Rock's Backpages
Rock's Backpages
Dec 6, 2019
E55: David Toop on art and sound + Arthur Russell + Joe Smith R.I.P.
Play • 1 hr 6 min

Mark & Barney invite writer and fearless musical improviser David Toop to reminisce about his work and his long and fascinating career.

Toop talks about the impact of an aunt returning from New York with a stack of rhythm & blues 78s – and how this instilled a lifelong love of black American music. After he describes his early adventures in free and improvised music, his hosts ask how a man who's collaborated with Brian Eno and Max Eastley came to profile Bros for The Face – by way of his pioneering 1984 book The Rap Attack, the first serious study of the East Coast hip hop scene. The three men then discuss the cult "disco auteur" Arthur Russell, whom Toop interviewed.

Toop also pitches in on the subject of the week's free feature, cult dubstep star Will "Burial" Bevan, with Barney waxing ecstatic about the man's noughties albums and subsequent Hyperdub tracks – and Toop making slightly more sceptical noises.

Mark intros the week's new audio interview, with the late Joe Smith, and we hear a clip of the veteran West Coast executive discussing Joni Mitchell, one of the many artists he worked with at Warner Brothers and Elektra/Asylum. After considering Smith's role in the rise of acts like the Grateful Dead, Toop confesses to a surprising penchant for Crosby, Stills & Nash, prompting a more general discussion of dismantling musical hierarchies.

Finally, Mark talks us through his highlights among the week's new library articles, including pieces on the Four Tops (1966), Mott the Hoople, with David Bowie on backing vocals (1972) and the late Luther Vandross (1985) – another artist Toop interviewed for The Face.

Many thanks to special guest David Toop; Inflamed Invisible is out now, and you can visit his blog at

Pieces discussed: RapArthur RussellArthur Russell by Frank OwenDavid ToopBurialBurialerBurialestJoe Smith audioThe Four TopsFlower Power reader's letterMott the HoopleLuther Vandross and YMCA.

The RBP podcast is part of the Pantheon Podcasts network.

More episodes
Clear search
Close search
Google apps
Main menu