Loveless in Nashville
Sundays, 10–11 PM
Out of the Vinyl Deeps
University of Minnesota Press
A book I read recently that really stuck with me was Out of the Vinyl Deeps, a posthumous collection of essays by the music writer Ellen Willis. She was one of the first widely-recognized female music columnists in a time when few existed. Her long-form thoughts on Bob Dylan, The Who, The Rolling Stones, The Velvet Underground, and what it means to be a fan of pop music were injected with a strong sense of justice, feminism, sexual freedom and an immeasurable depth of understanding and passion about the significance of pop culture and the counter culture as it was happening in the 60s and 70s.
It resonated with me because it’s a reminder that the circumstances of our fight for justice and equality have not changed much in the last 40-50 years; that popular music has always and will always be an important element in any revolution; and that the best conversations about music go much, much deeper than discussions about chords, melody and a clever chorus.
Joe Wolfe-Mazeres &
Double Shot with Joe and Sue
Saturdays, 11 AM – 1 PM
Outlaw: Waylon, Willie, Kris, and the Renegades of Nashville
A comprehensive look at the roots of"Outlaw Country" and more importantly an eye-opening look at Nashville's artistic community in the late '60s and early '70s. Familiar places (Exit/In) and names (David Olney, John Hiatt, Rodney Crowell) show up.
(Joe here): As I read, I kept drawing parallels between West Nashville in the early '70s vs. East Nashville of today — in terms of the creative community. Features interviews with key figures of the era (some well known, some lesser known).
(Sue here): As a Nashville transplant, I loved reading about the rise of the music Outlaw in my new hometown.
Sundays, 9–10 AM
We Were Feminists Once: From Riot Grrrl to CoverGirl, the Buying and Selling of a Revolutionizard Music
I recently read this book and if you have seen me in the past month or so, I’ve probably tried to tell you about it! Andi Zeisler, a cofounder of Bitch Media, writes so sharply in this book about the recent shift in cultural attitudes toward feminism. What once was something to mock is now something to celebrate or feel “empowered” by — and to sell. She takes a hard look at the "marketplace feminism" that is the newest iteration of feminism for sale in the age of millennials, Trump, and the internet, and what it means in the broader history of the movement. How did feminism suddenly become commodified and trendy? Zeisler deftly walks you through her sourced arguments in ways that are both affirming and jaw-dropping. Highly recommended, especially if you are a feminist who wants to reconcile your uncomfortable feelings of seeing feminist slogans on $40 t-shirts while remembering how ostracizing it felt to publicly declare yourself a feminist just a handful of years ago when it wasn’t cool to do so.
Body to Body
Fridays, 9–10 PM
Edited by Adam Parfrey
Unusual. Extreme. Forbidden. This book is a treasure trove of the weird, occult, and the grotesque. You've got an essay on the wolf nature of man (with photos of a lycanthropic seizure,) an interview with a necrophile , Anton Lavey warning us about "The Invisible War," Fakir Musafaron S & M and body play, a personal account of someone who infiltrated The Process (Church of the Final Judgement), and an in-depth look at the sorcerer rocket engineer himself, John Whiteside Parsons. That's just the first 193 pages. Parts of this book even turned my stomach (see interview with Peter Sotos), but it played a huge part in fueling my interest in fringe subjects. This is a tricky book to recommend. It's like telling someone to listen to an early Swans record. It's punishing and fascinating. Get weird and see what happens. Don't blame me if you're not the same though. :)
Thursdays, 7-9 AM
Harvey Pekar / Dark Horse Comics / DC Comics
Who knew there could be so much angst in collecting records? Harvey Pekar did and he shared some of those moments in his autobiographical comic book "American Splendor." Whether it was an ill fated trip to a local radio station under nefarious intent or hustling records off his postal cart at work, Harvey cut to the heart of obsession. These raw stories of a real working class hero with a passion for music transcend the comic book format, elevating it beyond some goody two shoes in underwear and a cape trying to save the world one more time. Check it out!
Loud Love Show
Sunday Nights at Midnight
Please Kill Me
Legs McNeil & Gillian McCain
There are a lot of great books about the history of punk rock, a subject that is tailor-made for the oral history format. Such an unexpected cultural explosion from society’s more colorful characters is best told in the manner of “you had to be there.” This book on the rising New York scene is the standard bearer for the style.
From a trove of unforgettable stories, many dark or at the least, grimy, from now legendary musical figures (many of whom are notoriously difficult interviews) McNeil & McCain fashion an intense feeling of time and place. Readers are not so much told the story of the birth of punk rock as they are thrown directly into it, hearing the music that was produced by the people quoted in their heads as a completed soundtrack. A necessary read for fans & the open minded.
Wednesdays, 7–9 AM
Sick On You
Sick On You is the hilariously tragic tale of The Hollywood Brats, a British glam trash proto-punk band whose big break was always just around the corner. Author Andrew Matheson was the lead singer for The Brats & he pulls no punches in his account of the early '70s London scene. I love a good rock tell-all and this one had me literally laughing out loud. Bonus points for the Cliff Richard cameo.
Fridays, 5–7 PM
Real Poems for Unreal Times
Edited by Neil Astley
Music has gotten me through rough times, and so has this anthology. Staying Alive, so aptly named, presents over 500 poems that grapple with conditions of the human heart and how it feels to be alive.
I've kept this copy on my bed stand for years. It's dogeared as all hell and the spine is cracked so that it immediately falls open to a couple of telling favorites. (Still trying to praise the mutilated world, and master the art of losing. Tough going, both.)
I've lent this book to several friends when I just didn't have the right words myself. I turn to this book when I need someone else to provide solace. And man do the poets in here come through, every damn time.
I can't recommend Staying Alive too highly.
J-Mar (aka Jonathan Marx)
Mondays, 8–10 PM
I love pretty much every book I’ve read by Murakami — and I know there are lots of other folks who feel the same way. Each one is an immersion into a world that feels palpably real, even as it journeys into some alternate dimension or reality. It doesn’t matter that many of his books are variations upon the same theme — in fact, this might be a good thing — because they’re so imaginative and so finely wrought, and they weave together human experience and art and music and emotion in a way that makes the reader feel as though they just might, for a little while, actually inhabit this world, with all of its sensations and anxieties and fears and desires and uncanny connections and redemptive possibilities. (Oh, wait, that actually sounds a bit like our own world.)
So why do I pick 1Q84, when The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and Kafka on the Shore are just as engrossing? Maybe because this book came for me in the midst of what proved to be a challenging year. The book felt simultaneously like an adventure and a companion and a haunted space. There was a week in there when I was bedridden with the flu, and about the only thing I could do was to read this book. I’d sleep and read and sleep and read. I was so out of my mind at times, the book like it was really happening. Enough so that for weeks and months after, I'd look up in the sky and halfway expect to see two moons, which serve as the signifier of Murakami’s alternate reality in this book.
Songs on the Wire
Tuesdays, 10 AM – 12 PM
When I was 21 years old, I took a year off to write a novel. I also read the works of Samuel Beckett, some Dostoevsky and this book here — Ulysses by James Joyce. I managed to get a few short stories written, but the greatness of these books I was reading, especially of Ulysses, left me a bit overwhelmed with the task of being a novelist. I decided I was too young and inexperienced. I needed to get some living done. I looked in the paper and saw an ad for a rock’n’roll band and answered it, putting my career as a novelist on hold 'temporarily.’ Some decades later I still hold on to the dream of writing a novel or three. Maybe if I hadn’t read Ulysses I would have got a whole lot more writing done that year and I might never have become a professional musician. I may have written 7 novels by now instead of making 7 albums.
Wednesdays, 4–5 PM
The Perennial Philosophy
One of the most influential books in my life has been The Perennial Philosophy by Aldous Huxley. My path to the book started with my fascination with the music of The Doors. I learned from Oliver Stone's movie about the band that their name was inspired by Huxley's essay "The Doors of Perception," and the William Blake quote that also inspired the essay's title: "If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is: infinite." That essay is probably Huxley's most famous nonfiction writing, at least partly due to the band and the film. So that was the first thing I read by Huxley, when I was about 15. A few years later I came across The Perennial Philosophy, at the perfect time in my life. Funny how that often happens isn't it?
I was very interested in understanding different religions at the time. I was raised in a Christian home, but my parents were not very strict about religion and we didn't go to church much. I had decided I was an atheist a few years before, because I didn't believe in the concept of God that I learned growing up. However, I thought I believed in something spiritual. I just wasn't sure what yet. I had read the Tao Te Ching, and that really spoke to me. I was led to read The World's Religions by Huston Smith after listening to a speaker at governor's school, and I later learned that Smith and Huxley were friends.
It was The Perennial Philosophy that really introduced me to the concept of mysticism, which I have been fascinated with since, and is a big influence on my radio show, Musical Mysticism, on WXNA. The book is a survey of mysticism as it shows up in religions all over the world. It probably has more quotes than any other book I have read, as Huxley quotes mystics to show the similarities between the insights they have gained through their practices. He also makes philosophical commentary on the passages he includes.
Huston Smith wrote the most concise definition of mysticism I have come across in an introduction to a book of poetry by Rumi, the great Sufi mystic and my favorite poet. Sufism is a mystical sect of Islam. Smith described mysticism as seeking union with God in this lifetime. I find it to be such a powerful concept, and find it unfortunate that most people seem to think this is only something that can come after life, and that only certain powerful figures within religions can communicate with God and stand as gatekeepers between us and spiritual union as they preach from pulpits. Mysticism shows us that anyone can have spiritual union in this life, and fundamentalists often denounce it.
I also find it unfortunate that most people seem to focus on the differences between religions rather than similarities. The Perennial Philosophy showed me that the essence of spirituality is the same across religions, and that the differences are more trivial. It recommended reading the writings of mystics, as well as biographies and academic writings about mystics, which has been a fascinating area of study in my life since first reading this wonderful book. I have referred back to it many times and recommended it to many others. It opened doors to the infinite for me.
POP + LOCK
Sundays, 7–9 PM
That Is All
I first discovered John Hodgman in 2005. He was promoting his first book, an almanac of absurd fictional trivia titled The Areas of My Expertise, on The Daily Show and, it remains one of the silliest, most bone-rattlingly funny five minutes I've ever seen on television. I ran out to buy the book, which details a secret passage lined with skulls found in the Mall of America and a list of 700 hobo names (among other things), and wept laughing.
The third book in this series started by The Areas of My Expertise, That Is All is another almanac of fake trivia and absurdist humor, but surprises the reader with a kind of heart and clear-headed satirical wisdom that speaks directly to the existential core of the human condition. All three of these books are wonderful — especially if you're a fan of the McSweeney's brand of wry comedy — but That Is All is a transcendently funny read that's densely packed with imaginative jokes and insightful satire.
Rick Pecoraro Talks to Himself
Thursdays, 1–2 PM
The New York Review Children's Collection
It's been close to 30 years since I've read this book, and it lives in my mind as something of a foggy dream. I don't fully remember the plot, but I know that it inolves late night TV and lizards and maybe aliens and jazz. There is a young protagonist who finds himself alone and navigating an increasingly bizarre and hidden world.
But what I remember more vividly is laughing a lot. This was the first Daniel Pinkwater book I read. I checked it out from the library during a summer reading program. When I finished it, I exchanged it for a stack of his books, all of which I loved.
Daniel Pinkwater ostensibly writes books for kids and young adults, but I've always felt that his primary audience is mostly the weirdos — which at the age of 8, I considered myself to be.
In a way, Lizard Music was probably my first interaction with alternative culture — the idea that there are some pieces of art that aren't for everybody, that a book or movie or song didn't necessarily have to target the broadest audience possible. There's some magic in the odd and the peculiar, and in this case it involved a group of lizards playing jazz music on late night TV.
Nothin' But the Blues
Fridays, 7–8 PM
Henry David Thoreau
Peter Pauper Press
I discovered Walden at a time in my life where I felt like an outsider. I've since learned to embrace what makes me weird, and I credit that in part to Mr. Thoreau. It may have been written 160 years ago, but I still read it every time I need to remind myself that life isn't about stuff. He has such a beautiful way of writing, and there are so many messages in the book that are easy to forget, perhaps especially in the modern age of technology. It's okay to love being alone as much as you love being around people, it's possible to feel lonely even when you're surrounded by others if you don't open yourself to them, and of course the overarching theme that communing with nature feeds your soul. There are so many amazing lines in this book that to try to pick a favorite is impossible! Instead, I'll share one that is fitting for this event: "Books are the treasured wealth of the world and the fit inheritance of generations and nations. Books, the oldest and the best, stand naturally and rightfully on the shelves of every cottage. They have no cause of their own to plead, but while they enlighten and sustain the reader his common sense will not refuse them."
(Random sidenote: I picked this copy up in a bookstore in a small town in Missouri, and it has a lovely gift message from 1976 written in the front cover — I love that it used to be such "a thing" to do that!)
Drew & Dave
Walk It Off!
Sundays, 11 PM – 12 AM
Boys Will Be Boys / The Bad Guys Won!
Athletes in our major televised sports tend to become larger than life figures in our society. Winning a championship can transform the culture of a city, and long after the champagne has dried, stories about the champions live on for generations. Even those whom success has pushed into the mass consciousness to the point where even non-fans of the sport know their names (or nicknames, or numbers) are relatively unknown as people however. Their personalities, frailties, relationships are largely ignored in favor of on-field achievement and broad stroke off-field events that make headlines.
These two books could only have been written by someone like Jeff Pearlman. The famed Sports Illustrated writer had not only the access, but the respect and the understanding to spend enough time with these teams to document the oversized personalities and antics of champion athletes and write it into a narrative that doesn’t judge as much as the titles imply, but documents actions that are nearly unbelievable and garish, while still remaining in the shadow of the names on the front of the jerseys which the fans will cheer for madly. The names on the backs of the jerseys get the headliner treatment in these books, forging stories of two decades through the lens of two sports and their most outlandish and beloved championship teams.
Fridays, 8–9 PM
Yosemite In The Sixties, Glen Denny, Patagonia Publishing
The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, Douglas Adams, Gramercy
Sound Of The Beast: The Complete Headbanger’s History Of Heavy Metal, Ian Christe, Harper Collins
American Hardcore: A Tribal History, Steve Blush, Feral House
Dune, Frank Herbert, ACE
Chatt Steel/Trad: A Comprehensive Guide to Chattanooga Climbing, Rob Robinson, Rockery Press
I couldn’t think of a specific book so I chose some that define me as a person. I love sic-fi and how authors develop whole cultures, customs and norms from nothing but their imaginations. I love climbing and the history of it. Not so much anymore but climbing was once a underdog, subcultural phenomenon with nothing but dirtbags, vagrants and dumpster divers in it’s ranks living for nothing but the next climb at the next location. Climbing guides show me where to go, how to get there and what to do when I do arrive. Lastly, of course, history books of the music I love and spread to the ears of unsuspecting Nashvillians. Punk rock, hardcore and metal have all played a pivotal role in who I am as a person and how I navigate the waters of this crazy world. Things have advanced, technologically, and print is going out of style but something about turning pages and feeling the paper between your fingers is much more satisfying than swiping a screen. Although, in the end none of that really matters. The main thing is that you’re reading. So get out there and READ!