01 January 2004

Not the Sound of Silence Footnoting the Pop/Rock Sounds of the Library

by Ted Liebler

While in the University of Arizona's Music Library evaluating their reference collection for a class project, I came across the following book and annotated it for my pathfinder:

Green, J. (2002). The Thematic Guide to Popular Music, Nashville: Professional Desk References.
This massive guide categorizes music by lyrical theme(s) and/or song titles. For instance, there are listings of songs by days of the week, women's first names and cities around the world. The perennial themes of love, romance and relationships are broken down into 25 sub-categories.

Paging through it spurred me to wonder about songs written about or songs referring to libraries or librarians. While there were song listings galore referring to books (e.g., "Book of Love" by the Monotones and "Little Red Book" by Burt Bacharach/ Hal David), librarians and libraries were not even a category, subcategory or even crossed-referenced! This void gave me the impetus to do my own brief exploration and survey, drawing upon the vast resources of the web, friends, and my record collection, of the brief instances where the music world danced in library land.

Tori Amos-"Tales of a Librarian"
Classmate and Health Science librarian Virginia Sanchez filled me in on this one. I looked it up on Allmusic.com and found it was a collection of her hit songs. The record reviewer MacKenzie Wilson even writes, "Tales of a Librarian: A Tori Amos Collection is not only one of the most intriguing titles for a hits compilation, but the package itself captures only the best from Amos' years spent with Atlantic."

BiblioTech editor Lori Ito Hardenbergh recently mentioned that songs on this album are even organized according to the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) system! Check out the following link from Library Journal, which succinctly provides "an abstract" to her recorded tales: http://www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA341766

The Librarians
A now defunct power-pop band from Oakland, CA who used librarian stereotypes as part their shtick. For example, their band logo includes an illustration of a pair of black-framed glasses with one shattered lens. A photograph of the same motif appears on the back cover of their lone CD (properly clogging the used CD racks of the Bay Area). While they do have a song titled "Peace & Quiet, " I would have bestowed them all with "Superstar Reader" awards if they recorded a concept album where every song had a library theme. They could have even written sappy and juvenile songs with titles like: "Flashing lights (mean the library will be closing)," "I'll give you a call number, but not my phone number," "I like MARC, but not you Mark" and "This Moment of Silence is Sponsored by the Library." Writing of juvenile and sappy... brings us to another Bay Area-based band.

Green Day-"At the Library"
Before the band broke through to the mainstream with their punky-pop snappy sound and "Turk 182" had greater pop-culture currency than Blink 182, they wrote of an across-the-reading room secret crush in 1990. (If the song was written in 1995, the song title might have been "At Computer Lab" or in 2002 "Across the ILC.") The possibilities are quickly squelched when the proverbial boyfriend enters the picture and the couple walk away. However, the song ends on the hopeful (or should I say hopeless) romantic note with the last line of "Maybe We'll Meet Again Someday."

Gil and Johnny-Alice
Only in the '60s, could some Los Angeles studio amalgamation come up with a bubblegum psychedelic song with the opening salvo and rhyme scheme of: "I made a visit local library/I wanted smarts like my friends Tom, Rick and Harry." This 1966 song, musically modeled on Lovin' Spoonful's "Daydream Believer and Peter, Paul and Mary's "I Dig Rock 'n' Roll Music" has the narrator proceed to the children section and "trip" upon Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass. The reader/singer becomes enraptured with this book and proceeds to sing about Alice's adventures until the end of this good-timey two minutes of mimicry.

International Brunch Mummies-"Library Place"
Wow, what a wacky name for a band and in their song package is a number called "Library Place." Unfortunately, I couldn't discern if the lyrics refer to something akin to evaluating the interior layouts of libraries or diatribe against those who eschew the massed-produced art hanging up at IHOP, due to the murky mid-fidelity internet stream from the New Jersey independent radio station WFMU. I did find out, from a Google search, that the lead singer does like to hang-out at the local library.

With the exception of the Tori Amos' collection of "stories within stories," the aforementioned examples of where librarians and libraries acted as the muse for music are admittedly hardly a stockpile and are pretty much regulated to the corners of the internet and/or buried deep in independently released albums. However, stepping-stones are always necessary before a true movement can be set in motion...

Ted Liebler was born in Indianapolis, IN and grew up in the great and grim Midwest. He studied at Michigan State University before transferring to the University of Notre Dame and graduating with an American Studies degree in 1995. Before starting graduate school in fall of 2003, Ted wrote for several online and print music publications. He also contributed to the forthcoming music book titled Lost in the Grooves: Scram's Capricious Guide to the Music You Missed. It is slated to be published by Routledge in fall 2004.





3 comments:

  1. there's also a song called "Seven Books a Year" by a local band called "The Answer is Seven"...not sure if that is whence comes their name but their blog is at http://theanswerisseven.wordpress.com/


    blogging in DC

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