This week is publication week for The 33 1/3 B-sides! We’ve been anxiously awaiting this book for a while now, and we cannot wait for everyone to read it. Throughout this week, we will be sharing some blog posts from the contributors of the book (all past 33 1/3 authors) discussing the albums that they still dream about today. Below, D. Gilson and Will Stockton introduce us to The 33 1/3 B-Sides…
This is the week we welcome into the world The 33 1/3 B-sides: New Essays by 33 1/3 Authors on Beloved and Underrated Albums! With 55 essays from past 33 1/3 authors, this volume truly holds work on artists for everyone with a variety of musical tastes, from canonical singer songwriters (Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan) to some of the biggest bands of our lifetimes (R.E.M. and The Doors), from pop in all its forms (J-Pop group Perfume and Sinead O’Connor) to hip-hop (Digable Planets and De La Soul), and any number of bands or soloists or soundtracks you might not have yet heard of before.
At the heart of this collection is obsession, and we hope you’ll see the passion each writer — among them academics and critics and musicians themselves — brought to the page.
Simply put, we asked past 33 1/3 contributors: If given another chance to write for the series, which albums would you take on the second time around? What would be your B-side? Questions central to the essays include: How has this album influenced your worldview? How does this album intersect with your other creative and critical pursuits? How does this album index a particular moment in cultural history? In your own personal history? Why is the album perhaps under-the-radar, or a buried treasure? Why can’t you stop listening to it? Bringing together 33 1/3’s rich array of writers, critics, and scholars, this collection probes our taste in albums, our longing for certain tunes, and our desire to hit repeat — all while creating an expansive “must-listen” list for readers in search of unexplored musical territories.
We were honored to edit this collection, to say the least. The writers found here surprised us with each essay, with each individual theorization on the concept of the B-Side. All of these questions swirl around re-examining nostalgia. As Rebecca Wallwork hilariously asks in her entry on a 1980 soundtrack by The Village People, “Can’t Stop the Music holds the distinction of receiving the first-ever Razzie Award for Worst Picture. The accompanying soundtrack yielded but one hit, ‘Y.M.C.A.’ And yet despite these flaws, the movie and its soundtrack are lodged in my internal jukebox. Why? How can something so shit be so good? And how would an objectively bad movie and album now almost forty years old hold up to reexamination?” Sometimes these reexaminations sparked happier revisions of one’s own life in retrospect, as Daniel Couch explains in his essay on The Weakerthans’ Left and Leaving, an album that marks his tumultuous time in foreign service, “Rather than turning away from the painful memories, I have assembled a B-side of new ones that I hear alongside them: joyous ones, funny ones, somber ones, most of which have nothing to do with the Peace Corps at all.” And sometimes these reexaminations left writers melancholic, or puzzled, or any number of emotions music can leave us with years later as we look back. As many emotions, it turns out, as there are writers found in this volume.
This week B-side contributors will be taking over the Bloomsbury blog, and we’ll hope you’ll join us not only in reading their contributions here, but also by getting hold of the book and taking a dive into the overlooked musical past with us.