Years ago, on an episode of The Simpsons, Marge decided to return to her first love: art. Embracing her creativity, she took a painting class, where she worked under the tutelage of the legendary Professor Lombardo. At some point during the course of the episode, Marge dares to offer Lombardo a compliment, saying that she wishes every teacher could be like him, and he offers the following sharp reply: “Marge, please, I don’t take praise very well!”
I feel his pain. Whenever I receive praise for my writing I always say “thanks,” of course, but I usually shrug at the same time, as if to say, “If you say so.” Sure, sometimes I feel that something I’ve written has turned out well, but as often as not, I can’t really tell. I usually just write stuff because it’s stuff that I want to write about, and it’s just an added bonus if other people like it, too. Based on this, you will be unsurprised to learn that I’m generally pretty bad about promoting my work too, but I’m making an exception in this case because — wait for it — I’ve written a book.
Okay, that’s not entirely true. More accurately, I’ve compiled a book, one filled with the interviews that I’ve conducted for this column over the course of the past few years. It’s entitled All You Need Is a Hook… The Best of Hooks ‘N’ You, and you can order it through Lulu.com.
The content stretches all the way back to the first interview I did for the column, which consisted of a mere three questions that I asked of Moe Berg about The Wonderful World of the Pursuit of Happiness, and goes all the way up to my oral history of Vermillion by the Three O’Clock. In between, you can see the evolution of Hooks ‘N’ You as I figured out exactly what I wanted to do with the column, and you can enjoy interviews with, among others, Phil Keaggy, the Trashcan Sinatras, Don Dixon, Richard Barone, Kyle Vincent, Nick Heyward, Blue Mercedes and Splitsville.
The price is, to my way of thinking, pretty reasonable: $14.99 for 180 pages of what I am assured are insightful conversations about some of my favorite unheralded and underrated albums by the artists responsible for bringing them to life. For those wondering, yes, it is available for download at a lesser price (a mere $6.49), but I really hesitated offering it in that format because, hell, it’s not like the columns aren’t online! But as someone who regularly buys books released by the folks over at the Onion A.V. Club, I’m the first to admit that it’s always nicer to hold an actual book in your hand.
By the way, I wasn’t kidding when I made that comment about how I’m assured that the conversations are insightful. I figured that if I was going to go the distance and put out a book, the least I could do was go the whole nine yards and get myself some blurbs to put on the back. Little did I know I’d receive comments that would make my ego swell to such a degree that I can barely get my head out the door …
“Insightful and compelling, All You Need Is a Hook… is a delight, filled with impassioned and inspired writing. Highly recommended.” –Ken Sharp, co-author of KISS: Behind the Mask —
The Official Authorized Biography
“If I was to compile a list of my favorite writers who cover this beast we call ‘pop music,’ Will Harris would certainly be near the top. His interviews are always engrossing, insightful and fun to read, and I usually walk away learning something that I didn’t know before. Plus, any writer who covers relatively obscure yet great artists such as Robbie Rist, Richard Barone, Splitsville and the Three O’Clock is aces in my book. All You Need Is a Hook… is a smashing compendium of Will’s literary exploits that is sure to charm the pants off of any self-respecting pop nut. Buy this book, and then spring for a new pair of pants while you’re at it.” –John M. Borack, author of Shake Some Action: The Ultimate Power Pop Guide
”Sometimes, being a part of the so-called power pop underground’ can feel, for good or ill, like being in a secret society. Those among us who love the good hook share a passion for catchy melodies, sweet harmonies, crunchy guitars and four-on-the-floor midwestern backbeats. At times this passion verges on the religious. Who am I kidding? Pop is my religion. Ever since the Beatles and up through XTC, Todd Rundgren and beyond, the pursuit of the ultimate pop hook has been the closest I’ve come to going to church. I write songs. I write about songs. I can’t shut up about this stuff, and some of my best friends are records. Which brings me to young Will here. I get the sense, having read Mr. Harris for some time, that he is (like Ken Sharp or Cameron Crowe before him) on the same page. Reading his prose on the subject of pop is like finding that cool record store, usually on a back street, where they not only have all the great records you’ve been looking for, there are posters on the wall for upcoming gigs by those bands, and the guy at the front desk relishes in turning you onto some new release by playing it loud for the whole store. It’s a place where every day is Record Store Day, a place where pop matters. Does that place still exist? I sure hope so, but just in case it doesn’t, you’d do well to enter the pages of Will Harris and turn it up. All good secret societies need sacred texts. Start here.” –Paul Myers, musician, songwriter, and author of A Wizard, a True Star: Todd Rundgren in the Studio
I have to pretend that I wasn’t just likened in some small capacity to Cameron Crowe, as it’s not healthy for my ego, but I’m no less grateful for any of these blurbs. Here’s hoping they inspire you to take the plunge and pick up a copy of the book, which, just in case you’ve forgotten, you can do by clicking right here. Also, keep in mind that the self-publishing route may well be considered by other Popdose writers if this proves to be a success. I, for one, would love to own a copy of Basement Songs: The Best of the Basement by Scott Malchus.
In closing, just so you don’t think I’m resting on my laurels now that I’ve put this thing together, I’m working on several other columns at the moment, including records by Imperial Drag, the Candyskins, Farrah, Mark Bacino, Mark Helm, and a couple of others as well that I’d hate to talk about, mostly because they may not actually come to pass. Still, that should be enough to confirm that there are indeed more “Hooks” on the horizon.