A question

Assuming we sign up some new books for the series in the first part of next year, should we stick to the “one album per artist” rule, or would it be interesting to see future books on other albums by Bowie, the Stones, Radiohead, etc? I’m tempted to stick to the rule for as long as possible, but has the series reached that point already? All comments welcome.

And here’s Nik Dirga on two of the recent books, by Mark Polizzotti and John Dougan.

30 thoughts on “A question”

  1. I realize I’m in the minority here, but the one album per artist rule is horrible. Think about it; since you’ve already done “Born In The U.S.A.,” that means no “Darkness On The Edge Of Town,” “Nebraska,” “The Wild, The Innocent, and The E Street Shuffle,” etc? Who wouldn’t want to see a book on “Blood And Chocolate” or “This Year’s Model?” Whoops, you can’t. See how stupid that is? The best rock’n’roll disregards rules. This series should as well.

  2. As freaky collector boy, placing numbers on the spine of your books has forced me to purchase every single one. I can’t say that they’ve all been great, but I can say that the breadth and depth of the collection has always been the most enjoyable aspect of 33 1/3 and getting away from a “one-per-artist” rule would negatively impact that. Also, it very well could turn the whole thing into the literary equivalent of the Rolling Stone Top-500 Albums of All Time (four Beatles albums in the top ten, 2 Dylan, etc.) and as a dedicated fan, I can assure you I would hate to see that happen.I have no interest in stumping for my favorite albums for write-ups, but I have to say that there should be more hip-hop albums up for consideration. As a singles based genre, great hip-hop albums are a whole lot more rare than great rock albums. I’m not saying, I’m just saying.

  3. Though, perhaps the way around that would be solo Lou Reed / Beatles books. People would be into a book on one of those early John Lennon albums or Lou Reed’s ‘Transformer’, as two examples.There’s always Nico.

  4. I’d say stick to the one-album-per-artist rule. The bands that would inevitably get the repeats have already flooded marketplace with material (about their material)- Beatles, Stones, Bowie, Who, Dylan, Velvets etc.Sigh. If that means no potential for a Kid A book, then so be it.

  5. May I ask that if you do do a book about blur, PLEASE do “13” and not “Parklife”. It’s so much more brilliant and complex, and the William Orbit production is flawless (simply the sounds and noises heard in “Battle” alone warrant their own written work). It’s almost as if “Parklife” simply paved the way for what the band could truly be (“13”) and it’s most certainly the ideal candidate for a 33 1/3 book. And you know it deep down, too, don’t you.

  6. I’m so embarrassed I just discovered the series. Then again, I was living in Mexico City and I just moved to London. But that should be no excuse. In my humble opinion, what makes the series exciting is the “one album per artist” rule. I’m not sure if I agree if the rule should be broken if someone like Pynchon or Murakami proposes a book, though. What I have found so exciting about the series is discovering new writers who know a certain record very well.

  7. I would like to add that i would love to see some “country” How about possibly the most underrated work in the genre Willie Nelson’s Spirit?Serving 190 ProofHonkyTonkHeroesRoll Out The Red Carpet

  8. no rules either way. if any of these people followed rules, there would be nothing to write about in the first place. But you really have to do a “Tusk” or something on Pavement. Its just criminal not to.

  9. Ege Bamyasi / Tago Mago!!SPIDERLAND!!!!!ParklifeLadies and Gentlemen we are Floating in SpacePlaying With FireDifferent ClassNeu!something by Kraftwerk for sureDummySelected Ambeint Works 85-92 would be simply STELLAR I’m sure (or even something like 808 State’s “Newbuild” or “ex:el”)Laughing StockScreamadelicaAs you can see, between me and a ton of others who metioned similar things, there is still a wealth of music-nerd ESSENTIALS that have not been touched, and there seems to be absolutely no reason to start repeating already. I can’t believe there’s not a Pavement one out yet as it is.

  10. In my own reading of the series, I’ve found that some books focus more than others on more than the album under discussion, in an endeavor to put that album in historic and career context. For example, a book on STATION TO STATION might be redundant in light of the book on LOW. But I don’t feel the book on PET SOUNDS makes a book on, say, SURF’S UP or THE BEACH BOYS LOVE YOU any less welcome or necessary.Ultimately I agree that the choice should stand or fall on the perimeters laid down in the writer’s proposal, and whether their book stands a chance of saying something that is not only personal about an album, but opens that album to deeper listening by those who read it.

  11. Gosh, this is so subjective. I think it should depend on the proposal. Not on the fame of the writer, or even on the quality of the album. In other words, does this writer have something of value to say about this record. My one caveat to this: records that have been written about to death should probably be avoided. Do we really need another book about the making of SGT PEPPER or THE WALL? I wouldn’t think so. But there are plenty of artists out there that have made more than one record worth covering.

  12. i can see the value in both positions (single versus multiple abums per artisit) but it really depends on the artist, whether or not their catalog deserves more than one book. the leap from de la soul’s first album to their second deserves to be chronicled. the albums are vastly diffeent and interesting books could be written about both of them. there is already enough u2 mateial out there, so one book would be enough. it all boils down to the artist.

  13. One book per group rules. But then, what if the Camper Van Beethoven rerecording of “Tusk” is chosen, and “Tusk” has already been written about? Suppose TV on the Radio rerecorded “Forever Changes” and David Foster Wallace decided it was the album he wanted to write about.

  14. remember when garth brooks turned into chris gaines? what was going on there? a total edsel moment. i’d want to read more about that.and maybe some old country albums?also, heino.

  15. Actually, what makes the 33 1/3 series UNIQUE, is the ability of individual authors to reveal their ‘experience’ of a treasured recording with a free hand to succeed (and almost succeed), by their own design. It’s a tricky balance. The other PRIMARY factor is that it be a recording worthy of attention, based on artistic merit. I would ONLY turn away from the series if the recordings chosen pander to blatantly commercial interests (say for example, Thriller), or if the writing no longer reflects earnest dedication. David – thanks for the series, thanks for this blog, and congratulations on your recent marriage.

  16. At the risk of deviating from the set “look” of the series, I would argue the addition of artist name to the spine, in addition to album name. The titles make sense if you know exactly what you’re looking for, but for the more casual browser, I don’t think additional clues to seemingly oblique titles such as “Forever Changes” or “Meat Is Murder” would hurt. Chances are these will be shelved spine out. They might even sell a few more books.After all, even the 33 1/3 sales charts are posted by artist rather than album.As far as more than one album per artist? I’m guessing that the likely contestants have already been well-chronicled elsewhere, and that the series would be better served by a focus on strong albums by as-yet unrepresented artists.

  17. I would strive/favor books for new artists but not reject one because the artist has already been given a treatment. Would you really turn down a manuscript that could be the best book in the series for this rule?

  18. I agree with the “stick to the one book per arist unless there’s a really fucking great proposal” idea, generally.The “1984 was the greatest year for rock and pop ever” idea, on the other hand, is either a really hilarious joke or an even funnier, all-true admission of being a certain age.

  19. Personally I prefer one album per artist. It makes the series more special.there are tons of albums thoughJamboree?different Class?Parklife?Definitely Maybe?Ladies and Gentlemen we are Floating in Space?Head on the Door?Anything by Madness?, The Specials? Kraftwerk? Neu?Real Life?Cut?there’s a lot there

  20. My number one choice for book to be written:De La Soul – 3 Feet High and Rising (where’d it go?)Fleetwood Mac – TuskPublic Enemy – It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us BackTo serve the class of 1984, the greatest year for rock or pop ever – Meat Puppets II (but I’d be there on release day for Up On the Sun, too.)Husker Du – Zen Arcade (ditto for Flip Your Wig)Minutemen – Double Nickels on the DimeSee, you have way too many to write before doubling up.

  21. I vote for what Geoff Klock said. Keep it to one album per band to maintain the stunning diversity of the series, unless someone awesome wants to double up. I mean, could you really say no if Haruki Murakami wanted to write about Dylan or The Beatles?

  22. Keep to the one book per group rule but let the strength of the writer sway you — if Thomas Pynchon tells you he wants to write a 33 1/3 volume on The White Album you break the rule and have two books on the Beatles. Only break the rule for a writer who manages to knock you the fuck out on the proposal.

  23. An interesting point. I own each of the books in the series through #35, so I’m a believer. I would like to see the series continue, primarily if the unique qualities that define 33 1/3 are preserved. Beyond your continued stewardship, what are the other criteria for the further development of new titles in the series? It seems to me that the 33 1/3 series serves as an ambassador for Continuum, so it isn’t clear if the sale of individual titles is most important, or the relative health of the series as a whole. Certainly the well is not dry when it comes to favorite albums that inspire talented writers, and it would be a pleasure to see titles featuring Tim Buckley, Nick Drake, Captain Beefheart or Young Marble Giants to name a few. However, it does seem that even though the Beatles are over served by the volume of titles in print, that they are under served by 33 1/3 with (only) Let It Be. If the series will be strengthened by the potential exposure major artists bring, then the answer is easy. Just learn from the mistakes of the recording industry, and keep the focus on quality.

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