From The Desk Of Luther Russell: “The Bootleg Series Vol 11: The Basement Tapes Complete” By Bob Dylan

You might not know Luther Russell by name, but you’ve probably heard music he’s made with the likes of Jakob Dylan (Wallflowers), Jody Stephens (Big Star), Brian Bell (Weezer), Ethan Johns (Emmylou Harris, Ryan Adams) and countless others. Selective Memories: An Anthology, out February 23 on Hanky Panky, is a two-CD compilation of Russell’s material that’s a stellar introduction for newcomers to this musician’s musician. Russell will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

Russell: Yeah, so I waited practically a lifetime for this moment, and when it arrived, I wasn’t disappointed. Why? Lord knows, it’s chock full of half-baked ideas, half-formed jokes, half-recorded dirges and half-an-idea of what was being done in the first place. But this is Bob Dylan at the height of his powers and a very hungry bunch of dudes that became the Band soon after, and there are many, many revelations. “Wild Wolf” comes to mind, a song that was only a misremembered legend, a piece of Dylan lore, and there it is, for the world to hear, and it is magnificent: a minor-key specter under a starry night. And in the context of this trove of Scotch tapes, how the hell did “Goin’ To Acapulco” appear, apparently written and performed after Bob trained-on-down to Nashville to make John Wesley Harding? It could be a pinnacle and is most certainly a musical miracle, many of which abound on this exhaustive-but-rewarding collection of the magic that happened in that basement, with a dog lying on the floor and light pouring in the windows and good, strong coffee: all ingredients that make great art, in my book. If you think it’s just scraps, then consider the torn pieces of paper, sketches and musings that one found in Matisse’s or Picasso’s basement. Still a wonder to look at, feel and touch.

From The Desk Of Luther Russell: “Truman”

You might not know Luther Russell by name, but you’ve probably heard music he’s made with the likes of Jakob Dylan (Wallflowers), Jody Stephens (Big Star), Brian Bell (Weezer), Ethan Johns (Emmylou Harris, Ryan Adams) and countless others. Selective Memories: An Anthology, out February 23 on Hanky Panky, is a two-CD compilation of Russell’s material that’s a stellar introduction for newcomers to this musician’s musician. Russell will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

Russell: Cesc Gay’s Truman was probably the best film I saw last year. It apparently won all the top honors in Spanish film, and deservedly so. It stars one of my all-time favorite actors—and the De Niro of Argentina—Ricardo Darín, who was also amazing in El Secreto De Los Ojos. Darín plays a theater actor named Julián who’s dying of cancer and his only companion is a dog named Truman. His old friend Tomás finally visits him, mostly out of guilt. They proceed to catch up and spend time together, during which Julián reveals that he intends on committing suicide and insists on being supported in his decision. This is a very touching and funny movie and already had me thinking it was especially profound before an epic scene where Julián lights a joint and puts on one of my favorite all-time Argentine bands, Pescado Rabioso, at which point I declared to myself that it needed an Oscar, a Nobel and a Presidential medal for that alone. You’ll rarely find a more affecting movie about death and what the hell to do with it.

From The Desk Of Luther Russell: “A Quiet Passion”

You might not know Luther Russell by name, but you’ve probably heard music he’s made with the likes of Jakob Dylan (Wallflowers), Jody Stephens (Big Star), Brian Bell (Weezer), Ethan Johns (Emmylou Harris, Ryan Adams) and countless others. Selective Memories: An Anthology, out February 23 on Hanky Panky, is a two-CD compilation of Russell’s material that’s a stellar introduction for newcomers to this musician’s musician. Russell will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

Russell: Wow, this Terence Davies movie really moved me. And not just for the incredible performance of Cynthia Nixon as poet Emily Dickinson, nor the intensely tragic subject matter of her repressed life, but also for the clever and profound writing by Davies, which is alternately tender as a lamb and biting as a shark. It tells the tale of Dickinson’s remarkable and progressive family in the restrictive, regressive time that is America in the mid-to-late 1800s. Nixon inhabits the wit and intellectual independence of Dickinson, whose genius was only recognized after her death—something which the movie seems to suggest the late poet knew would happen. But something is touched upon in the movie that I feel is very timely: how the story of women has been the story of the struggle to be heard, read and seen as equal to a man in depth, imagination and creativity. Even in these similarly bleak times, although gussied-up in techno bullshit, a young woman labors to be taken seriously and afforded the same rights over her own soul that a man is so blithely handed.

From The Desk Of Luther Russell: “Memories Of My Melancholy Whores” By Gabriel García Márquez

You might not know Luther Russell by name, but you’ve probably heard music he’s made with the likes of Jakob Dylan (Wallflowers), Jody Stephens (Big Star), Brian Bell (Weezer), Ethan Johns (Emmylou Harris, Ryan Adams) and countless others. Selective Memories: An Anthology, out February 23 on Hanky Panky, is a two-CD compilation of Russell’s material that’s a stellar introduction for newcomers to this musician’s musician. Russell will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

Russell: I recently finished reading this 2004 novella by the late, great Colombian writer. It’s about a lecherous journalist who, having just celebrated a his 90th birthday, seeks sex with a young prostitute who’s selling her virginity to help her family. In this underage teen, he discovers love for the first time in his life. I know, I know … it sounds horrifying. And, yes, the lead character is cunning codger who has unabashedly paid for sex his whole life, so as not to complicate it. He’s a perverted old coot, but an honest old coot nonetheless. He proclaims himself a “mediocre” journalist and that he’s “ugly, shy and anachronistic.” He mentions that he never went to bed with a woman “that he didn’t pay” and was twice-named “client of the year” in the red-light district he has frequented for decades. But the man hates how he’s led his long and predictable life and is ready to change, albeit for love. This book is really about Márquez’s favorite subject: time. And I believe that in this book he really evokes a sense of age and how it can slip by without notice, even nine decades of it. And all one’s left with is now. Forever now and what to do with it. Ultimately, it’s a story of transition and tells it expressively and passionately. The translation is pretty fantastic, and the writing is kaleidoscopic, almost visionary, as one would come to expect from the much-celebrated Márquez.

From The Desk Of Luther Russell: “Fat City”

You might not know Luther Russell by name, but you’ve probably heard music he’s made with the likes of Jakob Dylan (Wallflowers), Jody Stephens (Big Star), Brian Bell (Weezer), Ethan Johns (Emmylou Harris, Ryan Adams) and countless others. Selective Memories: An Anthology, out February 23 on Hanky Panky, is a two-CD compilation of Russell’s material that’s a stellar introduction for newcomers to this musician’s musician. Russell will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

Russell: I recently re-watched this John Huston masterpiece from 1972 which stars Stacy Keach, Susan Tyrell and a very young Jeff Bridges. One of the great boxing films, it tells the tragic tale of a past-his-prime ex-contender named Tully (played by Keach) who has fallen on hard times in Northern California and decides to get back into it once he meets a promising young kid (played by Bridges). Tully’s life has been fucked up ever since his wife left him. He’s a terrible alcoholic, can’t hold down a job and picks fruit and vegetables with migrant workers to make ends meet. This is his one last shot, and he goes for it with gusto. He picks up a floozy (played by Tyrell—she is just amazing in this film; I think she even got nominated for an Oscar for her role). Keach is just a brilliant and underrated actor, and this film shows why. Sure, I grew up knowing Keach as the asshole cop in those Cheech & Chong movies, but have since discovered what beautiful range he has. There’s an unmistakable air of Steinbeck in this film’s down-and-out story and location. Fat City was based on a novel by Leonard Gardner, and I guess he’s gone on to be acclaimed by the likes of Joan Didion.

From The Desk Of Luther Russell: “John Coltrane And Johnny Hartman” By John Coltrane And Johnny Hartman

You might not know Luther Russell by name, but you’ve probably heard music he’s made with the likes of Jakob Dylan (Wallflowers), Jody Stephens (Big Star), Brian Bell (Weezer), Ethan Johns (Emmylou Harris, Ryan Adams) and countless others. Selective Memories: An Anthology, out February 23 on Hanky Panky, is a two-CD compilation of Russell’s material that’s a stellar introduction for newcomers to this musician’s musician. Russell will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

Russell: This 1963 LP sits on my turntable at the moment, unable to come off anytime soon. It’s one of those records that makes you do what you used to do when you were young: Either flip back and forth between the a- and b-sides, or just leave on a side until further notice. It’s simply a slice of sonic, melodic and emotional perfection, the likes of which will not be bettered in the future. This has been a favorite of my father’s since I can remember, so I know it well, yet understand it so much better now. Let’s start with the singer: Johnny Hartman, terminally underrated, his exquisitely enunciated and delivered lines wrought to perfection by his immaculately contained emotion. He delivers the meaning of the song first, yet couched in a technical expertise that any musician would die to have. That’s a lethal combination, for most singers this gifted tend to lack sufficient amount of feeling. Yet Hartman stands in a very select group with Chet Baker, Billie Holliday, Nat “King” Cole and Sinatra as masters of a certain era of song, where you hear the lyric first and the musicality afterward. Then how about the band? Just the My Favorite Things/Love Supreme-era quartet of John Coltrane, Elvin Jones, Jimmy Garrison and McCoy Tyner … killing’ it. Slaying it. Saying it. Laying it down. Just go get it, stream it, beam it, do what you have to do. You’ll be a happy person for it.

From The Desk Of Luther Russell: “After The Ball: Pop Music From Rag To Rock” By Ian Whitcomb

You might not know Luther Russell by name, but you’ve probably heard music he’s made with the likes of Jakob Dylan (Wallflowers), Jody Stephens (Big Star), Brian Bell (Weezer), Ethan Johns (Emmylou Harris, Ryan Adams) and countless others. Selective Memories: An Anthology, out February 23 on Hanky Panky, is a two-CD compilation of Russell’s material that’s a stellar introduction for newcomers to this musician’s musician. Russell will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

Russell: Been really enjoying this 1972 book on, well, the whole damned history of popular music, as told by one who knows: the great Ian Whitcomb. As a performer, he came over here during the British Invasion and had a top-10 hit in “You Turn Me On,” appearing on such programs as Shindig, American Bandstand and Hollywood A-Go-Go. After making a few records and even producing a record for Mae West(!), Whitcomb settled into his role as expert and aficionado for the glory days of Tin Pan Alley. He wrote this colorful and brilliant history of 20th century music, tracing it’s roots from the first real pop “hit” (“After The Ball”) on to the era of the Beatles. I recently picked up an original pressing, only to realize that my dad had this book when I was a kid, and I used to stare at it and wonder who all the stars were on the jacket. I think After The Ball has held up as one of the more witty and personal books on the subject of popular music and will continue to do so. By the way, there are some amazing interviews Whitcomb conducted in the early-’70s with some of the greatest songwriters in history like Irving Caesar, Johnny Marks, Abe Olman and Harry Warren, which you can find on YouTube. They’re a mind-blowing window into the processes of these giants and leave you wanting so much more.

From The Desk Of Luther Russell: “California: A Literary Chronicle” By W. Storrs Lee

You might not know Luther Russell by name, but you’ve probably heard music he’s made with the likes of Jakob Dylan (Wallflowers), Jody Stephens (Big Star), Brian Bell (Weezer), Ethan Johns (Emmylou Harris, Ryan Adams) and countless others. Selective Memories: An Anthology, out February 23 on Hanky Panky, is a two-CD compilation of Russell’s material that’s a stellar introduction for newcomers to this musician’s musician. Russell will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

Russell: This is a beautiful compendium of classic authors’ reflections or fiction writing on the subject of California. It was published in 1968, and I found it in an antique store here in Pasadena, where I now live. Among the literary greats littered about this collection to have their say about the Golden State are Robert Frost, Mark Twain, John Steinbeck, William Saroyan, Rudyard Kipling, Robert Louis Stevenson and many more. Speaking of Robert Louis Stevenson, I gravitated toward his short non-fiction story immediately, for I had at one time attended the high school in Northern California bearing his namesake. In this tale, called “The Silence Of Silverado,” he tells the story of joining the woman he loves, Fanny Osbourne, in Silverado where they spend their honeymoon as squatters in a ghost town, living in an abandoned goldmine. Needless to say it seemed to me like the most romantic thing in the world. As Lee states, “It was the kind of eerie but enchanting hideaway that suited Stevenson’s nature to perfection.” And there are so many other magnifienct musings on my home state in this very special book.

From The Desk Of Luther Russell: “More You Becomes You” By Plush

You might not know Luther Russell by name, but you’ve probably heard music he’s made with the likes of Jakob Dylan (Wallflowers), Jody Stephens (Big Star), Brian Bell (Weezer), Ethan Johns (Emmylou Harris, Ryan Adams) and countless others. Selective Memories: An Anthology, out February 23 on Hanky Panky, is a two-CD compilation of Russell’s material that’s a stellar introduction for newcomers to this musician’s musician. Russell will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

Russell: Liam Hayes is an artist I’ve followed ever since he released debut record More You Becomes You in 1998 under the moniker Plush. I’ve often called this record the “best album of the ’90s,” but I guess most fans of OK Computer would disagree mightily. And as remarkable an achievement as some of the other perennials of that misremembered and misbegotten era are, More You Becomes You occupies an intimate place in my own heart. What seems like an almost stream-of-consciousness piece for piano/voice is revealed over many listens to be a complex reconstruction of thoughts and feelings as they might have happened once upon a time. There are obvious signpost influences along the way that many have mentioned, but I prefer to ruminate on the uniqueness of Liam Hayes and how he transmits his musical outpourings: with lyrical style and harmonic sophistication. He went on to record many other top-quality albums, and imagine my surprise to be working with him now on not one, but two new records. What I’m excited about is a new album called Mirage Garage, which I helped him record and perform. For me, it sets a new bar for Liam’s music and is as personal as anything he’s done. But it’s also an LP about the quandary that faces today’s modern human. It should be out sometime next year, after a slate of Liam Hayes/Plush reissues, so look for that!

From The Desk Of Luther Russell: “The Rockford Files”

You might not know Luther Russell by name, but you’ve probably heard music he’s made with the likes of Jakob Dylan (Wallflowers), Jody Stephens (Big Star), Brian Bell (Weezer), Ethan Johns (Emmylou Harris, Ryan Adams) and countless others. Selective Memories: An Anthology, out February 23 on Hanky Panky, is a two-CD compilation of Russell’s material that’s a stellar introduction for newcomers to this musician’s musician. Russell will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

Russell: This is my meditation. This is how I recharge. Rocky, Beth Davenport, Angel, Sergeant Becker. Maybe it’s something to do with growing up in Los Angeles in the ’70s. I got used to recognizing all of the innocuous locations on these kind of shows: parts of Burbank, the Valley, downtown. Same locations you see on Emergency and Adam 12. And it’s all very standard, not stagey, and always gritty: a quality one could not accuse L.A. of much anymore. Then, of course, there is “Rockfish” himself: James Garner. A man with so much goodness in him it makes you want to break down and weep openly. He was such a natural at playing the good guy because he was one. It’s something one doesn’t need to prove about Garner, one just knows. Sure there’s an occasional clunker—like practically the whole fourth season. But it still does what it’s supposed to do—suspend your disbelief and quietly reset your clock. The best ones are the infuriating ones that just stick in a McGuffin early on and circuitously volley the plot back and forth until a reasonable human being could not follow anymore … usually within the first scene. And it’s all downhill from there. But then Rockford takes his dad fishing and all is right in the world. And who can forget the greatest TV theme in history??