Great Pop Things
The Real History of Rock and Roll from Elvis to Oasis
by Colin B. Morton & Chuck Death
with an introduction by Greil Marcus
Paperback. 232 pages.
The comic strips of Colin B. Morton and Chuck Death deliver an irreverent, heartfelt, and devastatingly funny history of rock and roll. Like Monty Python at its best, their version is surreal and ridiculous-yet somehow everything in it rings true.
According to Morton and Death, the bass player in Led Zeppelin was Jean-Paul Sartre. And “despite having been able to think up brilliant titles for their first three albums, Led Zeppelin were stuck for what to call the fourth one-so they put a load of prunes on the front.” As for Brian Eno, it was only after he was struck by a cab one day that he invented “ambivalent music, which you can’t quite tell if you are listening to or not.”
In strip after strip, Morton & Death pinpoint the absurdities and oddities of rock history. In the process, they often come closer to its truth than most conventional accounts, as well as being much more entertaining. Their caricatures of rock figures from Mick Jagger to Frank Zappa, Johnny Rotten to Courtney Love, are in themselves worth the price of admission.
About the authors:
Chuck Death is the pen name of Jon Langford, singer/guitarist in legendary rock band the Mekons, and a painter of growing repute. He lives in Chicago. Colin B. Morton is a writer, critic, and irrepressible satirist who lives in Newport, Wales, where he and Langford grew up.
Art, Words, and Music
by Jon Langford
144-page paperback, plus 18-song CD
Beyond his work as a musician (Mekons, Waco Brothers, and solo), Jon Langford has attracted ever-growing attention as a visual artist in recent years. Nashville Radio is the first collection of his acclaimed art. It reproduces 215 paintings and etchings, along with song lyrics and autobiographical writings. The book also comes with an exclusive CD of Langford performing 18 of the printed songs.
Langford’s “song-paintings” fuse publicity-shot portraiture with imagery derived from folk art, Dutch still life, classic Western wear, and the cold, cold war—all instilled with sharp, sardonic wit and a Constructivist sense of the power of language. He applies his completely distinctive style to the depiction of American music giants such as Bob Wills, Hank Williams, and Johnny Cash, and also to more ghostly, marginalized figures — blindfolded cowboys, astronauts, and dancers — jerked around by the forces of success and exploitation, fame and neglect.
It’s a style supple enough not only to express the artist’s deep regard for his musical heroes, but also for him to comment on the death-dealing tendencies in the culture of his adopted homeland, from the killing off of authentic popular music by homogenized, mass-marketed drivel to the embrace of capital punishment as a response to social ills. The woman twirled around by a skull-headed figure in the series Dancing with Death in a Dollar Dress stands not just for country music, but for America itself.
Langford’s work offers an alternative perspective, recalling “a time when great visionaries and pioneers thrived at the heart of the mainstream — and the lid wasn’t on so tight.”
CD track listing:
The Death of Country Music / Slightly South of The Border / Oh No, Hank! / Dollar Dress / Tubby Brothers / Now We Have the Bomb / Hell’s Roof / The Return of the Golden Guitarist / Pill Sailor / Hank Signs His Contract / Insignificance / It’s Not Enough / Ugly Band / Blink of an Eye / Tom Jones Levitation / I Picked Up the Pieces / Nashville Radio / The Country Is Young
SKULL ORCHARD REVISITED
Art, Words & Music, including the classic Skull Orchard CD, remixed with a full Welsh male voice choir
Nashville Radio, Jon Langford’s first collection of paintings, writing, and music, summed up two decades’ work as an artist and musician. For its successor, Langford has created a highly personal portrait of the South Wales he grew up in and left. The starting point was his long unobtainable album Skull Orchard. For the CD available exclusively with this book, Langford returned to those lost recordings and radically revised them, adding three new tracks. His accomplices in the project were the Burlington Welsh Male Chorus, who contribute a unique warmth to the songs.
Langford illustrated his lyrics for Skull Orchard, at once autobiographical and fanciful, in a set of “song paintings” created especially for the book, which also includes many more paintings, an A to Z of South Walian culture and history (both personal and general) by brother (and acclaimed SF writer) David, photographs by their father, Denis Langford, and Jon’s first published story, a witty, dystopian tale about a whale and a dolphin.
CD track listing:
1 TUBBY BROTHERS
3 LAST COUNT
4 BUTTER SONG
5 SENTIMENTAL MARCHING SONG
7 TRAP DOOR
8 INSIDE THE WHALE
9 I AM THE LAW
10 GREEN VALLEYS
11 PILL SAILOR
12 PENNY ARCADES
13 MY OWN WORST ENEMY
15 I’M STOPPING THIS TRAIN
16 DEEP SEA DIVER
17 TOM JONES LEVITATION
18 THE BALLAD OF SOLOMON JONES
19 MESSAGE FROM NEWPORT
(“Add To Cart” means buying it from Verse Corus Press)