Scott’s Bookshelf, Part 7

43. The Liberation of Sound: An Introduction to Electronic Music (Herbert Russcol) – Paid a dollar for this 1972 hardcover at a library blowout sale, back when I was buying any and every music book that held even a modicum of interest. In fact, it’s a pretty great find. Have mostly just skimmed it, but from what I can tell it’s a fairly comprehensive history, published at a time when “electronic music” was largely just shorthand for musical eggheads messing around with tape recorders and scales, when “futuristic” meant not Emerson, Wakeman, and Schneider but Varese, Cage, Stockhausen, et al. (the only pop act I see listed in the index is — big surprise — the Beatles). Comes with listening recommendations, a glossary, timelines, some great photos, etc… quite pleased to own this… Etcetera: The Amazon page for this title has one lonely but positive customer review.

44. Transformer: The Lou Reed Story (Victor Bockris) – Started reading this years ago, made it up to the electro-shock therapy section, had to put it down for whatever reason (not for lack of enjoyment, I don’t think). Also have a copy of Bockris’s Keith Richards bio, and maybe another one as well… so hard to keep track of all these wasted-rock-star-junkie types… Etcetera: Sean Scott at BlogCritics says, “Bockris has done a damn fine job of playing Boswell to Reed’s drugged-out bisexual Dr. Johnson” (I confess I haven’t a clue what that means). Christgau, meanwhile, claims that “patently wrong-headed biographers Victor Bockris and Peter Doggett (Lou Reed: Growing Up in Public) distort [Reed’s] music through art-world and lit-class prisms,” but later goes on to applaud some of Bockris’s research.

45. The Record Producers File: A Directory of Rock Album Producers 1962 – 1984 (Bert Muirhead) – I had no idea until right now that George “Shadow” Morton produced Janis Ian’s “Society’s Child.” That’s the sort of tidbit you learn from picking up a book like this. A fairly invaluable — obviously outdated, and in the era of Wikipedia possibly obsolescent — resource, though unlike the Russcol book this one contains no writing whatsoever, it’s just a long list of who produced what, what label it’s on, and what year it came out. No recollection of where or when I bought this, but its appeal to me seems kind of obvious now… Etcetera: Crap From the Past includes this title as one of its favorite books..

46. The Death of Rhythm & Blues (Nelson George) – I liked a lot of George’s stuff back in the mid-80s era of the Voice (a review of a Jacksons show — the kick-off of the Victory tour, I think — in which he compared the Jacksons to the Kennedys was particularly memorable), and somewhere in a 1980 (?) Musician I have an early article by him on the emerging underground phenomenon known as “rap,” which I also seem to recall as a pretty great piece. I haven’t followed his writing that closely since, but I have every intention of reading this (I have “every intention” of reading a lot of books I own; this is one I actually hope to follow through on). I’ve long wondered if this provocative title (merely provocative?) was not, in a way, analogous to Carducci’s anti-pop screed?… Etcetera: Various Amazon reader reviews (was hoping to find something more substantial to link to for this, but no such luck).

47. & 48. Ways of Hearing: A User’s Guide to the Pop Psyche, from Elvis to Eminem / Seven Years of Plenty: A Handbook of Irrefutable Pop Greatness 1993 – 1998 (Ben Thompson) – One of the stranger synchronicities in my courtship with Jackie is that I owned one Ben Thompson book (Ways of Hearing) and she owned another (Seven Years of Plenty). And yet, who is this mysterious masked man? Whoever he is, he’s apparently in good company. A blurb on the back of the former claims that “Thompson has produced the most exciting, illuminating and funny book about pop music since, shall we say, Greil Marcus’ Lipstick Traces.” (Hmm, I dunno — shall we?) A blurb on the back of the latter suggests that Thompson has written “as unique and impassioned a survey of music in the nineties as Lester Bangs did for the seventies.” Speaking of which, it occurs to me that I really should be keeping a “Next Lester” count as I go through this survey; I’m sure I’ve passed at least a half dozen already… Etcetera: An actual thoughtful review of Ways of Hearing by some unnamed person here.

2 thoughts on “Scott’s Bookshelf, Part 7

  1. Definitely read The Death of Rhythm and Blues. George is opinionated, and not always right, but his position that the rhythm and blues world had the lifeblood sucked out of it via post-60’s crossover success makes for a compelling argument. The real value in the book IMO is the attention he gives behind the scenes figures in the R&B world – A&R men, mom & pop record store owners, and black radio DJ’s particularly.

  2. Scott, perfect timing that Ted Cogswell’s comment drew me back to Part 7 of your Bookshelf series today. Just last night I was leafing through my October 27, 1967 issue of Life magazine (retained for its documentation of divers other grooviness abounding during my 21st year), and I noted the feature on Janis Ian. You’d love this photo and caption therein: “Dwarfed by her producer, George (‘Shadow’) Morton, Janis discusses a song during a recording session.” Ah, for those great days when pop was born in an analog cabin . . .

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