Sing, sing a song. Make it simple to last a whole book long.
The first-person journalistic quest narrative has become quite the rage, the most recent noteworthy example being A.J. Jacobs’s The Year of Living Biblically (2007). London music journalist Hodgkinson (Guitar Man: A Six-String Odyssey, or, You Love that Guitar More Than You Love Me, 2006) had a simple goal: learn how to write a competent pop song, then cut it as a single. The stumbling composer’s first effort was iffy: “Mystery Fox / Get out of your box / It’s time for me / To chase you up that tree, o mystery fox.” (Yikes.) Quickly realizing that he didn’t have it in him to come up with the goods alone, he enlisted the help of his talented but goofy friend Lawrence, as well as talented but not goofy musicians such as Keith Richards, Ray Davies, Chan Marshall (aka Cat Power) and Hal David (Burt Bacharach’s songwriting partner). Hodgkinson accomplished his simple mission, but he didn’t exactly become a rock star in the process. The self-effacing, gently humorous attitude on display here was a wise choice; taking his pursuit too seriously would have made the narrative little more than a series of music lessons. Unfortunately, as is the case with many of these “in search of” projects, the quest becomes tiresome about two-thirds of the way through. A ruthless editor might have turned this into a true winner—as it is, it’s merely a pleasant diversion.
The literary equivalent of an enjoyable but ephemeral three-minute pop tune.
Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.
Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").
Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)