Sunday, April 28, 2013

Tosh Berman reads and signs "Sparks-Tastic" at Book Soup April 29

Ladies and Gentlemen (and anyone else) of Los Angeles, I will be doing a reading/signing/chit-chat for my book "Sparks-Tastic" at Book Soup on Monday April 29th at 7:00 PM.  For those who can't make it to the reading or from some other part of the world, one can contact the store at 310-659-3110 to pre-order a book.  Do enjoy.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Latest L'écume des jours Coming Attraction

Another and more recent preview of Michel Gondry's cinematic production of Boris Vian's classic "L'écume des jours.  My press TamTam Books publishes the English language translation of this novel which is called "Foam of the Daze."  Translated by Brian Harper with endnotes explaining the various aspects of Vian's life during the writing of this wonderful novel.

There will be another translation of this novel published by FSG in the late summer.  That version is based on Stanley Chapman's British translation of L'écume des jours called "Froth on the Daydream," but will be re-named "Mood Indigo" to tie-in with the film when it comes out in the States and the U.K.   Which is not to be confused with an older American translation with the same title.  Both versions were from the 1960's.  "Foam of the Daze" was translated in 2003.

Anyway I have high hopes for the film.  It seems to be an ideal fit to have Gondry to do this material.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

"Sparks-Tastic: Twenty-One Nights with Sparks in London" by Tosh Berman

ISBN: 9780983925583
Published by A Barnacle Book (Distribution by Publishers Group West)
Publication Date: May 14, 2013

In 2008, Tosh Berman--author and publisher of TamTam Books--got on a plane with a single motive: "Sparks Spectacular." It had been announced that the band Sparks would perform all twenty-one of their albums in a succession of twenty-one nights in London...a monumental experience for any Sparks fanatic. Part travel journal, part personal memoir, Berman takes us through the streets of London and Paris, observing both cities' history and culture through the eye of an obsessive Sparks fan's lens. Including album-by-album reviews of all twenty-one albums and beyond, "Sparks-Tastic" defines a place and time in music history that's too defining to be ignored.

2013 Book Tour: 

April 21:  Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.  Rare Bird Booth No. 065.   Signing books from 12:30 to 1:00 P.M.

April 23:  Stories Books in Los Angeles (Echo Park)

April 24: City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco

April 25:  Powell's Bookstore in Portland, OR

April 29:  Book Soup in West Hollywood (Los Angeles)

More to come.....

Right now due to the reading tour that will soon take place, the book "Sparks-Tastic" is available at the above independent bookstores.   Feel free to contact them if you want to pre-order a signed copy of the book by yours truly.

On May 14, "Sparks-Tastic" will be officially released and one can get it on their favorite online shops as well as Independent bookstores through out the U.S.A and the U.K.  Also I imagine various music stores will be carrying this title as well.  And remember, if you can shop at your favorite neighborhood bookstore or music shop please do so.

- Tosh Berman

Monday, April 15, 2013

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Television /Ork's Loft 1974

Television with Richard Hell, Richard Lloyd, Billy Ficca and Tom Verlaine. Recorded at Terry Ork's loft sometime in 1974.    Excellent.

Tosh Berman Reads and Signs "Sparks-Tastic" Stories Books in Echo Park (Los Angeles) April 23

"Vinyl Junkies: Adventures in Record Collecting" by Brett Milano

Obsessions really tells what a person is, and there is nothing more beautiful than a person who collects books or in this case vinyl.  Not CD's mind you, but the beautifully designed object that is known as a vinyl record.   The anticipation of going to a record store or even a yard sale that has a stack of 12" LP''s or for that matter a pile of 45rpm singles is a series of blissful moments.  Brett Milano's "Vinyl Junkies" covers the actual feeling while profiling the collector and their special needs to locate a certain record, or just to be surrounded by the vinyl scent.

The great thing about this book is not about the objective need to find the perfect recording or issue of an album, but the subjective view point of the collector and what they are looking for.  Money is not an issue here, although one character in the book got burned for $2,000, which sounds like he couldn't afford the price in the first place.  But what got him burned is not really the lost of the funds, but the fact he didn't get the record that he desired.   All the collectors interviewed in this book has a specific aesthetic for a certain type of music.  It could be exotica or bubblegum or sound affects records - but all, pretty much reflects on their personality.   A record collection pretty much defines who and what you are to the world.  And to yourself as well.  Milano is very funny and a witty writer.  But the subject matter is extremely serious, and that's the beauty of collecting vinyl.  The mixture of the high and the low and everything in between.  One can read countless books on the subject, because human nature never gets old, just gets more interesting.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Richard Hell's Memoir "I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp"

The beauty of the memoir is not only the writer's life, but also the placement of the story.   For me Richard Hell's great book “I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp” is not only about Hell's life, but also a great New York City narrative.  With out the actual city New York, there would be no N.Y. Punk Rock.  Even though Richard Hell met Tom Verlaine somewhere else, they needed Manhattan to do what they had to do.  And the same goes for the NY Dolls, Patti Smith, The Velvet Underground and for god's sake The Lovin' Spoonful!

Many years ago, via the pages of Andy Warhol's Interview Magazine there was an image by Christopher Makos of Tom Verlaine and Richard Hell sitting close together on a couch, who were in a band called Television.  The image of the two and what they were wearing really caught my imagination.  From that image I became a fan of the band, without hearing one note.  I had imagined what Television sounded like by the various reviews in the underground and hip presses at the time.  I knew it was guitar music and I presumed the tunes were wild yet restrained like their clothing.  Some years later I finally heard the first Television album and the sound was even more remarkable than my imagination.  Around that time (maybe later..) I heard Hell's single that came out on Ork Records and I thought “Oh my god this is great as well.”

Ever since those series of moments, Hell has never failed me.  At the time I thought of Hell as the male version of Patti Smith.  Both were in poetry and books and they captured that poetic rock n' roll look. But all of that is just the surface.  After reading Patti's “Just Kids” and Hell's book, the city of New York is the same, but the personalities are different.  But both of course are extremely over-the-top talents.

What makes Hell so unique is his love for the written word, and I think that is what kicked him to do music.  “Blank Generation,” Love Comes in Spurts” and so forth are classic texts set to music.  A combination of jazz jive with a Beat's love of the moment.   His memoir goes into his songs, but also the faces and names that surrounded him and his creative work.  To this very day, Richard Hell is a remarkable looker, and he knows by instinct the power of the visual and how it would affect his medium.  Which is rock and rock is visual as well as poetic.

The stuff I loved about this book is how he maps out Manhattan with bookstores as pin-drops in various areas of the island.  It is a world that is totally closed in, but with great bookstores serving the imagination and the fuel that lighted the music.  I visited that city and went to CBGB's in the late 70's.  Richard Hell was on the stage, David Johansen was near the entrance talking to someone sounding like a Dead End Kid, and then walks in Johnny Rotten.  How perfect was that for a visitor from Los Angeles who is a Punk Rock fan!  This memoir serves the same hunger and excitement for me.

One thing that stays in my mind is how little one knows Tom Verlaine.  Hell writes about him with great love and horror disappointment at the same time.  A love/hate, but I never get a clear picture of what makes this guitar god click.  And it is not only in this book, but in all books about this period and series of characters.  Verlaine seems to be a ghost in every narrative.  Will there be a day when he will write his own memoir?  Now that can be interesting?

“I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp” is Hell still keeping the high standards of his other books, which by the way are excellent.  The memoir is very focused on the punk rock years, which I think will please the fan out there, but hopefully there will be a second part of this memoir.   Hell is very much of the 20th Century Dandy, and his outlook in life is basically to find pleasure, and his taste in women are excellent.  For those who read and loved “Please Kill Me” this book is an essential part of the big story.

  “I Dreamed I Was...” is the flip side of Patti Smith's memoir, and its a perfect companion piece to that book.  Both books to me are a love letter to what was New York, and how that city played in both artist's world and inspiration.  So yeah I love Richard Hell and I love his memoir.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A Review of Sparks' "Two Hands One Mouth" album

Sparks keep on re-inventing themselves by looking back and then going forward. Here they look at their classic material with new eyes and ears. At the moment they're in the middle of their “Two Hands One Mouth” tour, which also comes with a live album, recorded in Europe. Its a remarkable document/sound on many levels. For one, Sparks never take the easy route. It seems like whenever they do something they go for the hard road – and I am not sure if its a hardcore work ethic or a way for them to honor the process of discovery and seeing if they can pull it off.

Artists tries to bring something new to the table. And for the 21st Century Sparks have been focusing on a theatrical presentation of their music. Either by theater-set performances to actually doing an old-fashioned musical. Here on “Two Hands One Mouth” Sparks become an unusual version of a classic cabaret act. Maybe the bigger picture is them playing at a cave in Saint-Germain des Prés in the 40's or in the middle of Manhattan at a piano bar in the classic mid-century 1950's. But their music is more suited for Carnegie Hall (and with practice they will...) because the work itself is a superb collection of classic American songwriting. I easily put their songs up to the standards of Cole Porter, Gershwin, Stephen Sondheim, and Rogers & Hart.

A live album can work as a souvenir to a show or a memory of an event. Sparks I feel sees this as 'new' work. And it is. “The Number One Song in Heaven” is totally re-worked, but the melody is intact. More hypnotic than the original recording, and also has a strong minimal bent to the arrangement. Its a fresh take on this classic song and it is also my favorite recorded version. Taking the whole album in, one is struck by the sound -which is full bodied. They're playing live (of course) but with no over-dubbing or computer magic on the stage. So in a way its a challenge to work with the limitations. Ron and Russell didn't want to see this as a songwriting showcase or an unplugged performance. The interest is using the limitations and making it into a new listening experience. As well as re-visiting the classic Sparks songbook, for not the sake of giving it a fresh airing, but how far one can take the material and set it in a new landscape.

“Two Hands, One Mouth” should not be seen as a 'live' album of hits. The album is not about a single performance, but how the new arrangements plays with the medium of doing the songs live. To re-think, re-model, and re-do is part of the process, and the finished album is the experiment at work. I call it an experiment because I think their songs can be re-thought on many levels. I am reminded of hearing various Thelonous Monk live albums, where one can hear the process of Monk's thoughts as he plays one of his familiar tunes. And that's the beauty of a performance, where the artist uses his material as a springboard to another level. Sparks' approach is more conceptual, in that they want to tear into their music and re-make it as a new piece of sorts. And the process is important, the fact that they perform these songs live without a band, and having the keyboards doing the keys, and the voice doing the voice – with no additional trickery, except using the skills of a sound-man.

Their “21 Albums in 21 Days” spectacular in London was to me the same thing as Marcel Duchamp taking his life's work and shrinking it to fit in a suitcase. Those series of shows was about capturing not a moment, but to preserve their catalog and if they can possibly do it live with respect to the original recordings. And they succeeded in doing that. For “Two Hands One Mouth” its a work that is not about capturing their songs, but to open them up to see what they are made of, and how the story can be told in a new setting or light. And what they have done with this new album is not only celebrate their songwriting skills, but also to take another journey to see how the works would react to a format that is very structural, yet at the same time it allows the songs to open up in their own fashion.

So yeah, a great album. And I can't wait till I see the show.

Sparks U.S. Tour

Sparks on tour starting tonight in San Francisco.
The remarkable and always wonderful Sparks will be doing their long-awaited U.S. Tour. Starting tonight in San Francisco. Also watch out for their book "In The Words of Sparks... Selected Lyrics." Coming out this Summer.

Sparks Tour Dates

04/09/13 Tue The Chapel San Francisco, CA
04/10/13 Wed The Chapel San Francisco, CA
04/12/13 Fri Coachella Indio, CA
04/16/13 Tue Masonic Lodge At Hollywood Forever Los Angeles, CA
04/17/13 Wed Masonic Lodge At Hollywood Forever Los Angeles, CA
04/19/13 Fri Coachella Indio, CA
04/21/13 Sun Aladdin Theater Portland, OR
04/22/13 Mon Neptune Theatre Seattle, WA
04/24/13 Wed The Trocadero Philadelphia, PA
04/25/13 Thu Highline Ballroom New York, NY

Monday, April 8, 2013

"Stone Free" by Andrew Loog Oldham

I'm totally obsessed with music in all its forms, and I think one of the great relationships on this planet is the one between the manager and their artist.  In other words the manager/producer Andrew Loog Oldham and his artist The Rolling Stones. From 1963 to 1967, Oldham made great records with the Stones as well as building up their public image as the 'darker' brothers to the much lighter Beatles.    Oldham is a visionary who made The Stones into a compelling and fascinating narrative.  He was a genius to market the Stones as the anti-Beatles at the height of Beatle-mania.  Of course it was an illusion, and a great manager/producer should be an illusionist in the seductive pop music landscape.

In his third (and his best) book “Stone Free,” Oldham paints a picture of 1960's pop music world and beyond.  The book is a mixture of memoir with a focus on his fellow 'hustlers' and visionaries.  He writes beautifully on figures such as Serge Diaghilev (early role model for Oldham), Larry Parnes, Albert Grossman, and Allen Klein.

The most moving chapter is on Phil Spector, a man Oldham looked up to and knew quite well in the 1960's.  The downfall of this mighty talent is a mixture of frustration and deep sadness.  Someone with Spector's talent should be wealthy, healthy and still be doing creative work.  But what we get here is the total opposite and it is truly heartbreaking that Spector chose or went on a different self-destructive path.  His chapter on Spector is probably one of the best pieces written on him.  And it is also the saddest.

 Oldham has a keen psychology with respect to writing about his contemporaries.  There are two separate type of hustlers displayed in this book.  There's the bad ass border line thuggery of Don Arden and Allen Klein.  Both had an understanding of power and how to use it.  On the other hand, there is the manager as an artist in the manner they handled their business.  The visionaries in this grouping are Brian Epstein, and the endlessly fascinating Kit Lambert & Chris Stamp, who managed The Who and started up Track Records.   Oldham belongs in that camp with Brian, Kit and Chris in that he sees the world as a large cinemascope presentation.   Music works on many levels, for instance there is the sound, but also the visuals that feed the aural aspect of an artist.

 The beauty of this book is one can hear Oldham's voice, and it is a mixture of showing respect, but still highly opinionated about the music business and the citizens of that world. Oldham was not only influenced by the Fashion industry, but also the world of cinema.  With the Rolling Stones and his books he made a film without a movie camera.  And that is what makes him such an unique figure in pop music.  He visualize the music business of the 60's as a theater piece.  Each actor or hustler has a role, and Andrew totally understood his part in the adventure that was the 1960's rock world.

Oldham has a deep appreciation for his fellow travelers in the entertainment world.   And all of them are deeply interesting figures. Oldham can 'read' people really well, and his ability to put that on paper makes this book such an enjoyable read, and in specific chapters, an emotional experience. Any reader that has an interest in 60's rock n' roll culture must get this book.  In one word, essential.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Interview with Gainsbourg's biographer Gilles Verlant

Yours truly with Gilles Verlant on his fantastic biography on Serge Gainsbourg.
Hear ye, hear ye: New Litcast now out featuring Belgian author Gilles Verlant discussing his biography of iconic French singer and man-about-town Serge Gainsbourg. In conversation with L.A.-based Tam Tam Books publisher Tosh Berman and hosted by City Lights Peter Maravelis.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

"Sparks-Tastic" West Coast Reading Tour April 2013

In 2008, Tosh Berman—author and publisher of TamTam Books—got on a plane with a single motive: “Sparks Spectacular.” It had been announced that the band Sparks would perform all twenty-one of their albums in a succession of twenty-one nights in London…a monumental experience for any Sparks fanatic. Part travel journal, part personal memoir, Berman takes us through the streets of London and Paris, observing both cities’ history and culture through the eye of an obsessive Sparks fan’s lens. Including album-by-album reviews of all twenty-one albums and beyond, Sparks-Tastic defines a place and time in music history that’s too defining to be ignored.

Tosh Berman, author of "Sparks-Tastic: Twenty-One Nights With Sparks in London" (A Barnacle Book) will be doing a small West Coast Reading & Signing Tour in April 2013.   The dates so far:

Tuesday April 23rd; 7 PM
Stories Books and Cafe
1716 West Sunset Boulevard
Los Angeles (Echo Park), CA 90026-3225
Phone number 213-3733

Wednesday April 24th; 7 PM
 City Lights Booksellers
261 Columbus Avenue at Broadway
San Francisco, CA 94133
Phone Number 415-362-4921

Thursday April 25th; 7:30 PM
Powell's City of Books on Burnside
1005 W Burnside
Portland, OR
Phone Number 800-878-7323

Monday April 29; 7 PM
Book Soup
8818 Sunset Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90069
Phone number 310-659-3110