Heavy Rotation: Twenty Writers on the Albums That Changed Their Lives


Colm Tóibín on Joni Mitchell • James Wood on The Who • Stacey D'Erasmo on Kate Bush • Daniel Handler on Eurythmics • Lisa Dierbeck on the Pretenders • Clifford Chase on the B-52s . . . and other writers on the soundtracks of their lives

In Heavy Rotation, twenty of our most acclaimed contemporary writers pay homage to the record albums that inspired them. Benjamin Kunkel remembers how the Smiths' Queen Is Dead transformed him into an adolescent Anglophile. Pankaj Mishra ...

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Heavy Rotation

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Colm Tóibín on Joni Mitchell • James Wood on The Who • Stacey D'Erasmo on Kate Bush • Daniel Handler on Eurythmics • Lisa Dierbeck on the Pretenders • Clifford Chase on the B-52s . . . and other writers on the soundtracks of their lives

In Heavy Rotation, twenty of our most acclaimed contemporary writers pay homage to the record albums that inspired them. Benjamin Kunkel remembers how the Smiths' Queen Is Dead transformed him into an adolescent Anglophile. Pankaj Mishra describes how a bootleg cassette of ABBA's Super Trouper evoked a world far from his small Indian village. Kate Christensen relives her years as an aspiring novelist in Brooklyn listening to Rickie Lee Jones's Flying Cowboys. And Joshua Ferris recalls his head-banging passion for Pearl Jam's Ten.

Exploring music from the Talking Heads to the Hedwig and the Angry Inch soundtrack, this extraordinary anthology is a moving, funny, uplifting, and unforgettable celebration of the unique and essential relationship between life and music.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review.

Mapping out a space between criticism and personal essay, writer and music fan Terzian has invited a double handful of contemporary writers to expound on the albums that they love. Benjamin Kunkel covers the Smiths, John Haskell discusses the Talking Heads, Joshua Ferris remembers Pearl Jam's debut, Sheila Heti considers the Annie soundtrack; their stories take readers to India, Ireland, Haiti, the Upper East Side of New York and beyond with consistently thoughtful, but wildly variant results. These love letters to albums also examine the inextricable connection between art forms; of particular note are essays by Mark Greif (Fugazi's Fugazi), Lisa Dierbeck (Pretenders' Pretenders), Asali Solomon (Gloria Estefan's Mi Tierra), Martha Southgate (The Jackson 5's Greatest Hits), Clifford Chase (The B-52's self-titled album) and editor Terzian (Miaow's Priceless Innuendo). Almost without fail, these essays exhibit a perfect blend of respect and irreverence, with an intoxicating intimacy; readers who love music will devour this collection, and beg for a second volume.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Reviews
Music writing with a personal twist by an assortment of modern writers, including Joshua Ferris, James Wood, Pankaj Mishra and Kate Christensen. It's a testament to editor Terzian that only a handful of the essays involve falling in love. The tales encapsulate everything from horror to hilarity, ranging in approach from an almost academic inquiry into hidden codes and contradictions to deeply emotional recollections presented in a stream-of-consciousness collage. Thankfully, little of the writing resembles the cloying cleverness of modern music reviews. Another delightful surprise is that the albums aren't defended as the best of or most important to the development of music, but as the most significant to a certain person at a precise moment in time. A good example is the essay on the Eurythmics album Savage, which Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket) dismisses as musically subpar, but for which he still nurses a strong passion. Despite the diversity of backgrounds of the contributors, some common threads emerge. Many describe listening during the tumultuous period of adolescence, ricocheting between self hatred and self discovery. All are uniquely sensitive observers, and most shared a penchant for listening compulsively and repeatedly to that one cherished record. It's somewhat regrettable that most of the music, with a few notable exceptions, comes from a limited era, the 1970s and '80s. One memorable outlier is the ethereal and haunting chapter on American Primitive Vol. II: Pre-War Revenants (1897 -1939) by GQ correspondent John Jeremiah Sullivan (Blood Horses: Notes of a Sportswriter's Son, 2004), which describes extremely rare shellac recordings of largely unknown black musiciansbefore World War II. The book is undeniably best appreciated with a laptop close by to listen along with the albums described. A satisfying, fun read that may prompt rifling through old CDs and LPs to reclaim one's own transformative musical memories. Contributor events in New York
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061579745
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/23/2009
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 4.90 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter Terzian has written for the New York Times, Slate, the Believer, Print, the National, Columbia Journalism Review, Bookforum, and the Los Angeles Times Book Review. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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Table of Contents

Introduction vii

1 Still Ill: The Smiths: The Queen Is Dead Benjamin Kunkel 1

2 What Annie Knew: Annie Soundtrack Sheila Heti 16

3 The Quiet One: The Beatles: Meet the Beatles! Alice Elliott Dark 27

4 What You've Done to My World: Fugazi: Fugazi Mark Greif 39

5 Tiny Big Dreams: Talking Heads: Remain in Light John Haskell 60

6 O Black and Unknown Bards: American Primitive Vol. II: Pre-War Revenants (1897-1939) John Jeremiah Sullivan 69

7 Beautiful Noise: Kate Bush: The Sensual World Stacey D'erasmo 94

8 Mental Chickens: Topless Women Talk About Their Lives Soundtrack Todd Pruzan 101

9 Elegy for a Discarded Album: Pearl Jam: Ten Joshua Ferris 114

10 I Love to Listen to: Eurythmics: Savage Daniel Handler 127

11 Am I Getting Warmer? The B-52s: The B-52s Clifford Chase 142

12 How to be a Girl: Pretenders: Pretenders Lisa Dierbeck 172

13 Blues for a Semester Abroad: Gloria Estefan: Mi Tierra Asali Solomon 188

14 Three Weeks in the Summer: Joni Mitchell: Blue Colm Toibin 200

15 Northern Exposure: ABBA: Super Trouper Pankaj Mishra 212

16 A Rodeo Girl on Broadway: Rickie Lee Jones: Flying Cowboys Kate Christensen 219

17 No Mod Cons: The Who: Quadrophenia James Wood 230

18 Just Like Me: The Jackson 5: Greatest Hits Martha Southgate 246

19 Nine Lives: Miaow: Priceless Innuendo Peter Terzian 257

20 Bewigged: Hedwig and the Angry Inch Original Cast Recording Claire Dederer 279

Contributors 291

Acknowledgments 299

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 4, 2009

    Great for fans of contemporary writers and/or music

    ...Especially for people who cherish music as an integral part of their lives. Each writer shares their experience with an artist's release in a unique and compelling way. Even if you aren't familiar with the music being discussed in each author's piece, you will enjoy how it impacted their lives. A fun read.

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