Books by Dave Marsh

Released: Aug. 1, 1994

It's not a frat party. It's not Spinal Tap. It's Amy Tan in thigh-high leather boots; Barbara Kingsolver on keyboards; Stephen King worried that he ``might become the first best-selling novelist ever to have an accident of the shit variety while on stage in Nashville.'' A group of authors and critics (including editor Marsh) formed a rock 'n' roll band and thrashed for literacy at the 1992 ABA convention. They liked it so much they decided to take their show on the road. Band members and assorted groupies and hangers-on included Dave Barry, Roy Blount, Matt Groening, and some real musicians like Al Kooper. The book is funny—not as funny as their playing apparently was, but funny. They got together and proved that book people, like all people, want to be rock 'n' roll stars. They gave it a try, and being book people, they ended up with a book. Read full book review >
LOUIE LOUIE by Dave Marsh
Released: Aug. 4, 1993

Here, rock critic Marsh (Born to Run, Glory Days, etc.) ventures beyond mere celeb biography or fan-boy appreciation. This cultural history of a single rock tune is an exercise in modern legend-making that also tells ``the story of rock 'n' roll in a nutshell.'' For Marsh, the official investigation of the allegedly obscene lyrics in ``Louie, Louie'' prefigures current efforts to censor pop music. The lesson in this case is skewed in Marsh's favor, since ``Louie, Louie,'' despite years of rumor and myth-making, is really a harmless sea chantey composed by a small-time performer in the mid-50's as ``an R&B dance tune with a hint of cha-cha.'' When Richard Berry sold the publication rights to the tune for $750, he had no idea it would reemerge in the early 60's as a monster hit. Although numerous West Coast artists cut versions, it wasn't until the Kingsmen recorded their slurred, one-track interpretation that the rumors began concerning the ``true'' lyrics. In Marsh's view, the ``protopunk'' sloppy recording of the song ``is the most profound and sublime expression of rock 'n' roll's ability to create something from nothing.'' Down and dirty, the Kingsmen's version frightened parents and inspired a thorough FBI investigation based on the underground circulation of spurious vulgar lyrics. Meanwhile, the ``stop-time cluster-chord'' song spawned offshoots by the Kinks, the Who, and Jimi Hendrix. The song was remade by the Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, Otis Redding, and disco king Barry White. There are instrumental remakes, jazz-fusion versions, punk homages, and a rap rendition. Despite references to Camille Paglia and Theodor Adorno, Marsh is no Greil Marcus. Though he tells the story of ``Louie, Louie'' well, his cultural analysis is shallow and dependent on all sorts of p.c. insights. A full discography attests to his central point: ``Louie, Louie'' lives! (Eight pages of b&w photographs) Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 21, 1991

What do Jack Nicholson, Kurt Vonnegut, Jimmy Carter, Louise Erdrich, Sting, James Michener, Meryl Streep, Robert Bly, Robert Redford, and Tom McGuane have in common? They—and 58 other celebrities—have contributed original essays (or, in the case of Garry Trudeau, a cartoon) to this likable book, with all royalties going to support the Walden Woods Project, dedicated to keeping Walden Woods (which surround Walden Pond) free of threatened commercial development. Being a celebrity project, it's no surprise that each essay begins with a half-page b&w photo of its author and often ends with a bit of puffery (e.g., ``Bette Midler is a confirmed organic gardener and loves all living things'')—but most of the pieces range interestingly far beyond the specifics of Walden Woods (although some, such as those by E.L. Doctorow and Wallace Stegner, are specifically about Thoreau and his pond) and are generally engaging (Tom Cruise writes of learning about nature during a foray into the Amazon jungle; Michael Dorris writes of his commitment to the land on which his farmhouse stands). Sprinkled with passages by Thoreau, it's an attractive volume with an honorable raison d'àtre, and one moreover that doubles nicely as a simple, inviting introduction to the entire ecological question. Read full book review >