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July 20, 2007



How about the guitar solo on the Bonzo Dog Band's "Canyons of Your Mind"?

Specific example with Dylan: "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35," for which he had the musicians switch instruments.

Yuval Taylor

I'm afraid I haven't heard that guitar solo. But I'll take your word for it, Douglas. And thanks for specifying the Dylan example--I was too tired to look through all my Clinton Heylin books last night.

Matos W.K.

Wouldn't the Police's early career count for this? They were prog-rock guys with serious chops who downplayed their ability to ride the punk wagon.

Yuval Taylor

Yes indeed. The Stranglers are another good example for exactly the same reason, and one which we discuss in passing in the book (p.290). I should have brought up the business of faking incompetence in punk rock--it's rife with such examples.


Young is not looking for incompetence when he places Lofgrin at the piano. He's hoping Lofgrin will play something different, something pianist would not play.
He's not looking for authenticity or incompetence, he looking for something creative and unique.

Yuval Taylor

You're right that he's looking for something new, something a pianist would not play. But he's also looking for incompetence and authenticity. Young's entire aesthetic for certain recordings, especially Tonight's the Night, was predicated on avoiding anything that sounded professional. Don't get me wrong, though--I'm a huge Neil Young fan.

I checked out your website, by the way, and in my opinion Blind Joe Death is a clever fabrication of Fahey's. Do you think he really existed? Fahey was a master at faking things.



Actually, I am not the authentic Blind Joe Death, I just play him in blog comments.

I've entered my real website in the URL box.
If you visit you'll see why I use the name BlindJoeDeath.

Yes, Blind Joe Death was sheer fabrication. The question is did Fahey use it as a joke or as a means to capture authenticity? Probably both.

I’m still not convinced that Young is seeking incompetence as opposed to the creative spark of found in discovery. He was looking for the sound that matched the theme of Tonight’s the Night, clearly the shine and polish of Harvest wound not be appropriate.
You can't make a film noir in Technicolor.

Yuval Taylor

The analogy isn't precise enough. Jim Jarmusch is not faking incompetence when he makes black-and-white films, even though Technicolor is widely available. Nor is Lou Barlow faking it when he plays (or used to play) a beat-up $20 guitar rather than a state-of-the-art one. Using inferior equipment is a different matter from asking your band to deliberately refrain from playing to the best of their ability. Don't get me wrong--Tonight's the Night is one of my favorite records of all time, and I wouldn't change a note on it. I just think it's important to recognize that there's a degree of deliberate perversity involved.

Mark Rubin

Incompetence or superstition?
Producer Willie Dixon was famed for making certian that there was a musical clam in every track he signed off on and it drove his musicians nuts. His superstition was that if the track was "perfect" it wouldn't be a hit, so he would make his bands play it over and over again until they made a mistake, then that was the take he would print. Maybe like the Native American weavers who leave a purposefull flaw in a rug to allow evil spirits to pass by. Or maybe he was a nut job, who can say?

Yuval Taylor

Thanks, Mark--that's brilliant. I hadn't heard that one before. Perhaps Willie Dixon and Saint-Saens shared some sort of aesthetic vision . . .

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What people are saying about our book

  • 9/07
    "[A] perceptive exploration of authenticity and its meaning in 20th-century popular music. . . . Highly recommended." --M. Goldsmith, Choice
  • 7/1/07
    "This revelatory book is a must for anyone who has been an ambivalent pop music fan. . . . An exhaustive and thought-provoking book that deserves serious attention." --Alan Licht, The Wire
  • 5/22
    [Four stars] "Whether nailing how perceptions of the blues were moulded by the racist cultural bias of those who originally recorded it or assessing the multi-dimensional pranksterism of the KLF, this well-researched, informative and thought-provoking book pierces the bubble of what pop authenticity really means." --Thomas H. Green, Q Magazine
  • 4/18
    [five stars] "Enthusiastic . . . superb. . . . Like all great music writing, Faking It is unashamedly subjective and, above all, makes you wish you were listening to the records it describes." --Martin Hemming, Time Out London
  • 4/17
    "Essential reading for anyone who really loves pop." --Paul Connolly, London Lite
  • 4/16
    “Persuasive . . . powerful. . . . A fascinating and nimble investigation of pop’s paradoxes. . . . A great collection of true stories about fake music. It's the essay as Möbius strip; a literary illusion that . . . tells us more about what's true, what's not, and why that doesn't always matter, than a more straightforward confrontation with the secrets and lies of pop music ever could.” --Jeff Sharlet, New Statesman
  • 4/15
    “Valuable . . . instructive . . . Taylor, who has written extensively on slavery, is particularly strong when discussing how the music of the American South was divided along race lines by the fledgling record industry, even when white and black artists had almost identical repertoires. The chapters on Jimmie Rodgers's autobiographical 'TB Blues' and Elvis's 'Heartbreak Hotel' are excellent.” --Campbell Stevenson, The Observer
  • 4/14
    “Diabolically provocative . . . [A] tightly focused examination of why, when and how authenticity became such a powerful force in popular music – and eventually its key marketing tool.” --Greg Quinn, Toronto Star
  • 4/11/07
    “The authors skillfully navigate a complicated musical past. . . . The book avoids the prose pitfalls of dry academic work and is not without humor. . . . Among the most notable essays is a bracing consideration of Donna Summer and her disco hit ‘Love to Love You Baby,’ the hypnotic epic of simulated female orgasm. In this chapter, Barker and Taylor nicely fuse a brief history of early disco with a larger contemplation of the tensions between authenticity and artifice in the disco era. As good as the authors' defense of disco is, it's topped by a riveting analysis of the career of John Lydon. In this finely nuanced chapter, Barker and Taylor penetrate the core contradictions within the punk scene, a genre rife with internal debates over authenticity and fakery.” --Chrissie Dickinson, Washington Post
  • 4/11/07
    “This is a work by two fanatics that, through copious research and profound contemplation, offers fellow fans a stimulating semantic exercise . . . and, more significantly, carte blanche to enjoy guilty pleasures without guilt. . . . Barker’s obvious passion for and deep understanding of manufactured pop make his chapters fascinating. . . . The exquisite research and nuanced insight Barker brings to [Donna Summer’s] moans and groans makes ['Love to Love You Baby'] one of the strongest chapters in the book. . . . [And Taylor’s 'Heartbreak Hotel'] is one of the most passionate, articulate love letters to the King I have ever read.” --Jake Austen, Chicago Journal
  • 4/7/07
    "Merrily throwing in references from R. Kelly to Mississippi John Hurt to the KLF, . . . Faking It is dynamite for the pop subversive. . . . The arguments are very persuasive." --Bob Stanley, The (London) Times
  • 4/1/07
    “What Faking It shows us, through an impressive array of eras and musicians, is that the quest for purity in pop is a fool’s errand. . . . Faking It is a fascinating read based on a truly provocative and enlightening argument. It will be hard to think about pop music in the same way again.” --Nora Young, Toronto Star
  • 3/28/07
    “Hugh Barker and Yuval Taylor certainly know their stuff and have fun poking and prodding at our idols.” --Jonathan Gibbs, Metro
  • 3/28/07
    “In 10 chapters--each addressing a particular song or song cover as a starting point before running rabid over all kinds of cultural, racial, and social terrain--[the authors] trace the shifting importance of originality in popular music from the early 20th century to the early 21st with diplomatic élan and overachieving gusto, . . . smashing precious illusions like microbrew bottles along the way. . . . Faking It is certain to inspire some awesome conversations among readers.” --Raymond Cummings, Baltimore City Paper
  • 3/22/07
    "Sure to fuel arguments among music nerds for years to come. . . . Taken as a whole, the book becomes a fascinating, complex study of the increasingly blurred line between actuality and artifice." --Ira Brooker, Time Out Chicago
  • 3/14/07
    "A brutal attack on what professor David Lowethal called 'the dogma of self-delusion,' which basically kills the entire concept of 'authentic' alternative culture, eats it, shits it, buries it, digs it up, burns it, eats it and shits it out again. And then nails it to a canvas and calls it art. I intend to carry this book around with me. And the next time I meet a DJ who looks like he might be about to use the phrase 'keeping it real,' I shall smack him in the head with it. Repeatedly." --Steven Wells, Philadelphia Weekly
  • 3/4/07
    "Combines a strong point of view, intelligent and informed musical analysis, and rigorous historical research." --Ben Yagoda, The New York Times Book Review
  • 2/18/07
    “Essential . . . a model of lucidity and concision. . . . Barker and Taylor might make great house builders. They lay a solid foundation for their argument that popular music is inherently 'impure.' . . . Part of the fun here is the way the writers trust their ears. . . . [A] smart, passionate book.” --Charles Taylor, Newsday
  • 2/15/07
    "With plenty of interesting and contentious assertions to stimulate even casual readers, this is a heck of an argument starter." --Booklist
  • 2/15/07
    "Insightful. . . . Faking It delivers lots of good stories." --Michael Washburn, Time Out New York
  • 2/9/07
    “Provocative . . . incendiary . . . fascinating.” --Ron Wynn, Nashville City Paper

The most essential songs discussed in Faking It