Rip It Up: The Specialty Records Story (BMG)
Singer, songwriter and producer Billy Vera has carefully and painstakingly put together an exhaustive book that digs deep into the history of Los Angeles label Specialty Records. It’s a fascinating read that will appeal to longtime fans and collectors, and also those coming fresh at the label’s history. For anyone with an interest in the history of L.A. music though, it’s a must-read.
The label was founded in the mid ‘4os by Art Rupe, who has contributed a foreword here. “Even when Specialty Records was just a thread in the fabric of popular culture, it was quite significant in its contribution to the culture,” Rupe writes.
Today, Specialty is recognized as one of the most important independent labels for African-American music, having put out artists as diverse as Roy Milton, Percy Mayfield, Little Richard and Sam Cooke’s Soul Stirrers. Vera covers it all here.
Land of 1000 Dances: The Rampart Records 58th Anniversary
This is both a hardcover book and a four-CD set which covers the history of Rampart Records, a label which specialized in Los Angeles Chicano rock between 1961 and ’77. There’s hours and hours of listening and reading to enjoy, including an in-depth history in two parts by Luis J. Rodriguez and Don Waller.
The label was founded by Eddie Davis, who says that he dreamed of a “Motown for Chicano performers.” And that’s essentially what he gave the world. Artists you can both read about and listen to here include The Blendells, Cannibal & the Headhunters, The Four Tempos, The Atlantics and The Invincibles, among many others.
Released in time for Record Store Day on Black Friday, November 29, this is a beautiful set.
Punk Snot Dead
Finally, regular L.A. Weekly contributor Morat has penned a semi-autobiographical tome about life in 1981 England, when the country was facing financial ruin but many of the youth found solace in punk rock.
Fuck the Charles and Diana wedding, The Specials are at number one with “Ghost Town,” so there is some hope even if the streets are overflowing with rats and garbage.
Morat recalls it all with savage grace, as his “characters” dodge the nazi skins, follow the likes of The Damned, Killing Joke and Siouxsie & the Banshees everywhere, dabble in all sorts of illicit pastimes, and get into scraps on a regular basis. This was the life he led, and it wasn’t glamorous but it sure makes for a good tale.