NIGHT BEAT by Mikal Gilmore


Collected Writings on Rock & Roll Culture and Other Disruptions
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 Essays on pop culture by longtime Rolling Stone contributor Gilmore, steeped in the same sensitivity to moral and emotional darkness that made his memoir, Shot in the Heart (1994), a classic American horror story. Gilmore constructs here what he calls ``an outline, a shadow, of rock & roll history'' out of his rock journalism. Although many individual musicians go unmentioned, Gilmore draws a refreshingly inclusive arc of rock history from Elvis through Tupac Shakur, encompassing not only disco, punk, and speed metal, but also Miles Davis, Phil Ochs, and Timothy Leary. While a few of the essays here read as boilerplate, the great majority reflect the author's deeply felt responses: Long pieces on the Allman Brothers Band, Bruce Springsteen, and Jerry Garcia manage to encourage new respect for the music and worldviews of these much-maligned warhorses, and when Gilmore writes about Bob Dylan, the Beatles, and the Rolling Stones, he recreates the incalculable thrill of their impact on the '60s American status quo. A fine obituary of Allen Ginsberg warrants inclusion because he too ``helped set loose something wonderful, risky, and unyielding in the psyche and dreams of our times.'' But rock 'n' roll is not always about edification: A 1980 profile of the (then) excess-prone Van Halen yields singer David Lee Roth's admission that onstage ``there's no pause for thought. My basement faculties take over completely.'' The basement faculties of Jim Morrison and Megadeth are also carted out, but Gilmore is always primarily interested in what rock musicians reveal about their own and the culture's deeper concerns: He stresses the often contradictory political impulses of both performers and audiences, probing SinÇad O'Connor's and the Clash's tumultuous careers and Michael Jackson's inexplicable, inevitable ``moonwalk to his own ruin.'' Not an essential volume, but Gilmore's angles are consistently provocative.

Pub Date: Jan. 8th, 1998
ISBN: 0-385-48435-6
Page count: 448pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1997


by Kevin Avery