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Original Essays | June 20, 2014

Lauren Owen: IMG The Other Vampire



It's a wild and thundery night. Inside a ramshackle old manor house, a beautiful young girl lies asleep in bed. At the window, a figure watches... Continue »

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Harpdog Brim has commented on (2) products.

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

Harpdog Brim, March 14, 2012

Don't worry, Beatles fans: this book is less harsh on the Fab Four than you might gather from the title, and it cuts a much wider swath in considering popular music.

Elijah Wald, journalist and musician, is continuing his historical studies with this fascinating review of 20th century popular music.

As with his previous book, Escaping the Delta, Wald brings a signature technique to his analysis. Instead of limiting himself to reviewing rock critics, viewing the history from current ideas of influential artists, or considering the music from his own critical perspective, he starts by finding out what people were listening to, dancing to, and buying.

We see that changing musical tastes were sometimes more incremental and less disruptive than we might think. Genre barriers are more mutable and influences far richer for artists than in conventional narratives.

Some of his work strikes you as obvious, having read it. Some I certainly disagreed with, as I imagine you will, but the arguments and history he presents is well worth reading.
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Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues by Elijah Wald
Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues

Harpdog Brim, January 3, 2012

Back in the day, Robert Johnson was a talented blues guitarist with limited regional appeal. After his early death, he seemed destined to be forgotten, until the blues resurgence of the 1960s gave him posthumous fame out of all proportion to his lifetime success.

Without dismissing Johnson's talents and with a great deal of respect for the musician, Elijah Wald debunks the Johnson legend by trying to give us a more accurate picture of the popular music and blues scenes in the 1930s. He shows that musicians and audiences were more sophisticated than one would have thought after the often patronizing rediscovery of the blues - which rescued the music from obscurity just as it mythologized its roots.

This is a fine book by a blues lover who is strong enough to describe a less romantic and rustic past for this marvellous genre.
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