How the Beatles Destroyed Rock 'n' Roll: An Alternative History of American Popular Music

How the Beatles Destroyed Rock 'n' Roll: An Alternative History of American Popular Music Review

"There are no definitive histories," writes Elijah Wald, in this provocative reassessment of American popular music, "because the past keeps looking different as the present changes." Earlier musical styles sound different to us today because we hear them through the musical filter of other styles that came after them, all the way through funk and hip hop.
As its blasphemous title suggests, How the Beatles Destroyed Rock 'n' Roll rejects the conventional pieties of mainstream jazz and rock history. Rather than concentrating on those traditionally favored styles, the book traces the evolution of popular music through developing tastes, trends and technologies--including the role of records, radio, jukeboxes and television --to give a fuller, more balanced account of the broad variety of music that captivated listeners over the course of the twentieth century. Wald revisits original sources--recordings, period articles, memoirs, and interviews--to highlight how music was actually heard and experienced over the years. And in a refreshing departure from more typical histories, he focuses on the world of working musicians and ordinary listeners rather than stars and specialists. He looks for example at the evolution of jazz as dance music, and rock 'n' roll through the eyes of the screaming, twisting teenage girls who made up the bulk of its early audience. Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, and the Beatles are all here, but Wald also discusses less familiar names like Paul Whiteman, Guy Lombardo, Mitch Miller, Jo Stafford, Frankie Avalon, and the Shirelles, who in some cases were far more popular than those bright stars we all know today, and who more accurately represent the mainstream of their times.
Written with verve and style, How the Beatles Destroyed Rock 'n' Roll shakes up our staid notions of music history and helps us hear American popular music with new ears.

Title:How the Beatles Destroyed Rock 'n' Roll: An Alternative History of American Popular Music
Edition Language:English

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    Some Testimonial About This Book:

  • Bill  Kerwin

    Sure, the title is deliberately outrageous, something abrasive to catch the book-buyer's attention, but I hope the strategy works because this history of popular music in the United States deserves a ...

  • Paul Bryant

    It's a long time coming but finally you get what this catchpenny title actually means. Here we go...The rock revolution of the 60s, spearheaded by the Beatles, evolved rock & roll into rock and turned...

  • Nick

    and I'm about halfway through it. I have to say that if you have any interest in popular music history, this book is an absolute must. Although it's written in an acadmic style, it's also very readibl...

  • J.M. Hushour

    I picked this book up for two reasons: first, I think the Beatles suck and they should be blamed for everything we can possibly blame them for (teen shrieking, botulism, anal warts, anyone?); second, ...

  • fonz

    Estupenda historia de la música popular norteamericana desde finales del siglo XIX hasta principios de los setenta del siglo XX, cuyo título es un poco clickbait aunque en el último capítulo cobra...

  • Aaron Arnold

    First of all, kudos for the ballsy, if somewhat tongue-in-cheek title. I probably wouldn't have picked up this "alternative history of American popular music", as the slightly more accurate subtitle l...

  • Danny

    You can (and should) ignore the silly and sensationalist title. The Beatles only come into the picture towards the very end of the book, and more as a culmination of forces that had already been at pl...

  • Bruce

    I fear this review may turn into a lengthy diatribe on copyright regime change and music industry business models, so I’ll begin with an abstract of what I’m thinking about before bloviating.First...

  • Hilary

    This book was a very interesting read, and I covered a lot of the topics that it mentioned through my status updates. Having finished the book, for those of you that are curious about the title and it...

  • Neil White

    Blasphemy! How dare a rock critic speak ill of the Fab Four? Short answer: Calm down, he doesn't. Regardless of a title that's clearly manufactured controversy, he does have a point though. A long ans...