07 May 2009


I haven't mentioned it here before because I didn't want to jinx anything, but last year I put in a proposal to do a book for the 33 1/3 series. My subject was to be Operation Ivy's Energy, and my proposal made it to the last stage of the selection process before finally getting a thumbs down (they started out with some 650 proposals, of which 12 to 15 will ultimately be published).

Naturally I'm disappointed, not just for myself (I think I would have done a very good job on it, and could have used the work), but also for the band, who deserve to have their story told, and even, oddly enough, for the publisher, who I think would have been pleasantly surprised at how many copies this book would sell.

Because of current economic conditions, I think they were picking titles with a bit more of an eye on potential sales figures than they might normally, and I suspect this was at least part of the reason Operation Ivy didn't make the cut. To those of us familiar with the band, this might seem bizarre: having sold, almost purely by word of mouth, around a million copies of their album (and done it all posthumously, i.e., after the band broke up in May 1989, it's obvious that there'd be a market for anything written about them. Especially when you consider that there's never been one, and that the band's members have been notoriously close-mouthed when it comes to talking to journalists about their history.

But in the course of reading the 33 1/3 message board comments as the various proposals worked their way through the selection process, it gradually sank in that however massive Op Ivy were in our East Bay/pop-punk scene, they were very nearly off the radar for many indie music fans, and that those who were aware of them often dismissed them with characteristic hipster snobbery for being too "popular" or for having an insufficient number of minor or diminished chords in their songs.

It took me back to the mid to late 80s, around the time when Lookout Records and Operation Ivy were both getting started, and the denizens of what was then an extremely insular punk and indie scene turned their noses up at us because, well, because a) they'd never heard of us; b) we weren't by any stretch of the conventional imagination "cool"; and c) we were liked by all those annoying young teenagers.

I'll admit it was childish of me, but seeing our scene and our label completely eclipse the 1980s naysayers was one of the more satisfying aspects of the runaway success we enjoyed in the 1990s. Not that the snarky comments from 20-somethings desperate to distance themselves from the music listened to by their younger siblings (or themselves in the not so remote past) ever died down, as illustrated by the comments posted in response to Brooklyn Vegan's announcement of an upcoming Green Day show. Some of them were at least witty ("Excellent news, now to restart my Myspace account after years of inactivity"), but others were just sad, like, "1995 called and said NOBODY CARES ABOUT POP PUNK ANYMORE."

Sad because of the ignorance (Green Day's ability to fill Giants Stadium or Madison Square Garden must indicate that somebody is at least mildly interested in pop punk, though obviously not the sort of people who count in this little hipster's world), but even sadder, I think, because this kid (I'd bet dollars to donuts that he - almost certainly a "he" - was an enthralled little teenybopper in the Dookie) is already so stupidly old.

Far be it from me to suggest that someone should go on listening to the same music throughout their lives. I certainly don't listen to some of the hippie music I thought was so brilliant back in the 60s. But Green Day didn't stop being a brilliant band because you got 10 or 15 years older and started reading Pitchfork, and you didn't get any cleverer by disdainfully dismissing any form of music that has more than a couple hundred painfully pretentious fans.

Before I say anything else, I should make it clear that I'm not by any means accusing the publishers who chose not to accept the Op Ivy book of this sort of hipsterish know-nothingism; they treated me with complete respect and professionalism, and, as I say, the proposal did make it to the final round. No, I'm talking exclusively about the sort of indie snobs who sneered all along at the idea that Operation Ivy even deserved a book, apparently on the grounds that they were simultaneously too "mainstream" and "obscure."

I'm not sure where to go from here. It's already been suggested to me that I publish the book elsewhere, but I would really prefer to see it as part of the 33 1/3 series. However, that might entail waiting a couple years or more for the next round of selections. In the meantime, I've got a couple other projects in mind, one non-fiction and one fiction, which, in hindsight, I should have been working on these past six months while waiting for an answer on the Op Ivy book. But any excuse for procrastination, right?

In the long run, I'm sure something better will come up; I'm just too busy being disappointed right now to see it. I think I'll give it a day or two to sink in and then get started in earnest on Plans B and/or C.


Joe said...

That's actually really surprising to hear it was rejected. I, like most of my friends my age, have gone from punk rock and pop punk to more indie based stuff over the years, but Energy is one of those records that we all agree never gets old. It still sounds as fresh as it did when I was 14, and I'm still finding new things to appreciate about it. Hopefully the book comes out sometime over the next few years!

DP said...

Publish it yourself. A friend of mine recently self published his first book through a company called lulu.com and sells it through Amazon.

Interesting thing about Op Ivy followers...My son is a huge fan and wasn't even born until 1990!

___ said...

first off...i'm amazed to find your blog...and second...The op ivy book would be incredible. No other band has impacted me as much. I'm 27, so I missed the heyday of the band..but during my teenage years i memorized every word to every song..and still it is one of the few albums i own that i can press play on...and never skip a track. I really hope the book materializes. Thanks for all that you have done, and aspire to do.