Rock and Roll Book Club: Jim Walsh's 'Bar Yarns and Manic Mixtapes'

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Jim Walsh's 'Bar Yarns and Manic-Depressive Mixtapes'
Jim Walsh's book 'Bar Yarns and Manic-Depressive Mixtapes: On Music from Minneapolis to the Outer Limits' (Jay Gabler/MPR)

Former City Pages music editor and award-winning columnist for the Pioneer Press, Jim Walsh writes about music and local culture as a staff columnist at the Southwest Journal and a regular contributor to MinnPost. He's also the author of the oral history The Replacements: All Over But the Shouting. He's got a new book, Bar Yarns and Manic-Depressive Mixtapes: Jim Walsh on Music from Minneapolis to the Outer Limits.

Recently, he stopped by The Current to talk with Jill Riley and Brian Oake. Here's their conversation, as transcribed by Erianna Jiles.

Jill Riley: Good morning, Jim. Congratulations on the new book.

Jim Walsh: Thank you kindly. It's a thrill, and I'm proud of it. It's like my diary, published, somewhat.

Brian Oake: Wow, all the dirty secrets?

Jim Walsh: Everything, man.

Brian Oake: Talk about the premise for the new book.

Jim Walsh: It's 30 years of my music writing: columns, essays, reviews, interviews, and a lot of real, personal writing in there. It was a trip to put together because you are going through your past via record collection.

Jill Riley: So, Jim, you've been writing about music for most of your life. When did you first get the writing bug?

Jim Walsh: I remember vividly writing on New Year's Eve, 1974...scribbling. The world was quiet and I had my records, and I was happy as a clam with putting on record after record after record and writing about what it made me feel as a seventh grader. And then I just kept going; started writing for City Pages and the Minnesota Daily. I was in a band for many years, and I'm also a songwriter and musician. It really, really, in the late '80s impressed on me, as a scribe, as a witness to history, I go, "I got to start taking some of this stuff down." I was seeing the Replacements. I was seeing Prince. There was sort of a sense of duty to put things down for history.

Brian Oake: When you reflect back on that time, as you've been able to go through these pieces and kind of compile everything and look at some of your old stuff, are there any things that may be have also dimmed a little bit with the passage of time? That you're like, "oh my God, that's right, I was there" or "this happened." Were there specific moments that stand out to you?

Jim Walsh: Yes, 100 percent right. Yeah, I still, sitting here now, I still am amazed I was privy to seeing a lot of Prince shows in the '80s and '90s. I wrote a lot about Prince in the '90s. Things that I've forgotten about? For sure. Particular pieces that I wrote, really personal, I was going like "I cannot even believe I exposed myself this way," but it felt like it. I love Lester Bangs and Greil Marcus, and everybody who took those early rock writings and made them into their own. I'm a reporter, I'm a trained journalist and all of that too, but I think there's an inner reporting that goes on with music writers that's essential to the sort of understanding and scholarship of pop music and beyond.

Jill Riley: It seems like such a key to being a good columnist is exposing yourself in that way.

Jim Walsh: You have to be comfortable with using the first person. I teach at the Loft and I teach Introduction to Personal Essays. Right out of the gate I say, "The world does not give you permission, but this class gives you permission." And you have to give yourself permission to use the first person to go deep, to dig deep...and music is a portal to that. You put on your headphones — I mean you guys know, better that anyone — you put on those headphones and you start automatically writing. You're off and running. I wrote 300 pages of that. It's not all of that. There's historical pieces and interviews and reviews and stuff, and there's a lot of me.

Brian Oake: Back in the late '80s, City Pages, I would sometimes have to stop at four or five of those kiosks because you couldn't not grab a City Pages. The whole thing was crucial, front to back. It was an absolute fabric of my life. So, I remember reading so much of your stuff and I'm very much looking forward to digging deeper in your book.

Jim Walsh: Cool, man, thanks. Thanks for having me, and I appreciate the interest in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The Current's Jim Walsh Book Giveaway

Use this form to enter The Current's Jim Walsh book giveaway between 8 a.m. CT on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017 and 11:59 p.m. CDT on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017.

One (1) winner will receive one (1) hardcover copy of Bar Yarns and Manic-Depressive Mixtapes and one (1) softcover copy of Gold Experience: Following Prince in ths '90s by Jim Walsh. Three (3) back up names will be drawn.

Prize retail value: $40

We will contact the winners on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017. Winner must accept by 10 a.m. CT on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017.

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