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"Guided by Voices" "Bee Thousand" (33 1/3) [Paperback]

Marc Woodworth
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

23 Nov 2006 33 1/3
Marc Woodworth's book covers the album's long and unorthodox period of writing, recording, sequencing, and editing. It includes interviews with members of the band, manager Pete Jamison, web-master and GBV historian Rich Turiel and Robert Griffin of Scat Records. At least sixty-five songs were recorded and considered for the album and five distinct concepts were rejected before the band hit upon the records final form. One late version, very nearly released, contained only a few of Bee Thousand's definitive songs. The rest were left out and nearly ended up in the boxes of cassette out-takes cluttering up Robert Pollard's basement. The story of Guided By Voices transformation from an occasional and revolving group of complete unknowns to indie-rock heroes is very much part of the story behind the making of "Bee Thousand". In addition to providing a central account of how the record was made, Woodworth devotes another substantial chapter to the album's lyrics. Robert Pollard's lyrics are described by critics, when they're described at all, as a brand of tossed-off surrealism, as if his verbal sensibility is somehow incidental to the songs themselves. Nothing could be further from the truth. I want to offer a sustained discussion of Pollard's work as a writer of often sublime, beautiful, and very human lyrics. I won't miss the chance to consider the pleasures of the absurd in this context and, of course, the contributions to "Bee Thousand" of Tobin Sprout. The third key section of the book covers aesthetics. Woodworth considers the great appeal of the do-it-yourself nature of "Bee Thousand" and reflects on the larger importance of the strain of alternative rock for which this record is a touchstone. The focus is on "Bee Thousand", of course, but also includes discussion on the rise of a lo-fi aesthetic and its continuing influence. This chapter would also provide the context for an account of rock that exists because of passion, love, and compulsive need rather than formula, money, and marketing.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd. (23 Nov 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0826417485
  • ISBN-13: 978-0826417480
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 12.1 x 16.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 532,996 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Bee Thousand" makes perfect sense for Continuum's famous 331/3 series. The breakthrough album for Guided by Voices undoubtedly has an appropriate stature, as it exemplified a certain style of lo-fi, DIY aesthetic that's still influential. Moreover, Robert Pollard's elliptical lyrics and layered, yet quasi-improvisational melodies would seem to profit from a handy introduction. Everyone I know who listens to Guided by Voices was introduced to their music by some knowledgeable friend, a role which Marc Woodworth ably takes up in his short book. What's more interesting about Bee Thousand, though, is the way it both embraces and complicates the nostalgia permeating the entire 331/3 series. Simultaneously a mythologizing and d demythologizing book, Bee Thousand" demonstrates yet again the power of Faulkner's claim that 'the past isn't even past.' ...Woodworth's book should help listeners of any age find joy in such oddities as "Hardcore UFOs," "a dairy creamer explicitly laid out as a fruitcake," and the "kicker of elves." More generally, anyone interested in DIY-type bands should find the bands narratives relevant."--Sanford Lakoff

About the Author

Marc Woodworth is the author of Solo: Women Singer-Songwriters in their Own Words (Dell, 1998) which contained transcribed and edited first-person narratives derived from his interviews with nineteen artists like Ani DiFranco, Sheryl Crow, and Cassandra Wilson. He is also the author of a volume of poetry, Arcade (Grove Press, 2002), and is the editor of a high-culture quarterly, Salmagundi.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Perplexing but Inspiring 26 Jun 2007
Guided By Voices are not a band that will not be to everyone's tastes, and neither is this book. A startlingly in-depth look at what is arguably the band's masterpiece (I always preferred "Alien lanes" myself, but that's another story...), Marc Woodworth draws upon listener responses, interviews from the band, and his own observations to attempt to capture the appeal of this most mercurial of bands.

Where this book really comes alive is in the recollections of Robert Pollard and crew as they relay their experiences in creating the album, and the aesthetic that drives them. Not a conventional band in any sense of the word, Guided By Voices came to be the standard bearers of the `lo-fi' movement, issuing album after album of material recorded on some incredibly primitive equipment. The interviews with them go a long way into explaining the motivations behind this, and really shed some new light on why they have arguably neutered their inherent pop sensibility by shrouding it in a cloak of dissonance and tape hiss.

However, Woodworth's own analysis is so complex and multi-layered, that it is frequently hard to follow. In one sense, he is frequently a victim of his own intelligence, attempting to convey multiple things at once, to a reader (like myself) who is frequently not up to the task of deciphering his meaning. But he does succeed in creating a book that compels the reader either to jump into the back catalogue of the band for the first time, or go back to them with fresh ears, which is really the purpose of these tomes.
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If ever you wanted an argument in favour of your favourite music as Art then this is it.

You will revisit the album and look at it in a different way after you read this book.

I think you will be as amazed as I was when you discover the journey this album took to reach us in the form we know and love it. Whether it's the constantly changing list of songs, the last minute inclusions, the process of sequencing - this record took an amazing amount of thought and patience. What seems random and throwaway is painstaking and heartfelt.

This album is a work of art, nothing less. Woodworth says so.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.9 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book for GBV fans 20 Mar 2007
By Roneesh Vashisht - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A very informative book that makes you think about such great songs in a brand new way. The fact that Robert Pollard has not one, but two long essays in the book (one is by Bart J Hooper LLD or something similar, very obviously bob himself) makes this alone worth the price of entry. Add that to the great commentary by Tobin Sprout and a very competent author and you have a perfect celebration of the glory that is Bee Thousand and GBV.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Half Excellence for the Hardcore Fans 6 May 2009
By Arod McFoolish - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is a mixture of a) the insightful and interesting reflections of those who created and assisted with Bee Thousand, b) well-written and relatable musings from hardcore fans about how they discovered the album and what it means to them, and c) the bloated, pretentious verse of what manifests in my head as Cheers' Diane Chambers rattling off Greil Marc-esque collegiate diatribes about a soulful beer-drinking anthemic record.

For the big fans, the book is fully worth it for points a & (especially) b. My recommendation is to skip the entirety of c.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great little book about a great little album 20 Nov 2012
By William C Summers - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
One of my desert island must haves is the Bee Thousand album and this book is a nice companion piece to go with the recording. I consider Bee Thousand to be one of the greatest post-Beatles rock and roll albums of all time. I think about this record a lot and wondered if it affected others as much as it affected me. And apparently it has. So it's nice to have this Bee Thousand inspired piece of work around to assure me that although I live in a place where most people have horrid tastes, I'm not alone in considering B1000 to be a masterpiece of poetry and music.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Some great insight sandwiched around too much pretentious crap 11 Feb 2012
By M. Richardson - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As others have noted, this book contains three separate elements- recollections of the band members and other participants who helped make "Bee Thousand", short pieces by fans detailing the way the album resonated in their lives, and ponderous, pseudo-intellectual blathering by individuals completely unconnected to GBV, "Bee Thousand", or music in general.

The first (especially those from Bob Pollard) make the book worthwhile. The second are easily enough skimmed, but the third are infuriating- they don't offer any insight to "Bee Thousand" that actually listening to the album once or twice wouldn't provide. The space they take up would have been much better used by expanding on the commentary of Pollard, Tobin Sprout, Robert Griffin and others who could actually elaborate on the unique experience that is "Bee Thousand."

I'd have given this book 2 1/2 stars, but that wasn't an option.
6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Woodworth's Bee Thousand 29 Feb 2008
By Ursa Major - Published on
starbuck couldn't be more wrong. Woodworth's book is a wonderful one because it avoids obvious trappings associated with rock music fandom as well as the temptation to present a dry, step by step history of the making of Bee Thousand. Instead, Woodworth opens the wide angle for a look at creative impulse, and how that's found a home in the person of Robert Pollard. And he does so with beautiful language, unusual commentary from other artists, and a careful scrutiny that ranges from intimate listening to a proper (and necessary) distancing from the subject. Greer's "history" is not a very good history at all, nor is it well written. It does offer a few interesting stories and insights that only an ex-GBVer could offer. But those are rare. Greer's book often bogs down into cheap, tabloidesque tattling (particularly regarding Bob's ex-wife and his brother), and carries with it a smarmy brand of "Hey, I was in the band" sort of insider-ism. The book's final chapter is its most valuable portion, in which Greers asks Pollard about his songs and the subject becomes the creative impulse (hey, there it is again!). Read Woodworth's contribution to the 33 1/3 Series. It's terrific.
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