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Hooray for the Small Press--and the Web   (October 12, 2007)

If all we had to read were the selections made by bigbox bookstores, how impoverished we would be. Not every book is destined to be a million seller; as in Nature itself, there are niches for an enormous range of books.

For example: longtime contributor Charlie R. recommended a book written by a friend of his, Dwight Rounds: The Year the Music Died, 1964-1972 which is subtitled: A Commentary on the Best Era of Pop Music, and an Irreverent Look at the Musicians and Social Movements of the Time. (The author's website is Animals to Zombies which refers to band names, of course.)

Here is a book which takes unalloyed pleasure in the rock/pop music of the 60s, and in making unabashed value judgments on the relative merit/greatness of the groups and their albums/songs. Mr. Rounds is a knowledgeable fan of the era's music, and if you lived through the era, then the book's lists of songs and fun trivia will bring it all back. If you are too young (lucky you) to have lived through the late 60s, then this book may give you the flavor of the times and help you understand why gray-haired pony-tailed guys and gals remain so enthused by this music.

(You may also find that music you thought was original in the 80s, 90s and new century is actually recycled 60s innovations.)

The author is refreshingly unapologetic about dividing listeners into "Elite" and "Proletarian" categories, with the elites naturally hesitant to admit to liking any popular band. His commentaries on Elite choices is often amusing and spot-on.

As a Beatles fan, I enjoyed his heavy emphasis on that band's players and music. Fans of Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley, for instance, may well feel he underplays the genius of those musicians. But the fun of the book is in Rounds' strong opinions, and your right as a reader to disagree.

For instance, he doesn't consider the Beatles' "And Your Bird Can Sing" as one of their very best, while for me, it is a continual source of pleasure as a guitar player--certainly one of the most musically interesting (and challenging). If you're a musician, play these chords of the bridge, noting that the song is written in E major:
G#m     G+     B     C#     E     F#m     B

The way the bridge incorporates the major key chord sound so right--and is so rare in rock or pop music. The double-string lead (played by one guitarist, not overdubbed) is one of the most challenging and unusual in rock music; even the structure of the tune (bridge, guitar lead repeated as interlude, bridge repeated with new lyric, then last verse, then guitar lead completes the song) is interesting.

So in other words--the more you know, the more you will enjoy debating the opinions of this knowledgeable writer. It is great fun, I read it in one three-hour sitting, hearing dozens of songs play in my mind as I went through the lists and commentaries.

Thank you, Dorothy S., ($50.00) for your very generous donation to this humble site and also for your many insightful commentaries. I am greatly honored by your contribution and readership. All contributors are listed below in acknowledgement of my gratitude.

For more on this subject and a wide array of other topics, please visit my weblog.


copyright © 2007 Charles Hugh Smith. All rights reserved in all media.

I would be honored if you linked this wEssay to your site, or printed a copy for your own use.


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