Dusty in Memphis, Warren Zanes

Back in the 1980s, I discovered Q, a magazine out of England. I really loved Q in that time, as it was so different from the only other music magazine I had encountered before then, Rolling Stone. What made Q different? It actually covered music, rather than culture or movies or politics. I’m not knocking the Stone, as there’s room for all that, but I do think they had lost sight over the years of what their magazine was supposed to be about.

One of the really great concepts that Q had in that time was to create Q sleevenotes: small essays on critically acclaimed albums that could be pulled/cut out of the magazine and tipped into your CD jewelcase along with the normal notes. I liked the Q sleevenotes so much for Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love that it became the cover for that CD, slipped in over the normal cover. Skip ahead a couple of decades and discover the concept of the 33 1/3 book series. Like the Q sleevenotes, the idea behind this is to get folks who are passionate about an album to write a short book-long essay on the album that discusses its importance, history, and meaning for the author. And for those obsessive/compulsive types (i.e., you and me, the kind of people who are interested in reading a book-long essay on one album), they’re even numbering the series, so the urge is to get them all. Hell, I’m so anal, I had to start with number 1.

It’s an unfortunate beginning, because Warren Zanes’ take on Dusty in Memphis by Dusty Springfield had potential. It’s an album that I have listened to several times, and like a few of the songs, but did not understand why it was considered a classic. Zanes’ essay did nothing to further my understanding, nor did it fill in much of the history behind or during the making of the album. Most of the book is spent focused on how Zanes made personal connections to the album’s producer or justifying his choice to focus the book more on himself and his struggle to write the book than on the album itself. I think I learned more about Dusty Springfield on her Wikipedia entry, almost as if Zanes expected that every reader who came upon his book would know the fine details of this nearly-forgotten pop star from the 1960s.

So, unless you’re a completist, you can skip this entry in the 33 1/3 series and move on to the next. We’ll talk about it sometime here in the future.

[Finished 2006]

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