May 10

It’s the WORD World Cup (disclaimer: not really a world cup)

FT11 comments • 784 views

Hullo all! For a project I am working on which I shall reveal soon(ish), I would like your wise suggestions in four categories:

A: music writers all should read (two parts)
B: music writing all should read (two parts)
C: zone of exchange that all should learn from
D: music-related film or documentary all should see

Eventually there will be polls and everything! (Note: this already went up at LJ on Poptimists, so you can also put answers up there if you like. Also read answers. But it has reached that stupid LJ point — 50 replies in — where the thread folds in on itself. Also NOLJies are afeared, I know, and RIGHTLY SO NO DOUBT…

ANYWAY: the four sections above will entail SIX tranches of nomination, as follows…

1: First, imagine you were inducting a reasonably intelligent outsider, of natural curiosity and openness, into the world of strong, useful, insightful or inspirational writing about music: which FOUR writers would you point them to? (Note: it can be any kind of music AT ALL…)

To start us off, I am going to name nine writers not to bother naming: they get a bye into the poll. DON’T WORRY OR BRIDLE: If you hate them, this is your chance to vote against them! I just want to get a slightly wider pool of potential entrants, really. The nine not to name are: Richard Meltzer, Robert Christgau, Greil Marcus, Lester Bangs, Jon Savage, Paul Morley, Ian Penman, Richard Cook, Simon Reynolds. ALSO: Don’t name me. I will be all over any project I am involved with. Known and active contributors here or on LJ (me aside) you can of course name, though you’re all kind of a given just by turning up. Since this is the nomination stage, no need actually to nominate anyone or anything already taken care of — though you may wish to state it for the record. (viz “I am not NOMINATING Loyd Grossman’s “A Social History of Rock Music” as it is already nommed, but I wish to note for the record that no finer tome blah blah…”)

2: Now imagine the pool of writers we generally get to see in a “best of music writing”. Which FOUR writers would you like to see added to it that currently don’t get in? (This can be based on a much smaller body of work I think…) Which writers do you think are overlooked or poorly understood? Which writers have an approach — perhaps mainly directed at some “non-popular” music, or indeed some NON-music — which you think would be valuable if others adopted it? (Over on LJ, I see this has been short-handed as “Four writers who AREN’T the Usual Suspects that you’d like to see anthologised” — if you feel terms aren’t being well defined enough, feel free to DEFINE THEM YOURSELVES to SUIT YOUR AGENDA)

re 1&2: Please append to any writers nominated an exemplary work –book, interview, review, sleevenote, whatever, long or short, typical or atypical. Links are very useful!

3: Name SIX books about music that everyone should read. It can be about ANY kind of music. But it can’t be by any of the folk you nominated in 1 or 2 (so yes, you may have to do some juggling to get the results you favour…). If six such books do not yet exist, please say so.

4: Now name FOUR pieces that AREN’T books — can be reviews, blog posts, comments — that everyone should read (they can be collected in books, though needed’t; they just can’t be books). Again: not by any of the folk you named in 1-3.

5: Name THREE zones of debate or discussion that were really hoppin. Thus for example: the Zigzag gossip column 1977-79; the comments threads on the War Against Silence in 2001; the reviews pages of the East Village Eye in 1967… They have to be accessible — so eg not pub discussions on that amazing night or so-and-so’s tutorials when x was in her class; they can be the whole of a magazine across a slice of time; or a website; or whatever you want that fits the bill. This is a question about chemistry of voices, voices that haven’t perhaps been so strong or interesting when divorced from their co-squabblees.

6: Name SIX films or documentaries about music that everyone should see: ; non-fiction; fiction; biopic — whatever. What matters is the question of how they deal with music itself: how they make it the subject, or backdrop, or whatever they do. (Interestingly, responses in this section have so far been somewhat less wildstyle.)

(PS: Feel free to air reservations about my methodology or assumptions! I am A: anyway making it up as I go along and B: as interested in the process of decision as the final result. This isn’t about what I want out of it; it’s about what YOU want out it!) (He said disingenuously…)


  1. 1
    punctum on 13 May 2010 #

    I’m posting this both here and on LJ (where I’m “Rechabite,” if you hadn’t already figured that out).

    My additional self-prohibition rule here is that I am not including any writers I personally know since that prevents the exercise from turning into an incestuous love-in.

    The second thing to note is that it’s sometimes wise to go for writers which don’t necessarily agree with the voter.

    Danny Baker
    Max Harrison
    Andre Hodeir
    Constant Lambert

    Simon Barnes
    Philip Larkin
    David Thomson
    David Foster Wallace

    Sidney Finkelstein, Jazz: A People’s Music
    Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go
    Robin Maconie, Other Planets: The Music Of Karlheinz Stockhausen
    AB Spellman, Four Lives In The Bebop Business
    Nick Tosches, Dino
    Valerie Wilmer, As Serious As Your Life

    Barney Hoskyns, “Sometimes Pleasure Heads Must Burn – A Manhattan Melodrama (Birthday Party interview),” NME, October 1981
    Ian MacDonald and Charles Shaar Murray, reviews of David Bowie’s Low, NME, January 1977
    William Mann, “The Beatles revive hope of progress in pop music with their gay new LP (review of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band),” The Times, May 1967
    Richard Williams, review of Carla Bley and Paul Haines’ Escalator Over The Hill, Melody Maker, March 1972

    Melody Maker 1986-8
    Street Life 1973-6
    NME 1981-2

    6 (given that the “see” proviso rules out Glenn Gould’s Solitude trilogy):
    The Band Wagon
    The Double Life Of Veronique
    Les Parapluies de Cherbourg
    New York, New York

  2. 2

    (If others do decide to adopt punctum’s self-denying anti-incest ordinance, can you say so out loud?: I don’t want to skew results away from our own zones of encounter or from things going on recently — or at least, if this is the way we choose to roll, i’d like to be aware… the poll will i hope be about the recent present as well as the fabulous past, and the nature of the internet may mean that the present is more about the energies of the circles we actually ourselves run in)

  3. 3

    (ps punctum my heart is hot with all the things i am soon going to be asking you to photocopy for me!) (don’t worry if not practicable but i WILL ASK)

  4. 4
    punctum on 13 May 2010 #

    I’m not sure I fully trust “things going on recently” and perhaps this is leading me to my inevitable IMac-for-going-on-recently status but think we need to treat history more fairly than the ground floor of the basketball museum in The Sportswriter.

  5. 5

    treat history more fairly: then i shall INSIST on those photocopies!

  6. 6
    pink champale on 13 May 2010 #

    the basketball museum was in ‘independence day wasn’t it? nice analogy anyway.

    noms process a bit too forbidding for me, but look forward to the results.

  7. 7
    punctum on 13 May 2010 #

    #6: You’re right, it was. I find it hard not to think of the two books as two halves of the same book.

  8. 8
    sterl on 13 May 2010 #

    haha I’m reading the sportswriter right now actually and finding it very enjoyable, while at the time at least, independence day was v. irritating.

    1. Danyel Smith. Greg Tate. Ego Trip. Metal Mike.

    2. dunno

    3. Nik Cohn, Rock & the pop narcotic, where dead voices gather.

    4. Bruce McCullough’s Nirvana bit from Shame-Based Man. Rich J’s (whom I used to be unfairly harsh on) beyonce.gif and mariah.gif animated shrines. Thomas Pynchon’s section in Inherent Vice regarding headphones (yes, it is from a book, but it is not a music book…). Kogan’s review of “The Song Is The Single.”

    5. Jay-z vs. Nas on ilx.

    6. Lil Wayne behind the music. The hot boyz movie. Josie and the Pussycats. Party Girl. Stop Making Sense. The Harder They come.

  9. 9
    Garry on 14 May 2010 #

    1. Clive Bell; Steve Barker
    2. Ned Sublette
    Clinton Walker – Stranded (Macmillan);
    David Toop – Exotica;
    The Virgin Encyclopedia of Eighties Music;
    Kevin Whitehead – New Dutch Swing
    Clive James – “Louis Armstrong” (Essay in non-music book Cultural Amnesia);
    Robert Foster – “Confessions and Hits (Hits and Confession)” (Review of Delta Goodrem’s Delta, from the Monthly Magazine);
    Lawrence Miles – “Z-Bomb Casualty” (from his Doctor Who Thing blog. On The fame of pop stars and other people’s expectations you care.)
    alt.music.progressive back in the mid-nineties (whether Radiohead was prog rock and other such squabbles – also 6 degrees of seperation from Bill Bruford)
    6. 24 Hour Party People; Backbeat; Music for one apartment and six drummers;

  10. 10
    lonepilgrim on 23 May 2010 #

    Finally completed this; by no means a definitive list:

    1. In no particular order and not being sycophantic with the last two
    a. David Toop – Face music column and various books;
    b. Dave Marsh (if only to get some idea of where the middle of the rock(y) road is;
    c. Marcello Carlin: Then Play Long, etc.
    d. Tom Ewing: Popular; Pitchfork column

    a. George Melly ‘Revolt into style’
    b. Joan Didion ‘The White Album’
    c. Tom Wolfe ‘The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test’
    d. Michael Bracewell ‘Remake/Remodel’

    3. I don’t honestly think there are any books about music that people “should” read but I enjoyed these
    a. Paul Williams ‘Performing Artist’ Volumes 1 & 2
    b. Nik Cohn & Guy Peellaert ‘Rock Dreams’
    c. Stanley Booth ‘The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones’
    d. Pete Frame ‘Rock family trees’
    e. Mark Shipper ‘Paperback Writer’
    f. Bob Dylan ‘Chronicles’

    a. Angus MacKinnon, NME (1980). “The Future Isn’t What It Used to Be” Interview with David Bowie around release of Scary Monsters
    b. Fiona Russell Powell, The Face (early 80s); Interview with Simon Le Bon; entertaining trivia; available at her website
    c. Nik Cohn, New York Magazine’ (1975) ‘Tribal rites of the new Saturday Night’ (I know he features above but it’s GPs artwork that sells the book.
    d. Charles Shaar Murray, NME 1977 ‘The Social Rehabilitation of the Sex Pistols’

    a. Invisible Jukebox feature in The Wire
    b. NME 1977-82
    c. The Face 1984-89

    a. Singing in the Rain
    b. I’m Not There
    c. Video Quartet (2002) – Christian Marclay
    d. Mulholland Drive – for the Club Silencio scene
    e. New York, New York
    f. Pennies fro Heaven

  11. 11
    lonepilgrim on 24 May 2010 #

    I suddenly remembered Vivian Goldman after I posted the above. She championed Brian Eno, John Martyn, Dennis Bovell and other alternatives to the mainstream at Sounds in the late 70s and deserves to be celebrated as a strong female voice in UK rock journalism of the time.

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