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The Rock Snob's Dictionary: An Essential Lexicon of Rockological Knowledge Paperback – Apr 12 2005
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From the Inside Flap
At last! An A-to-Z reference guide for readers who want to learn the cryptic language of Rock Snobs, those arcana-obsessed people who speak of "Rickenbacker guitars" and "Gram Parsons."
We've all been there--trapped in a conversation with smarty-pants music fiends who natter on about "the MC5" or "Eno" or "the Hammond B3," not wanting to let on that we haven't the slightest idea what they're talking about. Well, fret no more! "The Rock Snob's Dictionary is here to define "every single sacred totem of rock fandom's know-it-all fraternity, from Alt.country to Zimmy. (That's what Rock Snobs call Bob Dylan, by the way.)
About the Author
DAVID KAMP has been a writer for Vanity Fair and GQ for over a decade, and began his career at Spy, the satirical New York monthly. STEVEN DALY is a Vanity Fair contributing editor, and in a previous life was a rock musician in his native Glasgow, playing drums for the band Orange Juice. Kamp and Daly live in New York City.See all Product Description
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It's safe to assume a pair of rock snobs also wrote it. Only a rock snob could write, and appreciate, entries such as:
"Drake, Nick: ... Was frequently photographed standing dolefully among trees...."
"Eno, Brian: Egghead producer and electronics whiz with appropriately futuristic name and aerodynamic pate."
"Big Star: ... recorded tunes that, while catchy, were too fraught with druggy tension to be commercial -- thereby guaranteeing the group posthumous 'great overlooked band status.'"
"Albini, Steve: Self-consciously difficult Chicago-based producer who... pushes the bounds of rock iconoclasm by wearing glasses and having short hair."
"Parsons, Gram: Southern, Harvard educated, trustafarian pretty boy who invented country-rock...."
It's slim, it's amusing, and sometimes surprising. Who knew, for example, that Shuggie Otis was once offered the chance to join the Stones as a replacement for Mick Taylor? Or that the vocoder was developed in the 1930s as a telecommunications aid? Not me.
Like Dean, this dude who was my shift supervisor at the AutoZone. I remember putting "2112" on the tape player in the garage, and Dean lectured us for 10 minutes about how Ginger Baker and Mo Tucker were better drummers than Neal Peart from Rush (which is total b.s.), and rambled on about some "brilliant" Syd Barrett solo album that no one ever heard about. And whenever "Teenage Wasteland" came on the radio, Dean couldn't help himself from making sure we all knew that the song was really called "Baba O'Reilly". We were changing the coolant on an Impala one day and the owner had left "Metal Machine Music" and a Captain Beefheart CD on the dashboard, and old Dean just about went nuts. When the Impala owner came to pick up his car, you would have thought Dean was meeting his long-lost twin that the hospital separated at birth.
Anyway, there's definitely someone like Dean who was your annoying freshman roommate, a chick you used to date, or you, so this book is awesome. Especially if you spend a lot of time on the can, since this book is broken down into bite-sized nuggets and doesn't require more than 2 minutes of attention at any given time. Rock on.
So, what is a rock snob? Evidently, somewhat to my surprise, I am not. I'm a music fanatic, and I would have imagined that sufficient to gain rock snob status, but apparently not, since the book defines "rock snob" as: "reference term for the sort of pop connoisseur for whom the actual enjoyment of music is but a side dish to the accumulation of arcane knowledge." For me the actual enjoyment of the music has been paramount, so I am imagining that anyone who truly loves the music first is exempt, on technical grounds, from rock snobbishness.
The joy of the book comes from the way they simultaneously elevate and then deflate various figures and artifacts from the world of rock. Many of their characterizations are dead on. I've never understood the esteem in which many hold Burt Bacharach. Folks, it really is just elevator music, and I don't care how much Elvis Costello tries to pump his reputation. The authors write about such figures with wit and derisive humor. The lists that litter the book are marvelous, and usually dead on.
Plus, the book is fun to argue with. If you are a serious fan of music, you will spend a lot of time flipping through to see if your own candidates were included in the book, and a surprising number of the more arcane folks I searched for were to be found. For instance, I was amazed to see that Jim Dickinson, Dan Penn, The Fugs, and the Louvin Brothers showed up. I was somewhat disappointed that several of the folks I would have nominated were not, including: Can, Greg Sage and the Wipers (a monumental oversight), the Shoes, Moby Grape (though Skip Spence gets a nod), Robert Quine, Jack Logan (a shocker), R. Stevie Moore, the Buzzcocks (with an especial mention of their EP SPIRAL SCRATCH), the Mekons, Les Paul, the album HAVE MOICY!, guitar pioneer John Fahey, the Flying Burrito Brothers (though Gram Parsons, of course, has an entry), Rory Gallagher, and Second Edition (Johnny Lydon's aka Rotten project after the Sex Pistols). But like I said, this book isn't about completeness, but humor. There also is a cut off point. Few very recent bands receive a mention, even such crucial Rock Snob bands as Yo La Tengo (which inspired the wonderful ONION headline about a few dozen record store clerks dying at one of their concerts when the roof collapsed, crushing the crowd) fail to receive mention.
In the end, the book really isn't for aspiring rock snobs, but actual rock snobs who get all the references, know all the books and movies mentioned in the lists, and "get" the self-mocking nature of the whole affair. My only real disappointment with the book is that if you have a pretty good knowledge of rock, you aren't going to learn much new. But at least you can laugh about your own pretentiousness about imagining that to be the case.