True confession…when my wife and I celebrated our first anniversary we were basically broke but wanted to get away for a couple days, so our escape was to trek down I-90 in New York state from our home in Buffalo to spend a couple days in the sprawling metropolis of Rochester. While we had a nice time and stayed at a reasonably nice hotel, one of the stops I had in mind was a visit to the legendary House of Guitars, a massive old house converted into a multi-floored house of all things musical including a jam packed record section.
I am an admitted recovering record collector and if you’re wondering, no, I don’t think even all these years later my wife has forgiven me for that little side trip to the H.O.G. Even though I have parted ways with a MASSIVE record collection, I still have a warm spot in my heart of hearts for record stores. So it was only natural for me to gravitate towards The Record Store Book: Fifty Legendary and Iconic Places to Discover New and Used Vinyl by Mike Spitz and Rebecca Villaneda.
Spitz started out a few years back snapping photos of some of the most legendary record store in and around Los Angeles and included many of denizens who haunt these amazing joints. Villeneda added to the mix by interviewing folks and collecting stories about not only their history but also their current state.
Vinyl junkies will be caught up in the inherent mustiness of these stories. The mix includes familiar places and backwater haunts alike and if you lean towards the thin line between collector and hoarder, you may find yourself planning a road trip and using The Record Store Book as your travel guide. One helpful hint, don’t plan your trip around an anniversary and you may want to leave the wife at home.
Mr. Mojo – A Biography of Jim Morrison –Dylan Jones (Bloomsbury USA)-
After literally dozens of books have been churned out about Jim Morrison and Doors, including a few by surviving members of the band and those around the band, what more could possibly be left unsaid about the band’s legendary front man? Apparently not much. British journalist/editor Dylan Jones offers up Mr. Mojo – A Biography of Jim Morrison which will leave both hard core and casual fans of the Doors a little short.
Mr. Mojo, doesn’t real offer up any revelations about the man of the band and reads more like a synopsis of what’s already been said rather than a biography. The paperback checks in at 192 pages so it’s a quick read; if you’re a rock fans look for the Cliffnotes version of the story, this might do the trick. Those looking for more depth might want to check out drummer John Densmore’s, Riders on the Storm or manager Danny Sugerman’s, No One Here Gets Out Alive.
To Disco, With Love – The Records That Defined an Era – David Hamsley (Flatiron Books)
While I was a teenager when disco exploded and I readily admit to being a member in good standing of the “Disco Sucks” contingent, later, when I discovered there was good money to made if you knew how to string together records that got people out on the dance floor, I developed a new appreciation for the genre.
While To Disco, With Love – The Records That Defined an Era, by New York photographer David Hamsley brings a totally different perspective to the form. Hamsley focuses not on the sounds of disco by more on the sites. Inspired by his visit to a gallery showing of music/album related art, Hamsley compiled a striking collection of album images from the disco era.
Hamsley artfully collects these often iconic images into well defined sections and while I was familiar with many of the covers, it is oddly striking how many of the records bare a similar artistic look both in photographic and original art styles. Sex was a central theme of the disco scene and Hamsley clearly illustrates that the subject found its way boldly and almost never subtly into the cover art form. No innuendo here, sex was like a cold slap in the face.
Time Out of Mind – The Lives of Bob Dylan – Ian Bell (Pegasus Books)
In a familiar theme of books about legendary performers the thought arises; what more could possibly be left unsaid about someone like Bob Dylan? UK writer, and author of the two part collection covering the Lives of Bob Dylan offers up a hearty response with this offering. In part two of the set, Time Out of Mind Bell explores what amounts to the second act of Dylan’s life and career.
Bell’s approach of dividing Dylan’s career and personal arc into two distinct sections/books is a brilliant approach, which breaks down these distinctively different lives into digestible chunks. While the opening salvo, Once Upon a Time focused on Dylan’s 60s heyday, Time Out of Mind focuses on the more difficult to tell story; the second act of Dylan’s career which finds him drifting, doubting and facing irrelevancy.
Bell delivers not only the difficult to tell story, but often interjects with relevant thoughts and his own personal insights. This is not a light weight recounting or fanboy treatise, Bell offers up keen insight into a legendary performer who has been under the biographers lens more often than most can count.
No Simple Highway – A Cultural History of the Grateful Dead – Peter Richardson – (St. Martin’s/Griffin)
Led by business writer Simon Sinek, who authored the book, Start with the Why, a legion of business writers have focused on raising that very basic question. It is the why, that is the starting point for Peter Richardson a university professor and think tank fellow launches his exploration of the cultural impact of the Grateful Dead, No Simple Highway – A Cultural History of the Grateful Dead.
Over the course of three decades, the Dead was one of the world’s most popular touring acts and it is the why the Richardson focuses in on. Far from a Deadhead, I have often wondered what it was/is that attracted so many fans to the band.
Richardson seems to point to the Dead’s enduring success being a product of the times of their founding and their place in the feeling of community they and their music engendered. It is a clearly logical conclusion when you ponder the prolific nature of the band’s ardent followers. The vagabonds who travel and follow the band from city to city display a clear sense of being part of something much bigger than just a band and its music.