Daily Archives: February 14, 2009

Sometimes (Not) A Great Notion


Eric James Abbey, © 2006 McFarland Press



Reading a bad book is painful enough. Getting excited that a book covering a favorite topic exists, andthen  realizing it sucks? Priceless


Where do I start with this mess? The ham-fisted description of what “underground” means and how bands who don’t try to sell out upon conception are cool? That his favorite band is really neat because they don’t condone fighting or stealing girlfriends from other musicians? That The Hentchmen, The Gories and The Hard Lessons are mentioned but The Detroit Cobras and Mick Collins are barely discussed and The Paybacks don’t even rate a mention? That the major motivation for forming a garage band was rejecting capitalist thought patterns (!), not having fun and getting laid?


Waffling throughout, first The Who isn’t an integral part of the British Invasion. Two pages later, they’re the apex of the movement. Another two pages and they’re out again. Some obvious points (garage bands draw influence from the past as opposed to the present) are repeated breathlessly, while true critical observations are avoided altogether. Unsubstantiated claims, lyrical misinterpretations, geographic myopia…it’s all here, folks, even embarrassingly amateur editing and proofreading. My eyebrow arched when I read the name “Phil Specter” early on, but when I got to “Jimmy Hendrix”, I had to stop reading.


Maybe Abbey likes Detroit, likes the music and appreciates the bands. Great – so do countless other people. The irony here is that he got a book deal and delivered a faceless, boring piece of crap; in his own way, he is that corporate, soulless product that better writers – er, garage bands – are rejecting with their art.


Here are just a few of the points that our author is unable to comprehend:


(1)     All bands are underground until they become popular

(2)     A “scene” happens when a multitude of good music occurs simultaneously

(3)     The Small Faces were anything but an obscure act

(4)     If you are going to talk about the Pacific Northwest garage scene and not mention The Sonics or The Wailers, stop writing

(5)     People weren’t sitting on their collective asses in Detroit waiting for the garage scene to save them. Detroit rocks 24/7


I should have been tipped off, though. Any book that spends an eleven page introduction (eleven!) explaining what the following chapters are about is suspect from the start. If you have to explain what I’m about to read, you’re either an idiot or you’re discussing a David Lynch film. (Note: this book does not discuss David Lynch).


The one redeeming factor is the author’s man-woody for The Sights, a criminally unknown band whose influence is three parts Small Faces and two parts urban soul. If somehow this book – or my reaction to it – makes one  person pick up a Sights album, then the terrorists did not  win.


Most editors are failed writers – but so are most writers.  ~T.S. Eliot

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