Showing posts with label Continuum books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Continuum books. Show all posts

Sunday, November 2, 2008

So You Want To Be A Rock ‘n’ Roll Book Writer?

David Barker, editor of Continuum’s “33 & 1/3” series of books on classic rock albums, announced yesterday on his blog that Continuum is now accepting proposals for future 33 & 1/3 books, to be published in 2010 and 2011. A significant change in this year’s submissions policy is that the “one book per band/artist” rule no longer exists. Therefore, the review board will consider proposals for books about any album that hasn’t already been covered in the series, or isn’t already under contract.

For those interested, one can find a list of titles already published in the series here, which also lists those titles “Coming 2008” and “Titles Announced for 2008 and 2009.” Apparently the “Unknown Status” list consists of proposed titles that are no longer under contract (with the exception of the books about Kate Bush, Lucinda Williams, and the Clash). The deadline for submission of proposals this go-round is midnight, December 31st, 2008.

Last year I proposed a book on Wall of Voodoo’s classic album Call of the West (1982) for which I had the full support of Stan Ridgway. Not only did he provide me some great material for the proposal, but he also enthusiastically endorsed the proposal, saying he would be happy to sell the books at his concerts. Foolishly believing the proposal would be accepted, I began writing it, only to learn about halfway through the manuscript that my proposal had been rejected. That incomplete manuscript now resides in my file cabinet. The same thing happened to my friend Tim Lucas, who in fact completed his manuscript on Jefferson Airplane’s Crown of Creation (1968). His proposal was also rejected, but he’s announced on his blog that he intends to re-submit his proposal—which he may, in fact, already have done. I have been strongly considering submitting a proposal on The Zombies’ 1968 album Odessey and Oracle—an album specifically mentioned by David Barker as one he would like to have in the series—but there is another title I’m also considering, more outré and avant-garde, that I think should be in the series also. If I don’t do it, who will? (No, it’s not for Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music—that’s been proposed already.)

I own roughly half the titles in the 33 & 1/3 series, primarily those on albums that strongly interest me. It is a splendid concept for a series, of course, and while I think the series appears to have at this point given up too quickly on classic albums, that may change now that the “one book per band/artist” rule is no longer in effect, opening up proposals for other Beatles albums, for instance, or different albums by Bob Dylan, Neil Young, The Rolling Stones, and others. I for one would sure like to see a book on Neil Young’s Tonight’s the Night (1975), as well as a book on the Brian Jones era of The Rolling Stones—Aftermath, for instance (hint, hint). And no book on Elvis Presley in a series on rock albums? That's shameful. Someone should write up a proposal on From Elvis in Memphis (1969), one of the great albums of all time.

Good luck to everyone submitting this time! Wish me luck as well.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Ideas They Kept A-Rollin’

This morning I was pleased to discover that the number of hits on my blogspot had taken a noticeable spike, I suspect in part because of the stimulating exchange (stimulating to me, anyway) Tim Lucas and I have had the past couple of days regarding the relationship between psychedelia and bubblegum music. I invite all my blogspot visitors to read his comments, available through the comments link at the end of my “Bubblegum Breakthrough (Slight Return)” entry. (His initial comment, that prompted the subsequent discussion, is available at the end of the previous day’s entry.)

I am especially gratified by the number of visitors because I think he and I have, in the space of about 48 hours, generated more ideas about how to read (as in interpret) popular music than one can find on websites specifically dedicated to the task of reviewing albums. It’s true that we have been focused on a rather narrow slice of popular music history--admittedly, a slice that is perhaps not interesting to all readers. But what I’ve found so stimulating (as I think Tim has) is not so much our individual valuations of the individual albums or songs--disagreement is a healthy thing, not a “bad” thing, because it promotes further discussion that usually translates into knowledge--but the various methods we’ve employed to make the music meaningful in the first place. After all, popular music doesn’t “mean” anything at all—doesn’t gain any adherents--until it conforms to certain trends and ideas that make it valuable to listeners.

Perhaps the point is best expressed by James Lincoln Collier, in Jazz: The American Theme Song (Oxford University Press, 1993), a critic whose knowledge about jazz is encyclopedic in its breadth. Although he is writing about how jazz music came to represent the new modern spirit of America in the 1920s (“Modernism”), his point is applicable to the way all popular music is ascribed meaning and value:

The point is that a particular style or form in art gains adherents not simply from purely aesthetic considerations, but also from how well it appears to agree with fashionable social, philosophic, or even political considerations . . . . (p. 9)

It was Collier’s insight that formed the basis of my initial assertion, that psychedelia is the aural equivalent of a hallucinogenic drug trip: the particular “sound” that became known as psychedelia meant nothing until it was ascribed a certain analogical meaning.

I think exchanges of the sort Tim and I have the past couple of days are rare in the sense that they happen because the individual participants coincidentally have the time to dedicate to such pursuits. (He’s trying to assemble the latest issue of Video Watchdog while I’m trying to provide him with the material to do just that.) Although Tim has been writing on the cinema since he was a teenager, and I’ve been writing for Video Watchdog for the past 11 years, both of us have keen interest in popular music and it has always been a pleasure for me to share ideas and views about music with him. I don’t think our mutual love of movies and music should be surprising to those who know us primarily through Video Watchdog, as we’re both extremely interested in what in the most general terms is called the “entertainment industry,” the way it has formed our identities and contributed to the life of our individual imaginations. We’re also interested in it because we’re both striving to understand ourselves as individuals whose identities were formed during a particular historical moment when the cultural influence of the entertainment industry had finally achieved the cultural dominance that we now accept as a given, like a fact of nature.

In short, we take popular music very seriously. Last year he and I both submitted proposals to Contiuum’s 33 1/3 series, only to have our proposals rejected by the editor. The manuscript for his book, on Jefferson Airplane’s Crown of Creation, has been completed for a year now if not longer; my manuscript, on Wall of Voodoo’s Call of the West, is perhaps half completed, as I stopped working on it once I received the rejection notice (an email). Both of us obviously were disappointed by the outcome, as we’d each completed a considerable amount of original research, and a number of original interviews. In my case, I had the complete cooperation and total support of the defunct band’s leader, Stan Ridgway, who is still active touring and making albums. If anyone knows of a potential publisher for these books, please let Tim or me know.