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Crosstown Traffic: Jimi Hendrix & The Post-War Rock 'N' Roll Revolution

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Called by "Entertainment Weekly" "The best book on Hendrix", "Crosstown Traffic" rode their A-list for over two months and won the prestigious Ralph J. Gleason Music Book Award. Roots-savvy British critic Charles Shaar Murray assesses the lifework of guitarist Jimi Hendrix in the context of black musical tradition, social history, and the upheaval of the 1960s. Called by "Entertainment Weekly" "The best book on Hendrix", "Crosstown Traffic" rode their A-list for over two months and won the prestigious Ralph J. Gleason Music Book Award. Roots-savvy British critic Charles Shaar Murray assesses the lifework of guitarist Jimi Hendrix in the context of black musical tradition, social history, and the upheaval of the 1960s.


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Called by "Entertainment Weekly" "The best book on Hendrix", "Crosstown Traffic" rode their A-list for over two months and won the prestigious Ralph J. Gleason Music Book Award. Roots-savvy British critic Charles Shaar Murray assesses the lifework of guitarist Jimi Hendrix in the context of black musical tradition, social history, and the upheaval of the 1960s. Called by "Entertainment Weekly" "The best book on Hendrix", "Crosstown Traffic" rode their A-list for over two months and won the prestigious Ralph J. Gleason Music Book Award. Roots-savvy British critic Charles Shaar Murray assesses the lifework of guitarist Jimi Hendrix in the context of black musical tradition, social history, and the upheaval of the 1960s.

30 review for Crosstown Traffic: Jimi Hendrix & The Post-War Rock 'N' Roll Revolution

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Ozawa

    Should really be titled “Jimi Hendrix and post-war music nobody listens to”. Interesting only to jazz nerds and music snobs.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Paul Cowdell

    This is a wide-ranging and brilliant attempt to locate Hendrix and his genius in the web of musical, social, racial history. This isn't to say the book's perfect - some of the arguments don't quite work, and the appendices feel (in one case) whimsical or (in the other) just not quite to cut it - but CSM is the perfect guide. There's something heroic and quixotic about his writing that is irresistible (and eminently quotable - he's bending your ear, certainly, but it's highly entertaining). He's in This is a wide-ranging and brilliant attempt to locate Hendrix and his genius in the web of musical, social, racial history. This isn't to say the book's perfect - some of the arguments don't quite work, and the appendices feel (in one case) whimsical or (in the other) just not quite to cut it - but CSM is the perfect guide. There's something heroic and quixotic about his writing that is irresistible (and eminently quotable - he's bending your ear, certainly, but it's highly entertaining). He's informed, he's clever, and his take on things is always worth reading, even if you don't agree with it. His intelligent writing always has a frenetic passion and wit, but (unlike some of the rock scribes of that generation) he never becomes pompous, portentous or self-important. It's difficult to think of many other writers who could fulminate at such length while still keeping their prose taut. CSM's best quality as a writer is his reflexivity and self-awareness. He's a merciless skewer of pretensions and stupidity - /including, unfailingly, his own/ - without ever losing sight of the need for passionate enthusiasm. He champions the reasons for his passion without allowing it to crush his critical faculties. The result is an achievement like this.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Niklas Braun

    It had some interesting things in it. There were long, passionate thoughts from the author on the historical issues of race and music, soul and jazz influences, what rock is and where it's from, how white people influenced Jimi Hendrix's fame, etc. I didn't really like it, however, because it often strayed into unconvincing, rambling territory. Not to mention that there was not that much on Hendrix! I was trying to find a good biography on him, but it just doesn't cut it. It had some interesting things in it. There were long, passionate thoughts from the author on the historical issues of race and music, soul and jazz influences, what rock is and where it's from, how white people influenced Jimi Hendrix's fame, etc. I didn't really like it, however, because it often strayed into unconvincing, rambling territory. Not to mention that there was not that much on Hendrix! I was trying to find a good biography on him, but it just doesn't cut it.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Adrienne

    Couldn’t even get through the first chapter. I thought it was a biography of Jimi Hendrix but it’s actually a super annoying, ‘splainy history of rock and roll that’s written in the most boring style ever.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Neil Kernohan

    This is by far a better book about Jimi Hendrix than most other biographies and hagiographies on the market. Murray is a superb rock critic and writer and here he examines in some depth the musical and cultural influences on Hendrix the artist - jazz, soul and blues - as well as the cultural and technological revolutions that helped shape the 1960s as the most significant decade in the history of popular music. In a series of well argued and very informative chapters he explains how Hendrix went This is by far a better book about Jimi Hendrix than most other biographies and hagiographies on the market. Murray is a superb rock critic and writer and here he examines in some depth the musical and cultural influences on Hendrix the artist - jazz, soul and blues - as well as the cultural and technological revolutions that helped shape the 1960s as the most significant decade in the history of popular music. In a series of well argued and very informative chapters he explains how Hendrix went from talented session man to godfather of psychedelic rock guitar in the space of 4 years and how his musical sensibilities originated in the Delta and Chicago blues of Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters, the bebop jazz of Charlie Parker and Miles Davis and the soul of Ray Charles and Sly Stone. The book closes with a rather interesting chapter on the development of electric guitars by Gibson and Fender and, for Hendrix fans and collectors, an excellent detailed discography. Here Murray sums up in elegant prose the significance of Hendrix's epoch making rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner" at Woodstock in 1969 "..That clear pure tone - somewhere between a trumpet and a high pealing bell - is continually invaded by ghostly rogue overtones; the stately unreeling of the melody derailed by the sounds of riot and war, sirens and screams, chaos and alarm....Hendrix presented a compelling musical allegory of a nation bloodily tearing itself apart, in its own ghettos and campuses, and in a foreign land which had never done anything to harm its tormentors".

  6. 5 out of 5

    5 Track

    An attempt to place Jimi in a proper historical context—ie taking into account the history of Black American music including John Coltrane, Robert Johnson, Charlie Christian, Louis Armstrong, etc—as opposed to Jimi's usual placement in the pantheon context of 'rock guitarists' (most of whom are 'white' & trace their lineage to Elvis & Buddy Holly, maybe to BB King or Chuck Berry—but no further back than that). This book is the beginning of a conversation that should be deepened. It's a good effor An attempt to place Jimi in a proper historical context—ie taking into account the history of Black American music including John Coltrane, Robert Johnson, Charlie Christian, Louis Armstrong, etc—as opposed to Jimi's usual placement in the pantheon context of 'rock guitarists' (most of whom are 'white' & trace their lineage to Elvis & Buddy Holly, maybe to BB King or Chuck Berry—but no further back than that). This book is the beginning of a conversation that should be deepened. It's a good effort—lots of great quotes from Vernon Reid, which are among the highlights—but there's areas where I take historical exception to Jimi's life story as presented here (Charles Cross' flawed but definitive 'Room Full Of Mirrors' wasn't out yet, not sure about Kramer & McDermott's 'Setting The Record Straight') & areas where I take exception to the perspectives given on Black American history. A few other weak points. Nothing major, but I'd like to see someone go further with it, given the resources & perspectives available today. Additionally this book discusses perspectives regarding the British rock scene of the 1960s (in the context of Jimi & his own historical setting) which I found useful & illuminating. Very well-intended. A necessary discussion. Don't skip it, just read it with an open mind. Then think yourself a few meters deeper.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jack Bates

    I was a bit worried about this as it was originally published in 1989 (revised in 2012) and 1989 is a looong time ago, particularly when considering all kinds of things that might, as it were, raise their heads in a book (mostly) about Hendrix and black musicians more generally. But actually although it would be interesting to see how this would be written now, it was fine. Loads of people were still alive in 1989 as well, who have subsequently died, and Murray spoke to lots of them, so that's a I was a bit worried about this as it was originally published in 1989 (revised in 2012) and 1989 is a looong time ago, particularly when considering all kinds of things that might, as it were, raise their heads in a book (mostly) about Hendrix and black musicians more generally. But actually although it would be interesting to see how this would be written now, it was fine. Loads of people were still alive in 1989 as well, who have subsequently died, and Murray spoke to lots of them, so that's a good thing. This is very well researched and there's a lot of stuff about jazz which I might not otherwise have read about, since I wouldn't (probably?) choose to read a book about Miles Davis/Ornette Coleman/Charlie Parker. Loads of stuff about the blues as well, which I'd be more likely to read about anyway what's my point? My point is this is a good all round introduction to what Hendrix's influences were and also what he influenced. No one would talk about the people in 'that stupid club' if they weren't hugely influential, and if their early deaths hadn't robbed us of more good stuff, so there's always an air of melancholy with these things.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Brendan Coke

    Brilliantly captured. Written with wit, lucidity cynicism and at times real anger (just what we've been looking for). I wish I could sum up the book (along with the author) in just a few lines (but I can't find the words). Just read the thing, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did....5***** Brilliantly captured. Written with wit, lucidity cynicism and at times real anger (just what we've been looking for). I wish I could sum up the book (along with the author) in just a few lines (but I can't find the words). Just read the thing, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did....5*****

  9. 4 out of 5

    Carole Tyrrell

    It’s been over 20 years since I acquired my autographed copy of this and I have written my review on this edition. This was a fascinating read as it told me so much I didn’t know about Jimi Hendrix. He appeared to have a guitar permanently welded to his body and even slept with it. Murray describes in detail Hendrix’s pre-fame years on the ‘chittlin circuit’ which was a circuit of exclusively black clubs where a lot of black musicians started out. They paid their dues in this way and Hendrix was It’s been over 20 years since I acquired my autographed copy of this and I have written my review on this edition. This was a fascinating read as it told me so much I didn’t know about Jimi Hendrix. He appeared to have a guitar permanently welded to his body and even slept with it. Murray describes in detail Hendrix’s pre-fame years on the ‘chittlin circuit’ which was a circuit of exclusively black clubs where a lot of black musicians started out. They paid their dues in this way and Hendrix was always getting fired from bands for his guitar tricks and his playing. He was scuffling around for gigs when Chas Chandler, the manager of the Animals, saw him playing, brought him to England and the rest is History. At last Hendrix was in the right place at the right time and his career took off into the stratosphere. He formed The Experience with drummer Mitch Mitchell and bassist Noel Redding and made his classic album, ‘Are You Experienced?’ with them. t was the summer of love and Hendrix was a handsome, talented dandy. He frightened Eric Clapton who saw him playing and came out shivering. Suddenly he wasn’t God anymore. Murray portrays Hendrix as a likeable, shy, soft spoken man who was restless and soon frustrated by being forced into the roles of the Wildman of pop, sex magnet and spaceboy. He always had to trot out the hits and his tricks of playing guitar behind his back or setting light to it. It must become less entertaining on the 100th time. Hendrix liked to experiment and was becoming more interested in jazz when he formed Band of Gypsies. This was more freeform jazz and would have been an interesting direction for him to take. Hendrix’s version of ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ at Woodstock in 1969 still sends shivers down the spine. By the time of Hendrix’s death in 1971 he was a man embroiled in management problems, an audience who just wanted the hits all the time, and taking sleeping pills to help with insomnia. But the music shines through always. Murray also links Hendrix’s music with other forms of black music including gospel, r & b, soul and the atmosphere of the ‘60’s with Civil Rights and riots. Hendrix’s star burned very, very brightly but not for long and this is a biography I would recommend to anyone wanting to know more about the man. There is a revised and updated edition of this book also available

  10. 5 out of 5

    Russ

    This book is supposed to be about Jimi Hendrix, but it doesn't have too many pages of information about its subject. The author's style here is to give a history of different styles and subjects (blues, jazz, soul, etc.), discuss their impact on the culture of the 1960s, and then discuss how Jimi Hendrix fit in. The result is many pages of information about different styles and eras of music and very few mentions of Jimi. As a music book, this is decent. There are interesting examinations of masc This book is supposed to be about Jimi Hendrix, but it doesn't have too many pages of information about its subject. The author's style here is to give a history of different styles and subjects (blues, jazz, soul, etc.), discuss their impact on the culture of the 1960s, and then discuss how Jimi Hendrix fit in. The result is many pages of information about different styles and eras of music and very few mentions of Jimi. As a music book, this is decent. There are interesting examinations of masculinity in popular music, the myths surrounding Robert Johnson, and developments in blues and jazz. As a Hendrix book, this is very poor. I think the best chapters are those on blues and soul music. The author clearly connects Jimi to these musical traditions, as they influenced Hendrix and as Hendrix influenced them. If you're looking for a book mostly about Jimi Hendrix's music, look elsewhere. If you're curious about music in general, this might interest you.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    I was familiar with Mr Shaar Murray from his numerous "talking head" type appearances on music-related shows with titles like the "Top 100 Rock Albums of all Time" or "We Love Seventies Disco" or "Did You Know, Your Dad Spent The Entire Sixties Out Of His Head Chasing Skirt and Listening to Santana?". I had a very negative view of Mr Murray, in fact I thought he was a pretentious, narcissistic, er, bloke. I couldn't have been more wrong. This guy is a brilliant writer, a true music enthusiast an I was familiar with Mr Shaar Murray from his numerous "talking head" type appearances on music-related shows with titles like the "Top 100 Rock Albums of all Time" or "We Love Seventies Disco" or "Did You Know, Your Dad Spent The Entire Sixties Out Of His Head Chasing Skirt and Listening to Santana?". I had a very negative view of Mr Murray, in fact I thought he was a pretentious, narcissistic, er, bloke. I couldn't have been more wrong. This guy is a brilliant writer, a true music enthusiast and unbelievably knowledgeable. I enjoyed this book thoroughly. It's a very easy read and tells rock and roll stories in a thoroughly individual style. Charles Shaar Murray has a familiar tone which made me feel like he's talking directly to me. Whilst he obviously loves his subject, the book is irreverent and very funny. Give it a go.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Graham Tennyson

    This is a reread for me, actually read the new, updated, Kindle version! When I was but a lad a close friend was upset because I read and was influenced by NME (MM and Sounds) critics. My defence was that I was interested in critics I trusted and Charles Shaar Murray was at the head of that list. Now I'm old and curmudgeonly I still believe a good critic adds to our cultural life. This book is about Hendrix, but it is about so much more - if you are interested in Blues, Blues Rock, Soul and Jazz This is a reread for me, actually read the new, updated, Kindle version! When I was but a lad a close friend was upset because I read and was influenced by NME (MM and Sounds) critics. My defence was that I was interested in critics I trusted and Charles Shaar Murray was at the head of that list. Now I'm old and curmudgeonly I still believe a good critic adds to our cultural life. This book is about Hendrix, but it is about so much more - if you are interested in Blues, Blues Rock, Soul and Jazz and Hendrix's position in this mix this book is vital. It covers a lot of ground and CSM is a great guide, he is also very funny. I wish I could write like this.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Rog Harrison

    I bought this book to read on a train journey and was not sure what to expect. It is not a biography of Hendrix, though it does give some details of his life, but rather seeks to explain the influences on Hendrix and also the influence Hendrix has had on modern music. It's a fascinating read even if my tastes and the author's tastes are sometimes quite different. At the end the author conducts a what might have been ten page interview with Hendrix as if he had not died in 1970 which gives him th I bought this book to read on a train journey and was not sure what to expect. It is not a biography of Hendrix, though it does give some details of his life, but rather seeks to explain the influences on Hendrix and also the influence Hendrix has had on modern music. It's a fascinating read even if my tastes and the author's tastes are sometimes quite different. At the end the author conducts a what might have been ten page interview with Hendrix as if he had not died in 1970 which gives him the chance to speculate on what Hendrix might have achieved had he lived!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Paneagle

    Far more than a biography, Crosstown Traffic is exactly what it says it is, a well written education in the history of music and influences which went into the inspired fusion of the Jimi Hendrix Experience and the 1960's rhythm and blues revolution. I thought it one of the best books on music I have ever read. Far more than a biography, Crosstown Traffic is exactly what it says it is, a well written education in the history of music and influences which went into the inspired fusion of the Jimi Hendrix Experience and the 1960's rhythm and blues revolution. I thought it one of the best books on music I have ever read.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    Crosstown Traffic explores the Jimi Hendrix mythos from an Englishman's perspective. This book contains less details on Hendrix life and more on who he played with when, how his music developed and why. Once again a fun read but recommend readers check out other Hendrix biographies for more insight into the man. Crosstown Traffic explores the Jimi Hendrix mythos from an Englishman's perspective. This book contains less details on Hendrix life and more on who he played with when, how his music developed and why. Once again a fun read but recommend readers check out other Hendrix biographies for more insight into the man.

  16. 5 out of 5

    James Rozoff

    A unique take on the Jimi Hendrix story. If you read only one book on Jimi Hendrix, this is probably not the one you'll want to pick up. But if you have read one and are looking to pick up another, this should be the one. This book is not complete as far of details, but it gives you good understanding of the world Jimi was born into as well as the one he eventually found himself. A unique take on the Jimi Hendrix story. If you read only one book on Jimi Hendrix, this is probably not the one you'll want to pick up. But if you have read one and are looking to pick up another, this should be the one. This book is not complete as far of details, but it gives you good understanding of the world Jimi was born into as well as the one he eventually found himself.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Evan

    Half-way through this book right now... It's more of an analysis of the evolution of rock (from blues) than a Hendrix biography, and Murray's clearly got a great wealth of knowledge and some fascinating insights. But overall, it's a pretty boring read so I doubt I'll finish it. Half-way through this book right now... It's more of an analysis of the evolution of rock (from blues) than a Hendrix biography, and Murray's clearly got a great wealth of knowledge and some fascinating insights. But overall, it's a pretty boring read so I doubt I'll finish it.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lanaya

    What can I say?! I love music. I tend to keep music related texts around. If you are interested in Jimi era, this text is very interesting. Race, sexuality, etc. I also learned about music groups I'd never been exposed to. Note: This book is not life changing! What can I say?! I love music. I tend to keep music related texts around. If you are interested in Jimi era, this text is very interesting. Race, sexuality, etc. I also learned about music groups I'd never been exposed to. Note: This book is not life changing!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Neil Clarke

    Just done! One of the best music books I've ever read. CSM writes like a dream and is so knowledgeable of the history of Hendrix, his place in music; all the genres he touched upon; what he was influenced by; what he was an influence on. Simply a stunning read. Just done! One of the best music books I've ever read. CSM writes like a dream and is so knowledgeable of the history of Hendrix, his place in music; all the genres he touched upon; what he was influenced by; what he was an influence on. Simply a stunning read.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Bas Vossen

    (One of) the most comprehensive and informative books on Jimi Hendrix. In the back are sections with music the author thinks we all have to listen to, in order to understand more about the blues, funk, rock et cetera.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Maishah

    This book was well written, however is not a biography. If you are looking for a good book on some of Hendrix's influences, this would be the one. This book was well written, however is not a biography. If you are looking for a good book on some of Hendrix's influences, this would be the one.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kiof

    One of my favorite music books. I read it a long time ago, though. Might not hold up.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Rhianna

    didn't take much for me to love this. a powerful insight into one of the greatest guitar heroes that ever lived. didn't take much for me to love this. a powerful insight into one of the greatest guitar heroes that ever lived.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Asha-mae

    Really didn't like this book, mainly because I found that the author drifted from topic to topic and danced around what he claimed to be writing about Really didn't like this book, mainly because I found that the author drifted from topic to topic and danced around what he claimed to be writing about

  25. 5 out of 5

    Roy

    based on Jimi but meanders all over with insights on the sixties in general

  26. 5 out of 5

    Roy

    Don't expect a Hendrix bio , this is more a study of sixties music and culture , which Jimi existed in and embraced . Don't expect a Hendrix bio , this is more a study of sixties music and culture , which Jimi existed in and embraced .

  27. 5 out of 5

    Fritz

    These are an old rock journo's endless pontifications about politics and music disguised as a book about Hendrix (which he barely covers). Utter tosh These are an old rock journo's endless pontifications about politics and music disguised as a book about Hendrix (which he barely covers). Utter tosh

  28. 4 out of 5

    Neil Clarke

    Best music book I've read. Best music book I've read.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    Murray did a great job on this book, I love Jimi Hendrix but now I also found love for an author.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Simon

    Hmm a superbly researched and presented insight into Murray's interpretation of the life and times of JH. Not sure I fully agree with some of the analysis and deductions put forward and I certainly laboured through it in parts. In the end it was a relief to finish...oh dear. Hmm a superbly researched and presented insight into Murray's interpretation of the life and times of JH. Not sure I fully agree with some of the analysis and deductions put forward and I certainly laboured through it in parts. In the end it was a relief to finish...oh dear.

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