Showing posts with label Continuum books 33 1/3 series. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Continuum books 33 1/3 series. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

And Then There Were 170

Frequent visitors to this blog know that I submitted a proposal, on Neil Young’s Tonight’s the Night, to Continuum Books’ 33 1/3 series of books on significant rock albums of the past forty years (or so). This past Sunday evening, the series’ editor, David Barker, posted the (long) shortlist of proposals still under serious consideration, trimming the number of proposals from 597 to 170. I’m very happy to report that my proposal made the initial cut and is still under consideration, as is my friend Tim Lucas’s, on Jefferson Airplane’s Crown of Creation. Tim sent me a congratulatory note today, to which I responded reciprocally. I sincerely hope we both make it—I would very much like to see our work appearing in the same series— although I don’t wish to calculate the odds of that probability. But we shall see.

While reader comments (available on a pop-up window) on the short list are widely varied, by and large the comments by those authors whose proposals were rejected the first round are congenial and supportive of those who made the initial cut. Believe me, I know what it’s like to receive a rejection, as I didn’t make the cut the last time there was an invitation for proposals, nor did Tim. While of course I would love to contribute a book to the series, there are a good many albums on the short list I would love to read a book about. Congratulations to all who have made it so far. I wish you all the best, and please do likewise.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

1 In 33 (And A Third)

This morning, David Barker, editor of Continuum’s 33 1/3 series of books on significant albums of the past forty years, posted the master list of proposals he received as a result of his latest call for books to be published in the series—all 597 of them. That’s 147 more than he received last time. Shows you what I know. I thought there would be fewer proposals this time, not more. Last time he received 450 proposals, and accepted about 20 of them: the odds of getting accepted were about 1 in 25. But his time, assuming about 20 or so are again accepted, the odds are . . . well, roughly 1 in 33.3. Perhaps that’s as it should be.

The list is remarkably diverse, which pleases the editor. And although they rescinded the “one book, one artist” rule for this round of proposals, he’s also pleased by the relatively few number of proposals on albums by artists already the subjects of books in the series. “I was really expecting a deluge of Dylan, Pink Floyd, Velvets, Smiths, Stones and Radiohead pitches,” Mr. Barker writes, but “Instead, we get Slint, Ween, and Britney….” This fact may suggest something about the demographic reading and hoping to write for the series, I'm not sure. But excluding the fifteen proposals for “Various Artists” compilations, the band with the greatest aggregate number of proposals is the Talking Heads (8), followed by Slint (7, all on 1991’s Spiderland), Liz Phair (5, all on 1993’s Exile in Guyville) and Ween (5). For my part, I was pleased to see this time around proposals on Van Morrison (Astral Weeks), the O’Jays (Back Stabbers), Phil Ochs, Public Image Ltd. (Metal Box), Scott Walker, The Specials, The Mekons, The Residents, Underworld, John Cale (Paris 1919) and The Zombies (Odessey & Oracle)—and someone, lo and behold, finally proposed a book on Elvis Presley! (The Moses figure to the 33 1/3 series—he enabled the series in the first place, but will never be a part of it.) There were some surprises: 10cc, Gene Clark, Dennis Wilson (Pacific Ocean Blue), the Electric Prunes (Mass in F Minor), and, of all things, Steppenwolf’s Steppenwolf Live. The choices for Bob Dylan albums were unusual as well, but there’s no way of knowing until you see the proposals, of course. And there were the usual number of obvious—too obvious—choices. The oddest proposal: Wilco, “Forthcoming 2009 album.” Isn't that a lot like calling dibs?

Unless the series turns itself over strictly to books about cult albums of the past two decades or so, the toughest nut to crack, in my opinion, is another book on The Beatles, although a few proposals were submitted this time (Beatles for Sale and The Beatles, aka “The White Album”). I say this not because a Beatles album is already the subject of a book in the series (Let It Be), and not because another book doesn’t need to be written about their albums. I say this because it will be hard to surpass Dave Marsh’s book, The Beatles’ Second Album (Rodale, 2007), a model text of how you go about writing about rock music. Not everyone shares my opinion about his book, of course (see the reader comments on Amazon’s website by clicking on the link), but for sheer passion about a subject, characterized by good writing based on solid research, it is hard to surpass. Essentially Marsh used the The Beatles’ Second Album as means to gauge the band’s immense impact not only on popular music, but American culture as well, and in that regard he succeeds admirably. He’s attempting something very difficult, which is, as he calls it, to bridge “a canyon of time,” attempting to invoke precisely what sort of musical and cultural revolution The Beatles’ initiated, using the band’s second American album to do it. I don’t think, as some have claimed, he’s trying to compete with the fine books on The Beatles by Bruce Spizer, but rather to attempt a colossal act of historical reconstruction. My memory of those times—and the significance of The Beatles—jibes with his. For instance, one insightful observation (out of many) Marsh makes is as follows:

One of the great discrepancies between living through Beatlemania and the way that Beatles history has been recorded is the small role that the rock ‘n’ roll haters play in the annals. As the tale is usually told, it’s as if there were a few days, maybe a couple months, during which general disapproval of the Beatles, individually and as a group, and of the music—theirs, what they drew upon, what they inspired—ran rampant. Then adults quite jovially saw the light and, with the release of “Michelle,” all became sweetness and a quick transformation took place to “All You Need Is Love.”

That’s not how it played out—not in my hometown, and not for anybody I’ve ever talked to who lived through it. (48)

It wasn’t like that in my hometown either, Dave. It wasn’t just about the music, as anyone who lived through those times perfectly well knows: it was cultural warfare: about politics, morals, race—it was about whether you were an American or not. Those four lads from Liverpool were perceived by some as a menace, out to corrupt American youth. Of course, it wasn’t just about The Beatles; I remember the days when buying a Dylan album was a transgressive act. But, I digress. My point is that some of the latest proposals have a tougher hill to climb than others, although I admire those who have chosen to take this more challenging and arduous route.

The editor of the 33 1/3 series, David Barker, is entertaining a plan to whittle the roughly six hundred proposals down to a final one hundred. While I hope my proposal is among those ultimately accepted, if it is not—as strange as it may sound—I hope it is cut in the initial round rather than remaining in limbo, as it were, among the final 100. Even if it were one of those final 100, it would, in fact, be no closer to the final goal, to be selected for publication, than it was at the beginning of the selection process.

Now the waiting starts. Whatever the result, I look forward to further books in the series, as the quality has been very high. Good luck to all.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Today's The Day

I apologize for not being the most diligent blogger of late, but I’ve been extremely busy working on my book proposal for consideration in Continuum’s 33 1/3 series of books on significant rock albums of the past forty years. Note that I avoided using the term “classic,” using “significant” instead, although many of the albums written about so far in the series I would consider classic rock albums. Many of the albums that have been the basis of books in the series, while not necessarily considered “classic” by the rock establishment, have shown a continuous market value and a stubbornly persistent public presence, and albums that have shown such resilience have been favored by the series editors as well.

I am happy to announce that I’m now finished with the proposal—three weeks later than I’d intended, however—and that it has now been officially submitted to the editors. I happen to consider the album I chose to write a proposal for a classic—Neil Young’s TONIGHT’S THE NIGHT (1975). I noticed that neither Neil Young nor TONIGHT’S THE NIGHT was listed among the artists in the first hundred proposals received by series editor David Barker, although that isn’t the reason I chose to write a proposal on it; indeed, I’d already decided to write on the album some time ago, even before the latest call for proposals was announced in early November. Of course, just because Neil Young wasn’t among the musicians listed in the first hundred proposals doesn’t mean one hasn’t since been received on Young, nor does it mean in the weeks since the posting of that list that the editor hasn’t received a proposal (or two) on TONIGHT’S THE NIGHT (A proposal for a book on the album was not submitted during the last call for proposals since the editors were then enforcing the one artist/one album rule.) In fact, I would be surprised if he hasn’t.

Why did I choose to write on TONIGHTS THE NIGHT? Not for the obvious reason that the album is acknowledged as a classic, but rather out of a desire to interrogate the very idea of what we mean by “classic” in the first place. While endorsed by the critical establishment—it is listed as #331 in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, just above The Beatles’ HELP!—its total sales (this again according to Rolling Stone) are fewer than 500,000 in contrast to HARVEST’s 4.3 million copies sold. But the fact is, TONIGHT’S THE NIGHT speaks to me in a way that HARVEST does not, and as a sage old writer once remarked, you should write about what you know, so I chose to write about TONIGHT’S THE NIGHT.

What are my expectations? Hopeful . . . but realistic. As I mentioned in my earlier blog, odds for acceptance are about 1 in 25—not very good. But of course I assume I stand a chance or I wouldn’t have taken the time to submit a proposal. Please wish me luck! And if you’re that individual who submitted a book proposal on TONIGHT’S THE NIGHT and it is accepted rather than mine, then I can honestly say that I look forward to reading your book, because I'm very convinced the album merits such a focused discussion.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Odds Are 4 In 100

On two occasions last month I posted blog entries concerning the latest call for proposals for books in Continuum’s 33 & 1/3 series examining classic albums of the rock era. A few weeks ago, the editor of the 33 & 1/3 series, David Barker, posted on his blog a list of the first ten proposals he’d received so far. Since that time, he’s received forty more proposals; I’ve re-posted the complete list below. Mr. Barker insists that those interested in writing a book for the series should not be discouraged if one of the artists on the list below is the subject of the proposal they are currently working on. The first ten artists listed below I posted earlier; proposals received since that earlier post are listed after the lacuna. Last time Continuum announced a call for proposals, 450 proposals were submitted, with about 20 of those being accepted (that is, roughly 4%). Assuming that figure still holds (and I assume it will), then only 2-3 of the proposals listed below have a chance for being accepted for publication. Your odds are hence about 4 in 100 (in other words, don't bet your life on being accepted).

Have I submitted my proposal yet? Not yet, but I’m getting close. And no, the artist whose album I’m writing about is not on the list—not so far. For those interested in submitting a proposal, you have slightly over three weeks left to do so. Redundant artists in the list below include Yo La Tengo and David Bowie (Low is already a title in the series, so these latest proposals are for yet another album(s) by him). I am pleased to see proposals for books on Devo, King Crimson, John Cale, and Van Morrison show up; there are not a whole lot of proposals on girl singers yet, but I'm sure that will change. In any case, I wish us all the best of luck.

The Fall
The Jam
Van Halen
The Zombies
Against Me!
Jefferson Airplane
Mary Margaret O'Hara
Yo La Tengo



Various Artists

Smashing Pumpkins


Herb Alpert

De La Soul

David Thomas and Two Pale Boys

King Crimson

John Cale
Allman Brothers Band

Songs Ohia

Iron Maiden


Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
George Harrison
Van Morrison

The Rolling Stones


Paul Westerberg

The Cars

Incredible String Band

David Bowie

Cat Stevens
New Order
The Electric Prunes

Ol' Dirty Bastard


Sigur Ros

Red House Painters


Big Black

Lou Reed

Yo La Tengo

David Bowie

Britney Spears

The White Stripes

Robert Calvert

Friday, November 21, 2008

Strictly Commercial?

Earlier this month I posted a blog entry on Continuum’s 33 & 1/3 series of books examining classic albums of the rock era. A couple of weeks ago, the editor of the 33 & 1/3 series, David Barker, posted a list of the first ten proposals he’s received so far for new books in the series, none of which—so he avers—he’s yet read. While it is a little too early yet to get any real sense of the range of groups and albums that will be submitted, my own view, for what it’s worth, is that it is a little too early yet in the series’ publishing history to give up on albums of the classic rock era. As Mr. Barker has made clear, Continuum is looking to sell books, and I have no problem with this policy as long as it doesn’t prevent albums that have proved their durability through time from being neglected for the sake of potential book sales. Case in point: Nirvana’s Nevermind (1991) sold six million copies in its first six months, but sold fewer than two million in the next twelve years. The question is whether the commercial success of an album (at least in its first year) qualifies it for consideration as a "classic" album. I suppose he would say that he might be convinced if the proposal were good enough. At any rate, the proposals he’s received so far are for books on albums by:

The Fall
The Jam
Van Halen
The Zombies
Against Me!
Jefferson Airplane
Mary Margaret O’Hara
Yo La Tengo

In my earlier entry I stated that an album ripe for discussion would be The Zombies’ Odessey & Oracle, and while I have no idea if the book proposal is for this album specifically, I strongly suspect it is. I would welcome a book on that album, and depending upon the particular album, the books on The Jam, Van Halen, and Jefferson Airplane interest me, while the other groups on the list only marginally so.

On a different note, Mr. Barker posted a fascinating excerpt from the forthcoming 33 & 1/3 book by Bruce Eaton on Big Star’s Radio City, another installment in the 33 & 1/3 series that I look forward to reading (click on the above link to Mr. Barker's blog to read the excerpt). I have not yet submitted my book proposal to Mr. Barker, but I hope to do so by December 1, well before the deadline of December 31st. The last time such a call for proposals was posted, I think the proposals numbered around 400, with about 20 of those being accepted for publication. As I mentioned earlier, my proposal on Wall of Voodoo’s Call of the West was rejected, but I intend to submit another proposal this time as well.