Da Capo Music Press is one of the finest purveyors of music books out there. They asked me if there was anything in their (superb) current catalog that I’d be interested in checking out, and the first book I’ve cracked of the box they sent is the anthology Da Capo Best Music Writing 2006. The seventh year in the series, I found a lot to love here from a variety of sources last year ranging from traditional print media, online journals, and even (yay!) music blogs. The commentary varies from straight up album/song reviews to artist profiles and in-depth theoretical pieces on serious topics loosely related to music as a foundation.
The introduction by editor Mary Gaitskill explains the vibe of the anthology: “I put these pieces together like a mix tape of sounds a person might hear in life — get up in the morning, put on an old T. Rex song, go outside, hear “Gold Digger” coming out of somebody’s car, nameless electronica coming out of someone else’s. A guy walks through the parking lot whistling an aria from Bizet’s Carmen; something high and haunting leaks out of a passing boy’s iPod. Go into a store and there’s a faux cowgirl on the sound system singing some artifically sweetened blues. All day songs fly past; some get lost in traffic noise, some enter your imagination and take strange dream-shapes that get inside your thoughts and feelings and make them different.”
I loved that because she expresses exactly how the world sounds to me. People will ask me “where do you get all your ideas for posting?” And my answer is this: Once you start paying attention to the music around you, you hear it everywhere. There’s no shortage of things to listen to, experience, and write about. It’s why I love writing this blog, and it’s why I enjoy reading collections like this one.
Here are three snippets from the book to give you an idea of why you should pick it up for some good summer readin’. Guaranteed to enrich your brain 437% more than People.
CRAZY IS AS CRAZY DOES
by Ann Powers
What I’ve noticed about “crazy” rock musicians is that ones whose music offers the most insight into the turmoil of emotion tend to be women, and that these crazies tend to receive less hero worship than their male counterparts. . . [t]heir inner demons are in constant dialogue with a world that already demonizes anything less than neat that emanates from the feminine realm. A male artist getting crazy can come off as threatening, but he’s also often greeted as a prophet or, conversely, an endearing holy fool. A woman artist getting crazy is a different kind of mess–one that raises the general discomfort level by raising the specter of uncontrolled sexuality, irresponsible motherhood, violence done to or by the secred “gentler sex” — all elements of our common consciousness that have haunted us since Medea’s time and have never been resolved.
Your Ghost – Kristin Hersh (featuring Michael Stipe)
The rest of this interesting piece looks at those who have struggled with demons, like Hersh, Daniel Johnston, Lisa Germano, Nick Drake, or Mary Margaret O’Hara.
THE BEATLES–”Eleanor Rigby/Yellow Submarine”
(Reached No. 1 on 20th August 1966)
by Tom Ewing
Part of a series to write on all UK #1 hit singles
The brisk orchestral arrangement of “Eleanor Rigby” is tense and fussy, with something of Eleanor’s spinsterish neatness: the strings bring to mind sewing, or sweeping the steps, one of those little daily things you do unthinkingly, or instead of thinking. They also sound a little like a horror film soundtrack, and Eleanor Rigby is cinematic, and it is about horror. It’s Paul McCartney taking one of pop’s smooth-rubbed words –”lonely”– thinking it through and recoiling.
“Eleanor Rigby” remains neat to its end, so neat you might forget that this question of the lonely people hasn’t remotely been answered. For that you need the other side of the single, “Yellow Submarine.”
Intentionally or not, “Eleanor Rigby” and “Yellow Submarine” make a perfect pair. Crushing isolation as the flip of a song that values limitless community — “And my friends are all aboard / Many more of them live next door.” The one set in a drably recognizable town, the other in a fantasy utopia. Recital and singalong.
Eleanor Rigby – The Beatles
Yellow Submarine – The Beatles
A VERY SPECIAL CONCERT:
The Enduring Bond Between Huey Lewis and the Developmentally Disabled
by Katy St. Clair
. . . The band recently celebrated its 25th anniversary by performing at this year’s Marin County Fair on a cool summer night a few weeks back. This was Huey Lewis & the News’ stomping ground, where they began two decades earlier, playing around San Rafael and Mill Valley. Suffice it to say, this show was something all my clients were looking forward to.
There are a lot of stereotypes about retarded people and most of them are false . . . [t]here is however one stereotype about retarded people that is true, one broad brushstroke that one can make about them all: Good gosh a’mighty, retarded people love them some Huey Lewis. Part of the reason is that Huey is apparently a sweetheart who does a lot of volunteer work with people who have developmental disabilities. But another big part is the music.
A bunch of people from a group home had set up camp on the opposite side of the stage, laying out blankets and picnic food. Bobbi recognized some of her friends and waved. “Huuuuueyyyy!” they all yelled back. It was just like people who yell “Bruuuce!” at a Springsteen concert, only more retarded. In fact, Huey Lewis is a retarded version of Bruce Springsteen. Think about it.