Book Review: Zip it Up! The Best of Trouser Press

Trouser Press looms large in my life. As a teen, I consumed as much music journalism writing – features, interviews, reviews — as possible. By that point I had long since known for certain that I wanted to be a music journalist when I grew up. As events unfolded, it wasn’t until I passed my 40th birthday that I truly dove into that world. But by that time, I had consumed untold amounts of Trouser Press.

When those bible-sized Trouser Press Guides came out in the ‘80s and 1990s, I read them cover to cover, again and again. I developed a keen sense of which writers seemed to possess musical tastes and mindsets compatible with my own (or, more likely, the other way around). It didn’t take much trial end error to confirm or refute my hypotheses, so going forward I would know that if, say, one writer (j. poet, for example) liked an album or artist unknown to me, it would be worth my while to give the music a shot.

Just after the turn of the century, I landed a couple of plum assignments, writing career-spanning critical essays on Todd Rundgren and Pink Floyd. They appeared in the then-new Trouser Press online. For someone who came up reading TP, it felt like a truly auspicious manner in which to launch a career.

A few years later, I found myself editor in chief for a national music magazine. After clearing house of some deadwood, I had spaces open for new writers. I’m proud to say that j. poet was one of those I brought on board. He likely never knew just how much that meant to me. (Hint: a great deal.)

Another writer whose work always impressed (and influenced) me was Cary Baker. Once my writing career got under way, he became a valued contact, a trusted advisor and dear friend.

Fast-forward to now. On my desk is a trade paperback, more than an inch thick. The title reads, Zip it Up! The Best of Trouser Press Magazine 1974-1984.

Reading this volume takes me back. It’s amazing to rediscover the often long-form, always high quality writing that was a distinguishing feature of TP. The journalists always asked intelligent questions. They always did their homework. And the answers they got demonstrated that in nearly all cases, their interview subjects appreciated that they were talking to people who “got it.”

Even now, decades after those interviews were conducted, a read of most any of the pieces in this new volume shed light on the subjects. One really couldn’t ask for more. Trouser Press cut a wide swath through the musical landscape of its day, and landed interviews with the best and brightest of the era. You won’t find a ton of everyday/ultra-mainstream acts in this book (though there are some). What you will discover instead is interview after interview with some of the most important and enduring artists of the second half of the 20th century. If your tastes include important and influential musical atists of that time, Zip it Up! is essential reading.