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A Wizard, A True StarA Wizard, A True Star: Todd Rundgren in the Studio
Paul Myers (Jawbone Press)

With the exception of ‘I Saw the Light’, which remains a staple of oldies radio stations nearly 40 years after release, Todd Rundgren has never been anything other than a cult figure in the UK. For those in the know, this represents a nigh-on-criminal oversight as his ability to push the classic pop songwriting mould into weird and wonderful new shapes has few equals (check out the albums Something/Anything? and Hermit of Mink Hollow, to name just two). But while his own releases have been the subject of widely varying sales figures, his gifts have always been recognised by his peers – hence a successful parallel career as a producer/engineer for the New York Dolls, Patti Smith, Meatloaf, XTC and many others. Indeed, Paul Myers’s pacily-written memoir of Rundgren’s studio life depicts a man with an almost uncanny ability to identify the changes that will make the crucial difference to a song – a gift readily acknowledged by many artists here, including XTC’s Andy Partridge, with whom he enjoyed a famously problematic relationship. As the industry focus has shifted back towards the live arena, Rundgren has produced less new work, but this consistently engaging book confirms that he has made a formidable contribution to recorded music.
David Davies

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ZaireekaZaireeka
Mark Richardson
(Continuum)

It’s no secret that we are jolly fond of the 33 1/3 series of books here at TM-Towers and the 68th release, dedicated to the Flaming Lips four CD folly Zaireeka, shows no let up in quality, in fact Mark Richardson’s little gem is one of the finest releases to date. For those that are unaware of the album(s) Zaireeka was released in 1997 as four separate CDs intended for playback at the same time, which of course meant that four CD players, eight speakers and four hands were required to make it function properly. This was of course an idiotic undertaking, and, as Richardson so ably outlines, also nothing short of inspired. In these days when everything has to fit on nano-sized technology to release a piece of music that needs a small audience to work it is, frankly, brilliant. Richardson joins in with the general theme by breaking the story into four chapters (all with eight sections to mirror the albums tracks), and it does exactly what you would hope these books do, leaves you desperate to hear the album(s), now if I just had three friends…
The Oracle

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Strange Things HappenA Cultural Dictionary of Punk: 1974 - 1982
Nicholas Rombes (Continuum)

Right, first things first, if you are actually looking for a definitive dictionary of punk then this is probably not the book for you as whilst it leads you to believe it is indeed a dictionary – it is after all set out like a dictionary, beginning with the Adolescents and ending with the Zero’s - it only takes some random flipping to reveal Hermans Hermits filed under H, ‘Most Absurd Year In The History Of Rock ‘N’ Roll, The’ filed under M and Jim Jarmusch filed under J (not that we’re taking exception to the positioning you understand, just questioning the subject matter in relation to the stated title). So we’re not talking an encyclopaedically researched tome here - which, let’s be honest, would be bloody dull - what we have instead is a scattergun clatter through Rombes personal musings on punk in both the US and the UK, some of which are spot on, some miles wide of the mark but pretty much all immensely enjoyable reading and any dictionary which includes entries on X Ray Spex Germ Free Adolescents alongside Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow just has to be worth a read. And it is. And you should. Read it that is.
The Oracle

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Rip It Up and Start Again
Simon Reynolds
(Faber)

In the shape of his evocative sortie through rave and dance culture, Energy Flash, Simon Reynolds has already made a contribution to the sparsely-populated bookshelf of great music books. Now he’s gone and done it again, as Rip It Up and Start Again achieves the considerable task of pulling together innumerable strands of creative pop music after the solar flare of punk had burned itself out. Concentrating on the British and American manifestations of post-punk, Reynolds analyses the peak work of bands – Talking Heads, PiL, Devo, Throbbing Gristle et al – who often had little common ground creatively, but who were inspired by punk’s failure to give artistic boundaries a good kicking. The constant stream of record titles and potted biographies that this kind of book demands can easily be rendered dull, but Reynolds’s scrupulous research is matched by a delicious turn of phrase; Cabaret Voltaire’s ‘Fuse Mountain’, for example, conjures up for the author the image of “a crosslegged circle of hippies playing flutes and recorders on a slag heap outside a steel mill”. Rip It Up... is so compelling that the only downside is likely to be a hefty tab at Amazon as you plug gaps in your collection
David Davies

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