View Full Version : Nick Cohn's "Awopbapaloobop Awopbamboom"

19-07-2005, 08:31 PM
Picked this up in the basement of HMV for 1.99. I love it when books are cheaper than magazines. What would a copy of MOJO cost you? Don't fackin' ask me, how would I know?

I'd been meaning to read it for years. Just recently gave up trying to read proper stuff after a year of picking up k-punk reccomendations (just about wore the hell out of me, guffaw! not cut out for the intellectual breadth of badiou and all that ting and ting)

And boy was I glad to find it. Admittedly I just read what must be the weakest chapter on The Beatles (Cohn sounds bored shitless by them) but this might be the music book I feel closer too than any others. This must be because like me (OK just becasue I'm talking about myself doesnt mean I think I'm a hard guy, actually I've been strugging like hell these past two months, struggling to not sink into a swamp of misery.. plenty of work, good prospects and all that shit, just aw fuck it you're not interested...)

Yeah anyway, Cohn is basically a no-nonsense hipster. No-nonsense requires some qualification. I mean, what a fucking effete and absurd passtime, writing about music. Just fucking tell it like it is and get the fuck out of there. And thats how Cohn rattles through it. I swear he must have written this book off the top of his head, dashed it off in about half an hour. He pretty much sees right to the centre of a person or a phenomenon and can wrap it all up with a few chosen words. He talks like most of the real people I've known, real in the sense of people who are actually "doing the shit", you wouldnt be embarassed to see him having a conversation with i dunno, some movie director (like Ridley Scott fr'instance) he wouldnt be all gauche and mistake having an intelligent opinion for talking a load of waffle.

Alot of people, particularly on the net, talk a hell of a lot of crap. Endless spooling shite. Talk is cheap online. Oh sure I'm not slagging off discourse, and I'm not ramraiding large word-counts, its just that concision is in short supply. Theres a lot of quite shrill tub-thumping (and if that sounds like a macho thing to say, well sue me baby;))

I really identified with "Awopbapaloobop Awopbamboom", and if I start talking about "cats" and start saying "baby" alot well thats why. Also I've decided I'm going to henceforth call records "tiles", i heard a reggae dj do that on the radio and i thought, hmm, you're a cool cat like me, i'm gonna co-opt that into the new Woebizzle slang. Baby. Innit. (you know, chuck in a few old favourites as well)

And its such a great book. I like the indusrty-insider stuff, all the chat with managers and stuff. I like the general suspicion of the pretentious, yes I really do, which surprised me, gonna have to work that out. Cohn's model of what he calls "Pop" however is much closer to the Nuggetts groups/Punk Hordes/Ardkore Massive, than todays "pop". He basically valorises the brutal and unpretentious, doesnt have much truck with the later Brian Wilson etc. Peppered with daft wiscracks like this:

"Really I bring him in only because I never met anyone who understood pop so well. Who agreed so much with me that is." Its also fantastic in unexpected ways.

The first "Discotheque" DJ: Johnny Rivers who played Hollywood's "Whiskey A Go Go"

The first dance where people actually danced ON THEIR OWN (think about it, thats key) Chubby Checker's "Twist"

On Jimmy Saville. Fascinating. Also (I know this from elsewhere the first man to use twin decks, even built himself a cross-fader, eat your heart out Grandmaster Flash, Jim'll Fixit!)

Drool drool, anyway I love it. Be like me and buy a copy. Baby.

20-07-2005, 12:32 PM
i can lend you a shitload of nik cohn stuff - he's pretty great. i love this book. i also really loved yes we have no, his mid-nineties travelogue - a bit like jb priestley's an english journey with drugs, techno and satatnists, really.

20-07-2005, 01:24 PM
no-nonsense hipster.

it's deceptively simple isn't it, crammed with ideas.

the last "chapter" -- it's all of 800 words -- might be the most best bit of popcrit ever, such a heretical stance at that point -- rejecting the whole art-into-pop turn post-Sgt Pepper's, rejecting the sophistication and subtlety and ambition, and instead aligning himself with pulp and trash and cartoon heroism-- a manifesto expressed with utmost minimal lucidity, zero bombast

like a UK Bangs but w/o any of the Beat mannerisms or form> content, just pared to the bone

i always wondered what he then made of music in the 70s, whether he would have liked T.Rex as sort of anti-prog, pulp-ist Superpop, whether Bowie and Roxy would have been too arty for him... what he thought of Iggy and punk

obviously he thought disco was interesting

one thing that's inspiring about Cohn is his return to enthusiasm le music later in his life -- for instance, he got into techno, was a big fan of Surgeon! wrote about him in the Guardian! -- and currently he's big into the New Orleans/Cash Money gangsta bounce scene and is actually trying to manage some rappers, get their careers going. This at the age of 65 or thereabouts!!

his weird obsession with PJ Proby is kind of touching -- it's kinda like his AR Kane or Disco Inferno or something

Rachel Verinder
20-07-2005, 01:29 PM
so in other words, nik cohn was you, and sgt pepper was pat kane, right?

20-07-2005, 01:43 PM
yeah, i loved his piece about bounce in the guardian saturday magazine.
he really is quite the gem of english rockcrit - not talked about anywhere near enough.
totally agree re his style. there's just no fucking about whatsoever - he just writes as he feels.
of course, this means he's probably the best influence any writer can have... don't try to be stylish, just find your style through saying what you believe.
his love of surgeon was totally discovered in yes we have no - the woman who was driving him round was a big fan and introduced him when they visited birmingham. was great how he was so open to new music, even though i'd have preferred him to have got really into dem 2 or zed bias round about that time.

21-07-2005, 01:06 PM
"Outside of mainstream pop fans, there is a separate sub-breed of English Teenager, roughly classifiable as the Art student, which goes in for violent bouts of musical insanity, one-shot fads that come out of nowhere and explode into huge obsessions and then drop dead quite suddenly, never again to be mentioned......

.....The symptoms haven't varied much: the subject regards itself as several cuts above teenagers in general, being more intellectual and altogether more soulful, and it gets very scornful about any pop outside of its own cult of the moment. Mostly, it isn't an art student at all, it's only a weekend drop-out, but it has the mannerisms off, even the uniforms, and you have to be a bit fly to spot the difference."

Ha ha, ring any bells?

21-07-2005, 01:10 PM
The good music happened becasue RSG! threw out that stock TV format of hiring anyone who made the charts, balladeer or comedian or ventriloquist regardless, and having them mime their latest hit."

Isnt that the whole fucking problem? That these organisations exist quite like a welcoming commitee for whatever drek washes up the charts. I'll say it again (in spite of, coughs, my recent and quite uncharacteristic proclamation of love for Madonna's Beautiful Stranger) WTF is good about Pop music?

21-07-2005, 01:14 PM
Loves the youth dem. (writing as a practical pensioner in Cohn's cosmos) Quite astonishing how young all the early Rockers were, seems like at one time if you were 25 you were nearly dead.

And the Bob Dylan chapter. As you read it you get really into Dylan, think he's great , think hmm he's making quite a strong case for Dylan and then, right near the end, "What do I think about Dylan? Well I don't think much of him." Ha ha ha.

john eden
21-07-2005, 03:10 PM
He is also the son of the bloke that wrote that book about the Protocols of Zion forgery.

Er, Norman Cohn: "Warrant for Genocide".

iirc, ad infinitum.

21-07-2005, 03:29 PM
He is also the son of the bloke that wrote that book about the Protocols of Zion forgery.

Er, Norman Cohn: "Warrant for Genocide".

iirc, ad infinitum.

and also The Pursuit of the Millenium, great book on medieval gnostics and anarcho-mystic heretics and Free Spirit ranters and such -- ie. greil marcus's bible viz lipstick traces

i have never read We Have No Gentlemen Today (title?) cohn's book on style. i gather he had his peter york/robert elms hat on for that one.

Or any of his fiction, like King Death.

Yes We Have No, the touring up and down england book, is great, but unfortunately as i was reading it i kept wondering if he was just making a lot of it all up -- the way he did with the New York magazine article on Brooklyn guido disco scene that ended up being turned into Saturday Night Fever.

26-07-2005, 08:52 AM
finished this last night.

a few final thoughts:

things become less snappy and clear near the end of the book. i suppose its difficult to be so crisp about the scene which is surrounding one though. funny little snapshot of London 1968/9 though: crazy world of arthur brown, incredible string band, julie driscoll. flamin' eck!

amazed at how young cohn was. 22! have to admit i found his later foreword (which he wrote aged c.66 and i read AFTER I'd read the book) was although basically groovy, considerably less enticing. a bit of a yawn.

a criticism: much of the book focuses on icons. big names. but if you're going to write a write a history of the past twenty years you'd probably have to write one about big records. often records by people who didnt mean very much in the "grand scheme", sure people who had their own histories/connections but whose defining musical statements were often not much more than a handful of twelve inches. someone like derrick may for instance. its telling that cohn's postscript just singles out a handful of tasteful big cheeses like: Prince, Tricky, Al Green, Bjork (though he admits that early punk and hiphop, both of which would probably slip under his radar because they arent dominated by big names) are what probably mattered most.

still this is a effing great, fantastic even, book.