Marc Woodworth/Ally-Jane Grossan (eds).
The always worth checking out, usually excellent 33 1/3 series (pocket-sized loved letters to classic/interesting albums, usually by authors of note and/or excellent music writers) is something of an anomaly, publishing over 100 titles in its first decade, even marking 10 years and not slowing…in fact its market seems to be growing. The print media is dying – we’re told. And we know this, even if heads – attached to romantic hearts – are somewhat in the sand. We know too that the album is allegedly dying (though reports might have been slightly exaggerated) but the physical format and legitimate sales are certainly in decline.
And yet the 33 1/3 series charges on – reminding us of voices from the past (in both a musical and literary sense), giving us a new way to look at old music, and it’s a chance too – a literary lottery for those interested – to give voice to fresh perspectives, to new, younger writers as well as old heads.
So, under the clever ruse of being a book-length advert for the series, here we have guidelines for how to pitch a proposal for the 33 1/3 series, as well as quotes and snatches of wisdom around the wider topic of music writing. There are examples too, most crucially.
And here is where How To Write About Music transcends merely being a clever ad, avoids being marked as merely duplicitous and actually offers (huge) value for money. Alongside the excerpts from the series – makes sense, they have a purchase on that copy, it promotes the series, should see a few extra sales – we also have some “classic” pieces that aren’t as easy to get hold of these days.
So it’s this mingling too of worlds, the ghost of Lester Bangs can be felt across the internet when it comes to music-writing, so it’s great to have some of Lester’s most passionate writing. Juxtapose that with someone namedropped more often in this social-media world, Chuck Klosterman. But then with his championing of the likes of Billy Joel and KISS he’s every bit the dinosaur that net-nerds might perceive to be the case now with Bangs. More so perhaps.
So this is where, across 430 pages, we get to hear from so many voices – a thoughtful writer such as Rob Sheffield (even if his stomping ground, largely, is that horribly contrived world of Rolling Stone). Authors that dabble in music-writing, maybe have their hearts in it but have also published “serious” literature – such as Rick Moody and Jonathan Lethem.
Crucially, this advice comes – most often – with the proviso/reminder that you’re doing it for the love. Even if you descend into mostly publishing your hate, you are doing it because you love doing it, not for any pot of gold, any hint of a rainbow seems now a myth for the most part.
So, there’s really no reason why anyone interested in music-writing – both writer and reader – wouldn’t want to get hold of this book. Loads of great advice and examples, practical tips and a checklist for how to go about (attempting) to make your mark in this modern and then post-modern world.
A pretty crucial, indispensable even set of words. And – since everything a product and everything’s for sale it’s also a really fucking clever advert.