Literary Lines Notes: Part 2

Tapestry is an icon of the Album Era, that relatively brief but eventful period between the mid-1960s and the mid-1970s when long-playing records dominated the industry, deeply informing our relationship to popular music. Insofar as it indexes Carole King’s graduation from pop singles to rock albums, Tapestrychronicles the inception of the album as a mature work of musical art in which songs are sequenced and covers are designed to tell a story, frequently about growing up. And rock music itself grew up during this era, exhibiting a new cultural maturity and seriousness.…

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.

Of Time and the Record

Tapestry is an icon of the Album Era, that relatively brief but eventful period between the mid-1960s and the mid-1970s when long-playing records dominated the industry, deeply informing our relationship to popular music. Insofar as it indexes Carole King’s graduation from pop singles to rock albums, Tapestry chronicles the inception of the album as a mature work of musical art in which songs are sequenced and covers are designed to tell a story, frequently about growing up. And rock music itself grew up during this era, exhibiting a new cultural…

Climate Unchanged: Parallels Between Vs. and Gigaton

CLINT BROWNLEE ON HOW MUSIC HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF Pearl Jam’s latest record is a cohesive statement on much that is sideways in America and the world, albeit intermittently veiled and unapologetically direct. The cover art may encourage your eyes to linger in awe—is that what I think it is?—but the imagery is not just intriguing, it’s pointed. The dozen varied songs, with vaguely visual and abrupt titles, regale the careful listener with repeated complaints, regrets, warnings. It both seethes and rocks (in the cradle sense). It punches, then caresses. It…

Vs. versus Vitalogy

Vs. album cover

If you’re with me here, there’s a good chance you’ve been with Pearl Jam since the beginning—and you may have already asked yourself, “If this guy was interested in a tough period for the band, did he forget about Vitalogy?” It’s a fair question. The general consensus is that PJ’s third record represents equal parts soaring creative victory and spectacular implosion. The band members themselves tend to agree when they reflect on Vitalogy, as does producer Brendan O’Brien. In 2001, he said, the album was “a little strained.” Then he elaborated: “I’m being polite—there was some imploding going on.”

My Midnight Vs. Purchase in the Rearview Mirror

Tower Records logo

If you’re of a certain age and musical bent, the midnight record release party likely holds a special, nostalgic place in your heart. Because they’re where you scored some of the albums that shaped your youth and young adulthood. Because high school and college were decades ago, and the good stuff from that long and challenging era now shines brighter than the mistakes and regrets. Because, perhaps, you’re not sure if you’ve attended a release party since the turn of the millennium.

Celebrating International Women’s Day

Bloomsbury academic podcast logo

On International Women’s Day, and for the entirety of Women’s History month, the Bloomsbury Academic podcast revisits episodes that focus on experiences and portrayals of women. Listen in as Carol J. Adams, Rafia Zakaria, and Jenn Pelly apply a feminist lens – as well as their own lived experiences – to women (and womanhood) in music, fashion, advertising, language and literature. These are three conversations you won’t want to miss, featuring an interview with one of our 33 1/3 authors. Stay tuned for a new episode featuring 33 1/3 author…

Celebrating Black History Month with 33 1/3

Spotify album covers

In honor of Black History Month, we’re celebrating some of the most important musicians in Black history and culture. From classics like Marvin Gaye and Aretha Franklin to modern icons like Kanye and Janelle Monáe, our newest playlist has a little something for everyone. We’re featuring some of our favorite 33 1/3 artists alongside some of the most recent additions to the series and exciting upcoming releases. Listen now on Spotify and learn more about our latest books.