Sunday 28 December 2008

Tom Waits For No Man....

I hope you all had a very happy Christmas. I spent much of my - scarce - quiet time reading a review copy of a new biography of Tom Waits, called Lowside of the Road. Towards the end, this none-more Waitsian explanation of why he finds himself writing more and more about death popped off the page:

"How do you avoid it? We're decomposing as we go. We're the dead on vacation. It's not a theme I need to pursue. It pursues me."

Ah, happy holidays indeed! A good excuse, nevertheless, to hear Tom's most beautiful, most quietly spiritual rumination on what truly matters as we gradually decompose. And yes, you're allowed to cry.

Monday 15 December 2008

Best of 2008 (Slight Return)

Having already been included in the Telegraph's best musical tomes of 2008, I Shot a Man in Reno is also listed in the Observer's round-up of the most accomplished music books of the year, alongside the likes of Alex Ross's The Rest Is Noise and Simon Armitage's Gig. Fine company indeed.

Also, a short but warm review in yesterday's Sunday Herald, which can be read here.

Thursday 11 December 2008

Metal Riff In "Too Evil" Shock

I generally prefer the space between the music and the murder to be a little further apart than this:

19 year old Italian heavy metal singer Cristina Balzano has been arrested for stabbing the guitarist in her band Soul Cry after he fluffed a guitar riff. Balzano allegedly stabbed the 16 year old guitarist for playing the wrong notes during a rehearsal session after accusing him of “sounding evil”. Balzano has now been charged by Genovese police for attempted murder.

Wednesday 10 December 2008


I'll be chatting about Scott Walker (with a bit of Brel thrown in, naturally) on today's Soundcheck on WNYC. It starts at 7pm GMT, 2pm PST, and lasts about half an hour. The director of the fantastic Walker documentary, 30th Century Man, will also be joining the discussion. Should be good. More on the show and how to listen here.

Tuesday 9 December 2008

Elvis Was A Hero To Millions...

... but on this evidence I'm not sure he quite captures the essential primal menace of Frankie & Johnny. Or am I wrong? I mean, it's hardly Robert Nighthawk, is it?

Under The Radar

There's a nice review of Reno in the current issue of Under the Radar. It's not online and relatively short, so here it is in full:

8/10 stars
by Paul Bullock
In the end, death comes to us all. But the incremental approach of the Grim Reaper through popular song is a phenomenon that has just recently crept into the imaginations of music journalists. I SHOT A MAN IN RENO takes a decidedly academic path toward this subject and the professional distance provides for a smart and scholarly read. It's a tragical history tour of the last hundred-plus years of Western songwriting. From "St. James Infirmary," around "Dead Man's Curve," to the city of Compton, Thomson takes us on a macabre, morbid and often hilarious ride. By the time you reach the epilogue of The 40 Greatest Death Records, you'll be ready to discuss the importance of "Leader of the Pack" and "Cop Killer."It's another fine book from Continuum who, along with their 33 1/3 Series, is reshaping the way we read about music.

Saturday 6 December 2008

Weekend Round Up

A few loose ends to tie up this sub-zero Saturday night.

A somewhat garbled account of a phone interview I undertook last week appeared in today's Edinburgh Evening News, and can be read here. Just to clear up a few of the writer's inaccuracies: the U2 gig was in 1987; I was not playing the Capital's music circuit aged 14 (I was singing in a garage band in Bristol at the time, and very bad they were too); and I have never had "a career" in music - nor in anything else, come to think of it. Still, a welcome pre-Xmas page of exposure for the book.

A review of Reno has appeared in the Austin Chronicle, describing the book as "an engaging and celebratory dance with death.... tackled with reverence and passion." None of which dents one little bit my enormous affection for Austin, one of my all-time favourite places.

Finally, I'm blogging about False Messiahs over at the Guardian. The list is restricted to Ten otherwise, this being rock and roll, it could run and run. Feel free to add your thoughts on why Bono isn't - or is? - God. Think on.

Tuesday 2 December 2008

Best of 2008

I Shot a Man in Reno has been chosen as one of the Telegraph's Best Pop Books of 2008, described - rather accurately, I think - as a "amiable potter around the genres of the rock and roll graveyard." Very nicely put. Reno also features in the post-election/pre-Christmas run-down in San Francisco's East Bay Express, where they're looking forward to a future where "we'll sing in unison the classic songs immortalized" in the book. Do they mean songs like "Will The Circle Be Unbroken?" Or songs like "Seasons in the Sun"?