History of Rock and Roll in Ten Songs – Greil Marcus – Henry Rollins

Ringo Starr isn’t in the R&R Hall of Fame as an individual? Who do I write to about that?

The reason I bought this book is the narrator, Henry Rollins. I’m not a fan of punk music, so I didn’t know him from the band Black Flag (and – sorry, darlin’ – still not a fan). My introduction to him was the History Channel’s series “Ten Things You Don’t Know About…”. I started watching it because I took it as a challenge (I don’t know these things? Yeah? Try me.)(They were often right.) I kept watching the show because he is awesome. There is nothing more attractive – in every sense of the word – than honest enthusiasm, and Henry has that by the truckload: he is genuinely, passionately, intelligently enthralled by US history. And it’s marvelous. Watch the episode on presidential assassinations: his eyes are on fire, and his voice rises – he is honestly angry. I love it. I’ve become very fond indeed of Henry Rollins, a little to my surprise, and whither he goest and all that. (Except for his music. Sorry.)

If you can get past the introduction of this book, you should breeze through the rest. In that intro there is a six page sentence, and a lengthy roll call. It grows a bit tedious.

It’s a bit odd; I followed along with the book on YouTube, looking for all the performances cited. (And they made me go watch Kelly Clarkson singing at the second Obama inauguration. Damn, girl.) And some of the conjunctions between the descriptions and the realities (or at least the videos of the realities) didn’t always quite jibe, or in some cases a disconnect between his thinking and mine. A band that reunites for PBS is described as “all bald” – but one wears a hat throughout all the video I saw. Well, maybe he takes it off in later footage. Then the description of Beyonce at Obama’s inauguration doesn’t match footage (and boy does the author not like Beyonce). In “Money (that’s what I want)”, I definitely don’t hear what the author hears. Maybe music interpretation and review is just not my forte. I know I would never have chosen to describe a song as “…A crawling version of Viva Las Vegas by Shawn Colvin singing as a hooker just after being pushed down the stairs from an escort service to the street.”

But I learned a lot. The relationship between Bing Crosby and Robert Johnson was unexpected and kind of awesome. I watched videos and listened to songs I might not otherwise have sampled – the Flamin Groovies? Not my cuppa. And again I didn’t always see what the author was talking about as he spoke about what he pulled from the videos.

One thing I absolutely did see eye to eye with him about: “Why is happiness considered shallow and worthless? Why does it have to be all about pain and loss?” I have always wondered that. All forms of art seems to abide by that philosophy: without conflict and pain there is nothing worth talking about. But every now and then isn’t it nice to just celebrate?

It’s a little late, but I’m still going to post this, a song which made Irving Berlin smile. (Be advised that the sentiments expressed within the video are not representative of those of the reviewer posting it, who would be delighted to never see another storm outside a snowglobe for the rest of her life.)

But – seriously? No Ringo? I’m appalled.

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6 Responses to History of Rock and Roll in Ten Songs – Greil Marcus – Henry Rollins

  1. I caught a little of this show once and never found it again. THANK YOU SO MUCH! I now know how to find more, plus–this book!

    Kelly Clarkson just gave me chills and tears… and that’s enough said about that.

  2. stewartry says:

    You’re welcome!! Isn’t he great, though? And Kelly … whatever else can be said of American Idol, she is a marvel.

    And soon there will be chills and tears at another inauguration. For other reasons…

  3. Yeah. I am working my buns off writing [and recently editing] because I can’t deal with reality.

  4. stewartry says:

    Yeah … I put the local news on for the weather, and then turn the tv off. Head in the sand is the best I can do right now.

  5. kimalexander1 says:

    Never has writing fantasy been more therapeutic. Thanks for the recommendation, I will look into it. The History Channel is joining HGTV and shows about food as the only things I can handle these days.

  6. stewartry says:

    Yes! The History Channel is also therapeutic – – look at all we’ve survived. The human race has made it through ice ages and world wars. One man with tiny hands can’t bring us down.

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