A highly learned pleasure for music and pop-culture buffs.

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POP MUSIC IN AMERICA

Strolling through the archives of pop music history with an experienced guide.

There are no grand theses or postmodern theoretical turns here. Instead, Nation music critic Hajdu (Heroes and Villains: Essays on Music, Movies, Comics, and Culture, 2009, etc.) approaches the vast stretch of pop history as a particularly tasteful exercise in picking tunes from an impossibly well-stocked jukebox, very much personally curated and with each choice well defended. Thus, as he notes near the opening, he can probably do without hearing “Yesterday” again (“I can barely still hear qualities I heard in the song at various times in the past”), preferring instead to spin the Beatles’ little-heard contemporary tune “Tell Me What You See,” because, in addition to its musical qualities, it conjures up a kiss from a high school girlfriend. That personal approach would not work if Hajdu were not so well-versed on his pop history firsthand. When he writes of the early history of music videos, it helps that he was one of the earliest video journalists, just as when he writes of one-hit wonders like the New Jersey band Looking Glass, of “Brandy” fame, it helps that he was on the scene, ears wide open, when the song came out. The author’s ears extend beyond his own time span, though; he writes with knowledgeable appreciation of Frank Sinatra, Marni Nixon, and Billy Strayhorn—not to mention contemporary hip-hop. The center of his world, though, is the period when Brian Wilson, Ray Davies, Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, and their musical kin were making albums to set the world on fire. He even works in a quiet appreciation for disco, and with good humor: “Without getting too Ken Burns–ish about this, I’ll point out the significance of the first dance craze of the twentieth century, the vogue for the fox-trot, in cross-fertilizing cultural values and democratizing social life (within the limits of racial segregation) for young people of the day.” And so he does.

A highly learned pleasure for music and pop-culture buffs.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-374-17053-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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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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