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History of Rock 'n' Roll in Ten Songs

by Greil Marcus Yale University Press
Pub Date:
Pbk 320 pages
AU$34.99 NZ$37.38
Product Status: In Stock Now
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Unlike all previous versions of rock ’n’ roll history, this book omits almost every iconic performer and ignores the storied events and turning points that everyone knows. Instead, in a daring stroke, Greil Marcus selects ten songs recorded between 1956 and 2008, then proceeds to dramatize how each embodies rock ’n’ roll as a thing in itself, in the story it tells, inhabits, and acts out—a new language, something new under the sun.

“Transmission” by Joy Division. “All I Could Do Was Cry” by Etta James and then Beyoncé. “To Know Him Is to Love Him,” first by the Teddy Bears and almost half a century later by Amy Winehouse. In Marcus’s hands these and other songs tell the story of the music, which is, at bottom, the story of the desire for freedom in all its unruly and liberating glory. Slipping the constraints of chronology, Marcus braids together past and present, holding up to the light the ways that these striking songs fall through time and circumstance, gaining momentum and meaning, astonishing us by upending our presumptions and prejudices. This book, by a founder of contemporary rock criticism—and its most gifted and incisive practitioner—is destined to become an enduring classic.
"Marcus, of course, is one of the epic figures in rock writing. . . . Like so many of Marcus’s previous books, The History of Rock ‘n’ Roll in Ten Songs often feels like a tone poem or perhaps a written embodiment of the cultural memory.  He flows through the songs and musicians he loves as if creating a waking dream crowded with the stars of rock history."—Touré, The New York Times Book Review
Greil Marcus has written many books, including Mystery Train: Images of America in Rock & Roll Music and Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century, and is the editor, with Werner Sollors, of A New Literary History of America. He teaches at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Graduate Center at the City University of New York. He lives in Oakland, CA.