My 33 and 1/3 book on Use Your Illusion I and II is the only one of my seven books, as author or editor, to have no acknowledgment section. David Barker, who edited the series back then (2006), read the manuscript, accurately predicted that Guns N’ Roses fans would hate it, but said he liked it and we should go ahead and publish the thing. For a good stretch, it was the worst selling title in the series. The conceit, applying Nicholson Baker’s U and I, a book on John Updike that Baker wrote about his half-remembered take on Updike rather than undertaking new research, but here used to create a UYI and I based on my own blurry impressions, all but guaranteed that.
In 2021, Nenez (using their recent romanized name with a “z” instead of a “s”) celebrated their 30th anniversary with the release of the indies album, Gajumaru. Founded in 1991, the group has seen a number of line-up changes, with three of the current quartet joining in 2019. The ever changing line-ups are comparable with groups such as the American all-women trio, The Three Degrees, which dates from 1963 and is a brand that continues to this day. Indeed,
brand Nenez (or Nēnēzu, to use the transliteration of their Okinawan name) has gone through several phases that have transitioned from a world music act of the 1990s to live-house entertainment in their most recent guise.
People who write often think there are rules that you more or less have to follow. Or should follow. I see a lot made of how much time people spent on their book, and their heaps and heaps of research. I guess maybe I should start by saying that the time in which I wrote the book probably didn’t much resemble the time frames of most other writers.
Let’s talk about Sam Cooke and singing and what it means to be a singer-writer. Or a writer-singer.
What does it mean to sing?
I know, I know—you sounded sublime this morning in the shower, when you channeled your inner Robert Plant and delivered a knockout “When the Levee Breaks,” or maybe you were Billie Holiday, with a soul-pasting version of “Lover Man.”
When you talk about drum machines and Paul’s Boutique, there are two things that even casual listeners can probably hear. The first is that you don’t hear a lot of drum machines on the album. A big part of the record’s legacy is its sampled beats, assembled into intricate, polyrhythmic collages by The Dust Brothers and Matt Dike.
But Matt Dike thought it was less a song than an opportunity. “When I heard it,” he told me, back in 2005, “I knew they were in trouble.”
Macbeth, of course, is a literary oldie. It’s an oldie that still informs our world. Vaulting ambition and all. I mention Macbeth and the idea of relevant oldies for a reason. Sam Cooke is often dogged by the oldies label. Oldies are a genre, right? You hear “Wooly Bully” and “At the Hop” and, yes, Cooke’s “You Send Me,” on the oldies station in the car, and all seems right with the world. These songs are where they should be. You’re having a nice Sunday drive with the windows down in early autumn.
Guest post by Colin Fleming Take the Sam Cooke path and be a VL (Voracious Listener)—it will serve you well in every aspect of life. Hello 33 1/3-ians! I’m back for guest blog entry number two, with this dossier of supplementary Sam Cooke materials. Let’s get to it! Do you remember the age you were when you first got into a given artist or work of art that you care about a lot? I bet you probably do. And you can pinpoint what it meant to you at that moment.…
Daniel Alexander Jones on David Bowie After finishing my 33 1/3 volume on David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs, I’d had enough ruminating about the album on my own. Now I wanted to hear what other people had to say. So I wrote to some of the smartest and most interesting people I know to ask them for their thoughts and feelings about Bowie and Diamond Dogs. One of those people was Daniel Alexander Jones, a Guggenheim award-winning performance artist, playwright, director, essayist and educator who teaches at Fordham University. At the…
After finishing my 33 1/3 volume on David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs, I’d had enough ruminating about the album on my own. Now I wanted to hear what other people had to say. So I wrote to some of the smartest and most interesting people I know to ask them for their thoughts and feelings about Bowie and Diamond Dogs. One result was a long and engaging (at least to me) email exchange with the writer, Rick Moody, author of many moving works, from 1994’s The Ice Storm to last year’s…
Glenn Hendler, author of David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs, on why he chose to write about Bowie’s dark, dystopian album The first time I saw David Bowie in concert, he pointed directly at me. He was on his 1976 “Isolar” tour in support of the album Station to Station, and I saw him in my hometown: New Haven, Connecticut. Bowie was in his “Thin White Duke” costume and persona, and the third song he played was “Fame,” his first #1 hit in the United States. Near the end of the song, Bowie rhymes…