Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Making of TeenBeat Mayhem!, Part III
When the going gets insane, the insane get going....

I still recall the phone conversation I had with Mike J. back in 1998, then the project leader for Rhino Records' Nuggets four CD box set.  I was hired in the closing seconds to double check and correct information regarding the songs selected for the set and Mike had inquired about my book.  He urged me to whip up a quickie reference credit so that people would be aware of my forthcoming project. As I did not have a clue when I would be done, let alone have a catchy subtitle for the book, I just fired off some lame cliché, so that it would be listed within the credits and references.  You can check out the credit for yourself and read the foolish stereotypical subtitle! To this day, people often ask me about my book "that came out in 1999", thanks to the mention within the Nuggets box set booklet.  Ha.

Yeah, I lost my "get the book done by 2000 or you lose" wager with Don Julio Blanco, who seemingly vanished to a faraway isle retreat to escape the millennium bru-ha. Despite this loss, I was still plugging away at that point in time. Although, to the best of my recollection, I thought that I had 90% of the book completed.  All that was required were some travels to meet new contacts who collected garage 45s, so that I could shoe-horn in any 45s not already documented, along with another last minute trek on down to the Library Of Congress.  I had no concept regarding the vast amount of work yet to be done. Whoever first proclaimed that well-known boast of “Anyone can write a book" obviously had never really tried to do so.

What I didn't know at that time: Popular Culture Ink was on the verge of financial collapse.  To my thinking, they were the only game in town regarding a fitting publisher for TeenBeat Mayhem.  Any other publisher would have expediently rejected any notion of publishing my book, for the topic was too arcane, the potential audience too narrow, etc.  It didn't matter that there was no other book of this type out there in book-ville, let alone anyone else trying to do something beyond that of a Xeroxed / photocopied booklet collated, printed and stapled together in a limited quantity.  Thus, Pop Culture Ink truly was my only hope.  I soon learned unpleasant news from another author who had one of his works issued by the imprint. He stated that I would be making a serious mistake in signing a deal.  I won't go into specifics; let's just say that there were many problems that ensued with said author's book. Anyway, it didn’t matter, for Popular Culture Ink was nearly defunct.

Not knowing where to go next, I downshifted the information compiling stage into low gear, and figured that I would simply teach myself design techniques for the layout in the book.  This way, I could have the complete package ready to showcase to a potential investor or small press outlet. Maybe I would be able to learn Pagemaker in a year, so that I could do everything myself.  I bought several instruction books....Ha – Wrong.  Even the massive time involved to scan the 45 record labels did not translate to smooth sailing.  I initially received "free" scanning instruction via a former co-worker who handled graphics as part of his daily work duties. He suggested that I hire someone to do the scans.  No way -  I was not loaning my records to strangers, or friends. No sir. "I'll just do it myself", I vowed.  Fortified with a bit of know-how, I went out and bought a $500 top of the line flatbed scanner (which is still working, in molasses dripping slow-motion mode to this day) and finagled a way to purchase Photoshop.  Thus, I began the l long process of scanning 45 labels. I planned to have small sized record label scans throughout the book, which, at that time, was just going to be a listing of the collectible 45s known and tagged by collectors as "garage 45s".

I had been conversing with Greg Shaw via e-mails for quite some time, who suggested that TeenBeat Mayhem should offer a bit more than just "nuts and bolts for record collectors".  He proclaimed that the time was right for a definitive book that provided not only a listing of 45s, but a sort of detailed historical account as to what occurred during the '60s and how interest for the subject came to be.  He accepted my request to write the foreword for the book, but Greg would only do so when I was ready to go to press.  Sadly, that did not happen - one of my regrets for having the project take so long to complete. (Greg, and a few other well-respected collector friends have since passed on, never to see what they had hoped to read; their names are listed on the acknowledgements page in the book).

So, I scrapped the "discography only" concept for TeenBeat Mayhem, and began fleshing out ideas which would make the book interesting to people who were not fanatical collectors - the people who were a part of the times during the mid to late 1960s - the teenagers of the era, now older adults, as well as younger aged music fans who were curious to find out what was going on back then.  If one believed all passionate liner note scribings (that there was a worldwide teenage revolution against bland pop music going on), well, that was a myth, postulated in the mind of the writer.  I was high time to relate the truth in an accurate manner.  I then began outlining a time-line styled historical account of the time period (this chapter within TeenBeat Mayhem! took five years to complete).  As the early months of 2000 rolled onward, I knew that the timeline for TBM completion would now push a potential publication date to at least 2003 or 2004. 
Yeah, right!

At this point, two collector friends I had met offered to help me with TeenBeat Mayhem - namely, the layout and graphics oriented workload. I'm sure both guys never in their wildest dreams thought that the amount of time and effort on their behalf would be so demanding, and draining. I, too, really had no idea how involved it was – design by trial and error.  The entire design operated by that cliché, 'flying by the seat of your pants'.  I was also urged to set strict deadlines regarding unfinalized portions within the book.  Deadlines are fine when said project is your lone job / focus for each day.  However, we all had our own work / jobs during the day, and time spent toward TBM was delegated whenever free time allowed.  For myself, all free time was automatically reserved for the book.  I was elated that I could now focus on the written content and the discography of 45s, and leave the layout stage in very capable hands.  Hmmm....Maybe I would be finished sooner than I thought!

My collector pal Ben handled the design of the book and layout for each page within TeenBeat Mayhem.  He came on board, willing to help, as he offered when we met up at the Allentown, PA all-45rpm record show one fall weekend.  I suggested we bounce ideas around and that we really strive to make each page look visually crisp, yet have the content read easy on the eyes.  Well, you don't want to know how many revisions and scraps we went through, even right from the get-go.  I’m sure Ben was frustrated with me most often, yet he never led on that I was slowly driving him insane.  We looked long and hard to find the right blend of fonts, while using as much of the page space (what I call real estate) as possible.  I did not want to have paragraphs split because they would not fit, or discography listings split onto separate columns or pages. That absolute alone was enough to keep Ben busy.  We evolved from primitive workings of Quark Express to sophisticated concepts within In-Design during the 8 years of layout design mayhem.  I'm sure you will all agree with me that Ben did an outstanding job, once you peruse each page within TeenBeat Mayhem.  He'll always have my undying gratitude. I wonder if he will help me with book #2????

An early front cover draft circa 2004. I later enlisted the help of another talented 60s garage fan from overseas who created several excellent samples, which led to the official cover you will soon see...

All fans of '60s garage know the name "Bosshoss" on the web belongs to that of Mark T. who resides in Australia.  As a formidable presence who emerged onto the collector scene full-throttle in 1996, Bosshoss was hardly recalcitrant when it came to forking over big bucks for those USA 6'0s garage 45s he needed for his collection.  I met him initially as a "go-between advisor", in order to help him get the most fuzztone wallop for his buck.  A friendship developed, and when the headache of the label scan project was presented, Mark agreed to take on the task.  He diligently scanned his entire collection so that the A and B sides of each 45 were properly documented (which helped immensely when time came for proofing the text).  Early efforts to depict as many scans as possible were nixed in favor of having larger size scans, and scans in blazing-full color.  But, what scans should we include?

In the meantime, I had received suggestions to improve TeenBeat Mayhem via several collectors, all patiently waiting for my book.  The top three suggestions were: 1) a price value and rarity guide; 2) include some sort of quality / rating system to note how "good" the 45 was via the ears of collectors and 3) "song-style" descriptions for every possible song listed in the book. Hmm...good ideas, all.  however, the price guide angle was dismissed immediately - price guide info was always going to be outdated as soon as the book was printed, and the rarity guide could also change in a short period of time.  Qualities not befitting of a reliable reference tome.  Suggestions 2 and 3 got me thinking.  I did not want to be the sole "ranking authority" regarding the quality scale I began to formulate (I tried a four star system with just my own vote, and quickly dismissed the concept). 

So, I invited several collector pals to be placed within my "Rating Cabinet".  All members would  listen to each song I uploaded to my storage space via a 90 second sample file, and then cast their vote on a scale of  1 to 10, as to their opinion of how “good” said song is.  1 equated to the “barely qualifies / few ever need to hear again” garden variety tune, whereas a 10 was an out an out killer beyond compare.  I used this 1 to 10 rating scale, instead of the older style one to four "star" scale (utilized within the David Shutt & Doug Hanners co-compiled Texas rock discography, “Journey to Tyme”).  Thirteen members were selected to accomplish the task, in order to provide a "consensus" type rating.  In addition, I drafted a stand-by utility man crew; the part-time guys who would either fill in, or replace original members who became overwhelmed with the task in time.  This project eventually took a total of eight and half years to rate and tally the "mean" (average, for you non-math types) for 14, 800+ songs that I was able to acquire in some manner (on a 45, analog tape or digital disc / file) for my archives.

One of our first attempts for page layout, prior to developing the1 to 10 numeric rating system.  This layout was rejected due to the cluttered look and lousy mix of fonts.

The description portion of the task took just as long, and was far more taxing on a mental end than I could have imagined.  Mark initially offered to help; he quickly realized the insanity level required to focus on 16,000 plus song titles was Just Too Much”, and instead focused solely upon providing label scans for our Top 1000 songs (All these scans are depicted in full color inside TeenBeat Mayhem, the result tabulated from the rating project).  Without Mark's help I took to the task, and began coming up with key phrases and terms that I would employ throughout the discography portion of TBM. Sometimes it was very easy to tag a song title with a 5 or 6 word phrase, many times it was hard to even get 4 words that painted a picture of a particular song's soundscape.  But, I trudged onward.  And now, it is all done, ready for you, the reader to compare, contrast and pontificate over!

Next time: The wrap-up stage and latest news!

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The Sounds Of 1960's Teenage America, as captured within my book, TeenBeat Mayhem!

Here you'll find all the latest news and updates on the book, plus examples of how it has evolved during the course of 20 years of work! And, a cool 45 or two as well, time permitting. Stay tuned!