Bookmark: Bryan Wagner, The Wild Tchoupitoulas (Bloomsbury Academic – 33 1/3 Series)

Bloomsbury Academic has been publishing short books that analyze classic albums from different perspectives. The subjects of these books range from Rolling Stones to Bob Mould to Prince to Celine Dion. Most are pop or “alternative” records but recently Bryan Wagner, an English and American Studies professor at Berkeley, completed this one that has great relevance both to New Orleans and its current state of affairs. Wagner’s story of the making, life, and legacy of the Wild Tchoupitoulas record is informative and incisive. There is a lot going on with this record, and Wagner explains it well for the person who has never heard it and the person who goes to two Indian practices each week while following around George Porter Jr. He details the personalities behind the record, the recording of it, and the songs it contains. His analysis of the songs especially shows the different rhythmic and cultural aspects of “Brother John” and “Meet De Boys on the Battlefront,” among others. He delves into the history of the Mardi Gras Indians and how 1970s Indian culture influenced and was influenced by this record. He also shows how the record affected much of what came after, including the Neville Brothers. However, where this book goes beyond musical analysis is how he ties the recording into the ideas of cultural commercialization and the growth of the tourism industry and the branding of “New Orleans Music.” He traces this development and comments on it. In his view, the Wild Tchoupitoulas is both a harbinger of that future and a symbol of the past that is long gone now. For a long essay/short book, he does a great job, and he never forgets that the music and personalities that made it are what makes it the classic that it is.