Field Recordings from the Inside


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Book Description

Using as its epigraph and unifying principle Luc Sante’s notion that “Every human being is an archeological site,” Field Recordings from the Inside provides a deep and personal examination at the impact of music on our lives. Bonomo effortlessly moves between the personal and the critical, investigating the ways in which music defines our personalities, tells histories, and offers mysterious, often unbidden access into the human condition. The book explores the vagaries and richness of music and music-making—from rock and roll, punk, and R&B to Frank Sinatra, Nashville country, and Delta blues—as well as the work of a diverse group of artists and figures—Charles Lamb, music writer Lester Bangs, painter and television personality Bob Ross, child country musician Troy Hess, and songwriter Greg Cartwright.

Mining the often complex natures and shapes of the creative process, Field Recordings from the Inside is a singular work that blends music appreciation, criticism, and pop culture from one of the most critically acclaimed music writers of our time.

About the Author

Praise For This Book

Praise for Field Recordings from the Inside "[Bonomo] looks at the ways music influenced and underscored events throughout his life. The best essays here extend that gaze beyond his own life and into those of other artists and their audiences . . . [a] great collection." --Publishers Weekly "The writings he collects for this mix tape of memories are deep cuts . . . That is the appeal of this genre-spanning collection, along with the mix tapes: no special musical expertise is necessary for appreciating Bonomo's point of view or the richly described nostalgia. Just drop the needle, hit play, scroll, or turn the page and enjoy." --Booklist

"What is music? More importantly, what isn't music? In Field Recordings from the Inside, Joe Bonomo looks at family and faith, country and culture, Mississippi and Memphis, life and death, with sharp eyes (and ears) and a strong heart, shining a light on the past to help arm the present to make sense of the future. If you want beautiful writing in the service of powerful emotions, you want this book." --Ben Greenman, author of Mo Meta Blues and The Slippage

"It's so easy for critics to spend all their time worrying over how pop music gets made - the granular technical details, what a song or record means in its various historical or social contexts. Joe Bonomo understands those things, but still returns to what's arguably the most crucial component of art: how it makes us feel and what it does to our lives. Field Recordings from the Inside is a beautiful, revelatory book about what it means to be a human with headphones on." --Amanda Petrusich, author of Do Not Sell At Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World's Rarest 78rpm Records

"Part memoir, part criticism, Field Recordings From The Inside maps the ways music can define and shape our lives--which, in Joe Bonomo's case, encompasses local bands and Top 40 one-hit wonders, Hank Williams and Frank Sinatra, everything that gets inside if your ears are open enough." --Alan Light, author of The Holy or the Broken and former Editor-Chief of Spin Magazine

"Field Recordings From The Inside is the first book I've encountered that expertly blends my two favorite kinds of writing: music criticism and the literary essay. Joe Bonomo combines sound, the self, and the "roll and prank" of an essayistic mind to create a book that skates between discussions of history, records, coming of age, literature, relationships, and great rock-and-rollers. This book is a thoughtful and sonorous pleasure from start to finish." --Elena Passarello, author of Let Me Clear My Throat and Animals Strike Curious Poses

Praise for Sweat

"Joe Bonomo has written a fine book; a book not only about a band or times passed, but also about the rare virtue of endurance." --Nick Tosches

"Most bands have a narrative arc that runs from formative years to rock-star ascent to inevitable breakup. The Fleshtones' chart flatlines somewhere between fame and obscurity, and this is where Bonomo takes an interesting angle. By recounting the band's Sisyphean chase of fame, which is rewarded only with a raging cult following, he offers a unique "view from the bottom" - familiar to 99.9 percent of all bands -of rock's last three decades. Sweat reads like a true labor of love. It's a highly detailed account of the band that refused to go away until, through determination and stamina, they got the book they deserved." --New York Post

"A Chicago area resident and teacher at Northern Illinois University, Joe Bonomo is nearly religious in his devotion to the long-running combo fronted by Peter Zaremba, who some may remember from his side job as the host of MTV's alternative showcase, "120 Minutes." In Sweat: The Story of the Fleshtones, America's Garage Band (Continuum, $19.95), the author approaches his tale with the same scholarly devotion that Drummond employed...In the end, the author concludes that it will go one as long as the musicians are still walking and breathing, and their story is ultimately one of perseverance and faith in a rough 'n' ready aesthetic originally defined on long-forgotten 45s but so enduringly powerful that grown men devote their lives to it." --Chicago Sun Times

"...unputdownable: the people and places who drifted through its pages were memorable, and the story stubbornly refused to stoop to pathos." --The Chicago Reader

"In Sweat, Joe Bonomo confronts the realities of life in one of America's great unsung bands of heroes: the Fleshtones. Rocking the house down night after night, holding on to their unique vision forever, whether laughing in the face of failure, caught in the rip tides of American culture, battling on the New York streets, or crowded in the back of a van on its way to the furthest reaches of the solar system...It's a 'Blue Whale' of a story: hilarious, harrowing, and ultimately inspiring." --Peter Case, singer-songwriter

"Imagine the myth of Sisyphus recast as a garage band--and a good one--and you have the story of the Fleshtones...Bonomo tells their cursed story with religious fervor and a near-lyrical quality to his prose. In cataloging a decades long litany of indignities and misfortunes that did little to deter the Fleshtones' passion, the book raises deeper questions about what making it in music means...This is the secret history that even NYC punk histories like Please Kill Me couldn't handle." --Library Journal

"More than an account of a particular band, sound, or specific era in rock history, Joe Bonomo's compelling, well-researched, and thoroughly riveting account of the Fleshtones is an homage to a way of living your life -- one that revolves around raucous music, what Jack Kerouac once called the 'quest for kicks, ' and most of all a whole lot of sweat and passion." --Jim DeRogatis, pop music critic, Chicago Sun-Times, and author of Let It Blurt: The Life and Times of Lester Bangs, America's Greatest Rock Critic.

"This great book by Joe Bonomo really gets to the heart of who the Fleshtones are, and the price they paid. Now it's up to you to check out the Fleshtones when they hit your town. And in my own defense, that fire that Keith and I started in France was really a very small fire. Not worth mentioning at all. Please." --Peter Buck, R.E.M.

"[An] elegantly written biography of the Fleshtones." --Robert Short,

"I would have given this book 873 stars, but they only let me give it five...A love letter, a labor of love, and a gripping read about people who have brought nothing but happiness to thousands of people for a long, long is a brilliant book no matter what." --Lexington Green, Book Notes, Music

"...the author's adoring approach, which manages to be at once casual and encyclopedic, will convert most skeptics. And even if it doesn't, Sweat is about much more than a hard-working band that never quite broke even; it champions the enduring spirit of rock-n-roll, and the lengths to which musicians and fans will travel to keep that spirit flamed." --Andrew Leahy, CMJ

Praise for Jerry Lee Lewis: Lost and Found

"The compelling story behind the greatest live record ever! Thoroughly researched and beautifully written. They should teach this book in schools." --Blaine Cartwright, Nashville Pussy

"Joe Bonomo manages to tell the (fascinating) back story while capturing the excitement of what may be the greatest live album ever recorded." --James "The Hound" Marshall

"The greatest book ever written on the making of an album. It also dispels any lingering doubt about the profound musical impact of Jerry Lee Lewis." --Josh Alan Friedman, author of Tales of Times Square

"I've read most of the books about him and will now put Jerry Lee Lewis: Lost and Found on the indispensable list. It's one of the best books about the man and his music." --Lincoln Journal Star

"The contentiousness of [this book] is refreshing, and a welcome alternative to merely rehashing facts and figures." --Terry Staunton, Record Collector

"Bonomo doesn't shy away from the gory details, but he doesn't bury his subject in myth either. A welcome rarity among books about rock legends, Bonomo lets the music and the history do the actual talking." --Country Roads Magazine

"When dealing with the career of rock 'n' roll legend Jerry Lee Lewis, the star's marriage to his thirteen-year-old second cousin overshadows the years that led up to one of his most important recordings: his album Live at the Star-Club. In this meaty volume, Joe Bonomo looks in depth at how this amazing performance came to be, examining the improbable intersection of rockabilly's tail end and the first stirrings of British Beat on stage in Hamburg. The book includes new interviews with album producer Sigi Loch, members of the Nashville Teens (who backed Lewis during the performance), and musicians and fans who were there at the Star-Club that night. An essential guide to Lewis' 'lost years' and later career, this book will be devoured by readers interested in Jerry Lee Lewis and the history of rock." --Eithne O'Leyne, BOOK NEWS, Inc.

"I can't say enough good things about it. The short version of my rave would be that he's brought a fresh perspective to an oft-covered subject, managing to be both personal and universal in appeal at once." --Musoscribe

"Between rock and country stardom, however, he returned to Britain in 1962 and 1963 and, concluding the '63 jaunt in Hamburg, Germany, recorded one of the acknowledged greatest live albums ever. Accounting for every aspect of that record is the loving heart of Bonomo's tribute, and he continues to thoughtfully evaluate Lewis's country albums." --Booklist

"Way back in the early 1960s, Hunter S. Thompson established what came to be known as gonzo journalism. Popular music journalists such as Lester Bangs and Nick Tosches adapted the form to fit their needs. Bonomo channels their styles in this three-part study about rock and 'n' roll star Jerry Lee Lewis's fall from grace owing to his marriage with a teenage second cousin; his return to artistic and commercial viability in 1964 when, in Hamburg, Germany, he recorded one of the greatest live rock 'n' roll albums; and, finally, his turn toward country music in the late 1960s. Writing in a no-holds-barred style, Bonomo is at times vulgar, intriguing, controversial, insightful, and inciting. ...Those willing to take a chance on this nonstandard biography, complete with graphic sexual allusions, musings on commercialism, and shots of raw emotion, is recommended for pop culture hounds." --Library Journal

"'s hard to imagine [Jerry Lee Lewis] will ever find himself championed by a more enthusiastic and persuasive advocate." --Washington Post

"Particularly convincing in capturing the thrill of live performance." --Joe Muggs, The Word

"The book is flush with a passion for music and life, all further enhanced by Bonomo's keen understanding of the human impulse to create, the quest for honesty and commitment, and the unshakable fallibilities that dog us all. One needn't even be conversant in that album in particular or Lewis in general to be captivated the common threads that tie us to music, or anything that we care about deeply. Between this and his 2007 book on the Fleshtones (Sweat), Bonomo has earned permanent shelf space in any vital music library." --Blurt Magazine

"Bonomo has managed a thoroughly exciting and thoughtful story that should delight both Jerry Lee Lewis fans and anyone who's had their world shook up by a live performance." --Country Standard Time

Praise for Highway to Hell

"One of the five most important books about AC/DC. Bonomo brings a fresh American perspective on the AC/DC story by writing from the point of view of a young man growing up in Wheaton, Maryland, hearing this landmark album from these wild colonial boys for the first time." --Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC

"Bonomo's passion for his subject matter is undeniable, and the verve with which he writes about music is endearing."----Kirkus Reviews