Tomes Of The Times
The current economic holocaust has had an unexpected benefit on my life. Since we cancelled the majority of our channels on satellite due to the cost in addition to the fact that most TV is now a vast wasteland of infomercials and reality drivel I’ve started reading again. I am now “Uncle E, The Devourer Of Books”! Fiction, biographies, musical histories and theory, virtually anything I can get my hands on, is gobbled up in a matter of days, leaving me hungry for more.
Words And Music: A History Of Pop In The Shape Of A City, by Paul Morley*
Paul Morley, an integral part of record label and cultural trendsetters ZTT Records during the 80’s, delves incredibly deep, exploring the history of pop music utilizing “The City” as a metaphor, relying on not only his experience as a writer for the venerable NME but his obvious passion for the overall subject of pop music in general. Music is a powerful thing, ugly and beautiful, life altering and mindless pabulum, and Morley analyzes and organizes his thoughts with humor and the mapping skill of a trained musical cartographer. It takes some time to get into the detail and the writing style is anything but “friendly” (kind of like the musical equivalent of The Iliad) , but once you get past the first 100 pages or so you’re hooked.
“CREEM, America’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll Magazine”, various authors
Creem magazine, early supporters of Iggy and the Stooges, the MC5 and Alice Cooper (to name but a few), home to Cameron Crowe, Lester Bangs and Boy Howdy Beer (designed by none other than R. Crumb!), this was a music magazine that differentiated itself from Rolling Stone by championing the underdog, the punk, and with a writing style that was dangerous, honest and very rock and roll. As a matter of fact the most (in)famous (other than Crowe) writer they had, Lester Bangs, died like a rock star. When they found his body, the record that was on his turntable at the time was The Human League’s “DARE”, according to eye witnesses. This tome is not so much a detailed history of the magazine but rather a hand picked selection of articles and photos in addition to reminisces by surviving editors, writers and musicians on the historical importance CREEM had on their careers and their lives.
THIS IS UNCOOL: The 500 Greatest Singles Since Punk And Disco, by Garry Mulholland*Truth in advertising, the title says it all. This is a collection of mini essays on punk, post punk and disco singles released from 1976-1999. A good majority of the essays are accompanied by the original single covers and each year is kicked off with a mini history of not just the music of that year but also some facts of general historical importance. The music selection is, for the majority, biased towards British bands (other than the disco tracks), and the writing style is intelligent and humorous. Mulholland’s passion for music is evident, he truly has a love for his subjects, and it’s the perfect “bathroom book”, if you know what I mean.
The Repairman Jack series of novels, by F. Paul Wilson
Pulp fiction through and through and nothing to do with music. Repairman Jack is a modern day mercenary living in New York, “fixing” problems that the law won’t. He’s an unwilling participant in a supernatural fight between two benign forces and the world hangs in the balance. Cheap thrills for sure, but written in an engaging and thrilling style that just won’t let me put the damn thing down and forces me to snatch up each successive volume in the series before I finish the one I’m reading. Good fun, these!
*Special thanks to DJ Herb for lending me these fine books! I’ll send you the Morley book back soon.