A funky-fresh exposé on the 1980s arbiters of cool.




The architects of MTV get more play than Madonna and company in this outrageous yet surprisingly lucid account of the cable channel’s defiant first decade of decadence.

The Material Girl, The Boss and The King of Pop all helped define what MTV was for most viewers during the 1980s. But this oral history, as told by a star-studded cast of recording artists and industry insiders, is really the story of guys like John Lack, Bob Pittman and Les Garland—“the suits” behind the scenes who rolled the big record companies for all they were worth and revolutionized the way the world got its music, at least for a while. Mostly candid reflections—some complimentary, others conflicting—provide a real sense of what MTV was like before Snooki took over. Torrents of cash and cocaine flowed freely in an archaic atmosphere of almost nonstop sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll—not to mention the crazy bands and unhinged performers. Beneath all the partying, however, lurked insidious instances of myopic racism, rabid sexism and rampant exploitation. For a time, many black artists could not get their videos played on MTV unless their name was Michael Jackson. Supermodel Cindy Crawford never saw a paycheck the first year she did House of Style. And yet, for most concerned, we’re told it was all a blast. Even the most shabbily treated VJs pine for the halcyon days of MTV media mayhem. Some of the book does feels incongruous—e.g., long sections detail the endless negotiations associated with media empire building, while seminal moments such as Live Aid receive short shrift. Nonetheless, music journalists Marks and Tannenbaum have done a fine job of both celebrating MTV and deconstructing it. Thirty years ago, “video killed the radio star.” The tables, of course, have turned; the media landscape has changed dramatically, and YouTube has supplanted MTV’s relevancy. This book has a rocking good time putting it all in context.

A funky-fresh exposé on the 1980s arbiters of cool.

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-525-95230-5

Page Count: 610

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 15, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2011

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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