All posts filed under: Books

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BOOK REVIEW: Kevin Prested, “Punk U.S.A.: The Rise & Fall Of Lookout Records”

Kevin Prested does a fine job with his detailed history of Lookout Records, the Berkeley, California-based independent record label which gave a voice and a home to punk bands of the late ’80’s and early ’90’s – most notably, Green Day, Screeching Weasel, Operation Ivy and others.  There is an emotional, vested interest in the work done by Mr. Prested, which comes across and makes this an interesting read.  Bands whose music I’ve never had any connection to or, if I’m being honest, interest in, did give me pause to think and become a bit curious.  He tells the story as a fan and observer, yet his reporting comes across in a proper “just the facts” fashion as the label’s story unfolds, winds and ultimately implodes. From its initial founding by Larry Livermore as an outlet for his own band, The Lookouts to the partnership with David Hayes that became strained; the signing and successes of Green Day and Operation Ivy to the legal and distribution calamities that befell the label – all of it …

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BOOK REVIEW: Mark Blake, “Pretend You’re In A War: The Who & The Sixties”

In this period of celebration for The Who’s 50th Anniversary comes this excellent book by Mark Blake.  Pretend You’re In A War: The Who & The Sixties is – for me – a bit different from the dozens of other books written about the band over the decades.  This is the first time I can recall reading something with depth and insight into the machinery behind The Who; it isn’t just another band biography.  While it’s always been known about some of the “stunts” pulled by their management – Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp – this books tells tales that alter between shock and hysterical. Aside from framing the band’s story with the obligatory backgrounds on the individual band members and their childhoods, Blake tries to go into detail about Stamp and Lambert and how these two, with no management or real business background, managed to take this band to the pinnacle of international fame, wealth and notoriety.  Of course, with their drunken and drugged-out hi-jinks, it left the band always needing to work because …

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BOOK REVIEW: Simon Philo, “British Invasion: The Crosscurrents of Musical Influence”

Another study (as opposed to pop history biography) that examines the qualities of the bands that came to the United States in the wake of the February 1964 arrival of The Beatles.  The now-legendary “British Invasion” is given a closer look with a series of compare-and-contrasts by author Simon Philo, director of the American studies department at the University of Derby. In this book, Philo looks at the bands that made the biggest and consistent impressions on the American charts in their quest/desire to match The Beatles; certainly, while there was a fairly sizable slew of these bands, there weren’t many that went further than two or three hit singles at best (Gerry and The Pacemakers, Freddie and The Dreamers, etc.).  And while some managed to ride the charts for a longer period (Herman’s Hermits, Dave Clark Five, The Hollies), even fewer had any kind of sustaining power and ability to grow and develop.  There are the obligatory nods to The Who and The Rolling Stones; the acknowledgment that Dylan influenced The Beatles and they, …

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BOOK REVIEW: David Ensminger, “Mavericks Of Sound”

Mavericks of Sound: Conversations with the Artists Who Shaped Indie and Roots Music (to give it its full title), is a compendium of interviews done by music scholar David Ensminger with indie artists who inadvertently and thankfully spearheaded the “roots rock” resurgence we’ve seen in the last 10 – 15 years.  These are musicians and songwriters who never really broke into the mainstream (save for maybe one or two with fleeting hits) but have remained true to what they were doing even as the music world changed and plunged into its still-continuing freefall. As the success of the concerts at Austin City Limits have revealed, the fan bases and crowds for indie and roots music often blur and overlap. In Mavericks of Sound, the author allows these now-icons the chance to talk about how they’d come upon the “pure” and “Americana” style of music they were pursuing in a time when it was highly unfashionable.  The book features a number of conversations from luminaries such as ex-new wave-to-indie artist Peter Case; rockabilly mainstays Junior Brown …

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BOOK REVIEW: “Geek Rock – An Exploration of Music and Subculture”, edited by Alex DiBlasi and Victoria Willis

In Geek Rock: An Exploration of Music and Subculture, editors Alex DiBlasi and Victoria Willis examine the intertwining of “geek culture” and music, in a methodical and very academic fashion.  This is a serious study of and look at what could be termed as the music specifically geared toward/embraced by the “geek” culture.  I do have to say that while I think the term is unfair – there is nothing geeky, nerdy, etc. about listening to the likes of Captain Beefheart or Frank Zappa – I can understand that the musics discussed in this book are, by and large, for the more cerebral/esoterically inclined listener.   However, it is described as thus:  “”geek rock” refers to forms of popular music that celebrate all things campy, kitschy, and quirky.” It further lets the reader know that this collection of essays runs the gamut in evaluating the writing of songs about “poodles, girls, monster movies, and outer space to just what it means to be “white and nerdy.””  Which is fair in trying to ascertain just what “geek …