NIGHT & DAY: Goodnight Keith Moon

This week, the balance scale tips towards words over music. First, there's the release of Davy Rothbart's newest issue of Found, along with an evening of performance/readings from this connoisseur of wayward messages, memos, letters and lists. Then there's the Neutral Zone's annual Poetry Night in Ann Arbor, featuring national slam and hip hop poets along with local luminaries made good. Finally, Raekwon the Chef from Wu Tang Clan, who is of course a musician, but leads with his master raps and intricate rhymes.

Consider Raekwon a topical bridge to the two musical acts on offer: The 'everything-is-our-drum' troupe known as Groove and popular dream pop Ark act Over The Rhine. Unfortunately, they play on the same evening. Ah, choices, choices, choices make the downtown go round.

Finally, for those of you hungry for a dollop of white male anger, Big Fan is comedian Patton Oswalt's foray into dark drama, in this Taxi Driver-ish follow up from the writer of last year's terrific Mickey Rourke comeback, The Wrestler.

Goodnight Keith Moon

Bruce Worden is an Ann Arbor based scientific illustrator (and dedicated year-round bicycle commuter). Clare Cross is a U-M inspired transplant from Illinois, prestigious PhD program drop out, and slow churning novelist. Together the two thought it would be hilarious to turn Margaret Wise Brown's childhood classic Goodnight Moon into an homage to classic rock excess. Thus was born Goodnight Keith Moon, a lark of a project that is quickly finding an Internet fan base.

Really, the book was the natural byproduct of  these two classic rock loving friends. Heck, Worden's son is named Harrison (after George Harrison) and he's penned a screenplay charting the fictional life of Eric Clapton (he sells his soul to the devil).

"I love anything blues-rock oriented, which meant pretty much just classic rock on my radio for years and years," says Worden in an email. "Then the White Stripes and the Black Keys came along, thank god."

Clare Cross'  favorite bands are firmly stuck in the Boomer genre, favoring the Beatles, Janis Joplin, the Rolling Stones, the Doors, and Yes.

"I think Roundabout is the greatest rock song ever, but I have an abiding affection for the Juggernaut Jug Band's version of Pinball Wizard," writes Cross. "When I took my children to see Jim Morrison's grave in 1991, I told them that they'd thank me one day. So far, only one of them has. The other became a Mormon."

After the response Goodnight Keith Moon got on the Internet, the duo rushed 50 books into production and immediately sold out. They're now strategizing how to make their overnight micro sensation into the must-have stocking stuffer for the hipster set.

CONCENTRATE:  So, what was the inspiration for Goodnight Keith Moon and will you be reading it to your son at bedtime?

: I was reading Goodnight Moon for like the millionth time to my son when it struck me that it was kind of like saying goodbye to Keith Moon. (I had probably been listening to The Who Sell Out at work or something.) I tossed the idea out at lunch the next day, and Clare picked up on it right away. From there, it wrote itself. Will I read it to my son? Sure, if someone publishes it!

CONCENTRATE:  Okay, you've got it in e-book form, you throw it up onto the web, and somehow it ends up on Huffington Post. How'd that happen and what happened next?

BRUCE WORDEN:  It's just another indicator of the impeccable taste of the Huffington Post. I have a friend at Google who will neither confirm nor deny that she may have included GKM as a Featured Video on Youtube. I suspect that led to the Huffington Post seeing it. After that we had to increase our bandwidth to keep the site up, we gave ourselves a crash-course in Facebook, and we're promoting it whenever and wherever we can. We printed off 50 copies, and they sold right away. We just need to find a better way of keeping up with demand now.

CONCENTRATE:  Does it bode well for the publishing industry that so many people have requested 'hard' copies of the book? Or is the scale so small that the only way to viably think about the publishing industry is to have micro runs and print on demand? Or is nothing to be learned from this experience about the publishing industry? Partial credit will be given for your answer.

I think this is a great indicator that people still want books, that reading in front of a computer just isn't satisfying, that sharing a book with someone means more if you pull it off your shelf and hand it to them than it does if you give them a URL to check out later. So if publishers were interested in providing a product that people want, then yes, this might bode well for them. But, like any industry, they're not interested in the product – they're interested in how much money they can make from the product. And they've got their own formulas to figure that out. You or I can't convince them. Still, there's no reason big publishers can't learn from small presses or print-on-demand to find ways of lessening their initial monetary risks, and make this system work more easily for everyone involved. But if I'm only getting partial credit for this, that conversation will have to wait.

CONCENTRATE:  Are you seeing the possibilities for a series of irreverent takes on children's picture book classics? I have a feeling Boynton, Harold And The Purple Crayon and The Runaway Bunny are ripe to be skewered.

BRUCE WORDEN: Of course. But this grew out of a genuine love for Keith Moon, not malice toward his memory or even toward Goodnight Moon. So I don't know if "skewered" is a word I would use for GKM. However, we've been inserting dead rock stars into nursery rhymes lately, e.g., "Rub-a-dub-dub, Jim Morrison in a tub." Definitely more into the skewering mindset, there. And probably more marketable, too.

CONCENTRATE:  What is the biggest take away you've had from the unexpected success of Goodnight Keith Moon?

It's nice to know that people are enjoying something I helped create – that I'm not entirely inside my own head. And it's been a lesson, for sure, in the pace of the internet. As far as internet sensations go, GKM is no "Chocolate Rain," but it's still like I'm swimming in a tidal wave. I'm surprised I'm keeping up, but it may be only because it's dragging me along with it.

That's all for this week. We'll be back next week with more recommendations and reoprts for A2's creative front line.

Jeff Meyers

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