FEVER playlist on Spotify:

Tim Riley in Radio Silence (April, 2014)

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 8.22.25 PMYou 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)

breaking bad banner july 25…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

Riley on truthdig

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


See excerpts from Tell Me Why: A Beatles Commentary



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