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THIS PEN FOR HIRE! My Guest Appearances In Other Writers’ Books

 Writing a book has been one of my dreams for nearly as long as I can remember. I’m working on my first book, The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1), a project which I hope will turn that dream into reality.

But although GREM! will be my first book, it won’t be the first time my work has appeared in a book. It won’t even be my third or fourth time. My book resumé is still a little thin, mind you, but it’s a start.

To begin, it’s worth mentioning two books that predate the first time any of my stuff actually appeared in a book. In 1991, my friend Dave Murray wrote a book called House-Training Your VCR, subtitled “A Help Manual For Humans.” The book was illustrated by Joe Congel (who is himself a talented writer), it was a clever and effective precursor to the …For Dummies books that came along later, and it’s an overlooked gem of a book. I had nothing whatsoever to do with its creation. BUT! Dave did ask me to proofread the manuscript for style. His publisher was insisting that the plural of VCR had to be spelled with an apostrophe, and that is, of course, batshit crazy. I told Dave so, he agreed, and he held his ground on the all-important issue of ¡VCRs SÍ! ¡VCR’S NO! The publisher conceded the point. Autographing my copy of House-Training Your VCR, Dave wrote, Thanks for all your input and support. Without you, there’d be 2161 “VCR’s” in here. We do what we can, Dave! We do what we can.

My second peripheral book appearance was the pleasant shock of seeing my work quoted (with attribution) in another writer’s book. Cult Rockers by Wayne Jancik and Tad Lathrop was published in 1995, a collection of 150 profiles of artists in The Strange And Wild World Of Cult Rockers! Awright! I spotted Cult Rockers on the shelf at Media Play one evening. Intrigued by its promise of celebrating cult acts both famous and obscure, from The Grateful Dead to The Dead Kennedys, I flipped through the book. And I was surprised that the opening paragraph of the chapter discussing The Flamin’ Groovies was…well, me

“They have been and remain the very picture of a cult band, ignored by the world at large, but positively revered by a small but discerning group of loyal fans,” wrote rock critic Carl Cafarelli.

That, my friends, was a HOLY SHIT! moment. The quote came from my introduction to a 1992 Goldmine interview with the Groovies’ Cyril Jordan, and the next paragraph quoted Jordan himself from the same interview. I was flattered and preening, and within minutes I was also the proud owner of my very own copy of Cult Rockers. Flattery will get you any damned thing you want.

In between the publication of House-Training Your VCR and Cult Rockers, I made an attempt to do my own book. Shake Some Action would have been my power pop book; in 1993, I got as far as submitting a book proposal to a prospective publisher, but the publisher passed. 

My first actual book work was for MusicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide in 1996. This was essentially a CD buyer’s guide to rock history, presenting A-Z entries for individual acts and proclaiming which CDs were essential and which were, um…not. It was a paying market, so I wrote as many as I was allowed to. The book was updated in 1999, and I made enough off that project to pay for my wife and daughter’s round-trip airfares to Florida. Big-time writer? That’s me!

Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth followed in 2001. My involvement in this book grew out of the history of bubblegum music I wrote for Goldmine in 1997. I don’t think that Scram magazine/Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth editors Kim Cooper and David Smay saw my piece and said to themselves We need that guy!, and I don’t think either of them had even seen the piece prior to me sending it to them. But by whatever sequence o’ Bazookas, I did send them the bubblegum issue of Goldmine, and they agreed to run a shorter version of that history in Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth. To fatten the book’s essential CC content, Gary Pig Gold and I collaborated on “Good Clean Fun,” a debate about whether or not The Monkees were ever really a bubblegum group, and I updated an appreciation of The Bay City Rollers that had originally been my first-ever feature article for Goldmine back in 1987. There was very little money in this, but it was such an enjoyable experience. I went to the book release party in New York City, and I was later interviewed about bubblegum by a radio station in the Hudson Valley. I’m proud to have been a part of Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth.

I also participated in another book edited by Cooper and Smay, 2005’s Lost In The Grooves. Billed as “Scram‘s capricious guide to the music you missed,” Lost In The Grooves gathered essays by various pop pundits waxing rhapsodic about some of our favorite lesser-known albums. The book included my appreciations of Subterranean Jungle by The Ramones and Tell America by Fools Face, but the editors declined my offer to extoll the virtues of Elevator by The [bay city] Rollers

After that, I finally did get to write at least part of a power pop book called Shake Some Action; it just wasn’t my once-proposed power pop book called Shake Some Action. This Shake Some Action was assembled by my former Goldmine colleague John M. Borack, and John gave me the opportunity to update an extensive history of power pop I’d written for Goldmine in 1996. Gary Pig Gold and I also reunited for a discussion about the secret origin of power pop, but that was ultimately not included in the published book.

For John Borack’s 2010 book John Lennon: Life Is What Happens, John asked a bunch of his music-lovin’ friends to provide personal reminiscences of our experiences as fans of Lennon and The Beatles. I was delighted to comply.

Finally, Ken Sharp (another former Goldmine colleague) asked me for permission to use portions of my 1994 Goldmine interviews with The Ramones in his own massive ‘n’ irresistible Play On! Power Pop Heroes book series. Those quotes appear in 2015’s Play On! Power Pop Heroes Volume 2, with a plug for my own eventual goal of reprinting the interviews in a hypothetical book to be called Gabba Gabba Hey: Conversations With The Ramones. Anyone know a publisher?

So yeah, I’ve done a few things for other people’s books. I’ve been honored to do so, and I’ve had a pretty good blast all along the way. Now, it’s high time I did my own book. The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1). It’s getting there. Book it.

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This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio with Dana & Carl airs Sunday nights from 9 to Midnight Eastern, on the air in Syracuse at SPARK! WSPJ 103.3 and 93.7 FM, and on the web at http://sparksyracuse.org/ You can read about our history here.

The many fine This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio compilation albums are still available, each full of that rockin’ pop sound you crave. A portion of all sales benefit our perpetually cash-strapped community radio project:

Volume 1: download
Volume 2: CD or download
Volume 3: download
Volume 4: CD or download
Waterloo Sunset–Benefit For This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio:  CD or download
Carl’s writin’ a book! The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1)will contain 165 essays about 165 tracks, each one of ’em THE greatest record ever made. An infinite number of records can each be the greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. Updated initial information can be seen here: THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE! (Volume 1).

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