David Fricke's Year in Rock 2017

Tom Petty's final tour, Phish's Bakers Dozen, the rebirth of the Dream Syndicate and other musical highlights from the year that was

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Two Rock Memoirs
12
8/12

Two Rock Memoirs

In Love With These Times: My Life With Flying Nun Records by Roger Shepherd (HarperCollins); Four Strings, Phony Proof and 300 45's: Adventures from Roxy Music, Sparks & Milk 'N Cookies by Sal Maida (HoZac)

Few record labels have summed up a scene so jubilantly, on such a thin dime. But Flying Nun – founded in 1981 by Roger Shepherd in Christchurch, New Zealand – went even further, propelling that nation's post-punk generation of bands, besotted with Television and the Velvet Underground, to international prominence. If the Clean, the Verlaines and the Chills, to name a few, were the R.E.M.'s of their hemisphere, Flying Nun was its Elektra and Stiff Records combined, exporting the excitement with aesthetic certainty and democratc, if helter-skelter, business ideals. Shepherd tells his story – including the mistakes that cost him the label for a time – at a natural, conversational gait packed with colorful, at times sobering asides on New Zealand punk-rock nightlife and educational details on the dollars and sense of going indie. Read this before you take your next demo tape to a pressing plant.

Sal Maida's memoir of his unique trajectory – from growing up amid wise guys in Little Italy to playing bass with Roxy Music, Sparks and the Long Island glam band Milk 'N Cookies – is a breezy, sharply drawn portrait of life in the nearly-star-time lane. Maida recalls a 1969 holiday in England – catching Yes at the Marquee in London, the Hollies at a prom – with wish-you-were-there immediacy; his accounts of Roxy Music and Sparks at large in the Seventies capture the grind with the glory. As to those 300 45's: The final third of the book is Maida's capsule reviews of his favorite singles from the eras here – one per artist, in no particular order. He is an astute advocate, too, as in this summary of Procol Harum's "A Whiter Shade of Pale: "They basically rewrote [Percy Sledge's] 'When a Man Loves a Woman' and cast it in a Blonde on Blonde setting." I can't say it any better.

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