This is a personal post entwined with a book review inspired by a radio interview. In other words, it was a good excuse to write about the Beastie Boys and score a free collection of essays that I was interested in reading. Next up is packing for the move to DC into what I hope will be the warm embrace of Mother Jones. Stay tuned…
Like a discerning vinyl collector in a cluttered record shop, Peter Terzian has assembled an impressive and eclectic group of essayists to reflect on “the albums that changed their lives” in his new book “Heavy Rotation“. There is much to recommend in this literary compilation, especially for those whose towering stacks of books and periodicals hover by a similarly unwieldy music library.
The essays, which include James Wood’s reflections on The Who and Daniel Handler on the Eurythmics, are often more about the authors than the albums. But in the best pieces, such as Martha Southgate’s meditation on The Jackson 5’s Greatest Hits, the music is essential to the story.
“Heavy Rotation” is a tribute to that special moment when an album becomes life-altering, or at least a well-timed salve. Many of the authors recount a time of disorientation or a hormonally fraught period of adolescence, when an album resonated in a very personal way. After finishing this breezy book, my first instinct was to browse my neglected stack of CDs. In one bulky, faux-leather binder I found “Ten“, Pearl Jam’s debut, elegised as a record that “was a matter of life or death” in an mournful essay by Joshua Ferris. Neither he nor I have listened to this album since college.
One soundtrack looms especially large in my own record collection: “Hello Nasty” (1998) by the Beastie Boys.
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