I’ve been reading a few rock history books lately, and it seems the current trend is to focus on a single year and focus on its events chronologically. It’s meant to put the music in some sort of context; it’s very similar to what I’d originally wanted to do with the Walk in Silence project. The focus of these books is to not only explain how these groundbreaking songs and albums were recorded but why.
Jon Savage’s 1966: The Year the Decade Exploded is a great example of this. It not only focuses on the back end of the British Invasion, changes in fashion, and the ups and downs of politics, it also comments on the public and governmental reactions to each, both in the US and the UK. Nearly all the events of that year informed or influenced events that happened soon after.
Andrew Grant Jackson’s 1965: The Most Revolutionary Year in Music (yay, fellow Emersonian!) does a similar job, showing how pop music of the time — not just rock from both sides of the Atlantic, but the soul of Motown and Stax, and the country of Nashville and Bakersville — but the ever-rising tension of politics, war, race, and gender.
A third interesting example is David Browne’s Fire and Rain: The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, James Taylor, CSNY and the Lost Story of 1970. The title format is flipped, but the story is the same, this time focusing on the public hangover of the late 60s and four bands that influenced the start of what would be the bipolar decade of music, one side embracing lite-rock and the other embracing Bacchanalian excess.
Another is David Hepworth’s 1971: Never a Dull Moment – The Year that Rock Exploded. I haven’t read that yet, but it promises to be interesting…the Beatles may have broken up, but in their place we were given, Bowie, Led Zeppelin, post-Syd Barrett Pink Floyd, and more. Not to mention John, Paul, George and Ringo being able to express themselves in ways they couldn’t have as a group. In short, rock had ceased to be a ‘pop’ element and came into its own as an art form and a self-supporting music genre. Given that 1971 is my birth year (yep, I’m an old fart at 45, folks, but I’m still rockin’), I’m looking forward to giving this one a read.
While I am a bit amused at how often this book trend has been popping up lately, they’ve all been fun reads. Too often I’ll hear a song on the radio and completely forget its place within the bigger history of music and what was going on in the world at the time. These books definitely offer a lot of that insight that you don’t always hear on the radio.
What are the current music history books you’ve read that you’ve enjoyed?