This is what Lester Bangs would have written had he been a farmboy raised on a diet of Skid Row and KISS. Unfailingly smart...

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FARGO ROCK CITY

A HEAVY METAL ODYSSEY IN RURAL NORTH DAKOTA

A witty journey into the demimonde of 1980s heavy-metal music by way of the High Plains.

Klosterman, now a music critic for the Akron Beacon Journal, grew up in a farm town in North Dakota whose 500 residents included dozens of teenagers who categorized themselves on the basis of the music they liked. For Klosterman and a few of his beer-chugging pals, that music was heavy metal: the guaranteed-to-drive-parents-insane, bottom-heavy fuel of the rural dispossessed. Characterized by a “beautiful combination of virtuosity and imbecility,” 1980s-era heavy metal was guaranteed to polarize; critics hated it, but the kids (who lived and breathed for albums like Mötley Crüe’s Shout at the Devil and Ozzy Osborne’s Diary of a Madman) were as confident of the righteousness of their cause as was any old-hippie fan of the Grateful Dead or the Beatles. The author engages in plenty of sociologizing and philosophizing as he takes an amiable, booze-soaked ramble through the genre, listing favorite albums and musing on the merits of big-hair bands like Cinderella and Whitesnake and the relative status of guitarists like Eddie Van Halen—who regularly earns top honors in magazine lists of the greatest guitar players of all time. (Klosterman, perhaps heretically, allows that Jimi Hendrix was the better axman, adding, “Van Halen remains the most influential guitar of all time, but only because nobody can figure out how to rip Hendrix off.”) A big bonus comes toward the end when Klosterman assembles a list of “essential” albums, which he ranks by the amount of money someone would have to pay him never to listen to them again—a mere $66 for Van Halen’s 1984, but a walloping $5,001 for Guns N’ Roses’ undeniably great Appetite for Destruction.

This is what Lester Bangs would have written had he been a farmboy raised on a diet of Skid Row and KISS. Unfailingly smart and demonically opinionated, it could even make a few converts to the music Tipper Gore once loved to hate.

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7432-0227-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2001

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

A LITTLE HISTORY OF POETRY

A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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