Rockcritics Bookshelf: Capsule Preview Possibilities


September 27, 2007 by admin

Here are ten music books sitting on my shelf–some have been there for years–that I’m currently contemplating reading (or skimming really hard) so I can write them up and add them to the rockcritics bookshelf. There’s no way I’ll get through most of these anytime soon, so I clearly need to prioritize. Anyone have any thoughts about any of these? Which (if any) of these are worth spending time with? Which (if any) intrigue you most?

  • Twenty Minute Fandangos and Forever Changes: A Rock Bazaar – 1971 collection edited by Jonathan Eisen (who also edited the two Age of Rock collections), feat. R. Meltzer, Sandy Pearlman, Bud Scoppa, Danny Fields, and a bunch of people I’ve never heard of. True to its era, I honestly can’t tell if at least half this book is a joke.
  • H.L. Mencken on Music – Anthology, mostly about classical though with a few things, it appears, on jazz as well. I know about and am interested in Mencken, but I’m not familiar with his writing. Maybe a collection of his music criticism isn’t really the place to start?
  • The Encyclopaedia of Classic 80s Pop, Daniel Blythe – Bought a remaindered copy at Indigo recently. The “classic 80s” (the MTV ’80s) right now don’t interest me a whole lot, but I flipped through some of this and the writing seemed, at first glance, cheeky. Which I assume would work in this book’s favour, but maybe not.
  • This is Uncool: The 500 Greatest Singles Since Punk and Disco, Gary Mulholland – Purchased in the same cheapie bin as the Blythe book. British response to Marsh’s singles collection by a guy who’s 20 years younger and who really likes Madness and the Jam.
  • Starlust: The Secret Fantasies of Fans, Fred and Judy Vermorel – This collection of fan talk has a reputation among more sociologically-minded critics. Everytime I’ve flipped through it, I can’t imagine the thought of reading the entire thing–it strikes me as an interesting article stretched into a book. Perhaps I’m missing some particular subtlety.
  • The 20th Century’s Greatest Hits, Paul Williams – Another list book, this one from the founder of Crawdaddy! (Exclamation is part of that mag’s title and does not necessarily reflect my interest in this!)
  • Will Pop Eat Itself, Jeremy J. Beadle – Actually, I read this years ago, liked it enough to write the author a letter, and now can barely remember a single detail. I think I’ll need to be in the mood for some KLF and Colourbox before I delve in.
  • Vital Signs, Ian Penman – Highly regarded UK music critic, but I don’t think music dominates this collection. Introduction by Julie Burchill.
  • Getting It On: The Clothing of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Mablen Jones – I’ve always just assumed this is either a pile of dog-doo or a secret hidden treasure; it’s certainly an open field of study. A little hard to see past the opening notes on the inner cover: “You can love rock ‘n’ roll. You can hate rock ‘n’ roll. But you cannot escape rock ‘n’ roll.”
  • England’s Mine, Michael Bracewell – It looks really pretentious, which I suspect is maybe what’s good about it.

3 thoughts on “Rockcritics Bookshelf: Capsule Preview Possibilities

  1. Alfred Soto says:

    The 1991 anthology The Impossible Mencken, with a foreword by Gore Vidal, is an excellent place to start. Available in most libraries and used bookstores.

  2. Tom says:

    Of the ones I’ve read –

    YES to the Bracewell (the pretentiousness is kind of the least good bit – his fumbling around trying to articulate his ideas of Albion and Englishness in pop are rly stimulating though, or they were to me ages ago.)

    YES (KIND OF) to Starlust – I really don’t think it is meant to be read all in one go! There’s an OMGWTF element and a genuinely intriguing element and maybe for some people it works as porn too (if you are very into Barry Manilow, perhaps). Keep it in your bathroom!

    YES to Vital Signs, though I remember it being an inconsistent collection, not because Penman’s a bad writer (though his magazine stuff rarely captures the flowing irritable side of him) but just some of the stuff that seemed interesting whenever they selected it turned out not to be.

    MAYBE to Will Pop Eat Itself – I don’t remember being particularly engaged by its arguments BUT there’s a case to be made that they percolated into UK popcrit so quickly that they seemed old hat quite rapidly too. Build em up knock em down!

    MAYBE to This Is Uncool: I always feel I’m a bit unfair on Gary Mulholland, but he seems quite stodgy and there’s no real surprise here. Mind you I think his faults as a writer are also mine so I may be overcritical because of that.

    NO to the Encyclopaedia of 80s Pop: dreadful coffee-table what-can-I-buy-my-nephew-for-christmas potboiler. Makes the “(c)rap” joke, and this in a book published in the 00s! (In the Public Enemy section no less so yeah I guess it’s no regarder of sacred cows)

  3. s woods says:

    re: the Encyclaedia of 80s pop. I flipped through a few entries, thought a few of the jokes were kind of amusing, but the more I flipped through it, the more I realized that was ALL it had–silly jokes. It seemed (a bit of a stretch, I admit) like Nik Cohn’s *Pop: From the Beginning* with all of the flippancy but absolutely none of the ideas. From a quick glance, I suspect that the writing on the totally worthless music from the era is probably a little better than the rest… but I think I’ll take your “No” as a wise recommendation. (And ouch to that “[c]rap” joke, obviously.)

    I’ve made my way through enough of the Mulholland book to tackle it next, probably.

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