Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A Million Miles Away

My high school buddy Frank Reiss has owned and operated A Cappella Books, the wonderful indie book store in Atlanta's Little 5 Points neighborhood, for going on 18 years. More recently, Frank has also founded a little publishing company, Everthemore Books, that specializes (thus far) in books about music. He first re-printed beautiful paperback editions of two music titles that (for reasons I can't begin to understand) had been out-of-print for a number of years, Paul Hemphill's The Nashville Sound and Rodger Lyle Brown's Party Out Of Bounds: The B-52s, R.E.M. and The Kids Who Rocked Athens, Georgia. Both of these books are highly recommended, and when the Hemphill book was published in 1970, the Chicago Sun-Times called it “the best book ever written about country music.”

This week, Everthemore -- under a new imprint called For Now -- releases its first original title, As Far As You Can Get Without A Passport, the initial volume of memoirs by singer-songwriter Peter Case. If you're not familiar with Case, he was a huge figure in the West Coast music scene in the late 70s and throughout the 80s, and a founding member of two influential bands, punk outfit The Nerves (their "Hangin' On The Telephone" was later and more famously covered by Blondie) and power-popsters The Plimsouls (who hit big with the classic "A Million Miles Away" in 1983). He's since toured and recorded as a solo artist, with a smaller but devoted following, and for much of the last 30 years has basically lived the life of a folk troubadour.

Case is also, as this book makes clear, one hell of a prose writer. I attended a preview event at A Cappella in the fall of last year and was blown away by the excerpt he read that night, a vivid, richly detailed and frequently moving account of his early days as a "busking" sidewalk musician in San Francisco. He's had a fascinating life, has encountered lots of real-life characters along the way (both famous and obscure), and is a genuinely gifted storyteller.

You can pick up copies of any of these books at the A Cappella store in L5P or at the Everthemore page on its website. If you're smart, you'll do just that.