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.”

Becoming a Voracious Listener with Sam Cooke

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.…

For your at-home Pearl Jam session – stream Gigaton now!

Gigaton Album Cover

It’s been seven years, but they’re finally back in business. Pearl Jam officially released Gigaton last Friday, and we couldn’t be more excited. This self-recorded and self-produced album features twelve new songs, including “Dance of the Clairvoyants,” “Superblood Wolfmoon,” and “Quick Escape” which were all released as singles earlier this year. It’s experimental and creative, providing critical commentary during a crucial political moment. And though their tour has been postponed until further notice, there’s still plenty of Pearl Jam content you can access from home while you wait.  Of course, you can…

33 1/3’s are for students, too!

A few years ago, we posted some excerpts of undergraduate essays that discuss 33 1/3s. We love seeing our 33 1/3s in classrooms, so we decided to post some more! Below you will find the beginnings of three undergraduate student papers. Samantha Bennett is a senior lecturer in the School of Music at the Australian National University, and author of her very own 33 1/3, Siouxsie and the Banshee’s Peepshow! These excerpts come from Professor Bennett’s “Popular Music: In Culture and in Context” class, and make for very interesting reads. Do…

It’s Global Beatles Day!

Steve Matteo, author of The Beatles’ Let It Be, is taking over the blog today to talk about the everlasting influence and wisdom of the band, this album, and the people that he met through writing his 33 1/3… The musical, cultural and historical phenomenon of the Beatles seems to know no bounds. When I began working on my 33 1/3 book on the Let It Be album back in 2002, I didn’t imagine the book would still be so relevant today. The Let It Be album was the last…

Tom Petty Week: Day 4 – Petty’s death and what happened next

In his final blog post of the week, Michael talks about the plans he had to interview Tom Petty, and how his book changed after Petty’s sudden death. I signed the contract to write Southern Accents in November of 2016. In early 2017 I reached out to Petty’s camp to see if he would be willing to meet with me. I waited those couple of months because I wanted to be sure of what I thought about the record. I didn’t want Petty to have an outsize influence on my…

Tom Petty Week: Day 3 – My perfect version of Southern Accents

Today, in honor of Tom Petty’s Southern Accents‘s publication date, Michael drafts up what he thinks Southern Accents should have looked like… It’s a bit of a parlor game amongst hardcore Heartbreakers fans to talk about the Southern Accents that could have been. Although I think that there would still be some significant problems with the record even if the most potent and powerful sequence of songs had been included, it’s fun to speculate, to try to make one’s own Southern Accents. Which is what I’m going to do here,…

The Shangri-Las Week: Day 4 – Does this sound familiar?

On Ada Wolin’s last day of her blog takeover, she takes us through rock ‘n’ roll history, highlighting the artists who have continued the legacy of The Shangri-Las. Read and listen below! The Shangri-Las have been named-checked so many times in rock ‘n’ roll, it’s hard to even know where to start. Their legacy runs the gamut of faithful (or ironic) covers, to pure homage. Below is an incomplete collection of the eclectic legacy of the Shangri-Las over the past five decades. Covers: Out in the Streets – Blondie Train…