Music journalist Strongman (Metal Box: Stories from John Lydon’s Public Image Limited, 2007, etc.) recasts the history of British punk as the story of two bands and a bunch of also-rans.
Actually, the Clash don’t get that much ink either; Strongman spends the majority of his time making the case that the Sex Pistols and their marketing Svengali Malcolm McLaren were punk’s be-all and end-all, and therein lies the rub. Had the book been subtitled something along the lines of The Sex Pistols and UK Punk, it would have been far more legit. Granted, John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten), Sid Vicious and the rest of the Pistols kicked it all off in 1976 at London’s legendary 100 Club…or did they? Maybe it was the Clash who started things reeling on the other side of town that very same year. Maybe it was the Ramones or Television or the New York Dolls at CBGB in New York City. Or maybe it was…well, according to Strongman, it was all Pistols, all the time. But music historians tend to disagree, which means his book has a major, insurmountable credibility problem. If Strongman had been more inclusive, and if he’d used Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain’s classic Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk as a template, he might have had something. As it is, this feels like a 300-plus-page magazine article.
Sex Pistols fans will appreciate this one, but those looking for a comprehensive history of the era and its sounds should look elsewhere.
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)