The History of Rock 'n' Roll in Ten Songs Greil Marcus

Format:
Hardback
Publication date:
11 Sep 2014
ISBN:
9780300187373
Imprint:
Yale University Press
Dimensions:
320 pages: 225 x 156 x 27mm

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One of our finest critics gives us an altogether original history of rock ’n’ roll

Unlike all previous versions of rock ’n’ roll history, this book omits almost every iconic performer and ignores the storied events and turning points that everyone knows. Instead, in a daring stroke, Greil Marcus selects ten songs recorded between 1956 and 2008, then proceeds to dramatize how each embodies rock ’n’ roll as a thing in itself, in the story it tells, inhabits, and acts out—a new language, something new under the sun.

“Transmission” by Joy Division. “All I Could Do Was Cry” by Etta James and then Beyoncé. “To Know Him Is to Love Him,” first by the Teddy Bears and almost half a century later by Amy Winehouse. In Marcus’s hands these and other songs tell the story of the music, which is, at bottom, the story of the desire for freedom in all its unruly and liberating glory. Slipping the constraints of chronology, Marcus braids together past and present, holding up to the light the ways that these striking songs fall through time and circumstance, gaining momentum and meaning, astonishing us by upending our presumptions and prejudices. This book, by a founder of contemporary rock criticism—and its most gifted and incisive practitioner—is destined to become an enduring classic.

Greil Marcus lives in Oakland, CA. His books include Mystery Train: Images of America in Rock ’n’ Roll Music and Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century.

'A great essay begins with a theme and then makes it fly. Greil Marcus can make it soar. In The History of Rock 'n' Roll in Ten Songs he does just that. He says of Amy Winehouse that she could unlock a song. Marcus unlocks rock 'n' roll history to find more than you ever thought might be there.' - Jenny Disky

'I first heard Elvis in early 1956 in a school corridor in Norfolk, England. I knew something profound had happened. Where was Greil Marcus back in those Dark Ages to explain to me what was going on? He knows everything and tells an electrifying story.' -  Stephen Frears

'The book is really a series of essays, cunningly chiselled, lovingly woven, bold, tough and illuminating, the intention being 'to feel one's way through music as a field of expression and as a web of affinities'.' - Mark Ellen, New Statesman

'Like Leslie Fiedler, Greil Marcus is a critic for the ages. There aren't many writers I've learned more from, nor many whose word for word and sentence for sentence writing I enjoy more. The History of Rock 'n' Roll in Ten Songs is among his richest work, perhaps his most heartfelt. Like Mystery Train, it's something we will be learning from, that will give us new ways to think about the sounds that have filled the worlds around us and the worlds inside us, for years to come.' - Mikal Gilmore

'When I was 18 and leaving home for college, my brother put one thing in my hand: a copy of Greil Marcus's Mystery Train. It changed my life. More than 20 years have passed, and he's still the Don, still connecting caves. He's as good on Beyonce in this new book as he was on Harmonica Frank back then, but the range of associations is wider, the mind making them deeper, and the deceptively jazzy precision of his prose sharper. He's a treasure.' - John Jeremiah Sullivan

'Greil Marcus lingers inside a song, following it from the first utterance to the last note, through performances across time, to give us the context, meaning, and interpretation not only of the song but of peoples and nations as well. His is an unconvential, fearless chronicle of the famous and the less well-lnown, the sacred and the profane, of the limitations and full-blown possibilities.' - Farah Jasmine Griffin

'Marcus is a great prose stylist, fun to read even when he's spinning his wheels, and often - there's no telling when - he will pick up speed and zoom off into unexpected territories.' - Evan Kindley, The Los Angeles Times

'Cultural critic Greil Marcus' new book, The History of Rock 'n' Roll in Ten Songs, goes beyond a simple list of tunes that define a genre. Marcus uses each of the songs as a jumping off point to write about an era, a time, place or emotion, and that's the least of it.' - Leah Garchik, The San Francisco Chronicle

'In his new book, which is surely one of his best and most beautifully written, Marcus revisits ten songs, recorded during the last sixty years, some of them long forgotten, in order to capture the pulsating and powerful language of rock 'n' roll... The book, I am certain, will compel readers to return to the songs Marcus has anointed, and to others. Even if they have heard them before, they will listen to them as if for the first time.' - Glenn C. Altschuler, The Huffington Post

'For Marcus, every great song is a Rosetta Stone, an esoteric code. This approach gives him great imaginative, literary breadth ... Out of Marcus' dozen or so books, Ten Songs is the purest distillation of his ideas ... The chapters on Joy Division, on Buddy Holly, and on the two 'Money' songs are tours de force.' - Carl Wilson, Slate

'Another allusive, entertaining inquiry by veteran musicologist Marcus... [He] does what he does best: make us feel smarter about what we're putting into our ears' - Kirkus, starred review Kirkus

'This could be Marcus' most inviting book: Emotion paces erudition, and the present gets to ride shotgun with the past, real and imagined.' - Will Hermes, Rolling Stone

'Marcus is our greatest cultural critic, not only because of what he says but also, as with rock-and-roll itself, how he says it.' - David Kirby, The Washington Post