Guest Post by Matthew Horton It’s a big month in the George Michael Expanded Universe, as not only has my 33 1/3 book on Faith been released in the US (it’s coming your way on 8 September, Europe), but 22 June also sees the global theatrical release of George Michael: Freedom Uncut, the George Michael documentary feature that – according to the official press material – ‘serves as his final work’. ‘Final work’ revisited, that is, because it first appeared in 2017. Back then, it was just called George Michael:…

Nenes to Nenez 30 Years On

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.

Unconventional research and writing with Sam Cooke

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.

Sam Cooke, singing and what it means to be a singer-writer

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.”

The Drum Machine That Helped Open Paul’s Boutique

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.”

Sam Cooke In Action: Don’t get caught in the oldies trap!

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.

The Journey of Writing a 33 1/3 on Massive Attack

Ian Bourland just wrote published his new 33 1/3, Massive Attack’s Blue Lines, and now he’s back to tell us about the process of how it came to be. Is it all about the finished product, or the journey it takes to get there? Writing Massive Attack: Blue Lines is the most fun writing assignment I’ve ever had, though it wasn’t really because of the subject matter. Sure, music journalism is about the apex of coolness in our industry, and certainly Massive Attack are synonymous with a certain cosmopolitan mystique.…

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.…