This is the last book I ever bought at Tower Books on the corner of Broadway and Land Park Dr., before they and the entire Tower Records chain, which was started here in Sacramento, CA, went out of business this past Fall. In fact, Tower was started in the drugstore (Tower Drugs) that was located in the Tower Theatre building on the other side of Land Park Dr. and Broadway. I grew up just down the street from Tower, and one time there was a garage sale on the corner of 9th Ave, which was the street I lived on, and Land Park Dr. There were a bunch of big, brown, bakelite, tube AM radios for sale, and I bought one for a dollar. Previous to buying that radio (I was probably about seven years old), the only music I really heard were the children's records my parents bought us and my mom's Joan Baez records. I used to stay up at night listening to that radio with its tubes glowing and gently keeping my bedroom a little less dark, and this is how I first heard Motown... first heard rock & roll... first heard the Beach Boys, The Beatles, and Aretha Franklin. I once had a conversation about listening to old tube AM radios with Jon Brion at the Portland TapeOpCon. He theorized that listening to our old AM tube radios gave us a different, better even, perspective from which to hear music than those unfortunate souls who never stayed up late listening to AM radio via vacuum tubes. This rambling has absolutely nothing to do with this book beyond the first sentence, but this kind of "let's connect the dots in a loose way" is similar to how the book is written, making this one of the most enjoyable books on pop culture and music I've read in recent years. One way to describe this book would be to say that it is about two pieces of music-Kylie Minogue's "Can't Get You Out of My Head" and Alvin Lucier's "I Am Sitting in a Room"-which it is. But to say it's about those two pieces of music would leave out maybe 80% of the actual book as those two musicians and pieces of music are just a starting point to discuss nothing less than the history of pop music as we know it. Along the way, Morley slips between fact and fiction and fantasy so often that it's hard to tell sometimes which of the three worlds you might be in, so it's best to just let go and go along for the ride. Since much of the book takes place in an imaginary car speeding towards a city that is Pop Music with different people appearing and disappearing in the car, this is easy to do. Along the way, you will spend a fair amount of time with both Kylie and Alvin along with Brian Eno, John Cage, Erik Satie, and Kraftwerk. Missy Elliot, Jarvis Cocker, Radiohead, and Lou Reed make appearances along with hundreds of other musicians. If you tried to listen to every musician and piece of music referenced in this book, it would probably take a decade. It's hard for me to tell you much more about what this book is "about". Suffice it to say, if you enjoy thinking about music and sound, I think you'll really enjoy reading it. You can download "Can't Get You Out of My Head" on iTunes, but you'll need to read this book to understand "I Am Sitting in a Room". ($24.95 MSRP; www.ugapress.org)
Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.