Posts Tagged ‘Andre Norton’

We have a thing in our house called the Andre Norton Effect. The Andre Norton Effect states that you can read and enjoy an Andre Norton novel as an adult only if you read and enjoyed the same novel as a kid. Nostalgia always forgives. The Andre Norton Effect explains a range of mysterious activities; for example, why I still like Billy Idol’s “White Wedding,” a song that by any objective standard is a speed bump in the forward path of musical progress.

So if in this series I have trampled upon someone’s favorite band from their youth, I’d like to apologize. If, for example – and I’m speaking at random here and not from intimate knowledge of anyone I know but rather I am proposing a fictional composite – you loved folk music as an idealistic college student a certain number of years ago and you worked hard after school serving espresso coffee to beatniks at the Sugar Shack and you spent your meager paycheck on, say, an album by We Five, then you perhaps took offense at certain observations I made about the lads. And if I had had your experience, I might never have said what I said. But I lack your experience, which is why I basically said that they suck. Sor-ree.

Out already
Two disqualifications this evening:

V6
This Japanese boy band debuted in 1995 singing covers of popular “eurobeat” songs. (Eurobeat means disco updated for the new millenium.) Each V6 member is assigned a color for life, and apparently they are in V6 for life – the oldest boy is now 43. I’m disqualifying them because the whole concept is terrifyingly stupid.

Temperance 7
The Temperance Seven
The New Temperance Seven
The Temperance Eight
This is all the same group, formed in Britain in 1957. They split in the ’60s; when they reformed in the ’80s they called themselves The New Temperance Seven and then expanded to The Temperance Eight. They played jazz and engaged in low comedy.

The Temperance Industrial Complex interest me only because I read that they had a hit in 1961 with “You, You’re Driving Me Crazy.” The producer was George Martin and that was his first trip to the number-one spot. It’s kind of New Orleans-y. Their singer, Whispering Paul McDowell, has listened to too much Rudy Vallee. “Whispering” is a great nickname…but not for a singer.

OK. Let’s go 6!

Apollonia 6
Prince had a trio of female singers named Vanity 6 who became Apollonia 6 when Vanity was replaced by Apollonia. I never dated anyone named Apollonia or Vanity. I never even went to a party where they had Apollonias and Vanitys. Apollonia 6 released one album, Sex Shooter (1984), featuring the title cut, “Sex Shooter” (“I’m a sex shooter/shootin’ love in your direction/I’m a sex shooter/come and play with my affections”). Their songs are Prince’s leftovers. Watch their videos with the sound off.

The 6ths
This is a side project of indie-god Stephin Merritt, who writes emo kinds of songs and then gets other indie-gods to sing them. Merritt released albums in 1995 (Wasp’s Nest) and 2000 (Hyacinths & Thistles). I’m not sure whom to compare The 6ths to, except maybe the Paisley Underground bands I mentioned the other day when I listened to The Three O’Clock. Wasp’s Nest has grown on me over the years.

Six By Seven
Allmusic.com describes them as “drone pop.” I don’t usually understand Allmusic’s descriptions, but this one I totally get. The five Brits in Six By Seven are the musical equivalent of an airliner waiting for its turn to take off. You never leave the runway but the engines stay revved. They occasionally do better on songs such as “Candlelight” (The Things We Make, 1998), but even there it never completely takes flight.

Sixpence None the Richer
Normally, I avoid Christian rock like the 10 plagues. So it’s only because of this project that I found myself voluntarily listening to Sixpence None the Richer. Sixpence broke into the mainstream with “Kiss Me” (1999), which was featured on Dawson’s Creek, which I guess was some kind of Young Adult cultural launching pad. It’s OK. The chiming guitars sound like LA in 1983 or like someone has thrown a blanket over R.E.M.

Sixpence gained more attention with covers of two British bands: “There She Goes” by The La’s and “Don’t Dream It’s Over” by Crowded House. These pleasant interpretations don’t stray far from the originals. Sixpence None the Richer is sort of like Coldplay; just turn down the intensity and turn up the God. If I ever do a project on bands with money in their names (Cash Money Millionaires, 50 Cent, Pennywise, The Dimes, Nickelback, Ke$ha, Buck Owens) I’ll give them a second listen.

7 Seconds
They started playing their brand of unlistenable punk in the first wave of California punk bands in the late 1970s and here they are in 2013 still playing their brand of unlistenable punk. Founder Kevin Seconds is still with the band. Major points to Kevin for doing what he loves to do for 34 years, even if what he loves to do is unlistenable.

7 Seconds of Love
Another comedy act, like Four Bitchin’ Babes, but with rock rather than folk. Quizno’s uses their music in their commercials. I know I’m falling down on the job here, but their music is not on Rhapsody and I didn’t feel like trolling YouTube. I’ll wait until a Quizno ad turns up in a show I’m watching.

L7
More LA punk, this time from a gang of women who have no problem with throwing a used tampon from the stage. Their album that found the greatest acceptance was Bricks Are Heavy (1992), which spawned the alt-rock Top 10 hit “Pretend We’re Dead.” Bricks Are Heavy came along right after Nirvana and was produced by Nirvana producer Butch Vig. Yes, L7 benefited from the grunge groundswell, but they’re just as good as Alice in Chains or Temple of the Dog. “Everglade” and “Shitlist” were ’90s anthems. “Pretend We’re Dead” is not only infectious, it even has fun with words (“What’s up with what’s going down?”).

Unfortunately, the singers, Suzi Gardner and Donita Sparks, sound like they’re shagged out following a prolonged sqauwk. Actually, they sound like a very tired Joan Jett. If only Jett or Pat Benatar had sung this set….As it is, the album is locked in its era and not aging well, but “Pretend We’re Dead” will always sound good and “Everglade” is still a great driving song.

Crazy 8’s
I came close to disqualifying them, as they were never with a major label and are almost unknown outside of the Pacific Northwest. But their music is available on Rhapsody, and Special D and I saw them in Seattle in 1988 when they sang “Let’s get naked!” and we could see how hopeful they were that people actually would get naked. (They were disappointed for probably the one millionth time.) So I’m leaving them in.

If you like The English Beat, General Public, and The Specials, try Crazy 8’s, especially “Scratch & Claw.” Their best songs are collected on Still Crazy After All These Beers (2000). Whether you get naked or dress in business casual is your business.

8Ball
The only thing I can say about this Southern rapper is that his birth name is Premro Smith, and why did he think he needed a new name when he was already Premro? Try being born as Steve and see what that’s like! I can only dream of a name like Premro.

Nine Inch Nails

10cc
They started out in life as Hotlegs, a group of guys from Manchester with an impressive history involving The Yardbirds, The Hollies, Herman’s Hermits, Jeff Beck, and Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders. They scored a hit in 1970 with “Neanderthal Man,” which is one fun song, and became 10cc after signing with Jonathan King and being renamed by him.

(Apparently, when Jonathan King went into action, his partner could expect approximately 10ccs at the finish. Loyal Reader Bill Seabrook claims this name came to King in a dream. What an odd coincidence – I have the same kind of dream!)

10cc wrote literate lyrics for pop music that makes me ill. “Donna” is a 1972 doo-wop satire that I can’t stand. “Rubber Bullets” was another hit in 1973 and another swipe at the ’50s. It sounds way too much like ELO.

They were a smash in the UK, but they didn’t break into the US charts until 1975’s “I’m Not in Love,” which I heard every night at the restaurant where I worked as a dishwasher and back-up cook. I can’t hear it today without smelling something I’ve left too long on the grill. I’m going to stop here, even though they still have two more super explosive smash hit explosions that I would prefer to forget: “The Things We Do for Love” (1977) and “Dreadlock Holiday” (1978).

10 Years
10 Years is a ’90s alternative band that made the mistake of not forming until 2002. “Wasteland” (Autumn Effect) would’ve sounded spectacular in 1995 instead of derivative in 2005. “Beautiful” (Division) was another hit for them, this one in 2008. I would’ve enjoyed it more in 1998 before I heard a hundred other similar songs. If you’re into slow-moving, immensely heavy guitars, you might dig these guys, or you might want to stick with Tool.

Ten Years After
My feeling about Ten Years After is that they never had the material to match Alvin Lee’s guitar skills. Eric Clapton has had this problem for about 40 years. “I’d Love to Change the World” (1971) is a trippy souvenir of its time with a dynamite guitar line. “Good Morning, Little Schoolgirl” (1969) would be difficult to play today, now that we’ve learned that grown men should not be initiating sexual relationships with females who are still using Hello Kitty notebooks. “Love Like a Man” (1969) is a blues-rock hybrid that would’ve fit right in on a Led Zep or even a Steppenwolf album. In fact,  “Oo You” on McCartney (1970) sounds a lot like it, only it’s better.

Ten Years After is best known for “I’m Going Home.” It was one of the highlights of Woodstock, though at 11 minutes there’s a lot of filler to wade through. The fireworks don’t start until the 8-minute mark. The album version, which is half that length, still rocks today. At times it sounds as if Lee is trying to update Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock”!

Stonedhenge is the perfect name for an album released in 1969.

Tomorrow night: 12 through 80!

[Note: You’ll find the extended party remix of this post at The Nervous Breakdown. -Yours truly, RDMS]

There have been many crucial years in the forward lurch of humanity but I’d like to have a few words with you today about one of the biggest: 1971. For those of you who might argue for a showier year with zeroes in it or repeating decimals let me remind you that in 1971 Led Zeppelin released “Stairway to Heaven.”

I could stop right there and send you all home early, but 1971 was also the year that I learned how to drive. This knowledge was of considerable help to me in dealing with females of my species. But the point I am at last coming around to is this: In 1971, in my summer school English class, my favorite teacher suggested a way to read more books: Keep a list.

Roland had been keeping his own list of the books he’d read since the 1940s, and I’d like to think that the teacher who started Roland down this path had a list that stretched back to the 1920s, and that there was a teacher before him and one before him and so on and thenceforth until we’re back watching Gutenberg knock out his first bible.

Just when you thought no one could have this much fun
This year my list of all the books I’ve read celebrates its 40th anniversary, which will be duly recognized here at the Bureau with cake and ice cream. This milestone seems like the appropriate time to review some highlights from my reading history and see if we can learn what makes fiction worth staying up for till 2am. Fortunately, in the perpetual battle to decide who are the all-time greats in the heady world of novel-writing we have two useful yardsticks to work with:
1)      Music
2)      Sex

Applying these measures to my list uncovers questions that have long stumped the experts, so don’t expect any answers here. For example, why was it that F. Scott Fitzgerald, who chronicled the Jazz Age, never chronicled jazz? How did John O’Hara (Butterfield 8, Appointment in Samara) sneak all that illicit sex past the censors of his era? Why do Franz Kafka’s characters invariably play the accordion?

How many writers are on my list, you ask?
I’m not about to answer this question. I don’t know the answer to this question. I was planning on another 40 years of reading before I added it all up. (And if you think I’ve gone over the top with this particular hobby, I refer you to the gentleman behind What I Have Read Since 1974.)

Rest assured I am not about to embark on a survey of the entire list, primarily because I’d have to explain my early infatuation with Andre Norton. For the purpose of this review I am restricting myself to the writers I loved so much that I’ve read more books by them than anyone else.

The results of my studies surprised me, as music and sex in literature appear to be mutually exclusive, unlike in real life, where it’s been my observation that music often makes sex appear. In literature the one seems to drive out the other, except in those sorry cases where they both evaporate. An incisive examination of the five writers at the head of the class will show you what I mean.

My most read writer of all time: C.S. Forester
C. S. Forester was the creator of Captain Horatio Hornblower, The African Queen, and various other historical novels where something explodes, usually after being struck by a cannon ball. Capt. Hornblower could navigate a sloop through a monsoon with nothing more than a circus tent nailed to a broomstick and everyone on half rations and a spoonful of rum, but he couldn’t make heads or tails of music. He was tone deaf. Tone deafness is a terrible affliction that makes every song sound like Boney M’s “Rasputin.” This condition was not shared by Hornblower’s crew, who enjoyed a rousing hornpipe on their way into battle, just as I do on my way into a meeting.

With Forester’s musical credentials looking a bit thin you might hope instead for plenty of sex, but if you are I am withholding your rum. Hornblower and his girlfriend Lady Barbara are not my idea of a liaison dangereuse. The only sex scene I remember in the Forester books I’ve read appears in The African Queen, when Rosie and Mr. Allnut make love in a malarial swamp on a suicidal mission to torpedo a German gunboat. Only the most skilled writer can concoct an erotic scenario of such proportions.

While having sex, Rosie’s breasts grow bigger. I’d like to have a word with Forester about this.

2nd: Robert A. Heinlein
There’s no hiding it. Robert A. Heinlein’s books are a musical wasteland. I can confirm that there is a bad poet in “The Green Hills of Earth” who writes a syrupy little ballad called “The Green Hills of Earth” and then sings it. He is immediately killed by a blast of radiation from the Academy of American Poets.

However, when Heinlein wrote Stranger in a Strange Land he released his inner pornographer from the puritanical confinement of pulp fiction. From then on Heinlein’s books are fairly well swollen with sexual activity, and though most of it is only hinted at or happens off-stage or on the other side of the airlock I’m convinced that Bob blazed the trail for three other writers on my list: Philip Roth (Portnoy’s Complaint), Nicholson Baker (The Fermata), and Judy Blume (Forever).

3rd: Marge Piercy
Now we’re talking adult themes and situations. Marge Piercy wrote several novels set in the 1960s counterculture; the first three, Dance the Eagle to Sleep, Going Down Fast, and Small Changes, were written while the counterculture was happening. These books are packed with hungrily copulating hippies, but her characters are not motivated, captivated, or levitated by music. There is, however, a bad poet who writes a clichéd little ballad about New Jersey and then sings it. It lacks the punch of “The Green Hills of Earth.”

Piercy deserves applause and a government grant for her sex scenes, and Small Changes is so good on every page that it zaps me right back to Boston in 1973. But I must reluctantly mark her down for missing or ignoring the Summer of Love, the flowering of soul, Woodstock, Let It Be, Sticky Fingers, and the birth of funk and metal. (The absence of country rock works for me.)

4th: John Updike
I find it difficult to assess John Updike with the objectivity for which Run-DMSteve is famous, as Uppy is the only writer who ever died and left a hole in my heart. However, we can safely conclude that Mr. Updike is not shy about sex. The first Rabbit book (1960) prominently featured a sex act that’s so common today they have rooms set aside for it at airports but back then could’ve gotten him lynched in your more conservative precincts. If you’re looking for angst-ridden WASPs tangling in the wrong bedrooms, Updike’s the writer for you.

But while his style is musical, his characters are not. They rarely even turn on the radio, though I remember one story where the grownups at a suburban house party put The Beatles on the turntable and danced in their socks. This is charming but this is not a rave.

Rounding out the fabulous 5: Isaac Asimov
I started this list when I was a teenager so you can stop laughing right now. Hands up – how many of you couple the word “sex” with the word “Asimov”? Well that’s just disgusting. Yes I know who you are.

Asimov’s book of dirty limericks doesn’t count because I never read it. Let’s take a gander instead at the original Foundation trilogy. I loved those books just as much as the next teenage boy, but upon reflection I have to ask: Where did those trillions of babies come from? Zappos? And what did they listen to, besides the narrator?

We don’t read Asimov for music and sex, we read him for rockets and robots.

Mission: Impossible?
The harmonious blending of music and sex within the pages of one novel is an elusive goal but I’m here to tell you it can be done.  Exhibits A and B: Roddy Doyle (The Commitments) and Nick Hornby (High Fidelity). My more astute readers are probably wondering why I’m only mentioning them here at the end. There is a reason for this and it’s a simple one: I haven’t read them. I have however seen the movies and I even took Special D to a dance where the band from The Commitments played (“Do ye drink then? If ye don’t yer no good!”). Once I’ve finally bagged these two I’ll be able to determine if they are two of the best books ever written, not counting anything by Andre Norton.

Loyal Run-DMSteve readers are welcome to chime in with their own lists of music-and-sex books. Here at the Bureau we could always use some reading suggestions for the next 40 years!