Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Trouser Press Record Guide

Friday Forgotten Books: The Trouser Press Record Guide by Ira A. Robbins (Editor)

I'm a sucker for a good guide book/ Reference volume. I have owned many over the years covering many areas of pop culture: Film, Books, Writers, and of course Music. I think my first guide book was a brick sized video guide that I bought sometime in the mid 80s on vacation.

Today's forgotten book is one that I consider to be one of the best ever published, The Trouser Press Record Guide: The Ultimate Guide to Alternative Music. The guide was an outgrowth of the Trouser Press Magazine which covered underground and alternative music from the early 70's to the early 80's, which as we all know was a great era for that kind of music.

I picked up my first copy of their guide book (a 4th edition pictured above) in the early 90s at Tower Records in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I was drawn to it because it had entries on a lot of the bands who were on the soundtrack for the film Dudes. I had been searching for many of them for years and the inclusion in the guide made tracking down their records easier. It was from the guide that I learned of not only when and by which label they had released their records, but often times the fact that members of various bands had new projects or older projects that I should check out.

Over the years I turned again and again to the guide as a resource for information on bands, scenes and styles that I was interested in. When I discovered the band Jet Black Berries on the soundtrack for The Return of the Living Dead, it was my trusty copy of the Trouser Press that I turned to, and discovered their previous incarnation as New Math, and a bit about their history. This discovery would later play a role in my adventures as a record label owner when we reissued the music of New Math.

Last weekend I had a couple of people over, for drinks and music. I had asked people to bring vinyl singles, 45s, 7"s and what ever. I had pulled my copies of the Trouser Press (I have a first edition that I picked up at a Friends of the Library sale years ago) so that people could look up bands that I was playing that they may have never heard of. When I handed the book to one of my friends she quickly became adsorbed in looking up obscure bands that she recalled from her youth, and was amazed to find not only the bands she was looking for, but information on connected bands.

The problem with many of these guide books has been that they don't tend to age well. They are only as current as the day they roll off the presses and it is impossible to include everything. However, The Trouser Press, in all of it's incarnations (there was a 90s edition that I had and sold off years ago) has held fast as a document of not only the underground music of it's time, but of what an ideal guide book should be.

Of course you can check out the Trouser Press on line HERE, there are the entries from the past editions, an FAQ about the Trouser Press and a message board.

more Friday Forgotten Books can be found at Patti Abbott's Blog Here


Todd Mason said...

Remarkable how something like DUDES can be such a large snag in one's personal history, eh?

TROUSER PRESS, CREEM in its better early years, Paul Williams's CRAWDADDY, so many music zines since, so many of them inspired by Greg Shaw's WHO PUT THE BOMP and such heirs as FLIPSIDE and MAXIMUMROCKNROLL...when a piece of something I wrote for PROFANE EXISTENCE was quoted in a published PhD thesis, I knew a corner had been turned, but more for me than for youthful exuberance...

Iren said...

Todd: Yeah it is a strange thing that a little movie could have that big of an impact. I think it was the door way for me out of the mainstream pop culture and into the underground of movies and music.

I used to read MRR, punk planet and Flipside, I had my issues with each of them, but they were a guide to that underground for a while. What I really miss is Hitlist, which was a much more grown up version of those zines.