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What's in iJamming! Music
Mon, Dec 23, 2002
From the Jamming! Archives:
PAUL WELLER
interviewed in 1978
"A number one single would be a bit scary."
The iJamming! interview:
CARL COX
"'Acid Trax' by Phuture came out and I was just 'Okay, forget all hip hop and all old school rare groove right here, this is it.'"
The Best Of 2001
Tony Fletcher's Top Albums, Concerts, Singles and Books
Strange Currencies:
R.E.M. at Carnegie Hall
In his room:
Brian Wilson at the Festival Hall
ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN: "Flowers is Echo & The Bunnymen's finest hour since Ocean Rain."
Latest album reviews
HEDONISM:
An intrigue of early 90s New York nightlife.
NEW CHAPTER now online
From the Jamming! Archives:
U2 interviewed in 1984.
"It's not U2 that's creating this great art. . .There's something that works through us to create in this way."
iJamming! Wino/Muso:
JOHN ACQUAVIVA
"New world wines are just too techno for me."
iJamming! interview:
Jesse Hartman, aka LAPTOP
"Every New York band knows the meaning of failure"
MIX Albums:
Who, what and why you should bother
The iJAMMING! interview: DAVID SYLVIAN
"I don't think people realize that life can become so exciting and interesting that it can draw you away for long periods of time from creating music - & why not?"
From the Keith Moon archives:
the JEFF BECK interview .
The iJAMMING! chat:
MARK PERRY

"If I was asked why Sniffin' Glue was so important, it was the way we conducted ourselves, the style of it, just the attitude. It had attitude in abundance didn't it?"
Forgotten Classics:
THE CHILLS: Brave Words
THE iJAMMING! Book Review:
SNIFFIN' GLUE: The Essential Punk Accessory
Musing with SALLY TAYLOR:
"I'm not interested in what the major labels have to offer."
From the JAMMING! archives: ALTERNATIVE TV
interviewed in 1978
TRAVIS.
Fran Healy explains why "you cannot own a song." (And why Liam Gallagher "is going to turn into a really great songwriter.")
Featured Artist Web Site:
LLOYD COLE
From the JAMMING! archives: The Story That Spawned Creation
The iJAMMING! interview:
BOY GEORGE.
"Once you've had your go, what-ever it may be, they want you to piss off, and they can't bear it if you come back, they can't bear it."
SUPERDRAG
They love rock'n'roll but they don't want to deal with the hassle
The full iJamming! Contents
THE BEST OF 2001
MY YEAR IN BOOKS
TOP FICTION

There's never enough time to read books. Especially when you've got a kid. Even more so when you're producing books yourself: you feel you should be getting on with your own rather than reading others, besides which you don't want to be unduly influenced by someone else's writing. That said, I did get through a number of good novels in 2001. It just turns out most of them weren't published last year. So what? Less so than music, good writing never goes out of style, and given that I don't make my living out of reading books, then just as with movies, I have no problem getting to them in my own good time..

Tony Fletcher, February 5 2002

(The following are in alphabetical order of author. Click on the covers for more info.)
DENIAL by KEITH ABLOW,
St. Martin's 1998
Keith Ablow pens novels from the perspective of a forensic psychiatrist in Boston, which, by a certain coincidence, happens to be his dayjob. You've got to hope he doesn't confuse himself too often with his narrator Frank Clevenger, whose cocaine addictions and sexual aggression forms an integral part of this debut novel, in which Clevenger finds himself more closely tied to a series of gruesome murders than he would like. Denial is a charged thriller from start to finish, and while it resolves perfectly, it leaves the door open for further Clevenger adventures. Appropriately, Ablow's third such novel, Compulsion, comes out this spring.



THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER by STEVE CHBOSKY, MTV/POCKET BOOKS 1999
Like Bruce Robinson below, Steve Chbosky is primarily a screen-writer, and like Robinson, his central character is an adolesent struggling to come to terms with his place in the world, all while trying to untangle his past and beat out his frailties. But there comparisons with Thomas Penman end. Wallflower is set during protaganist Charlie's first year in modern high school, and narrated through a series of letters he writes to an unseen friend that detail his introduction to drinking, smoking, LSD and masturbation. (At 15? Isn't that a bit late?) It's peppered with musical references to Morrissey and Nirvana, but fortunately the pop culture specifics don't get in the way of a timeless story about cameraderie, romance, self-discovery and literature. Charlie is a lovable character and once we find out, delicately, at the book's conclusion, what has rendered him so 'special', we only feel deeper for him. Such has been this novel's resonance with the teenage culture that it's gone on to more than a few school lists and a quick scan at amazon.com finds over 400 reader reviews, eight times as many as 'American Tabloid' and fifteen times more than my Keith Moon biography. A beautiful novel that's a modern adolescent classics. Kudos to MTV Books for doing something positive for teenagers for once.

AMERICAN TABLOID by JAMES ELLROY, 2001.
This was on the bookshelf while I was writing in upstate New York through the late spring of 2001, and given that it was set far away from my own subject matter, I took it for bedtime reading. No wonder I had nightmares. Ellroy, an esteemed crime novelist, took on the historical novel with American Tabloid by inventing three characters - FBI agents Ward Littell and Kemper Boyd, and cold hearted enforcer Peter Bondurant - and placing them at the core of one of the darkest and most complex periods of American history: the years from the Cuban revolution through Kennedy's election and ultimate assassination. In so doing, and by placing real characters like J. Edgard Hoover, Bobby and Jack Kennedy, Jimmy Hoffa, Howard Hughes, Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe and James Lee Oswald into the narrative, he constructed a plausible enough sequence of events as to give conspiracy theorists their amunition to insistthe mob offed JFK. Considering that most sentences are but a few words long, and each paragraph but a few sentences, it's astounding that it took me almost three months of nightly reading to devour this novel, with its frightening body count, vicious sex and ferocious betrayals. It's complete overkill, but then that's its point. Bloody, tiring, and not always fun, American Tabloid is a great American Novel.
OFF THE RECORD by David Menconi,
Lightning Source 2000
Music journalists make lousy novelists, I'm all too aware of that. But David Menconi, music critic at the Raleigh News & Observer, proved himself an adroit storyteller with Off The Record, in which the Tommy Aguilar Band (TAB) break out of the North Carolina scene at a Nirvana-like pace, resulting in a Kurt Cobain-like drug overdose that takes a surprise twist as the book concludes. The story is told through the eyes of local music critic Ken Morrison - though wisely, Menconi places his alter ego in the third person - and it's enlivened by a highly believable and decent club owner and a less plausible and thoroughly amoral manager/promoter. Menconi's strength is in the music and the local scene - there's nothing about the band dynamic or its musicianship that you would question. His weakness, as befits someone brought up on journalism, is in not veering far enough from fact into fiction. We get thinly veiled versions of Aerosmith as Arrowhead, Rolling Stone magazine as Rock Slide, Billboard/Cash Box as Cashboard, Polygram Records as Polydoroff, and so on. But what the hell, it's it's his first time out, and it's a roller coaster read. Credit goes to Menconi for refusing to take no for an answer; when he couldn't land a book deal, he self-published the book and promoted hell out of it, including posting a web site as if TAB was a real band. Pay-off of a kind came when Rock Slide, I mean Rolling Stone.com, rightly praised it as 'the A&R that doesn't suck.'
THE PECULIAR MEMORIES OF THOMAS PENMAN by Bruce Robinson, BLOOMSBURY 1998.
Whenever I'm back in England, I pick up the latest 'hot' novels under the misguided impression I'll read them on the plane home. Instead they gather dust for two years until I unearth them at the back of a shelf and decide I'd better get my money's worth. Such was the case with Withnail & I script-writer Bruce Robinson's first real novel, set in a late fifties southern coastal town (that they forgot to close down), in which Robinson's protagonist Thomas Penman is struggling with an adolescent crush, his father's hatred of him and his own devotion to his dying grandfather, all while trying to overcome his fascination with pornography, his habit of shitting his pants at school, his tendency to blow up the local sea life, his addiction to evesdropping and his inability to complete his sentences in time to be properly undestood. It makes for a number of hilarious escapades, but the finale includes as emotionally charged a sex scene as I've ever encountered and a shocking conclusion that, literally, had me in tears.

BEST ONLINE NOVEL
EXIT STRATEGY by DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF
When the author of The Ecstasy Club (and numerous non-fiction books) couldn't get an appropriate American deal for his second novel, he went to Yahoo Internet Life and suggested they publish it as an online serial. Better still, being a free-thinker, Rushkoff set it up as an 'open-source' novel. Explanation: Exit Strategy is set in a second dot.com revolution of 2008, but its twist is that it was discovered a hundred years from now, necessitating foot notes to explain such myriad phenomenons as the Hamptons, SATs, The Shining, Wedgies and condoms. In putting the book online, Rushkoff allowed readers to add their own footnotes, resulting, for example, in reader descriptions of Nike and Coke as "leading nation(s) in the New World Union that was formed after the demise of the United States Of America." Perhaps not surprisingly, by the book's conclusion fourteen weeks in, web surfers had bored of finding new old words to create future dictionary meanings for, but much fun was had along the way. You can download Exit Strategy to your computer for less than $4 from Amazon, or buy a copy in the UK - where it was quite wisely, I think, re-titled Bull and published in old-fashioned paper form. Then again, you can still go to http://www.yil.com/rushkoff/ and either read it online while adding your own definitions to various zeitgeist words, or simply copy and paste the whole thing into your own favorite word processing software and print it out at your leisure.
CURRENTLY BY THE BED, AND ALL HALF-READ:
ONE FOR MY BABY by Tony Parsons (a little wet, as is his new and wildly successful style)
A&R by Bill Flanagan (incredibly thin and implausible based on two chapters)
THE READER
by Bernard Schlink (no excuse for not having finished this sexually-charged tale set in post-war Germany)
TOP NON-FICTION
I seem to have read less in the way of non-fiction books than novels this past year, which is embarrassing given how many such books cross my path. Then again, between devouring magazines, writing fiction and the events of the last four months, it's perhaps not surprising. The following are in order of preference.Click on the covers for more info.
1) THE NEW YORK TIMES
Just as the BBC suffers its reputation as 'Auntie,' the New York Times has long been belittled as the 'Gray Lady.' After September 11, however, it demonstrated to the entire world why it is also considered the paper of record. Delivering reports of astounding depth and admirable impartiality in the chaotic days that followed, including some of the most vividly painful photojournalism it's been our burden to view, the Times constantly raised its standards and repeatedly rose to the occasion. Within a week of the attacks, it had started the 'A Nation Challenged' section (a far more preferable choice to the TV networks 'America's New War' chest-beating) and its Portraits of Grief obituaries of the victims have seen plenty tears spilled round this house. Some of its columnists appear to have lost the plot (stand up Maureen Dowd and Frank Rich) but I know I'm not the only one who thinks Thomas Friedman deserves a Pullitzer for twice-weekly delivering harsh truths without pulling punches, whether examining the real reasons why Muslim nations choose not to crack down on Islamic extremists, or becrying George W. Bush's failure to tap into the American peoples' goodwill at a point in which they've been eager to help their country. There are many on the right wing who consider the Times a liberally-biased paper, but during a period when its home city was attacked and its nation went to war, the paper repeatedly took a solid stand against terrorism, supporting military action while unafraid to report political gaffes, bombing errors, speak up vociferously for civil liberties and present multiple sides to the story. It sent vast numbers of reporters to the front lines and also printed some of the best photojournalism we've seen in recent times. A year ago, journalists scored pretty low on the public opinion polls, somewhere alongside lawyers: I'd like to think that the New York Times, among other American papers, helped bring fresh credit to the profession these last few months.

2) THE CREATION RECORDS STORY: 'MY MAGPIE EYES ARE HUNGRY FOR THE PRIZE' by David Cavanagh, Virgin, 2000
In writing the biography of Britain's most infamous post-punk indie label, British music journalist David Cavanagh rightly makes the entire post-punk music scene his canvas, placing Creation's own story into context by doing so. It means we don't get a mention of Oasis until we're two-thirds of the way in, but are treated to so many hilarious - and painful - McGee moments along the way that we really don't care. (My favorite: McGee signs the House of Love, takes over management reins and co-produces them too. Over dinner in the recording studio, he then callously tells them "I've just signed the best band in the world...They're called Blow-Up."). The Creation story is a Hollywood-worthy combination of gut instinct, blind vision, enormous testicles and incredible luck. (I never knew until this book that Oasis actually signed direct to Sony and were merely fed through Creation.) McGee was upset at the critical approach and gave his own vesion of events to Paolo Hewitt. You know which book tells the better story.

3) HOLY WAR, INC. - Inside the Secret World of Osama Bin Laden by Peter Bergen, Free Press, 2001
British born journalist Peter Bergen snagged the first ever western TV interview with Osama Bin Laden back in 1997 for CNN, and went on to follow, first-hand, the terrorist leader's wide-reaching tentacles to author a convincing yet simple-to-read report on Islamic fascists' war against the west. He handed the book in to his publishers this past summer, expecting the usual twelve months lead time, only for the events of September 11 to force him back to the desk to bring his tome rapidly up to date and for it to hit the shelves way ahead of schedule, in early November. Certainly, his timing could not have been better, but if there's a criticism, it's that Holy War, Inc. would have benefited from being published before September 11, because anyone who read Bergen's clear and balanced reporting on Al Qaeda's role in the bombing of the World Trade Centers in 1993, of the African Embassies in 1998 and of the USS Cole in the year 2000, would have then known as instinctively as did the US Government that September 11 had all the fingerprints of a Bin Laden/Al Qaeda operation. In laying out the story so vividly, and with its copious footnotes and official sources, Holy War, Inc. should be compulsory reading for all those conspiracy theorists who remain blinded by the truth.

4) KEITH MOON - A Personal Portrait
by Dougal Butler,
Full Moon Books 2001
Dougal was a primary source for my biography of Keith, and this coffee table book is complementary to Dear Boy, rather than competition. Best enjoyed for its visuals - angry letters from bank managers demanding overdraft reductions are particularly comical - it's a beautiful book, though I'm glad I got mine for free. I notice the price has come down from $245 to $125; draw your own conclusions. Read a fuller review here, and visit the web site here.

NEW YORK SEPTEMBER 11 by MAGNUM PHOTOGRAPHERS, POWERHOUSE, 2001
The glut of books documenting the tragedy of September 11, paying tribute to the heroes, or providing political background material for the attacks is tribute to American capitalism- which I don't necessarily mean in a positive way. Of the various photographic souvenirs, this collection by the Magum Agency's staff is the most terribly beautiful, intensely emotional and vividly honest, and possibly the only one you should think about owning, however awful it is to open the bloody thing and bei reminded. As it turned out, the Magnum Agency, known for its quality reportage, was scheduled to have its monthly meeting that day, which meant many of its top photographers were in town. When the planes hit, those photographers did what they are trained to do, documenting the carnage of the towers' collapse and the aftermath through their camera lenses. Wisely, this book allows the photographers to verbally tell their own stories (David Halberstam provides an introduction). Equally worthy of applause, they eschew the same horrific images we have seen too often (I felt exploited when one of the British Sunday papers put a picture of falling bodies on the cover of an end-of-year issue), treating the video stills of the first plane hitting the towers in miniature, as if from a contact sheet. Concentrating as much on the human reaction as the physical destruction makes for some curious photos - especially that of a Brooklyn mum watching the fire casually with her baby from her rooftop - but they only speak further to the broad honesty of this book. Published in coffee table format, it's not something you particuarly want to keep on your coffee table, but it's an important document to a terrible day history handled with grace, compassion and immense photographic talent.

CURRENTLY ON THE DESK:
OUR BAND COULD BE YOUR LIFE by MICHAEL AZERRAD
BRIGHT LIGHTS DARK SHADOWS: THE REAL STORY OF ABBA
by CARL MAGNUS PALM
THE ENGLISH
by JEREMY PAXMAN
WINE AND WAR by DON and PETIE KLADSTRUP
SONIC BOOM
by JACK ALDERMAN
EXPLODING
by STAN CORNYN

The Best of 2001: Albums Songs Concerts Books
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