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Alienated Old Man Creates Some Sad Music

Alienated Old Man Creates Some Sad Music

IN 1966, when Leonard Cohen was recording his debut album at Columbia Records’s Studio E in New York, he was assigned a producer named John Simon, who had recently scored a hit with the Cyrkle’s ...

Let Me Whisper in Your Ear

Let Me Whisper in Your Ear

 He was quite tall, and rather lanky, and a bit boyish looking in his battered flannels. But his eyes were brown, and his little clipped mustache was decidedly Continental. — James M. Cain, Mildre...

Irritated Critics

Irritated Critics

THE ESSENTIAL ELLEN WILLIS sprung to life because of a remark by an irritated critic (is there any other kind?) in this very publication. At the end of her review of Out of the Vinyl Deeps, the excell...

An Invisible Man, A Visible Voice

An Invisible Man, A Visible Voice

A MAN CALLED DESTRUCTION records the life of pop idol-turned-cult hero Alex Chilton. “In titling his 1995 album A Man Called Destruction — his last solo release filled with mostly his own songs ...

Experiments in Taste

Experiments in Taste

THE LONG RUNNING 33 1/3 series consists of books in which a writer dissects a single album. Most authors examine albums they love — usually rock albums already firmly entrenched in the canon (Exile...

Piece of My Heart

Piece of My Heart

IN HIS NEW BOOK, Joel Selvin describes three different recordings of the song “Twist and Shout.” Two were not simply big hits, but seminal contributions to the rock ’n’ roll canon. The other, ...

The Donald Fagen Papers

The Donald Fagen Papers

I SAW HIM in concert once. It was a Steely Dan concert, 2006, at an outdoor venue in summertime Virginia. While we waited for Donald Fagen and Walter Becker — the founding members of the Dan — to ...

Bach Psychology: Gothic, Sublime, or just human?

Bach Psychology: Gothic, Sublime, or just human?

THERE IS AN UNOFFICIAL marker in the timeline of canonical classical music. It falls around 1800, during Beethoven’s lifetime, separating composers for whom biography matters to non-academic listene...

Bigmouth Strikes

Bigmouth Strikes

MIDWAY THROUGH Morrissey’s highly anticipated Autobiography, a scene unfolds in a manner that is both sinister and jarring. The scene depicts a bleak Saddleworth Moor — a region of the English Pea...

Morrissey’s Long Flirtation

Morrissey’s Long Flirtation

The more you ignore meThe closer I getYou’re wasting your time — Lyrics from the Morrissey album Vauxhall and I (1994) BRITISH SINGER-SONGWRITER Morrissey published his autobiography in England ...

Freedom at the End of a Gospel Song

Freedom at the End of a Gospel Song

ON A SUNDAY in April 1965, the Staple Singers — Roebuck “Pops” Staples and three of his children: Mavis, Cleotha, and Pervis — performed for a large congregation at New Nazareth Church on Chic...