Steve Jurgensmeyer lost among his CDs.    Steve Jurgensmeyer surrounded by his CDs.

The Arlington design ace who has created album covers for rock legends has turned what he calls his "useless knowledge" about music into a fan-based website.

Steven Jurgensmeyer, formerly a creative director behind some innovative labels, has launched AllMusicBooks.com.

"Music has always been my passion," the 51-year-old said in an amiable interview at his home.

As a kid growing up in Miami, where his dad was general manager of the Miami Herald, he pored over rock albums and their covers.

Reading Lester Bangs, the rock critic with overheated prose, in Creem might do a literary number on any teen. For Steve, it inspired.

Bangs's unexpected metaphors turned visual after Jurgensmeyer came to BU in 1980, to a Boston reshaped by rockin' Aerosmith and new-wave Cars.

Creative successes

Following college, he broke into advertising with Clarke, Goward, Fitts (the last name was at the time a BU prof) and worked up to creative director for Rykodisc, in Salem, which says it was the first CD-only indie label, and then Rounder Records, the folk label.

In 18 years at Rykodisc, he helped rerelease the back-catalog of music by Frank Zappa, David Bowie and Elvis Costello, all rock-pop innovators.

At Rounder, which was in North Cambridge and then Burlington, he did a cover for Robert Plant, formerly of Led Zeppelin, and Alison Krauss, a bluegrass-country singer who released her first album at age 17.

One was for "Raising Sand," Plant and Krauss's 2009 Grammy winner. (Pamela Springsteen shot the cover). See it here >> He did a number of coveres for Krauss.

What the website is all about

HomeMany more names hang in his history, ready to drop, but about the new website:

Describing how the idea for the site came to be after planning it for two years, he asked, "What do I do with all this useless knowledge?"

In response during the interview, gregarious words flooded forth. They flowed when he cited a review of "The Dirt," a bio of the rock group Mötley Crüe ("Fascinating, but you have to take a bath after reading it").

They ebbed, but not for long, when he discussed "Strange Fruit," the 1939 Billie Holiday song whose theme is lynching.

He pointed to the simple cover design of "Why Sinatra Matters" (a hat) by Pete Hamill.

Both of these last two books, reviewed on his website, are "bigger than the music," he said. He called them "cultural touchstones."

The variety of music was daunting. What should he include on his site? He excluded classical music -- "too big a category" -- and books providing musical instruction.

He said he has tried "not to be the arbiter of cool."

With so democratic a viewpoint, that's unlikely.

Last winter he sat down with his laptop and entered into a spreadsheet information on about 4,000 books, preparation for the database that underlies the site.

After a soft launch in August, site building has continued to the point where the public can read reviews and make book choices, during the holidays.

Could you review?

Jurgensmeyer now seeks reviewers and multiple reviews of books, to reflect a variety of voices.

All reviews link to Amazon.com, and the online behemoth pays for those links.

"It's a fan-based site," he said. "You sign up free and participate. It's open to all."

He cited Beatles vs. Stones, a new book that needs a review.

Freshness is the aim: He wants to update the feature review daily, and every page-refresh on the site launches six reviews.

One quibble: For a former Rounder guy, the site as yet has no folk entries. Because this is a fan-based site, that's easily addressed.

Let the call for reviews go out to Arlington's extensive folk community: This is an opportunity to review. What are you waiting for?


LINKS

Jurgensmeyer worked with Mickey Hart, drummer for the Grateful Dead who once sent him a dozen roses in appreciation for album covers done when he was doing solo work in the late 1980s and '90s. Here are three covers he did for Hart:

Mystery Box 

At the Edge

Planet Drum 

His higher-concept work, which he says "has more 'me' in it" and is much more currrent, are covers with Branford Marsalis. Those records are:

    "Four MFs Playin’ Tunes" (Branford Marsalis Quartet)

    "Songs of Mirth and Melancholy" (Marsalis/Joey Calderazzo)

 Reading problem? Listen to music:

How rock music is saving books

Warts and All in New Pop Memoirs

Their Back Pages- Neil Young, Pete Townshend Lead Bumper Crop of Rock Star Memoirs, a Growing Segment of the Publishing Industry


This story was published Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013.

Personal notes: His wife is Liz DiNolfo, president of the townwide PTO. Their daughters are 13 and 16.