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Andy Zax

Andy Zax is a Grammy-nominated music producer. His writing—under his own name and the pseudonym @Discographies—has appeared in Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, The Oxford American, and elsewhere. The Village Voice hailed him as its music critic of the year in 2010, and he received an ASCAP Deems Taylor Award in 2014. He lives in Los Angeles, where he is at work on a book about Beverly Hills in the 1980s. 

“‘Son, There’s A Little Bit More To Life Than Joining A Group Or Playing A Guitar’: The Death Of The 1960s Considered As A Helix Of Dreadful Spoken-Word Records”
While it’s customary to assume that a human vocal performance on a popular recording will be sung or rapped (or both), there remains a lengthy counter-tradition, stretching back more than a century, of hit records that are primarily or entirely spoken: comedy routines, political rants, inspirational homilies, drippy poetry, and so forth.

Most of these records aren’t thought about much—or at all—because they’re dated in a way that the Beatles or Beyoncé will never be. Their pleasures were ephemeral, and they reflect the fleeting tastes and enthusiasms of previous eras in a manner that signifies mostly as kitsch to contemporary ears. But bad records have their uses: if you want to understand the social history of a bygone age, sometimes you can learn more from studying its garbage than its masterpieces. 

To that end, I’m going to examine three mawkish, manipulative and undeniably terrible spoken-word hit singles—by Art Linkletter, Think and Tom Clay—that provide a perfect snapshot of the collapse of the 1960’s counterculture and its co-optation and replacement by a revanchist Nixonian counter-counterculture: Silent Majority mush crammed into the sonic equivalent of a denim leisure suit. In the process, I’ll also touch on right-wing folk-rock, Victor Lundberg’s “An Open Letter To My Teenage Son,” Sammy Davis Jr, Hunter Thompson, fluoridated water conspiracy theories, Biz Markie, the GTOs, and Muhammed Ali’s battle against tooth decay.


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