ROLL OVER BEETHOVEN podcastblog riley 2003-2017 | Book Reviews

Brian Wilson with Ben Greenman: I Am Brian Wilson

Truthdig book review (March 2017)

Brian Wilson book cover

Peter Guralnick: Sam Phillips, the man who invented rock’n’roll

Truthdig book review (March 2016)

phillips…And while the pillars of Phillips’ life rest on how to frame aesthetic ideals, the story bulges with juicy asides, like this conversation between Jerry Lee Lewis and Lewis’ mother. ” ‘My mama,’ he said, ‘thought Chuck Berry was the king of rock ’n’ roll.’… When he asked her, ‘What about me, Mama?’ she gave him a loving but skeptical look. He was good, she said, ‘You and Elvis are good, son — but you’re no Chuck Berry. Chuck Berry is rock ’n’ roll from his head to his toes.’ ”

While some of the later sections sag from the weight of Phillips’ interminable rants, Guralnick’s scholarship girds a loving portrait of a man, a mission and a quest to rattle the foundations of American music, and by extension, a country’s ideas about itself…

more book reviews at TRUTHDIG

Fever: How Rock Transformed Gender in America

digital ebook (2002/2014)

feverWhen Elvis walked onstage and sang “Love Me Tender” or “Hound Dog,” he changed and challenged more than just popular music. According to Riley, his gyrating hips and his invitations to nights of lusty love and rock and roll altered his audience’s thinking about sexuality and gender relations, challenging their parents’ more circumspect ideas and opening up new ways of freely experiencing their sexual selves. Riley weaves this thesis through the history of rock and roll, tracing its development through Tina Turner, Bonnie Raitt, Joni Mitchell, Bruce Springsteen, Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love, among others.

—Publisher’s Weekly

“Tim Riley’s Fever combines brainy and audacious cultural analysis with genuine musical understanding–a combination rare enough to inspire exhilaration.”—Tim Page, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Tim Page on Music

“In his new book, Fever, Tim Riley goes beyond his unique fusion of technical music knowledge and stunningly perceptive emotional exegesis of lyrics to a wider-angle social vision.”—Ron Rosenbaum, The New York Observer

“Fever is a fascinating look at the ways rock has shaped how we think about sexual identity….Riley presents serious academic points within a rock-critic analysis of icons that even a layperson would appreciate….Witty, acerbic, and smart.”—Charles R. Cross, author of Heavier Than Heaven

FEVER playlist on Spotify:

Radio Silence essay (April 2014)

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 8.22.25 PMYou either swoon to the jaunty guitar lick that rips Steely Dan’s “Reelin’ in the Years,” or you hold your ears. Same with that eerie figure at the top of “FM,” or the sly, cribbed piano vamp to “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number.” Steely Dan tracks can seem not just overproduced but overplayed, overpraised, and catnip for the wrong kind of music nerd. Long before you dig into a five-decade career with countless buried pearls, the band inspires way too many harangues about everything rock supposedly squelched (instrumental pretension, phony intellectuals, and control-freak arrangers). Jazzers profess love for Dan tracks even if they hate rock; rock partisans get swept up in Dan fever even if they hate jazz. Steely Dan records didn’t just thread stylistic needles, they turned style into a sardonic target… via Radio Silence

see also: Ain’t Dead Yet–Notes on Woody Guthrie

Tune In by Mark Lewisohn

New York Times book review (December 2013)

Approaches to retelling the Beatles’ story slice in two distinct directions: narrow or wide. Some authors choose a single figure and bore down deep, which has brought the count of Paul McCartney life stories to at least 10, with more in the pipeline. Others frame the narrative from more expansive angles, weaving in the era’s social texture, politics and cultural context (see Devin McKinney’s shrewd “Magic Circles” from 2003 or Jonathan Gould’s peerless “Can’t Buy Me Love” of 2007)… via New York Times

See excerpts from Tell Me Why: A Beatles Commentary



3 thoughts on “current”

  1. Love your book, keeping John Lennon’s Spirit alive!

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  3. neil fenton said:

    Just finished the book, learned a lot of stuff I did not know about John Lennon. Having grown up in Huyton, one error (page 74), Huyton is not across the river from Liverpool, it is a suburb of Liverpool just down the road from Wolton.