Literary Liner Notes: Part 1

The resolutely minor genre of liner notes recently received a considerable boost in cultural stature when Jonathan Lethem and Kevin Dettmar decided to feature Nat Hentoff’s commentary on The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan as the first chapter in their Library of America anthology Shake It Up: Great Writing on Rock and Pop from Elvis to Jay Z. Hentoff was the most prolific producer of these simultaneously ephemeral and essential paratexts and it’s fitting that his introduction to the young Bob Dylan also introduces this collection of popular music criticism’s bid for literary respectability.

Growing up with the Beatles

Image of the Beatles

Like many if not most of us my musical memories begin with The Beatles. The four floating faces, half in bluish shadow, on the cover of Meet the Beatles! is the first album cover I remember. It’s a memory that comes back to me in a fragmentary spectrum of sounds, images, and words. Not surprisingly the first songs on side one echo most clearly and completely. “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “I Saw Her Standing There” are more than memories; they are memorized. They persist as strips of sound in my neural networks corresponding note by note and word by word to the ridges and grooves along which the needle moved.

Kanye Week: Sic Transit Gloria Kanye

Welcome back to Kanye Week, in celebration of our new 33 1/3 title on Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (hereafter MBDTF) by Kirk Walker Graves, out June 19. The last Kanye Week post is a special one. Our pals at Rap Genius have kindly decided to excerpt part of the book in their one-and-only annotated format. Read “POWER (sic transit gloria Kanye)” by Kirk W. Graves on Rap Genius. Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is available for pre-order on Amazon, Bloomsbury.com, and wherever 33 1/3s are sold.

Kanye Week: The Red and the Black

Welcome back to Kanye Week, in celebration of our new 33 1/3 title on Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (hereafter MBDTF) by Kirk Walker Graves, out June 19. Here with his second post, Graves addresses Kanye’s duality, and the importance of a leather-clad comeback. A major part of Kanye’s appeal as both an artist and performer is his creative volatility. Whether it’s a new album, an interview, or a live show, the question is always the same: Which Kanye are we going to get? The very same energies behind his cringeworthiest moments…

Kanye Week: We Need to Talk About Kanye

Welcome to Kanye Week, in celebration of our new 33 1/3 title on Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (hereafter MBDTF) by Kirk Walker Graves, out June 19. In this first post, Graves addresses the difficulty of talking about someone who talks so much himself. He’s a poet, he’s a picker He’s a prophet, he’s a pusher He’s a pilgrim and a preacher, and a problem when he’s stoned He’s a walkin’ contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction, Takin’ ev’ry wrong direction on his lonely way back home.  –…

Coming soon! EPMOW, Vol. 12

We’re very pleased to announce a teaser for the publication of the twelfth volume in our critically lauded reference series, Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World. We’ve just published this year, Volume 9 which explores genres in the Caribbean and Latin America. Here, as a teaser article for the International Volume (XII), we present an excerpt on Gospel and Christian Popular Music by Dr. Monique Ingalls. International Gospel and Christian Music Dr. Monique Ingalls (Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania) is Assistant Professor of Music at Baylor University. Published in the…

Beach Boys Week: Video Vault: Shooting the Curl

We wrap up Beach Boys Week, in celebration of #94 in the 33 1/3 series, Beach Boys’ Smile by Luis Sanchez (out now!) with a video vault in celebration of “Surf’s Up” and Smile’s place in the canon. When I interviewed Van Dyke Parks in 2009 about his thoughts and recollections of being a working musician in 1960s Southern California and his creative relationship with Brian Wilson, he shared something that made a lasting impression on me. On the subject of what makes Smile such a vital work of art,…

Beach Boys Week: The Beach Boys and Comedy

Welcome to Beach Boys Week, in celebration of #94 in the 33 1/3 series, Beach Boys’ Smile by Luis Sanchez (out now!). This time around, Sanchez looks at the relationship between the band and comedy. A Beach Boy walks into a bar… There’s a peculiar moment captured during a Beach Boys studio session outtake that you can find on the 1996 Pet Sounds Sessions boxed set. It punctuates a break between takes for the instrumental track for “Hang On To Your Ego.” The session sounds like it’s going well enough—musicians…

Beach Boys Week: Beach Boys at the Movies

Welcome to Beach Boys Week, in celebration of #94 in the 33 1/3 series, Beach Boys’ Smile by Luis Sanchez (out now!). In his first entry, Sanchez looks at the beach and surf movie legacy of Brian Wilson and Co. One of the greatest ironies of the Beach Boys early music is that, for all its power to evoke a sense of Southern California place and mindset, only Dennis Wilson is remembered as an actual surfer. One theme I explore in my book is the tension between authenticity and inauthenticity,…

Affect, Protest and the ‘Death’ of Political Popular Music

Marie Thompson is co-editor, with Ian Biddle, of Sound, Music, Affect (2013). A writer and researcher, based in Nottingham, UK, she recently completed her PhD thesis, ‘Beyond Unwanted Sound: Noise, Affect and Aesthetic Moralism’, at the International Centre for Music Studies, Newcastle University. She teaches at Lincoln School of Media, University of Lincoln. Marie is also active as a musician, playing solo as Tragic Cabaret and in the band Beauty Pageant. We are often told that political music is over. In recent years, there have been a number of articles…