Thursday, February 03, 2005

Two more books down and another (by a certain friend of mine) is imminent.

Book #4 is Peckinpah: The Western Films - A Reconsideration by Paul Seydor.

Peckinpah: The Western Films--A Reconsideration

As I understand it, Seydor's book originally came out roughly when Peckinpah had finally burnt his reputation to the ground with Convoy. Without it, we might not have the lovingly restored version of The Wild Bunch or the shockingly restored version of Major Dundee that is apparently making the indie cinema rounds these days. Personally, I find Seydor's analysis brilliant, if a bit technical in parts (I know that Professor Seydor is an editor, but some of his discussion of Peckinpah's editing is too overcooked for a layman like me -- Gary Mairs says it more succinctly in his essay). I wish I'd read this before I wrote about Major Dundee for the High Hat because Seydor says the points where we agree better and leaves me with a higher burden of proof when addressing our disagreements. Seydor's only comment about the High Hat's Sam Peckinpah issue was a dismissive note about an overly friendly approach some of the writers (myself included) used when discussing Peckinpah the Man. After reading his book, I can understand his lack of warmth towards my clumsy essays, but I'm baffled about his lack of enthusiasm for the other essays, some of which remain the smartest I've ever read on the subject.

Book #5 is very short. In fact, I read it in a single day, partially while waiting for something to happen at my job and partially while in bed and listening to the subject of the book: The 33 1/3 book The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society by Andy Miller (thanks to the man they call "DX Machina" for my copy).

At 128 very small pages with regular-size type, TKATVGPS is more pamphlet than book. That said, I still need the numbers in this 50 book challenge, so I'll take it. Continuum's 33 1/3 series has writers and musicians writing about albums they love, and TKATVGPS (the album) is certainly a worthy subject for such a book, being one of the finest albums ever recorded. As much as I've loved this album in my life, my personal connection to it is even greater since I played in a cover band last year that did this album, start to finish, and pretty much nothing besides.

Miller discusses the circumstances surrounding the album's recording (the Kinks in crisis point, unable to tour America, and bassist Pete Quaife about to quit the band) and the themes of the songs. TKATVGPS is a concept album about memory and regret, one of the best examples of idiosyncratic songwriting and point of view with a inestimable influence on indie rock, with a few tracks that veer from the main concept into loosely-connected character studies. Forget Lola and Arthur, this is Ray Davies at the top of his game.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of Miller's discussion was the context for the least-coherent song on the album, "Last of the Steam-Powered Trains." Miller argues that the "Smokestack Lightnin'" riff was intended to lightly mock the British bands, contemporaries of the Kinks, who got their start playing American blues songs and later embraced pop songcraft. Like the best of Ray Davies songs, though, the sarcasm is underscored by a deep humanity and compassion for the subject. Although the singer lives in a museum, he's driven insane by all the peaceful living because he simply wants to be a good old renegade.

Anyway, enough dancing about architecture. Miller's book was a fun, short read about an album that belongs in every music fan's home.


Alyssa 2:31 PM, February 07, 2005  

I might have to add Peckipah to my list now. I read a tremendous amount of non-fiction stuff about film last year and have been taking a break. But this sounds interesting enough - and I did dip back in to read Hick Flicks which I enjoyed immensely.

I can pay it the highest compliment in that it reminded me very much of "Profoundly Disturbing" by Joe Bob Briggs, a book which I also enjoyed very much.

Anonymous 12:23 PM, February 08, 2005  

Go for it! Although I'm legally obliged to say that the High Hat's guide to Peckinpah is the only one you need.

My review of Monsignor Von D's magnum opus is posted, too.

Hayden Childs 12:53 PM, February 08, 2005  

That was me, not intentionally anonymous.

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