March Madness!

So, these are the 21 books we’ll be signing up for publication during 2008 and 2009. (And doubtless, knowing the history of the series, one or two of these will not appear until 2010…)

In no particular order:

Funkadelic: Maggot Brain – by Matt Rogers
Slayer: Reign in Blood – DX Ferris
Tori Amos: Boys for Pele – Elizabeth Merrick
Fleetwood Mac: Tusk – Rob Trucks
Nas: Illmatic – Matthew Gasteier
The Pogues: Rum, Sodomy & the Lash – Jeffery Roesgen
Wire: Pink Flag – Wilson Neate
Big Star: Radio City – Bruce Eaton
Pavement: Wowee Zowee – Bryan Charles
Madness: One Step Beyond – Terry Edwards
Israel Kamakawiwo’ole: Facing Future – Dan Kois
Public Enemy: It Takes a Nation of Millions… – Christopher R. Weingarten
Van Dyke Parks: Song Cycle – Richard Henderson
Weezer: Pinkerton – Jessica Suarez
Black Sabbath: Master of Reality – John Darnielle
Wu-Tang Clan: Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) – S.H. Fernando, Jr.
Afghan Whigs: Gentlemen – Bob Gendron
Flying Burrito Brothers: Gilded Palace of Sin – Bob Proehl
Elliott Smith: XO – Matthew LeMay
Outkast: Aquemini – Nick Weidenfeld and Michael Schmelling
The Flaming Lips: Zaireeka – Mark Richardson

A few notes:

* If we didn’t pick many (or any!) of your favourites, I’m sorry.
* I’m hoping to announce, over the coming weeks or months, one or two more additions to the series, by people who we’ve approached separately from this “open call” process.
* The choice of the Afghan Whigs book had nothing to do with all the comments left by Whigs fans on a previous post, nor with Mr. Gendron’s article about the series in last weekend’s Chicago Tribune!
* Let’s hope we can do this all over again, in the second half of next year.

I’m really looking forward to reading every single one of these books – we’ll do our very best to make them as good as we possibly can.

And finally, thanks once again to everybody who pitched: it was quite an education!

77 thoughts on “March Madness!”

  1. really, you rejected tom scharpling? big mistake, just ask darnielle. funniest man in america, hands down. you’re like the people that get it, that just don’t get it…

  2. Good list, but “Masters of Reality” and not “Paranoid”? Hmmn, will wait to see. Now then, think it might be time for a Queen book too, I’ve always thought “Jazz” was due for the treatment, a funny, dark, hodge-podge of an album that’s never gotten its due. Indeed, anything by this band up to “Hot Space” would be a kick, Freddie Mercury was such a complicated man whose work demands the worthy attention your series could give him.

  3. My dreams of doing a book on Wowee Zowee are now dashed forever! But I want to read the book on it that got chosen and I never got a pitch together this round anyway, so, yeah.

  4. I’m really happy to see a Pinkerton book make it. I pitched that album too, and as soon as I saw there were 7 proposals for it, I thought a) dang, and b) I’ll bet one of these will be chosen. And it was! I’m sure the book will be great and I can’t wait to read it.I’ll say one thing: it does make me wish I’d gone with my second choice after Kim posted “where’s the Judee Sill pitch?” It’s in my notebook, Kim.

  5. I was rejected and I have to say the list of finals is quite interesting and hits most of the marks I think the series needs to hit in order to stay relevant. I am sad that the DEVO proposal didn’t make the cut. Hopefully somoene will pitch a killer Duty Now for the Future in the next round.As for the guy who said: “At least one, Reign in Blood, that will hopefully have an amazingly compelling backstory–it will need it.”Why would it “need it”? This is one of the greatest and most important records of all time. Rick Rubin produced it (very well), and this extreme metal masterpiece stands over twenty years later as one of the most influential and unparalleled slabs of brutality in the metal canon. It has yet to be surpassed as “the” thrash album to end all thrash.Writing of Slayer as some cheesy hair metal band, or scoffing at their legacy seems highly ignorant to me. This is a band that continues to play the music their fans want to hear, in venues that aren’t too large to make them worth seeing. As for the Mountain Goats guy who gets to do a Sabbath book (and I don’t!)–thank you for not choosing Paranoid. I look forward to reading your work. Now don’t fuck it up.;)

  6. I too was super curious about the Isreal Kamakawiwo’ole choice, so I did what other curious folks should do: I google Dan Kois, found his blog (, and read the excerpt from his proposal that he posted. I found it super interesting and compelling, and a good reminder of the many ways in which 33 1/3 (and music writing in general) can be approached. I’m definitely looking forward to the book.I’m also not even going to attempt to respond to the anonymous douchebag post about the 90/10 male to female rock relevancy ratio. Except to say {sigh} dude, shut up.-KS

  7. I’m sure with Amos’ rabid fan base you had several pitches, so I’m surprised you went with 1996’s “Boys For Pele”. Her 2002 tour de force (pun intended) “Scarlet’s Walk” is a much more mature and cohesive album rife with geniusly constructed musical and thematic through-lines, potent political commentary, and dynamite sonic interplay between vocals, piano and the band. “Pele” has some fine drama going for it (the alleged rip on Cobain’s widow, the post-production replacement drummer, Tori’s oft cited hallucinogen-induced date with Lucifer, etc.) and I’ve always been curious about the origins of her nods to the songs “Purple Rain” and “Take It Easy”, but the effort is almost frivolous in comparison to “Scarlet”.I can say this with only subjective certainty as “Pele” was in the tape deck of my car for 1.5 years straight. Here’s to a great book!

  8. Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk! Tusk!

  9. While I’m disappointed that my proposal didn’t pass muster, I think this is a great list. The openness of the process, the editors’ patience and enthusiasm, the obvious fanboy appreciation — all bode well. I’m buying most of them just so I can encourage this sort of behavior in the publishing industry.Oh, and Isreal Kamakawiwo’ole? He’s the Hawaiian uke player whose claim to fame is the transcendent “Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World” medley. I saw that on the pitch list and laughed. I see it on the final list and now I can’t wait to read it. A yoga instructor of mine used to close her sessions with it. Not very rock & roll, of course, but since when does transcendence always have to rock?I pitched Flipper. The polar opposite of “Over the Rainbow.”

  10. I dislike very much anonymous comments. Even if you don’t have a blogger/gmail account it would be nice if you signed with your name. Even if the comment is well-intentioned, it makes one think there is a reason why there is no name behind what is said. I don’t think “representability” should be a question here. It’s as if I were complaining why there are no more hispanic/latin albums/authors. Again, this collection is a great thing; I am glad someone is doing it. It may not be absolutely perfect (nothing ever is) but it’s certainly one of the best things out there.

  11. David, very disappointing that there aren’t more women authors, it doesn’t seem right. From the number of proposals you received I’m sure there were more women, and more music by women for that matter.

  12. you guys at 33 1/3 fucking ROCK. don’t listen to all the crybabies. this series is the best thing that happened in music literature since… forever. keep the good books flowing. can’t wait for that Pinkerton book.

  13. I have no idea why a New Order album reconfigured as a metaphor for a dead star of bestiality films advising a philandering bastard on how to conduct his affairs would have gone unchosen. Out. Rageous.

  14. When you say “make (a very small amount of) money” slightly before 4000 copies sold do you mean, beyond what I would then assume must be a three or four thousand dollar advance? Or do you mean, period?

  15. I’m a big fan of footnotes, so no – there certainly isn’t a deliberate move away from some of the more academic approaches. It’s something I’ll keep an eye on for the future. As for the lack of blues, the series seems to be moving into slightly more contemporary territory. (I’m not entirely sure why, but it does appear to be happening.) I’m looking into the idea of starting a series of books based around earlier artists or albums, but it’s at a very formative stage.

  16. Boy, I bet David & co are feeling pretty damn good about a couple of those rejections right about now. Spending a couple years working with some of you fools would drive me up the fucking wall.Different people like different stuff, get over it…

  17. a comment (congrats! i can’t wait to read your book, no foolin!) and a question for bob proehl, if he isn’t too busy writing his book to troll these comments:i know what was wrong with my proposal for Gilded Palace of Sin, i think. but, now i’m really interested in reading your pitch to see your angle, as this is a book i’ve wanted to see in this series for years. this isn’t competitive/grousing; i just want to see your perspective and approach. i’m excited, and can’t wait to see what you do! can i get a taste via the proposal?

  18. I have to say I’m a little disappointed that there are only a few books here I might want to read. I’m also puzzled that so many people think these albums are obscure. To me, they’re pretty mainstream to anyone who’s more than a casual fan of music. The only one I’m really looking forward to is the Throbbing Gristle book, and that one’s not even from this list.

  19. Note to anonymous–not that anonymous, and not that one either, but this other anonymous, anonymous #12 & 35. It was me, anonymous #9, who posted the comment about Public Enemy, Big Star, and the rest being predictable. Bitterness? Excellent detective work–you’ve got that much right. Bitterness doesn’t equal wrong, though. I mean, if you think some more words on Public Enemy and Big Star are “long overdue,” well, I’m stuck for an answer, other than to second anonymous #67 & 68 above–sorry that two or three of us tried to spoil your gee-whiz cheerleading party.

  20. “So many people are bitter”? I think there are only a few postings here (out of 47!) that expressed disappointment, and they’re all signed “anonymous.” It might be one or two people. And even those few that were critical allowed that some of the titles were of definite interest. Just because my own reaction wasn’t rabid enthusiasm, I assure you it’s my honest reaction — not sour grapes.

  21. I’m psyched about at least five or six of these – and amen to the person who’s excited about Madness. Me too, me too. Bums me out that so many people are bitter about not being chosen, considering the insane narrowing process.

  22. I think that many well-known writers were chosen because they all have the habits in place to deliver a book. Whether it’s a good book has yet to be seen. I know “good writers” who have destroyed a perfectly nice record. But one reason why so many established writers got chosen may be because they understand deadlines.

  23. I think they were truly looking for the most interesting proposals: why else write about Israel Kamakawiwo’ole??? I mean look at the cover of that album! It’s hilarious! That’s the one I’m most excited to read! Who the hell is that guy??!?!

  24. “It’s all in fun?” Yeah, right dude…I only sense biterness, and if that was an attempt for humor, you now know why your writing got rejected! Seriously folks, many of these titles will be awesome reads. I know that David & co. are bringing the series to the next level, and I can’t wait to see them! I know it’s very, very early, and only a fruit cake like me would ask this: but do you already know which one is slated for release first?

  25. Funkadelic? P.E.? Tori Amos? I’m so damn excited! I was rejected and it couldn’t have been by a better group of people. All of the silly negativity is just plain stupid. Instead of bitching on here, go hone your writing skills and try again.

  26. “Some that are predictable in the extreme: Public Enemy, Big Star, Pavement, Funkadelic”If by “predictable” you mean “long overdue” then I agree with you. The bitterness being expressed by these selections is really getting silly.

  27. of course, i lost out to a dude who has a previously released book of fiction with a title cribbed from the proposed band…on the brite side, i am a fan of both the author and, obviously, the band, so i am way more excited than i probably should be.

  28. “A Sure-Fire Formula For Getting Your Proposal Accepted”…you’re point? welcome to the wonderful world of publishing…David and co. are by far the coolest and most respectful editors I’ve ever been rejected by…

  29. A Sure-Fire Formula For Getting Your Proposal Accepted (this is meant as a jest! it’s all in fun, I love this series)1. Make sure you do what you can to cultivate a relationship with people in both the music industry and the printing industry. Make sure to use hip terminology in your proposal, try to appear English-major literate, and say in five sentences what you could have said in one. 2. Make sure your proposal is not on mainstream music, and reflects the taste of about 5% of the population. Make sure it’s also about the weirdest and most irrelevant album in a band’s catalogue. You know, the one that sticks out because it’s “different” (read: it sucks). Make sure to write a whole book on that one.3. Have someone write your wikipedia page (this is easily done), create a blog, a website, and pepper your name across the web, so that a search of your name on Google will display many results. Change or initialize your first name if it’s too ethnic/too weird/too funny. Mention that you are a writer or a musician or both. Talk about getting published or being in different bands – even though most people don’t even know those “publications” and bands exist, and will often go unquestioned. (Nobody wants to be the guy that doesn’t know *that* band). The more links your name yields, the more the probabilities that you’ll be chosen. I recommend you start a music or writing blog NOW as a heads up for the next 33 1/3 contest. Allow no comments on your blog posts so that nobody can see how many people are actually appreciating the blog or what they think of it. This will give you instant social proof and credibility within the music industry. Make sure you’ve had stuff published, even though you’re 31 years old and you’re having your stuff published in a high school paper: it looks good. You can say in your bio that you’re published!Finally, put pictures of yourself up on the web, and make sure they’re taken by professional photographers and that you’re decked out in full hipster/emo/punk/ attire. All for credibility’s sake, you understand. (Gotta make sure no poseurs are chosen!)4. Go into forums of the band you’re writing about, and make sure you let them all know that you have a proposal on their band for consideration at Continuum, and that everybody should rush over and flood the board with inane comments over the greatness of their band. Then see Continuum say that their decision has nothing to do with the fact that all these people posted on their board about this “great” band. 5. Remember to always thank the publishers (over and over and over again), who are not only publishing the series, but are giving you the *incredible* *amazing* opportunity to compete for a book that will take you a year of your life to write, will yield very little to no income, only to have that book surpassed by…Celine Dion. Follow these simple steps and, baby, I guarantee you’ll be published!

  30. Is there a tendency away from academic writers? I’ve noticed that some of the previous volumes are footnoted with references to books from the pop scholarship canon.

  31. I’d say most of these authors are “journalists/popular media writers”, this time around. Not quite as many musicians as I’d like. And again, a lot of people for whom it’ll be a first book. To me, that’s a positive thing, but I can see the argument that we should be trying to increase the number of more seasoned writers.

  32. David,Could you comment on the demographic of accepted authors? What percentage are journalists/popular media authors versus scholars/academics versus completely unknown writers?Just curious what types of writers you prefer – given that you had multiple submissions for a few artists this likely comes into play to some extent.

  33. It’s a fair point that the “one book per artist” rule has probably run its course now. If the series is fortunate enough to continue beyond, say, 2009, I think we’ll open it up to second books on artists already covered – if only so that we can do more books on Celine Dion, Throbbing Gristle, and Guided by Voices. (Kidding!)Jazz: we had some good proposals this time around, but none that grabbed me in the way that the 21 proposals above did. Sales: The average sale so far is somewhere around 4000 or 5000 copies. I think authors start to make (a very small amount of) money slightly before that. As for us breaking even, it’s probably somewhere around that same mark, too.

  34. Despite the presence of Tusk (I’m really looking forward to that one) and a few others, it’s true that this lot are far less mainstream in comparison, say, to the first dozen or so in the series. But that’s inevitable given the “one artist, one book” rule. I do think it’s a shame that because we have Bowie’s Low, we’re never going to see a Hunky Dory or a Ziggy, for example.Couple of questions: how many copies do these books on average sell? How many do they need to sell for authors to earn their advance and you to break even?

  35. Again with all the “Great job, David!” piffle…While there probably isn’t anything as monumentally stupid as the Celine Dion LP this time, I hope I’m not the only one who greets this list with a massive shrug of the shoulders. Three very good choices: Flying Burrito Brothers, Pink Flag, and Tusk. Some that are predictable in the extreme: Public Enemy, Big Star, Pavement, Funkadelic. A few that are laughably shortsighted–an Afghan Wigs book today is like if someone had decided in 1970 that the world needed a Sons of Champlain book. At least one, Reign in Blood, that will hopefully have an amazingly compelling backstory–it will need it. One I’ve, um, never even heard of: Israel Kamakawiwo’ole. I would not have thought it possible to publish a book in this series about someone I’d never heard of. Anyway, onward to the next round. The Vapors, Bobby McFerrin, Tom Cochrane, My Chemical Romance, maybe even the Fabulous Thunderbirds–a Thunderbirds book is long overdue.

  36. I can’t even contain my excitement for Pink Flag. That has been one I’ve been hoping for since the start of the series. It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back should be excellent as well. There were a lot of others I was hoping to see that didn’t make the cut, but I guess that happens when you have a 400+ proposal list.

  37. Wow, at least half of the books on this list will be must buys for me. Nice to see more hip hop content on here, the Afghan Whigs book has me giddy and I’m interested to see what Mark Richardson does with the Flaming Lips book. Cudos on these selections, regardless of what some of the whiners and sour grapes contingent has to say.

  38. Interesting list. My own proposal looks pretty mainstream among that bunch. That said I’m pretty psyched to see Big Star, Pavement, Public Enemy and Elliott Smith among the picks, I’ll definitely be shelling out for those. And I have to admit Israel Kamakawiwo’ole sent me off to Wikipedia to find out who the heck that is.

  39. Just because they’re obscure doesn’t mean they won’t be good. And by the same token, just because the album has critical or commercial standing doesn’t guarantee a good book. The piles of old arse about ‘Ok Computer’ and ’69 Love Songs’ prove that quite neatly. Hard to imagine much beyond Tori Amos and Madness having much appeal in the UK.

  40. As the author of the book on potentially the most obscure album on the list, I’d like to say I’m obviously grateful to David and the Continuum crew for taking risks in their decision-making. Considering the caliber of many of the proposals that were turned down — a solid dozen of which have been posted on blogs — I have to trust that the ones they actually selected were pretty great. They had 450 excellent ideas to choose from! Think how good these 21 must be!Of course, that’s easy for me to say, and to sound like a dick while saying. Nonetheless, I am very excited about all these books.

  41. This is a really interesting looking list. I, for one, think the suggestion of a book on Thriller is a great idea. (Although, I personally would prefer to write one about _Off the Wall_.)

  42. Interesting question! The answer is no – I’ve had very few discussions with agents about any of the books in this series, going right back to the start.

  43. Was your process of deciding on these authors influenced at all by any of the authors’ agents?I see that at least one of themhas a publishing history with Random House.Thanks–

  44. OK, I’m not quite sure that I understand some of the points you raise here, but I can see the general idea that several of these albums are ‘obscure’. But a lot of these artists are pretty damn big/legendary too, no? Slayer, Tori Amos, Fleetwood Mac, Pavement, Madness, Public Enemy, Sabbath, Outkast, the Pogues, Elliott Smith… The original intention behind the series was simply to find interesting writers to write interesting books about interesting records, and I really hope that’s what we’ll continue to do – at least most of the time!

  45. Sorry, but what a disappointing list. I have a complete set, too, which has been a financial stretch at times but ultimately worth it, still I can’t imagine myself acquiring more than three or four of these. Good luck with ’em.

  46. While the writers look great, the titles and the records chosen mark the demise of a series that seemed more aimed at mainstream content. I do not know under what ilusion you have operated that have made you think that 8,000 people will go out and buy any one of the titles on this list. From the Beatles to Afghan Whigs? From the Velvet Underground to Nas? What’s going on here? Granted, all the mainstream and universally-liked bands have been covered already. But don’t give me anything about wanting to sell that many copies. If you are one of the chosen, then congratulations! Make sure you prove me wrong by writing a great book on the topic. It is people like me who you have to convince to buy your book (I own the entire series).And no, I didn’t get my proposal in on time. So? Is that your only defense and criticism against this issue? You’re going to tell me I’m sour, but then what? I’d like to see someone really address this issue. What happened is that you got a barrage of indie guys, who heard about this contest on, and so you thought that naturally there are MANY people who dig the Afghan Whigs or the smaller bands you have on this list because that’s all you got! This list is disproportionate to the number of people who would actually buy these books, no matter how good the writers and the titles are to the hardcore fans. Most of the hardcore fans of the bands are not interested in these books, and most of the hardcore fans of the series are not interested in these bands. Of course, this is only speculation. In any case, I have no problem with it. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. This is a vote for confidence to the writers who got selected. Congratulations my friends. Now let me see what you can do.

  47. Congrats to all the new 33 1/3 authors. I tell you, it’s a damn fine series to write a book for. As someone who just finished her book, I offer only this: have a f**king great time with it. Have a really really f**king great time.-KS

  48. Pretty awesome that Aaron Sorkin is allegedly writing the “Yoshimi” Broadway musical…not sure if our humble “Zaireeka” book will be able to compete with that!

  49. i don’t think they make decisions based on how many proposals they receive any more than on how many copies the album sold (where’s mj’s thriller?).and i have faith that the zaireeka proposal was simply much more interesting as anything that came in for yoshimi and soft bulletin. that’s how these things get decided from what i can gather.

  50. Stop Making Cents:From the sour grapes department: hmmm, mixed feelings in that my Kraftwerk proposal wasn’t accepted, but seeing as how it was the second-most popular record in terms of receiving proposals (second only to Pinkerton, which WAS signed up), I’m sad to see they didn’t sign up one of us to write about it. It’s a seminal record, and I feel Kraftwerk deserves it (after all, everyone from Air to Boards of Canada to LCD Soundsystem wouldn’t have careers without Kraftwerk). Also, I’m a huge Flaming Lips fan, but I think writing a book about Zaireeka is a total mistake. 4000 people bought the CDs, and 350 will buy the book. Why not do Soft Bulletin or Yoshimi? One of the records that’s actually a record and not an experiment? A book about Zaireeka will be mostly about inter-band politics, how they got back on their feet after Ronald left, the Parkling Lot and Boom Box experiments, Wayne giving up the guitar, their manager convinving Warner Bros to release it, and will read more like a Behind the Music docudrama rather than what it should be: a book about the music. Anyway, that’s my two cents…

  51. as a 96 percenter, I’m thoroughly pleased with is fantastic-looking list!! Finally, Maggot Brain AND It Takes a Nation . . .- the Flaming Lips book is very exciting as well – but of course the topper – Darnielle on Sabbath – priceless!great job, all, especially David – looking forward to much happy music-reading!!Mike h

  52. Unexpectedly, the book on the list I’m most excited about isn’t even my own. It’s John Fucking Darnielle writing about Black Fucking Sabbath.I’m excited and honored to have been picked — what a great group of writers to be selected alongside.

  53. wow, not only an interesting lineup of albums, but a great author list! can’t wait for these! nice to see some metal, funk and hip hop up in this piece…

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