Rock Snobbery Archives
The #1 single in the country right now is “Just Dance” by Lady GaGa, a club-ized pop song by a performer with a highly sexualized persona. But a couple of years ago, there was a far superior song of the exact same title by another performer with a highly sexualized persona, Kaye Whye. Why this song didn’t become massive is an utter mystery.January 12, 2009 More Rock Snobbery »
There’s nothing funny to say about the death of Ron Asheton, guitarist for the Stooges. But he was a Rock Snob lodestar, and, indeed, it was an early-’00s conversation with a supercilious Stooges Snob that hatched the concept for doing the original “Rock Snob” feature in Vanity Fair, which led to The Rock Snob’s Dictionary book, which led to the whole Snob’s Dictionary series.
We can take solace in the fact that Asheton, like the New York Dolls’ Arthur Kane, died after a final victory lap–in his case, touring triumphantly with the reunited Stooges after decades of inertia and melancholy. Here’s a mesmerizing (if poor-quality) clip of Asheton spearheading the Stooges’ cover of fellow Michigan native Madonna’s “Ray of Light” at the 2008 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony.January 06, 2009 More Rock Snobbery »
...that is, until we get our act together to sell our own line (which will eventually happen). The design above is available, along with similarly cheeky offerings, from Diesel Sweeties.December 05, 2008 More Rock Snobbery »
Steven Daly–retired drummer, pending dad, daytime drinker, journalist, and co-author of The Rock Snob’s Dictionary–was in Glasgow last weekend to accept a Lifetime Achievement award at the Tartan Clefs, the Scottish music industry’s big bash of the year, which raises funds for the Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy organization. Steven, for those who don’t know, was a founding member of Orange Juice, the post-punk group that kick-started Scotland’s indie scene by founding its own label, Postcard, and making smart-assed pop music with funk inflections.
The Orange Juice reunion–the first time the original lineup had been together in the same room since the early 1980s–was all the more poignant because three years ago, Edwyn Collins, the group’s singer, songwriter, and leader, suffered a massive brain hemorrhage that forced him to learn to speak, read, write, draw, and sing all over again. Edwyn recently wrote a moving piece for the U.K. Guardian about his recovery, which he credits to his wife’s persistence and his penchant for drawing birds.
More Rock Snob-arousing photos of the reunion are forthcoming from Steven.November 26, 2008 More Rock Snobbery »
Nobody does Beatle spoofery better than Snobsite friend Peter Serafinowicz. (As a matter of fact, pretty much no one in Britain or America does comedy better than him.) Here’s his take on Ringo Starr’s curious declaration that he will no longer be answering fan mail. Peace and love.October 17, 2008 More Rock Snobbery »
What was John Peel’s favo(u)rite single of all time?
Why, “Teenage Kicks” by the Undertones, of course!October 01, 2008 More Rock Snobbery »
Rare is the Brian Wilson interview in which the old Beach Boy speaks in anything but banalities about God, the surf, the sun, Phil Spector, the Four Freshmen, and “the music in my head.” But Ben Marshall somehow got more out of Wilson in his brief interview in the October issue of Uncut.
Pressed to name his favorite rap song, Wilson pretty much disowns the genre, saying “I don’t need to listen to music that brings me down with negative thoughts. I prefer to listen to music that makes me happy.” (Let’s get him some old-school Digital Underground!)
Asked what qualities he inherited from each parent, he says “Well, my mother gave me love. My father gave me big, hot balls... He’s tell me to write No. 1 hits, and I did.” (For more on Murry Wilson, watch this.)
And when polled about his presidential preference, Wilson responds, “McCain. John McCain. He has a good smile. He is a good man, I think.”September 16, 2008 More Rock Snobbery »
David Kamp writes...
In 2005, I fell in love with a no-budget Web series called Yacht Rock, which debuted on the Channel 101 site and purported to tell the stories of such smooth-pop titans of the late ’70s and early ’80s as Michael McDonald, Kenny Loggins, the Doobie Brothers, Steely Dan, and Hall & Oates.
In no time, Yacht Rock became, in short order, an underground phenomenon, an overground phenomenon, a New York Times-approved neologism, and a Web meme with its own Wikipedia entry. McDonald and Steely Dan, good sports, even paid tribute to the Web series by doing an encore to a show wearing captain’s hats.
I’ve become e-mail-friendly with Yacht Rock’s creative force, JD Ryznar, who alerts me that he is road-showing Yacht Rock and will be screening its webisodes this Sunday evening, September 14, at an East Village saloon called Professor Thom’s. I plan on being there and finally meeting JD in person.
I might add that Ryznar, a droll Polish-American from Muskegon, Michigan, has a wonderful verité series running on YouTube now called Visits with JD Ryznar, in which fellow Channel 101 “stars” join him at his wood-paneled pad in greater L.A. and more or less eat, drink, talk, and vegetate. Probably 75 percent of the pleasure I take in this show is predicated on already knowing these guys from Channel 101, but, aside from that, Visits is actually a sweet, authentic, and occasionally touching (seriously!) glimpse into the lives and friendships of creative but physically inactive white guys in their late twenties and thirties.September 11, 2008 More Rock Snobbery »
If you’re elfinly adorable and release a counting song as a single, you just know the Muppets will have you in their crosshairs. And so, Leslie Feist brings “1 2 3 4” to NYC’s still rough-hewn Sesame Street district.
Not since R.E.M.’s “Furry Happy Monsters” has a hit been so joyously repurposed. Though the Sesame Workshop really missed a great opportunity in 2005 when Beck, then a new dad, came out with the song “Guero” from the album of the same name. A “Qué Onda Elmo?” video would have been perfect.July 25, 2008 More Rock Snobbery »
As noted in The Rock Snob*s Dictionary, under the entry WILSON, DENNIS: “Long suspected of being a marginally talented surfer-stoner dude who was merely along for the ride with genius older brother Brian Wilson... Dennis surprised fans when, as a novice songwriter in the late Sixties, he ably crafted emotionally fraught ballads; his out-of-print 1977 solo album, Pacific Ocean Blue, is a major cause-célèbre among Snobs.”
Hard to believe in this relentlessly archival, reissue-mad age, but until this week, Pacific Ocean Blue was still out of print–it never had even a half-assed CD version released (legally) in the 1990s. Over at Snob HQ, we’ve long had to rely on out vintage vinyl version (pictured above), whose sleeve is fun to fold out so you can pretend to be passing the hours with Dennis at his most bearded and wharf-rat sozzled.
But you can now buy an authorized version of Pacific Ocean Blue, which comes with an extra disc devoted to material from Wilson’s aborted follow-up, Bambu. For the more militant of Rock Snobs, this is a sad week, since one of their most cherished out-of-print trophies has lost its obscurity value. But for the more benign Snob, this is a good time to revel anew as Dennis rasps his way through “River Song.”June 16, 2008 More Rock Snobbery »
Courtesy of low-budget soft-rockumentary auteur JD Ryznar comes the long-awaited Footloose episode of Yacht Rock, the show that put the “biz” in “Webisode.” It’s surprising enough to see Jason Lee guest-starring, but is that Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton as James Ingram? (No, it isn’t, but for a second...)January 28, 2008 More Rock Snobbery »
Another formerly obscure gem now readily available on YouTube: Bob Dylan’s late-1980s appearance on the Chabad Telethon, in which Zimmy plays a mean mouth organ while his son-in-law, singer-songwriter Peter Himmelman, and Harry Dean Stanton (!!!) play “Hava Nagila.” Yarmulkes are stylishly worn by all.November 29, 2007 More Rock Snobbery »
Pursuant to the previous entry in Rock Snobbery:
“I Zimbra,” Talking Heads
* Actually, all T. Rex songs are Muppet-friendly.
How could we have missed out on Muppets Tonight, Brian Henson’s short-lived attempt (1996-97) to revive his dad’s Muppet Show magic on American prime time? The fragments (fraggles?) left behind on YouTube reveal an adventurous program of Rock Snobbish bent, with Kermit “doing” David Byrne, and “Nine Inch Snails” performing some woozily convincing industrial rock.October 15, 2007 More Rock Snobbery »
This clip of of “the Pink Floyd” from a May 14, 1967, appearance on the BBC2’s The Look of the Week program has been up on YouTube for a year. But somehow it had escaped the noticed of Snob HQ until now. And it’s extraordinary on so many counts. For one thing, it captures the band performing, rather than miming, “Astronomy Domine,” the effects-laden song that opens their debut album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, which is just now getting its lavish 40th-anniversary rerelease. For another, it captures Syd Barrett actually talking–and not just talking, but chatting thoughtfully, lucidly, and with remarkable equanimity given the hostile questions of his interviewer.
The segment’s presenter is Hans Keller, a prominent and controversial music critic and theorist of the era. In his introductory segment, he might as well be John Cleese. With his posh-Viennese accent, Murrowesque cigarette, and a pushbroom mustache that seems to have come from the prop department, he cocks his head contemptuously and asserts of the band, “Proportionately, they are a bit boring.” And then he allows, disingenuously, that “Perhaps it’s my fault that I don’t appreciate them.”
In the post-performance interview, which begins about five minutes into the clip, Keller kicks things off by asking Barrett and Roger Waters, “Why has it all got to be so terribly loud?” The two Floydians, well-brought-up boys from Cambridge, answer this and all of Keller’s questions with remarkable politeness. But Waters palpably seethes under his veneer of good manners, while Barrett remains unprovoked. (Though his occasional smiling glances at Waters hint that he finds Keller’s tone absurd.)
Keller clearly had a tin ear for rock music, but it would be reductive to say he was just some schmuck drawing-room fogey who had it in for the longhairs. A Jewish escapee from the Third Reich, he made his way to London in 1938 and established his name as something of an out-there figure himself, applying Freudian interpretation to classical compositions. He also had a silly streak and once fooled the classical-music firmament by soberly presenting a spoof documentary on BBC Radio 3 entitled The Strange Case of Piotr Zak, about an avant-garde Polish composer who didn’t actually exist.
So maybe, when he says at the end of the Floyd clip that “My verdict is that is is a little bit of a regression to childhood–but, after all, why not?,” Keller isn’t being altogether condemnatory.September 22, 2007 More Rock Snobbery »
It’s been more than two years since Yacht Rock, J.D. Ryznar’s ebulliently inventive Channel 101 Web series about the late-’70s SoCal smooth-music scene, became a cultural phenomenon. But the aftershocks are still occurring, as the figures lovingly parodied in the show are getting hip to Yacht Rock, and, in some cases, meeting its creators. Last year, Ryznar reported that Steely Dan and Michael McDonald, for an encore at a concert they were doing together, returned to the stage wearing captain’s hats, the signature headgear of Yacht Rockers. And it was our pleasure, at a spring 2006 Beverly Hills party to celebrate the publication of The Film Snob*s Dictionary, to introduce the real Steve Porcaro of Toto (played by Sarah Silverman Show regular Steve Agee in Yacht Rock) to Hunter Stair, the handsome, bearded young fellow who played Kenny Loggins:
Now comes astonishing photographic evidence of good sports Daryl Hall and John Oates posing with the actors who portrayed them in Yacht Rock as short-fused fashion-crimers, Wade Randolph (in cap, far right), and Drew Hancock (in glasses, far left):
September 13, 2007 More Rock Snobbery »
You know you’ve made it when the French are producing knockoffs of merch you’ve created. May we present a book that has only recently come to our attention, Le dictionnaire des destins brisés du rock, published in France late last year with a suspiciously familiar-looking cover (above) and premise. (The title translates, more or less, as “The Dictionary of Accursed Rock Destinies.”) One imagines that this book was thrown together in a shabby Paris workhouse filled with poorly paid immigrant rock satirists while an unforgiving sweatshop boss cracked the whip and screamed “Plus comme Daly! Plus comme Kamp!”September 09, 2007 More Rock Snobbery »
David Kamp writes...
The video above makes me happy and provides some relief. I was getting grim reports from Europe about Sly Stone’s tour there with his sister Vet’s band–that he wasn’t onstage enough, and that he didn’t sound good when he was onstage. Forget journalistic objectivity–I’m rooting for this guy to get it together and enjoy a happy coda to his life as a musician.
In my media appearances to discuss my story on Sly for Vanity Fair, I’ve noted that he was in good voice at his Vegas show in March. He looked stooped and all of his 64 years, and he only played for about half an hour, but he showed authentic promise and really seemed to enjoy himself onstage as he grew more comfortable there. I’ve also cautioned people that the comeback trail is seldom smooth. It’s easy to forget now, but Brian Wilson and Roky Erickson had long, protracted comeback periods, with many false starts and missteps, before they became the strong public performers they are now.
Still, it sounded like that Vegas promise wasn’t being fulfilled in Europe, especially according to this utterly depressing account of Sly’s Italy performance, written by musician and Rock Snob extraordinaire Sean O’Hagan. (UPDATE: In an earlier version of this post, I assumed the O’Hagan writing was the same one who leads the British band the High Llamas, which has its own entry in The Rock Snob*s Dictionary. The O’Hagan of the UK’s Guardian is indeed a Rock Snob extraordinaire, but he is an entirely different Sean O’Hagan. Sorry about that.)
So it delights me that Sly sounded good at his Netherlands show, from which this clip comes. Check out his grinning performances of “If You Want Me to Stay,” “Sing a Simple Song,”* and “I Want to Take You Higher.” Nice Mardi Gras beads, too, sir!
(Thanks to Idolator for the heads-up on the clip.)
* During this song, there’s a sweet exchange of grins and good-natured pointing between Sly and his niece, Lisa, when he comes in too early on the second verse, stepping on her line.July 17, 2007 More Rock Snobbery »
David Kamp writes...
As my story on Sly Stone for Vanity Fair was going to press, really late in the game, Sly’s sister Vet called to tell me that her brother wanted to send me a statement “about what’s going on now, about the war.” I was told to expect a fax. And the following morning, upon arising, I found this extraordinary document waiting in the machine. I could only fit a small snippet of it into the article, but it’s such a fascinating, free-associative note–encompassing current events, his take on my persistent pursuit of an interview with him, his own fears of being portrayed in a bad light, some borderline Borscht Belt humor, and a playful (?) threat–that I thought you’d enjoy reading it. And trying to parse it.
By the way, his sister says he liked the story.
July 12, 2007
More Rock Snobbery »
In case you haven’t seen this, the shadow prime minister of California has re-teamed with the Guest-McKean-Shearer core of Spinal Tap for the first time since 1984–in the cause of July 7’s Live Earth concert.
The 15-minute short gets progressively funnier as it goes along, especially once Derek Smalls enters the picture. But what’s remarkable is how unremarkable the fly-on-the-wall freakshow format seems now. As inventive and absurdist as Rob Reiner and co. are, their characters are actually less outré than the real-life inhabitants of VH1’s “Celebreality” programming. For proof, look no further than the Vixen episode of Bands Reunited.May 10, 2007 More Rock Snobbery »
A bit of Krautrock, a bit of Ramones, a bit of Sufjan, and a whole lot of Mies Van Der Rohe. Well, why not?April 17, 2007 More Rock Snobbery »
Above is a poor-quality but nevertheless compelling screen grab of Dinah Shore’s attempt, in 1977, to imitate Iggy Pop’s pose on the cover of his album The Idiot, as an amused Mr. Pop looks on. Iggy, as Snobs know, recorded The Idiot in Berlin with David Bowie and modeled his cover pose after a disturbing portrait by Erich Heckel, a German Expressionist artist, of Ernst Kirschner, another German Expressionist artist, who had become mentally ill. (Bowie did his own Kirschner vogueing on the cover of his “Heroes,” also from 1977.)
The interview footage from which this grab was taken was just recently posted on YouTube. It’s the marvelous missing link between Iggy’s two much-bootlegged performances on the show, exuberant versions of “Funtime” and “Sister Midnight” with Bowie on keyboards and the Sales brothers, Hunt and Tony, as the rhythm section. People like to laugh at the incongruity of Dinah and Iggy on the same soundstage, but it’s a tribute to both that they were open to the experience and got along so well. Dinah, who was 61 to Iggy’s almost-30 at the time of this broadcast, out-snobs today’s Rock Snobs by playfully calling Pop “Jimmy” a good decade before it was fashionable to do so. And the Igster is the picture of charm–his menacing, schlong-whipping Iggy persona switched off so that Dinah can meet “Jim Osterberg, doe-eyed, boyish and coy,” in the words of Paul Trynka, whose forthcoming, semi-authorized Iggy bio, Iggy Pop: Open Up and Bleed, comes out in April from Broadway Books (also the publisher of the Snob’s Dictionaries). Per Trynka, this was a happy period for Iggy, who had, for the moment, and with Bowie’s help, kicked heroin.
To top it all off, that’s Rosemary Clooney with whom Dinah is discussing punk rock at the beginning of the “Funtime” clip. Snobsite friend and Peggy Lee biographer Peter Richmond happened to be interviewing Clooney for GQ in 1994 when she got word that her good pal Shore had passed away. Peter says that Clooney was badly shaken by the news and teared up–Dinah was good people, and there was much more to her than Burt Reynolds and ladies’ golf tournaments. Really, why isn’t today’s talk TV more open to these sorts of wacky but cordial, nonconfrontational juxtapositions, whether it’s Iggy and Dinah or Woody Allen interviewing Billy Graham? As Peter says, “It just wouldn’t happen now: The View welcoming Trent Reznor...”February 22, 2007 More Rock Snobbery »
There’s a pretty good point-counterpoint debate in the current issue of Uncut in which Green Gartside of Scritti Politti and Chris Difford of Squeeze post arguments for and against the Beatles mash-up exercise known as Love. Gartside is pro, despite some initial skepticism–he refers to Giles Martin, son of Beatles producer George and the true mixmaster of the album, as “Giles fucking Kula Shaker Martin,” alluding to the younger Martin’s 1990s work with the now-forgotten Britpop band fronted by Hayley Mills’s son. Warily as he approached Love, Gartside cops to enjoying the recontextualized bits and pieces of Beatles songs. Difford, on the other hand, is more Rock Snob canonical, viewing the whole thing as heresy.
Gartside is right in this case. Love is surprisingly good, especially in its deft meldings of songs that are atmospherically and/or structurally related (such as “Lady Madonna” and “Hey Bulldog,” or “Tomorrow Never Knows” and “Within You, Without You”) and its sly contrasts of Macca chirp and Lennon snarl (as when filaments of “Hello Goodbye” are threaded into the sinister “Glass Onion”). It’s nearly enough to make you forget about the album’s unfortunate and improbable raison d’etre–that it was conceived as the soundtrack to a Vegas production by Cirque du Soleil, the body-stink French-Canadian troupe of codpiece mimes and leotard acrobats. (If you must, you can watch a clip of their desecration of the Beatles’ work here.)
But here’s the thing: Waaay back in 1967, before he even was John Lennon’s Drinking Buddy™, the great popsmith and inveterate Beatles fan Harry Nilsson (with Lennon, above) did his own winning Beatles mash-up, entitled “You Can’t Do That.” Working very much in the same spirit that animates Love, Nilsson wittily swirled together bits of the Beatles’ catalog to that date, using Lennon’s Hard Day’s Night stomper “You Can’t Do That” as a framework on which to hang quotes from “She’s a Woman,” “Drive My Car,” “You’re Going to Lose That Girl,” “I’m Down,” “Do You Want to Know a Secret,” “Norwegian Wood,” “Day Tripper,” “Paperback Writer,” “Good Day Sunshine,” “A Hard Day’s Night,” “Rain,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” and “Strawberry Fields Forever”–all in less than two and a half minutes, and with no modern mixing-board jiggery-pokery!
You can find Nilsson’s “You Can’t Do That” on iTunes on the Personal Best compilation, or, better still, on CD via BMG’s lovely box-set reissue from 2000 of Nilsson’s early albums, Pandemonium Shadow Show/Aerial Ballet/Aerial Pandemonium Ballet.January 17, 2007 More Rock Snobbery »
The video for “Window in the Skies,” one of the two new, Rick Rubin-produced songs on U2’s recent singles compilation, U218 Singles, is mesmerizing, repeat-watchable, and very Rock Snobbish. (Click on the screen-grab below to watch.) Compiled by director Gary Koepke, it uses dozens of archival clips of performances by famous musicians, editing them together so that–for a second or two, anyway–it looks like each musician is lip-synching to Bono’s vocal.
It’s a fun video, with appearances by, among others, Frank Zappa, the young Keith Richards, Bjork, Keith Moon, Nat King Cole, Nina Simone, Frank Sinatra, Jack White, Morrissey, Iggy Pop, the Ramones, Beck, Elvis, Ella Fitzgerald, and Louis Armstrong. But equally interesting is who is not present. No Beatles? U2 probably wanted them in there but couldn’t get clearance from the ever-proprietary Neil Aspinall at Apple. And one can’t help but notice how very... exquisite the director and band have been in their choices. If only there could have been one or two nerdy, unfashionable figures to keep the video from being so tasteful–say, Glenn Tilbrook from Squeeze, or Boz Scaggs or somebody.December 22, 2006 More Rock Snobbery »
“Break On Through The Holidays With Ray Manzarek’s New CD Atonal Head and New Book Snake Moon
Looking for cool stocking stuffers this holiday season? Add Ray Manzarek’s new CD Atonal Head and new novel Snake Moon to your list...”November 28, 2006 More Rock Snobbery »
The beardy young men behind the brilliant Channel 101 rockudrama Yacht Rock are paying a visit to New York this coming weekend, playing all ten existing episodes of the show and intimating that there’ll be some new material screened. You should check out their delightful low-budget output at Fontanas on Eldridge Street in Lower Manhattan on November 3rd or 4th. (See flier below.)
And the fun doesn’t end with the weekend. On Monday, November 6, the L.A.-based Channel 101’s New York City spinoff, Channel 102, hosts its monthly screening at Tribeca Cinemas on Varick Street, which will feature the latest episode of Mitch Magee’s Sexual Intercourse: American Style, a superbly acted and filmed mini-comedy about a quartet of very Caucasian swingers in suburban Connecticut. Don’t be put off by the title, which makes it sound like a one-note goof; Magee is a great writer, his actors are fantastic and totally committed to playing it straight, and Magee’s got promise as an auteur, showing flourishes that evoke John Cassavetes and David Chase. Watch all five existing episodes of Magee’s show in sequence and thrill to the sight of a funny young guy creating a mysterious world that abides by its own (swingy) rules.November 02, 2006 More Rock Snobbery »
David Kamp writes...
While in L.A. last week, staying at the Chateau Marmont on the Sunset Strip, I happened to notice that the rock club just up the street, Coconut Teaszer (above), has finally closed. Though I’d never set foot inside the place, I always had a sort of morbid fascination with it–its raggedy architecture, its facade decorated with Zildjian cymbal ads and reproductions of random album covers (always seemingly two years out of date), its unfortunate name, its status as a pay-to-play showcase for no-hope hard rawk bands that came to L.A. from out of town in leopard-print lycra, delusionally dreaming of making it as big as Axl. Like lots of long-lived L.A. clubs, the Teaszer did evidently book some reputable artists from time to time, but never once in my many visits to L.A. did I see a non-crap band listed on the marquee.
Some years ago, when I was working as an editor at GQ and VH1’s Behind the Music was at its formulaic apex, I thought it would be funny to do a fashion shoot based on the typical Behind the Music story arc, with the delusional band coming to L.A., playing a first gig at Coconut Teaszer, signing a deal with a label, suffering the consequences of success, and finally finding post-commercial “contentment” by becoming spiritual and “just gettin’ back to what it’s all about: makin’ my music, man.” I wanted the Foo Fighters to do this fashion shoot and “play” the goofy band. Sure enough, Dave Grohl, the Nicest Man in Rock™, was totally up for it, and he and his fellow Foos gamely played out every scenario I devised, including posing in front of Coconut Teaszer while wearing mullet wigs and pretending to be no-hopers from Oskaloosa, Iowa.
The building’s been whitewashed, and there are posters up promising that it will soon house some kind of restaurant/lounge/club–a doomed one, I should think. Another blow for Paradise City.October 13, 2006 More Rock Snobbery »
At the beginning of her new video, for the song “LDN,” young Lily Allen, Britain’s new Chav princess and the offspring of Cool Britannia mascot Keith Allen, pokes fun at store-clerk Rock Snobs. Lily’s lots of fun–like a girl Chris Difford.September 18, 2006 More Rock Snobbery »
The turbulence and ructions bedeviling the Village Voice have finally resulted in the inevitable, the firing of Robert Christgau (above), or X-Gau, as he is known in Rock Snob circles. Yesterday, he sent this e-mail out to his faithful:
“It is now official–Village Voice Media fired me today, ‘for taste,’ which means (among other things) slightly sweeter severance. This despite the support of new music editor Rob Harvilla, who I like as a person and a writer. We both believed I had won myself some kind of niche as gray eminence. So I was surprised Tuesday when I was among the eight Voice employees (five editorial, three art) who were instructed to bring their union reps to a meeting with upper management today. But I certainly wasn't shocked–my approach to music coverage has never been much like that of the New Times papers.
“Bless the union, my severance is substantial enough to give me time to figure out what I’m doing next. In fact, having finished all my freelance reviews yesterday, I don’t have a single assignment pending. So, since I have no intention of giving up rock criticism, all reasonable offers entertained; my phone number is in the book, as they used to say when there were books. What I don’t need is a vacation–the three of us just had a great two and a half weeks, and Nina matriculated at BMCC yesterday.”
There’s no gloating to be done over this man’s dismissal from the paper he’s worked at for almost four decades, but, as folks like Jim Wolcott have said, X-Gau should have diversified his portfolio a long time ago; there should be more to his professional life than grading records in the Voice’s Consumer Guide and reviewing concerts and such. Maybe X-Gau will catch on at Mojo, or maybe he’ll surprise us with some thoughtful memoirist articles like this one, a lovely career retrospective published by the Los Angeles Times’s Robert Hilburn in July.
Hilburn (pictured above, with Keef), now semi-retired, has been at it even longer than X-Gau, and yet he’s aged more gracefully, coming across less as a relic clinging to a dying constituency and more like a man for whom age has not dimmed his ardor for an abiding passion, rock music. The antithesis of the exclusionary Crit Snob, Hilburn is an enthusiast who never let his writing become cryptic and impenetrable; he takes pleasure in turning on non-Snob civilians to the music he likes.
With Hilburn and X-Gau fading out of the picture, we must now reckon that the twilight of the major American rock critic is upon us. (Lester Bangs flamed out early and got all the glory for doing so.) Greil Marcus has moved on to bigger subjects, and Dave Marsh is more of a curator these days, keeping busy at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. All the serious action is online now, so visit the sites listed in the Snobroll at right.September 01, 2006 More Rock Snobbery »
David Kamp writes...
How apt that Love frontman/madman Arthur Lee (above) should pass on within weeks of his contemporary burned-out loon/maker-of-about-an-album-and-half’s-worth-of-good-material Syd Barrett. I never got to meet either man face-to-face, but I did enjoy a brief correspondence with Lee, who was in jail on weapons charges when I was doing a story for Vanity Fair on the history of the Whisky a Go Go. (Love had a great song called “Maybe the People Would Be the Times, or Between Clark and Hilldale”; the Whisky is on Sunset Boulevard between Clark and Hilldale.) The old black hippie was chipper when he wrote to me–lots of exclamation points–and when he was released, a short while later, he enjoyed a heartwarming, Arthur Kane-ish coda to his troubled life, performing to adoring new audiences of youngish Rock Snobs. He was even honored in the British Parliament four summers ago by Labour MP and avowed Love enthusiast Peter Bradley. Godspeed, you black emperor.
* The title of this post comes from a somewhat obscure song by the palpably Arthur Lee-influenced Robyn Hitchcock. Thangyew; thangyew-veh-muuuch.August 04, 2006 More Rock Snobbery »
Everyone knows that lots of musicians have surprisingly intimate MySpace pages. But few have as delightful and forthright an Amazon.com profile page as Tamerlane Phillips (above), the kindhearted son of the late Rock Snob cause célèbre John (Wolfking of L.A.) Phillips. Tamerlane, a singer-songwriter in his own right and the sister of Bijou Phillips (both were born to model-actress Genevieve Waite, John’s third wife), gives the thumbs down to the Midrise Queen Airbed with Pump, lamenting, “This is my second airbed the first one would deflate while you are sleeping and you wake up on the floor this one also deflates in the middle of night. If you want to buy an airbed spend alot of money and buy a quality one.”
Sound consumer tip, sir! Tamerlane also misspells the name of his father’s group (“My father is papa john phillips of the mammas and the pappas”) in his review of The Chelsea Hotel, but he raves over the hotel itself (“The chelsea has specially thick walls so that the many musicians and singers can pracice without disturbing the other tenants”), and also liked a book he read about Adnan Khashoggi.July 12, 2006 More Rock Snobbery »
No one harbored any serious expectation that he’d ever record new music or emerge from seclusion, but still, it’s sad to learn that Syd Barrett (above), the architect of Pink Floyd’s early, woozy, endearingly lysergic sound, is dead. With Brian Wilson and Sly Stone, he formed a holy trinity of great pop recluse-geniuses, forever pursued by obsessed fans and questing journalists. Wilson eventually reemerged and returned to performing. Stone briefly resurfaced at this year’s Grammys with a dope mohawk and a Goldmember suit. Only Barrett stayed away completely.
Like Kurt Cobain, Barrett left behind a body of work that is, frankly, pretty scant for a person so lionized. It was his adamant refusal to be Syd Barrett anymore–after quitting music, he returned to his given name, Roger Barrett–that fed his legend as much as anything. Over the years, lots of grim stories circulated that he’d gone completely bat-fecal, that he’d ballooned to 28 stone, that he’d gone blind and deaf. An excellent and surprisingly tender stalkerazzi article about Barrett in the (London) Observer put to rest those misconceptions a few years ago. The article’s author, Tim Willis, had the gumption to just knock on the old psychedelic songsmith’s door. He didn’t get much out of Barrett, who was wearing little besides blue underpants as they spoke. But in reading Willis’s piece, you get the sense that Barrett wasn’t as mad as people thought he was, and that removing himself from the pop-star life was a shrewd act of self-preservation, a move that allowed him to live much longer and more peaceably than many of his drug-gulping contemporaries.July 11, 2006 More Rock Snobbery »
David Kamp writes...
The article came out, but the album never did. Rubin later explained to me that his boutique label, American Recordings, was caught up in the personnel changes and ructions at Universal, American’s distribution partner, leading to a delay in new American releases. But now, with American partnered with Warner Bros. for distribution, American V will at last hit the shops. It comes out on July 4th.
A few weeks ago, Rubin kindly sent me an advance master of American V, which now carries the subtitle A Hundred Highways. I’ve been listening to it a lot. It’s magnificent, and, if anything, even more heartbreaking and death-stalked than the final Cash album released in Cash’s lifetime, American IV: The Man Comes Around, which gave us his shockingly frail version of Nine Inch Nails’s “Hurt.”
In the VF article (which I swear I’ll post soon, along with other music pieces I’ve written), I wrote about two raw, unembellished recordings that Rubin played for me, both made–like the rest of American V’s material–in the harrowing four-month period in 2003 between the death of Cash’s wife, June Carter, and his own death. The songs I mentioned, “Help Me” by Larry Gatlin and “The 309,” the last-ever Cash original, are tracks one and three of the new album. Rubin has gussied them up some for proper release, but they still sound ancient and splintery, more like outtakes from Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music than Johnny Cash records. The song between them, “God’s Gonna Cut You Down,” a traditional popularized by Odetta and done here in clomping chain-gang style, sounds even more Harry Smith-y, with Cash quavering near the top of his range* like John Jacob Niles or some faltering 1926 porch geezer.
The only thing about this album that gives me pause is its brevity–just twelve songs over forty-odd minutes. Rubin had told me he’d been toying with making American V a double, given the wealth of material he had at hand, and pointedly said he did not want to keep releasing posthumous albums, Tupac-style, because “there’s something that doesn’t feel good about the Tupac-ing.” I have to think that more of the 2003 recordings will somehow see the light of day, perhaps as bonus cuts to some deluxe American re-release down the line.
* CORRECTION/UPDATE: Actually, I just listened to the album again, and it’s on “The 309” that Cash strains near the top of his range; still, “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” sounds more like a relic than a 2003 recording. I also meant to note that the version of “Help Me” that opens the album is a different take than the nakedly grief-stricken one that Rubin played for me in 2004. Perhaps Rick decided that the version I heard was just too personal, too upsetting, to release for mass consumption.
AMERICAN V TRACK LISTING
Sifting daily through the mail that comes to us via the Nitpicker’s Corner section of the site–most of it from aggrieved fans of Guided by Voices, wondering why their favorite indie band didn’t make it into The Rock Snob*s Dictionary–we must necessarily deal with a torrent of pharmaceutical spam (Viagra, Cialis, Vioxx, etc.). Usually, these spam e-mails spout gibberish in their subject lines, but occasionally, the subject line will be a bit of found narrative–lifted from, say, Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White–or, in the case of a spam e-mail we received yesterday, from ’80s synth pop. The e-mail in question arrived with the subject line “The dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had”–a lyric familiar to anyone who moped through the early ’80s in eyeliner from the song “Mad World” by the pre-“Shout,” wedge-haircut-and-overcoats-era Tears for Fears (above). We opened the e-mail, suspecting it was from an aggrieved goth, only to find the usual pitch for generic Viagra.
Which makes us wonder: Does anyone out there know how and where these spam subject lines are generated? Even if it’s in some boiler room in Malaysia, you wonder whose idea it was to plunder the Roland Orzabal songbook.May 25, 2006 More Rock Snobbery »
David Kamp writes...
Freddie died last Friday, May 19, at the age of sixty-nine. When I spent a day with him at his home near Stoke four years ago, he was already in rough shape, weakened by pulmonary disease that had suddenly overtaken him on a plane ride the year previous. (“I'd been leapin’ aroun’ stage until I had the attack,” he said.) Nevertheless, he struggled up from his chair to do “the Freddie,” as his wacky dance was called, and supplied me with a steady drip of music-hall quipperoos. “All of a sudden I had girls coming out of my ears,” he said of his unanticipated U.S. success. “And, you know, I didn’t want to go deaf.”
In the clip above, Freddie performs his 1965 U.S. number-one hit, “I’m Telling You Now,” with Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon on Hullabaloo.May 22, 2006 More Rock Snobbery »
One of the curious effects of YouTube–and, indeed, of the World Wide Web in general–is that the faint, vaporous memories of one’s cultural youth need no longer be so faint; type in a few search words, and you can empirically refute or verify some bonkers notion that’s been rattling ’round your brain. Such as: Did Richard Branson really appear in the video for the 1980 XTC single “Generals and Majors,” a video viewed just once, in one’s early teens? On the evidence of the video posted above: Yes indeed, that really was Branson.
At 2:40 in the clip, the Virgin chief’s trousers fall down, Benny Hill-style. Not until the heyday of Sean Combs’s Bad Boy label would a label boss again make such an oafish appearance in one of his artists’s videos.May 15, 2006 More Rock Snobbery »
Not since the golden age of Neil Innes, the Python adjunct who played Ron Nasty in the Rutles film All You Need Is Cash and was a founding member of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band (see page 13 of The Rock Snob*s Dictionary), has there been as adept a Beatles parodist as Peter Serafinowicz. A polymathic Brit who co-created the brilliant educational-TV parody Look Around You for the BBC, starred in the film Shaun of the Dead, and even supplied the voice of Darth Maul to Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Serafinowicz has lately gone viral with cheaply produced, bang-for-the-buck comedy shorts.
The first one came out just before the Oscars and included Serafinowicz’s alarmingly accurate imitations of Alan Alda, Al Pacino, and, most winningly, Paul McCartney (putatively nominated for his theme song from Capote, which begins, in chirpy Macca style, “Ohhh, Capote/ I love the books that you wrote-y”). The new Serafinowicz short addresses Apple Corps’s recent (and unsuccessful) lawsuit against Apple Computer. Serafinowicz “does” John and Ringo quite well, but it’s still his Paul that’s most chucklesome. Click and enjoy.May 10, 2006 More Rock Snobbery »
The theme of the preview program is... weather! Bob, in fun-fact mode, informs us that the windiest city in America is not Chicago but Dodge City, Kansas!
(NOTE: The XM site will prompt you to enter a username and a password. For the former, enter press1 [that’s the numeral “1” after “press”] and for the latter, enter xmr0ck5! [The exclamation point is part of the password, and the “0” is the numeral, not the letter “o,” while the “5” is the numeral, and not the letter “s.”] The audio will take a little while to load on your media player, but it’s worth it.)April 19, 2006 More Rock Snobbery »
Kurt Loder’s iTunes celebrity playlist is Snobworthy enough, with rootsy trax by Willie Dixon and Etta James and a song from L.A. sessioneer extraordinaire David Lindley’s side project El Rayo-X (pronounced, as Snobs know, “El Rye-O ECK-eez”), but he’s also got some refreshingly counter-Snob-tuitive stuff in there: “I Know There’s Something Going On,” the “In the Air Tonight”-like breakup song by Frida from Abba (produced, as it happens, by Phil Collins), and a live version of “Tonight,” a putrid Tina Turner-David Bowie duet from the nadir of Bowie’s “happy” Eighties period. Give the Lodester credit for following his heart and not doing a phony list conjured up just to impress fellow Snobs.April 18, 2006 More Rock Snobbery »
April 10, 2006
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In The Rock Snob*s Dictionary, we define the word “cosmic” as a “musically meaningless adjective deployed by rock writers to ascribe a mysterious otherness to the actually quite straightforward country music played by Gram Parsons and other lysergically inclined, Nudie-suited, anti-Nashville mavericks.”
Actually, in Rock Crit Land, the word has even less specificity than that. As if to prove how empty yet weighty a term “cosmic” has become, the April issue of Britain’s Uncut magazine–which is kind of like Mojo, only it also covers movies and offers a fulsome appreciation each month of some overrated pug actor like Tom Sizemore–offers a list of “The 50 Greatest Cosmic American Albums” of all time. Naturally, Gram figures in it, with the Flying Burrito Brothers’ The Gilded Palace of Sin charting at #10, but the list also includes Shuggie Otis’s Inspiration Information, Sufjan Stevens’s Illinoise, and The Band’s The Band (the last as earthbound as rock music can get). In other words, Uncut has no idea what it means by “cosmic.”March 16, 2006 More Rock Snobbery »
The Beverly Hills book party for The Film Snob*s Dictionary was a swell gathering to begin with, but what made it an especially Snobworthy event was that it brought about the first meeting between a star and creator of the Channel 101 underground smash Yacht Rock, Hunter “Kenny Loggins” Stair, and an actual, real-life Yacht Rocker, erstwhile Toto keyboardist Steve Porcaro.
Yacht Rock fans will recall that in Episode 4 of the program, “Porcaro” tries to enlist “Loggins” to convince “Michael McDonald” (played by the series’ creative mastermind, J.D. Ryznar) to help him out on Toto’s next single, which turns out to be the smash “Rosanna.”
The real Steve Porcaro was endearingly bewildered by his starring role in Yacht Rock, noting that, while he was indeed the member of the band who dated Rosanna Arquette, he didn’t even write the song. “I like how the show makes me out to be the leader of the band–I was just the baby brother!” he said at the party, alluding to his older sibling, Toto drummer Jeff Porcaro. Porcaro sportingly chatted at length with Stair, who professed his love for Toto’s second album, Hydra. Porcaro seemed not to mind that the Yacht Rock guys used a great big fat guy to play him.
Special thanks to Ted Kamp for dragooning Steve into coming to the party. NOTE: To take this photo, David Kamp actually broke up a conversation between Porcaro and Stair by saying, “Hold the line, Steve!”
In a stunning coup, Mo Pitkin’s, the Heeb-chic restaurant-lounge-cabaret in Manhattan’s East Village, has landed Simon Reynolds, the author of Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984–the best book about music to come out in ages–to preside over a panel discussion of matters postpunkical on February 28. Serving on the panel will be our own Steven Daly (described in the Mo Pitkin’s publicity materials as “drummer & conceptualist in Orange Juice, the celebrated Scottish band”), along with No Wave overlord James Chance and veteran Brit journo Vivien Goldman. Mo Pitkin’s is a tough ticket on any night, so if you want to see our drummer-conceptualist friend Steven hold forth, you'd be wise to book in advance.February 16, 2006 More Rock Snobbery »
It was an especially happy morning for the Rock Snob brain trust, for the Today show unexpectedly ran a long segment on Snob mascot and recurring Yacht Rock character Jeff “Skunk” Baxter–who, as anyone who has read page 9 of our book is aware, is not only an ace session guitarist and ex-Doobie Brother but an adviser to the Pentagon on ballistic missile defense! Click here to see the Today report and the sight of the Skunk in a suit and tie.December 15, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
End-of-year tradition (and, to be honest, pressing deadlines on work assignments) dictates that, in lieu of new posts, we offer you this round-up of Snobsite’s finest moments over the course of 2005, its inaugural year. The headline above, as any Rock Snob worth his salt knows, is an allusion to the curious title of Jethro Tull’s first greatest hits album (cover below). If some Snob out there has any idea what “M.U.” stands for, let us know.
To see Steven and David’s “Honest” and “Rock Snob” lists of their Desert Island Discs, click here.
To see Steven and David confess their non-Snob-music guilty pleasures, click here.
To see Al Jaffee’s “Snobby Answers to Loser Questions,” click here.
To download a podcast of Steven and David’s appearance on WNYC’s “Soundcheck” program, click here.
To hear Meredith Ochs’s essay about Rock Snobbery on NPR, click here.
To hear the best parody ever of an insufferable Rock Snob, a comic bit by Tom Scharpling and Kenny Wurster called “The Music Scholar,” click here. (Scroll down to the part that says “The Music Scholar” and click the “Play Clip” button.)
To read our infamous VH1 parody, “I Love the Aughties,” click here.
We hope you enjoy this round-up, and keep an eye out in January for the new branch of this site devoted to The Film Snob*s Dictionary.December 09, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
One of our friends was trawling the Christgau site’s voluminous archives and found this review of a 1974 Gordon Lightfoot album:
Sundown [Reprise, 1974]
Our friend writes to Snobsite, “I suggest we administer the Christgau Comprehension Test to one hundred randomly selected rock writers across the country and see how many of them can figure out what the hell ‘Chad lives’ means. I’m guessing zero. I’m guessing this is one of those many instances in which Christgau attains his creative and spiritual goal of Complete Obfuscation.”
Sounds like a capital idea, this test, but why not ask this site’s very smart readership if they can help out! “Chad lives,” anyone?December 02, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
A final update on the intrigue surrounding “Joyce,” the subject of and artiste behind what is widely regarded as the world’s worst album cover. Nick DiFonzo, whose excellent Bizarre Records site is the original disseminator of the Joyce cover, confirms that the lady pictured (circa 1983) is indeed Joyce Drake, a pastor’s wife from Sealy, Texas. He even includes this sound clip from Joyce’s hot C&W-style track “I Get All Excited.” Reader Ed Davis of Flint, Michigan, had wondered in a previous post precisely “what it would be that would get Joyce ‘all excited.’” Ed, now we know that what gets Joyce excited is “when you talk about the love of Jesus”!
As for Mark Newnham of Denver, who had speculated that the “Joyce” of the album cover was the British actress Maureen Lipman dressed in character as music-hall oddity Joyce Grenfell... well, the crow-eating, humble-pie-consuming Newnham contacted us to say, “After listening to [the Bizarre Records clip], I’ll withdraw this. The song is clearly a religious one... and Maureen Lipman is well-known as a Jewish actress, also being the wife of the late director Jack Rosenthal.”
We now conclude our diversion into obscure Christian records and the history of British Jewish musical theater and return to our regular Rock Snob programming.November 28, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
Our offices piled high with CDs, our iPods loaded to 40 GB capacity, we are truly blessed to experience “Freedom From Want” (the name of the Norman Rockwell painting above–and yo, he did rock well!). Herewith, the Snob brain trust offers its givings of thanks.
I’m thankful that the BBC inexplicably hired curmudgeonly speed freak Mark E. Smith to read out the football (yes, football!) results on Saturday.
I’m thankful that Simon Reynolds’s magisterial post-punk history Rip It Up and Start Again is about to be published in the U.S. (complete with dazzlingly insightful quotage from yours truly!).
I’m thankful that the deluxe version of Bruce Springsteen’s reissued Born to Run comes with a concert video from the days when The Boss was an adorably skinny Serpico lookalike.
And finally, I am thankful that my old chum Edwyn Collins is back in the studio.
I’m thankful that Gang of Four’s re-recording of their best old songs, Return the Gift, didn’t turn out to be the bad idea it sounded like, and that Hugo Burnham’s drumming is still tautly thwacky.
I’m thankful that this Web site allows you to read the lyrics to songs from the still unreleased Guns ’N Roses album Chinese Democracy, including the words to the song “Rhiad and the Bedouins,” whose first verse, evidently, goes “Oh-Oh/ Ohhh/ Oh, Oh-Oh/ Ohhh/ Oh-Oh/ Ohhh/ Oh, Oh-Oh.”
I’m thankful that Barney Hoskyns’ ace Laurel Canyon book Hotel California was published to good reviews in the U.K. and will soon be out in the U.S.November 22, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
Our humble little compendium of useless information is now in its fifth printing! And it’s not even Christmas! Thanks to all of you who have made 2005 an annus mirabilus for Rock Snobbery. And remember, the book makes an ideal stocking stuffer or bulk corporate purchase for your jaded friends in the industry who like Waddy Wachtel jokes. This Christmas-Chanukah-Kwanzaa-Festivus, say it with Snobbery.November 18, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
Daniel Radcliffe, the sixteen-year-old actor who plays Harry Potter in the movies, is already establishing himself as a Rock Snob to watch–in a few years’ time, he could be up there with Wes Anderson and Sofia Coppola. On his iTunes celebrity playlist, he includes selections by Pixies, Antony & the Johnsons, the Arcade Fire, and the Buzzcocks. The Buzzcocks! Nicely done, young wizard! And yet the delightful Rupert Grint, who plays Ron Weasley and looks like he should be a clued-up indie kid, chooses Usher, Green Day, and Velvet Revolver. Wouldn’t it be great if the next Harry Potter movie had a scene in which Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) holds forth to Ron on the virtues of Rock Snobbery? You just know Hagrid’s a fan of Captain Beefheart and His Magic(k) Band.November 18, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
Our favo(u)rite British music mags are in especially fine Snob form this month. In Mojo, David Fricke, actually an American rock writer with an awesome Marky Ramone ’do, describes the sound of vintage Blondie as “a knockout combination of hot candy and pop-art vision, powered by the drumming of Clem Burke and iced with the peppermint-Kraftwerk keyboards of Jimmy Destri.”
Nice one, David! Though if it’s “hot candy,” why are the Kraftwerk peppermints so icy?
November 11, 2005
More Rock Snobbery »
Fully seven months after its publication, The Rock Snob*s Dictionary is still getting the love. Stephen Metcalf of Slate calls us “delightful” and uses the book as a pretext for a very entertaining little essay.November 04, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
In the brief history of Snobsite, we’ve seldom had more response to an Annals of Snobbery item than to our request for any information about this album cover:
In a previous post, we explained that we’d found this curio on a site dedicated to the Worst Album Covers Ever, and speculated that it was “a self-financed vanity record, circa 1982, by someone named Joyce who looks remarkably like Dustin Hoffman circa Tootsie.” We were eager for explanation, clarification, and validation. Boy, did we get some.
Ed Davis of Flint, Michigan, is one of many readers to tell us that the U.K. newspaper the Guardian ran the Joyce album cover as part of a pictorial excerpt from a book called The Worst Album Covers in the World... Ever! by Nick Di Fonzo. The Guardian site also mentioned that the album was released in 1983 (so we were only a year off), that Joyce’s surname is Drake, and that among the songs is one called “I Get All Excited.” Writes Ed, “I’m curious as to just what it would be that would get Joyce ‘all excited.’”
We also received a fascinating hypothesis from reader Mark Newnham, an Englishman who lives in Denver. Mark thinks that “Joyce” is actually the British actress Maureen Lipman in character as the eccentric British stage comedienne Joyce Grenfell. He linked us to this bio of Ms. Lipman, which explains that the actress, whose aquiline nose and elongated face aren’t worlds away from Joyce’s, has long performed a one-woman show called Re Joyce, described as “her homage to her heroine Joyce Grenfell.”
So, is the lady Joyce Drake or Maureen Lipman in Joyce Grenfell drag? Signs point to the former theory being correct. Since the Worst Album Covers list was published, Joyce has turned into something of a cult figure of the ’Net, with this Prince fan site even going so far as to sponsor a “Joyce Photoshop Thread Contest.” It’s really quite amazing, the lengths to which Joyce fans have gone. Here’s Joyce on the cover of Dylan’s Bringing It All Back Home:
And here’s Joyce “doing” Prince circa Parade:
Here’s Joyce recreating Funkadelic’s classic Maggot Brain:
And here’s our favorite, Joyce hanging out with N.W.A.:
The most salient thing about Joyce’s being a cult figure is that she’s been repeatedly identified as “Joyce Drake.” Which leads to the most likely explanation of who this lady is. One of the many blogs and sites to examine the Joyce phenomenon is devoted to a polka band called the Polkaholics. On their site, one reader wrote in to comment, “Joyce Drake was the pastor’s wife at First Assembly of God in Sealy, Texas, when I was a little girl in the 1970s. She was really very nice. I don’t know of any other albums that she ever made.” A cursory Google search reveals that a Joyce Drake and her husband, Clyde, indeed did lead such a church in Sealy. Alas, the trail grows cold there, and we don’t know what’s since become of Mrs. Drake, nor do we have photographic proof that this Joyce and our Joyce are one and the same. Joyce, if you’re reading this, give us a jingle.November 03, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
This week marks the return of VH1’s guilty-pleasure I Love the... series, in this case, the all-new I Love the 80s 3D, airing from 9 to 11 p.m. EST. VH1 also has an I Love the Holidays series scheduled for December. But here at Snobsite, we’ve got an exclusive on the series after that, I Love the Aughties, Part One, scheduled to air some time in 2006. As everyone knows, these last five years have been a font of hilarity, and VH1’s crack team of commentators are ready as usual to tee off on the absurdities of our time. Below are some excerpts of the programs upcoming.
Hal Sparks, actor/comedian: I couldn’t help but think that those huge black plumes of smoke billowing off the top of the towers looked kinda like old-school flat-tops—it was like this huge, epic-scale image of Kid ’N Play.
Return to burning-tower footage, this time with Kid ’n Play’s dancing heads superimposed on the towers’ tops, and the song “Rollin’ with Kid ’n Play” playing on the soundtrack.
Stuart Scott, ESPN: And there were those buggin’-out folks who didn’t wanna wait for the towers to fall, who just up and jumped from a hundred stories high.
Cut to footage of bodies landing with a thud in the lobby of Tower One.
Hal Sparks: Kuh-THUMP!
Rachael Harris, comedian: SPLAT!
Mo Rocca, gadfly: P’toomp! P’toomp!
Michael Ian Black, actor/comedian: Somehow, I don’t think this is quite what the Weather Girls had in mind when they sang “It’s Raining Men.”
Return to the falling-bodies footage, this time with video images of the sashaying Weather Girls superimposed, and “It’s Raining Men” playing on the soundtrack.
Godfrey, actor/comedian: They were calling all those firemen brave for running into those buildings. Brave? More like stupid! When you see a million-story building on fire with people jumpin’ out of it, you’re like, “S**t, man! I’m gettin’ the f**k outta here!”
Mug shot of Richard Reid in orange prison jumpsuit. Newsman voice-over: “Authorities detained a man named Richard Reid, who, witnesses say, tried to light the tongue of his sneaker on firebefore being subdued by fellow passengers. Plastic explosives were later found in the lining of his shoes.”
Michael Ian Black: After 9/11, we were all waiting for the other shoe to drop. How delightfully apt, then, that what dropped was, indeed, a shoe.
Dee Snyder, Twisted Sister: Frickin’ Richard Reid, man! Thanks to that skanky dude, I gotta pull off my boots every time I go through airport security! Do you realize what a pain in the ass that is?
Rachael Harris: Why couldn’t Tara Reid and Paris Hilton have been in that club that night?
Donal Logue, actor: Now, Jessica Lynch was hot! I wanted to do her as soon as she got back to America—even if she was wearing a colostomy bag!
Image of George W. Bush walking on the the tarmac in a flight suit, with a voice-over of his speech aboard the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln in which he proclaims, “Major combat operations in Iraq have ended.”
Jamie Lynn Spears, actress/singer: I was only, like, eleven when the Iraq war started, and I had this huge crush on the president, especially when he wore that crotch-hugging flight suit. [Looking to someone off-camera.] Is it so gross that I just said that? [Doubling over with laughter, bobbing in and out of frame, with crew and entourage laughter audible.] Oh my god, I can’t believe I just said that! [Snorts.]
Mo Rocca: What the Madrid bombings proved, once and for all, is that Spaniards should stick to riding horses in the grand tradition of Don Quixote.
Montage of photographs of Lynndie England posing with humiliated Iraqi prisoners. Newsman voice-over: “Shocking images of alleged abuse of detained Iraqis at the Abu Ghraib prison have come to light…”
Hal Sparks: Where I come from, arranging a bunch of naked guys into a pyramid at gunpoint isn’t called abuse. It’s called pledge week!
Michael Ian Black: Now, there are some who would argue that stripping a man, placing a sandbag on his head, and attaching electrodes to his naked body is a sick, egregious violation of the Geneva Conventions. Not me, however. Sandbags? Forced striptease? Jumper cables hooked to my ’nads?… Me likey.
Footage of the huge waves and shoreline devastation caused by the Indian Ocean tsunami. Newsman voice-over: “Vacationers and fishermen charged for the shore in terror, trying to elude waves thirty to forty feet high.”
Donal Logue: Tsunami? Isn’t that that Japanese beer that comes in the huge bottle? “Dude, pour me another Tsunami!” [Mimicks getting wiped out by a wave.] “Dude, I said just one!”
Rachael Harris: Is it just me, or did anyone else notice Amelia Earhart laid out on the beach alongside all those dead babies?
Hal Sparks: [superimposed against the footage, clutching a guitar, doing a Joe Strummer imitation] “’Cos London is burning and I… I live by the riv-ah! Ow-ow-ow-ow-ow-aowww!"
Loni Love, comedian: Damn! Those terrorists even had English accents! They was all like, [plummy accent] “Join me for a suicide bombing and a spot of tea!”
Footage of the water-sodden Lower Ninth Ward in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Godfrey: The Lower! Ninth! Ward! Ohhhhhh, s**t! Just give it up, people! You were in a crappy neighborhood to begin with!
Rachael Harris: Everyone’s like “Where’s Fats Domino? We gotta find Fats Domino!” I’m like, “Fats Domino is alive?”October 25, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
Our Canadian mate Joe Clark alerts us to an article in the Guardian that attempts to cobble together a posthumous list of beloved DJ John Peel’s favorite–er, “favourite”–albums of all time. You can link to it here, but what we most appreciated was Joe’s assessment of Peel’s all-time #1: “Oh, dear. Trout Mask Replica. The Brief History of Time of Rock Snobs.”
In the new issue of Blender, Rock Snob Hall of Famer Cameron Crowe offers another sort of list, of his all-time favorite deployments of tunes in movies, a subject of which he knows plenty. His answers are as Snobworthy as expected–e.g., Nilsson’s “Jump Into the Fire” in GoodFellas, Nico’s “These Days” in The Royal Tenenbaums–but the best part is when he tips his hat to fellow jukebox-cinelubricator Quentin Tarantino, calling him “one of the best when it comes to needle drops.” From here on in, “needle drop” will be the Official Snob Term for an expert deployment of a Snobworthy rock song in a movie scene.
Finally, we sometimes go to this site, a section of some guy’s blog devoted to the Worst Album Covers Ever, when we’re feeling blue and need some absurdist cheering up. We’ve long been especially intrigued by the bargain-bin find pictured below–what looks to be a self-financed vanity record, circa 1982, by someone named Joyce, who looks remarkably like Dustin Hoffman in the title role of Tootsie. What were the circumstances under which the album was made? Who is this Joyce? What is her last name? A free copy of The Rock Snob*s Dictionary goes out to whomever can fill us in.
October 22, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
There’s something immensely charming about the idea of this eccentric, prodigiously bearded man, known for scavenging strange old instruments from pawn shops, keeping an online journal of his “Rotlings.”October 19, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
Our Snobroll-recommended blogger Spike Priggen of Bedazzled! offers empirical proof that Gram Parsons and the Flying Burrito Brothers (above) were much less ROOTS-sensitive (see p. 105 of The Rock Snob*s Dictionary) than previously believed. To wit, Spike has unearthed an old promotional clip for the song “Older Guys” that finds Gram, Chris Hillman, and friends goofing around on a yacht way back when Simon LeBon and Nick Rhodes were still in ruffled diapers. It must be acknowledged, though, that pedal-steel ace “Sneaky Pete” Kleinow remains stoic throughout.October 05, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
What better way to remember the late synthesizer pioneer Bob Moog than visiting the Snobroll-recommended site Turntable Lab and purchasing your own Bob Moog doll (pictured above), complete with a separate keyboard and a real cloth tie for Mini-Bob? It's a terrific value at $29, and every fan of Stevie Wonder and T.O.N.T.O.’s Expanding Headband should have one.October 04, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
We look with admiration and envy across the Atlantic at Ben Schott (pictured above), who, like us, has established a cottage industry of novelty books filled with useless information. Ben’s Schott’s Miscellany books are even in hardcover, and he designs and typesets them himself. And he has a whole line of handsome Smythson of Bond Street leather-bound products as well. (We feel fortunate just to be carried by Urban Outfitters.)
We have altered our “Ben Schott” link in our Snobroll to direct you to his Miscellanies site rather than his personal site. And we are delighted that Ben took up a few of our suggestions for the new, U.S. edition of Schott’s Sporting, Gaming & Idling Miscellany, specifically, that he document every one of Evel Knievel’s broken bones, that he include a collection of Muhammad Ali’s spoken-word poetry, and that he include a list of famous catchphrases of sports announcers. Just for the heck of it, we’re going to give you a little item that Ben chose not to use, but which is of interest to Rock Snobs and sports enthusiasts:
The Beatles and Sport
U.K. footballer Albert Stubbins, U.S. boxer Sonny Liston, and U.S. swimmer (and later Tarzan star) Johnny Weismuller are on the cover of Sgt. Pepper.
“Faster,” a song about auto racer Jackie Stewart, is featured on the George Harrison album from 1979.
“He got toe-jam football”
The animation of “Eleanor Rigby” in the film Yellow Submarine (1968) features a melancholy soccer game.October 01, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
We’ve received several irate e-mails chastising us for not posting something new every single day–evidently, there are a lot of you out there who need to receive a fresh dollop of Rock Snobbery come each morn. (Hasn’t Scorsese’s two-night documentary on Dylan been enough?) To which we say, Sorry, it’s just that this is more of a “site,” if you will, than a “blog,” if that’s the correct word that you young people use, and we have grown-up work responsibilities that preclude us from “blogging” on a daily basis like these young people.
That said, keep an eye out for Steven’s corking history of Sugar Hill Records in the November issue of Vanity Fair, out next week.September 28, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
When you’ve next got half an hour to kill, please visit this link to hear Tom Scharpling and Jon Wurster’s humor bit “The Music Scholar,” which they originally performed on Scharpling’s WFMU radio program but have now posted, at Snobsite’s request, on their Web site, Stereolaffs. (Once you’ve clicked on our link, scroll down to where it says “The Music Scholar” and select either the “play” or “download” option.)
In the clip–which must have startled WFMU listeners who thought it was a real call-in to the station–Wurster, who in real life is the drummer for budget-priced indie stalwarts Superchunk, calls in pretending to be the most pompous Rock Snob ever, a know-it-all in his early forties who claims to have seen the MC5 and the Stooges perform live when he was ten, and that’s just the beginning of his elaborate, note-perfect monologue of a life devoted to Rock Snobbery. Scharpling, who in real life is a writer-producer for the TV show Monk, grows ever more incredulous at his caller’s pomposity.
Scharpling and Wurster are expert pranksters whose Stereolaffs site offers a lot more in this vein, so, as Kurt Loder would say, “Remarkable stuff... Do check it out.”September 20, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
C’mon: Everybody’s doing it. The Rock Snob*s Dictionary is now in its fourth printing, and you still haven’t gotten your copy, chump? How do you expect to hold up your end in bull sessions about Curt Boettcher and the golden age of Sunshine Pop?
What’s more, there's so much more Snob product in the pipeline: in the new (October) issue of Vanity Fair (but not online, alas) is the second volume of “The Football Snob’s Dictionary,” by David Kamp and Peter Richmond, and coming up in VF’s November issue is the debut of “The Wine Snob’s Dictionary,” by David Kamp and, making his Snob debut, David Lynch, chief wine guy of Mario Batali’s Babbo and co-author of the SEMINAL Italian-wine guide Vino Italiano.
The whole world’s goin’ Snob, man. And let’s not forget that, come February, Broadway Books will publish The Film Snob*s Dictionary, by David Kamp with Lawrence Levi. So join the Snob club now, while it’s still exclusive and... snobby.September 16, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
Due to artistic differences and Scottish parsimony (it costs two dollars to take the subway downtown), Steven Daly was not able to make it to WNYC’s Soundcheck program with John Schaefer. But David Kamp did, joing Mr. Schaefer to discuss Rhino’s newish 1990s box set entitled Whatever and whether Nineties retrospectivism is a valid pursuit at this relatively early date. If you missed it, you can have a listen here.September 14, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
We kvell, wish nachas, and conjure every other upbeat Yiddish word we can think of for our friend Barney Hoskyns, music journalist extraordinaire and editor of the awesome archival site Rock’s Back Pages, who has a new book coming out about the Laurel Canyon scene (see page 62 of The Rock Snob*s Dictionary) called Hotel California: Singer-Songwriters & Cocaine Cowboys in the L.A. Canyons 1967-1976. (The U.K. cover is pictured; the U.S. edition comes out next spring.) Please buy Barney’s book and get the scoop on why David Geffen felt like a free man in Paris, how often Carole King laundered her denim, and what the real story was on Randy Meisner’s controversial removal of his mustache circa 1975.
And, though we belabor the point, if you haven’t been following JD Ryznar and Hunter Stair’s brilliant serial Yacht Rock on the guerilla-TV website Channel 101, you’re missing out on the best rock comedy this side of Jack Black. The boys have just posted their latest, Yacht Rock 3 (photo of Stair-as-Loggins below), in which grief propels Kenny Loggins out of the gentle embrace of his buddies Michael McDonald and Steely Dan and into the compressed-drum clutches of eighties soundtrack rock! But if you’re a stranger to Ryznar and Stair’s work, you’d be wise check out Channel 101’s archives and get up to speed on the previous episodes before watching the new one.
September 09, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
Even New Orleans’s merriest musicians are having a hard time keeping their game faces on. Said Art Neville, “There are some things you will never get back. It will be Newer Orleans.” And the normally mischievous Dr. John sounded pretty downbeat in this radio interview, in which he said “The worst part about it–I keep havin’ these dreams this thing’s like a domino effect that could go through the whole United States.” Ain’t no dream: the ripple effect of Katrina is felt from coast to coast, and it’s high time to embrace the culture of sacrifice that our American forebears took for granted before American life was redefined as the inalienable right to a Hummer, a plasma-screen TV, and a contract/makeover deal with J Records. If you can’t chip in and volunteer, at least donate to the American Red Cross or Dr. John’s recommendation, the Salvation Army. For those of you with iTunes accounts, the iTunes Music Store has set up a series of handy one-click buttons that allow you to donate as much as you want to the Red Cross, with the donation charged to your credit card that Apple has on file.September 07, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
Even Rock Snobs are known to have hearts. There are lots of ways to help out the victims of Hurricane Katrina and the people of the city of New Orleans, home of Dr. John and the recently reunited original Meters. For now, the sanest, safest thing to do is donate money via the American Red Cross. Info on benefits to come.August 31, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
August 27, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
The body count in Iraq climbs, our leaders delude and obfuscate, and The New Republic, one of our foremost journals of political discourse and public policy, devotes a page to Rock Snobbery. Thanks, Michael Crowley!August 24, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
We take a moment to remember the synth pioneer Robert Moog (pp. 74-75 in The Rock Snob*s Dictionary), who died yesterday. Neither rock nor Rock Snobbery would have been the same without this gentle fellow–think of the stately BWOMP-bomp-bomp-bomp-bomp-bomp-bomp-bomp-BWAAAH that follows the line “Love is old/ Love is new” in the Beatles’ “Because,” or the Buh-buh bup-bup-BUP! bassline of Devo’s “Whip It,” or just about anything on Stevie Wonder's Innervisions–all Moog-driven (or Mini-Moog-driven) songs. And if you must, think also of Keith Emerson’s contributions to the prog canon. Whatever your musical persuasion, your raw nerves have been salved by this man at one point or another, and, if the obits are anything to go by, he was a lovely, thoughtful man as well. Rest well, Bob–and make sure all the Snobs in Snob Heaven know it’s pronounced “MOAG.”August 22, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
For those of you who can’t get enough of eardrum-corroding German industrial music and love to putter around in the kitchen, take heart: There’s a delightful site on the Web called Einstürzende Neueküchen, which bills itself as “a virtual cookbook of recipes contributed by the worldwide society of supporters and fans of Einstürzende Neubauten.” Not only do fans of the cumbersomely named German band, featured on page 36 of The Rock Snob*s Dictionary, now have a place to exchange their secret formulas for spoon bread and melon-habanero salsa (for real!), but the band members themselves kick in a few of their own culinary can’t-misses. Our favorite is chief Neubaten-er Blixa Bargeld’s recipe for “Blixa’s Tintenfisch Risotto (Squid Risotto).”
In other culinary news related to German music, Mojo this month scores a rare interview with Kraftwerk main man-machine Ralf Hutter, who has this to say about the term “Krautrock”:
“This is a term we would never use. Nobody in Germany knows this term. We don’t eat sauerkraut. It simply doesn’t exist. If you find it in Germany, it has been brought in from the outside.”August 17, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
From the September 2005 issue of Mojo:
“Kamp and Daly accurately, but with tongue in cheek, nail rock elitism, assessing that ‘Mojo is the compulsory Snob read since its founding in 1992.’ May the spirit of Nick Drake be with you for ever more.”
Hey, thanks, guys.August 09, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
A couple of years ago, one of us (Mr. Kamp) had the opportunity to ask Freddie Stewart, guitarist-vocalist of Sly and the Family Stone, how his brother, Sly (a.k.a. Sylvester Stewart), came up with the “Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego” chant for the song “Loose Booty”–a chant that was later repurposed as the backbone of the Beastie Boys’ song “Shadrach.” Here’s what Freddie said:
“Number one, our whole lives were centered around the church when we were kids. And number two, Sylvester wanted to say something rhythmic. If you listen, the song's got that natural rhythm–‘Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego!’ Sylvester just went to a phrase from scripture. And then, to put it in a song called ‘Loose Booty,’ well, that’s north and south, two extremes. Also, when we recorded it, that was a nutty time.”August 05, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
One of the happiest experiences in the short history of Snobsite has been the opportunity to work with Mad magazine’s great Al Jaffee on “Snobby Answers to Loser Questions,” the maiden entry in our newish Snob Comix! section. (Look for a new contribution by another name cartoonist soon.) But never would we have anticipated that the 84-year-old Mr. Jaffee would enjoy a veritable summer of Rock Snobbery: not only does his work appear on this site, but Beck’s new video for “Girl,” which can be viewed on Beck’s Web site, is an elaborately constructed homage to Mr. Jaffee's famous fold-ins for Mad! In this article, Beck explains that the video is his “East L.A. tribute to Al Jaffee.” As Mrs. Jaffee, Joyce, told Snobsite, “Pretty hot stuff, eh?”July 28, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
We’re periodically alerted to amusing little films trouvés on the ’Net that are shockingly Rock Snob-specific in content. Today, we’re linking to a few.
First up is Yacht Rock (pictured above), the brilliant rockumentary parody cooked up by underemployed L.A.-comedy knockabouts J.D. Ryznar and Hunter Stair for Channel 101, the guerilla ’Net “TV network.” Ryznar and Stair are determined to tell the behind-the-smoothness story of every late-’70s and early-’80s hit churned out by Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald, and Christopher Cross (perhaps they’ll have time for Gerry Rafferty and Andrew Gold as well?), and they’ve just released their second chapter, Yacht Rock 2.
Also unmissable for any sun-drenched Snob is the series of Rock ’n’ Roll Dad shorts available the animation site Icebox. These shorts, by Peter Bagge and Dana Gould, have been around for a few years, but anyone who's pathologically interested in Brian Wilson’s tragic upbringing by his rage-oholic dad Murry–which is, let’s face it, anyone who visits this site–would do well to catch up on them. Surely no Beach Boys scholar, not David Leaf nor Timothy White, has as astutely captured Murry’s delusion and jealousy as Bagge and Gould have here. And Murry really did have a glass eye.
Finally, there’s this little piece of genuine verité (click on the “Gemstones Promotional Film” option), a compressed Eat the Document-style featurette depicting the touring and press-junketing life of ex-Moldy Peaches guy Adam Green, who is reviled in his native U.S.A. but revered by the Germans and the Dutch. Green, whose mouth never quite seals shut and whose hair is artfully bedheaded, is compelling to watch, a cross between Beck and Napoleon Dynamite.July 26, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
To add a happy postcript: Orange Juice’s leader, Edwyn Collins, who suffered a cerebral hemorrhage six months ago, has successfully stared down death with a trademark sneer and a dismissive bob of his quiff, and is on the road to recovery.July 20, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
We somehow suspected that the U.K. would warm to The Rock Snob*s Dictionary in a special way, since Great Britain has the proportionally greatest number of Rock Snobs of any country (unless you count the tiny mountain kingdom of Andorra, where everyone is legally mandated to like Robert Fripp). Well-regarded music journalist and recovering Snob Pete Paphides astutely sums up both his condition and our book in this article from the Times of London.July 18, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
Two especially choice quotes from the new (August) issue of Uncut:
“‘Laika,’ with Pixies-ish call and response, has Tom Verlaine guitar harmonics over ? & the Mysterians staccato rhythms.”
“...‘Chelsea Burns’ is a frazzled, Mazzy Cohen hymn to beautiful losers.”
Wonder if even Leonard Cohen gets the “Mazzy” part.July 15, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
July 12, 2005
More Rock Snobbery »
ODDS AND SODS: BEARDY PARODY, OUR PISSY STALKER AT THE INDEPENDENT, AND BONO USES THE WORD “SEMINAL”
Via Andrew Hearst’s ever-fulfilling Panopticist site, we have learned of a brilliant, gratifyingly out-there rockumentary parody that actually has an actor playing Jeff “Skunk” Baxter (!!!), who is an entry on page 9 of our book. Entitled Yacht Rock and featured on the Channel 101 site, a Web-based de facto guerilla TV network that runs small-time filmmakers’ shorts, the parody purports to tell the story of how Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins came to write the Doobie Brothers hit “What a Fool Believes.” (The actors playing McDonald and Loggins seem to have real beards, but otherwise the production values are early Dr. Who-level.) If you’re a Rock Snob, make a point of watching this right away–it’s wonderfully barmy in the tradition of peak-period Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas on SCTV.
With the U.K. publication of The Rock Snob*s Dictionary has come our first pissy writeup by a self-hating British Rock Snob! For good measure, this fellow, from the Independent, condemns our employer, Vanity Fair, as a “celebrity puff sheet” with a “grimly flip style.” (The nonsensical juxtaposition of “grimly” and “flip” aptly encapsulates his equivocating I-love-this/I-hate-this stance.) And yet a search of articles by this vexed little turnip reveals that he has used the term “rock snob” in his writings six times since we first started doing the dictionary feature in Vanity Fair in 2000, and his usage isn’t some example of a midlantic convergence of like minds, but a clear lift from us, e.g., from an article he wrote on November 17, 2000, just days after our first installment of the dictionary was published, “The film-star handsome 20-year-old is extraordinarily talented, hitting all the Rock Snobs’ favourite reference points (Alex Chilton and Jeff Buckley, for instance) while retaining his individuality.” And onward he goes, right up thru 2004. That’s a lot of grim flipping through a celebrity puff sheet.
Finally, re: U2’s Live 8 performance with Macca [p. 65 in the book], Bono was moved to say before the show that Sgt. Pepper “was a SEMINAL Beatles album.” Snobbily done, Mr. Hewson!July 06, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
We are pleased to announce that the New York Times Book Review has bestowed its stamp of approval upon us with a cracking good review, thanks to Alan Light, editor of the sadly print-dormant (but still Web-active) Tracks magazine. In the same round-up of music titles (in the July 3 edition of the Review, with a cover illustration by Milton Glaser in which Bruce Springsteen looks curiously like Snob fave Garland Jeffreys), Mr. Light also gives favorable notices to Like a Rolling Stone by our Snob Overlord acquaintance Greil Marcus, and to A House on Fire, a book about Philly soul, which is itself an item on pp. 94-95 of our book.
For those of you who are new to this site, we’ll take a moment to tell you about its various riches and wonders. The Nitpicker’s Corner is our section in which readers of the book are welcomed to chastise us for our glaring omissions or errors, and for us to make fun of people who care too much about prog or the history of French yé-yé pop. Snob Comix! is our new section wherein acclaimed cartoonists do Rock Snobbery-themed comix; Mad’s Al Jaffee is our first contributor. And we also have a generous offering of excerpts from the book and a section in which we explain Rock Snobbery with David McCullough-like thoroughness and gravity. Enjoy, and buy the book for every Enoist and Beefheartian in your circle of severe friends!July 03, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
One of the oft-cited SEMINAL influences upon the Rock Snob brain trust is a middle-aged man named Ted Kamp who, as a youth, carted home vinyl LPs by such artists as Talking Heads, Captain Beefheart, Linton Kwesi Johnson, and, in one especially memorable instance, the then little-known Laurie Anderson, playing these records on the old turntable and forever altering the mindscape of his impressionable younger brother. Here, visiting brother Ted offers his perspective on moulding young minds into Snob shapes...
“It’s all my fault. But I wasn’t some sort of haughty record-store-clerk know-it-all. Or some argumentative King-Sunny-Ade-blows-away-Fela-and-Femi-Kuti polemicist. I was just an adventurous, sensitive, mentally disturbed youth who sought succor in a wide swath of the gifts of Calliope.
“And I resent being referred to as ‘middle-aged.’ I pass for A LOT younger. And then I mention seeing Art Blakey at the Blue Note, or, worse, seeing Elton at Madison Square Garden THE VERY NIGHT HE OUTED HIMSELF TO ROLLING STONE (!!!) and I am revealed. The main thing is:
1. I can kvell over the fact that my teenage psychosis and allowance money has created a younger brother who can speak knowledgably about Leland Sklar and Lester Bangs. And:
2. Ice Cream For Crow does REWARD REPEATED LISTENS.
Rock on, Snobs ’n’ Nitpickers.
One of the newer additions to our Snobroll is Joe Clark, whose Fawny blog displays an informed, witty perturbedness about everything from typography to rock music to, er, the Toronto gay community. Anyway, Joe points out to us that the designers who did the cover of the British edition of The Rock Snob*s Dictionary used the font Cooper Black, which happens to be the famous typeface used on the cover of the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds.
Pursuant to this fact, we discovered this utterly delightful Behind the Music parody that brilliantly satirizes both Typeface Snobbery and Rock Snobbery while actually being informative to those of us who care about type usage, graphic design, and such. It takes a minute to load, but it really is one of the best found objets d’amusement on the Web.June 23, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
To paraphrase the unfortunate-looking Roland Orzabal of Tears for Fears, “He gave you life-and in return you GAVE HIM HELL!”
So why not make amends with Pop this Father’s Day by gifting him with The Rock Snob*s Dictionary? Statistics indicate that an increasing number of dads consider themselves Rock Snobs, and they’re no longer just the severe audiophiles of yore who flipped out if you used their Bang & Olufsen Beogram turntables to play your Duran Duran records. (“And you left the Zappa out of its sleeve!”) The modern iDad is young, active, and perversely interested in the back catalogue of Gang of Four. So, for less than it would cost to purchase him a skinny tie or Thurston Moore’s scandalously expensive Mix Tape book, you can present him with the paperback that will stoke the fires of his Rock Snobbery for the rest of his days. The Rock Snob*s Dictionary is now available not only wherever silly books are sold, but also via Urban Outfitters’ Web site.June 16, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
Just a friendly reminder to check out our newish Snob Comix! section, whose debut entry is by none other than Mad magazine legend Al Jaffee.
The United Kingdom is the spiritual home of Rock Snobbery, having given us Mojo magazine, the Incredible String Band, Nick Kent [see p. 55 of the book], Nik Cohn [see p. 21], John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, and what have you. So it’s only fitting that we launch a U.K. edition, which our British publisher, Sanctuary, has outfitted with a soothing, pale-blue cover that resembles that of a 1970s sexual education manual.
British readers, look for it on July 4th. And all you American Snobs, we’re taking it on faith that you know that in Britain, a guitar pick is known as a “plectrum.”June 14, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
A choice passage from a 2003 New York Times article by Tom Vanderbilt about the Greenwich Village record shop and Rock Snob magnet Rockit Scientist, which is owned by one John Kioussis:
“I am no Luddite. I have bought many CD’s from Amazon.com. I have taken advantage of the free shipping. Still, neither online trolling nor on-time UPS delivery compares with standing hunched over in the cramped gangway of Rockit Scientist, flipping through racks of angled jewel boxes. Maybe, in the background, some dissonant rave-up by the Seeds grinds on, but not loudly enough to drown out the vituperative argument between Mr. Kioussis and one of his regulars over the merits of albums most people have long forgotten. Such conversations are marked by heady, bristling and often confusing language, best digested in snatches; take this typical polemic from Mr. Kioussis about a collection of 1960’s Dutch pop, generally known as Nederbeat. ‘The problem I had with the box set,’ he began, ‘apart from the liner notes being in Dutch, is that they put in stuff like Brainbox, which doesn’t really flow into 60’s R&B. Where do you get the Outsiders, the Motions, Q65, then you put in Brainbox? You might as well put Supersister on there.’”
Nederbeat! How could we have missed that one?June 14, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
...WNYC has already archived our moment of merriment with the Thurston Moore-ishly towering John Schaefer on his Soundcheck program. You can have a listen to David and Steven nattering on with poor John for nearly an hour by clicking here. We warn you in advance that, near the end of the program, a listener e-mails in to ask why the prog band Marillion isn’t in the book. Steven’s response is cruel.June 09, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
Several weeks ago, we welcomed readers to indulge in our exercise of making two Desert Island Disc lists–the first list being the ten albums that you’d honestly take to that desert island for your listening enjoyment, the second list being the ten albums that you’d claim to be taking to impress other Rock Snobs. We promised to run readers’ submissions on a regular basis, but, like the Specials’ Jerry Dammers [see pp. 26-27 in the book], we failed to live up to our early promise.
In any event, we’ve finally gotten around to selecting more readers’ Honest/Snob lists for your contemplation and ire. The lucky listees this time around are Jill Kilfoyle of Long Beach, California, Amy Stortz Miller of Kansas City, Missouri, and Charlie Szabla of Cleveland, Ohio. Thanks for sharing, you three–and we don’t mean that facetiously.
FOR JILL KILFOYLE
FOR AMY STORTZ MILLER
FOR CHARLIE SZABLA
In our entry on Nick Drake [p. 32 in the SnobText], we mention that the poor fellow “was frequently photographed standing dolefully among trees.” Well, here’s your chance to live the leafy, morose dream! At 7 p.m. on Saturday, July 2, Central Park Summerstage presents “The Music of Nick Drake.” Best enjoyed under a pink moon.
Rare is the rock band that forges a symbiotic, unwankerly relationship with a great poet, but Mercury Rev is such a band, and in the “Hey Hopper” section of their site, band bassist Grasshopper offers moving tribute to Rev fan and friend Robert Creeley, who died earlier this year.
And rejoice, American Scot-ophiles, for Domino Records is at last getting around to releasing The Glasgow School, the compilation of early singles by the SEMINAL Scottish band Orange Juice. The early records were the ones that featured the fey timekeeping of pageboy’d drummer Steven Daly, who later went on to become a “music journalist.” The Glasgow School drops on July 11 in the States.June 07, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
Some readers have complained about this site’s unabashed commerciality and entertainment-mindedness–evidently, it’s not okay to exist in the blogosphere for the purposes of promoting a book and providing uncomplicatedly fun stuff like free excerpts and free comix. So we’re going to make a concerted effort to be more “bloggy.”
First, we will work harder to write cryptic doodles in hipster code in the manner of Sasha Frere-Jones, whose words conjure a fascinating, impenetrable world of obtuse Brooklynites whose homespaces smell of acrylic paint. Okay, here goes: “Pajo’s latest squib didn’t bum me as much as it did Skelly, ’cos no one gets as bummed as Skelly, but I gotta say that I was tempted to hate on, but not as much as I hated on back in the day when Stump was cadging troutmask replicance from Beefheart. As my preschooler said the other day from the backseat, ‘Kick out the Shams, mubberflubber!’ His sputum and Gowanus bilge are the only things that turn my green hip-waders yellow.”
Next, we will say something reflexively mean about Pitchfork: “The kind of person who takes a side in the Killers v. the Bravery is the same kind of plaid-shirted, smug buttwipe who buys his music off Pitchfork and moons over Tube Sock Girl in the American Apparel ads.”
Is that more like it? Are we doing better now?June 06, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
Avast, ye public-radio listeners, and pay heed, ar. The Rock Snob brain trust returns to New York’s WNYC this Thursday, June 9, this time to match wits with John Schaefer of the station’s Soundcheck program at 2 p.m. Please tune in and listen to us being ornery.
Should you miss the program, WNYC is pretty good about archiving stuff quickly so that you young people can listen to program as a “Podcast.” Did we say that word right, “Podcast?“June 03, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
It’s a fact: Lots of dads are Rock Snobs. Whether it’s the scruffy, beleaguered first-timer who’s up at 3 a.m., nursing little Fiona with a bottle of breast-pumped milk while humming a lullaby version of Keith Richards’s “Little T&A,” or the greying boomer who loves Loudon and doesn’t get why his costume-designer son prefers Rufus, the American dad often finds solace in Rock Snobbery. Sometimes, if he’s particularly generous of spirit, he’ll take it upon himself to educate his children, burning them Marc Bolan career-retrospective CDs so they can understand the elfin Brit’s evolution from psychedelic freak to glam princeling.
So, now that it’s June, why not thank Dad with the perfect Father’s Day gift, The Rock Snob*s Dictionary? For less than it would cost to take him to a movie, or even to buy him a designer cocktail in a Manhattan hotel bar, you can present him with the paperback that will stoke the fires of his Rock Snobbery for the rest of his days. The Rock Snob*s Dictionary is now available not only wherever silly books are sold, but also via Urban Outfitters’ Web site.June 01, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
As this fellow will no doubt assure you, the only person more smug than a Rock Snob is a Comix Snob. We’ve now combined the two disciplines to create a new section, Snob Comix!, where, every once in a while, we’ll be enlisting the services of America’s finest cartoonists and illustrators to... do Rock Snob shtick.
We are honored to have Mad magazine’s legendary Al Jaffee* as our inaugural Snob Comix! contributor. Al does a bit called “Snobby Answers to Loser Questions!” For disclaimerish reasons, we’ll tell you that neither this site nor these particular drawings of Al’s have anything to do with Mad, though one of us did go to Mad’s office once at 485 MADison Avenue and got to meet the legendary publisher William Gaines.
* Yes, Al Jaffee really has done these drawings. Just to clear up some confusion: The “Illustrations by Ross MacDonald” credit that appears in tiny type at the bottom of each page of this site applies to the “banner” drawings up at the very top, the opening-page illo, and the little spot drawings in our excerpts section.May 26, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
Don’t ask us why, but Nerve.com, the stylish Webzine for connoisseurs of “intelligent smut,” sought us out for an interview. We drew the line at posing for one of their portfolios, though–that wearing-nothing-but-a-Telecaster thing has been done to death by Liz Phair. Anyway, you can read writer Margaret Wappler’s generous assessment of the book and her Q&A with the authors here. One P.S.: It might have been a case of mis-speaking, but in the bit near the end of the interview where one of us says that David Crosby is often blamed for the breakup of Crosby, Stills & Nash, it should say (as any Rock Snob will know) that Crosby is often blamed for the breakup of the Buffalo Springfield.*
May we add, while we’re on the topic of smut, that we’re utterly befuddled by Amazon’s suggestion, in their listing of our book, that people purchase The Rock Snob*s Dictionary in tandem with Legs McNeil’s The Other Hollywood: The Uncensored Oral History of the Porn Film Industry?
May 23, 2005
More Rock Snobbery »
We are pleased to announce that The Rock Snob*s Dictionary is now available not only wherever silly books are sold, but at the Paul Smith shop on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, at 16th Street. Mr. Smith, a thin, devilishly handsome fellow from Nottingham, England, looks every bit the rock personage himself, and has attracted all manner of musicians, Snobs, and combinations thereof to his clothing shops around the world. (Charlie Watts once told one of us that he buys his Paul Smith wares exclusively in Smith’s Tokyo shop because the sizes fit him better.) In the New York shop alone, whilst trying on skinny mod trousers, we’ve encountered the likes of Sean Lennon, Lenny Kravitz, Chris Martin, and, best of all, Nigel Mogg. Nigel is, as all you Rock Snobs know, not only the nephew of Phil Mogg, lead singer of the British “space metal” standard-bearers UFO, but the former bassist of Nancy Boy, the short-lived ’90s neo-glam band that was fronted by Donovan Leitch the Younger. Ever the fashionista, Nigel is now selling his own collection of “kick ass denim and rock-n-roll cashmere” (his words) via the Mogg Jeans brand.May 20, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
The wholly unanticipated lovefest with the press and blogosphere continues, with the book getting appreciative write-ups from the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Long Island’s Newsday (linked through one of its affiliates because it has a more readable page), the New York Post, the very clever Free Williamsburg site (“Finally, a book has come along that can help explain some of those Chuck Eddy reviews we read in the Voice”), and even, so help us, the Jobriath Fan Collective!
Oh, all right, we’ll also include this humorless, grumpy evaluation from Fufkin.com for balance. This is more of the kind of review we expected to get.May 20, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
This morning, the Rock Snob brain trust appeared on San Francisco’s beloved KFOG Morning Show to perform our now finely honed promotional shtick. Except KFOG’s Dave Morey & co. are several cuts above the usual basso drive-time primates, and had genuinely smart questions. Including, what is the actual name of the swirly-shaped piece of plastic that is snapped into a 45 rpm record so that it can be played on a turntable? (In the book, we use a representation of this thingy to signify a Rock Snob Vanguard item, denoting “an entry subject who is held in especially sacred regard by Rock Snobs.”)
David suggested that this is simply called a “45 insert.” A listener called in and claimed the thingy is called a “spindle adapter.” Then Steven, in a characteristic moment of Glaswegian pluck, decided that, absent any concise term, the thingy should henceforth be called a “Greil.” We checked with Greil Marcus about this, who said “There IS a name for that thing, but damned if I can remember what it is.” Hours later, Greil amended his statement to say, “I think I used to call them plugs. Or, more likely, ‘those things for 45s.’”
Absent any further argument, those 45 inserts are, from this day forward, known as Greils.May 19, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
What with the unprecedented cancellation of a Law & Order program looming (the melanin-deficient L&O: Trial by Jury; what, no room for appearances by Ice-T or S. Epatha Merkerson?), we figure this to be a prime moment to offer L&O overlord Dick Wolf a Rock Snob plot twist, gratis.
If you watch the Law & Order shows, you know that the detectives are always able to scare up clues about potential perps by pulling their “financials” (bank statements, ATM and credit-card transactions) and their “LUDs” (“local-usage details” of telephone calls). Well, it goes without saying that Apple keeps records of all purchases made at its iTunes Music Store. So, instead of dumping a suspect’s financials and LUDs, why not dump his iTunes library? The crucial moment of discovery might go like this:
GREEN: When the vic made her call to 9-1-1, the Erma Franklin version of “Piece of My Heart” was playing in the background. Followed by “Popsicles and Icicles” by the Murmaids. Then the line went dead.
FONTANA: Who the hell is Erma Franklin? I thought Big Brother & the Holding Company did that song.
VAN BUREN: Erma? Only the prodigiously talented sister of Aretha, Queen of Soul! And brush up on your history, detective: Erma did “Piece of My Heart” first.
GREEN: Right! And it gets better: We dumped the iTunes records of everyone who purchased both “Piece of My Heart” and “Popsicles and Icicles” in the tri-state area in the last two years. We only got four hits, two of them on the Upper West Side. And get this: Missing Persons just got a call from WFMU–one of their deejays, who lives on West 83rd Street, hasn’t shown up for work today.
FONTANA: Missing Persons! Now there was a hot group! Dale Bozzio was one gorgeous broad!May 16, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
Proving that Rock Snobbery knows no demographic limitations, we’ve been tipped this week by two distinctly different Web sites. Insound, the online music store whose lower-case credo is “indie emo garage punk noise electronic + essentials,” has trumpeted The Rock Snob*s Dictionary in its new newsletter, also running David and Steven’s Honest and Snob lists of Desert Island Discs.
Meanwhile, Alloy, a Web site for teen girls, has included The Rock Snob*s Dictionary on its “It List” of rilly, rilly cool stuff. Evidently, we’re right up there with Orlando Bloom and ThermaSilk hair products. “So turn your nose up and turn the page, rocker girl!” writes Alloy’s correspondent “Rebecca.” Thanks, ’Becca. To paraphrase Morrissey, you’ve made two happy men very old.May 13, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
The aforementioned Joe Clark alerts us to the fact that Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia that isn’t acceptable as a research source to magazine fact-checking departments, has a rather droll entry about the “Heavy metal umlaut.”
Notes Joe, “Look what happens when we apply it to an unrockist rock band: Cöldpläÿ.”
Very clever. But somehow, it still doesn’t work for Bëlle & Sebästian.May 11, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
From a review of a Jimmy Webb album in the current (June) issue of Uncut:
“There are also flashes of LA light reminiscent of Steely Dan if you persevere with this weighty but ultimately rewarding disc.”
From The Rock Snob*s Dictionary, page 102:
Rewards repeated listens. Euphemistic phrase employed by rock critics to confer value upon a dubious musical work that, given the reputations involved, has to be better than it sounds.
And speaking of “flashes of light,” our tightly wound but highly entertaining blogging acquaintance Joe Clark, who works by day as a journalist and “accessibility consultant,” alerts us to a kerfuffle in Private Eye magazine over the (mis)use of the Rock Snob-standby word coruscating.May 10, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
As promised, we're posting some of the responses we got from readers who indulged in our exercise of making two Desert Island Disc lists--the first list being the albums that you'd honestly take to that desert island for your listening enjoyment, the second list being the albums that you'd claim to be taking to impress other Rock Snobs. This week's lucky listees are Michael Gaucher of Baltimore, Maryland, Mendy Gladden of Williamsburg, Virginia, and Thomas Carpenter of Ridgefield, Connecticut. Hugs and tinnitus to all of you! (More readers' lists to be posted next week.)
FOR MICHAEL GAUCHER
FOR MENDY GLADDEN
FOR THOMAS CARPENTER
The Johnny Marr-garitas and Slint Juleps poured freely at Vanity Fair's launch party for The Rock Snob*s Dictionary at Andre Balazs's groovy new Hotel QT on Wednesday, and we thank the magazine for its support. We also thank those of you who squeezed into Jack's Stir Brew Coffee for our reading on Thursday evening, and our accompanist Lucas Papaelias for his expert guitar-picking and adept mimickry of everyone from Tom Verlaine to Nick Drake to Chic. Someone give this young man a recording contract!
As The Rock Snob*s Dictionary goes back to press for its second printing, we offer our gratitude to Eno, god of ambience, and Bez, god of good vibes, for the good fortune we've enjoyed. Keep an eye out for news of further readings and events.May 06, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
For those of you in the New York area: On Thursday, May 5, at 8 p.m., the authors of The Rock Snob*s Dictionary will stage a live reading at Jack's Stir Brew Coffee on West 10th Street, celebrated by New York magazine for having the best cup of coffee in New York City. Jack's is in the West Village, on W. 10th Street between Greenwich Avenue and Waverly Place.
David and Steven will read with authentic Rock Snob musical accompaniment by guitarist and School of Rock actor Lucas Papaelias, and an author signing will follow. That's author signing, and not, thank heavens, authors singing. Toby Cox of Three Lives & Company, the wonderful bookstore down the block, will be on hand to sell books to be signed.
We might add that Jack's is a tiny place, which not only precludes our original plans to have a laser show, a bubble machine, and undulating dolly birds on pedestals, but means that Jack can't fit a whole lot of people in. So get there early, or work out a system among your Snob friends to trade spots so that some of you can be there for "acetate" [p. 1] to "Mayall, John" [p. 70], and some of you can be around for "MC5, the" [p. 70] to "Zoso" [p. 149]. It's supposed to be a lovely evening, weather-wise, so we hope you make it.May 04, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
As promised, the two members of the Rock Snob brain trust herewith confess some of their Guilty Pleasures, the revelation of which will prevent us from ever being invited into some Eno- and Beefheart-favoring households again. Do you have Guilty Pleasures that you're willing to admit to, even at the risk of public Snob humiliation? If so, write to us care of firstname.lastname@example.org, and we'll publish the most egregious admissions. (Also, to all of you who have sent in Desert Island Disc lists, the best of your lists will be posted this weekend.)
Without further Hüsker a-Dü, here are our first stabs at Guilty Pleasures lists, with--ulp!--more to come.
FOR STEVEN DALY
"I Want to Know What Love Is," Foreigner
"How Did You Get Here," Deborah Cox
"Beautiful," Christina Aguilera
"You Make Me So Very Happy," Blood, Sweat and Tears
"Free Me," Emma Bunton
"Breathe Your Name," Sixpence None the Richer
"Harry Truman," Chicago
"I'm Telling You Now," Freddie and the Dreamers
"Big Bang Baby," Stone Temple Pilots
Whilst out motoring this weekend past, one of us heard a song on the radio that was unusually pleasing to the ear. At the song's conclusion, the deejay came on to announce the title and artist: "Free Me," by... Emma Bunton, the erstwhile Baby Spice. The horror, the shame, the... GUILTY PLEASURE!
So it occurs to us now that, in addition to offering up our lists of for-real Desert Island Discs and Snob-cred Desert Island Discs, we should offer up our lists of guilty pleasures, the sorts of musical treats that will destroy our Rock Snob credibility altogether. Look for these in a future posting, and feel free to send in your own thoughts. Meanwhile, content yourself with this import-only Guilty Pleasures compilation.
Re: Emma Bunton--if we were Elvis Costello, we'd feel compelled to justify our adoration of her song by placing it in some historical Snob context, saying it evokes the sultry sass of late-sixties Lulu, or musing on how the arrangement evokes John Barry's work for Shirley Bassey, or, better yet, Tony Hatch's for Petula Clark. But we're just going to say we like the song. As participants in Bard College's experimental Rock Snob Recovery Program--which calls for a 14-day moratorium on reading Mojo and listening to anything reissued by Sundazed--we feel comfortable enough about ourselves to come clean about this.May 02, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
Next Thursday, May 5, the authors of The Rock Snob*s Dictionary will stage a live reading at Jack's Stir Brew Coffee on West 10th Street, between Greenwich Avenue and Waverly Place, in historic Greenwich Village, New York City. David and Steven will read with musical accompaniment and playful mugging by guitarist and actor Lucas Papaelias, best known for playing the bassist in Jack Black's (adult) band in School of Rock, and for playing innumerable stringy-haired druggies in the various permutations of Law & Order that dominate NBC's evening slate.
Toby Cox of Three Lives & Company bookstore, Jack's down-the-block neighbor on West 10th, will be on hand to facilitate book purchases.April 28, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
Both the Boston Globe's Mark Feeney, who wrote a very nice article about The Rock Snob*s Dictionary, and Insound.com, the shrewdly run online indie record store, have solicited Desert Island Disc lists from the Rock Snob brain trust. We decided it would be more fun to submit two DID lists apiece: the first list being the Snob author's honest list, reflecting his true, I-don't-care-what-you-think choices of what he'd tote with him to that hypothetical desert island, and the second list being his "Snob credibility list," the roster of ten albums he'd claim to be taking to impress other Rock Snobs. Here's what Steven and David came up with:
FOR DAVID KAMP
Perhaps our readers would also like to indulge in this Snobberific exercise. If so, write to us care of email@example.com, give us both your honest and Snob-substitute DID lists, include your full name and hometown, and we'll post some of our favorites.April 26, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
Bostonians awoke this morning to a teaser on the front page of their broadsheet, the Boston Globe, asking them if they wanted to be "rock 'n' roll snobs." Inside the paper, in the arts section, they found Mark Feeney's interview with the Rock Snob brain trust, David Kamp and Steven Daly, which you're welcome to view here.
Being (recovering) Rock Snobs, we can't resist listing two footnotes to Mr. Feeney's piece:
1. When Mr. Kamp likens Mr. Daly's former group, Orange Juice, to the Pixies, he's speaking not of any musical similarity--O.J. was way wussier than the Pixies--but of the way both bands posthumously gained greater repute in their native lands than when they existed. (The Pixies have since gone on to reunite, but, thus far, VH1's excitable Aamer Haleem has not ambushed Mr. Daly in his dingy warren, begging him to help reconfigure O.J. for a Bands Reunited episode.)
2. The Stooges' 7-disc Complete Fun House set from Rhino Handmade, to which Mr. Daly alludes, actually costs $120, not $100. And, alas, Rhino Handmade dropped from its catalog the Jobriath album of which Mr. Daly makes sardonic mention (in his Desert Island Discs list). The album ended up being released by Morrissey's Attack imprint, a division of Sanctuary.April 25, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
On another note, there's no finer web site for the Archivalist Snob than Rock's Back Pages, "the online library of Rock & Roll," administered by our alarmingly thin friend Barney Hoskyns. For just six dollars a month or $50 a year, you get unlimited access to Barney's awesome trove of rock writings by rock critics past--the really good stuff from Crawdaddy! (see p. 25 of our book), Mojo (see p. 73), the good-old-days Rolling Stone and New Musical Express, and so on. Whether you're a 45-year-old seeking to relive your prog heyday or a 19-year-old who wishes to become an Eno expert, Rock's Back Pages is the place to go!
You also get a weekly update e-mail every Sunday of what they've added to the site, and it always gives the Rock Snob brain trust a chuckle. In particular, we loved this entry from Barney & co.'s most recent bulletin: "Lenny Kaye is unmoved by Fanny's 'Charity Ball' (Rolling Stone, 1971)."
For more info on Fanny, see p. 39 of The Rock Snob*s Dictionary; for more info on Lenny Kaye, see p. 85.April 24, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
We're moved by the outpouring of suggestions for the "next edition" or "second volume" of The Rock Snob*s Dictionary, the inference being that the book will sell well enough for Broadway Books to order second, third, fourth, and nineteenth printings, and then demand an all-new "special edition" with bonus material--as Broadway's corporate sibling, Doubleday, has done with The Da Vinci Code. Well, sure, gang, keep buying the book, and maybe this will happen. We're imagining a "Director's Cut" of Rock Snob with outtakes, author commentary, and special CGI simulations by Pixar of the vehicle-crash deaths of Marc Bolan, Duane Allman, and Nico. (Speaking of Director's Cuts, keep an eye out for The Film Snob*s Dictionary... coming in early 2006.)
In any event, we've received some good ideas for inclusion in an amended version of Rock Snob, among them:
Great American Songbook, the. (Irrititating crit trope.)
And then there was the fellow who apoplectically asked us why we didn't include Edgard Varese, avant-garde composer and Zappa muse. Sir, the "Varese, Edgar" entry is on page 132.
We plan on creating a new section on this site for Should'ves (things that should've made the book), but for now, send such ideas to The Nitpicker's Corner--after you've purchased and thoroughly perused the book.April 22, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
Stereogum.com, a new addition to our Snobroll of "vaguely Snobbish blogs and sites you may enjoy," has an amusing, Mad-magazine-ish exchange with its readers called "You might be an Indie-Yuppie if..." You can connect to it here. We might add, You might be an Indie-Yuppie if, every time someone responds to one of your e-mails with "LOL," you think not of the phrase "laugh out loud," but of Lol Tolhurst, the keyboard player who Robert Smith putsched from the Cure for drinking too much.
For an authentic experience of unvarnished Rock Snobbery, check out this extraordinary piece of writing from the Village Voice, which actually includes this passage: "'Crazy Love' is a Nick song I at first took for a weak Polly number, which he should take as a compliment. He'll never have Polly's gravitas, and certainly not her brains: 'Desperanto' ('the language of despair') re-creates the disco skronk of Faithfull's notorious 'Why D'Ya Do It'..."
Perhaps there is no stranger phenomenon in the art-versus-mammon struggle than the penchant among European automakers for hiring Tom Waits soundalikes to sing (or, better yet, growl) the praises of their products. Opel, the German auto manufacturer (as opposed to Opel, the Syd Barrett album), is the latest offender, having incurred the Swordfishtrombonist's wrath for running commercials in Scandinavia featuring the voice of a Waits-alike. Waits, who has already endured similar situations with Audi in Spain and Lancia in Italy, issued a statement expressing his extreme displeasure, concluding, "Commercials are an unnatural use of my work... It's like having a cow's udder sewn to the side of my face--painful and humiliating." Spoken from experience.April 21, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
Well, it had to happen.
NOTE: The Voice credits someone named "David Camp" for the illustration of Kurtis Blow. The illustration is in fact by Ross MacDonald. There is no one involved in The Rock Snob*s Dictionary named David Camp-with-a-C. Though "David Camp" would've made a good name for a sub-Jobriath glamster.April 20, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
On Wednesday, April 20, the Rock Snobs themselves, David Kamp and Steven Daly, appeared on WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show to discuss the book and take calls, which, predictably, all came from men. Men who don't seem to have day jobs. Though Lehrer himself was out sick (and let's please quash those rumors that Lehrer, who was a music major at SUNY-Albany, faked his illness because he doesn't like what we have to say about Karlheinz Stockhausen), the delightfully avuncular Marty Goldensohn ably held the fort. To listen to the Rock Snob brain trust's chitchat with Marty, click here and scroll down to the part of the program entitled, aptly, "The High and Mighty." You can even download the entire program for your own personal Podcast.
(As Rock Snobs, we can't help but think that "Podcast" sounds like something Cynthia Plaster Caster carries around in her work bag.)April 20, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
On Wednesday, April 20, at 11:40 a.m., the Rock Snobs themselves, David Kamp and Steven Daly, will pay a brief visit to The Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC, that titan of New York City public radio. Be sure to tune in (93.9 FM, 820 AM) and hear Brian snob it up with the boys. No word on whether or not Morning Edition's mellifluous Soterios Johnson, who actually went to high school with one of the Rock Snobs, will stop by.April 19, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
His Holiness John Paul II was the closest a pontiff could come to being a Rock Snob: he met with Bono and Bob Dylan, attended a Rome benefit concert at which Lou Reed performed, and waved his arms encouragingly at some breakdancers who were spinnin' and poppin' on the floor of the Vatican.
His successor, however, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger--who, as of today, goes by the vaguely hip-hoppish tag of Benedict XVI--is defiantly anti-rockist. In a small volume published in 2000 called The Spirit of the Liturgy, itself an expansion of an essay Ratzinger wrote in 1986, the future pope argued," 'Rock'... is the expression of elemental passions, and at rock festivals, it assumes a cultic character, a form of worship, in fact, in opposition to Christian worship. People are, so to speak, released from themselves by the experience of being part of a crowd and by the emotional shock of rhythm, noise, and special lighting effects. However, in the ecstasy of having all their defenses torn down, the participants sink, as it were, beneath the elemental force of the universe."
Well, before we dismiss the new pope as an out-of-it fuddy-duddy, let's parse his words. He only seems to be talking about rock "festivals" with "special lighting effects," which, generally, are as dreadful as he says. And one of his pet peeves, the implementation of quasi-rock music into the liturgy at some churches, is indeed an abomination, as anyone who's ever sat through a Rockin' Mass with amplified guitars can attest. (Tony Hendra, the Benedictine monk turned gonzo humorist, and the guy who played Ian Faith in This Is Spinal Tap, wrote a brilliant essay on this subject for GQ some years back.)
Nevertheless, Pope Benedict's blanket condemnation of rock as a whole is tin-eared and unfair. We expect Bono to "open a dialogue" and rectify this situation ASAP.
Meanwhile, over here at Rock Snob HQ, the conclave we're puzzling over is the one at Roger Taylor's Surrey mansion at which it was determined that Paul Rodgers should fill Freddie Mercury's tights in the 2005 touring version of Queen.April 19, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
ROCK SNOBBISH THINGS TO ASK PINK FLOYD’S NICK MASON WHEN HE APPEARS AT THE BARNES & NOBLE ON UNION SQUARE, NYC, ON TUES, APRIL 19
1. Don't you think the band was better with Syd in it?
2. How is Syd? Do you hear from Syd? Have you seen Syd lately?
3. Has Syd played you any demos of his recent work?
4. Don't you think The Madcap Laughs is better than Ummagumma?
6. Will you be jamming with Syd later at Irving Plaza?April 18, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
Thanks to the book's publication on April 12 and lots of mentions of Snobsite.com on the radio and in places like James Wolcott's blog, E!Online's site, and Gawker, we've experienced a huge upsurge in traffic to this site. Which makes this an opportune moment to re-introduce ourselves.
Snobsite.com is the online home of The Rock Snob*s Dictionary, and, while it was conceived to promote the book and edify non-Snobs the world over, we're also adding lots of original content (look for announcements about this in coming weeks) and inviting readers to out-Snob us in the section called The Nitpicker's Corner. As we note there, nothing pleases a Rock Snob more than showing up another Rock Snob, and The Nitpicker's Corner affords purchasers of the book the chance to tell us where we've gotten things wrong. Both celebrity and civilian Nitpickers have already seized upon this opportunity, as a trawl through the Nitpicker's Archives will show.
We might add that we're thrilled, if not exactly surprised, at how many e-mails we've received from Great Britain, the Rock Snobbiest country in the world. Even though the book's U.K. publication date is still almost three months away, several British readers have ordered The Rock Snob*s Dictionary online, paying a premium for the import version--just like we Americans do when we hear there's a new Sigur Ros album out!April 16, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
All things considered, we were not expecting much gush from the rock press, but we're genuinely humbled by the lovely treatment we've been afforded by Spin and Blender, the latter of which has just given The Rock Snob*s Dictionary five stars, its highest rating. There was also a nice write-up by a perceptive bloke from the Hartford Courant.
And if we've helped even one critic ease up on his use of the word "coruscating," then our lives have been worth living.April 14, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
One of the challenges of preparing The Rock Snob*s Dictionary for publication was keeping up with the unlikely reunions of SEMINAL [see p. 109] bands who were re-forming left and right as we went to press, forcing us expend thousands in extra printing costs to acknowledge their reformation. We mean bands such as the Stooges [p. 121], the Pixies [p. 95], and the New York Dolls [p. 78], the last of whom reunited despite the deaths of two of the original five members and the imminent death of a third. Now that the book's out, Snob-band reunion mania continues apace, with the MC5 [p. 70] reuniting in Dolls-like fashion, minus two dead members, and utterly unforeseen tours planned by the power-pop [p. 96] standard-bearers the Raspberries and the overglorified Liverpool popsters the La's [p. 61].
The most conspicious reunion tour of the moment, however, is that of a group who did not make it into The Rock Snob*s Dictionary but should have, the post-rock [p. 96] combo Slint, whose 1991 album, Spiderland, is receiving the sort of borderline-irresponsible love-bath of rock-crit reappraisal not seen since the reissues, nearly a decade ago, of Oar by Skip Spence [p. 118] and Born to Be with You by Dion [p. 30]. Is the fourteen-year-old Spiderland really a masterpiece? Even its creators don't seem to think so, but it doesn't matter: a Snob juggernaut has been launched.April 14, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
One of the members of the Rock Snob brain trust had an audience with New England Patriots quarterback and two-time Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady last night, since Brady is in town this week to host Saturday Night Live. The Rock Snob expressed his surprise to Brady about the latter's surprisingly Snobworthy iTunes Music Store celebrity playlist, which, far from being filled with the wretched, expected jock-rock offerings of Hootie & the Blowfish and Toby Keith, was laden with Britpop (The Verve's "Bittersweet Symphony," Oasis's "Wonderwall," Coldplay's "Shiver"), high-end rap (Nas, Jay-Z, A Tribe Called Quest), and even a Soundgarden song! No Captain Beefheart or Roky Erickson, but still... for an NFL quarterback, wholly unexpected.
"You were expecting sort of mellow seventies type of stuff, right?" Brady said. "I'm kind of all over the map." The quarterback explained that in the modern NFL locker room, just about every player has both an iPod and one of those portable Bose or Altec Lansing stereo doohickeys into which he can plug his Pod, making for a Babel of musical styles. If you're open-minded, like Brady or placekicker Adam Vinatieri, you pick up on other guys' taste and become an eclecticist. However, Brady says, most players' musical taste is pretty much defined by position: the offensive linemen go for country, for example, and the defensive backs and wide receivers like gangsta rap. The one surprise: the Patriots linebackers, especially Ted Johnson, are jazz fans.
Brady's musical guest on SNL will be Beck, ensuring that the young QB will further his Rock Snob education.April 12, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
From Lubbock, Texas, to Saugerties, New York; from El Cerrito, California, to Macon, Georgia, the town halls are bedecked in tri-color bunting emblazoned with images of Gram Parsons, Syd Barrett, DJ Kool Herc, and the Ibanez Tube Screamer effects pedal--all because today is the official U.S. publication date of The Rock Snob*s Dictionary! Though the book has only just come out, it has already received favorable notices hither and yon. Please run to your local bookseller or click onto your favorite virtual merchant's site to purchase this essential--nay, SEMINAL--book for the Rock Snob(s) in your life.
We are making an appeal for Robbie Robertson and Levon Helm to put aside their differences, and for Garth Hudson to put aside his beard, so that these three surviving members of The Band might favor us with a version of "King Harvest (Has Surely Come)" with the words "Rock Snob" substituted for "harvest."April 12, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
With the publication date of The Rock Snob*s Dictionary nearly upon us, it's time for the Rock Snob brain trust to start making public appearances. At 10 a.m. on Wednesday morning, April 13, the Snobs will appear on Alex Bennett's program on Sirius Satellite Radio. And on Thursday, May 5, David and Steven will appear at Jack's Stir Brew Coffee on West 10th Street in Greenwich Village for a reading/event/be-in with musical accompaniment, a presentation that promises to be as mesmerizing and uncategorizable as the Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd's shows at London's UFO club. Though Jack's is a small place, and therefore does not afford space for Floyd-style bubble machines, screen projections, and undulating dolly birds on pedestals, it does serve what New York magazine has deemed to be the best cup of coffee in New York City. More details on this and other appearances to come.April 11, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
A word about the two conspicuously non-rock links on our Snobroll. The first is to James Wolcott's eminently satisfying site. Though Jim has been blogging more on subjects political and mediathonical than rockological, his Rock Snob bona fides are unquestionable: He hung out at CBGB in the late 1970s and actually interviewed Tom Verlaine once! He has also kindly praised our site and its graphic design, noting that it's "kind of Britishy in its lapidary look," the credit for which goes to our wonderful designer, Sekimori. In his day job at Vanity Fair, Jim Wolcott is the greatest magazine critic working today, the Bunny Wilson, nay, the Dwight Macdonald, nay, the Kenneth Tynan of his era. (If and when we get around to writing The Public Intellectual Snob*s Dictionary--and what a unit-shifter that would be!--we'll tell you who those people are.)
We have also newly linked to Ben Schott's site, for Ben, over in Britain, is a kindred spirit. His Schott's Miscellany series of books has set the gold standard for exquisitely type-set compendiums (compendia?) of useless information. And there is some rock stuff in his books, such as his "Untimely Deaths of Musicians" chart in Schott's Original Miscellany.April 08, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
Just two days live on the Web, and already, the hardcore Snobs are heating things up at The Nitpicker's Corner, with feverish arguments over who "invented country rock." (In the book, we attribute the genre to Gram Parsons. Others take deep umbrage at this assertion and champion Gene Clark, Chris Hillman, Michael Nesmith, Rick Nelson, and just about every musician who played L.A.'s The Troubadour in 1961-66.) And Snob overlord Greil Marcus nitpicks about the name of the Nitpicker's Corner! Be sure to jump to that section and read all about it.April 06, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
Some of the British visitors to this site have inquired about the U.K. publication date of The Rock Snob*s Dictionary. We are happy to report that the book will be published in the U.K. on July 4 (of all dates) by Sanctuary Publishing, the publishing arm of the Sanctuary Group, the music conglomerate whose record-label arm is responsible for the recent comeback of Morrissey and the fine albums of the self-immolating young band The Libertines.
American readers, remember that The Rock Snob*s Dictionary will be available as of Tuesday, April 12.April 06, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
One of the dark, shameful secrets of the Rock Snob brain trust is that one half of it (the shorter, Scottish half named Steven) was once an actual rock musician in a SEMINAL Glaswegian band called Orange Juice. Next month,to coincide, more or less, with the publication of The Rock Snob*s Dictionary, Domino Records will release, for the first time ever in the U.S.A., a compilation of Orange Juice's early work called The Glasgow School.
Here's a quote from the rather extraordinary press release: "Orange Juice were 'indie' before 'indie' was a word, and their provocative sound and image was unlike anything anyone had ever heard... Scottish bands like Belle & Sebastian, Franz Ferdinand, Mogwai, and Jesus and Mary Chain will all concur: If it were not for Orange Juice in the late '70s and early '80s, they would not sound the way they do... One listen to The Glasgow School will throw the floodgates wide open. Orange Juice's delicate melodies, disco basslines, and sexy masc/fem ambiguity were unlike anything anyone had ever heard."
To see photographs of Steven in his "sexy masc/fem" heyday, pick up a copy of the April issue of Uncut magazine, the one with The Band on the cover. The pageboy haircut was acceptable for men back then.
On a more serious note, we send our best wishes to former Orange Juice leader Edwyn Collins, who is recovering from a grave illness.April 05, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »
Welcome to the official home of Rock Snobbery on the Web. Though this site was conceived in part to promote the Broadway Books soon-to-be bestseller The Rock Snob*s Dictionary, we're also using this site to offer news and commentary of interest to Rock Snobs, and to give Nick Drake fans a special place to share their feelings.
This section, The Annals of Rock Snobbery, will be the most active part of the site, with news of Rock Snob-related events and such. But feel free to navigate the rest of the site to learn more about Rock Snobbery and read excerpts from the book. And the more strident of you shouldn't miss The Nitpicker's Corner, our special section in which sociopathic Rock Snobs can take us to task for getting stuff wrong (or, in any event, not quite right). Already, some noteworthy readers have come through with nitpicks, so be sure to check that section out.
For those of you who aren't Rock Snobs, we hope that this site, along with its companion book, will help you achieve a greater understanding and tolerance of the Rock Snob(s) in your life. Cheers.April 05, 2005 More Rock Snobbery »