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Martin Bandyke Under Covers for July 2019: Martin interviews John Wall, author of Streamliner: Raymond Loewy and Image-making in the Age of American Industrial Design.

Tue, 07/02/2019 - 10:42am

Born in Paris in 1893 and trained as an engineer, Raymond Loewy revolutionized twentieth-century American industrial design. Combining salesmanship and media savvy, he created bright, smooth, and colorful logos for major corporations that included Greyhound, Exxon, and Nabisco. His designs for Studebaker automobiles, Sears Coldspot refrigerators, Lucky Strike cigarette packs, and Pennsylvania Railroad locomotives are iconic. Beyond his timeless designs, Loewy carefully built an international reputation through the assiduous courting of journalists and tastemakers to become the face of both a new profession and a consumer-driven vision of the American dream.

In Streamliner, John Wall traces the evolution of an industry through the lens of Loewy’s eclectic life, distinctive work, and invented persona. How, he asks, did Loewy build a business while transforming himself into a national brand a half century before "branding" became relevant? Placing Loewy in context with the emerging consumer culture of the latter half of the twentieth century, Wall explores how his approach to business complemented―or differed from―that of his well-known contemporaries, including industrial designers Henry Dreyfuss, Walter Teague, and Norman Bel Geddes. Wall also reveals how Loewy tailored his lifestyle to cement the image of "designer" in the public imagination, and why the self-promotion that drove Loewy to the top of his profession began to work against him at the end of his career. Streamliner is an important and engaging work on one of the longest-lived careers in industrial design.

Martin Bandyke’s interview with John Wall was originally recorded on February 6, 2019.

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Martin Bandyke Under Covers for June 2019: Martin interviews Ian S. Port, author of The Birth of Loud: Leo Fender, Les Paul, and the Guitar-Pioneering Rivalry That Shaped Rock 'n' Roll

Wed, 06/05/2019 - 4:58pm

“A hot-rod joy ride through mid-20th-century American history” (The New York Times Book Review), this one-of-a-kind narrative masterfully recreates the rivalry between the two men who innovated the electric guitar’s amplified sound—Leo Fender and Les Paul—and their intense competition to convince rock stars like the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and Eric Clapton to play the instruments they built.

In the years after World War II, music was evolving from big-band jazz into rock ’n’ roll—and these louder styles demanded revolutionary instruments. When Leo Fender’s tiny firm marketed the first solid-body electric guitar, the Esquire, musicians immediately saw its appeal. Not to be out-maneuvered, Gibson, the largest guitar manufacturer, raced to build a competitive product. The company designed an “axe” that would make Fender’s Esquire look cheap and convinced Les Paul—whose endorsement Leo Fender had sought—to put his name on it. Thus was born the guitar world’s most heated rivalry: Gibson versus Fender, Les versus Leo.

While Fender was a quiet, half-blind, self-taught radio repairman, Paul was a brilliant but headstrong pop star and guitarist who spent years toying with new musical technologies. Their contest turned into an arms race as the most inventive musicians of the 1950s and 1960s—including bluesman Muddy Waters, rocker Buddy Holly, the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and Eric Clapton—adopted one maker’s guitar or another. By 1969 it was clear that these new electric instruments had launched music into a radical new age, empowering artists with a vibrancy and volume never before attainable.

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Martin Bandyke Under Covers for May 2019: Martin Bandyke interviews Kenneth C. Springirth, author of Detroit’s Streetcar Heritage

Fri, 05/03/2019 - 5:12pm

Kenneth Charles Springirth (born 1939) is a United States author, activist, politician, guest-speaker, photographer, and railroad historian. Detroit's Streetcar Heritage is Ken’s photographic essay of the Detroit, Michigan, streetcar system.

Replacement of slow moving horsecar service began with the opening of an electric street railway by the Detroit Citizens Street Railway in 1892. By 1900, all of the Detroit streetcar systems were consolidated into the Detroit United Railway (DUR). Following voter approval, the City of Detroit purchased DUR in 1922, becoming the first large United States city to own and operate public transit under Detroit Department of Street Railways (DSR). Between 1921 and 1930, DSR purchased 781 Peter Witt type streetcars. Although DSR purchased 186 modern Presidents' Conference Committee (PCC) cars between 1945 and 1949, many streetcar lines were converted to bus operation. The last streetcar line on Woodward Avenue was converted to bus operation in 1956 with 183 PCC cars sold to Mexico City. Detroit's Streetcar Heritage documents the city's streetcar era plus scenes of the PCC cars in Mexico City, the Washington Boulevard Line which operated from 1976 to 2003, and the QLINE streetcar which opened in 2017 on Woodward Avenue linking Grand Boulevard with downtown Detroit.

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Martin Bandyke Under Covers for March 2019: Martin Bandyke interviews Thomas Brothers, author of Help: The Beatles, Duke Ellington, and the Magic of Collaboration.

Fri, 03/08/2019 - 3:32pm

The Beatles and Duke Ellington’s Orchestra stand as the two greatest examples of collaboration in music history. Ellington’s forte was not melody―his key partners were not lyricists but his fellow musicians. His strength was in arranging, in elevating the role of a featured soloist, in selecting titles: in packaging compositions. He was also very good at taking credit when the credit wasn’t solely his, as in the case of Mood Indigo, though he was ultimately responsible for the orchestration of what Duke University musicologist Thomas Brothers calls "one of his finest achievements." If Ellington was often reluctant to publicly acknowledge how essential collaboration was to the Ellington sound, the relationship between Lennon and McCartney was fluid from the start. Lennon and McCartney "wrote for each other as primary audience." Lennon’s preference for simpler music meant that it begged for enhancement and McCartney was only too happy to oblige, and while McCartney expanded the Beatles’ musical range, Lennon did "the same thing with lyrics."

Through his fascinating examination of these two musical legends, Brothers delivers a portrait of the creative process at work, demonstrating that the cooperative method at the foundation of these two artist-groups was the primary reason for their unmatched musical success. While clarifying the historical record of who wrote what, with whom, and how, Brothers brings the past to life with a lifetime of musical knowledge that reverberates through every page, and analyses of songs from Lennon and McCartney’s Strawberry Fields Forever to Billy Strayhorn’s Chelsea Bridge.

Help! describes in rich detail the music and mastery of two cultural leaders whose popularity has never dimmed, and the process of collaboration that allowed them to achieve an artistic vision greater than the sum of their parts.

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Martin Bandyke Under Covers for February 2019: Martin Bandyke interviews Chris Stamey, author of A Spy in the House of Loud: New York Songs and Stories.

Tue, 02/05/2019 - 2:20pm

Popular music was in a creative upheaval in the late 1970s. As the singer-songwriter and producer Chris Stamey remembers, “The old guard had become bloated, cartoonish, and widely co-opted by a search for maximum corporate profits, and we wanted none of it.” In A Spy in the House of Loud, he takes us back to the auteur explosion happening in New York clubs such as the Bowery’s CBGB as Television, Talking Heads, R.E.M., and other innovative bands were rewriting the rules. Just twenty-two years old and newly arrived from North Carolina, Stamey immersed himself in the action, playing a year with Alex Chilton before forming the dB’s and recording the albums Stands for deciBels and Repercussion, which still have an enthusiastic following.

A Spy in the House of Loud vividly captures the energy that drove the music scene as arena rock gave way to punk and other new streams of electric music. Stamey tells engrossing backstories about creating in the recording studio, describing both the inspiration and the harmonic decisions behind many of his compositions, as well as providing insights into other people’s music and the process of songwriting. Photos, mixer-channel and track assignment notes, and other inside-the-studio materials illustrate the stories. Revealing another side of the CBGB era, which has been stereotyped as punk rock, safety pins, and provocation, A Spy in the House of Loud portrays a southern artist’s coming-of-age in New York’s frontier abandon as he searches for new ways to break the rules and make some noise.

Martin’s interview with Chris Stamey was recorded on August 29, 2018.

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Martin Bandyke Under Covers for January 2019: Martin interviews Thor Hanson, author of Buzz: The Nature and Necessity of Bees.

Wed, 01/30/2019 - 1:44pm

Bees are like oxygen: ubiquitous, essential, and, for the most part, unseen. While we might overlook them, they lie at the heart of relationships that bind the human and natural worlds. In Buzz, Thor Hanson (the award-winning author of The Triumph of Seeds and Feathers) takes us on a journey that begins 125 million years ago, when a wasp first dared to feed pollen to its young. From honeybees and bumbles to lesser-known diggers, miners, leafcutters, and masons, bees have long been central to our harvests, our mythologies, and our very existence. They've given us sweetness and light, the beauty of flowers, and as much as a third of the foodstuffs we eat. And, alarmingly, they are at risk of disappearing.

As informative and enchanting as the waggle dance of a honeybee, Buzz shows us why all bees are wonders to celebrate and protect. Read this book and you'll never overlook them again.

Martin's interview with Thor Hanson was recorded on August 13, 2018.

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Martin Bandyke Under Covers for December 2018: Martin Bandyke interviews Christopher Bonanos, author of Flash: The Making of Weegee the Famous.

Tue, 12/04/2018 - 11:47am

Arthur Fellig’s ability to arrive at a crime scene just as the cops did was so uncanny that he renamed himself “Weegee,” claiming that he functioned as a human Ouija board. Weegee documented better than any other photographer the crime, grit, and complex humanity of midcentury New York City. In Flash, we get a portrait not only of the man (both flawed and deeply talented, with generous appetites for publicity, women, and hot pastrami) but also of the fascinating time and place that he occupied.

From self-taught immigrant kid to newshound to art-world darling to latter-day caricature―moving from the dangerous streets of New York City to the celebrity culture of Los Angeles and then to Europe for a quixotic late phase of experimental photography and filmmaking―Weegee lived a life just as worthy of documentation as the scenes he captured. With Flash, we have an unprecedented and ultimately moving view of the man now regarded as an innovator and a pioneer, an artist as well as a newsman, whose photographs are among most powerful images of urban existence ever made.

Martin’s interview with Christopher Bonanos was recorded on July 17, 2018.

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Martin Bandyke Under Covers for November 2018: Martin Bandyke interviews Jorma Kaukonen, author of Been So Long: My Life and Music.

Thu, 11/08/2018 - 1:47pm

 

From the man who made a name for himself as a founding member and lead guitarist of Jefferson Airplane comes a memoir that offers a rare glimpse into the heart and soul of a musical genius―and a vivid journey through the psychedelic era in America.

“Music is the reward for being alive,” writes Jorma Kaukonen in this candid and emotional account of his life and work. “It stirs memory in a singular way that is unmatched.” In a career that has already spanned a half century―one that has earned him induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, among other honors―Jorma is best known for his legendary bands Jefferson Airplane and the still-touring Hot Tuna. But before he won worldwide recognition he was just a young man with a passion and a dream.

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Martin Bandyke Under Covers for October 2018: Martin Bandyke interviews Wayne Kramer, author of The Hard Stuff: Dope, Crime, the MC5, and My Life of Impossibilities.

Tue, 10/02/2018 - 12:49pm

The Hard Stuff is the first memoir by Wayne Kramer, legendary guitarist and cofounder of quintessential Detroit proto-punk legends the MC5.

In January 1969, before the world heard a note of their music, the MC5 was on the cover of Rolling Stone. The missing link between free jazz and punk rock, they were raw, primal, and, when things were clicking, absolutely unstoppable.

The MC5 was a reflection of the times: exciting, sexy, violent, chaotic, and out of control, all but assuring their time in the spotlight would be short-lived. They toured the country, played with music legends, and had a rabid following, their music acting as the soundtrack to the blue collar youth movement springing up across the nation. Kramer wanted to redefine what a rock 'n' roll group was capable of, and there was power in reaching for that, but it was also a recipe for disaster, both personally and professionally. The band recorded three major label albums but, by 1972, it was all over.

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Martin Bandyke Under Covers for September 2018: Martin Bandyke interviews Robert Hilburn, author of Paul Simon: The Life.

Fri, 09/07/2018 - 10:47am

For more than fifty years, Paul Simon has spoken to us in songs about alienation, doubt, resilience, and empathy in ways that have established him as one of the most beloved artists in American pop music history. Songs like “The Sound of Silence,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “Still Crazy After All These Years,” and “Graceland” have moved beyond the sales charts and into our cultural consciousness. But Simon is a deeply private person who has resisted speaking to us outside of his music. He has said he will not write an autobiography or memoir, and he has refused to talk to previous biographers.

Finally, Simon has opened up—for more than one hundred hours of interviews—to Robert Hilburn, whose biography of Johnny Cash was named by Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times as one of her ten favorite books of 2013. The result is a landmark book that will take its place as the defining biography of one of America’s greatest artists.

Over the past three years, Hilburn has conducted in-depth interviews with scores of Paul Simon’s friends, family, colleagues, and others—including ex-wives Carrie Fisher and Peggy Harper, who spoke for the first time—and even penetrated the inner circle of Simon’s long-reclusive muse, Kathy Chitty. The result is a deeply human account of the challenges and sacrifices of a life in music at the highest level. In the process, Hilburn documents Simon’s search for artistry and his constant struggle to protect that artistry against distractions—fame, marriage, divorce, drugs, record company interference, rejection, and insecurity—that have derailed so many great pop figures.