LA 10/29: 3 from 33 1/3 event at the Hammer Museum

WHAT: Hammer Presents: 3 from 33 1/3 with Hayden Childs, Kim Cooper and Scott Plagenhoef
WHERE: Billy Wilder Theater, Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd., LA 90024, 310.443.7000
WHEN: Weds October 29, 7pm

33 1/3 is a series of books about a wide variety of seminal rock and pop albums. Join three of the authors for readings and special multimedia presentations. Hayden Childs’s "Shoot Out the Lights" puts into context Richard and Linda Thompson’s album—from the personal history driving the songs, to the recording difficulties they encountered and the subsequent fall-out. He has appeared in "Lost in the Grooves: Scram’s Capricious Guide to the Music You Missed." Kim Cooper’s "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea" sheds light on the underground classic album by Neutral Milk Hotel. Cooper is the editor of "Scram," and co-editor of the anthologies "Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth" and "Lost in the Grooves: Scram’s Capricious Guide to the Music You Missed." Scott Plagenhoef’s "If You’re Feeling Sinister" provides perspective on how Belle & Sebastian transformed from a cult secret into a polished, highly entertaining, mainstream pop group. He is the Editor-in-Chief of Pitchfork.

Aeroplane and others at NYC 33 1/3 series reading

On March 26, I'll be reading a short excerpt from my 33 1/3 book about "In the Aeroplane Over The Sea" as part of a 33 1/3 – Writers on Music panel at Housing Works Used Book Cafe in NYC. Also appearing are Andrew Hultkrans ("Love's 'Forever Changes'"), Amanda Petrusich ("Nick Drake's 'Pink Moon'"), and Kate Schatz ("PJ Harvey's 'Rid of Me'"). The reading is followed by a Q&A hosted by writer/director Keith Bearden ("The Raftman's Razor").

WHAT: 33 1/3- Writers on Music event
WHERE: Housing Works Used Book Cafe, 126 Crosby Street, NYC 10012
WHEN: Tuesday March 25, 7pm-9pm
COST: free

Aeroplane book hits #5 on the sales chart

I read on my editor David Barker’s 33 1/3 blog this morning that the Neutral Milk Hotel book is the fastest pony in the paddock. One doesn’t like to brag about book sales, but you gotta understand, all my previous publications have been so proudly under the radar that it’s just a hoot to see something I’ve written be so popular. But there are plenty of great books on that list–collect ’em all!

David says:

Not too much movement on the chart over the last couple of months – most of the books are still selling, but at a very similar rate. Notable exceptions being the Forever Changes book in the UK, on the back of Arthur Lee’s sad death, the DJ Shadow book, those on the Pixies and Beastie Boys, and of course the Neutral Milk Hotel book, which keeps going, week after week.

(Note to self: no more books about bands with "Stone" in their name…)

1. The Smiths
2. The Kinks
3. Pink Floyd
4. Joy Division
5. Neutral Milk Hotel
6. Velvet Underground
7. The Beatles
8. Radiohead
9. Love
10. Neil Young
11. Rolling Stones
12. Dusty Springfield
13. Beach Boys
14. DJ Shadow
15. Jimi Hendrix
16. The Band
17. The Replacements
18. Led Zeppelin
19. David Bowie
20. Jeff Buckley
21. Prince
22. Beastie Boys
23. The Ramones
24. Pixies
25. R.E.M.
26. Bruce Springsteen
27. Elvis Costello
28. Abba
29. James Brown
30. Jethro Tull
31. Sly and the Family Stone
32. The MC5
33. The Stone Roses

Editrix Kim with Nathan Marsak on KXLU Friday

In the early 1990s, 1947project bloggers Kim Cooper and Nathan Marsak collaborated on a demented college radio program in Santa Barbara called The Manny Chavez Show. Nathan played Manny, a washed-up Catskills comic with a soft spot for bizarre thrift store records, while Kim manned the boards and giggled at Manny’s unfunny gags in the character of daffy twins Mandy and Candy Dubois. A lowlight of their broadcast career was the night Nathan got arrested on his way to the studio, and the County Sheriff agreed to let him phone the show if he’d deliver an anti-drunk driving message.

These days, their collaboration is somewhat more scholarly, though still demented: they blog historic Los Angeles crimes of 1947 and 1907 at the 1947project website, and lead Crime Bus Tours to scenes of forgotten mayhem.

This Friday night, July 14 (and into the morning of the 15th), from midnight to three, Kim and Nathan return to the airwaves as special guests of Stella, whose KXLU (88.9 FM) program Stray Pop has been providing an eclectic disarray of music with in studio guests since 1980.

They’ll be sharing favorite local true crime cases from their upcoming Pasadena Confidential Crime Bus Tour, spinning incredibly odd thrift store vinyl, plus talking about Kim’s projects like the Bubblegum Achievement Awards, Lost in the Grooves, the long-lived journal of unpopular culture Scram and her recent 33 1/3 book on Neutral Milk Hotel and the Elephant 6 collective. Listen for a special visit from Manny Chavez and his moldy joke book, and call in with questions or comments.

What: Manny Chavez Show Reunion
When: Friday July 14/Saturday July 15 from midnight-3am
Where: KXLU 88.9 FM in L.A., streaming at
Request line:  (310) 338-KXLU

More info:
Scram Magazine
Bubblegum Achievement Awards
Lost in the Grooves
Stray Pop

New issue of Scram hot off the presses

It is a banner day: I just got back from picking up Scram 22 from the printer, and I’m dizzy with ink fumes.

The new issue of the journal of unpopular culture includes a feature comprised of the interviews that informed the Ruston section of my 33 1/3 book about Neutral Millk Hotel. Robert Schneider, Laura Carter, Julian Koster and Scott Spillane all speak at greater length than they did in the book about E6 pre-Athens, and Robert shares some live photos from 1996 that I think have not been published previously.

Also in this issue: nature-loving folkie Vashti Bunyan, gay glam-punk Paul "Baby Bones" Vanase, private librarian and African literary scholar Kurt Thometz, Chicago bluesman Nick Gravenites and session piano cat Lincoln Mayorga, plus scads of reviews.

If interested in this or other Scrams, please visit for more info


“a dusty-vinyl chain letter” (North Bay Bohemian)

Bushwhacking the Vinyl Jungle: ‘Lost in the Grooves’ a field guide to forgotten greats By Sara Bir

Record geeks cherish the moment when they encounter an al bum no one else knows about. This is less about one-upmanship than the thrill of discovery and the intimate connection between artist and listener, a lifeline that keeps neglected music vital and alive.

Kim Cooper and David Smay of Scram magazine, understand this thoroughly, as evidenced in their recently released Lost in the Grooves: Scram’s Capricious Guide to the Music You Missed (Routledge; $19.95). The editors refer to the book as “your own portable geek,” meaning it can be a trusted friend to point obscurity-seekers in the right direction. And obscure in the context of this book is less about rarity in physical numbers than it is about rarity of appreciation.

The somewhat star-studded cast of contributors includes rock historian Ed Ward, novelist Rick Moody, cartoonist Peter Bagge and the formerly Santa Rosa-based Tim Hinley, who’s been producing Dagger zine for nearly two decades.

The entries vary widely in genre–Flo and Eddie’s The World of Strawberry Shortcake shares a page with the Flesh Eaters’ A Minute to Pray, a Second to Die–but most fall into two basic categories. First, there’s “Where the hell did this band come from?” These are artists whose releases will probably never cross the loading dock of a Virgin Records Megastore. Sharp-eyed readers will note the inclusion of John Trubee and the Ugly Janitors of America’s The Communists Are Coming to Kill Us, hailed by contributor Chas Glynn as “both annoying as hell and insanely captivating.” The album was released in 1984, before Trubee left Southern California for the calmer environs of Santa Rosa, where he continues to compose and record music.

The second category is “Hey, I never heard of that Who album!” These entries appear to compose roughly half the book, creating a great space for us to reconsider purportedly substandard issues by popular bands. Pink Floyd, Dolly Parton, the Ramones, Willie Nelson, Lou Reed and Jonathan Richman all rack up mentions. Considering these folks have collectively recorded a zillion albums, it’s not surprising that a few great ones have fallen through the cracks.

I was alternately bummed and smugly pleased to spot a few albums that I already own–for instance, Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane over the Sea. I bet at least half of the people who purchase this book not only own that album but count it among their all-time favorites. It’s a good reminder that we’re in emotional territory here.

Despite the obvious camp appeal of some recommendations, even a casual read of the reviews will indicate that the authors wrote about these records because they honestly like them and cherish their existence. Owning cool music does not make you cool; loving great–or, as the case may be, crummy–music does.

Studded throughout the book are reprints of vintage reviews from classic early music magazines like Creem, plus sidebars of well-selected lists for those who crave to know the “Top 10 Non-Goth Albums Goths Listen To.”

(Is Duran Duran’s Rio part of that list? Hell, yes!)

Lost in the Grooves is hardly encyclopedic. You could ask 75 other rock critics to divulge their favorite overlooked records and come up with a completely different list. It’s sort of implicit that Lost in the Grooves, Vol. II is to be carried out and added to by the hands of eager crate-diggers and attic-explorers that keep the story alive and make it their own. It’s a dusty-vinyl chain letter!

I’ll add three entries to get you started: Nino Ferrer’s Enregistrement Public, Scrawl’s He’s Drunk and Bert’s (yes, Bert the Muppet) Best of Bert. Now get going!(North Bay Bohemian, 2/16/05).