An interesting examination of the nature of movements “half a million strong,” as Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young declared.

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HALF A MILLION STRONG

CROWDS AND POWER FROM WOODSTOCK TO COACHELLA

An academic investigation into the weird, communal nature of rock festivals.

Thankfully, Arnold (Rhetoric and Media Studies/Univ. of San Francisco; Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville, 2014, etc.), a former rock journalist who is the co-editor of The Oxford Handbook of Punk Rock, has logged many hours at festivals such as Lollapalooza, so this somewhat dry examination of crowds and social movements has some juice to it. The author begins the narrative not with Woodstock but with a free concert given by famous soprano Luisa Tetrazzini in San Francisco on Christmas Eve 1910 for 250,000 people. From there, Arnold plays a lot of “greatest hits” of festivals—Bob Dylan going electric, the Monterey International Pop Festival, Woodstock, and Altamont—but she also dredges up a lot of influential but less-infamous gatherings, from a 1969 summit between Ken Kesey, Paul Krassner, Mimi Fariña, and Grateful Dead manager Rock Scully to reimagine “the architecture of mass gatherings,” to Steve Wozniak’s doomed US Festival, or “Woodstock West.” The author also admits that the whole culture shifted while she was writing, pointing to vast changes regarding how we consume music, what gatherings signify in our collective consciousness, and the role of diversity in festival culture—specifically that “the rock crowd is essentially normed to the white male psyche” and its attending liabilities. There are plenty of histories of music festivals available, from Joel Selvin’s recent post-mortem of Altamont to Bob Spitz’s Barefoot in Babylon, about the creation of Woodstock. By adding her own experience at a multitude of festivals to insights from influential participants in rock culture, Arnold creates a readable inquiry that demonstrates why rock festivals matter, and she points the way to how they—and we as a culture—might do better in terms of diversity and inclusion.

An interesting examination of the nature of movements “half a million strong,” as Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young declared.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-60938-608-5

Page Count: 214

Publisher: Univ. of Iowa

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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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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