Alex Abramovich

Alex Abramovich is writing a book about the history of American music.

From The Blog
4 March 2024

A meme bounced around Brooklyn last summer: ‘What if we kissed at the Tom Verlaine book sale?’ Verlaine, who formed and fronted the band Television, died on 28 January 2023. Over the years he had acquired fifty thousand books.

From The Blog
25 October 2022

Robert Johnson’s Complete Recordings came out in the summer of 1990. It sold so well that the phrase on a sticker attached to the cellophane became inextricable from Johnson’s legend: ‘This is where it all began.’ Bad history maybe, but good marketing.

The blues queens of the 1920s toured far and wide and sold millions of records. Their ‘empress’, Bessie Smith, appeared on Broadway and in movies. After her death in 1937, a memorial concert was held at Carnegie Hall. But Smith’s country cousins – ‘walking musicians’ – were lucky if they got recorded at all. ‘They were the offside,’ the...

From The Blog
25 April 2022

The first Siege of Sevastopol – a belated response to Russia’s first annexation of Crimea – took place in 1854-55. Tolstoy wrote about it in Sebastopol Sketches. Mark Twain referred to the battles in Innocents Abroad. Poems were written, paintings painted; eventually, movies were made. In 1856, Henry Worrall, a musician and artist, published ‘Sebastopol’, a ‘descriptive fantasie’ for the parlour guitar. ‘This piece is intended as an imitation of military music,’ he wrote. ‘The Harmonics in single notes imitate the Bugle. The Harmonics in chords imitate a Full Military Band at a distance.’ Readers were instructed to retune their instruments:

From The Blog
24 March 2022

Bootlegged Beatles tapes began floating around the Soviet Union in the mid-1960s, but when a group of students gathered on Red Square to celebrate May Day 1967 by dancing the Twist, Khrushchev called the militsiya out to disperse them. Only in the 1970s did the Soviet establishment grudgingly recognise rock and roll as anything more than a ‘cacophony of sounds’. Under Communism, Russian rock bands were forced into two categories: ‘official’ groups, who registered with the Ministry of Culture and were ‘urged to write and perform songs on topics such as space heroes or economic achievement’, and unrecognised ‘amateurs’ who were scorned, scolded and threatened with jail for social parasitism.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences