A Good Read, a Good Listen, and a Good Drink: Nate Burrell


It’s a simple yet sublime pleasure, and just thinking about it can make you feel a little calmer, a little more content. Imagine: You bring out one of the good rocks glasses (or your favorite mug or a special occasion tea cup) and pour a couple fingers of amber liquid (or something dark and strong or just some whole milk). You drop the needle on the jazz platter (or pull up a blues album on your mp3 player or dig out that mixtape from college). Ensconcing yourself in the coziest seat in the house, you crack the spine on a classic (or find your place in that sci-fi paperback or pull up a biography on your e-book reader). And then, you go away for a while. Ah, bliss.

In this series, some of NTSIB’s friends share beloved albums, books and drinks to recommend or inspire.

Inaugurating the series is photographer Nate Burrell. An Ohio boy who now makes his home in St. Louis, Nate takes primo shots of exceptional musicians, sometimes as they work the stage and sometimes away from the stage, in more relaxed moments. Regular readers will have seen some of his shots of mr. Gnome and JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound, as well as his personal favorites of 2010, graciously shared on this site. Nate has his own site, Before the Blink, featuring some of his beautiful work.

And he’s just a hell of a guy. Take it away, Nate…


Good Read:
The Tao of Wu (by RZA) — a really solid read that has a unique way of telling a story page after page that is some parts philosophy, other parts autobiography, with a healthy dose of street knowledge, interpretations of clarity, and tales of everyday life from an extremely talented and insightful man who has certainly walked both sides of the line.


Good Listen:
I’m Gonna Live Anyhow Until I Die (various artists from the 1959-1960 Southern Journey Field Recordings by Alan Lomax) — Alan Lomax, who is one of the most important preservationists of American Music, turns in an absolute gem on this 15 song LP. With an extremely raw sense of capturing the soul, love, pain, and yearning from the instruments and voices of folks ranging from Pentecostal choirs to farm hands to prison groups, this album also includes the first known recordings of Fred McDowell, and also documents the first time that field songs were recorded in stereo. The quality is superb, the music is honest, and the feel of the record is timeless. Just a wonderful listen from start to finish.



Good Drink:
you can’t really go wrong with a nice and simple Whiskey & Ginger poured with a heavy hand into a rocks glass with a few ice cubes; I mean…it’s good in the summer and even tastier in the winter, so it’s got to be okay, right?


Photo credit: Corey Woodruff

Put the Needle on the Record: The 1980s at 45 Revolutions per Minute


Many remember the 1980s as a time when style was deemed more important than substance (and all the unfavorable connotations that could imply), but Put the Needle on the Record: The 1980s at 45 Revolutions per Minute, a new book by Cleveland, Ohio, writer and music/pop culture historian Matthew Chojnacki, shows how the style of the ’80s was often carefully orchestrated to reflect the substance as the bold art on the sleeves of 7″ records was put to work selling a single song among hundreds of other songs on record store shelves.

Inspired by his own enormous collection of 7″ and 12″ records, Chojnacki has compiled over 250 7″ covers from the ’80s and included stories, insights and interesting comparison of the ephemeral trappings that did more than just protect the vinyl discs inside. With an afterword by ’80s style icon Nick Rhodes (Duran Duran), Put the Needle on the Record spotlights covers of everyone from Luther Vandross to Def Leppard to the Smiths in a stylish hardcover format and includes information gleaned from interviews with some 125 musicians and cover artists.

A couple of my favorite examples from the book include entries on Kate Bush and Def Leppard.



Designer John Carder Bush (also Kate’s brother) on “Army Dreamers”: “Have you ever noticed that a lot of the traditional anti-war songs, the ones that have come from soldiers’ experience, often have perky little tunes that almost deflect you from the cold reality of the words, and, somehow, this makes their message far more chilling? ‘Army Dreamers’ is one of those kinds of songs. The cover is an attempt to recreate a ‘40s soldiers’ pin-up girl, an integral part of that dreamy madness that attracts young men to the trappings of war. It’s also worth remembering that the wonderful video to the song was hardly seen because it was considered as too violent— such an innocent time!”



An impressive seven hit singles were released from Def Leppard’s Hysteria. Each of the single sleeves comprised a portion of the album’s cover art. The two final puzzle pieces were sold in a limited edition U.K. box set for “Love Bites.”

H y s t e r i a designer Andie Airfix: “Those were the days when record companies stretched the limits of seven- and twelve-inch single formats. Since Mercury Records had confidence in the success of so many singles from the album, they immediately agreed to the puzzle concept.”

The pieces: “Hysteria” (row one, center), “Love Bites” (row one, right), “Armageddon It” (row two, left), “Animal” (row two, center), “Women” (row two, right), “Pour Some Sugar on Me” (row three, center), and “Rocket” (row three, right).

Airfix vividly remembers the band’s reaction to her artwork, “the band saw my preparatory sketch and absolutely loved it. They wanted to retain a powerful image in line with hard rock, but also to modernize it and avoid the clichés. The head was intended to express dark fears associated with the psychotic state of hysteria. The computer background was
one of the first computer-generated graphics. Believe it or not, the image was a black-andwhite drawing, fed into a computer, colored very primitively, and then output as an 8 x 10 transparency—essentially a screen shot (hence the screen texture).”

Learn more about Put the Needle on the Record, available September 28, see some sample pages and pre-order the book at Matthew Chojnacki’s website.