Just in time for the holidays, we’re offering brief takes on some of 2012′s best books for music fans.
THE BOOK: 101 Essential Rock Records
AUTHOR: Jeff Gold, plus essays and “as-told-to” contributions from David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Graham Nash, The Smiths’ Johnny Marr, R.E.M.’s Peter Buck and more.
THE DEAL: If you’ve got a classic rock fan or vinyl purist on your list (or, you know, you’re looking to spend an Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card), consider this coffee table book. 101 Essential Rock Records covers rock’s most mythologized eras – the early 1960s through the late 1970s – in chronological order with a focus on specific “classic” albums through big, beautiful album art and guest commentary. Some albums covered are more obscure than others (Dylan and The Beatles get a ton of love), with a particular focus on the psychedelic underground. The album covers are nice to browse through, but the real reason to buy this book is for the essays from rock stars, on other rock stars: Graham Nash on The Beatles and (his ex) Joni Mitchell, Bowie on the Velvet Underground, Peter Buck on Patti Smith, Johnny Marr on Iggy Pop, Wilco’s Nels Cline on Jimi Hendrix, and more.
THREE THINGS WE LEARNED:
1. David Bowie first heard The Velvet Underground after his then-manager returned from a trip to the states and gave him some records he had bought and didn’t like. This included 1967’s The Velvet Underground and Nico, which had a profound effect on Bowie.
“Actually, though only 19, I had seen rather a lot but had accepted it quite enthusiastically as all a bit of a laugh. Apparently, the laughing was now over. I was hearing a degree of cool that I had no idea was humanly sustainable. Ravishing. One after another, tracks squirmed and slid their tentacles around my mind. Evil and sexual, the violin of ‘Venus in Furs,’ like some pre-Christian pagan-revival music. The distant, icy, ‘F**k me if you want, I really don’t give a damn’ voice of Nico’s ‘Femme Fatale.’ What an extraordinary one-two knockout punch this affair was. By the time “European Son” was done, I was so excited I couldn’t move. It was late in the evening and I couldn’t think of anyone to call, so I played it again and again and again.”
2. Some of the songs on Joni Mitchell’s brilliant Blue (1971) were probably inspired by Graham Nash, her ex-beau. And for that, he is honored. But it’s hard for him to listen.
“Listening to Blue is quite difficult for me personally. It brings back many memories and saddens me greatly. It is, by far, my most favorite solo album, and the thought that I spent much time with this fine woman and genius of a writer is incredible to me. I watched her write some of those songs and I believe that one or two of them were about me, but who really knows?”
3. Elektra and Nonesuch Records founder Jac Holzman, who signed The Doors, Queen, Carly Simon and more, explains that Columbia Records got consumers to switch over to LPs by giving away free record players.
“To achieve a longer playing time the LP was slowed down from 78 rpm to 33 1/3 (approx. 57%) and by narrowing the playback stylus by 2/3rds, (to .001 in.) the LP was born.
It takes smarts and a controlled ego not to reinvent everything. After the war, 78 rpm standard groove vinyl discs were available to the serious collector. The vinyl LP could be molded in the same presses as the older 78’s. Yes, a new disc player was necessary, but Columbia accelerated LP acceptance by giving away a rather nifty player in a solid bakelite shell equipped with a gentle cobra-like playing arm, if you purchased just five LP’s. It worked and millions of serious music listeners were the winners… and so was I.”
– Jillian Mapes, CBS Local
Need more holiday gift ideas? Try our Holiday Gift Guide.