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

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Odds and ends...

* Douglas Wolk offers up an appreciation of the mighty ukelele (via fellow champion of the uke Ed at the Dizzies). And here's part II. I would like to second the request for a recording of the clarinet and uke version of "Marquee Moon."

* We were talking about the Big Star 33 1/3 in a meeting the other day and that reminded me that I needed to finally get around to watching the Oxford American DVD that came with the "Best of the South" issue. It was excellent, and it contains some lost 8mm footage of the recording of #1 Record set to a demo version of "Thank You Friends" which is pretty sweet. Among other gems, the print issue also has an ode to my onetime employers at the Dickson Street Bookshop in Fayetteville, Arkansas by Katy Henricksen. You'll have to pick up the issue to read/watch, but here's a trailer to whet the appetite:

Oxford American Best of the South DVD #2 from Oxford American on Vimeo.

* And this just keeps cracking me up:

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Man on Wire

I haven't seen it yet, but James Marsh's documentary Man on Wire was released theatrically in the US on Friday, and it sounds riveting. To coincide, here's a section from Hayden Childs' very recent volume in the series, about Shoot Out the Lights. This is taken, of course, from the chapter about the song "Walking on a Wire" (as well as the earlier Thompson composition, "The Great Valerio").


I like to imagine myself perched on a point impossibly high over this next song. Even up here, the sound of the raging emotion below is an undeniable roar, but as long as my footing holds, I can take a breath and appreciate my surroundings. To walk up here is to be untouchable, a superman or an angel.

That's not what I am, though, nor anyone else. Everyone will slip and fall eventually. So let's take a minute before the inevitable. Don't be afraid.

I am reminded of a moment back in 1974. It was early in August, and Bonny and I were staying with a friend in New York. The heat was like the whole city was sinking into the fiery center of the earth. Bonny and I had been out drinking late the night before, and we hadn't been in bed long when the phone began ringing. I was awake at the first ring, but unwilling to move, a little drunk still. A friend had given Bonny and me his bed while he crashed on the floor. Was his name Joe? I don't recall.

Anyway, Joe got to the phone, and I remember how loud he shouted, "Wow, okay!" before he hung up. He smashed open a closet and came up with a telescope, then glanced over and saw that I was looking at him. "No time! C'mon!" he yelled, all jittery. I thought the building might be on fire, but somehow (and this shames me to this day) didn't think of Bonny, still asleep on the bed, until we were on the stairs.

But that's when it struck me, the wrongness of our route. We were headed up, not down. I remember yelling at him, about a floor above me, but he didn't break stride. Then we were on the roof. He was pointing up between a couple of buildings, the telescope already steady on a tripod while he made obscure adjustments to it. He looked into it for what seemed like forever, although it was probably only a minute or so. Then he pulled back, almost as if it were hot, gasping for a second before turning to me. I remember my recoil from his expression. Here I was, still heaving, gulping air, bone-dry deep in my chest, and my fight-or-flight reflex was a full-on throb in my fingertips. My friend looked insane, his face of full of something I'd never seen in someone so unflappable and urbane.

He gestured toward the telescope with one hand and pointed up with the other. I followed his finger to the barely visible area between the giant, unfinished World Trade Center towers, which seemed miles away. I was dubious, but I put my eye to that telescope.

A couple of seconds later, I saw - how to describe this? - a vague mark in the sky that suddenly, horribly, unmistakably resolved into the shape of a man. A man in that impossible space. Unfalling. Suspended. A man, and nothing else, in the sky, a quarter mile above New York City.

I looked at my friend and he looked at me. And we laughed like mystics sharing a particularly ecstatic vision.

Later, the news told us the man's name was Philippe Petit, a tightrope walker who'd pulled similar stunts in Paris and in Sydney. No, not stunts. Exhibitions. Sermons, even. The whole thing felt like an elaborate morality play for my benefit. Be better at life, Petit had said to me. Tens of thousands of people saw him up there, but I was young and narcissistic, and I thought his message was for me. Be better.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

The League Table, June 2008

Below is the sales chart for the series, showing *lifetime* global sales positions of all the books in the series, from September 2003 through to the end of June. Clearly this gives an advantage to the older volumes - and since many of those are still selling well, it's tough as nuts for some of the newer titles to catch up.

That said, we've seen some big moves recently from the books on My Bloody Valentine and Bowie, while the Radiohead and Rolling Stones books are showing some serious legs at this point in time. Further down the chart (and really, there's no shame at all in being down there!), we've seen some great starts from the volumes on Tom Waits, Slayer, and Sabbath. And, of course, Celine continues to power along nicely - if that book continues to pick up undergrad course adoptions, who knows where the fun will end?


1. Neutral Milk Hotel
2. The Kinks
3. The Smiths
4. The Rolling Stones
5. Radiohead
6. Velvet Underground
7. Joy Division
8. The Beatles
9. Pink Floyd
10. Led Zeppelin
11. The Beach Boys
12. David Bowie
13. My Bloody Valentine
14. Love
15. Beastie Boys
16. DJ Shadow
17. Bob Dylan
18. Neil Young
19. Pixies
20. Jimi Hendrix
21. Jeff Buckley
22. The Replacements
23. Dusty Springfield
24. The Band
25. Prince
26. R.E.M.
27. Sonic Youth
28. Bruce Springsteen
29. The Ramones
30. Celine Dion
31. Elvis Costello
32. Captain Beefheart
33. James Brown
34. Magnetic Fields
35. Steely Dan
36. Nirvana
37. The Who
38. Guided By Voices
39. The Byrds
40. Stone Roses
41. Minutemen
42. Jethro Tull
43. Sly and the Family Stone
44. Abba
45. Belle & Sebastian
46. The MC5
47. Tom Waits
48. Black Sabbath
49. Joni Mitchell
50. Nick Drake
51. Stevie Wonder
52. U2
53. Slayer
54. PJ Harvey
55. Guns N Roses
56. Throbbing Gristle
57. A Tribe Called Quest
58. Patti Smith
59. Richard and Linda Thompson


Monday, July 14, 2008

Los Angeles, we are spoiling you

Not only do you get multiple helpings of Darnielle, if you live in L.A., but at the end of August you get the chance to attend a very special event - a tour of Tom Waits' Los Angeles, hosted by our very own David Smay, author of the 33 1/3 on Swordfishtrombones.

It all takes place on Saturday August 30th, and concludes with a book reading at Metropolis Books, featuring not only David Smay but also Kim Cooper reading from her Neutral Milk Hotel book, and Hayden Childs reading from his brand new book about Shoot Out The Lights. I've been told that tickets for the tour are shifting in a spirited fashion, so if you want to be part of this, you might want to head over here, and reserve yourself a spot.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Attention Los Angeles!

John Darnielle will be doing another reading in the LA area TONIGHT, July 10 at 7pm, at the wonderful Book Soup. Or rather, around the corner at Pi Restaurant on 8828 Sunset Blvd. (upstairs).

As John wrote on the Mountain Goats blog, "
if you missed last month's L.A. one, c'mon out for this one, and if you caught it, I promise not to do the exact same reading; I have a few ideas for how I might be able to mix it up a little."

Details can be found here at the Book Soup website.

For those of you outside of LA, here is a nice long interview with John from L Magazine.
Edit: And one more review and interview from the Hipster Book Club for good measure.