Wednesday, January 28, 2009
I am a sucker for an entertaining autobiography, so I picked this little gem up at Watermark Books this past summer on the promise of the dustjacket alone, which features caricatures of Joey Ramone, Andy Warhol, Little Richard, Jerry Garcia, Ronald Reagan, Hulk Hogan, Larry Flynt and many other larger than life characters, like Mr. Edison himself. What really sold me about the dustjacket was the books’ subtitle, which reads: Savage Tales of Pot, Porn, Punk Rock, Pro Wrestling, Talking Apes, Evil Bosses, Dirty Blues, American Heroes, and the Most Notorious Magazines in the World. For some reason, I hadn’t decided to give it a go until just recently, while being bored to tears and giving up on Annie Dillard’s latest novella, The Maytrees, which might have been more appealing were I not suffering a recent spell of ADD, an affliction which I seem to share with the author.
Mike Edison aka Lord Zeppelin (one of his anonymous pen names) took me on a wild ride going from punk band drummer to solo blues slide guitarist, smut mag to stoner mag, European tour to Asian wedding adventure, all without any apparent purpose other than to find some interesting things to write about in his autobiography one day, and that he did. There is no shortage of hilarious and interesting material here, and while I have to question his journalistic integrity from time to time, he is usually the first one to confess his own shortcomings in his relationships and in the workplace, so his tall tales carry much more credibility than that of say, I don’t know, James Frey (A Million Little Pieces).
Make no mistake about it; Edison has no plans to sober up. This is not a coming-of-age tale, nor a rock-bottom to riches account. The amount of drugs he unabashedly consumes throughout the memoir is mind boggling, not due to the fact that he made it out alive, but because he was able to meet as many deadlines and complete as many writing and publishing assignments as he did. The type of magazines he worked for are not necessarily world class publications, but the author brought a level of professionalism to the offices of such noteworthy publications as “Screw”, “Soft Drinks & Beer” and “High Times” that does not jibe with his otherwise anarchistic music career. His work ethic was inspired by the idea of “bringing something better to the bottle every day.”
The most dramatic portion of the book recounts his stint at “High Times”, commonly referred to as “that dope rag”, in which Edison attempts to transform the office from a lazy stoner hangout into a high-octane, high circulation publishing empire. The staffers are heavily resistant to his mandate to cease smoking in the office during business hours, and he goes from being Editor and Publisher in Chief to “Head Fascist” in less than a year. Eventually, he is credited as being a producer for the High Times Potluck movie, featuring Jay of Jay and Silent Bob, which apparently went straight to DVD and is currently nowhere to be found for sale on the Net. You can however, purchase his most recent musical project, Edison Rocket Train, however, I would highly recommend staying away from this noise and instead picking up a Jon Spencer Blues Explosion disc. Oh yeah, if you happen to love the Beatles, you might also want to stay away from this book, as he spends a fair amount of time rationalizing his distaste for the Sgt. Pepper album and Beatle-mania in general.
In the end, the pure entertainment value of this book and Edison’s stories of a low brow lifestyle are through the roof, and his literary style and voice are much more advanced and coherent than I would have expected, but if you are looking for a story with any kind of redeeming social value, you will not find it here. Mike Edison has cemented his place in the literary canon as the hardest working screw up in show business.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
2008 The Year in Review
I always try to base my year-end list on one factor and one factor alone: the amount of times I actually listen to an entire album. If I had purchased the Vampire Weekend album on cassette, I would have worn out the film in the first two weeks, which might also explain why I didn’t spin it as much towards the end of the year. I have no doubt this ultra-fun debut, which displays a smorgasbord of influences (ska, punk, classical, Afropop-I know, it sounds ridiculous, but trust me, it works well) will remain a favorite for years to come. The year’s other impressive debut albums, though noticeably more somber, came from Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes, who competed for Best Campfire Album of 2008.
Robin Thicke and John Legend were by far the Candlelight Sexytime Albums of 2008. I remember the first time I saw Robin Thicke wearing a wife beater on MTV and singing “Lost Without You” and thinking, “My God, what a cheeseball…I can’t believe Dr. Jason Seaver gave his blessing to be associated with this kind of performance!” And now, I am spinning “Something Else” and “The Evolution of Robin Thicke” non-stop. He is the adults only version of Justin Timberlake, last year’s top album recipient. Apparently, I am a sucker for white dudes who can sing Rhythm and Blues.
2008 Party Album of the Year honors goes to Jamie Lidell’s “Jim”, the follow-up to the also brilliant “Multiply” album. Apparently, I am also a sucker for white dudes who can sing soul and funk. I’m beginning to think that my musical tastes are biased, so with no further ado, Hip-Hop Album of the Year goes to perennial favorite T.I., with Lil Wayne’ following closely behind. Flight of the Conchords narrowly missed classification in this genre (see Hiphopopatomus vs. Rhymnoceros) so they will have to be satisfied with International Album of the Year.
A Brief List of the Remaining Awards:
The 1980’s Throwback Album of the Year: M83
The Sing-Along at the Top of Your Lungs Album of the Year: tie Gaslight Anthem/The Hold Steady
The You Should Probably Question Your Sexuality if You Like This Album of the Year: Hercules and Love Affair
Disco Druggie Burnout Album of the Year: MGMT
The Best Album with a Song About a Sexy Librarian and also the Worst Song of the Year: My Morning Jacket (see “Librarian” and “Highly Suspicious”)
M.I.A. is M.I.A. Album of the Year: tie Robyn/Santogold
Please leave your comments and tell me where I am right on, where I went wrong, what missed the list, and what you hope to hear in 2009.