The Saddest Song on Everyone’s Album

Image of Jude Johnstone

Jude Johnstone began writing songs at the piano as a child growing up in Hancock, Maine. She was technically “discovered” by Clarence Clemons of Bruce Springsteen’s E-Street Band, who met her on a plane, listened to some demos she later sent him, and flew her to New Jersey, where she witnessed Springsteen recording The River. In 1979 she traveled with the band to Los Angeles, locus of the American recording industry, and established herself as a professional songwriter for artists from Johnny Cash to Bette Midler and Trisha Yearwood.

Midnight Train

Image of Jorja Chalmers

For a decade or so, Jorja Chalmers has been performing saxophone and keyboards with Bryan Ferry. She’s a dazzling presence on stage, as befits Ferry’s carefully curated and casually sophisticated image, plus her contributions to his concerts can be outsized. During a recent, pre-Covid performance at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles I attended, the backup singers on the iconic song “Avalon” lost their way in the final section. Ferry looked wide-eyed at Chalmers, who swiftly crossed the stage to guide the singers back in sync. Ferry, clearly grateful for Chalmers’s cool, shrugged off the misstep.

Working Hard For The Money

Image of Donna Summer in her waitress outfit

In the classic track from Once Upon a Time “Working The Midnight Shift”, Donna Summer’s Cinderella character hits rock bottom. Forced to take on demeaning (but never specified) labour, the song manages to evince a post-Fordist nightmare where the singer has lost control of agency of her body. Her breathy vocals are detached, signifying perhaps an out-of-body experience as she observes her body grinding away, the relentless music suggesting hands in busy, unceasing motion. Tucked away in the middle of the Side 2 suite, it was probably one of the last tracks that would have been considered as having single potential. However, over the years it has demonstrated a lasting cult appeal, attracting covers from Holy Ghost! and occasional Red Hot Chili Pepper John Frusciante.

An Interview with 24-Carat Black’s Saxophonist and Road Manager

Zach Schonfeld in conversation with Jerome Derrickson While researching and reporting my 33 1/3 book about 24-Carat Black’s progressive funk masterpiece Ghetto: Misfortune’s Wealth, I tracked down and interviewed ten surviving members of 24-Carat Black. (Some from the group’s original lineup, others from the group’s Chicago-based second lineup.) These interviews were long and fascinating, full of vivid recollections of 24-Carat Black’s unusual rise and fall, but—for obvious reasons of space and narrative flow—I could only quote small portions of them in the book. So I figured I could use this…

Playlist: Back-to-School in 2020

Back to school playlist cover image with album covers

Our own version of a 2020 playlist with a back-to-school twist! Whether you’re online or on campus, you’ll enjoy this mix of music while studying, planning or taking a well-deserved break. Follow our playlist on Spotify or check out this compiled list, and be sure to click the links below to learn more about each artist and order your own 33 1/3.

Bob Mould Week – Day 3: Interview with Cordon Simons of the Gentlemen Rogues

To celebrate the recent release of our 33 1/3 on Bob Mould’s Workbook, we’re pleased to bring you the third installment of Bob Mould Week by authors Walter Biggins and Daniel Couch! An interview with Cordon Simons of the Gentlemen Rogues Though Workbook is Bob Mould’s debut as a solo artist, it’s by no means his first record. He was the guitarist, a lead singer, and primary songwriter for Hüsker Dü, the legendary 1980s post-punk band that was one of the first underground acts to sign with a major label.…

Introducing: our 33 1/3 on Bob Mould’s Workbook

Ahead of its publication on September 7, authors Walter Biggins and Daniel Couch share exactly why Bob Mould’s Workbook has had such an impact in their lives, and why it took them almost 25 years to be able to fully appreciate its message. Hi. We’re Walter Biggins and Daniel Couch, and we are fans of Bob Mould. We started listening to his music in high school, and our friendship was cemented through decoding Mould’s distinctive mix of searing lyrics, noise barrage, and melodic pop. We were 15, 16 years old at the time, and at once…

Excerpt: Metallica’s Metallica by David Masciotra, Coming in September!

We are super excited to introduce one of our two new titles for this September, Metallica’s Metallica by David Masciotra! In this book, Masciotra takes readers into the recording studio, giving them Metallica’s account of how their most successful and famous record was born and learned to walk into every radio station and stadium stage around the world. Masciotra not only talks to the band about the making of the album, but also the stories that inspired the songs. Readers will not only learn about “The Black Album,” but they…

Useful? Useless? Reader Poll Results: What’s Missing from 33 1/3

We’re kicking it old school. And we clearly didn’t go to B-school.This useful/useless excel spreadsheet lists the results from a reader poll we conducted through this blog, the series twitter and facebook. The question was simply: What albums are missing from the 33 1/3 series? We received hundreds of replies. These are all of the albums that were suggested more than once. What can we learn from this? That someone should submit a proposal on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. It was suggested 6 times. Also: The Cure, Sparks, Lauren Hill.  Also…the…

Undergraduate Reviews of 33 1/3s

We always love to see our books in the classroom, so today, we are bringing you two excerpts from 33 1/3 reviews written by the students in Samantha Bennett’s undergraduate class at ANU. Do you teach 33 1/3s as well? We’d love to hear about it! Samantha Bennett is a senior lecturer in the School of Music at the Australian National University. I met Samantha at a conference in Ireland last month where she told me her undergraduate students in a course called Popular Music: In Culture and in Context had…