A Christmas Gift From Popnarcotic.

December 16, 2011 at 9:57 am (Uncategorized)











First of all, to take advantage of this gift, you’re going to need a Kindle, or the free Kindle app for iOS devices or Android.  But c’mon, that’s a lot of you, right?

Second of all, you’re going to need to be a music lover of a sort.  That’s probably a given if you happen to be reading this blog.

So what’s the gift?  Well, waaaaaay back in March I meant to do this and made the purchases and then somehow never got around to giving these out.  Now I find them to be a very nice little e-book stocking stuffer, so that’s what we’re doing.  So yes, this is a Kindle book, and I have 10 copies to gift out to the first ten folks who drop me an email at an address I’ll give in a moment.  I would very much like to see this particular book find it’s way into the hands of folks who’ll appreciate it.  The book is called Music–What Happened.  I personally think it is the best-written and most compulsively readable bit of rock criticism I’ve seen in years and years.  What the author here does is go every year from 1957 through the present and pick out songs that matter to him, songs that have some importance.  The number of songs he discusses from any given year is dependent on only one constraint:  they’d have had to all fit on a single CD.  Thus, some years there are two dozen songs, some years less than that.   The descriptions of each song are brilliantly-written and so sharply-observered that you’ll be diving into your own music collection repeatedly to hear bits and pieces of songs that you maybe missed the first time through.

The guy who wrote this is a music hero of mine, a fellow named Scott Miller.  Miller was the leader and songwriter of the 1980’s band Game Theory, and in the 1990’s and 2000’s that morphed into his sort of occasionally current band The Loud Family.  I’ve met Scott on a few occasions and can attest that of all professional musicians I’ve met through the years, he is absolutely one of the nicest, wittiest, smartest, and most self-deprecatingly hilarious artists who ever picked up a guitar.  He’s also one of the most talented.  Scott apparently has kept a list of his favorite songs of every year since his birth in 1957, and a few years ago embarked upon a project of making CD’s of those songs going year-by-year as a hobby.  That in turn led to this book, which is wonderful beyond any description I can possibly give.  Here, I’ll let Rolling Stone blurb it from their 4-star review:

“Scott Miller was the cerebral indie-pop auteur behind the band Game Theory, whose classic 1987 album Lolita Nation is a head-spinning classic. But he puts a lifetime of musical smarts into this book. The premise is simple: Miller breaks down songs from every year since 1957, more than 1,000 in all. But his insights are dazzling. It’s rare to see anybody say something new about Dark Side of the Moon, which he blames for crummy-sounding records that followed: ‘The managed jazz influence… and sequencer bloops had nations erroneously reasoning, “Who needs big, fat-sounding anything?”‘ When he digs into details that make a song work, he’ll make you want to hear ‘Hey, Jude’ right now—and make you feel like you’re hearing it for the first time.”
—Rob Sheffield in the April 14, 2011, issue of Rolling Stone

Here’s Christgau weighing in:

“The way he describes the songs he loves—some very indie, some anything but—is tremendously suggestive. If only he or some acolyte could spin a worldview around those observations we might really have something to go on.”

Here’s a sample song review from the book, just to give you an idea.  The year is 1960:


“Shop Around” The Miracles

This is really the first record that sounded like the sixties.  The intro–“When I became of age my mother called me to her side”–sounds pointedly old-timey fifties, but then the verse comes in and pow, suddenly you’re in the world of go-go boots and Ford Mustangs.  With the seventh chord accents, busy backing vocals, and out-of-nowhere chord changes going into the chorus, it’s the one song on this list that could almost be on Help! or Rubber Soul.  Speaking of:  another underappreciated sixties architect, George Harrison, was unrestrained in his praise of Smokey Robinson.


There’s tons of great stuff like that in this book, and I highly recommend it to anyone who loves rock, pop, and soul music.

And so, I’ve got 10 of these as Kindle E-books to give away.  The first 10 folks who drop me an email at chris AT (use the @ symbol, obviously) popnarcotic.com get one (if you have another working email addy for me you can hit me there, too).  Perfect reading to while away some free time over the holidays!

Merry Christmas!

(Thanks to the band The Summer Fiction; that’s the cover of their wonderful 2011 holiday single at the top of this post.  Also, thanks to 125 Records for editing and publishing this fantastic book!)


  1. Stu said,

    Great idea! Coincidentally, I sent 9 hard copies of this excellent book to my music-loving friends as Christmas presents this year. If you want “the artifact” (signed by Scott Miller, no less), you can order it from Joe and Sue Trowbridge’s site, 125 Records (dot com). Highly recommended.

  2. Bob said,

    I’m one of the lucky ones to receive this from you. Thanks! It’s been on my wishlist since I first read about it. Can’t wait to dig in. Merry Christmas!

  3. Chris said,

    Just wanted to drop a quick comment to say thanks to all that responded. Hope you enjoy the book as much as I did!

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