Proximity to Blackness

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…

Camp and Excess on Diamond Dogs: A Conversation Between Glenn Hendler and Rick Moody

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…

Why Diamond Dogs?

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…

From the East Village to Shibuya: A Tale of Two Record Stores

Martin Roberts, author of Cornelius’s Fantasma, on the central role that record stores played in his life. Like so many other stories about pop music fandom, this one begins with a record store. In 1995, a tiny record store opened on West 4th Street in Manhattan, literally across the street from Tower Records’ flagship megastore. Issuing a warning to its giant neighbor, Other Music, as it was pointedly named, specialized in musical genres not available at Tower Records, from Krautrock to free jazz to noise music. By the time I…

D’Angelo’s Age of “Soulquarius” – Part One

Some people dismiss astrology—the analysis of personality and human behavior based on the “sun sign” under which a person is born. But in the late 1990s, a group of striving, nonconforming musicians came together to share ideas and push each other to higher heights. Christened the Soulquarians, this unofficial collective bore enduring music as its fruit, including D’Angelo’s Voodoo, of which I wrote about for the “33 1/3” series. The Soulquarians were formed by D’Angelo, drummer/co-songwriter Ahmir Thompson— better known as Questlove—and other consummate Black male artists delivered under the…

Voodoo: Live from New York

Faith Pennick, author of D’Angelo’s Voodoo, on seeing D’Angelo perform for the first time. Live performances are like power outlets to me. I can plug in and share that surge of electricity the band or singer brings song after song. I had never seen D’Angelo on stage prior to the Voodoo tour.  A good friend in Brooklyn invited me to see him at Radio City Music Hall in March 2000. I was curious about what D’Angelo would be like in concert, and how songs from his just-released album would resonate in…

Catching the Spirit

Faith Pennick, author of D’Angelo’s Voodoo, on how gospel music inspired D’Angelo’s critical acclaim. Like many African American singers who hail from the South, D’Angelo’s foundation is laid in gospel music. Much has been said and written about his R&B influences: artists like Marvin Gaye, Sly and the Family Stone, and his North Star: Prince. But without gospel music, D’Angelo simply would not be D’Angelo. As a child, Michael Archer sang and played keyboards in his father’s and grandfather’s churches in and near his hometown of Richmond, Virginia. He contemplated staying…

The 33 1/3 B-sides Week, Day 4: Royale with Cheese

Today is the last day of our B-sides author takeover, and we’re ending with a short and sweet essay by Evie Nagy, author of Devo’s Freedom of Choice. Her chapter in The 33 1/3 B-sides is all about Music from the Motion Picture Pulp Fiction. Below, she talks about why the soundtrack has stuck with her for so many years… If you’re a writer, there’s a good chance you have an essay or two that you’ve been writing in your head for years, but for one reason or another have…

The 33 1/3 B-sides Week, Day 3: Cupid & Psyche 85

Below you’ll find an interview between Dan LeRoy, author of The Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique, and now of the B-sides chapter on Scritti Politti’s Cupid & Psyche 85, and Scritti Politti frontman himself, Green Gartside! They discuss how it feels to listen to your own music, having Sir Elton John as a fan, and Gartside’s new music. All manner of albums are touted as influential, as difference-makers, as revolutionary. I submit that there are few that have had such audible influence on music as Scritti Politti’s Cupid and Psyche ’85.…

The 33 1/3 B-sides Week, Day 2: Debbie Gibson and Waking Hours

Back in 2006, Alex Green wrote his 33 1/3, The Stone Roses’ The Stone Roses, one of our earlier 33 1/3’s that made the series what it is. Today, he writes about his fantasy romance with Debbie Gibson, and how Del Amitri’s Waking Hours pulled him back to reality. I didn’t know that my essay on Del Amitri’s Waking Hours would coincide with the 30th anniversary of the album’s release, but as I started writing and researching for the piece, that round number emerged and the whole affair seemed auspicious…