Three Imaginary Girls

Seattle's Indie-Pop Press – Music Reviews, Film Reviews, and Big Fun

I got a book you need to read! I'm not selling it, but I'm recommending it.

Please go to your local indie bookstores and ask for the newly published fifth edition of Greil Marcus's "Mystery Train" — often considered and in my opinion inarguably the first masterpiece of rock journalism, which traces the wild, weird, transcendently romantic and often murderous energy of the American story through myths like Stagger Lee and how it all ended up in the storytelling and sounds of Elvis Presley, The Band, Sly Stone, and Randy Newman. Talk about thematic! If that sounds too academic for you, please realize that this was the book that Mick Jones and Joe Strummer read that was largely responsible for a little conceptual experiment of their own — in music, as the "London Calling" double album. And otherwise, Mick and Joe were known for reading fun stuff like New Wave science fiction and Marxist comic books. Scholars they weren't but guys who could translate genius from literary to musical form they were.

It is likely you have already read "Mystery Train," and you may very well own it. Well, Mr. Marcus has done a wonderful job writing up all the CD reissues and new information that has come to light since "Mystery Train" was published again a few years back, as it says on the cover, "Completely Updated Notes and Discographies," and it isn't just a few pages. This edition is way thick and a whole lot of fun — but more importantly, makes a wonderful list of things to check out at the record store, on the Internet, or at the library ASAP. (I had no idea the reissue label Charly did an eight volume series on blues from the Sun Studios, but I am sure scouting for it now …) Just the information alone in the book proper on Harmonica Frank (Elvis's manager's first find, the first white guy he thought sounded black enough to make him lots of money, but it turned out the geezer couldn't) is a terrific read if you HAVEN'T dug into this treasure trove yet.

Yes, this is the same Greil Marcus who wrote up punk and Situationism in "Lipstick Traces" in the late 80s and has done the best job of historically defining Dylan. His debut tome set more standards than his excellent own.