Friday, February 1, 2008

The awesomeness of 33 1/3

The 33 1/3 book series isn’t new, but I feel the need to rave about it just a bit.

For starters, it’s a great concept. Little books about albums. But what’s better is that that seems to be the only real stipulation. How various 33 1/3 books are “about the album” varies greatly. Some read like extended liner notes, focusing primarily on the writing and recording of the album. Others may have quite loose connections to the album itself.

Joe Pernice’s fictional account of life as a Boston teenager riled many readers in search of the details behind The Smiths’ Meat Is Murder. As a reviewer on Amazon wrote, “if you want to know about what The Smiths were doing when they recorded MIM, who was in the studio when, what Andy Rourke was drinking etc, then you need to look elsewhere.” The recently released Music From Big Pink: A Novella guarantees more of the same from impassioned fans of The Band.

Another thing to love about 33 1/3 is that while many of the books have been written by professional music critics, music scholars and even artists, anyone can submit a proposal to write one—a fact that’s caused me to wonder whether or not I could write such a lengthy piece and, if so, whether I’d rather cover Luna’s Bewitched or Penthouse, and what my approach would be. (I also used to ponder what my jersey number would be once I got to the NFL, and I’m sure this feat is about as likely.)

Finally, although the folks at 33 1/3 obviously have to consider potential sales when deciding which titles to greenlight, I’m continually and pleasantly surprised by some of the choices they make. Sure, there’s the requisite who’s who of important rock records, but they’ve also made surprising selections such as Pink Floyd’s Piper At The Gates Of Dawn—instead of, say, The Wall—and even (gasp!) Celine Dion’s Let’s Talk About Love.

(The fact that the book for Neutral Milk Hotel’s In The Aeroplane Over The Sea was—and maybe still is—the series’ best seller is a head-scratcher. Makes me wonder if the book about the album has sold more copies than the album itself.)

Anyway, yesterday 33 1/3 announced that Black Sabbath’s Master Of Reality, written by John Darnielle of the awesome band Mountain Goats, will be released in April. I’m not a huge Sabbath fan but this is a great choice from their catalog and a book I’ll surely purchase.

(Extra cool: send an e-mail to and 33 1/3 will send you about 20 pages of the book to preview.)

1 comment:

mugdha said...

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