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Chris Stamey - A Spy in the House of Loud: New York Songs and Stories (University of Texas Press)

A Spy in the House of Loud by Chris Stamey.
19 May 2018

I’ve long been an admirer of Chris Stamey’s, not only through his work with the seminal dB’s, but also his collaboration with childhood pal Mitch Easter in Sneakers. After reading this excellent walk through his musical and personal history, I have to say I never knew much about his background beyond the surface stuff most listeners know. For instance, I had no clue that Stamey was such a musical scholar, or that he knows a ton of people in the indie scene, both past and present. While I couldn’t really wrap my mind around the musical descriptions, I really related to his descriptions of the music scene, because I was there. And he’s also a great writer, both poetic and a good storyteller to boot.

He tosses out anecdotes about Paul McCartney, Alex Chilton, and David Bowie like it’s no big deal, though of course as readers we know what a huge deal it really was. I really dug his childhood stories about early tape experiments and working with Mitch like the music geeks they were straight out of the gate. His impressions of NY are brilliant and spot on, from everything I have heard from others on the scene and from my own travels. He was there when it was all happening, when the music scene was exploding, and I am not sure we will ever witness another creative era like this. I was particularly keen on reading about his work with Peter Holsapple, Gene Holder, and Will Rigby in the dB’s, and it was cool to read about how those two fantastic first albums came together, and what led to the dissolution of that original lineup. Though he gives major props to Holsapple for his highly melodic compositions, the same can be said for Stamey if you take a deep stroll through his work. The man is supremely talented, can play multiple instruments, has a good singing voice, and is flat out amazing in my book.

So many times when reading this, i was tugged back to my own youth, and I could relate to so much of what Stamey relates about what it was like to grow up in the 60s and 70s. His Southern experience was definitely different than mine, but the commonalities outweigh the regional differences.Things are so different now, and Stamey hasn’t missed a beat in keeping up with the times. He drops many excellent quotations, and no doubt this book will stay with you long after you finish reading and set the book aside. Highly recommended for all music lovers, especially those who appreciate the work of Stamey, Easter, Holsapple, and Chilton. Just great work!