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Record Collecting for Girls: Unleashing Your Inner Music Nerd, One Album at a Time Paperback – September 6, 2011
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Amazon Exclusive: A Q&A with Author Courtney Smith
Q:What do you want readers to take away from Record Collecting for Girls?
A: I want people to really think about what music they like, how they listen to it, and why. I would like them to end up feeling even closer to the music they love, and discovering things they had no idea they loved because something prompted a spark. After someone reads "Top Five Lists," I love to hear that they started making their own list—and that they want to send it to me, and talk about it!
I’d also like everyone to dig out their most embarrassing guilty pleasure (mine is the Pussycat Dolls, as you’ll soon find out) and tell me all about it.
Q: I’m not a girl. Is there anything here for me?
A: While there are a few "girly" things in this book, most of it is for anyone who likes to talk about music more than is socially acceptable. It happens to be told from a female perspective, but anyone who can stomach listening to a lady talk for 200+ pages (and in this day and age, I would hope that’s everyone) should find something that reminds them of an awful--or awesome--thing they’ve done, and the soundtrack that was playing when they did it.
Q: How did your background in the music industry affect your writing?
A: The first thing it did was give me lots and lots of crazy stories about musicians— some of which I couldn’t dream of retelling, because I would get in too much trouble. Early on, I learned that meeting your idols is almost always a bad idea. Except Elvis Costello who is, of course, charming and wonderful and generous and the greatest person ever.
The weekly debates at MTV over which videos to add to the lineup--I called it MTV Fight Club--heavily influenced the way I evaluate music, and gave me quite a lot of insight into how different musicians are marketed. It was always fun when the debates turned into passionate arguments and forced me to look at music analytically, as well as from the perspective of a fan.
Q: You seem to take music very personally. How did you decide what to include from your own personal life in your essays? Was there anything off-limits?
A: Look, after my friend Gina made me admit to liking the Pussycat Dolls, it was pretty clear nothing was off-limits. That, more than anything, is what I was embarrassed to write in the book, but it had to be said. "Guilty Pleasures" is all the better—and all the more absurd—for it.
In an early draft, "Rock and Roll Consorts" was based around a playlist from my relationship with a rock star, but I sounded so bitter and insane that I scrapped it before the book was even a proposal. There is no way I would ever tell anyone what was on that playlist; after writing it down, I realized it was much too personal. I’m sure there are people who wish I were as private about all my relationships, but those are the breaks!
Q:What's been the response from your friends and industry associates who've seen themselves in your essays?
A: My mom was annoyed that I implied she had mom-like taste in music in "Guilty Pleasures," but she understands it was done for comedic effect. For the record, she has very good and rather adventurous taste in music.
Most of the people in the book saw I wrote about them in advance, so there won’t be any big surprises. A few people corrected my memories of events, which I very much wanted them to do. Historical accuracy is important. Only one person asked me to make any changes—and rightly so—but on the whole, everyone was extremely indulgent and told me to write whatever I wanted. Even though a few friends told me it was weird, they still can’t wait to read the whole book, which I am taking as a good sign.
Q: Come on, now. What do you have against The Smiths?
A: Seriously. Think about your mindset when you listen to The Smiths. Do you not put them on when you’re depressed and self-indulgent? When you feel the world has done you wrong? When you feel unloved and sulky? I absolutely indulge in The Smiths now and then, when circumstances demand it. However, a totally-in-love superfan? No, I don’t want to date that. It’s just not my cup of tea. We can still be friends though. Possibly.
"Girl music nerds have been debating Beatles versus Stones and curating their collections for as long as male music snobs, but that perspective has been on low rotation; hail, hail, Courtney E. Smith’s Record Collecting for Girls, a mix tape of female rock history, playlists for getting busy and coping with heartbreak, and essential info such as how to decode a dude’s CD collection (Yo La Tengo = romantically hapless; Leonard Cohen = asshole)." —Vanity Fair"Courtney Smith has smarts and sass in spades. Her insights are as hilarious as they are thoughtful and when you finish reading this book, you’ll feel like you just got home from a perfect night out with your best friend. And you’ll want to listen to Prince. Full volume." —Megan Jasper, Executive Vice President, Sub Pop Records "Record Collecting For Girls is an invitation for all of you stereophiles, (who happen to be female), to make your own top five lists, and then, armed and ready with the book's fun facts, to argue their merits to the ever present boys' club of music snobs in your life." —Sarahbeth Purcell, author of Love Is the Drug and This Is Not A Love Song "Insightful and hilarious...Smith easily blends her own musical coming-of-age narrative with rock history...This is a book for anyone whose day has a soundtrack and for whom music reigns supreme." —Publishers Weekly
"A melodious road map...There is much here that is both interesting and infomative." —Kirkus
Top customer reviews
I note this only because I think author Courtney Smith couldn't avoid the inevitable issues that arise with a book like this: opinions about music, stated strongly and directly, will cause a certain percentage of readers to boo and hiss...simply they don't share the same views. I understand this impulse, having been shocked to discover the musical "taste" of some of my friends. The urge to judge was strong but reason prevailed..well, so far.I still have a hard time understanding how a good friend could possibly like the music of...well, never mind. I'm sure you get my drift.
If one uses Record Collecting for Girls as a conversation starter and inspiration to think about "top 5" lists of favorite artists, etc...it can be quite a fun read. But it is isn't what I would call a guide ( as the title suggests). Instead, it is a series of often intriguing essays combined with the author's memories of the music which influenced her life. Yes, there are playlists but they are only a part of what is contained in this book and I wouldn't call them guides.
As I read Record Collecting for Girls, there were several topics which kept my attention. I especially enjoyed the piece, "Where Have All the Girl Bands Gone?" with info about Phil Spector ad his domineering personality but also his absolute genius when it came to finding and promoting musical talent. It was a trip down Nostalgia Lane to read about The Runaways, the Go Gos, and others.
I thought Smith's piece about break- up songs was brilliant, perhaps because it struck so close to the bone. When relationships hit the skids, certain songs seem to resonate through each stage. There are the angry songs, perfect for outrage and feeling betrayed. There are sad, grieving works to echo the sense of loss. Bit by bit, song by song, relationships end, often with music playing in the background. Smith picks music to fit just about every break-up situation imaginable.
I would have given this one 5 stars but I felt that Smith hadn't quite hit her stride yet, with an uneven quality to the pieces - some great, some so-so, etc. She certainly has the credentials to write a stunner of a book, especially with her background as a music programmer and manager of label relations at MTV for years. She was also among the first to make waves on the Internet writing and chatting about music. I'm eager to read more of her work.
If anyone is looking for a really in-depth account of this book, do a Google search for justcoolrecords and blogspot and you'll find it on my blog.
Incidentally, I am in the process of writing a book of my own, aimed a real record collecting...on vinyl that is.
One of my favorite parts was the soundtrack that went along with each chapter. It's awesome fun to great your iPod and play along with each chapter. It's like sitting in your room talking to your friend about good music and listening to said music.
The music selections range from the Twilight: New Moon soundtrack to The Go Go's to The Runaways to everything that spanned the in between.
I loved every minute of this book.
Most recent customer reviews
Some decent insights on gender inequality in music and (some of) what influences women in music, but more of a memoir of...Read more