Thursday, February 27, 2014

On Record

I spotted Sean Wilentz's 360 Sound: The Columbia Records Story in the bookstore and thought here's a good idea for a coffee table book.  There's hardly a genre of music this label didn't significantly affect in its long and storied history.  So I opened it up.

First I hit a page on Leonard Bernstein.  The book said soon after his West Side Story opened on Broadway in 1957 Columbia released an original cast album that stayed atop the charts for 54 weeks.  Wrong.  The Broadway cast album--not unlike the show--wasn't a huge hit in its day, and never made the top of the charts.  (Meanwhile, The Music Man, the show that beat West Side Story for the Best Musical Tony, had a cast album that was #1 for 12 weeks.) It was the soundtrack album of the blockbuster movie version of WSS, released in 1962, that set and still holds the record for most weeks at the top.

So I skipped ahead to Bob Dylan. Wilentz notes that he went electric on Bringing It All Back Home, and his song "Maggie's Farm" takes up a whole side of that album.  The song is under four minutes long and only one of seven on the first side of Bringing It All Back Home.  I'm still not sure how Wilentz could make this mistake.  Is he confusing it with "Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands," the entire fourth side of Blonde On Blonde?  Even so, how did no one catch this?

The book is big enough and heavy enough to be a coffee table book, and has plenty of nice pictures, but I wouldn't use it to settle any arguments.


Blogger ColumbusGuy said...

Actually it sounds like a pretty valuable resource. A Guy could win a lot of bets with that book, assuming one could find anyone who knew anything about the artists and was willing to lay down some money.

2:56 AM, February 27, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why is Sean Wilentz writing coffee table books on record companies? Is it like Michael Jordan playing baseball?

3:52 AM, February 27, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Note the Michael Jordan analogy is only meant to apply to the "fish out of water" aspect. Not to his position a history/political writer and professor (though I generally liked his Jackson & Age of Reagan books, I would not exactly refer to him as Air Wilentz)

6:53 AM, February 27, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To anonymous: Wilentz has written a pop culture book before: Bob Dylan in America.

That book had a few factual blows as well. The only one I remember was where he pointed out that Bob at one point is his career looked like one of the Russian aviators from "Duck Soup". The Russian aviators were, of course, in "Night at the Opera."

3:03 PM, March 01, 2014  

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