Saturday, September 19, 2009

A couple of things:

1) had a great time at Aunt Agatha's author signing for Megan Abbott, Theresa Schwegel and Tasha Alexander last night. All three were fun, bright and engaging. I have added a link for Aunt Agatha's over on the right hand side, check them out.

2) I have played around with the colors on my blog site, just changing things up. Let me know if you like it, don't like it, or what hurts your eyes.

3) I will be on vacation for the week, so everyone play nice and I will be back on the other side.

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

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Unturning the Stone

For the last week or so I have been checking out the TV adaptions of Robert Parker's Jesse Stone novels. I have found them to be moody, engaging, and well produced. Tom Selleck shows restraint and professionalism as a small town police chief who is imperfect but doing his best to do his job and live his life. It is strange to see Selleck playing Stone after having recently revisited Magnum PI on DVD. Where Magnum was a fun pulpy romp, the issues and gravity of the Stone story lines tend more to abuse, small town power and the limits placed on those who enforce the laws in those communities. The setting for these films is breath taking and like any great noir plays as much a role as the characters who inhabit the landscape.

I have so far watched Stone Cold and Death in Paradise, and enjoyed both. I look forward to viewing the rest.

Filmography from Wiki

  • 1. Stone Cold (20 February 2005)
  • 2. Jesse Stone: Night Passage (15 January 2006) a prequel to Stone Cold
  • 3. Jesse Stone: Death In Paradise (30 April 2006)
  • 4. Jesse Stone: Sea Change (22 May 2007)
  • 5. Jesse Stone: Thin Ice (1 March 2009)
  • 6. Jesse Stone: No Remorse (2009)
  • 7. Jesse Stone: Innocents Lost (2010)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

FFB- You call It Madness

You Call it Madness: The Sensuous Song of the Croon by Lenny Kaye
If you know the name Lenny Kaye count yourself lucky, he is one of the short list of people who kept Rock and Roll alive in the early 70s. First by compiling the Nuggets compilation (a must own for any music fan) and then by playing with Patti Smith off and on since the early 70s. long the way he helped Waylon Jennings write Waylon: An Autobiography and penned today's riday Forgotten Book You call it Madness.

The Sensuous Song of the Croon tells the true story of Russ Columbo his strange death, and the age of croon that he was part of at the end of the 20s. Here is what Publishers Weekly (via Amazon) had to say about the book:
In this ambitious narrative of a moment in music history, Kaye, a musician and coauthor of Waylon, highlights the age of crooning in early 1930s New York City. Prohibition is coming to an end, the Ziegfeld Follies are on their last leg, but radio is stronger than ever, and three singers battle for attention: Rudy Vallee (the WASPy Yalie who sings through a megaphone); the drink-loving Bing Crosby; and the mysterious Russ Columbo. It's on the latter that Kaye focuses until Columbo's untimely death at the age of 26. Kaye takes a novelistic approach, a style that gets in the way of an otherwise good and detailed history. His present-tense narrative forces a sense of immediacy, and his literary attempts to bring the sounds and feel of the decade to life undermine his story ("Yoo hoo. Boo hoo. The double o of crooning. A circle squared. Times two, or should we say too"). But Kaye has done his research, and his characterizations of each singer are clever, with such insightful observations as "At the New York Paramount, Bing Crosby is riding out over the audience on a giant mechanical crane.... Russ doesn't have that luxury.... For him, seduction is serious business."
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

I read this one a couple of years back and found it to be challenging, but worth the effort. I really liked how I could see the parallels the age of croon had with the music world of today. It is one if a handful of books that I need to reread, and it inspire me to order a CD of Russ Colombo's recordings. Here is a link to an NPR about the book for anyone interested.

More on the Friday Forgotten Book Project can be found at Patti Abbot's Blog pattinase

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Aug 2009 Reads

Here is a rundown of the books that I read this month:

Columbine by Dave Cullen
Tarot Card Book Mark: none ( I didn't think it tasteful considering the subject matter)
We all pretty much know this story don't we? or do we? This book is a journalistic look at the events that leading up to and the aftermath of the mass murders at Columbine High School in Littleton Colorado in April of 1999. Two students, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris attempted to blow up their school and kill hundreds of their classmates. The book was very well written, and unlike to many true crime tales did not wallow in the more sensational aspects of the crime. I think the most important things that I took away from this book were that 1) this wasn't a school shooting, it was a failed bombing that lead to a shooting 2) that it was mainly the Jeffco Sheriffs Department not telling the public and what they had learned that caused the media to run with so many erroneous stories in the immediate aftermath of the incident. If there are any lessons that parents, students, police, and the education establishment can take away from this book it's that you can not prevent everything, and preventing these events means taking an honestly look at your population and speak up when you think there is an issues. Also this book pointed out that as an institution you need to have plans to deal with this kind of event. Overall it was an excellent read that everyone who has a interest education, law enforcement, or the societal issues around upper middle class suburban life of Gen Y teens in the USA.

Killer's Payoff by Ed McBain
Tarot Card Book Mark: The Shell
The 6th of the 87th Precinct books. Cotton Hawes steps to the fore as the romantic lead in this installment. He sleeps with women, he carries the bulk of the story doing the the leg work and he solves the crime-- in this case extortion. It did not completely work for me, as part of the allure of the series is the ensemble cast and the lack of a womanizing, hard drinking PI type story. McBain writes in the intro to the 1993 edition that I was reading that he was under pressure to add those elements, and even though he did there is a level of snark that he adds to the scenes of Cotton Hawes acting like your typical pulp protagonist, as if to say you want this stuff you got it. One thought occurs to me, I have said before that it is going to be interesting to see how things play out with the changes in crime in policing that occurred as the series was written, it also strikes me that it is going to be interesting to see how the changes in publishing of crime novels play out as the series goes on. When the series started paperbacks were cheap quick reads that rarely passed the 250 page mark, but the 70s and 80s the expectation was that paperbacks would be later cheaper editions of Hard Covers, and would have to be longer and give the reader more material for their buck. All that said this was yet another enjoyable installment in the 87th Precinct series.

To Find Cora by Harry Whittington
Tarot Card Book Mark: The Glove
From Stark House Books
To Find Cora is the first of the three novels reprinted in this volume. It is the story of Joe a man who is tearing across the country looking for his wife Cora who he believes has run off with another man. He hears that a woman matching Cora's description has been sited and set out to check out the rumor. Arriving at a remote farm house, he finds not Cora but Vi and Hall. Hall is on the run after having embezzled a large amount of money from the company he works for and believes Joe to be a Detective who has been sent to find him. The story unfolds from this point, with and there are plenty of pulpy twists, turns and complications. The book has a small cast of main characters who are easy to keep track of and there is a big twist at the end, along with a just deserts kind of finally. I'm taking my time to read the three books in this volume, and am looking forward to the next two.

Passport to Peril by Robert B Parker
Tarot Card Book Mark: The Whip
Hard Case Crime book
First off, this is not the same Robert B Parker who writes the Spenser books. A tale of espionage set in 50s Budapest. A fun and smooth read. American John Stoddard buys a forged passport to travel to Budapest so he can look for his brother who has been missing since the war. He quickly finds himself in the middle of a the delivery of a list of people that several parties are interested in. There is a bit of James Bond, but a whole lot more of the classic outsider sucked into something he has no interest in plot. There are a couple of solid action set pieces, and some torture (not described). All in all this was classic pulp read and another worthy entry in the Hard Case Line.

Blood is a Rover by James Ellroy
Tarot Card Book Mark: The Gold
I am still reading this one, so I am going to with hold comment.

The Mourner by Richard Stark
Tarot Card Book Mark: The Earth
This is the earliest Stark book that I have read that shows signs of where Westlake was going later on. In this book Parker gets sucked into a plot to steal a statue from the functionary of a fictional Eastern European country. Things of course go wrong, and touches of humor surface. I could see the seeds of The Hot Rock which reportedly started out as a Parker book. I like the book a lot, but really wanted more of the Parker heist stories that featured in the first four books of the Parker series.

Tarot Card Book Marks? I have a really lame deck of Tarot cards that I pulled off a free cart at the Friends of the Ann Arbor District Library sale a couple of months back, and I started using them as book marks for giggles mostly. I just pull a card at random from the deck, make note of it, and when I am done it goes in the discard pile. Sometimes the card ends up to have a relation to the book in questions, sometimes not.