When camping, I find a good book helps to set the calming, relaxing, slow-paced vibe of living like a pampered homeless person. I just cracked open NOFX’s The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories, and it’s absolutely, without question, batshit crazy… in the best, possible sense of the term. Anyway, no records this round. Just ZZ Top’s first album over the iPod, good company, and random-ass NOFX stories. Life is good.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about which record, song, or band related article of clothing could be worthy of the 1000th post milestone. I’d thought about an elaborate photo shoot involving mannequins, mood lighting, and every colored vinyl record I own, but quickly abandoned that scheme due to time and budget. So instead, I’m reaching back… WAY back to my elementary school years to one my most prized possessions, 1984’s The Music Book.
My grade school had a music house, an old, free-standing building acquired by the administration which was converted into a large singing and instrument-practicing box. From kindergarten through 6th grade, I’d shuffle across the street with my coworkers (classmates) and we’d put on our color-coded name tags and learn about the wondrous world of music. In the early years, before poorly attempting my hand (and lungs) at the alto sax, we’d sing various songs from the purple bible known as The Music Book. Rife with colorful illustrations and catchy, young crowd-pleasing songs, The Music Book sat in a long row on the North wall of the music house, and each grubby little troublemaker would grab one before taking his or her assigned seats. Our teacher, the lovely and talented Mrs. Fenske, would take roll call, then requests for which song the class wanted to sing first. At the Court of King Carraticus, It’s All Right to Cry, and The Lollipop Tree were all crowd favorites, and often sung every day.
Now, I’m not sure if it was youthful innocence, the comic-like illustrations, or the music itself, but for a bunch of us, The Music Book meant so much more than just another text book. It represented a blameless and simple era of our lives inspired by the art of noise, and served as an open door to a lifelong appreciation for the medium. Because I’m a sentimental sap, I hold this book very dear to my heart. It is a symbol of purity, of animated gaiety, and I look back at that time with fervent admiration. For my love of music, I have Mrs. Fenske and The Music Book to thank.
Oh, the Beatnuts… seminal late 90’s hip hop badassery that, without question, kicked the living shit out of everyone with this 1997’s single featuring Big Punisher & Cuban Link titled, Off the Books. When your non-hip hop enjoying SO storms into the room early in the morning, quite excitedly I may add, and asks, “What is this? I like it!,” you know you’re either spinning something John Reis related, or The Beatnuts.
Tuesday morning bombastic bass is perfect for everyone within earshot, and no beat bouncing, wall vibrating, domestic disturbance flirting tracks kills quite like Off the Books. Do yourself a favor and check it out.
Might I suggest a little heavy, summer reading? The Story of Crass by George Berger is a fascinating explosion of intricate and fundamental knowledge of perhaps the only true punk band the world has ever known. The art collective formally known as Crass has always been somewhat of an illusive mystery to me, save for the rough, crude, and politically charged music. Whether you’re a fan of social equality, anti-war sentiments, or just plain into rock music history, The Story of Crass is nothing short of essential reading material, and comes highly recommended by the Prudent Groove.
The 33 1/3 book series by Bloomsbury Publishing is a perfect collection of nerd-focused musical insight into the historical happenings of the development and recording of some of the most essential albums ever released (depending on whom you ask, of course… judge me not by this collection, you will). With 90 books currently published, and many more in the works (including upcoming releases that will warrant almost certain purchasing by yours truly… Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables; Freedom of Choice), my (current) collection of a measly 17 (or 5.29%) books from the series is, I feel, a decent start, and acts as a non-audio musical oasis of printed, historic pleasure.
I’ve finished The Village Green Preservation Society, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Led Zeppelin IV, Paul’s Boutique (working on my third time through… it’s that good), Use Your Illusion I and II, and Double Nickels on the Dime, and am currently in the wee pages of Let it Be. (Check out the 90 titles here.)
If you’re in the mood for a quick, compact, in-depth analysis of some of the more quintessential albums of modern day rock (generally), look no further than 33 1/3. They’re cheap, and they look majestic all lined up on a bookshelf, or so I tell my significant other.
Distributed in the height of Star Wars sequel anticipation, this 1979 release of a children’s Read-Along book and record set hosts one of my first vivid memories of playing a record. Thanks to my first, pocket-sized (for very large pockets) turntable, I was able to enjoy an insanely abridged version of my favorite story… a story I had been convinced was the greatest ever told.
When listening to this little memory-harboring 7″ (with all its pop-filled, skip-tastic glory), I can still picture myself reenacting the drama-soaked adventures with my 3¾” Star Wars action figures and thinking, being a kid is the greatest thing on this, or any galaxy, regardless of placement in time and/or location. (A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… was easily replaced with Just a moment ago in a playroom very, very near…)
The ol’ girl has certainly seen better days, but I wouldn’t trade her for all seats on the Imperial Senate.
Grab your favorite E. A. Poe, H. S. Thompson, J. Shepherd or T. S. Eliot, and set your hi-fi to a warm and welcoming volume, because The Melachrino Strings wonderfully, and eagerly present, Music for Reading.
Gone are the ornery days of reading in unbearable silence. Like the welcome whisper of a cooling breeze on a warm, summer day, Music for Reading offers a cordial mood for any, and every worded adventure of the printed form. Like the soundtrack to a tightly bound roadmap of imagination, Music for Reading is your obedient counterpart through the vast universe of the black and white page.
Other records in the “Moods In Music” series include Music for Dining, Music for Relaxation, Music for Mowing the Lawn, Music for Angrily Signing the Divorce Papers, Music for Plotting the Overthrow of the Government, Music for Stubbing Your Toe, Music for Social Anxiety and Music for Writing About Music.
The next time you find yourself sprawled out in an uncomfortable position on the floor with a book and 30 minutes to kill, consider Music for Reading. You’ll wonder how you ever reluctantly picked up a book without it.