George Clinton: book review
The National Memo
George Clinton, funk’s profane God-uncle, bandleader of both Parliament and Funkadelic, producer of legions more, was born in a lavatory in Kannapolis, North Carolina, so he “came by the funk honestly.” His career festoons a half-century of black pop culture. A Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famer since 1997, with three number-one singles and as many platinum albums, he’s too lowbrow for the Grammys and less a legend than either of his heroes, Sly Stone or James Brown. But his broad, visionary catalog (over 45 albums) surveys a middle ground of both popularity and greatness that makes his work both easy to underestimate and tempting to over-praise… (National Memo book review, November 2014).
Fever: How Rock Transformed Gender in America
now a digital ebook
When Elvis walked onstage and sang “Love Me Tender” or “Hound Dog,” he changed and challenged more than just popular music. According to Riley, his gyrating hips and his invitations to nights of lusty love and rock and roll altered his audience’s thinking about sexuality and gender relations, challenging their parents’ more circumspect ideas and opening up new ways of freely experiencing their sexual selves. Riley weaves this thesis through the history of rock and roll, tracing its development through Tina Turner, Bonnie Raitt, Joni Mitchell, Bruce Springsteen, Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love, among others.
“Tim Riley’s Fever combines brainy and audacious cultural analysis with genuine musical understanding–a combination rare enough to inspire exhilaration.”—Tim Page, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Tim Page on Music
“In his new book, Fever, Tim Riley goes beyond his unique fusion of technical music knowledge and stunningly perceptive emotional exegesis of lyrics to a wider-angle social vision.”—Ron Rosenbaum, The New York Observer
“Fever is a fascinating look at the ways rock has shaped how we think about sexual identity….Riley presents serious academic points within a rock-critic analysis of icons that even a layperson would appreciate….Witty, acerbic, and smart.”—Charles R. Cross, author of Heavier Than Heaven
FEVER playlist on Spotify: http://bit.ly/rileyfever
WHY STEELY DAN DOESN’T SUCK:
Tim Riley in Radio Silence (April, 2014)
You either swoon to the jaunty guitar lick that rips Steely Dan’s “Reelin’ in the Years,” or you hold your ears. Same with that eerie figure at the top of “FM,” or the sly, cribbed piano vamp to “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number.” Steely Dan tracks can seem not just overproduced but overplayed, overpraised, and catnip for the wrong kind of music nerd. Long before you dig into a five-decade career with countless buried pearls, the band inspires way too many harangues about everything rock supposedly squelched (instrumental pretension, phony intellectuals, and control-freak arrangers). Jazzers profess love for Dan tracks even if they hate rock; rock partisans get swept up in Dan fever even if they hate jazz. Steely Dan records didn’t just thread stylistic needles, they turned style into a sardonic target… via Radio Silence
see also: Ain’t Dead Yet–Notes on Woody Guthrie
Tune In Review: New York Times (December, 2013)
Approaches to retelling the Beatles’ story slice in two distinct directions: narrow or wide. Some authors choose a single figure and bore down deep, which has brought the count of Paul McCartney life stories to at least 10, with more in the pipeline. Others frame the narrative from more expansive angles, weaving in the era’s social texture, politics and cultural context (see Devin McKinney’s shrewd “Magic Circles” from 2003 or Jonathan Gould’s peerless “Can’t Buy Me Love” of 2007)… via New York Times
TV Inverts’60s Drug Culture: The Atlantic (July, 2013)
…Jay Leno’s 1984 standup opener put it best: “I know it’s wrong, but when Nancy Reagan says ‘Just Say No,’ it makes me want to shoot up in the gutter and die.” Both Breaking Bad and Nurse Jackie riff on the war on drugs as a kind of mass psychosis we all participate in, incentivizing purer and more violent potions, dealers, and tactics. Across boundaries of race, class, demographics, and gender, these shows portray the resultant drug culture as mass expressions of self-centeredness that, paradoxically, still define our immigration policy and eat at our public health solvency. Professional displays of decency from doctors and nurses (often inebriated), enforced by familial connection (DEA Schrader), now mask a gnawing hypocrisy. Communal purpose has collapsed. It’s Woodstock in reverse.
via The Atlantic
John Lennon Letters
truthdig book review
Like rain into a paper cup, words fairly giggled out of John Lennon’s pen nearly every day of his too-short 40 years. Now Hunter Davies, the Beatles’ early “authorized” 1968 biographer, has collected 285 Lennon letters, postcards, telegrams and to-do lists from early childhood to Dec. 8, 1980, hours before he was killed. They are bound in a handsome layout with reproductions of every entry, many of which are typed—hilariously—beside Davies’ transcriptions. Almost all reward close inspection both for Lennon’s intriguingly loose hand and whimsical cartoons… via truthdig.com
See excerpts from Tell Me Why: A Beatles Commentary