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

Friday, March 27, 2009

...and then there were 27

So.

We've gone from 170 down to 27. (Fingers crossed, everybody who was in the 170 has received an email from me tonight, either way.)

I wish we could sign up all 27 of these (actually, I wish we could sign up dozens more of the 170), but we can't. This is what we're left with, for now. By the end of April, we'll be able to post the final, final list of books that we will sign up. Until then, discuss, debate, whinge, moan, celebrate, and speculate! I'm off on vacation for a week...Thanks for bearing with me, everybody.

***

AC/DC - Highway to Hell
Aretha Franklin - Amazing Grace
The Beatles - The Beatles
Bob Dylan - Time Out of Mind
The Cramps - Songs the Lord Taught Us
David Bowie - Ziggy Stardust
Devo - Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo
Dinosaur Jr: You're Living All Over Me
ELO - Out of the Blue
Grateful Dead - Closing of Winterland
Johnny Cash - American Recordings
Kiss - Destroyer
Leonard Cohen - Songs of Leonard Cohen
Lil' Wayne - Da Drought 3
Liz Phair - Exile in Guyville
Lou Reed - Metal Machine Music
Neil Young - Tonight's the Night
Operation Ivy - Energy
Paul Simon - Graceland
Radiohead - Kid A
Rolling Stones - Some Girls
Slint - Spiderland
Television - Marquee Moon
Violent Femmes - Violent Femmes
Ween - Chocolate and Cheese
White Stripes - White Blood Cells
Young Marble Giants - Colossal Youth

***

107 comments:

Anonymous said...

as if the most popular genre of the last thirty years doesn't exist...

Anonymous said...

well well,

now we know what the economic issues were-- talk about a list completely tailored to books that will sell. Not begrudging anyone the need to stay solvent, but LORD, this is an unbelievably bland list not becoming the mighty 33 1/3 series.

And it's not even complete-- one imagines that the final books will excise any of the More Outre works on the list, which is saying something, cuz this list is as about as strange as using margarine instead of butter.

Nik said...

You can't judge a book by the album it's covering (Celine Dion comes to mind), not that that will stop many people from doing just that. I'm glad to see the "second book on an artist" seems to be gone.

Personally, White Stripes, Dinosaur Jr. and David Bowie books sound quite interesting to me. I thought a Television book was already in the works though...

Anonymous said...

Don't despair! Rejectees seeking alternate publishing possibilities for their proposals can contact submissions78@yahoo.com for details about an (unsanctioned) compilation of 33 1/3 rejections currently in the works. No proposal too outrageous. Mothers of Invention, M.I.A., Pussy Galore, and U.S.A. for Africa (and the like) especially welcome!

Anonymous said...

The only ones I'd even consider reading are the Dinosaur Jr and Liz Phair books. The rest...blech. Lil' Wayne and The White Stripes over Arcade Fire and Animal Collective?

And yes...These are "big name bands"...Dylan, Radiohead, Bowie, Aretha, Johnny Cash...Money driver for sure.

Anonymous said...

No offense to the selected, but who needs to read more about the Beatles, Stones, Dylan, Reed, Bowie, Cash, Young, etc?

Anonymous said...

Bummer, man - never made the cut. For others in the same position, you might be interested to know that Chicago Review Press publish a series similar (although, maybe more trad) - the Vinyl Frontier series. Here's some of their titles at amazon

Anonymous said...

I'm kind of stoked about several of these, would love to read something incisive about: Aretha, late period Dylan, Cramps, Dinosaur Jr, Kiss, Liz Phair, Kid A, Slint, Marquee Moon. Totally agree about the White Album, though

Anne-Marie said...

Just had a wistful look back at the original LongList, and the following 20 winked out at me (again):

Aphex Twin
Arthur Russell
Earth
The Fall
Fugazi
Half Japanese
John Fahey
The Melvins
NWA
Pere Ubu
Phil Spector
PiL
The Residents
Scott Walker
Tortoise
American Primitive Comp
Artificial Intelligence Comp
Warren Zevon
Woody Guthrie
Yoko Ono

In some awesome but parallel universe, there could have been a REALLY exciting collection of forthcoming titles. And instead we get more of these:

The Beatles
Bob Dylan
David Bowie
Leonard Cohen
Paul Simon
Radiohead
The Rolling Stones
The White Stripes

It reads like a list of cover shots from Q, Uncut and Mojo.

Maybe I'll order a few copies of the 'Metal Machine Music' online, to skew its sales for the better (assuming that one even makes it to the final cut)...

I know that this whole process boils down, in the end, to who wrote the proposal, and to how good the individual proposal was. But... tell me you didn't SIGH, just a little bit, on reading through that list. It's as if an elaborate algorithm had been constructed to determine the 27 least surprising titles from a list of over 500.

*meh*

I'm gonna go protest the economic meltdown in Trafalgar Square. Just look where it's brought us..

Anonymous said...

I have to echo that pang of disappointment upon looking at this (semi) final cut. For how appreciative we all our for this "process" of submissions, etc...looks like the old guard reared its ugly head with the same old bullshit. Why bother to even string along those other 150 folks who wrote (potentially misguided but provocative) pitches on Vampire Weekend, We are the World, Jawbreaker or Agnostic Front if we were going to end up here? With the goddamn Beatles. And David Bowie. And Leonard Cohen. Smells a bit like a rat to me. I’m not an idiot; I recognize the forces of the market these days are dire and putting out fringe titles is not prudent but even still- why pretend to have such an open policy when, in the end, you’re simply going to adhere to a predictable set of standards? Quit with this egalitarian bullshit and just be straight with people.

Anonymous said...

Operation Ivy, Ween, Slint, The Cramps, Young Marble Giants? And, um, Metal Machine Music? These don't sound like particularly bland titles to me. I think it looks like a wise (and necessary) 60/40 split of safe to risky. Could also be that they're adding safer titles to correct the more outre choices in the last round.

I also suspect that none of us is really entitled to talk smack until we have read the 600 proposals. This isn't a Rolling Stone list of the best albums of all time, so they're not saying that one album is better than another, but that one proposal was better than another... it's important to keep that in mind.

Sarah said...

I agree with the posts that say.. there's been plenty written about Dylan/Beatles/Stones. If this is what you must work from, though - Young Marble Giants.

Anonymous said...

You can bet your butthole that Op. Ivy, Ween, and YMG do not make the print run. This leaves the Cramps (a no brainer,) Slint (very much a canon title, rather than an "outre" pick,) and MMM, which has a long history of critical discourse, and is by no means the controversial choice it seems to be on the surface.

The most surprising survivor is Lil' Wayne, but if you consider the list in terms of pushing PBs, Weezy seems right at home with the White album.

Snooze.

Anonymous said...

In all honesty, this list is very, very disappointing and I echo the sentiments of everyone else. I did not expect to be chosen for the final cut and wasn't disappointed in the least...until I saw the final 27.

To choose second Radiohead, Beatles, Bowie and Stones records as well as same-old same-old Reed/ Dylan/ Cohen over some of the artists on the longer shortlist is baffling. This is the safest, Mojo friendly Dad-rock list I've ever seen; just rock and alt-rock with a token Rolling Stone-approved soul and rap. No disrespect to the authors, but I'd hoped for much more variety. What an anti-climax. I just feel totally disillusioned.

Anonymous said...

Here is the final lineup I'd like to see, in terms of books:

AC/DC - Highway to Hell
Aretha Franklin - Amazing Grace
Bob Dylan - Time Out of Mind
The Cramps - Songs the Lord Taught Us
Dinosaur Jr: You're Living All Over Me
Johnny Cash - American Recordings
Kiss - Destroyer
Lil' Wayne - Da Drought 3
Liz Phair - Exile in Guyville
Neil Young - Tonight's the Night
Slint - Spiderland
Ween - Chocolate and Cheese

Anonymous said...

^That looks like a solid list to me. I'm excited about the Operation Ivy one too. Lots of potential there...

Anonymous said...

So quickly has your love turned to hate... Last week David was a genius, this week he is a play-it-safe publishing industry tool... WTF??? True, there has been enough written about The Beatles and Bowie (and Radiohead, for my money) to last several mundane lifetimes, BUT YOU HAVENT READ THE PROPOSALS. Maybe Mr (or Ms) Classic Rock had some original insight into one of those dinosaurs. Maybe they are spectacularly written. Perhaps they offer cogent and original analysis. Maybe Jon Franzen wants to write about MMM. Then again, do we need to re-hash any possible angle on that high-brow turd eg. it is a joke, or it is a masterpiece (ho hum) or Lou's own inflated opinion of himself, or his career, or blah blah blah? I am pretty sure it has all been said. Who wouldn't want to read about the Cramps (and the timing alone makes it commercial), but that is only a no-brainer if the writer is up to it -- and that is a lot bigger challenge than say, Bob Dylan where there is just so much more to write about. Television, ditto, a great idea, and an huge challenge — there are so many musical ideas on that record, truly, that a book could easily turn into "dancing about architecture." You can't just pick titles based on, uh, the titles. I concur, this list is a little heavy on old white dudes (I count four women, including Meg White and Poison Ivy, and a paucity of people of color) but I would lay the blame at the feet of those who submitted lackluster (or unprofessional, and there seems to be a lot of that) proposals. Being clever enough to pitch Pussy Galore (a good idea in theory) (or ELO, which I can see as being very funny in the hands of the right lunatic) ain't enough if you are not up to tackling what is a very difficult subject. Take a look at some of the rejected proposals that the narcissist authors insist on posting -- if they are any indication of what David had to wade through, he deserves a fucking medal and your praise, and not cynical hipster bullshit questioning his vision because you don't like the finalists, or more likely, because your smarty-pants idea for a record no one cares about was dismissed, which I guarantee had more to do with your lame writing than the work of the artist.

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU. Someone had to say it.

Anonymous said...

Here here!

Anonymous said...

Re above comment

>>>I did not expect to be chosen for the final cut and wasn't disappointed in the least..

Then why bother? If you didn't really want to write a book, or didn't have faith in you own ideas or writing, why waste the 33 1/3 editors time, or insult the process (and those of us who worked very hard and didn't get picked) by doing something less than great? And then you have the nerve to be insulted with the final picks??

Anonymous said...

I do wonder about the representation of women on this list, which seems disappointingly skewed toward the Rolling Stone magazine crowd. (Are these the people who actually buy these books? Really?) Just out of curiosity, David, how many female writers made it to the final 27?

Anonymous said...

Ah, so of course it's basically another batch of worthless white boy indie rock and/or obscure white boy with an acoustic guitar in the 60's, 70's or 80's balladeer bullshit once again.

I've totally lost faith in your 33 1/3 imprint. Putting Aretha and tattooed thug idiot Lil FUCKING Wayne(!?) in there is like giving the survivors of Katrina a lollipop.

You disappoint me - almost every album picked sucks. Looks like out of the 170, you picked all the trash. Hope you don't sell more than a hundred per title.

Anonymous said...

On teh one hand, there's no way I'm buying another 33 1/3 book on Dylan, the Beatles, the Stones, Neil Young or Bowie. No disrespect to those authors, but I feel like I've read as many critical discourses on those guys as I have listened to their records.

On the other hand, as a commenter mentioned above, if publishing those obvious ones (and probably guaranteed sellers) manages to fund the printing of Op Ivy, Slint and Cramps books, then who am I to complain?

Liz Phair and AC/DC both seem like no-brainers. I'd definitely read those.

So yeah -- I'll admit these titles looked very uninspiring at first glance, and the fact that Lil Wayne is the only representative of hip-hop (on which the series is conspicuously light) seems very odd indeed, but I say we all just chill until we know more. For all we know, these proposals were so good that they just screamed to be published, and it'll all make sense when we see the final product. Good luck to those still in the running.

(And if I can just say, what's with the obsession on these comment boards about the number of female authors? It's really fucking tiresome.)

Anonymous said...

And to the guy above me who wishes that the series will only sell a few hundred per title because he doesn't like the selections, you are a vindictive piece of shit.

Anonymous said...

Grievances aside, let's all sit back for a moment and bask in the glory of Bill Fox's conspicuous absence from this list. What I would give to have been a fly on the wall when the Bill Fox guy opened the rejection e-mail.

Anonymous said...

As someone who used to work at Continuum and has been party to the 33.3 selection process, I think it’s worth stressing how much the individual proposal matters in these decisions. They can’t pick books based on an author’s gender or race or base their decision on how great an album is on its own. I’m sure David and co were hoping that some great proposals would come in for interesting albums that they love. Sometimes it doesn’t work out that way. Sometimes the albums you love get really mediocre unpublishable treatements. (Trust me, if they wanted to, they could publish a whole series of hip hop books about “What Public Enemy/Wu Tang/NWA meant to me coming of age in middle class white suburbia.”) And with the female author obsession, there has always been a more or less equal distribution of ladies/gentlemen on the team that makes these decisions. Again, it’s about the proposal.

…and no one’s seen any of these proposals. Have a little faith that they are doing their jobs. Remember when they announced the Celine Dion book? Take a deep breath and relax.

Anonymous said...

In addition to more hip hop, I hope the series tackles more country music in the future as well.

Anonymous said...

To everyone who keeps saying "it's the proposal, not the subject"----WE KNOW!

So, pray tell, how much more can be said about the Beatles? Dylan? Bowie? The Stones? The Dead? Johnny Cash? These are artists so heavily ingrained in the musical lexicon that there's already a wealth of information about them in books. I think it's just redundant to put yet ANOTHER Beatles book into the market when there's nothing particularly groundbreaking that could be said about it---unless Macca sent in the proposal.

I'm not upset I was cut from the shortlist; I'm just unimpressed at who was put in my place. I was expecting to be outed by The Zombies and New Order!

Cliff said...

Do you really believe that the human race has exhausted every interesting means of using text to interact with classic albums by Dylan, The Beatles, Bowie, etc.?

Maybe the people that turned in proposals on these books had the kind of imagination and interesting angles of approach that your proposal was lacking.

Anonymous said...

A far more compelling question is whether further glutting an already sagging and saturated book market at a time of economic decline with more of the same (Beatles/Stones/Dylan/etc.) makes for a sage sales approach. Regardless of the alleged insights, "interesting angles," and "imagination" contained therein, will a slim volume on any of the aforementioned really stand out in the crowd of other, bigger, more high-profile Beatles/Stones/Dylan works already collecting dust on bookstore shelves?

At least the outre titles had some niche sales potential. Hard to see much with the current list.

Jeremy said...

As one of the authors cut from the 170, I want to thank David for the opportunity and commend him on having the energy and wherewithal to undertake what looks in many ways to be an entirely thankless task.

I also want to assure him that many (maybe even most) of the potential authors entirely understand that the proposal is central, that the albums to be written about are not chosen because they are the best albums, and that being ultimately rejected does not turn (too many of) us instantly angry and vindictive. I mean really. Don't you think a writer's potential to BE that immature, peevish, and shortsighted came through in his or her writing in the first place? I think David (and, really, any experienced editor) can sense it between the lines; some of the writers who submitted didn't have a chance no matter what they thought they wanted to write about.

Joel McIver said...

Wow, so much disappointment and hostility. My proposal was one of the 170 and it didn't make the cut. I'm not complaining about it, so why are you?

Let's keep a sense of perspective here. Publishing is in dire economic straits at the moment: the fact that anything at all is being published apart from celebrity chef collections and footballers' memoirs is practically a miracle.

Joel

Andrew said...

No Britney. Pretty pissed about this.

Anonymous said...

Keep hope alive, pissed person. The Britney proposal writer (and any other worthy scribes) can still contact submissions78@yahoo.com for details about the (unsanctioned) compilation of 33 1/3 rejections currently in the works.

No proposal too outrageous. Don't miss this opportunity to give that lovingly-crafted pitch a worthy home of its own!

Edward Whitelock said...

Got David's email last night and while I am, of course, disappointed that my proposal isn't among the final 27, I can't share in the anonymous vitriol directed at both the process and the list. I've dealt with a number of presses, both academic and commercial, and can attest that the level of transparency that David brings to this whole process is a rarity. I have a lot of respect for how he runs this series and deals openly and honestly with authors.

Anonymous said...

Are you going to post actual information about submissions 78 or are you just going to throw your yahoo address up there like so many craigslist scammers?

And if you are a scammer, which i fully believe you are, shame on you for preying on these down-spirited hard working people at this vulnerable time. If I'm wrong, man up and show us some evidence.

Anonymous said...

While there is a certain obvious amount of sour grapes in some of these comments (which is natural,) it does strike me that the people who fall back on the QUALITY OF PROPOSAL defense are playing loose and fast with the naked evidence.

I have no doubt, none whatsoever, that some of the stranger proposed titles sent in by people who can't write, had nothing to say about the album, or merely intended to send a love letter to their favorite band in the hopes that they might become friends. But this is the tricky thing about 33 1/3-- it is effectively a validation method of one's tastes; all you need to do is go back and look at the comments when the giant list was first sent out. People went nuts over proposals for albums that they liked-- as if the mere fact of a book being proposed, let alone written, would somehow confer a legitimacy upon their idiosyncratic (and therefor "good") tastes.

However, the argument being made by the QUALITY OF PROPOSAL contingent necessarily contains a fallacy-- looking at this list, is there anyone who can honestly make the argument that somehow the BEST PROPOSALS coincided with the MOST EASILY MARKETABLE books? Was this miracle performed by Our Lord?

(And pay attention to the earlier commenter, btw, who said that the stranger books on the list won't make the cut-- he or she is right.)

I don't begrudge in ANY WAY, Continuum or David for picking works which necessarily will sell-- after all, they're not a non-profit-- and I recognize that the economy stinks, but I think we've hit a watershed moment in the history of the series. This is the round where the touted transparency and openness of the process has failed to produce any unique choices, let alone interesting or surprising, and instead left us with a very, very, very ordinary list of Albums That Can Move Units.

What makes this so disquieting is that it lays bare a certain, shall we say, willful manipulation on the part of 33 1/3-- there's an enormous amount of good will to be generated by the series and its Open Submissions that extends far beyond the people who submit. The process cultivates the image of being a different kind of music journalism-- something beyond the latest breathless 500-word reviews of the new My Chemical Romance Album and the creaky retrospectives about how Classic Rock Album X Changed Everything Forever-- that must now be considered a tool of marketing.

That feeling-- that the whole process was for naught but to establish a BRAND LOYALITY-- is the poorly understood reason why this list has generated criticism.

We're the Internet, we're submitting and interacting with the brand on its blog with the general impression that the final product will, in some way, resemble us-- instead we've got a list that could've been put together by a twenty year old intern at Spin.

So it begs the question-- if this is the direction it's going to go, why even bother hold submissions? Why not just pick the books first and then find the writers to do them?

Anonymous said...

While I understand the substance of your remarks, anonymous detractor above, given the rancorous tone of the commentary here lately, who'd wanna divulge much of anything openly for the sniping pleasure of the peanut gallery? No scams involved with submissions78, and no intent to cause anyone mental duress; just the chance to turn proverbial lemons into lemonade for interested writers.

Anonymous said...

Well, unless I see a website or some evidence that submissions78 is anything more than a man with a dream and a gift card to kinkos I'm gonna keep crying wolf.

C'mon man, are you a publisher or are you a vanity press or are you just a guy with an idea? Who cares about the peanut gallery's remarks, you don't see David coming in here and shutting the comments down just cause some bitter souls are taking out some frustration on it.
—Anon. Detractor.

John Scanlan said...

>>> Anon at 5:55pm: "So it begs the question-- if this is the direction it's going to go, why even bother hold submissions? Why not just pick the books first and then find the writers to do them".

Is your name, by any chance, Theodor Adorno? And if so, didn't you die some time ago!?

But, seriously, I think the only way this series can continue - with 10 to 12 titles a year, as it has been in recent years - is to have this kind of open call. Professional writers can't make enough money doing this, so you'd never get enough of them interested. Hence the proliferation of new writers.

I don't think the open call is just a ruse to garner a lot of interest. I echo the comments above that it is handled much better than would be the case with most publishers. In the first place, you don't need an agent, and on top of that the people at 33 1/3 don't just ignore you.

I never made the final shortlist and was disappointed, like everybody else. And I wrote more than a proposal - I sent a complete manuscript, which I had written between the last call for proposals in 2006 and this one (I was too late last time). So, maybe my idea sucks - that's fine. That's the publisher's call. They have to make decisions that seem, especially to first timers, brutual, unfair, etc., etc.

But, it's the only way that the open process can continue. I'm sure that the series will continue to pick first time writers

Anonymous said...

Submissions78 guy; I wrote one of the proposals you mentioned especially, and it is possible that I would be interested in your proposal. However, I have been burned too many times by sketchy, anonymous online calls for writers; so I would not feel comfortable emailing you unless you could identify yourself as a legitimate publisher in some manner or another. I understand if you may not want to compete with 33 1/3 on their turf, but at least provide a URL or some directory where we can know you are legit other than an email address.

Anonymous said...

I'm disappointed too with this list but I'll still buy books on:
AC/DC - Highway To Hell
Bob Dylan - Time Out Of Mind
The Cramps - Songs The Lord Taught Us
Johnny Cash - American Recordings
Leonard Cohen - Songs Of Leonard Cohen
The White Stipes - White Blood Cells
Thanks David but I wished you picked stuff like Nick Cave, The Drones, Crowded House, The Fall, Cyndi Lauper, Gillian Welch, Madonna, Karen Dalton, Portishead, Yoko Ono and Suicide.
Thanks again

Anonymous said...

I'd definitely buy books on Songs the Lord Taught Us, Time Out of Mind, Colossal Youth and Tonight's the Night.. and Graceland if it's a hatchet job!

Anonymous said...

To whoever did the picking - did you ever bother to get your thumbs out of your asses and explore anything beyond thrift store indie boy slacker rock?

This series is, beyond a doubt incredibly lacking in black music, experimental music, country music, folk music, reggae, jazz, etc. Most titles stray toward some obscure garage band idiocy and/or some dumb ass college radio DJ's wet dream of a playlist.

Your series once seemed to hold promise as being dynamic as all hell, with this round we now see that you will continue to publish the same tripe only accessible to overly emotional Berkley English lit dropouts and suicide girl wannabes holed up in some dreary hells kitchen apartment littered with mini vodka bottles.

Fuck you guys.

Anonymous said...

As someone posing as a broadener of everyone's horizons, you might want to avoid using "black music" as if that were a coherent genre category and not a dumbfuck substitution of a racial category for an aesthetic one.

Andrew said...

This is the internet so who/where would/could I rant to once I got rejected if we couldn't all meet here? How would this open call work?

Um, some nice ranting . . . 33 1/3 still has another round to go . . . so maybe, just maybe . . .

I thought "Dusty in Memphis" was terrible (where was Dusty in that book?) but I love "James Brown Live at the Apollo". I still thumb through it.

And where the hell is "There's a Riot Goin' On" I ordered it a month ago!

Giannis Drakos said...

Please,Please,PLEASE reconsider giving the chance or releasing 'Boys for Pele by Elizabeth Merrick'.It is such a seminal record,with so much to write and comment on,that surely it would be a pleasure to read about.Please,DO release it!

Bruce D. said...

Wow, the internet has really gone downhill in the last couple years. If I were David I would reconsider the wisdom of keeping the series as open and transparent as he has. Or at least doing\ something about disallowing anonymous comments.

BlackCoffeeDuck said...

I would love to get my hands on 'Boys for Pele by Elizabeth Merrick' too and 'Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) by S.H. Fernando, Jr.' would be great too. I see on your Continuum website you have pub dates for most of your forthcoming titles and even book covers up but the above two are missing. David can you please tell us what is going on with these two?????

Sid Smith said...

Well this is depressing. Not the list of finalists but the tone of commentary.

The thing is when you're a freelance writer (full-time or part-time) you submit proposals and they either get picked up or not.

If you believe your proposal has legs start hawking it around some other places rather than belly-aching (anonymously at that)about it.

Life is unfair and frequently we can't get what we'd like but nobody put a gun to your head and forced you into submitting a proposal.

And no, my submission didn't make past the second stage either.

We take the hit, consider what it might say or teach us about our proposal and move on.

Finally for those railing against the mainstream nature of the list...well why not start your own series dedicated to all the weird, wonderful and out-there albums that exist?

Be sure to let all of us here know where we can submit an idea for a publication

I Am Professor Ironside said...

I am really shocked by the tone of these commentaries -- the anger is appalling, the sour grapes atrocious.

Am I missing something, or would this, for instance, be an eclectic, wide-ranging list that defies the whiners?

AC/DC
Aretha
The Cramps
DInosaur Jr
Devo
ELO
Johnny Cash
Li'l Wayne
Neil Young
Television

From where I am standing, that covers gospel and roots music (Aretha and Johnny), punk rock (Cramps), new wave and smarty-pants art rock (Devo); post-Velvet poets/proto indie-alt (Television); arena rock/hard rock/classic rock (AC/DC);ironic arena prog (ELO); hip hip (Li'l Wayne); indie-alt noise (Dinosaur Jr); and one really sad, cosmic cowboy junkie lament (Tonight's the Night).

Not bad. A lot of good music, important records, and strong art. The Cramps and Neil Young on the same list? Pretty fucking cool if you ask me.

Sure, it would be nice to see more women, maybe a reggae record (Stir It Up? Marcus Garvey? Funky Kingston?) or some more "real" country (Loretta, George Jones, or maybe Wilie or Waylon). "Jazz" was specifically not included in this series, so no complaining there, please. But this is the hand David and Co were dealt, and it does not suck. Next time around maybe those who didn't make it, especially those who know how to write will take the time to go where this list does not.

And to those who think they can "start their own series" or the clod who thinks failed proposals will make a good book, good luck with that. You are going to discover very quickly that David and Co, make this look easy, but running this series is an absurdly difficult task and that good music writing is a rare bird indeed.

Anonymous said...

Why do some people assume that criticism of these final choices is some sort of sour grapes? Some people just aren't inspired to read something else about Dylan or the Beatles or the Stones. That's a legit gripe. It's a pretty uninspired list.

Anonymous said...

I just want to say that I've read the white stripes proposal and it's fucking amazing. That is all.

Anonymous said...

Compared to the original short list, this one is terribly rockist.

M said...

On title/artist alone I'd be most interested in reading the Grateful Dead, Lil Wayne, and Op Ivy books--none of which, complaining hordes, is anything remotely close to obvious canon fodder. The Cramps, too--though now that Lux has died I imagine that's a gimme. I hope all four make it in. But as can never be stressed enough, it's really down to the proposals/authors to make things roll. I haven't read a new 33 in a while (money is tight), but I'm still happy to have been part of it (I wrote the Prince book). Good luck to David and everyone else.

Iren said...

Of these based only on the titles I would be interested in:
AC/DC - Highway to Hell
The Cramps - Songs the Lord Taught Us
David Bowie - Ziggy Stardust
Devo - Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo
Johnny Cash - American Recordings

As a reader of the series I would also echo the idea that there is a lot of writing on: The Beatles, The Stones, and Dylan. It would be nice to be able to find just one solid book on Devo or The Cramps in my local book shop.

lestro said...

i will buy that op ivy book the day it comes out.

whoever publishes it.

Anonymous said...

I should preface this by saying that I'm glad my proposal didn't make this cutoff--I've lost my enthusiasm for the album I chose, so it's a relief; good call on Continuum's part. Seriously.

That said, this list is so predictably Williamsburg, it's not even funny.

Geezer Baby Boomer rock? Check.
70s gimmick rock? Check.
90s alt rock? Check.
Vague nod towards contemporary music? Check.
All those early 1980s new wave/pop acts that were on the short list? Che...uh, nope. Stupid me; I forgot--you can't talk about them in a critical work unless you're being ironic and dismissive. Wouldn't want to upset the apple cart.

It was said a million times in the comments when the Long list came out, but it bears repeating: 33 1/3 would/should be a great forum for exploring popular works that haven't already been scrutinized to death. Boy, that didn't happen, did it?

I'm sure they are great proposals created by excellent writers who will find new ways to explore these oft-covered artists, but I have no interest in reading YET AGAIN about Dylan, the Beatles, Paul Simon, Aretha Franklin, Dino Jr or any other pet faves/close personal friends of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee.

For the third open call in a row now, 33 1/3 has compiled a list where there's not a damn thing on it I want to read about. I am really disappointed.

I am a Tumblr Man myself said...

Five of these artists already have books on them, six if you think Lou Reed WAS the Velvets.

That would be the really boring thing about this list; redoubling on artists who already have books.

'Rockist' is such a great word.

Nick said...

Here's the books I would be most interested in reading from the remaining list:

Aretha Franklin - Amazing Grace
The Beatles - The Beatles
The Cramps - Songs the Lord Taught Us
David Bowie - Ziggy Stardust
Neil Young - Tonight's the Night
Paul Simon - Graceland
Television - Marquee Moon
The White Stripes - White Blood Cells

Alan said...

It's reasonable that people who got rejected (like me) should look at who got accepted and try to find patterns. And it seems to me the list is trying to do two things: shift some units by publishing books on albums and artists absolutely everyone knows already (White album, Ziggy, Dylan, Stones, Radiohead, Simon, Cash); and trying to look cool and hip by publishing on artists hardly anyone knows (Slint, Phair, Ween).

My advice, then, to anyone submitting in future would be to ignore anyone or anything in the middle. Nothing that's quite well known but not been heavily discussed already. The non-appearance of the Tori Amos book may be part of that. My proposal went down the middle, and it got shot by both sides. Only exception - the Marquee Moon book. Looking forward to that one.

Btw check out my upcoming "Digimodernism" book - postmodernism is dead, long live its successor.

M said...

If you're going to choose artists hardly anyone knows, you're going to have to do better than Phair or Ween. Maybe Slint, except that band has as rabid a fan base as NMH, the best selling book in the series.

Anonymous said...

Also, I think if an announced book has not appeared yet, it's not because David is embargoing it in his desk drawer, but because the author hasn't written the book...

Alan said...

M - even Wikipedia describes Ween as "generally unknown". And it's quite possible (sometimes even inevitable) for an artist to have a rabid fan base and be almost unknown in the culture.

Anon ^ - maybe you're right. Maybe not though. It's been known for publishers to refuse to put out delivered manuscripts when they're not good enough/not what they wanted.

Hey, I was trying to find some patterns in what was selected. Obviously a lot depends too on the nature of the proposal, as many have pointed out. But it's naive to think that that's ALL that matters. Continuum have salaries to pay and don't really want to go out of business, and that's fair enough - it's not a hippie collective. David's looking for what he feels are the "best books" - we're sitting around trying to figure out what he means in this context by "best", and that's fair enough too.

Anonymous said...

I think now would be a good time for a visit from the league table.

And for what it's worth, if anyone is remotely familiar with the series, they should know that these books rarely come out on time and are almost always late. I get the feeling that if a manuscript were delivered, the manuscript would be published...

Zombie said...

Great list! Good luck to everyone who made it. Here are my picks:

The Beatles - The Beatles
Devo - Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo
Dinosaur Jr: You're Living All Over Me
ELO - Out of the Blue
Johnny Cash - American Recordings
Leonard Cohen - Songs of Leonard Cohen
Neil Young - Tonight's the Night
Operation Ivy - Energy
Slint - Spiderland
Television - Marquee Moon
Violent Femmes - Violent Femmes
White Stripes - White Blood Cells
Young Marble Giants - Colossal Youth

Anonymous said...

My picks:

The Cramps - Songs the Lord Taught Us
Leonard Cohen - Songs of Leonard Cohen
Lou Reed - Metal Music Machine
Operation Ivy - Energy
Radiohead - Kid A
Slint - Spiderland
Television - Marquee Moon
Ween - Chocolate and Cheese
Young Marble Giants - Colossal Youth

John Mark said...

Hi everybody,
John Mark here. I am going to try not to get too involved in the conversation here while David is away on vacation, but I thought there were a few misconceptions flying around that should be cleared up and a couple comments on the series...

1. We are not embargoing any books. Especially books where we know there is an interested audience that is dying to read the books. They simply haven't been written yet.

2. The proposal REALLY IS all we have to go on when making the decisions. Of course, the proposal has a few key components (author bio, how you would help promote the book, which books in the series do you admire, etc.) that are there for a reason.

3. To quote from David's call for submissions: "My advice would be this: we are looking to sell some books. That’s the bottom line. If you are absolutely convinced that we could sell 4,000 or 5,000 copies of a book about your chosen album, then go for it."

4. That said, this is by no means an exact science. For example, none of us would have guessed when the series began that a book on Neutral Milk Hotel would be at the top of the sales list. We are figuring it out as we go along.

5. Those of you who sent in proposals have made our jobs delightfully difficult. I've enjoyed reacquainting myself with some old favorites and being poked to try some new music as well. We have had plenty of disagreements around here over which books could work and which books won't. The proposals are all excellent, but at this point the margins are slim and it boils down to which proposals are slightly more excellent.

Alright, carry on with the spirited debate. But please try to be nice to one another. Thanks!
JM

Alan said...

Thanks John Mark.

But some of us are just feelin the pain, y'know?! Still, we'll get over it!

blue-straggler said...

Here's votes for Slint, Lou Reed, and Devo, in that order.

Anonymous said...

"Of course, the proposal has a few key components (author bio, how you would help promote the book, which books in the series do you admire, etc.) that are there for a reason."

Hmmmmm. Nepotism anyone?

Anonymous said...

Hmmmmm. Nepotism anyone?
This accusation doesn't make a bit of sense.

Anonymous said...

Can anyone explain why Continuum finds it necessary to publish (albeit by blog) this preliminary list of 'finalists' in the first place? Why not just announce when the final selections have been made? I'm sure there must be a reason- can someone enlighten me?

Anonymous said...

>> "Can anyone explain why Continuum finds it necessary to publish (albeit by blog) this preliminary list of 'finalists'"

I think it is probably something to do with the fact that expectations of the final shortlist arriving sometime the week before last, followed by a growing clamour for news on the blog. 'Poor sods' wanting to be put out of their misery, and all that - I think it was a response to that.

My guess is that they (i) don't know how many of these 27 they can sign up (maybe for economic reasons), and/or (ii) they are still arguing the merits of some of those listed in the 27.

Anonymous said...

I still find it hard to believe that the "BEST" proposals also happen to be remarkably large acts.

Let's just all write about Coldplay and U2 while we're at it.

Ben said...

This is a saddeningly white, ROCKIST, and boring list. Let the dumbing down revisionism of rock history continue! VIVA LE ROCQUE CLASSIQUE!! no other genres matter!

Anonymous said...

Here's a question for you...

How many of the original 600 submissions were about "non-rock" albums?? There are two works on this list by African-Americans, that is about 1 in 14.. is that about the same ratio as the big list, or the first short list? Let's allow for any randomness or chance that the strongest proposals by writers with vision and a track record tilted slightly towards white alt rock or white classic rock or white punk rock (btw, I love that the people who are calling out this list as being safe just ignore the presence of outsider art bands like The Cramps, or Television, or Devo, I mean, seriously, Devo were the most successful of that lot, but who woulda thunk that they had ANY chance with that gimmick?) and also admit that in any given round of submissions they could have just as easily tilted the other way with lots of hip hop and a dozen good stabs at funk or reggae or R&B or other "non-white" genres (God, so fucking distasteful just saying that, but the haters are complaining about segreation, so,... )

... and THEN let's look at the resulting finalists, and ask, is it fairly reflective of the participating group of potential authors, given the vagaries of the writers and what they actually delivered.. remember, the 33.3 editors did not solicit any specific titles. There is chaos theory at work here, as well as pure chance and a good amount of looking out for number one (better to pitch a book that has a chance of selling 4000 or so copies, no trifling amount if you know anything about book sales, and the invite to submit did say that right up front)... SO, it seems silly to quibble coz this list didn't cater to your own world view. You can bet there are some good books in the works here.

Anonymous said...

The Cramps, Television and Devo are about as Outsider as Barack Obama-- there may have been a point when these groups were off the cultural radar, when their aesthetic choices and milieus put them in a place where the vast majority of the culture ignored them, but all 3 of these groups have achieved a status that is, frankly, Classic Rock without its 60s/early 70s radio connotations.

When I see these bands names, I think of consummate insiders, which is something that I am sure aided them in the decision making process. If this list of 27 tells us anything, it is that ALL of the names/bands/groups on it are "safe" choices.

When Operation Ivy and Slint are coming up as your vanguard, you know damn well that you're living in the snoozeville of old men.

Don't misinterpret this to be a knock at Continuum and David-- I know these folks have money to make-- but it does belie the underlying theory of the open submissions process; I would like to know why a call for submissions that produces so many repeat artists exists? Why not just choose the albums beforehand and then find the writers?

Anne-Marie said...

^ I agree. (re: 'la rock classique')

The problem with the list is not that the books will be bad (how could anyone possibly know?). The point is simply - and this is what the PROPOSAL defenders are missing - that we are not obliged to buy every book in this series. So I, frankly, will never find out if the latest spin on Bowie is from an astonishingly new angle, or not.

The "nobody thought the Celine Dion book would be good" point is skewed, too. That book was not really about her album - it barely analyses it at all, except for in the last pages. A much fairer example (but don't read this as a snipe at specific titles) would be "everyone thought the OK Computer / Highway 61 / Harvest book would be boring". And, again, I wouldn't know, because I didn't rush out and buy them.

I don't think it actually makes much economimc sense to publish on these albums. Where's the 'buzz'? (Bear in mind the sales of NMH, hardly as canonical a title as most of these).

So, we can be fairly sure that the approaches are quite unusual. But so might be that £50 book in Borders' window on Landscape Gardening... I don't think that's quite the point.

How to avoid this? How to make sure that the very best writers don't happen to propose on such tired titles (making it unlikely they'll be viewed with the enthusiasm they deserve)? Oh, yeah... I remember! -

The one book per artist rule. Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

Wow, if they are pissing this many people off, they must be doing something right...

Anonymous said...

THE CRAMPS ARE CLASSIC ROCK??

DEAR LORD, WHAT HAST THOU WROUGHT??????

Anonymous said...

What a disappointment.

Dave B. said...

For all the people who are complaining that the list is too mainstream or that Devo/Television/Cramps are classic rock, I'm not seeing too much in the way of better suggestions...

Maybe that's because it's easier to tear other people down than to put your ass on the line and do something better?

CMR said...

Spiderland, please!

And 24 Hour Revenge Therapy must be chronicled too! C'mon; it'll sell tons, I promise!

Anonymous said...

ween?! amazing!

Dave H said...

This comments thread has me depressed about the state of music-writing today, or about the Internet, I'm not sure which. So many ridiculous generalizations and mis-characterizations about music here. And so much narcissism! I'm getting the impression people think just by submitting a proposal they deserve a book contract. What kind of sense does that make? It reminds me of when I taught college-freshmen, that 'I deserve an A grade just for showing up' mentality.

I'm not saying every album on this list personally excites me, and certainly there were others on the original list that excited me more. But the logic, or lack thereof, behind so many of these comments is appalling.

Anonymous said...

Seriously, grow up people! I would read most of these--Beatles, Slint, Ween, Aretha whatever. What a bunch of babies.

Anonymous said...

I agree with everyone who thinks this is a really annoying list -- less representative of the range of rock music (esp. black styles!) then previous lists, and containing more uninteresting music then past lists, though of course none of us will agree about which ones are uninteresting.

The company would have to be really dumb, though, if the explanation is commercial calculation. Look at the prices these books are selling for on Amazon -- the indie ones are almost all going for full price, while the Beatles and other titles of popular records can be had for under $2. Maybe because they printed too many of these and now have to dump them, but I think it's because, as Christgau says, these books aren't for people who love rock, they're for people who love rock criticism. People who love rock criticism listen to Rum, Sodomy and the Lash or (put your choice here).

Anonymous said...

re: commercial calculation, you should do a search for "league table" on the blog and see which books are selling before telling Continuum that they are really dumb.

Anonymous said...

Re- the reference above to Christgua's comment about these being books for people who love rock criticism, as opposed to those 'who love rock music'. That's fine, as long as it is not HIS brand of rock criticism they love!

Seriously, if there is one thing that this series of books shows it is how overrated the writing of the so-called 'dean of American rock critics' and many of his dinosaur colleagues are. If you want to compare him with writers of his own era, he isn't fit to polish Nick Kent or Charles Shaar Murray's shoes, dude. And try reading Geoff Dyer's But Beautiful and going back to rock crit. I'm afraid, rock 'criticism' doesn't really cut it anymore - I mean, what's the fuckin' standard that's being upheld? What's the ground upon which one's criticism stands.

It is instructive to read John Perry's Electric Ladyland book in this series, and his account of Christgua's judgement on Hendrix from his lofty perch as 'dean of the critics'. And doubly instructive to consider how many more enlightening reads this series has provided when compared to the useless canonizing of the likes of Christgua, et al.

Anonymous said...

To whoever wrote this:

"Putting Aretha and tattooed thug idiot Lil FUCKING Wayne(!?) in there is like giving the survivors of Katrina a lollipop. "

congratulations, you are the dumbest person on the internet.

And for the record, the best music can turn into the shittiest book very easily, and vice versa-- see Daydream Nation vs the Celine Dion book. So, the list tells me little.

That said, I sure ain't reading another book about the Beatles.

Anonymous said...

"I was really expecting a deluge of Dylan, Pink Floyd, Velvets, Smiths, Stones and Radiohead pitches. Instead, we get Slint, Ween, and Britney - hurrah!"

Anyone remember this quip when the long list was first posted way back in January? Funny how half the bands mentioned eventually ended up on the final list....

Anonymous said...

goddammit i was really looking forward to reading a book about modest mouse's lonesome crowded west

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, here are the new titles I'd like to see:

AC/DC - Highway to Hell
Aretha Franklin - Amazing Grace
The Cramps - Songs the Lord Taught Us
David Bowie - Ziggy Stardust
Devo - Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo
Dinosaur Jr: You're Living All Over Me
Johnny Cash - American Recordings
Kiss - Destroyer
Leonard Cohen - Songs of Leonard Cohen
Liz Phair - Exile in Guyville
Lou Reed - Metal Music Machine
Neil Young - Tonight's the Night
Rolling Stones - Some Girls
Television - Marquee Moon
Violent Femmes - Violent Femmes
White Stripes - White Blood Cells

Anonymous said...

Just gimme The Cramps and ELO -- the two ends of the spectrum of white boy rock!

Anonymous said...

Songs the Lord Taught Us 'cause Lux's death has got me thinking about the Cramps again. Are We Not Men? 'cause...is there really no 33 1/3 on Devo? Now, that's a rock tale worth telling.

Anonymous said...

Please...Please let Operation Ivy make the list. It is such an important album to so many people around the world. And I have long wondered the magic that went into making that album. The importance of that album in Punk and Ska can not be overstated. It is the only album by them and it inspired millions of us to pick up a guitar.

ABlock said...

Question: how do you know when everything has already been said about any given subject? Is there a metric? Was there a big canyon somewhere filled with Information, Perspective, and Analysis on Leonard Cohen, and maybe ten years ago somebody took the very last bit of it to make a crappy blog, and now we're stuck with nothing else to say? Also, where did they information come from in the first place? God, or possibly aliens? Can we write them and request more? If we do, should we include an SASE?

Subquestion: What subjects have already reached this limit? I'm looking at you, Thomas Mann!

Philip M Ward said...

I was disappointed not to make it beyond the 170 finalists, especially as my proposal was on a female (folk-rock) performer and there are so few women artists on the shortlist. However, I won’t be joining the whingers and mud-slingers. If you’re a serious writer with a serious proposal, you take it elsewhere; you don’t hang around bad-mouthing the editors, as many disgruntled souls are doing here. The final list looks to strike a balance between commercial imperatives and risk-taking, which is much what I would have expected from this series to date. I hope, after all that hard work, David had a relaxing vacation. Mind you, I intend to take up that offer of feedback on my proposal!

Gregory said...

I'm mildly disappointed that Lil Wayne beat Arcade Fire to this stage of the game. If there are any 'wild card' possibilities, please consider Funeral.

Out of these I'm most excited for Radiohead, White Stripes, The Beatles and Violent Femmes.

Anonymous said...

Other than White Blood Cells, this list is entirely "meh." I was hoping that they'd shift more toward 2000s music like Sigur Ros etc.

pegleg said...

OK, I'll say it. What's the big deal about Arcade Fire? I mean, I think they're a decent band, and I'd prefer to listen to them than many other bands, but why this adulation like they're doing something completely groundbreaking? To my ears, they are an amalgam of Echo and the Bunnymen/the Alarm/and Belle and Sebastian. Again, all good influences to have, in my book. I read these lavish pieces about the wonder of Arcade Fire and am ready to be amazed, only to end up shrugging my shoulders.

WC said...

PLEASE do a book on Ween. They have a huge catalog and are ripe for critical analysis but they are not taken seriously by critics so there's nothing on them. Their music has much more going on in it than some of these other titles (Op Ivy?), and some of these other titles have been critically analyzed to death (Liz Phair, Radiohead, the Stones...). Please fill the void and write the first book on Ween!

ZERO INTEREST said...

Please, I beg you to release the book about Ween's "Chocolate And Cheese"! If you do, I promise to instantly go and buy every other book in the series!

Anonymous said...

Liz Phair - Exile In Guyville. That's all I have to say.

desirelines23 said...

yeah

Liz Phair - Exile in Guyville

for its influence, it's a highly regarded album which changed the musical landscape for female singer songwriters. From Lilith Fair to Riot Grrrl, EIG moved people to discuss it, hate it and worship it.

D. said...

I for one wanted so much to read a book about Pussy Galore, but I see no harm in including some broad-interest titles. There are still some solid choices I would definitely buy and read. Lou Reed, Cash, Phair, Aretha, Dylan, the Cramps(!!), Neil's arguably best album, the Stones, Television, Femmes, Stripes ... i.e. a pretty good percentage of the 27.
Congratulations to those on the short(er) list! And no sour grapes, I'll try to publish elsewhere. Everyone else please stop whining.