Relix 44: ‘Star-Making Machinery’ and ‘Alive at the Village Vanguard’

Dean Budnick on December 12, 2018
Relix 44: ‘Star-Making Machinery’ and ‘Alive at the Village Vanguard’


Welcome to the Relix 44. To commemorate the past 44 years of our existence, we’ve created a list of people, places and things that inspire us today, appearing in our September 2018 issue and rolling out on throughout this fall. See all the articles posted so far here.


Check Them Out: Star-Making Machinery and Alive at the Village Vanguard

Here are a couple books that may be a challenge to locate but are certainly worth your time and attention. So stop by your local library and find yourself a copy of each.


Star-Making Machinery: Inside the Business of Rock and Roll
by Geoffrey Stokes

In Star-Making Machinery, Stokes, a longtime Village Voice staffer who died in 1995, is granted unparalleled access behind the scenes as Warner Brothers prepares to release Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen’s 1975 self- titled album. Stokes paints a vivid portrait of the label’s struggle to produce a top-selling record from the eclectic group. The Airmen, who were hailed for their animated live shows, had achieved unanticipated success in 1971 with a top 10 cover of “Hot Rod Lincoln.” It’s a fascinating study that paved the way for other notable music industry treatments in such books as Fred Goodman’s The Mansion on The Hill and Fredric Dannen’s Hit Men.

Alive at the Village Vanguard: My Life in and out of Jazz Time
by Lorraine Gordon as Told to Barry Singer

Lorraine Gordon opens her breezy memoir by asking, “Where should I start? I loved jazz from the very beginning. As I write these words I am still very much the owner of the Village Vanguard, the oldest, and, if I do say so myself, the best damn jazz club, well…ever.” In Alive at the Village Vanguard, Gordon, a true pioneering figure, who passed away in June at age 95 and was named a “Jazz Master” by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2013, shares her experiences as a jazz enthusiast and as a woman running a celebrated Manhattan venue (which her late husband Max had opened back in 1935). An even more comprehensive autobiography by a jazz entrepreneur (and pianist!) that may be easier to locate, is George Wein’s wonderful, evocative Myself Among Others: A Life in Music.


This article originally appears in the September 2018 issue of Relix. For more features