ON RECORD: Rock, Pop, and the Written Word by Simon & Andrew Goodwin--Eds. Frith

ON RECORD: Rock, Pop, and the Written Word

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Scholar, critic, and Village Voice columnist Frith (Sound Effects, 1981; ed., Facing the Music, 1988) enlisted a coeditor to assemble this hefty anthology of essays intended to ""set the terms and agenda of popular music studies."" And the editors of this massive text are indeed desperate in their search for a ""sufficiently complex method"" to analyze--among other pop phenomena--subcultures, the record biz, the music and lyrics, the stars, and the fans. To that purpose they've gathered numerous hard-core sociological articles--reprinted from journals such as the American Sociological Review--that employ many of the traditional methods of modern sociology; from David Riesman's classic statement justifying the study of mass media to Donald Horton's pseudoscientific content analysis of courtship lyrics; from Paul M. Hirsch's heavy-duty study of fad-production (subtitled ""An Organization-Set Analysis of Cultural Industry Systems"") to a number of compelling ""participant observer"" studies on sound mixers, recording sessions, and becoming a woman rocker--the last a real nuts-and-bolts piece that spares us feminist rhetoric. Which is certainly not the case with the many radical feminist pieces scattered throughout the book: Angela McRobbie's metalevel ""corrective"" to previous looks at male subcultures (teddies, mods, punks, etc.); Sue Wise's humorless agonizing over her youthful Elvis worship; Sheryl Garrat's lofty justification of her Bay City Rollers fandom. More damaging to this anthology's value, though, is its obvious bias for the worst kind of left-wing theorizing--the kind only the truly converted care to read: Lawrence Grossberg's celebration of the ""postmodern situation""; Roger Wallis' and Krister Malm's fears of pop's world-cultural hegemony; ""and Richard Dyer's gay socialist defense of disco as a means to ""rediscover our bodies"" as part of the ""experience of materialism and the possibility for change."" The best selections turn to the performers--studies of the Ramones and Kate Bush stand out--and to the fans themselves, as interviewed in Fred and Judy Vermorel's poignant book, Starlust. Sure to become a key text in media studies courses taught by academic Marxists.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1989
ISBN: 0415053064
Publisher: Pantheon