An Appreciation of Ralph J. Gleason

City Lights welcomed Toby Gleason to celebrate the release of two books: Music in the Air: The Selected Writings of Ralph J. Gleason and Conversations in Jazz: The Ralph J. Gleason Interviews, both edited by Gleason and both published by Yale University Press. He was joined by Al Young.

Music in the Air: The Selected Writings of Ralph J. Gleason collects in one volume the best cultural criticism and music writings from Gleason. With a foreword by Jann Wenner and introduction by Paul Scanlon, the book collects the best of his essays, interviews, liner notes, correspondence, and books in sections covering Jazz and Blues; Folk, Rock, and Pop; Comedy; and Politics and Culture.

The co-founder of Rolling Stone magazine, Ralph J. Gleason was among the most respected journalists, interviewers, and critics writing about popular music in the latter half of the twentieth century. As a longtime contributor to the San Francisco Chronicle, Down Beat, and Ramparts, his expertise and insights about music, musicians, and cultural trends were unparalleled, whether his subject was jazz, folk, pop, or rock and roll. He was the only music journalist included on President Richard Nixon’s infamous “Enemies List,” which Gleason himself considered “the highest honor a man’s country can bestow upon him.”

This sterling anthology, edited by Gleason’s son Toby, himself a forty-year veteran of the music business, spans Ralph J. Gleason’s four decades as popular music’s preeminent commentator. Drawing from a rich variety of sources, including Gleason’s books, essays, interviews, and LP record album liner notes, it is essential reading for writers, historians, scholars, and music lovers of every stripe.

Two-time Grammy Award winner Ralph J. Gleason (1917–1975) was the author of numerous articles and three highly regarded books on music as well as an acclaimed TV and documentary film producer. Toby Gleason is a veteran jazz radio producer, programmer, and host, and a former assistant editor at Rolling Stone.

Conversations in Jazz: The Ralph J. Gleason Interviews brings together for the first time rare and never-before-seen interviews between Ralph Gleason and fourteen of the greatest jazz musicians. These informal sessions, conducted mostly in Gleason’s Berkeley home, have never been transcribed and published in full until now. With a foreword and introductory noted by Ted Gioia, this collection gathers in one place remarkably candid conversations with many of the jazz greats of the twentieth century, from Coltrane to Parker to Mingus and Gillespie.

During his nearly forty years as a music journalist, Ralph J. Gleason recorded many in-depth interviews with some of the greatest jazz musicians of all time. These informal sessions, conducted mostly in Gleason’s Berkeley, California, home, have never been transcribed and published in full until now.

This remarkable volume, a must-read for any jazz fan, serious musician, or musicologist, reveals fascinating, little-known details about these gifted artists, their lives, their personas, and, of course, their music. Bill Evans discusses his battle with severe depression, while John Coltrane talks about McCoy Tyner’s integral role in shaping the sound of the Coltrane quartet, praising the pianist enthusiastically. Included also are interviews with Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins, Quincy Jones, Jon Hendricks, and the immortal Duke Ellington, plus seven more of the most notable names in twentieth-century jazz.

Toby Gleason is the son of Ralph J. Gleason.

Al Young is a poet, novelist, essayist, screenwriter, educator, and former Poet Laureate of California. Muriel Johnson, Director of the California Arts Council declared: “Like jazz, Al Young is an original American voice.” Mr. Young’s has produced numerous novels, collections of poetry, essays, and memoirs. His work has appeared in literary journals and magazines including Paris Review, Ploughshares, Essence, The New York Times, Chicago Review, Seattle Review, Brilliant Corners: A Journal of Jazz & Literature, Chelsea, Rolling Stone, Gathering of the Tribes, and in anthologies including the Norton Anthology of African American Literature, and the Oxford Anthology of African American Literature.

 

Banning Eyre

A special evening of word and song celebrating the new book with Banning Eyre discussing the life and music of Thomas Mapfuno and his new book,

Lion Songs: Thomas Mapfumo and the Music That Made Zimbabwe

by Banning Eyre

from Duke University Press

Like Fela Kuti and Bob Marley, singer, composer and bandleader Thomas Mapfumo and his music came to represent his native country’s anti-colonial struggle and Like

Fela Kuti and Bob Marley, singer, composer, and bandleader Thomas Mapfumo and his music came to represent his native country’s anti-colonial struggle and cultural identity. Mapfumo was born in 1945 in what was then the British colony of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). The trajectory of his career—from early performances of American rock n’ roll tunes to later creating a new genre based on traditional Zimbabwean music, including the sacred mbira, and African and Western pop—is a metaphor for Zimbabwe’s evolution from colony to independent nation. Lion Songs is an authoritative biography of Mapfumo that narrates the life and career of this creative, complex, and iconic figure.

Banning Eyre ties the arc of Mapfumo’s career to the history of Zimbabwe. The genre Mapfumo created in the 1970s called chimurenga, or “struggle” music, challenged the Rhodesian government—which banned his music and jailed him—and became important to Zimbabwe achieving independence in 1980. In the 1980s and 1990s Mapfumo’s international profile grew along with his opposition to Robert Mugabe’s dictatorship. Mugabe had been a hero of the revolution, but Mapfumo’s criticism of his regime led authorities and loyalists to turn on the singer with threats and intimidation. Beginning in 2000, Mapfumo and key band and family members left Zimbabwe. Many of them, including Mapfumo, now reside in Eugene, Oregon.

A labor of love, Lion Songs is the product of a twenty-five year friendship and professional relationship between Eyre and Mapfumo that demonstrates Mapfumo’s musical and political importance to his nation, its freedom struggle, and its culture.

About The Author:
Banning Eyre is a freelance writer and guitarist and the senior editor and producer of the public radio program Afropop Worldwide. He is the author of In Griot Time: An American Guitarist in Mali, Playing With Fire: Fear and Self-Censorship in Zimbabwean Music, and Guitar Atlas: Africa, and the coauthor of AFROPOP! An Illustrated Guide to Contemporary African Music. Eyre is a contributor to National Public Radio’s ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, and his writing has been published in Billboard, Guitar Player, Salon.com, the Boston Phoenix, CMJ, Option, Folk Roots, Global Rhythm, and other publications. He has also performed and recorded with Thomas Mapfumo.

Visit: http://banningeyre.com/

PEACHES

PEACHES, joined by Annie Sprinkle and Beth Stephens in conversation, celebrates the release of What Else Is in the Teaches of Peaches.

 

What Else Is in the Teaches of Peaches presents a mesmerizing collection of Holger Talinski’s evocative and sometimes erotic photos of transgressive musical icon Peaches, on and off stage, with accompanying text by Peaches, Michael Stipe (R.E.M.), Yoko Ono, and the actress Ellen Page, best known for her lead role in the film Juno, which garnered her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress.PEACHES, born Merrill Nisker in Toronto, is a musician, singer, performance artist, producer, filmmaker, actor, and writer, who has lived and worked in Berlin since 2000. She has released four albums—The Teaches of Peaches, Fatherfucker, Impeach My Bush, I Feel Cream—and a new album is forthcoming. She has collaborated and appeared as a guest vocalist on albums by P!nk, R.E.M., Iggy Pop, Major Lazer, and Christina Aguilera, to mention a few. Her songs have been featured in dozens of films and TV shows including Mean Girls, Lost in Translation, Whip It, 30 Rock, Ugly Betty, South Park, and True Blood. Peaches has performed in more than fifty countries and has constantly toured the world for the past fourteen years. She created Peaches Christ Superstar, where she performed the entire rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar as a one-woman show; and she sang the lead role of L’Orfeo in a production of Monteverdi’s seventeenth-century Italian opera. Peaches’s most ambitious work to date was the mythical autobiographical electrorock stage-show-turned-film called Peaches Does Herself. The feature film debuted at the 2012 Toronto Film Festival and was warmly received at over seventy film festivals around the world. Peaches has just completed her first new album in over five years entitled RUB which will be released in 2015.

Annie Sprinkle Ph.D. is the prostitute/porn star turned artist/sexologist. She has passionately researched and explored sexuality in all of its glorious and inglorious forms for forty years, sharing her experiences through making her own unique brand of feminist sex films, writing books and articles, visual art making, creating theater performances, and teaching. For the past 12 years she has been collaborating on art projects with her partner, an artist and UCSC professor, Elizabeth Stephens. They are movers and shakers in the new “ecosex movement,” committed to making environmentalism more sexy, fun and diverse. In 2013, Sprinkle proudly received the Artist/Activist/Scholar Award from Performance Studies International at Stanford, and was awarded the Acker Award for Excellence in the Avant Garde.

 

Nelson George

Nelson George celebrates the release of his two new books, The Lost Treasures of R&B and The Hippest Trip in America: Soul Train and the Evolution of Culture & Style with City Lights and Adam Mansbach.

Nelson George is an author, filmmaker, and lifelong resident of Brooklyn. His novels include the first two in his D Hunter mystery series, The Accidental Hunter and The Plot Against Hip Hop. Among his many nonfiction works are The Death of Rhythm & Blues, Hip Hop America, and the recently published The Hippest Trip in America: Soul Train and the Evolution of Culture & Style. As a filmmaker he’s directed the documentaries Brooklyn Boheme for Revolt, The Announcement for ESPN, and Finding the Funk for VH1. The Lost Treasures of R&B, the third book in his D Hunter mystery series, is his latest novel.Adam Mansbach is a poet, novelist, and screenwriter. His fiction and essays have appeared in The New York Times Book Review, Esquire, GQ,  the Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, and on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered. He is the author of Angry Black White Boy, The End Of The Jews, Shackling Water, Rage is Back, and the New York Times Bestseller Go The Fuck To Sleep.  He lives in Berkeley, California.

Critical praise for The Hippest Trip in America:

“A kaleidoscopic trip through one of the brightest zones in the evolution of American culture.” —Booklist

“George’s in-depth look at a revered TV show is one of those rare music-centric books that will transcend its subject’s core fan base. Even those with just a casual interest in Soul Train will be happy to take this trip.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“30 years of rapier-keen social history and street-savvy cultural criticism.” —USA Today

“George’s book does a great job of assessing the sociological, stylistic and economic power of ‘Soul Train.'” —New York Daily News

“The definitive book on ‘Soul Train’” —New York Times Book Review

“George is one of the best music writers around… he crafts a compelling narrative.” —Andrea Battleground, AV Club

“A loving history.” —Pitchfork.com

“An engaging read for those wanting to understand more clearly why Soul Train is such a monumental part of popular-music history.” —SoulTracks.com

The Highway and the Wilderness: Dennis McNally and Jonah Raskin

An evening of discussion that centers around the ideas from two recently released books:

Dennis McNally celebrates the release of

On Highway 61: Music, Race, and the Evolution of Cultural Freedom

from Counterpoint Press

and

 

 

Jonah Raskin celebrates the release of

A Terrible Beauty

from Regent Press

discussion moderated by Peter Maravelis

On Highway 61 explores the historical context of the significant social dissent that was central to the cultural genesis of the sixties. The book is going to search for the deeper roots of American cultural and musical evolution for the past 150 years by studying what the Western European culture learned from African American culture in a historical progression that reaches from the minstrel era to Bob Dylan.

Shortly before he published Walden; or Life in the Woods, Henry David Thoreau called “The library a wilderness of books.” He also noted that while Americans were “clearing the forest in our westward progress, we are accumulating a forest of books in our rear, as wild and unexplored as any of nature’s primitive wildernesses.” In A Terrible Beauty: The Wilderness of American Literature, Jonah Raskin takes a long close look at the forest of books that poets, novelists and essayists mapped and explored before and after Thoreau. The first work of cultural criticism to look back at writing in the United States from the perspective of the contemporary environmental crisis, Raskin offers insights for students, teachers and lovers of literature as well as for backpackers and hikers who have trekked across untrammeled forests, deserts and mountains.

Dennis McNally received his Ph.D. in American History from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1977 for a biography of Jack Kerouac which was published by Random House in 1979 under the title Desolate Angel: Jack Kerouac, the Beat Generation, and America. He became the Grateful Dead’s authorized biographer in 1980 and the band’s publicist in 1984. In 2002, he published A Long Strange Trip/The Inside History of the Grateful Dead with Broadway Books, a division of Random House. It made the New York Times best seller list.

Jonah Raskin has taught American literature at Sonoma State University, the State University of New York at Stony Brook and as a Fulbright professor at the University of Antwerp and the University of Ghent in Belgium. The author of fifteen books, he earned his B.A. at Columbia College in New York, his M.A. at Columbia University and his Ph.D. at the University of Manchester, Manchester, England. He lives in northern California and has written for The San Francisco Chronicle, The L.A. Times, The Nation, The Redwood Coast Review and Catamaran.

George Herms

George Herms celebrates the release of his new book, The River Book, at City Lights Bookstore with a guest appearance by Diane di Prima.

The River Book is thgeorge-herms-the-river-book-2(1)e first-ever comprehensive publication on acclaimed and pivotal California assemblage artist George Herms (born 1935). The handsome, two-volume slipcased book covers his earliest works from the 1960s, through his influential assemblages from the 1970s to today, as well as his work on such films as Easy Rider, his set designs for poet and playwright Michael McClure and dancer/choreographer Fred Herko, and his fascinating collaborations with, among others, Diane di Prima and Wallace Berman, for his LOVE Press series of hand-printed books. Interspersed throughout are comments by Herms on various works and on his creative ethos. Also included is a trove of never-before-seen archival photographs of Herms’ friends, such as Wallace and Tosh Berman, Fred Herko, Diane di Prima, Kirby Doyle and Ray Johnson, as well as of Herms himself. A bonus DVD showcases the entirety of Herms’ opera The Artist’s Life. Renowned art critic Dave Hickey provides an insightful look at the artist and his milieu, and the artist himself offers witty and informative text throughout. This is truly an essential book for anyone interested in California art, the Beats, avant-garde theater and film, and fine-art printing.

Ian Svenonius discusses Supernatural Strategies in Popular Music

Supernatural Strategies for Making a Rock ‘n’ Roll Group: a how-to guide (with illustrations)

from Akashic Books

Ian Svenonius’s experience as an iconic underground rock musician–playing in such highly influential and revolutionary outfits as The Make-Up and The Nation of Ulysses–gives him special insight on techniques for not only starting but also surviving a rock ‘n’ roll group. Therefore, he’s written an instructional guide, which doubles as a warning device, a philosophical text, an exercise in terror, an aerobics manual, and a coloring book.

This volume features essays on everything the would-be star should know to get started, such as Sex, Drugs, Sound, Group Photo, The Van, and Manufacturing Nostalgia. The book will also have black-and-white illustrations. Supernatural Strategies will serve as an indispensable guide for a new generation just aching to boogie.

An Evening with Richard Hell

PlayPlay

Richard Hell reads from his new autobiography

I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp

from Ecco

Richard Hell is a poet, musician, fiction writer, actor, and cultural mover and shaker of the first wave of punk music. He was in several important bands of the late seventies that included the Neon Boys, Television, The Heartbreakers, and the iconic punk group Richard Hell & The Voidoids. He is the author of Godlike, published by Akashic Books. Richard Hell has appeared in numerous films. He has exterted a significant inlfuence upon punk and avante garde fashion of the 70’s and 80’s. I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp follows the exploits of the this cultural trailblazer.

An evening in solidarity with PUSSY RIOT!

City Lights and The Feminist Press present An evening in solidarity with PUSSY RIOT! celebrating the release of the new book: Pussy Riot! A Punk Prayer for Freedom (The Feminist Press).

Readings, declamations, and manifestos by: Frightwig (Deanna Mitchell, Mia Simmans, Cecelia Kuhn, Eric Drew Feldman), Daphne Gottlieb, Penelope Houston (of The Avengers), Sophia Kumin, Meri St. Mary (of The House Coat Project), Michelle Tea, and V. Vale (of Search and Destroy & Re/Search Publications).

On February 21, 2012, five members of a Russian feminist punk collective Pussy Riot staged a performance in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. Dressed in brightly colored tights and balaclavas, they performed their “Punk Prayer” asking the Virgin Mary to drive out Russian president Vladimir Putin from the church. After just forty seconds, they were chased out by security. Once a retooled video of the events circulated on YouTube (edited to seem much longer than the actual performance), the state was riled into action. Three members of the collective, Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, known as Masha, Nadya, and Katya, were arrested and charged with felony hooliganism motivated by religious hatred, an offense carrying a sentence of up to seven years. As their trial unfolded, these young women became global feminist icons, garnering the attention and support of activists and artists around the world, including Madonna, Paul McCartney, and Patti Smith, as well as contributors to this book: Yoko Ono, Johanna Fateman, Karen Finley, Justin Vivian Bond, Eileen Myles, and JD Samson. The Internet exploded with petitions, music videos, and calls to action, and as the guilty verdict was anticipated, Pussy Riot responded with articulate, unwavering courtroom statements, calling for freedom of expression, an end to economic and gender oppression, and a separation of church and state. They were sentenced to two years in prison, and inspired a global movement. Collected here are the words that roused the world.

 Profits from the sale of the book go to the PUSSYRIOT defense fund.

An Interview with Catherine Wagner

Catherine Wagner performing at City Lights.

Editor of the City Lights/Spotlight Poetry series Garrett Caples interviewed poet Catherine Wagner before her reading at City Lights at the end of October. She finishes her tour in New York on Dec. 12th at the Poetry Project.

They discussed performance and poetry, connecting with an audience, and the theory of William Blake’s “the bounding line,” which Wagner cites as the inspiration for her newest poetry collection Nervous Device.

“Wagner’s fourth collection contains poems of memory and dark artifice. She writes with an obscure, magnetic lens… the linguistic tightness of these poems are highlights of Wagner’s collection.”—Publisher’s Weekly

Nervous Device is such a smart book. You never know where the poems are going to take you, or when some startling, often cringe-making image or thought will intrude. Unable to settle into a comfortable rhetorical space, these poems reject simple claims to knowing something or doing right or changing the world. Rather, they move like an erratic insect stuck in a language bell jar. Brilliant, and disturbing.”—Jennifer Moxley

“Nervous device, the human machine, palpitating inside its own little bounding lines. These poems do everything the human device does, vibrating like an electrified tornado inside a glass jar, and make this reader profoundly alive to huge swathes of being. There is no machine for mastering the self (yet), but there are Cathy Wagner’s poems.”—Eleni Sikelianos

“The poems in Nervous Device resonate with a knowing nod to time and the difficulty and struggle of being sentient and intimate—of loving while being human. This is poetry connectivity: sexy, poignant, knowing. And the poems here make me feel possible.”—Hoa Nguyen

In Nervous Device, Catherine Wagner takes inspiration from William Blake’s “bounding line” to explore the poem as a body at the intersection between poet and audience. Using this figure as a model for various sexual, political, and economic interactions, Wagner’s poems shift between seductive lyricism and brash fragmentation as they negotiate the failure of human connection in the twilight of American empire. Intellectually informed, yet stubbornly insistent on their own objecthood, and taking a bewildering variety of forms, the poems of Nervous Device express a self-conscious skepticism about the potential for human connection even as they maintain an optimistically charged eroticism.

Gilles Verlant Celebrates Release of Gainsbourg: The Biography

City Lights, in conjunction with Litquake’s Epicenter Reading Series, presented an evening of discussion, music and video with interviewer, Tosh Berman, and author Gilles Verlant, celebrating the release of Gainsbourg: The Biography, July 24, 2012, at the Tosca Cafe.

When Serge Gainsbourg died in 1991, France went into mourning: François Mitterand himself proclaimed him “our Baudelaire, our Apollinaire.” Gainsbourg redefined French pop, from his beginnings as cynical chansonnier and mambo-influenced jazz artist to the ironic “yé-yé” beat and lush orchestration of his 1960s work to his launching of French reggae in the 1970s to the electric funk and disco of his last albums. But mourned as much as his music was Gainsbourg the man: the self-proclaimed ugly lover of such beauties as Brigitte Bardot and Jane Birkin, the iconic provocateur whose heavy-breathing “Je t’aime moi non plus” was banned from airwaves throughout Europe and whose reggae version of the “Marseillais” earned him death threats from the right, and the dirty-old-boy wordsmith who could slip double-entendres about oral sex into the lyrics of a teenybopper ditty and make a crude sexual proposition to Whitney Houston on live television.

Gilles Verlant’s biography of Gainsbourg is the best and most authoritative in any language. Drawing from numerous interviews and their own friendship, Verlant provides a fascinating look at the inner workings of 1950s–1990s French pop culture and the conflicted and driven songwriter, actor, director and author that emerged from it: the young boy wearing a yellow star during the German Occupation; the young art student trying to woo Tolstoy’s granddaughter; the musical collaborator of Petula Clark, Juliette Greco and Sly and Robbie; the seasoned composer of the Lolita of pop albums, Histoire de Melody Nelson; the cultural icon who transformed scandal and song into a new form of delirium.

Gilles Verlant is a journalist, editor, and a TV / radio personality in France for the past 30 years, specializing in rock music and the french chanson. From 1980 to 1990, Verlant interviewed Serge Gainsbourg and had full access to his archives. He has written the most complete biography on Gainsbourg, who revolutionized French pop music in the second half of the 20th Century. Twenty years after his death, Serge Gainsbourg remains the very essence of scandal, sexual intrigue, and music brilliance.

Tosh Berman is the publisher of Tam Tam Books.

Visit: Tam Tam Books

Carlos Aldama and Umi Vaughan Celebrate the Release of Carlos Aldama’s Life In Batá: Cuba, Diaspora, and the Drum

On June 20th, 2012, Carlos Aldama and Umi Vaughan came together at City Lights Bookstore to celebrate the release of Carlos Aldama’s Life in Batá: Cuba, Diaspora, and the Drum. Batá identifies both the two-headed, hourglass-shaped drum of the Yoruba people and the culture and style of drumming, singing, and dancing associated with it. This book recounts the life story of Carlos Aldama, one of the masters of the batá drum, and through that story traces the history of batá culture as it traveled from Africa to Cuba and then to the United States.

For the enslaved Yoruba, batá rhythms helped sustain the religious and cultural practices of a people that had been torn from its roots. Aldama, as guardian of Afro-Cuban music and as a Santería priest, maintains the link with this tradition forged through his mentor Jesus Pérez (Oba Ilu), who was himself the connection to the preserved oral heritage of the older generation. By sharing his stories, Aldama and his student Umi Vaughan bring to light the techniques and principles of batá in all its aspects and document the tensions of maintaining a tradition between generations and worlds, old and new. The book includes rare photographs and access to downloadable audio tracks.

“A solid ethnography, grounded in a rich and dramatic biography, reveals the creative power of the Yoruba drum to communicate sounds and words that are invested with rich secular and religious meanings about people and culture, identity and history, life and after-life. Only a scholar-performer with an uncommon imaginative talent could have written this extraordinary book.”
– Toyin Falola, Distinguished Teaching Professor, The University of Texas at Austin

“Everything you need to know about batá and batá-playing is in this text, expertly taught and philosophically interpreted by Carlos Aldama and his star yamboki (apprentice), Umi Vaughan….I am proud to have read this Afro-Cuban classic.”
– Robert Farris Thompson, author of Tango: The Art History of Love and Aesthetic of the Cool: Afro-Atlantic Art and Music

“What a beautiful duet and deep dialogue between anthropologist Umi Vaughan and his batá teacher Carlos Aldama we find in these pages. We are so fortunate their paths crossed and that we now have the gift of their interwoven story, which makes the meaning of the drum in Cuban history, religion, and culture come alive. . . . This is anthropology carried out with dedication, passion, and trust, and most of all with illuminating grace.” —Ruth Behar, Professor of Anthropology, University of Michigan, and author of An Island Called Home: Returning to Jewish Cuba

Carlos Aldama has made significant contribution to the richness and livelihood of Afro-Cuban music and spiritual traditions. Carlos Aldama is omo Añá (sworn to the drum) and a priest of Changó in the Santería religion. Born in Havana, he was a founding member of Conjunto Folklórico Nacional de Cuba, studying under its original musical director, Jesus Pérez (Oba Ilu), and later serving as musical director himself. He has worked with the National Symphony of Cuba, playwright Roberto Blanco, and Karl Marx Theatre director Alex Valdez, and has performed with Adalberto Alvarez y su Son, Lazaro Ros and Olorún, and Gonzalo Rubalcaba.
Visit his website: http://www.carlosaldama.com/

Umi Vaughan is an artist and anthropologist who explores dance, creates photographs and performances, and publishes about African Diaspora culture. He is also omo Añá and is a priest of Ochun in the Santería religion. He is Assistant Professor of Africana Studies at California State University, Monterey Bay, and author of Rebel Dance, Renegade Stance: Timba Music and Black Identity in Cuba.
Visit his website: http://umiart.com/

Eric Erlandson reading from Letters to Kurt

On Thursday, April 26, 2012, City Lights Bookstore hosted Eric Erlandson in conversation with Andi Mudd, managing editor of The Believer. Eric’s new book, Letters to Kurt (Akashic Books) is a poetic elegy for Kurt Cobain from the man who created the band Hole with Cobain’s wife Courtney Love.

 

Letters To Kurt is an anguished, angry, tender meditation on the octane and ether of rock and roll and its many moons: sex, drugs, suicide, fame, and rage. It’s part Berryman’s Dream Songs, part Bukowski, Ferlinghetti, Ginsberg, and the Clash. Rants and reflections fill these fifty-two prose poems. They are raw, funny, sad, and searching. This will make a beautiful book for anyone who loved Nirvana and Hole and the time and place when their music changed everything. Ultimately, it’s an elegy for Kurt and the “suicide idols” who tragically fail to find salvation in their amazing music.

What has been said about Letters to Kurt:

“Eric was the spirit-boy in the Nirvana/Hole dynamic. Quiet, bemused, intelligent, and curiously intuitive to the power of hugging the devil, to say we will all be okay. The early 1990s were an explosive and defining period of creativity and excitement for the underground punk/post-punk scene, particularly with the manifest poetry of Kurt, who we were so proud to have as a light in our shared time and space. Eric expresses how enchanting Kurt was, how the whole scene was, with his thoughtful, radical adult/prose love. Bring on the future, darling.”
Thurston Moore, musician

“Eric. He was always there: supportive, observing, in the thick of it. Hidden in plain sight . . . Without him, I can’t imagine Seattle or L.A. or a dozen other places. This book is beautiful, brutal, brief. Happy-sad eloquence. Boy Scouts playing with the complimentary cologne in the heart of the ghost town. Listen to the man. He knows.”
Everett True, author of Nirvana: The Biography

Eric Erlandson is a musician best known as the cofounder (with Courtney Love), songwriter, and lead guitarist of alternative rock band Hole. In 1991, Hole released its debut album, Pretty on the Inside, and quickly achieved underground success in the U.S., United Kingdom, and Europe. Erlandson and Love then signed a contract with Geffen/DGC, and with new band members they wrote and recorded their major label debut, Live Through This. The album, ranked by Time magazine as one of the top 100 albums of all time, received tremendous critical acclaim and sold over a million copies. Following the deaths of Love’s husband Kurt Cobain and Hole bassist Kristen Pfaff, the band toured the world in support of Live Through This. In 1998, Hole released the album Celebrity Skin, which also received rave reviews. In 2002, Erlandson and Love officially disbanded Hole. Since then, Erlandson has been involved in a number of musical projects including producing, touring, and songwriting. He has studied creative writing and occasionally reads at various poetry events in Los Angeles, where he lives.

Andi Mudd is the managing editor of The Believer magazine and an editor at McSweeney’s. She was born and raised in Olympia, Washington

Tav Falco with Erik Morse and Jello Biafra reading from Mondo Memphis

On Wednesday, November 9, 2011, Tav Falco, Erik Morse and Jello Biafra stopped by the Fiction Room at City Lights Bookstore to celebrate the release of  Mondo Memphis (published by Creation Books).

Mondo Memphis is a dual, 450-page encyclopedic history and psychogeography of the city of Memphis, written by legendary performer Tav Falco and cultural critic Erik Morse. Mondo Memphis is both an original history of the gothic South and an intertext of the urban legends, rural fables and literary clichés that have made the Bluff City simultaneously a metropolis of dreams and a necropolis of terrors. Mondo Memphis is a major work on American history and culture.

What has been said about Mondo Memphis:”Mondo Memphis, the singular hybrid that is Morse & Falco’s roman noir/history of Memphis, steeps the reader in the most occult nectars of a place, a city evoked in line after tumescent line of haunted prose. Southern gothic ghosts scramble across each rippling page in mad dashes, hurtling across corrugations of text swollen with the satiety of its subject’s past, redolent corrugations tilled up out of a soil engorged with lust, madness, music and febrile civic histories. Plunge into this wealthy and eccentric masterpiece and dissolve yourself for delicious eternities in mythic Memphis.”
–Guy Maddin, film director

“this book is the bible of dixie fried rockabilly psychosis & memphis beat art underground true crime history myth. jam packed with a cast of shamanic visionary heroic characters like alex chilton, james luther dickinson, william eggleston and charlie feathers, tav falco brings to life an alternative history of the bluff city, memphis tennessee, birth place of rock and roll. read it and scream for hell”
–Bobby Gillespie, Primal Scream

Tav Falco is an American-born musician/performer, film-maker, and photographer. He has led the psychedelic rock-and-roll group Tav Falco’s Panther Burns since 1979. Their first LP, “Behind The Magnolia Curtain” (1980), featuring Alex Chilton, is now regarded as a rock and roll classic. Panther Burns still tour the world and release records regularly. Memphis has long been Falco’s adopted home town and spiritual sanctuary.

 

Erik Morse is a renowned American underground author, rock writer and journalist. He is a contributing writer for FriezeThe BelieverBookforum and Modern Painters, and the author of “Dreamweapon – Spacemen 3 and the Birth of Spiritualized“.

The Music And Meaning of Thelonius Monk: An Evening with Robin Kelley

Robin DG Kelley discusses Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original, published by The Free Press

The first full biography of Thelonious Monk, written by noted historian, Robin  Kelley, with full access to the family’s archives and with dozens of interviews. Kelley has been working for years with Monk Institute founder Thelonious Monk Jr., who has granted Kelley access to rare historical documents for his biography. No other scholar has ever had such access and support from the Monk family. This promisses to become a classic reading of Monk to be referenced for years to come.

Robin D.G. Kelley is a professor of history and American studies and ethnicity at the University of Southern California. From 2003-2006, he was the William B. Ransford Professor of Cultural and Historical Studies at Columbia Univeristy. From 1994-2003, he was a professor of history and Africana Studies at New York University as well the chairman of NYU’s history department from 2002-2003. One of the youngest tenured professors in a full academic discipline–at the age of 32–Kelley has spent most of his career exploring American and African-American history with a particular emphasis on African-American musical culture, including jazz and hip-hop. Kelley is also working on two other books: Speaking in Tongues: Jazz and Modern Africa and A World to Gain: A History of African Americans.

This podcast was recorded at City Lights Bookstore on October 29, 2009.