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Night Beat: A Shadow History of Rock & Roll

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Few journalists have staked a territory as definitively and passionately as Mikal Gilmore in his twenty-year career writing about rock and roll. Now, for the first time, this collection gathers his cultural criticism, interviews, reviews, and assorted musings. Beginning with Elvis and the birth of rock and roll, Gilmore traces the seismic changes in America as its youth re Few journalists have staked a territory as definitively and passionately as Mikal Gilmore in his twenty-year career writing about rock and roll. Now, for the first time, this collection gathers his cultural criticism, interviews, reviews, and assorted musings. Beginning with Elvis and the birth of rock and roll, Gilmore traces the seismic changes in America as its youth responded to the postwar economic and political climate. He hears in the lyrics of Bob Dylan and Jim Morrison the voices of unrest and fervor, and charts the rise and fall of punk in brilliant essays on Lou Reed, The Sex Pistols, and The Clash. Mikal Gilmore describes Bruce Springsteen's America and the problem of Michael Jackson. And like no one else, Gilmore listens to the lone voices: Al Green, Marianne Faithfull, Sinead O'Connor, Frank Sinatra. Four decades of American life are observed through the inimitable lens of rock and roll, and through the provocative and intelligent voice of one of the most committed chroniclers of American music, and its powerful expressions of love, soul, politics, and redemption.


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Few journalists have staked a territory as definitively and passionately as Mikal Gilmore in his twenty-year career writing about rock and roll. Now, for the first time, this collection gathers his cultural criticism, interviews, reviews, and assorted musings. Beginning with Elvis and the birth of rock and roll, Gilmore traces the seismic changes in America as its youth re Few journalists have staked a territory as definitively and passionately as Mikal Gilmore in his twenty-year career writing about rock and roll. Now, for the first time, this collection gathers his cultural criticism, interviews, reviews, and assorted musings. Beginning with Elvis and the birth of rock and roll, Gilmore traces the seismic changes in America as its youth responded to the postwar economic and political climate. He hears in the lyrics of Bob Dylan and Jim Morrison the voices of unrest and fervor, and charts the rise and fall of punk in brilliant essays on Lou Reed, The Sex Pistols, and The Clash. Mikal Gilmore describes Bruce Springsteen's America and the problem of Michael Jackson. And like no one else, Gilmore listens to the lone voices: Al Green, Marianne Faithfull, Sinead O'Connor, Frank Sinatra. Four decades of American life are observed through the inimitable lens of rock and roll, and through the provocative and intelligent voice of one of the most committed chroniclers of American music, and its powerful expressions of love, soul, politics, and redemption.

56 review for Night Beat: A Shadow History of Rock & Roll

  1. 4 out of 5

    Barney

    The Barenaked Ladies did a song in the 1990s called "Box Set". In it is buried this tight lyric: All the people want is what I used to be When I try to play something new, all they want is 1973. Imagine my complete surprise when no less a Rock Legend (capitalized) than Mick Jagger throws out this statement during an interview with the author: "Well, the fans want to hear what we were. I mean, if they admit that we have gotten old, they have lost their youth." Gilmore goes on to argue that the Stone The Barenaked Ladies did a song in the 1990s called "Box Set". In it is buried this tight lyric: All the people want is what I used to be When I try to play something new, all they want is 1973. Imagine my complete surprise when no less a Rock Legend (capitalized) than Mick Jagger throws out this statement during an interview with the author: "Well, the fans want to hear what we were. I mean, if they admit that we have gotten old, they have lost their youth." Gilmore goes on to argue that the Stones reached their apex in the early 1970s (ending with Exile on Main Street) and I could not agree more. But the larger question remains, so what if the Stones have not released a Stones-like album in close to 40 years? Yes, yes, "Mixed Emotions" is not "Start Me Up" which would have been an outtake on Let it Bleed. So what? Gilmore has been a feisty rock critic for many years, and the book is a collection of observations, opinion pieces and general thoughts. The objects are quite varied, and I will follow his example in this review. In general, the pieces on the Allman Brothers, The Clash and Van Halen are worth the price of the book. Bob Dylan Even in his 60s, the second time Gilmore interviewed him, he seems like a regular guy doing irregular things. My favorite Dylan quote is "I didn't write all those songs, I just wrote them down." He sounds like there is something moving through him; perhaps this is the conversion to Christianity, I don't know. Dylan is not the inveterate dick that he was in the biopic with Blanchette and Ledger; in this text he is in full bloom as an artist talking about his craft. Lou Reed In discussing a solo album of his, Gilmore quotes Reed as yelling at the audience "So? What is wrong with tasteless jokes? Fuck you!" In counterpoint to Dylan as "regular guy" artist, Reed sounds like a superdouche. Yes, yes, you wrote "Perfect Day" and hung out with Warhol and the rest, but you have not recorded a decent song since "Love is Chemical." Claim "artistry" and fucking with people above all else; Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa did that also, better than you and without being assholes. Give me "Trout Mask Replica" over anything that the Underground did. That's right, I said it. Gilmore's interviews give the artists the chance to really speak; when Reed does, it sounds like that whiny jerk off in your high school who claimed he is a 'tortured genius" only to write bad poetry in community college English classes. Sinead O'Connor For many reasons, this was one of the best pieces in the book. I have never thought much of O'Connor's music, but I gained a real respect for her in these pages. She is not the preachy ass that I was conditioned to expect. She seems quite surprised to be famous; no less surprised than her producers. Heavy Metal Gilmore profiles Dave Mustaine of Megadeth, who is a 24 karat asshole. He is not, however, a sell out. This separates him from the stinky, vomitous, overindulgent mass that is Metallica. The description of fans dancing around bonfires at a concert in Texas is wonderfully written and makes you want to be there. Van Halen Three Words: David Lee Fucking Roth. Who else could get away in 1983 with saying "How can you say I don't like women? I LOVE women!" Then there is the groupie that, when asked of her opinion of the band says the normal boilerplate-this-band-is-awesome stuff, and then says "And every single one of these guys knows how to get DOWN!" She then proceeds to get double teamed by Diamond Dave and Alex Van Halen. At the radio station the next day, DLR bestows the "Hotel Award" on Alex, then dry humps a female fan in full view of 300 people on live radio. Such awesomeness was Diamond Dave. For those of you who cared about Van Halen after Sammy Hagar got on board, I direct you to Diver Down or Van Halen II for some real action. When Dave went solo, the soul of Van Halen went with him. The interviews and stories in Gilmore's text bring a very sordid, wish-I-looked-that-good-in-spandex chapter of Reagan's America to life.The pure, unadulterated disco ball like brilliance of Diamond Dave makes you wish he never left. Eddie's take? "Dave understands the entertainment and marketing angle." The Clash Joe Strummer gets special mention here; when asked about revolution and what it means, he thinks hard and says simply "it means keep going no matter what". These are words we could all agree with.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Greta

    Wow! What a long, strange trip it's been... This book takes us on a ride through time, through some of the history of rock and roll, introducing us to the people, and the events that helped shape who we are today. Not only is the soundtrack of our lives documented in these articles, but the events which formed much of them are chronicled in a way that enables us to see the bigger picture. Who would have thought that the music, and the musicians that made it, and their influences on each other, c Wow! What a long, strange trip it's been... This book takes us on a ride through time, through some of the history of rock and roll, introducing us to the people, and the events that helped shape who we are today. Not only is the soundtrack of our lives documented in these articles, but the events which formed much of them are chronicled in a way that enables us to see the bigger picture. Who would have thought that the music, and the musicians that made it, and their influences on each other, could have had the impact on culture, society, and all the individual lives that it did? Mikal Gilmore writes so fluently, so concisely, so poignantly about the music and the people behind it, as well as some of the poets and authors and others who also helped shape the world we live in today, I found myself relishing each article, enjoying insights into and interviews with bands and musicians I've loved my whole life as well as developing an appreciation for those I don't particularly care for or didn't know much about beforehand. I have to say, I learned more about the times I've lived in, the things I've listened to and the places this has taken me through this book than I thought possible. I was sad when this book ended because there is so much more to learn and so much more music to listen to while learning it. And also because I wanted to hear Mikal's voice continue talking about it.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lylah

    A competently written collection of essays on rock icons and related subjects, but not very revelatory. There's some things about Jim Morrison that have been written, said and filmed ten times before, some typical 90s-era Cobain myth-making, the expected rock critic essay about punk that makes it sound like something that happened in Britain and was later exported to LA (Max's Kansas City, CBGB, the Cleveland contingent and the Detroit forefathers apparently never happened), and chapters on Elvi A competently written collection of essays on rock icons and related subjects, but not very revelatory. There's some things about Jim Morrison that have been written, said and filmed ten times before, some typical 90s-era Cobain myth-making, the expected rock critic essay about punk that makes it sound like something that happened in Britain and was later exported to LA (Max's Kansas City, CBGB, the Cleveland contingent and the Detroit forefathers apparently never happened), and chapters on Elvis and the Beatles that I haven't been able to slog through yet. A little more interesting is a chapter on Timothy Leary that covers material mostly in Robert Greenfield's excellent biography, but with a much more affectionate tone. Ironically, the chapter most interesting to me was the one on Jerry Garcia, someone whose music and public persona I don't relate to, but who, like fellow hippy mythmaker "Papa John" Phillips, was a much more complex and fascinating American character in real life than his music or public persona ever fully reflected. But then, I have not read much about Garcia before, so to anyone who has read a biography of the man this may again be well-tread territory.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Justin

    One might be forgiven for mistaking this book's subtitle--"A Shadow History of Rock & Roll"--for an indicator of some sort of underground, avant-garde perspective on the history of popular music. It is not, though, and while Gilmore's collected pieces are well-written, these explorations of Bob Dylan, Elvis, the Beatles, the Clash, Frank Sinatra, Michael Jackson, et al. would only be considered "underground" or "shadowy" by the Des Moines chapter of the Pat Boone Fan Club. A worthwhile (if not gr One might be forgiven for mistaking this book's subtitle--"A Shadow History of Rock & Roll"--for an indicator of some sort of underground, avant-garde perspective on the history of popular music. It is not, though, and while Gilmore's collected pieces are well-written, these explorations of Bob Dylan, Elvis, the Beatles, the Clash, Frank Sinatra, Michael Jackson, et al. would only be considered "underground" or "shadowy" by the Des Moines chapter of the Pat Boone Fan Club. A worthwhile (if not groundbreaking) entry in the annals of collected rock journalism.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    I got this book in 1999 as entertainment editor at the Collegian and finally got around to reading it this year. A seasoned music scribe, Mikal Gilmore developed relationships with Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and many others. Those relationships inform this collection of essays which in many cases appeared in Rolling Stone and elsewhere over the course of 20 years. Some illuminating information about many artists, including Michael Jackson, Kurt Cobain and Jerry Garcia.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Darell

    Simply a must read for any music fan!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn

    You can tell I really loved this book -- the hardcover falls open at so many places.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kay

  9. 4 out of 5

    Allan Barlow

  10. 4 out of 5

    Edward Crawford

  11. 4 out of 5

    Simon Vita

  12. 4 out of 5

    Rob Hitchcock

  13. 5 out of 5

    Dburse

  14. 4 out of 5

    Bender

  15. 4 out of 5

    Anza

  16. 5 out of 5

    Shahina

  17. 4 out of 5

    Andreas Rauh

  18. 4 out of 5

    Karen

  19. 5 out of 5

    Steve Chanin

  20. 5 out of 5

    Orko

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kyle Brodsky

  22. 5 out of 5

    Betsy Alperin

  23. 5 out of 5

    Tisho Jessop

  24. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jim Mccool

  26. 4 out of 5

    Matt Parks

  27. 4 out of 5

    Neird Pacis

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jeanne Volpe

  29. 4 out of 5

    Thomas D Sinex

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lumonash

  31. 5 out of 5

    Lori

  32. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

  33. 4 out of 5

    Nathaniel Dean

  34. 4 out of 5

    John

  35. 5 out of 5

    Bobby

  36. 4 out of 5

    Susan K.

  37. 5 out of 5

    Tamra

  38. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

  39. 4 out of 5

    Rob

  40. 4 out of 5

    Alexander

  41. 4 out of 5

    Eric

  42. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

  43. 5 out of 5

    Mauro Bedaque

  44. 4 out of 5

    Nicole Oswald

  45. 4 out of 5

    Alan Partlow

  46. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Moricoli-Latham

  47. 4 out of 5

    Nina

  48. 4 out of 5

    Kathy Lonquist

  49. 5 out of 5

    Robin

  50. 4 out of 5

    Eric Novod

  51. 4 out of 5

    Rae

  52. 5 out of 5

    Moira Russell

  53. 4 out of 5

    David

  54. 4 out of 5

    Dr. Detroit

  55. 4 out of 5

    Todd

  56. 5 out of 5

    Michael Mclaurin

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