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

Friday, April 27, 2012

Lethem in Details

This ain't no party/ This ain't no disco/ This ain't no foolin' around. No, this is music criticism, and in the right hands it's serious business. The latest installment in the addictive 33 1/3 line of music books—each of which pairs an author with an iconic pop album—finds novelist Jonathan Lethem in deep consultation with his 15-year-old self over the secret messages hidden all over Talking Heads' third album, Fear of Music. …When Lethem's really on a roll, as he is through most of this, overthinking becomes contagious.”


1. At The Daily Beast, Brian Gresko interviews Jonathan Lethem about his 33 1/3 on Talking Heads Fear of Music:

Lethem analyzes each of the songs in his book, alternating between close readings of lyrics, song structure, and meditations on the album as a whole. “Cities” is imagined as a “metropolis on wheels,” “Memories Can't Wait” becomes “a dreadnought of a song, [wearing] an exoskeleton of reverb and sonic crud as it grinds grimly uphill.” His prose is as sharp as ever, and his visual evocations demand accompaniment by the tracks themselves. As he puts it in the epigraph, “turn it up, for f--k's sake.”
2. Lethem reads at Skylight Books in LA this Sunday the 29th at 5pm. More details here.

3. The open call for proposals to write a book in the series ends on MONDAY, APRIL 30TH.  So get down to it this weekend. Guidelines and helpful Qs and As in the comments here.

4. The Lethem volume is finally available via Amazon.com in the US if you are so inclined.

5. Not particularly related to anything, but David has my copy of The One that I'm looking forward to reading eventually. But in the meantime, this weekend I re-read this fantastic 2006 Rolling Stone piece Lethem wrote on James Brown.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Lethem at Skylight Books 4/29

Sunday, April 29
Skylight Books
1818 N. Vermont Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90027

With the band Big Mess playing some Talking Heads classics live on stage.

This is the last west coast event scheduled with Jonathan for his Talking Heads 33 1/3.  He will also be reading in Waltham, Mass in early June.  More on that here.

Also, we're getting down to the last couple days of the 33 1/3 open submission period, closing April 30th.  Guidelines and more comments than you can shake a stick at can be found here.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

8 days and counting...

Just over a week to go, if you're planning on submitting a proposal for the series, this time around. We have 100 proposals in so far - so if you are sending one in, it looks like you have a half-decent shot! I haven't read any of the proposals submitted yet, but the spread of subject matter is wonderful - can't wait to see what we end up with. Thanks to everybody who's sent one in so far, and we're looking forward to seeing what else comes in between now and Monday 30th April...

Friday, April 20, 2012

Levon Helm, RIP

There are dozens of lovely obituaries of Levon Helm available - I like this one from the LA Times. And this quote in particular, about his childhood in Arkansas: "I would go right into Chapel Silas' grocery story and Mr. Silas had one of the best jukeboxes in Phillips County, and I would sit there and feed that jukebox and he would feed me, you know, bologna and cheese." The very sad passing of Levon Helm has prompted me to re-read (again!) John Niven's wonderful novella about the Big Pink era. (It was great to hear Barney Hoskyns raving about it at the recent pop conference in NYC.)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Lethem in Slate

"We asked Lethem to recommend 10 essential tracks for those new to Talking Heads, which, from 1975 to 1991, created a catalog of songs as eclectic and original as those of any of their rock and pop contemporaries."

Spotify time!

Fear of Music reviewed in The Atlantic

A lovely review of Jonathan Lethem's 33 1/3 on Talking Heads' Fear of Music by Brian Gresko for the Atlantic.

Full text of the review here!
“His achievement in Fear of Music is to let his personal passion for the album inform his thoughts on it with a vital urgency, without ever allowing those feelings to run rampant and obscure the work at hand. …[It is] a powerful piece of scholarship on a band that deserves, and whose work holds up to, close examination of the serious kind Lethem does here. [Lethem] revels in Fear of Music's strain, the way it encompasses punk and disco, aggression and passivity, paranoia and resolve, gleefully dancing its way off the brink. This ain't no party, indeed.”

And here's a reminder of the upcoming event schedule (with the first event happening TONIGHT in Claremont, CA)

April 19, 6pm (Thursday)
Rhino Records in Claremont, CA (with Big Mess band)

April 29, 5pm (Sunday)
Skylight Books in Los Angeles, CA (with Big Mess band)

June 6, 7pm (Wednesday)
"A Book, A Band, and a Brew" at Watch City Brewery in Waltham, Mass (with Winterpills band), hosted by Back Pages Books.
(Note that admission fee for this event covers the price of a book and a complimentary drink.)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Jonathan Lethem interview at Salon.com

Full text here!
"The collision of Lethem and Talking Heads makes perfect sense. Both can’t escape being identified with New York – or, in Lethem’s case, Brooklyn – and despite working in disparate modes, each brings the formalism and precision of the high arts to popular forms."

The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin also has a shorter interview leading up to the event at Rhino Records in Claremont, CA on Thursday, April 19. For more information on that reading/rock show, check the post directly below this one.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Jonathan Lethem
Thursday, April 19th at 6pm
Rhino Records, Claremont, CA
Reading from and signing copies of his 33 1/3 on Talking Heads' Fear of Music
With Big Mess performing Talking Heads classics on stage afterward

Saturday, April 14, 2012

So we have just learned that a selection of 33 1/3s on kindle are today's amazon daily deal. Get 'em for $0.99 today, april 14 only!


Now expired. Hope some of you got some good deals!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Accepting proposals until April 30th...

Just in case anybody is hunting around for this information, below is the full text of what we posted, a few weeks ago.

And there are some useful (I hope!) answers to some very pertinent questions in the comments section of the original post, which is linked here.

Proposals have been arriving in a steady trickle, on an amazing range of potential subjects. With two and a half weeks to go, there's still plenty of time to send one in, if you're up for it!


Bloomsbury is thrilled to announce a call for new proposals for the acclaimed 33 1/3 book series, previously published by Continuum. (Bloomsbury acquired Continuum in July 2011).

The series – each volume of which focuses on one popular music album of the last several decades – started in September 2003 and has published 85 titles to date. Books in the series so far have taken a wide range of approaches, on subjects ranging from albums by the Kinks to James Brown, from Bob Dylan to Prince, from the Pixies to Public Enemy, and from the Beastie Boys to Celine Dion.

In these new proposals, we’ll be looking for original research, for stories in the history of popular music (recent or otherwise) that haven’t been told too often (if at all), and for perspectives that will broaden and develop the discipline of writing about music, as read by a global readership of music scholars and fans.

Proposals will be considered for books about any album that hasn’t already been covered in the series, or isn’t already under contract. (The Wikipedia page on the series can help with this.) Your choice of album is precisely that: yours. Titles in the series typically sell 4-5,000 copies or more: if you’re convinced that enough readers around the world would rush out to buy your book, then go ahead and persuade us!

All resulting books published in the series as a result of this call for proposals will be published under the Bloomsbury Academic imprint during 2013 and 2014. (All existing titles in the series will also be re-branded as Bloomsbury Academic titles, in due course.)

We will be accepting new proposals between the dates of March 19th and April 30th, 2012. Nothing sooner, nothing later.

Interested authors should send in one proposal, about one album. Multiple submissions cannot be accepted.

All proposals must be submitted via email. The address for submissions is as follows:


The subject line of your email must use this format: “Proposal for Madonna’s Ray of Light”. (That’s an example only, of course…)

Only proposals sent to 33proposals@gmail.com will be considered – no exceptions! Any questions about the proposal process should be posted to the comments section of the 33 1/3 blog , or on the wall of the series facebook page: we will answer them there.

All proposals will receive an automated reply, acknowledging receipt. Once the window closes at the end of April, we will need around 3 months before our publishing decisions are made: everybody will be notified in person at that point.

Word count on the books signed up will be between 30,000 and 40,000. No exceptions allowed.

There will be royalties payable on all print and electronic editions of your book, as well as foreign rights deals, etc – but no advances will be paid against those royalties.

Your proposal must contain all of the following in order to be considered:

1. Your professional CV/resume, including full contact details;
2. A draft annotated table of contents for the book and an approximate date of completion;
3. A draft introduction/opening chapter for the book, of around 2,000 words;
4. Your analysis of the most relevant competing books already published about the artist in question or the scene surrounding that artist – and how your book will differ;
5. A one-page sheet of how you would help Bloomsbury Academic market your book – websites/forums/listservs you’d contact directly; any artist involvement you might expect; any college-level courses on which you think your book could be used, and so on;
6. Up to 1,000 words on which book, or parts of books, already published in the series you would aim to emulate on some level;

You should attach all of this in a readable format to your email as a PDF or .doc or .docx file – if you could include it all as one full document rather than several attachments, we would appreciate that enormously.

Finally, please do share this call for proposals on message boards, listservs, facebook, twitter, blogs, and with any interested colleagues – thank you. We look forward to receiving and reading your proposal!

David Barker PhD
Publishing Director, Bloomsbury Academic US


Monday, April 09, 2012

Jonathan Lethem Event Schedule for Talking Heads Fear of Music 33 1/3

We have several unique events lined up to celebrate the publication of Jonathan Lethem's volume in the series on Talking Heads' Fear of Music. Each event will combine Lethem reading from and discussing the book with a live band playing Talking Heads classics. Probably not at the same time, but nevertheless, should be a lot of fun.

April 19, 6pm (Thursday)
Rhino Records in Claremont, CA (with Big Mess band)

April 29, 5pm (Sunday)
Skylight Books in Los Angeles, CA (with Big Mess band)

June 6, 7pm (Wednesday)
"A Book, A Band, and a Brew" at Watch City Brewery in Waltham, Mass (with Winterpills band), hosted by Back Pages Books.
(Note that admission fee for this event covers the price of a book and a complimentary drink.)

On another note, the advance copies have just arrived from the printers, which means the book should be in stores and online within the next week or so. In the meantime, the first 23 pages are available as a free preview on the Continuum website here. Just click "preview" beneath the cover art.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Amazing Grace author Aaron Cohen on the radio tomorrow

Aaron Cohen will be a guest on NPR's "Sound Opinions," joining hosts Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis to discuss the 40th anniversary of Aretha's "Amazing Grace." It airs on Friday night at 8:00 (CST) and will be rebroadcast on Saturday morning at 11:00.

Live in Chicago? Great! You can listen in at 91.5 FM.

For the rest of you the Sound Opinions website will have a live stream. http://www.soundopinions.org/ or http://www.wbez.org/

Podcasts will also be available on the "Sound Opinions" site following the broadcast.