It’s the people one encounters along the way that turns any trip into a journey.
On Wednesday, December 16, the iconic drummer John Densmore joined me for an A Cappella Books exclusive Zoom chat discussing his latest memoir, The Seekers: Meetings With Remarkable Musicians (and Other Artists).
Densmore is the former drummer for the late great Los Angeles psychedelic rock group the Doors. With The Seekers, he reflects on a lifetime spent crossing paths with greatness. From artists such as Elvin Jones to Joseph Campbell, Patti Smith, the Dalai Lama, Willie Nelson, and John Coltrane, his own mother, and more, The Seekers is a rumination on the knowledge that Densmore has gained through various remarkable encounters, and an exploration of his own relationship with art, music, and humankind.
It’s the people one encounters along the way that turns any trip into a journey.
With his latest memoir, titled The Seekers: Meetings with Remarkable Musicians (and Other Artists),John Densmore, the former drummer with the late great Los Angeles psychedelic rock group the Doors, reflects on a lifetime spent crossing paths with greatness. From Elvin Jones to Joseph Campbell, Patti Smith, the Dalai Lama, Willie Nelson, his own mother, and more, The Seeker is a rumination on the knowledge that Densmore has gained through various remarkable encounters, and an exploration of his own relationship with art, music, and humankind.
On Wednesday, December 16, at 7 p.m. Eastern, Densmore and I will talk via Zoom about playing drums in one of the greatest psychedelic rock bands of all time, and the characters with whom he has crossed paths.
On Thursday, November 12, I spoke with Grammy and Emmy-winning author and filmmaker Robert Gordon about the updated 25th anniversary edition of his book It Came From Memphis (Third Man Books).
Originally published in 1995, It Came From Memphis tells the stories of bold and outlandish characters who brought life to the city’s cultural outer limits—characters that likely won’t won’t be found in other books. Yet each one embodies the indelible spirit of Memphis’ haunting beauty. From the 1950s through the early ’80s, DJ Dewey Phillips, professional wrestler Sputnik Monroe, and groundbreaking artists, musicians, and outsiders such as Alex Chilton, Furry Lewis, Tav Falco, Misty Lavender, Jim Dickinson, and more, are bound by an impressionistic thread, forever weaving them together in time and place. Gordon’s blend of interviews, spellbinding ruminations, and first-hand accounts come together in tales filled with gritty realism and spectral Southern ambiance.
A Cappella Books presents a virtual event with award-winning writer and documentarian Robert Gordon to celebrate the forthcoming 25th Anniversary Edition of his captivating deep-dive into the cultural underground of the 1950s Memphis arts and music scene.
Gordon will join Atlanta music writer and Smithsonian Folkways editor Chad Radford for a Zoom discussion of the updated and revised It Came from Memphis, published by Jack White’s Third Man Books. The interview will be followed by an online Q&A session, and is free and open to the public.
The updated and revised 25th Anniversary Edition of It Came From Memphis features more than 80 new photos, a new layout, an updated text featuring more voices, and forewords by Peter Guralnick and Hanif Abdurraqib.
The specter of nuclear annihilation that hung over the Reagan era feels somewhat quaint now, in light of just how much President Trump’s draconian administration, the global pandemic, and the oppressive grind of social media have twisted up the American psyche circa 2020. Still, the 1980s were a fertile time for punk rock’s cultural growth on American soil.
In We’re Not Here to Entertain: Punk Rock, Ronald Reagan, and the Real Culture War of 1980s America, author and Connor Study Professor of Contemporary History at Ohio University Kevin Mattson delves into the golden era of hardcore, punk and DIY culture blooming in the shadow of the Gipper. Countering the oppressive forces of a conservative White House regime, a community bound by the music of groups such as the Dead Kennedys, the Dils, Minor Threat, the Avengers, Hüsker Dü, Bad Brains, Black Flag, and more was compelled to enact empowering social change that still resonates around the planet.
On Tuesday, September 29, Mattson will join GSU history professor and author John McMillian (Smoking Typewriters: The Sixties Underground Press and the Rise of Alternative Media in America, Beatles vs. Stones) and yours truly, music writer and editor Chad Radford, to discuss the book, the music, and more.
Mark your calendars now, folks. On Thursday, September 24, at 6 p.m. Eastern Time, I am talking with journalist, author, archivist, and commentator Paul Gorman about his epic new biography, The Life and Times of Malcolm McLaren. It’s an 855-page book—I don’t know that I’ve ever read an 855-page book in its entirety (although Ulysses and Gravity’s Rainbow come close). McLaren carved a singular place for himself in history as a clothing designer, boutique shop owner, artist, and as a manager and promoter for both the Sex Pistols and the New York Dolls. Alongside his partner Vivienne Westwood, McLaren was an early progenitor of the punk movement. He’s a fascinating, worthy, and misunderstood subject for such a hefty tome, and I cannot recommend this book enough.
Gorman is an excellent conversationalist as well. Our Zoom chat is hosted by A Cappella Books. Check out the shop’s website for details on how to sign in, and how you can get a signed copy of the book.
In the beginning, Blake Butler’s words hit the page the way Jackson Pollock thrust paint onto canvas. The Marietta-based author’s 2011 breakthrough novel, There Is No Year, unfurls in a multi-hued splatter of chaos in expansion, drawing comparisons to everyone from William S. Burroughs to Dennis Cooper.
Since then, Butler has continually honed his singularly baroque style and voice. His latest novel, Alice Knott (Riverhead Books), is a hypnotic and wildly inventive story about the destructive act of finding meaning in art, and navigating a world that grows more corrupt by the minute.
On Thursday, July 30, at 8 p.m. (EST), Butler will join Atlanta Music writer Chad Radford and A Cappella Books for a discussion of his acclaimed new novel and more.
Chris Frántz is best known as a songwriter, producer, and founding member of Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club. His sprawling and stylish drumming played a key role in pushing post-punk and new wave inflections beyond the commonly held notions of what constitutes rock ‘n’ roll, while always remaining at least three steps ahead of his contemporaries.
In a new memoir titled Remain In Love: Talking Heads, Tom Tom Club, and Tina (St. Martin’s Press), Frántz offers a look inside his storied life, recalling tales of meeting Talking Heads singer and guitarist David Byrne while studying at Rhode Island School of Design in the ‘70s, and shaping new facets of creativity in popular music alongside his wife and bass player Tina Weymouth.
On Wednesday, July 22 at 8 p.m. (Eastern), A Cappella Books hosts Frántz in a Zoom conversation with yours truly. We’ll discuss everything from reconciling art and live music on stage and scoring hits with Talking Heads songs such as “Psycho Killer” and “Burning Down the House” and Tom Tom Club’s “Genius Of Love” and “Wordy Rappinghood” to life in the modern world.
Our interview will be followed by an online Q&A session with everyone who tunes in. Tickets are limited to 100 guests. Pre-order a signed copy of Remain in Love via A Cappella Books to receive your private invitation via email. Signed copies of the book will arrive via shipping or local delivery (where applicable) shortly after the interview.
Since the arrival of his 1983 debut LP, Life’s A Riot With Spy Vs. Spy, Billy Bragg has carved a singular path through England’s songwriter landscape. With songs such as “A New England,” “Levi Stubbs’ Tears,” and “There Is Power In A Union” Bragg draws equally from Woody Guthrie’s working-class Americana anthems and Joe Strummer’s indomitable punk spirit to flesh out his own distinctly British take on love songs and left-wing politics. His songs are bound by punk’s instincts and intellect, but every melody resonates with warmth and human compassion.
Bragg is also the author of several books, including his two most recent titles, The Three Dimensions of Freedom and Roots, Radicals, and Rockers: How Skiffle Changed the World (Faber & Faber). The Three Dimensions of Freedom functions like a good power-pop song. Bragg strips away any unnecessary verbiage to riff on the nuances and responsibilities that freedom of expression requires in a healthy society: liberty, equality, and, most importantly, accountability. It’s a Pocket-sized counterpart to Roots, Radicals, and Rockers, which offers a deep dive into the phenomenon of skiffle—the U.K.’s proto rockabilly phenomenon—that swept over the U.K. in the wake of World War II.
Although each of these books delve into wholly different realms of writing and research, each one is connected by a subconscious arc that is the need for human expression, from the personal to the political—from Lead Belly writing songs to governors in the 1920s begging for a prison pardon in Roots, Radicals, and Rockers, to exploring how post-Internet perceptions of freedom of speech have evolved in the U.S. and the U.K.
After calling off an Australian tour to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak, on May 6, Bragg joined me via Zoom for an A Cappella Books-sponsored conversation and audience Q&A. Press play above to view our discussion about the influence of punk rock on Bragg’s music and writing, the idea of separating the art from the artist, and the enduring power of empathy.