotion in their stores from now until the end of the year - some kind of a "Book + CD" deal in their music section, I think. The books they've chosen to run with are those on albums by the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, and Jeff Buckley. Also the Dusty book, but we haven't logged those sales yet. Of course, since this is the book industry we're talking about, we could get many hundreds of those books back from B&N early in 2008, so the Beatles book (for example) may not be at no.2 in the chart forever.

Other books picking up speed are those on Beefheart, Sonic Youth, and the Minutemen.

The three new books, on U2, Belle & Sebastian and Nick Drake will show up next time we do this table - as will, I hope, the books on Celine Dion, Tom Waits and Throbbing Gristle.

Which leads me into our AWESOME QUIZ QUESTION: if you want to win 10 free 33 1/3 books of your choice, all you need to do is predict where in this chart the Celine Dion book will be, by the end of March 2008. (Hint: I have absolutely no idea.) Send your prediction to:

predictingceline at yahoo dot com

I need to receive your entry by December 1st. A la David Copperfield, I shall write my own prediction in a sealed envelope, forget about it, and then retire to my secret warehouse in Vegas to prepare for my own richly deserved downfall.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A couple of new books

I try to keep non-music-related Continuum books off here for various reasons, but some of you might like to know about two new titles that we're just about to publish.

The first is Rocco Versaci's This Book Contains Graphic Language: Comics as Literature, about which Library Journal says...

This book initially seems to be an earnest attempt to justify comics (and graphic novels) as a sophisticated literary art form. But once Versaci (English, Palomar Community Coll., San Marcos, CA) frames the literary merit debate—which at book length would be unnecessary given the critical acceptance of graphic novels like Art Spiegelman's Maus: A Survivor's Tale—he settles down to create a worthy text for anyone interested in the genre. Versaci gives readers a new arsenal of tools with which to examine comics and graphic novels, and he offers 100 black-and-white illustrations from artists including Harvey Pekar, Joe Sacco, Lynda Barry, and Sue Coe. Using a few carefully chosen topics, he explores his central argument in depth by providing historical context and analyzing layout, pacing, and style. He further offers a framework and vocabulary for discussion and convincingly argues that the medium can communicate as effectively, if not more effectively, than prose and film. While scholarly, this work is highly engaging, lively, and accessible. It will appeal to students, fans, and casual readers alike and deserves to be widely read.

The second is Geoffrey Nowell-Smith's Making Waves: New Cinemas of the 1960s, about which the very same organ says this...

Veteran film scholar Nowell-Smith (The Oxford History of World Cinema) is indeed "making waves" as he demystifies the new cinemas of the 1960s in Europe and Latin America. He doesn't hesitate to point out that a new-wave director's use of a documentary style or black and white instead of color was because of financial rather than aesthetic reasons, or that some of the innovative techniques used (e.g., shaky camera, jump cuts, and strangely accentuated location sound) actually reflect incompetence in overcoming difficulties in location shooting. Particularly interesting is his analysis of the change in British culture and how it affected free cinema in that country and the contrast between the diversity of new filmmaking in France and the corresponding dearth of new wave in Italy. Although its coverage of Eastern European and Latin American new wave is too brief, this work distinguishes itself as an all-encompassing text on the subject, unlike others that focus on an individual country during the 1960s.

***

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Fisherman's Blues

The Waterboys show last night left me a little flat, despite having its highly entertaining moments, mostly revolving around Steve Wickham's phenomenal fiddle-playing. But good lord, I could watch them play "Fisherman's Blues" hundreds of times and never grow tired of it.

Think of the boats off the New England coast today, tumblin' on the seas...