Scratch 'n' Sniff

For the “Shrivelled Up” & the “Stupefied” I have written a serious & proper chorale. This chorale is a sort of bitter preamble, a kind of austere & unfrivolous introduction. I have put into it all I know about Boredom. I dedicate this chorale to those who don’t like me. I withdraw. Image © Simon Miller

A Mammal’s Notebook: The Collected Writings of Erik Satie

Erik Satie

“The first collection of Satie’s writings available in English… A pivotal character in the French avant-gardes from the 1880s to the Dada movement of the 1920s. Dismissed as a bizarre eccentric by most of his contemporaries, Erik Satie is recognized as a key influence on 20th-century music.”

Publisher: Serpent's Tail
Paperback: 192 pages


Beyond Category: The Life and Genius of Duke Ellington

John Edward Hasse

Hasse took on a job which has often been tackled before—to write a credible general biography of Duke Ellington—with the advantage that he had full run of the Smithsonian’s massive Ellington archive, which had never been pillaged before. Hasse treats his subject with a reverence that borders on the religious and organizes his facts in such a way as to help them make sense—no small feat, as Ellington was one of the most mercurial and overlap—prone musical minds of this century.
Whereas James Lincoln Collier’s Ellington bio was a little more daring, controversial and probably accurate about the artist’s work habits (which seem to have often included appropriating melodies from his individual band members), Hasse sticks to hard facts and rarely speculates. Unfortunately, he tends to underplay the importance of arranger-composer Billy Strayhorn’s role in the definition of the classic Ellington sound—and this is something only Collier has so far addressed (and even he hasn’t been strong enough in his expression of Strayhorn’s value). This is probably the most friendly-to-the-uninitiated biography of Ellington there is, as well as the most definitive. SH

Publisher: Da Capo
Paperback: 480 pages

Big Secrets: The Uncensored Truth About All Sorts of Stuff You Are Never Supposed To Know

William Poundstone

Are there really secret background messages in rock music? What goes on at Freemason initiations? What are the 11 secret herbs and spices in Kentucky Fried Chicken? Is Walt Disney’s body frozen beneath the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland? Find out the answers to these questions, how to beat a lie detector, what your answers to the Rorschach test really mean, and more.

Publisher: Morrow
Paperback: 256 pages

Biggest Secrets: More Uncensored Truth About All Sorts of Stuff You Are Never Supposed to Know

William Poundstone

Corporate secrets, free for the taking. What’s in chorizo, the Mexican “mystery meat” (“Pig salivary glands, lymph nodes, cheeks and tongues, plus an otherwise unspecified thing called ‘pork’”); what’s the formula for Play-doh (“Wheat flour, water, kerosene”); and how do they put ships in bottles (“The mast is collapsible”). Plus—STOP READING NOW if you like being tricked by muscular German illusionists—how Siegfried and Roy make their white tigers disappear! GR

Publisher: Morrow
Hardback: 272 pages

Black Monk Time: Coming of the Anti-Beatle

Thomas Shaw and Anita Klemke

Hey, kids! Meet Roger, Gary, Larry, Eddie and Dave! The Monks were a groovy Beat combo from the ‘60s: five discharged American GIs staying on in Germany to rock out in clubs on the Reeperbahn. A seminal punk band, they dressed in black with shaved heads and played feedback-drenched songs with nihilistic lyrics and titles like “I Hate You.” This is their story. MW

Publisher: Carson Street
Paperback: 397 pages

Bleep! A Guide to Popular American Obscenities

David Burke

This book will probably land in the humor section of most bookstores, but it is actually a rather fully researched dictionary. As well as providing the meaning for naughty words, it also illustrates contexts for their usage, translations from slang to standard American English, and practice exercises. (These include sentence structure charts, crossword puzzles and “find-a-word” games.) There is also helpful information on the differences between American English and British English. (For instance, if you tell a British date that you’ll honk when you drive up, you have just indicated your intention to vomit in your car.) The flags of various countries are used to indicate cases where meanings vary, and there is also a section on hand gestures demonstrated by a mime. SA

Publisher: Optima
Paperback: 220 pages

Blissed Out: The Raptures of Rock

Simon Reynolds

The subject of Blissed Out is ostensibly the “alternative” side of ‘80s rock, from grunge to acid-house, but more importantly, perhaps, the book reveals how Reynolds became the art world’s resident rock critic—second only to the slightly more ubiquitous Jon Savage. The chapter headings give the author away: “Miserabilism,” “The Powers of Horror” and as a grand finale, of course, “The End of Music.” Reynolds is no run-of-the-mill hack—he’s done his homework in French theory, and he wants everyone to know it.
To be fair, the rock “text” has been slighted for too long by the thumbs-up/thumbs-down school of scribblers, or worse, by those who employ it as a springboard for stream of consciousness rambling à la Lester Bangs or the confessional musing Nick Kent. In Blissed Out, Reynolds attempts something much more rigorous, unobjectionable were it not for the orgy of quotation that ensues. From Situationism to Simulationism, no buzz-concept is left untouched. A dash of the abject from Kristeva; a pinch of the obscene, courtesy of Baudrillard; and several generous helpings of that perennial Barthesian favorite jouissance—et voilà!
Those interested in the ideas behind the music of Nick Cave, My Bloody Valentine or Loop will surely be disappointed. Here, rock is only a pretext for airing a reading list, which is actually quite limited. JT

Publisher: Serpent's Tail
Paperback: 192 pages

Bootleg: The Secret History of the Other Recording Industry

Clinton Heylin

This book makes a great case for the archiving of information. Starting with the works of Shakespeare, who “sold [his plays] not to be printed but to be played,” we are treated to a succinct history of copyright as it related to the invention and use of the printing press.
Fast forward to the advent of recording. The main focus of unauthorized recordings was originally opera and soundtracks from movies and Broadway shows. It wasn’t until 1969 that the first rock and roll bootleg appeared. The bulk of this book is concerned with the concise history of rock’n’roll vinyl and CD bootlegs. It is an obsessive chronicle of this phenomenon. Aside from the fact that most bootlegs are of a relatively few artists (Dylan, Springsteen, the Stones), who may or may not interest the reader, this book is a compelling look at the machinations of the record industry. It is only a small exaggeration to say that most artists sign their souls away along with the rights to everything they do. The author presents a believable case in favor of those who “document” through unauthorized recordings “the evolutions and permutations” of this very organic musical form. There is also a lot of information about how the laws of various countries have enabled the manufacture of items of questionable legality (especially surprising are the gaping loopholes in the laws of Italy and Germany). This book came out in 1994. There is an ongoing revamping of copyright treaties, which continue to change as of this writing. No doubt, however, in a world this big there will always be somebody with the appropriate technology who is willing to break the law. SA

Publisher: St. Martin's
Hardback: 441 pages

Border Radio: Quacks, Yodelers, Pitchmen, Psychics and other Amazing Broadcasters of the American Airwaves

Gene Fowler and Bill Crawford

“Radio waves pay no attention to the lines on a map.”—Dr. John Brinkley
Once, long ago, a Kansas quack doctor, whose miracle cure for aging and impotence involved the transplanting of goat glands, was run out of that state on a rail. He went to Texas and opened up a new clinic, and started his own radio station to advertise his gland palace. And to keep the AMA from interfering with his message, he stuck the transmitter just over the Mexican border. That accomplished, he kicked up the juice to about 250,000 watts (roughly ten times the power of any station broadcasting in America today). Thus, border radio was born and a precedent set.
Quack doctors, psychics, preachers, singing cowboys (who hawked songbooks) and many other such entrepreneurs flooded this new world of high-powered airwaves, making for the most colorful chapter in North American broadcast history. Also, such musical personalities as Juan Garcia Esquivel, the Carter Family and the Delmore Brothers found an audience there, helping to make border radio an important part of the American music story. Crawford and Fowler have done an amazing job of telling a factual story while retaining the humor and outlandishness of this saga, and whether you read it as history or entertainment, there is nothing quite like it. SH

Publisher: Limelight
Paperback: 283 pages

The Bradleys

Peter Bagge

Before moving to Seattle to take part in the hugely popular slacker-comic HATE, Buddy Bradley was just another kid whiling away his adolescence in the suburban outback of the Garden State. In The Bradleys, Peter Bagge rehearses the first imperative of the comic book to its greatest effect: staging a series of spectacular collisions between elements of banality and all-out phantasmagoria. Life unfolds at a pretty regular clip—nothing too unusual happens contentwise—but formally, all hell breaks loose. Bagge deploys an ultragrotesque hot-rod aesthetic as an index to the psychopathological undercurrents which attend such teenage rites as hanging out at the record store, drinking and driving, and dealing weed to supplement one’s allowance. Heads take over bodies, mouths take over heads, and teeth take over mouths—pretty weird stuff, and how like life… JT

Publisher: Fantagraphics
Paperback: 152 pages

Bumper Sticker Wisdom: America’s Pulpit Above the Tailpipe

Carol Gardner

“This is a book about bumper stickers and the people behind them. It is a portrait of America: a nation of people in automobiles… on the move with stickers expressing a view, sharing a frustration, or offering some perceived insight, solution or wisdom. Mobility, technology, personality and free expression all in one. What could be more American?”
What indeed? This is an extrordinarily thought-provoking look at the human factor behind the sound-bites and slogans that define “us” and “them.” It’s divided into 14 categories (work, family and education, animals, politics, traffic, relationships, religion, pro-choice/life, the environment, peace and war, region, diversity, life and death and miscellaneous), each page includes a life-size reproduction of a bumper sticker (surrounded by smaller ones in the case of multiples), a portrait of each vehicle’s owner and some basic facts about him/her (age, education, occupation, favorite pastimes, favorite book, favorite movie, pet peeve). A brief anecdote explains how each motorist came to have the sticker and in some cases an author’s note about her encounter with the mobile commentators. Given the diversity of opinions expressed, the author is incredibly evenhanded and fair. These are the real people who actually hold these views, so the going gets a little scary at times. This book puts a human face on these mobile propagandists, reminding us that however diverse our beliefs might be, it is members of our own species that adhere to them. SA

Publisher: Beyond Words
Paperback: 176 pages