Friday, January 12, 2018

More music books....

* Paul Williams: HOW DEEP IS THE OCEAN? (1997) -- Assembles in one book all of Paul's writing on the Beach Boys and Brian Wilson, and especially on their adventurous Middle Period (roughly 1966 to 1979), during most of which they could barely GIVE their albums away. Some of this is truly great stuff -- especially "I Believe You Anyway," the long review of the Boys' GOOD VIBRATIONS best-of box set. There's also a long interview with former BB's manager David Anderle about why the Boys' SMiLE album collapsed back in 1967. This book came out over a decade before the SMiLE SESSIONS box was finally released, so I don't know if Williams ever got his view of that package down anywhere.
Interesting career Williams had -- he founded the first rock-criticism newspaper (CRAWDADDY!), burned out and lived in a commune (wrote about it in TIME BETWEEN), assembled several books of his rock criticism (of widely varying quality), assembled an interview/biography of science-fiction writer Philip K. Dick (ONLY APPARENTLY REAL), and later became the literary executor of Dick's estate. But some of his best writing is right here.
* Angus Cargill, editor: HANG THE DJ: AN ALTERNATIVE BOOK OF MUSIC LISTS (2008) -- Dozens of contributors toss in 300 pages of off-the-wall pop-music Top 10 lists, from songs that never made it to Number One but should have, to the dozen meanest and ugliest Beatles songs. First published in England, so it definitely has a U.K. bias -- makes me want to investigate The Smiths, if only for their great song-titles. Also several raves about Amy Winehouse here. Contributors include Jon Savage, Simon Reynolds, Nick Kent, Johnathan Lethem.... Learned more from this than I did from other "music-list" books, including Dave Marsh's BOOK OF ROCK LISTS.
* DAVE BARRY'S BOOK OF BAD SONGS (1997) -- Yes, Dave is hilarious, but. This book came from the answers to Dave's infamous "Bad Song Survey" that he held years ago in his nationally-syndicated newspaper column. The first 40 pages include some of the funniest and most direct music criticism I've read in years. But then -- as in some of Dave's other books -- it's like Dave gets bored, and the jokes get tired. It's amazing that with all this great bad material (the worst pop songs ever, as nominated by and commented-on by his readers), Dave can't even put together 90 pages. We don't even get a list of the biggest losers! You can read this in an hour, but after page 40 you'll just be trying to get to the end of it. Six pages are wasted on copyright and permission-to-reprint notices for lyrics. One of the book's best points is that great rock songs don't really NEED lyrics....

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