"I cannot live without books." -- Thomas Jefferson

Saturday, July 21, 2012

"No Regrets: Writings on Scott Walker" edited by Rob Young

Personally, my life would be kind of empty without the sounds of Sparks and Scott Walker.  Both are on this world, yet they seemed kind of removed from the world as well.   And both have huge cultural baggage of sorts, but cannot be put in a box or simply explained.  They have to be experienced - and "No Regrets: Writings on Scott Walker" is a super enjoyable read (i.e. experience) that goes through out the career of Scott.  

The book is put together by Rob Young via the great British music magazine 'The Wire.'   And this is the perfect publication to do an anthology all on the subject of Scott Walker's music.  Included are late interviews with the composer/songwriter/singer, but more interesting to me are the essays on certain aspects of Scott Walker's albums.

To give one who isn't exposed to the world of Scott Waler, it is best that I give him and his music a brief introduction.  Scott Walker was a member of the Walker Brothers (none were actual  brothers), from America but went to London during the British invasion.  Unlike the Beat groups of that time, The Walker Brothers specialize in Phil Spector style big production ballads - with Scott as lead vocalist.  An incredible voice who knew how to relay a lyric like it was a simple act of putting butter on a hot piece of toast.  Over a short period of time they became teen idols of sorts, and for Scott this was a sign of total despair.   A man of humor, but a sort of humor that laughs with Ingmar Bergman films than say the Carry on films.

In the mid-60's to late 60's he made a series of solo albums that are now considered to be classics.  And they were very odd albums compared to the swinging 60's of London.  Huge orchestrations, beautiful voice singing Jacques Brel songs as well as his own material - which at the time were very much influenced by Brel and the whole French style of singing about personal and earthy narratives.  While everyone in the world of pop was tuning in- or dropping out - Scott was sort of a hipper version of Jack Jones (a singer he admired at the time) or a throw back to the pop crooner.   So that alone made him stand out with respect to the Pop explosion of the 1960's.

In the 70's he lost the pilot of sorts (and reading this book now I have second thoughts on this period)  and sort of sang for his supper - till the late 1980's where he made a series of albums every 10 to 12 years that are totally unique, odd, beautiful, disturbing, and well, fantastic art.   This book covers all different aspects of Scott Walkers very long but fascinating career.

The longest piece is by Ian Penman, focusing on the albums that no no really cares about - including Scott!  But here you can see how this 'dead' period gave fuel for him to make his future masterpieces - and therefore cannot be denied!  The beauty of Walker's life in music is that they are all pieces of a puzzle - and you have to spend the time going over those pieces or putting them together to see the whole picture, which of course is a masterpiece.  And this book helps the listener put the pieces together.   Pennman with great wit, writes about the down years of Scott that to me are not wasted, but career wise must have been a downer for him.

And there is not really a downer of an essay in this book.  Young did a remarkable job in giving an intriguing picture of Scott Walker.  I am so happy that this book exists.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Download: John Alan Friedman's "Anatomy of a Comic Strip"

Hot on the heels of Fantagraphics' new deluxe edition of Josh Alan and Drew Friedman's Any Similarity to Persons Living or Dead (available online at Book Soup!)... Black Cracker Online presents Josh Alan Friedman's "Anatomy of a Comic Strip," a free e-zine that includes original, annotated script pages for "The Joe Franklin Story," the notorious 1980 collaboration with his younger brother, the caricaturist and cartoonist extraordinaire, Drew Friedman. 

Also includes a new essay, rare panels, photos, & video. 
Download this prize piece, here.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Live Event: "Gainsbourg" with the author Gilles Verlant, Translator Paul Knobloch, and TamTam Books' Publisher Tosh Berman

ARTBOOK @ Paper Chase, Book Soup and Tam Tam Books invite you to the launch party for Gainsbourg: The Biography.

Join us for a tribute to Serge Gainsbourg, the French singer, songwriter, poet, composer, artist, actor and the country’s most beloved pop export since Edith Piaf. The evening will feature Gainsbourg videos and music, and a discussion with the Biography author, Gilles Verlant, in conversation with translator, Paul Knobloch and Tam Tam publisher, Tosh Berman.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012
7:00 pm


FREE but RSVP required and will be accepted until venue capacity is reached

ARTBOOK | Paper Chase
7174 Sunset Boulevard
(corner of Sunset and Formosa)
Hollywood, California
(323) 969-8985

Serge Gainsbourg redefined French pop, from his beginnings as cynical chansonnier and mambo-influenced jazz artist to the ironic “yé-yé” beat and lush orchestration of his 1960s work to his launching of French reggae in the 1970s to the electric funk and disco of his last albums. He was the self-proclaimed ugly lover of such beauties as Brigitte Bardot and Jane Birkin, the iconic provocateur whose heavy-breathing “Je t’aime moi non plus” was banned from airwaves throughout Europe and whose reggae version of the “Marseillais” earned him death threats from the right.

Gilles Verlant’s biography of Gainsbourg is the best and most authoritative in any language. Drawing from numerous interviews and their own friendship, Verlant provides a fascinating look at the inner workings of 1950s–1990s French pop culture and the conflicted and driven songwriter, actor, director and author that emerged from it: the young boy wearing a yellow star during the German Occupation; the young art student trying to woo Tolstoy’s granddaughter; the musical collaborator of Petula Clark, Juliette Greco and Sly and Robbie; the seasoned composer of the 
Lolita of pop albums, Histoire de Melody Nelson; the cultural icon who transformed scandal and song into a new form of delirium.

Special thanks to the evening's bookseller, Book Soup.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

"The History of NME" by Pat Long

And to think it all started with accordion music.  The flame that started the fire that was heard all around the world.  Well Polka is not that far from punk really, but nevertheless New Music Express (NME) started off as a newspaper focusing on the accordion music scene that was happening in the early 1950's  - and of course one has to presume that it lead to the pop music of its era.   And strange enough NME, in 2012, is still with us.  In fact its the second thing i see on the Internet.  First is Dennis Cooper's blog, then NME, after that the Guradian for news.  So you can see what's important in my life!

Pat Long's book on NME is really good, and being designed orientated, this is a  perfectly designed book with respect to its subject.  A lot has happened in Pop music over the years, and its amazing that a press can still exist after so many generations.  And without a doubt NME had or has its dives into the underworld as well as its highs - but as a paper it had some remarkable writers  - to be specifically the wonderful Nick Kent.   The rock n' roll writer who didn't have a guitar to throw around, but his pen was pretty mighty.  

This book by its very nature of its subject matter also has ties to England's pop culture history -and really, this book could have been five or six books.  One on the fifties, one on the sixties and so forth.  But beyond that this is a really good introduction to pop history and more important the presses that were beyond and supported such pop movements.   Buy it for the beauty of it all!