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Music Made in New York City in the '70s

by Will Hermes

Pub Date: Nov. 15th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-86547-980-7
Publisher: Faber & Faber/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Readers may assume that a book whose title riffs on a Talking Heads deep cut would be pretty cool; they would be right.

To many music snobs, the mid ’70s weren't a particularly fertile time for most musical genres, especially in comparison to the nonstop growth of the previous two decades. (The rise and fall of disco didn't help lend any weight to the era.) But by shining the spotlight on the diverse New York City scene of 1973-77, Rolling Stone senior critic Hermes (co-editor: Spin: 20 Years of Alternative Music, 2005) argues successfully for the vitality of the period. Many critics believe that the greatest innovation of the day was punk and/or New Wave—the Ramones, Patti Smith, the Talking Heads, Television, everybody who graced the stage at CBGBs, etc.—but Hermes points out that this was a time when the seeds of hip-hop were planted by the likes of Grandmaster Flash. In addition, thanks primarily to Philip Glass, minimalism became a legitimate and influential classical subgenre. It’s this embracing of a wide variety of styles that sets the project apart from other books studying the era. Hermes digs into every style that NYC had to offer—e.g., his dissection of Latin music will have many readers seeking out Celia Cruz and Ray Barretto records. The author maintains a casual and conversational tone, and he's a fine storyteller. His attitude, sharp ear and smart big-picture view turn what could have been a small book into something special.

A hip, clever, informative look at an unjustifiably dismissed musical era that will have readers scouring iTunes for the perfect accompanying soundtrack.