Sunday, October 14, 2018

Clinton Heylin's The Great White Wonders - 1994 Original British Hardcover, Mint - on eBay

See my listing on eBay for the original 1994 Viking UK British hardcover edition of Clinton Heylin's history of rock music bootleg recordings: The Great White Wonders.





Friday, September 28, 2018

Read Chapter 1 of The Labyrinth Index by Charles Stross

The Labyrinth IndexIn my blog post on April 8 I wrote about my work on the newest Laundry Files novel, The Labyrinth Index -- volume 9 -- by author Charles Stross.

You can now read the entire Chapter 1, courtesy of the author and Tor.com. I'm going to post the first few paragraphs here, and -- assuming you are intrigued by the story line as much as I am -- simply click on the link following this excerpt to be whisked away to the full chapter on Tor.com.

By the way, the POV speaker is Mhari Murphy. You may want to read my blog post first, the one mentioned above, before reading the excerpt.

Chapter 1


As I cross the courtyard to the execution shed I pass a tangle of bloody feathers. They appear to be the remains of one of the resident corvids, which surprises me because I thought they were already dead. Ravens are powerful and frighteningly astute birds, but they’re no match for the tentacled dragonspawn that the New Management has brought to the Tower of London.

These are strange days and I can’t say I’m happy about all the regime’s decisions—but one does what one must to survive. And rule number one of life under the new regime is, don’t piss Him off.

So I do my best to ignore the pavement pizza, and steel myself for what’s coming next as I enter the shed, where the client is waiting with the witnesses, a couple of prison officers, and the superintendent.

Executions are formal occasions. I’m here as a participant, acting on behalf of my department. So I’m dressed in my funerals-and-court-appearances suit, special briefcase in hand. As I approach the police checkpoint, a constable makes a point of examining my warrant card. Then she matches me against the list of participants and peeks under my veil before letting me inside. Her partner watches the courtyard, helmet visor down and assault rifle at the ready.





Sunday, August 26, 2018

Now Reading: And on Piano...Nicky Hopkins by Julian Dawson

And On PianoI've been reading And on Piano...Nicky Hopkins by Julian Dawson (Plus One Press, 2011). Actually, this is my second read-through this year alone of this "extraordinary" biography of "The Extraordinary Life of Rock's Greatest Session Man." That's the subtitle of the book, by the way, and as I read about Nicky Hopkins, I can only shake my head in wonder and awe at the mark this incredible musician has made on the history of rock music.

But I wouldn't be surprised if readers of this blog post have never even heard of Nicky Hopkins. And though you may not have heard of him, I have to believe that if you listen to rock music regularly (not dance music, not R&B music, not metal or electronic music, but ROCK music), then you have, indeed, heard him.

Let's see...Do you recognize any of these songs? The Rolling Stones' "Jumpin' Jack Flash" and "Street Fighting Man." The Beatles' "Revolution." John Lennon's "Imagine" and "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)." George Harrison's "Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)." Jefferson Airplane's "Volunteers" and "We Can Be Together." And Joe Cocker's "You Are So Beautiful."

As you may have guessed, Nicky Hopkins was behind the piano on each of these best-selling singles, just a few of the hundreds of singles, and albums, on which he appeared. In fact, at the end of the book, the author presents a Nicky Hopkins Discography -- 28 small-print pages listing all the albums, singles, live performances, and film soundtracks on which the pianist performed.

Here's a YouTube vid of the man at work:



In the book, Julian Dawson shares a story: while Nicky was touring outside the U.S. someone began impersonating him at various recording studios. Once word got out about this impersonator, session producers learned to ask "Nicky Hopkins" to play his song "Edward," which would reveal soon enough if this person was indeed the real Nicky Hopkins. This is an audio-only vid featuring the song "Edward (The Mad Shirt Grinder)," which Nicky wrote while a member of Quicksilver Messenger Service, for their album Shade Grove (Capitol Records, 1969) -- however, this vid is a live performance of Quicksilver at Stony Brook College, New York, in 1970. A studio recording can always be overdubbed, etc., but one can't overdub a live performance:


Nicky was born in Middlesex, England, on February 24, 1944, during an air raid! He suffered throughout his entire life with health issues, most likely caused by an undiagnosed (at the time) case of Crohn's disease. In fact, at age 19, he spent more than a year in the hospital, recovering from a life-threatening illness from which the doctors never expected him to survive. And, sadly, he passed away at the age of 50, on September 6, 1994, in Nashville, Tennessee, from complications from that life-long battle with the disease.


John York, formerly with The Byrds, from the book:
"I gave [Nicky] a ride to a Jack Bruce session and when we got there Ginger Baker was just leaving. The engineer asked [Nicky] to go in and get a sound and Nicky started playing...and we all sat there and listened to him playing. It was when he was working on music for films and it was like listening to Rachmaninoff or something; at a certain point Nicky stopped, took a last drag on his cigarette, put it out, and said, "OK, mate," and then started playing like some 65-year-old Black guy from the Delta. It was unreal."

Julian Dawson, from the book:
Nicky delivers one of the most elegant and perfectly conceived performances of his career on Let It Bleed's quietest track, "You Got the Silver." Keith Richards' love song to Anita Pallenberg was his first outing as sole lead vocalist and his heartfelt singing, acoustic slide and guitar tracks are perfectly underpinned by Nicky's understated organ and gentle piano. Over the years Nicky often referred to the song as one of his top five favourite performances, a sentiment echoed by Keith and others...."


And one last, albeit lengthy, quote from Julian Dawson:
"Imagine the voodoo groove of the Rolling Stones' 'Sympathy for the Devil' without its driving piano, 'Angie' or 'She's a Rainbow' without their gorgeous fills; the Beatles' 'Revolution' without its perfectly formed solo or the Who's explosive first album without its breakneck keyboard accompaniment. Picture Joe Cocker singing his hit 'You Are So Beautiful' alone and a capella, or try to imagine the strident call-to-arms that is Jefferson Airplane's 'Volunteers' without its keyboard riffs. Imagine...well, 'Imagine' stripped of its beautiful piano work; Lennon's 'Crippled Inside' without the perfectly tailored honky-tonk flourishes or 'Jealous Guy' without its haunting and delicate piano decorations. These are just a handful of classic tracks all played by one man's hands."



Monday, July 30, 2018

Now Reading: Backstage Passes & Backstabbing Bastards by Al Kooper

Backstage PassesThis book was originally published in hardcover as just Backstage Passes in 1977, covering the years 1958-1968. You may think, What could Al Kooper have done, between the ages of 14 and 24, that demands an entire book?

Al Kooper scored his first professional gig at the very young age of 14 as a guitarist in the band the Royal Teens. He later joined the avant-garde blues-rock band Blues Project as a keyboardist in 1965; and after leaving that band, he then formed his own band, Blood, Sweat & Tears, in 1967. And let's not forget the Monterey Pop Festival, also in 1967, and something called Woodstock in 1968....

Let's see, what else: Al Kooper co-wrote the #1 pop song "This Diamond Ring," recorded by Gary Lewis and the Playboys when, I believe, he was just 20 years old. When Bob Dylan went electric in 1965 at the Newport Folk Festival, that was Al Kooper on the stage, playing Hammond organ in Bob's backing band. Kooper had just finished working with Dylan on the recording session for his iconic song "Like a Rolling Stone," so Dylan asked Kooper to join his backing band at Newport.

Following the festival, Kooper then went on to play on the sessions for the rest of Dylan's highly successful album Highway 61 Revisited. Al Kooper was 21. (Note: During those recording sessions, Al Kooper met guitarist extraordinaire Michael Bloomfield; the two later recorded together the albums Super Session and The Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper, both in 1968.)

Speaking of the recording session for "Like a Rolling Stone," Al Kooper actually bluffed his way into that session -- he had never previously played a Hammond organ until then. Here's just a bit of what he writes about that experience:
"Imagine this: There is no music to read. The song is over five minutes long, the band is so loud that I can't even hear the organ, and I'm not familiar with the instrument to begin with. But the tape is rolling, and that is Bob-fucking-Dylan over there singing, so this had better be me sitting here playing something. The best I could manage was to play hesitantly by sight, feeling my way through the changes like a little kid fumbling in the dark for the light switch. After six minutes they'd gotten the first complete take of the day and everyone adjourned to the control room to hear it played back.
...
If you listen to it today, you can hear how I waited until the chord was played by the rest of the band, before committing myself to play in the verses. I'm always an eighth note behind everyone else, making sure of the chord before touching the keys...."
So, what do you think? Is that ten-year span sufficient to fill a book? And though I've mentioned just the cursory points, the author goes into depth on the bands and musicians, the songs, the sessions, the cities and the places, and the events of the day.

Twenty years after this book had been published, and long since out of print, Al Kooper found a new publisher willing to reprint the book as a trade paperback. But, the author chose to revise those first ten years (with more pointed detail) as well as adding his personal experiences over the next thirty years. And with the reprint came a new, more descriptive title: Backstage Passes & Backstabbing Bastards: Memoirs of a Rock 'N' Roll Survivor.

But wait, there's more! The book was reprinted yet again, in 2008, to cover additional years from 1998 through 2007. Al Kooper had to deal with some very serious health issues by this time, which he faced with aplomb.

According to Wikipedia, Al Kooper had a sixty-eighth birthday celebration at the Regatta Bar in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on February 4, 2012. And, I assume, Kooper is still performing to this day.

"...The other amazing thing about cutting that album [Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde] was the firsthand knowledge that you were making history. After I cut the Highway 61 Revisited album, I heard those songs everywhere. I will probably hear them all my life, anywhere I go. They were instant classics because they were prime Dylan. Imagine how it felt playing on a session where, by virtue of the fact that you had already done it once before, you knew that whatever you played would last forever. That's a heavy responsibility for a punk from Queens. Thank you, Bob, for giving me that opportunity."
–Al Kooper, Backstage Passes & Backstabbing Bastards


Here are a few album recommendations for those who might like to pursue the music of Al Kooper -- most, but not all, should be available on CD (and again, I can't speak to streaming as I prefer the physical media). By the way, this list is excerpted from a full eight pages of Kooper's body of work.

As musician–
  • The Best Of The Blues Project (Rhino Records, 1989)
  • Blood, Sweat & Tears - Child Is Father To The Man (Columbia, 1968)
  • Al Kooper - I Stand Alone (Columbia, 1968)
  • Mike Bloomfield / Al Kooper / Stephen Stills - Super Session (Columbia, 1968)
  • The Live Adventures Of Mike Bloomfield And Al Kooper (Columbia, 1968)
  • Soul Of A Man: Al Kooper Live (MusicMasters, 1995, 2-CD)

As producer/arranger–
  • Lynyrd Skynyrd ‎– (Pronounced 'Lĕh-'nérd 'Skin-'nérd) (MCA/Sounds of the South, 1973)
  • Lynyrd Skynyrd ‎– Second Helping (MCA/Sounds of the South, 1974)
  • The Tubes (A&M, 1975)
  • Nils Lofgren - Cry Tough (A&M, 1976)
I would have included some of Al's more recent works but, sadly, they saw limited release and are currently out of print. His last (so far) solo album, White Chocolate (A Minor Record Company, 2008) would certainly have been on this list.


Sunday, July 22, 2018

Now Reading: This Wheel's on Fire by Levon Helm with Stephen Davis

This Wheel's on FireHe was born Mark Lavon (yes, with an "a") Helm on May 26, 1940, but somewhere along the way, once he started touring and playing music, he became "Levon" (pronounced "Lee-von") Helm. The subtitle of This Wheel's on Fire is "Levon Helm and the Story of The Band." If you have to ask, "What band?" then you don't know your classic rock music, and you certainly aren't a fan of Bob Dylan's body of work.

Then again, if you are a moviegoer, you just might have seen Levon in the role of the coal miner, Ted Webb, in the 1980 screen adaptation of Loretta Lynn's autobiography Coal Miner's Daughter. He also played the role of Captain Jack Ridley, friend and fellow conspirator of Chuck Yeager in the film The Right Stuff. [I have watched this movie on numerous occasions (still have it on a double VHS!) and absolutely never realized that Ridley was played by Levon Helm....]

But back to the music: This is the story of how five musicians -- four Canadians and one Arkansawyer, multi-instrumentalists all -- came together over a span of years and endless road touring to eventually form The Band. To be honest, they never called themselves "the band" as they always thought this to be too pretentious: they were five individual musicians, each of whom went by their own name. But, while living in the Woodstock area of New York, the townfolk would simply refer to them as "the band": "Oh, he's in the band." And when their first album, Music From Big Pink, was released, they became The Band.

What motivated me to finally [see next to last paragraph] pick up this book and actually read it straight through? Believe it or not, this year marks the 50th anniversary of the release of Music From Big Pink (gawd, 50 years?), and the remaining two members of the band have opted to release a 50th Anniversary edition of this seminal work: a box set as well as a newly remastered (from the original analogue tapes) double-LP on pink vinyl.

Levon Helm writes:
"We wanted Music From Big Pink to sound like nothing anyone else was doing. This was our music, honed in isolation from the radio and contemporary trends, liberated from the world of the bars and the climate of the Dylan tours. We'd grown up with Ronnie Hawkins [Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks], playing that quicker tempo of tunes. Now we cut our tempo, our pulse, right in half. The sense of teamwork and collaboration was incredible. Robbie [Robertson, vocals, guitar] was writing stuff that evoked simple pictures of American life. Richard [Manuel, vocals, keyboards, drums] was writing beautiful songs like 'In a Station' and 'Lonesome Suzie.' Garth [Hudson, keyboards, accordion, brass and woodwinds] took a great song like 'Chest Fever' and composed an organ prelude. Rick's [Danko, vocals, bass, fiddle, trombone] playing and singing were amazing, and that blend of the three voices -- Richard, Rick, and me -- sounded really rich after we'd worked with John Simon [producer] for a while."

And the reviews for Big Pink, to use Levon's own words, were "pretty good." Al Aronowitz, in Life magazine: "With Big Pink, the band dips into the well of tradition and comes up with bucketsful of clear, cool country soul that washes the ears with a sound never heard before. Traditionalists may not like it because it's too original. Pop faddists won't like it because it's too traditional." And in Rolling Stone, Al Kooper wrote: "I have chosen my album for 1968. Music From Big Pink is an event and should be treated as one....This album was recorded in approximately two weeks. There are people who will work their lives away in vain and not touch it."

I could go on and on with reviews of Big Pink as well as their follow-up album, simply called The Band, but I'd rather not overwhelm you with facts and opinions, but simply recommend a few albums if, indeed, you are not familiar with the music:
  • Music From Big Pink (1968)
  • The Band (1969)
  • Bob Dylan/The Band - Before the Flood (1974)
  • Bob Dylan & The Band - The Basement Tapes (1975)
  • Northern Lights - Southern Cross (1975)
  • Levon Helm - Dirt Farmer (2007, Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Album)
  • Levon Helm - Electric Dirt (2009, Grammy Award for Best Americana Album)

I've been reading the 1993 hardbound edition of this book, which I've had in my library, well, since 1993(!), but while looking the title up on Amazon I have learned that Chicago Review Press published a trade paperback edition in 2000, and then a "Revised Edition" in 2013. If you are intrigued by my post and decide to pursue your own reading copy, try to snag the 2013 revised edition as it contains an additional chapter as well as an afterword, neither of which are in my copy. Levon Helm passed away in 2012, so these additions may include the last words we'll every hear from him.

"They were grown men who had climbed the mountain together, spoken to the gods, and returned to the valley, where they once again became mortal."
The Philadelphia Inquirer


Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Now Reading: Michael Bloomfield: The Rise and Fall of an American Guitar Hero by Ed Ward

"The music you listen to becomes the soundtrack of your life. It may be the first music you made love to or got high to or went through your adolescence to, went through poignant times of your life—well, that music is going to mean a lot to you. It's going to take on much more import than just the sound of the notes, because it's the background track for your existence."
– Michael Bloomfield, in an interview with
Tom Yates and Kate Hayes, February 13, 1981.

Bloomfield Rise and FallAt 11:00 a.m. on February 15, 1981, Michael Bloomfield was found slumped over the steering wheel in his parked car, keys still in the ignition, in a part of San Francisco in which he never frequented. The pathologist ruled the cause of death as cocaine and methamphetamine poisoning -- very odd, considering that Michael never touched cocaine, and as a lifelong insomniac, why would he intentionally take two drugs that keep one awake? Questions, sadly, that will never be answered.

Fortunately, we still have his music....

When Bob Dylan went electric at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, Michael Bloomfield was on that same stage, backing Dylan on guitar. This was three days before Michael's twenty-second birthday. Here's what Ed Ward wrote about that performance:
"During 'Maggie's Farm,' Bloomfield becomes Dylan's second voice. He sits so hard on top of the beat that it screams, and what he plays amounts to a sardonic running commentary on Dylan's song. Bloomfield approaches atonality in a couple of places, but his playing on 'Maggie's Farm' sits squarely within the blues tradition. It's not hard to understand why some people in the audience were confused, because what Bloomfield gave them on the evening of July 25, 1965, was the future of rock guitar."

Following Newport, Bloomfield then played on the Dylan recording sessions, along with Al Kooper who also played at Newport, for the album Highway 61 Revisited, released by Columbia Records later that year.

In addition to Highway 61 Revisited, here are a few "must have" albums that showcase Michael Bloomfield's work. I assume most, if not all, of these albums are available for streaming, but that's not my thing. Personally, I want the physical media, and the larger (i.e. vinyl) the better:

  • The Paul Butterfield Blues Band self-titled album (1965)
  • The Paul Butterfield Blues Band - East-West (1966)
  • The Electric Flag - A Long Time Comin' (1968)
  • Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper, Steve Stills - Super Session (1968)
  • The Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper (1969)
  • Michael Bloomfield and Friends - Live at Bill Graham's Fillmore West 1969
  • Nick Gravenites - My Labors (1969)
  • Muddy Waters - Fathers and Sons (1969)

Michael Bloomfield, to Ed Ward, on why he chose not to tour with Dylan following the release of Highway 61 Revisited:
"With Bob, I'd have no identity. I didn't even know that [at the time]. All I knew was that I didn't understand what was happening....So I told Albert [Grossman, Dylan's manager], 'Man, I'm a bluesman. I'll go with Butterfield.' And I played with Butter and didn't play with Dylan, and we were cookin'. We wailed from then on."

Michael Bloomfield: The Rise and Fall of an American Guitar Hero by Ed Ward (Chicago Review Press Inc., 2016, Revised Edition).


Friday, July 6, 2018

Book Received: Apocalypse Nyx by Kameron Hurley

ApocalypseNyxLast week I received my contributor's copy of Apocalypse Nyx, Kameron Hurley's collection of stories set in her Bel Dame Apocrypha world of God's War. The book should have arrived within a couple days of being mailed as I live only about fifty miles south of the publisher, Tachyon Publications...but that's not taking into account the mode of transport: the United States Postal Service! So the package was mailed in San Francisco, Tachyon's home; upon checking tracking updates, I discovered that the package was transported to a Los Angeles USPS receiving station (about 350 miles south of me), before, eventually, making its way back to good ole San Jose, where I live. I believe it was about six days after being mailed that the package was actually delivered. Six days to really travel only about fifty miles....

In my December 11, 2017, blog post, I wrote about my work on Apocalypse Nyx. At that time the book was scheduled for publication in July 2018 -- and here we are! Aside from the quality of their books, Tachyon Publications have always met their release dates (rare for an independent publisher... I could tell you stories about other publishers....), and I've been working with them since 2002. In fact, I just looked up the details: my first invoice was dated February 19, 2002.

As Kirkus states at the conclusion of its review of Apocalypse Nix: "For established fans, a bittersweet reunion with old friends; for new readers, a reasonable enticement toward the superior novels of the series."

Here are excerpts from two more reviews:
"...I usually talk about themes in reviews because I think they contribute to what the reader takes away from a book. Forget about it. Just let Apocalypse Nyx blow you away with its deep portrayal of a person in constant intellectual and moral crisis, and don't worry about what it means. You will be immersed in love, lust, hate, revenge, desire, and will question the value of human life. You will empathize with Nyx for her faults yet be appalled at her lack of human conscience. It's a heady mix and entertaining as hell.

Is it grimdark? You bet your ass it is. Try not to root for Nyx as she blasts away innocents who happen to be in the way of the next payoff. It's impossible. And the question of grey morality itself makes a couple of unobtrusive appearances in the stories and in the delightful banter between her crew of freaks. If you're reading this review, then you obviously appreciate grimdark. Grab this nice introduction to Nyx's life and world. You won't regret it. Most highly recommended."
Grimdark Magazine

"...But this noir backdrop is enlivened by a double helping of gritty violence. Nyx is a self-admitted terrible shot, but she makes up for it with her scattergun, sword, and sheer bloody-mindedness, leaving a trail of corpses through the stories—most of whom might possibly deserve it, if you squint a bit, but some of whom just find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. Nyx is a killer and her tragedy is she can neither accept this in herself nor bring herself to walk away from the violence by which she makes her living.

This collection starts off with two longer stories, "The Body Project" and "The Heart Is Eaten Last" that do an excellent job of introducing Nyx and her team and setting a pattern that other stories will elaborate on. In each story, Nyx and her team take on a job, find out that the job is not quite what they had been led to believe, overcome danger and obstacles (often with significant injuries and moral quandaries), and finally achieve an ambiguous victory. Sometimes, victory is just survival. While this might seem formulaic, it is a perfect frame for the character moments that lie at the heart of the stories, while giving plenty of space for the gritty action scenes that Hurley does so well."
SFRevu

Apocalypse Nyx is now available for purchase direct from Tachyon Publications, or Amazon, or your preferred bookseller.


Sunday, May 6, 2018

Now Reading: Why Vinyl Matters by Jennifer Otter Bickerdike

Why Vinyl MattersI've been reading yet another coffee table book as a follow-up to my previous blog post (Dust & Grooves by Eilon Paz). This current book is entitled Why Vinyl Matters: A Manifesto from Musicians and Fans, published in 2017 by ACC Art Books. And though not as large as that previous book on vinyl, this one is still fairly hefty at 10.75-inches tall, 9.5-inches wide, and about an inch thick, with 222 art-quality pages.

Jennifer Otter Bickerdike, the author, completed a PhD in Cultural Studies from Goldsmiths, University of London, and is currently the course leader and coordinator for Music Journalism at British and Irish Modern Music Institute in London. She's taken her love for music and vinyl and compiled this book of interviews, in which she typically poses the same questions to each of the interviewees. This allows the reader to be able to compare relative answers to each of the questions.

Here are some excerpts from a few interviewees on why vinyl matters:
"Punk and digital, to me at least, are antithetical. I can only project my own perception – but for me, punk is vinyl and cassette. It is the picture sleeves, the noise on the vinyl, the way you know the next song on the cassette because you have carried it with you and played it so many times. Punk is analogue. It is real. Would you rather hear the first album by The Clash on LP or CD? One is real, the other is, at best, somewhat trite. On the other hand, do you really want a Beyoncé LP? Why? What do you hope to get when you pull the album out from its sleeve, a coupon for a free Pepsi? Some music is merely an advertisement for what music can be. It never escapes the enclosure of its commercial goals, nor does it seek to. The people who appreciate this music are happy with their streaming or other wretched sound-delivery systems. Punk, like rock, is an analogue, real-life experience, so you want analogue playback."
—Henry Rollins,
Musician; Writer; Radio and Television Presenter; Spoken Word Artist; Actor
"Five or six years ago, I was shopping for some old jazz. I got this Louis Armstrong box set. You can't get that shit anywhere else but on vinyl. The only place it exists is at the used record store. They don't make those albums anymore; they're not online. So as a result, I have all these songs that I've never heard before! Not only does the music sound cooler, but some artists only live on vinyl."
—Mike Burkett (aka Fat Mike),
Vocalist; Bassist; Label Owner and Founder: Fat Wreck Chords
"I've always had a very diverse taste. I've always been able to listen to reggae one moment, classical the next, country and western, hip­ hop, grime. I think that all started because of that very diverse but small collection of albums that my mum and dad had back in the 1960s. Now I actually own those 25-or-so albums, because my mum gave them to me a few years ago. I own the first record I ever heard in my life. I own the albums that inspired me as a toddler, because there were only two TV channels back in those days, so the radio and the record player were the world. The fascination, even back then, of putting a record on and putting the needle in, was a big thing for the family. It meant that you listened to the same album two or three times in a day sometimes. It's just nice to own those actual albums that formed my taste as a toddler."
—Clint Boon,
Keyboardist; Vocalist; Songwriter; Presenter; DJ
"I felt that music had become a free or cheap commodity. People are not paying for music. Instead of people recognising how powerful and important it is, it has become the backdrop – it's the backdrop to my night out, it's the aural accompaniment while I work. There is no real focus on it.
...
With Classic Album Sundays, I wanted to make music the focus. I wanted to provide a space where people would not do anything else – working on their computer or their phone. They would just be listening. Just like books and films, albums have influenced culture, politics and societies in other ways. Speech patterns. Humour. It goes beyond influencing other bands. Fashion, film, art, comedy. Music can influence all of these disciplines, just like great books can. We could argue that The Beatles have been as influential as Shakespeare. I felt that the album needed to be treated like the great novels: you can't just pick and choose chapters – you have to study the whole thing as an entire piece of work.
...
You can really hear the difference if you train your ear. That is not to say that every piece of vinyl sounds amazing, since so much of it is made poorly. But when you get a great record that is recorded properly, mastered properly and pressed properly – and then you play it on a proper system – it's like nothing else."
—Colleen Murphy,
DJ, Event Founder: Classic Album Sundays
"I also feel that about the Nick Drake album Pink Moon. In the '90s when I was touring with the Cocteau Twins, I used to have that on my iPod and on CD. I knew that record back to front. I listened to it on my headphones when I was travelling all around the US and around the world. I had only had the CD, but then they reissued the vinyl. I got a really nice system at home for the first time in a long while: lovely Hi-Fi, old Swans turntable, lovely old amplifier, and these KEF wooden speakers I bought off eBay. I got the whole thing for like £300. I set this beautiful system up, put this Nick Drake record on, and I was looking at the sleeve thinking, 'What have they done? This is a different record. I have never heard those instruments before.' I was literally blown away. I stood in the living room without any words, thinking, 'What is this?' It was exactly the same record, it was not remastered. It was the original, just a reissue of the original pressing. I think with vinyl, the stereo picture is just clearer, so you just hear things in a different place."
—Simon Raymonde,
Musician; Producer; Label Founder: Bella Union
"Vinyl has emerged as one of the first consumer products to prove its post-digital worth in a digitally distracted world. Digital natives are no longer satisfied with music access alone. Having a curated collection of music you own to cherish is now an aspiration for many young music lovers. A rich, eclectic, specialist collection of vinyl is emblematic of the owner's personal identity, ideals, and experiences. The disposable ubiquity of digital products teaches the value of scarcity, and of knowledge as a means to navigate endless choice. Suffice to say, vinyl rewards, educates, and conveys you better than most things acquired in life. This will secure its validity for decades to come."
—Stephen Godfroy,
Co-Owner, Director: Rough Trade Independent Record Retailer (originally opened in 1976)
"Vinyl is a sort of meditation. When you put a record on, it means that you have to be there to experience it because 20 minutes later, you are going to need to flip it over; it is not an ongoing soundtrack to your life, like when you are jogging, and you have music in your headphones. You are taking the time to actually experience the record in a way that the artist would hope and intend. That is the difference – a huge difference!
...
My daughter is 18; she loves a lot of great music. But she will never know what it is like to sit with five of her best friends and listen to Pink Floyd. Not that everyone needs that experience – but to me, that was like church. I was never a religious person, but I think a lot of people go to church so they can be with a crowd of people and do something spiritual together – and feel it – together. In the '60s and '70s, all of a sudden there was this experience of being able to go out and appreciate another person's music in a way collectively that I think was elevated. It spoke to human potential. It was not about some theoretical god, or some hierarchical, dogmatic programme. It was ultimately inspiring in a way that I do not think too much is anymore. It was such a unique club that we all belonged to when we understood the power of that stuff. Now it's ubiquitous. Everyone has their own little soundtrack to their lives going on through their headphones and their little Pandora."
—Marc Weinstein,
Co-Founder, Co-Owner: Amoeba Music; Drummer in many bands including MX-80, 10th Planet, Pluto, Savage Pelicans, The Mutants, and others

Sunday, April 8, 2018

The Labyrinth Index by Charles Stross (The Laundry Files Volume 9)

The Labyrinth IndexIndeed, much time has passed since I last posted about an editing project. Not because I haven't wanted to, but because the majority of the work I've been doing these past few months has been with individual authors. And since these authors' manuscripts have not been accepted for publication as yet, I feel it's not my place to comment publicly on said work.

Which brings me to my most recent project, which I can, in fact, write about: Just this past Friday I turned in the edited manuscript for Charles Stross's latest Laundry Files novel -- The Labyrinth Index -- to Tor Books/St. Martin's Press. The book will be published in October.

Book number 9... I have been working on the Laundry Files series since 2003, when I first acquired The Atrocity Archives -- which contained the 2005 Hugo Award-winning novella "The Concrete Jungle" -- for Golden Gryphon Press. A span of fifteen years, nine volumes, and four different publishers: as acquiring editor with Golden Gryphon Press (books 1 and 2), and then as a freelancer for the next seven volumes: Ace Books (books 3 through 7), Oribt UK (book 8), and this latest volume with Tor Books. Whew....
Orbit UK Edition

I'll share some of The Labyrinth Index story line with you, but not too much as I don't want to give away too many spoilers. I will say, however, that the blurb provided to Amazon and Barnes and Noble (and undoubtedly other booksellers as well) was based on an early draft of the novel, and a number of points within those blurbs are no longer correct or accurate. So I'm going to post the book blurb here, with the appropriate corrections/'changes:
The Lovecraftian Singularity has descended on the world, beginning an exciting new story arc in the Laundry Files series!

The arrival of vast, alien, inhuman intelligences reshaped the landscape for human affairs across the world, and the United Kingdom is no exception. Things have changed in Britain since the dread elder god N'yar Lat-Hotep [aka Fabian Everyman, aka the Mandate, ref: The Delirium Brief, book 8] ascended to the rank of Prime Minister. Mhari Murphy, recently elevated to the House of Lords and head of the Lords Select Committee on Sanguinary Affairs (think vampires), finds herself in direct consultation with the Creeping Chaos, who directs her to lead a team of unknown [at least to the Black Chamber] Laundry personnel into the dark heart of America to search for the President of the United States, and kidnap him if necessary for his own protection.

A thousand-mile-wild storm system has blanketed the Midwest, [there is no storm!] and the President is nowhere to be found. In fact, for reasons unknown [as yet], the people of America are forgetting that the Executive Branch ever existed. The government has been infiltrated by the shadowy Black Chamber [aka the Nazgûl, aka the Operational Phenomenology Agency, or OPA], and the Pentagon and NASA have been refocused on the problem of summoning Cthulhu.

Somewhere [in hiding], the Secret Service Presidential Protection Detail battle to stay awake in order to remember who the President is, and to stay one step ahead of the vampiric OPA dragnet that's searching for him.
So there you have it. The boldface (and the one strike-through) are my corrections to the original publisher's blurb, while the bracketed text provide a bit more detail than what was given. Any questions?

If you've been keeping up on the series, then you know that supersecret agent extraordinaire Bob Howard (the new Eater of Souls) has made few appearances in the past few volumes. And The Labyrinth Index is no exception. The primary narrator is Mhari Murphy, or should I now say Baroness Karnstein! And Mhari's main partner-in-crime, so to speak, on this mission into the dark heart of America is Detective Chief Superintendent James Grey (aka Officer Friendly), whom we last saw in The Annihilation Score.

Recall that the Prime Minister wanted a team of "blank-face" operatives.... Brains (of Pinky and Brains) joins the mission this time around, as does Reverend Pete Russell. And if you are a hardcore fan of the Laundry Files series, you may even remember sysadmin Janice Hill, one of the Scrum from The Rhesus Chart; well, she's part of the team, too, as is Derek the DM from The Nightmare Stacks. Last, but certainly not least, an alfär mage, one of the Host of Air and Darkness, plays a major role as well.

That's probably more detail than I should be providing at this point, but I couldn't help myself. This story is a real page-turner: it moves faster than RAF Concorde 302 Heavy with the President onboard! (Shush...don't tell anyone I said that!)


Friday, April 6, 2018

Now Reading: Dust & Grooves by Eilon Paz

Dust & GroovesI've been reading this coffee table book entitled Dust & Grooves: Adventures in Record Collecting, which was published by Ten Speed Press in 2015.

The author, Eilon Paz, is a photographer with a penchant for music. He put the two of these passions together and came up with D&G, a successful Kickstarter project, for which he traveled around the globe interviewing hardcore vinyl collectors—and photographing their massive vinyl collections. And the book is huge: 12 inches tall, 9.75 inches wide, and about 1.5 inches thick, with 440 pages of some of the most mouth-gaping photos of vinyl collections you will ever see!

Sheila Burgel
"[Record collecting] is a boys club, and if a woman can't play like the men, she's rarely encouraged to join in. Because in the record-collecting world, you have to meet certain criteria...you'd hardly be taken seriously as a collector with a small collection. Quantity matters. So does rarity. And your knowledge about what you collect. What girl wants to bother being held to such silly standards when we're already judged on just about everything else in our lives."
–Sheila Burgel, Brooklyn, NY



Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson, bandleader for
The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon

"Records are time capsules. They're emotional, spiritual, energetically bound pieces of vinyl. They were cut with force and energy, not by a programmer."
–William Bensussen, The Gaslamp Killer, Los Angeles
"Questions like favorite album/artist/genre/label/cover are utter bullshit. People less consumed with music can easily give you those answers, but I (and those of my tribe) simply cannot, and that's just the way it is."
–Greg Casseus, Queens, NY
"Collecting records is like voluntarily becoming a historian or a chapter in a long book of musical histories."
–Rich Medina, Philadelphia
"Convenience and shortcuts [the quick click of an mp3] do not enhance pleasure. But take the time to dig out a record, put it on the turntable, sit back and listen...that's where the pleasure is. That's where the relationship with music grows strong; that's where the richness and depth are felt."
–Sheila Burgel once again:
with one of the largest collections of girl groups vinyl in the world


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Stephen Hawking (January 8, 1942 – March 14, 2018)

"I have lived with the prospect of an early death for the last 49 years. I'm not afraid of death, but I'm in no hurry to die."

"It would not be much of a universe if it wasn't home to the people you love."
—Stephen Hawking

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Octavia E. Butler Quote

"Choose your leaders with wisdom and forethought.
To be led by a coward is to be controlled by all that the coward fears.
To be led by a fool is to be led by the opportunists who control the fool.
To be led by a thief is to offer up your most precious treasures to be stolen.
To be led by a liar is to ask to be told lies.
To be led by a tyrant is to sell yourself and those you love into slavery."
~ Octavia E. Butler, Parable of the Talents


Octavia E. Butler
(June 22, 1947 – February 24, 2006)


Friday, December 22, 2017

Frank Zappa (December 21, 1940 – December 4, 1993)

"Scientists believe that the universe is made of hydrogen, because they claim it's the most plentiful ingredient. I claim that the most plentiful ingredient is stupidity."
~ Frank Zappa


Monday, December 11, 2017

Apocalypse Nyx by Kameron Hurley

ApocalypseNyxIf you've been checking in on this blog, even irregularly, you've observed that I haven't posted many updates, particularly as they relate to my editing work. It's not that I haven't been busy, but rather the majority of my projects recently have involved working directly with authors on their manuscripts. As these are not-as-yet sold mss., I'm not really able to write about them.

What I can write about is my latest project: Back in the day, between 2010 and 2012, I had the opportunity to work on three very unique novels -- God's War (a 2012 Nebula Award nominee for best novel), Infidel, and Rapture: the Bel Dame Apocrypha Trilogy, by new author Kameron Hurley. The three books were published by the original Night Shade Books (NSB) -- one of the best (though far from the brightest) indie publishers at the time. NSB was known, and recognized, for publishing new authors, who indeed were the best and the brightest: in addition to Ms. Hurley, other authors included Paolo Bacigalupi, Laird Barron, Bradley P. Beaulieu, Courtney Schafer, and Catherynne M. Valente, just to name five that immediately come to mind.

In 2014, Kameron Hurley sold her trilogy to British publisher DelReyUK. As part of the promotion for the release of these books, she wrote a new, original Nyx story (Nyxnissa so Dasheem, aka Nyx, is the protagonist in all three volumes), which DelReyUK published exclusively on their website. The story, "The Body Project," was my first opportunity to work with Kameron post-NSB. I wrote about the story in a blog post dated January 22, 2014. I don't know how long DelReyUK allowed the story to remain online (the link is no longer valid), but if you are a fan of Kameron's writing and haven't read this bold, new story, then you'll have another chance to snag it in the new year.

Some have called these stories "bugpunk" -- bugs are utilized in all types of machinery, and magic works through the use of bugs. Regardless of what words are used to describe these stories, Nyx is one female badass who puts mission first above all (and everyone) else.

"The Body Project" is one of five stories that will be included in Apocalypse Nyx, Kameron Hurley's story collection, forthcoming from Tachyon Publications in July 2018. The other four stories: "The Heart Is Eaten Last," "Soulbound," "Crossroads at Jannah," and "Paint It Red" were originally published online on Ms. Hurley's Patreon.

If you've read the trilogy, then you are familiar with the members of Nyx's team: Rhys the magician (sometimes of questionable skills), Taite the com tech, and Anneke (Anneke likes guns, lots of guns) -- and they're present in all of these stories as well. You'll also meet the newest member of the team: Khos, a shape shifter.

I've used a couple blah adjectives like "unique" and "bold" to describe these stories because the stories are so different that I just don't have the words to describe them! Here is Tachyon's promotional copy for Apocalypse Nyx:
Move over Mad Max—here comes Nyx.

Ex-government assassin turned bounty-hunter Nyx is good at solving other people's problems. Her favorite problem-solving solution is punching people in the face. Then maybe chopping off some heads. Hey—it's a living.

Her disreputable reputation has been well earned. To Nyx's mind, it's also justified. After all, she's trying to navigate an apocalyptic world full of giant bugs, contaminated deserts, scheming magicians, and a centuries-long war that's consuming her future. Managing her ragtag squad of misfits has required a lot of morally-gray choices.

Every new job is another day alive. Every new mission is another step toward changing a hellish future—but only if she can survive.

This collection will be the first time all five stories are available in print: nearly 75,000 words of "unique," "bold," "bugpunk," "badass" fiction.

Apocalypse Nyx will be published in July 2018 and is now available for preorder direct from Tachyon Publications, or Amazon, or your preferred bookseller.




Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Monday, December 4, 2017