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.