A rehash, sure, but if you’re going to cover ground that’s already been covered, this is the way to do it.




With approximately three zillion available books on the history of rock, why should anybody bother banging out another one?

Veteran rock journalist Robins (Billboard, Rolling Stone, Village Voice) answers that question with a resounding, Why the heck not? He must have figured that if he has the knowledge (check), the writing chops (check) and a point of view (check), it was worth a shot. While it most definitely can be read from beginning to end, some might feel that the most enjoyable way to attack this sweet little tome would be randomly. Stick your finger in the middle of the book, and you might land on a sharp essay about the parallel paths taken by the Beach Boys and the Beatles circa 1966, or a diatribe about the effect MTV had on hair metal bands (and vice versa), or a tongue-in-cheek sidebar on Doors front man Jim Morrison’s astoundingly childish behavior. Robins presents his dissertation with enthusiasm and breezy good humor, yet manages unpretentiously to hammer home his historical points and musical opinions. The story of criminally underappreciated soulster Curtis Mayfield, for instance, is told with love and reverence, and his respectful bit on the Eagles and the early-’70s California school of rock (Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, etc.) makes you recall that at one point in time, these laid-back troubadours were considered pretty cool. His tone is ideal for the topic and the format, a welcome relief from the disproportionate number of self-important academic treatises on modern popular music. Hardcore rock geeks likely won’t learn anything new here, but probably will agree that it’s nice to have all the factoids, as well as some authoritative criticism, in one place. With its high readability factor and bite-sized portions, this is the ultimate rock-’n’-roll bathroom book—and that’s meant with nothing but the utmost respect and admiration.

A rehash, sure, but if you’re going to cover ground that’s already been covered, this is the way to do it.

Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-4159-7473-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Routledge

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2007

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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 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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