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on 1 October 1998
By MICHAEL TEARSON
Paul Zollo, himself a singer-songwriter , has assembled a mighty and important book here. He has gathered 52 interviews he conducted for SongTalk. The subjects are a virtual who's who of songwriters. Zollo has an obvious love of song and songmaking and a curiosity about the process that won't quit. These qualities are reflected in his interviewing. So, too, is Zollo's uncanny knack for putting his subjects at ease so they will open up to him and candidly reveal more than they might have expected to. He probes intelligently, asking questions that evoke true responses. I often found myself thinking how good his questioning is. He clearly does his homework so that he can display an encyclopedic knowledge of the artist's full career, often asking specifically about the damnedest, most obscure songs. Two pieces juxtaposed early in the book form a kind of core around which this collection revolves. These are lengthy interviews with first Bob Dylan and then Paul Simon. In each of these, Zollo shows how well he listens and responds in his questioning. Both interviews are tremendously revealing and rewarding. This collection is about just what it is singer-songwriters of all stripes do, plus the how, in the way their various processes work, and the why of their drive to create. Essential questions all. This is compelling, don't-you-dare-miss-it stuff for anybody who writes songs, and equally for anybody else who listens to songs and cares about them.
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on 5 February 2000
Predictably, this book starts with several of the better interviews. Old-timers Pete Seeger, Mose Allison and Willie Dixon, for example, have been around a bit, seen a thing or two, and it shows. The unfortunate effect is to encourage the reader to tackle 'Songwriters on Songwriting' as they would any other book and try to read it through from cover to cover. Bad mistake. I got to the Californian hippy witterings of the late Laura Nyro (who, according to Mr Zollo, didn't die in April 1997 but 'departed from this earth'), before I gave up and started the much more rewarding 'dipping in'. There's more than a little of that peculiarly American schmaltz in these interviews, too, contributed in no small measure by the author himself, and UK purchasers who enjoy an after dinner read are strongly advised to allow a reasonable period to elapse before doing so. There is also a marked absence of other than US writers, except for the few who, by a happy coincidence, were resident in the US at the time of interview. There are many regrettable omissions; Tom Waits, Scott Walker, Elvis Costello and the incomparable Joni Mitchell spring to mind, all of whom could have brought some much needed additional intelligence to this collection and perhaps given Mr Zollo a definitive answer to his almost constant pursuit of the 'divine' source of the popular song. Nevertheless, this 640 page tome is well worth the asking price for those who want some background on their CD collection and songwriters will take comfort in learning that even some of the great names struggle sometimes and, on the evidence of this book, talk a load of b******s, too. Three stars, then, for the good bits (look out for Zappa and Cohen for instance) and one extra for being, as far as I know, unique, no matter how flawed. Ian Nicol, UK.
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on 12 October 1998
SONGWRITERS ON SONGWRITING is an excellent new book that rips the lid off the composing process via candid and often revelatory interviews with some of Rock's finest tunesmiths. Written by Paul Zollo, the book provides a superb and compelling portrait of such 20th century heavyweights as Brian Wilson, Randy Newman, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan and many more. Zollo is an outstanding interviewer and his pointed questions unravel the mysteries and magic behind these acclaimed artists' majestic body of work.
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on 24 October 1998
By LAHRI BOND
Paul Zollo has had the good fortune of talking shop with some of the best songwriters from the fields of folk, country, blues, and rock and roll. Collected in this volume are 52 interviews with such early originators as Joan Baez, Paul Simon, Carole King and Gerry Goffin. He also talks with seventies innovators such as Rickie Lee Jones, Van Dyke Parks, Walter Becker and Todd Rundgren as well as modern songsmiths like David Hidalgo and Louie Perez of Los Lobos and Jules Shear. As the title suggests, this book features songwriters exploring their influences, inspirations and craft.
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on 30 September 1998
By BARNIE HOSKYNS
Paul Zollo probes 52 pop-rock greats on the small miracles and larger torments of songwriting. As editor of the esteemed periodical SongTalk, Zollo has managed to bag some fairly big cats (Dylan, Young, R.E.M., Madonna) among an assortment of cult heroes and heroines (Webb and Wilson; Cohen and Nyro; Van Dyke Parks and Townes Van Zandt) and songwriters' songwriters (Sammy Cahn, Goffin & King, Bacharach & David). There's a wealth of entertaining, funny and surprising apercus in this 630-page whopper: "It's important to get rid of all them thoughts," opines Bob Dylan. "Don't let the critic become bigger than the creator," urges Randy Newman. "It's kind of disgusting that I'm not spending every single morning writing, come rain or come shine," admits the late Laura Nyro. For insight into what drives Paul Simon or Jackson Browne to strive for that perfectly modulated couplet, then Zollo's songtalk provides a feast. "What I get from these interviews is a sense of courage," says Van Dyke Parks. "This is infectious, and highly contagious... It's as helpful as belonging to some religious sect."
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on 24 September 1998
January 1998 By ALLEN FOSTER Songwriter's Monthly As the editor of a magazine that has dealt, so intimately, with songwriting for the past six years, I personally wanted to get a look at Paul's [Zollo] latest, expanded edition of Songwriters On Songwriting. I figured I do this stuff seven days a week so I'm going to go over this book and put it under the microscope and really see just how good it is.... Paul also tackles writers such as Carole King, Burt Bacharach, Bob Dylan, Sammy Cahn, Randy Newman, Janis Ian, Rickie Lee Jones, Dan Fogelberg and dozens more. A songwriter simply should not be without this book. The size of this work (658 pages) necessitates that you have your own copy so you can not only read it at your leisure, but you can go back to it -- again and again and again.
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on 27 September 1998
February, 1998 By GAVIN MARTIN From VOX MAGAZINE Formidable tete-a-tetes with a startling range of tunesmiths -- Brian Wilson, Bob Dylan, Randy Newman, Michael Stipe. Zollo's approach is both conversational and in depth, so you get Dylan talking about Greek philosophy, Harry Nilsson's sweet memories of life with Lennon, Sammy Cahn on the genius of Frank Sinatra, and much, much more. A veritable goldmine. * * * * Four stars.
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on 22 November 2015
I read this as it was recommended reading on a songwriting course I recently completed. While it is interesting to dip into, I feel it represents a glimpse of a bygone era. Music and songwriting have evolved hugely in the last 40 years. The 2015 the writers of 1965 have as much resonance to me as Verdi would have had to the Beatles. Technology allows us to do things that would have simply not been possible to the writers who spoke to Zollo. This book has spawned a host of imitators mostly american (Daniel Rachel's book earning a notable British mention), but again most of them refer to the "classic" songwriters. If you like anything electronic there will be little for you here.
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on 8 December 2014
This book covers the subjects you always want to read covered in interviews with your favorite songwriters, but unfortunately usually are pushed aside for more sensationalist fare. Similar questions are posed to a great number of great writers, mainly concerning the nuts and bolts of inspiration and artistic process. I got this book on the recommendation of Noel Gallagher and can't say I was disappointed at all. Enthralling read.

Someone needs to do a second volume with the next generation of writers, as most of these writers are of the baby boomer era, being interviewed in the nineties.
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on 1 February 2016
Great to dip into. The articles make me consider my own songwriting process. Doesn't get bogged down in theory. If you want technical look elsewhere. If you want to know about the great songwriters inspirations on a daily basis, you will find it here. I really wish I had bought this book sooner. Most of the great songwriters are represented. I can see this being a well loved book which I will store in my songwriting bag.
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