The book is a satellite map of the rock’n’roll universe.
It gives you outlines and connections that you knew about but had never seen laid out before. But it zooms in on particular places and events as well.
Who’s it for?
The initiated, who’ve been there and know their way around; and the uninitiated, who’ve heard about it and want to see what it’s like.
- If it were a geography book, it would contain the Mississippi, the Bronx and Abbey Road.
- If it were a sociology book, it would contain the Black Panthers, LSD and bubblegum.
- If it were an art book, it would contain the Plastercasters, Don Van Vliet and the history of album covers.
In fact, it covers all of these – and more:
not just the music, despite people’s love for it
not just the image, important as that is
not just a history (though I like history)
not just an account of the roots of rock or of particular forms of it – rockabilly, soul, psychedelic, doo-wop, though these are rich veins
not just a biography or even a set of biographies, though they often beat anything you’d read in a novel
not just the assessments and opinions, though they can make you think
not just the money and success, which can be extraordinary
not just the dreams and exaggerations, which can be fantastic
– but all of it.
Everything gets in: genius and garbage, #1 hits and lost souls, luck and blood, sweat and tears.
- It’s an almanack (because it sets store by facts and figures).
- It’s an encyclopedia (because it covers most everything you can think of).
- It’s a treatise (because it has plenty of ideas).
- It’s a eulogy (because it loves its subject).
It includes Nik Cohn (rock’n’roll as a hit straight into the bloodstream), Dave Marsh (rock as popular culture’s storytelling and drama), Charles Shaar Murray (rock as the hip adventure/blues-in-the-night) and Greil Marcus (rock’n’roll as an understanding of American civilization).
It’s swoops into rock’n’roll (like the intro to ‘Green Onions’), struts through it (like ‘Hi Heel Sneakers’) and gets out the other side (like Roy Buchanan doing his impression of Elmore James).