Rock Book: Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Story of Modern Pop

Continuing with my last Holiday rock book review, here is the Amazon link to **Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Story of Modern Pop from Bill Haley to Beyonce ** by Bob Stanley:

Here is the thread on the Carrie Brownstein book, which links to my other rock bio reviews:

There is a lot going for this book, but it is not without its issues. Overall, it presents a nice overview of the U.S. and U.K. Bob Stanley is a member of the UK band St. Etienne as well as a music journalist. The fact of his Britishness means he can look at what was playing out in the U.S. from a bit of distance, and can speak to how US pop culture/music was reflected back in the UK.

His broad lens and depth of research are cool - he touches on a rich set of deep-cut names across a variety of musical genres based on how they hit the pop charts and/or had a lasting influence (he discusses Big Star, so pop success can’t have been his only criteria).

He generally picks off a year or a specific multi-year pop phenomenon, e.g., Motown or the British Invasion. He will focus on one or two acts that can illustrate that era best for his purposes, as well as connecting dots across musical genres. Again, the breadth of his knowledge is impressive.

This issues I have with it are the tone and some proofreading inaccuracies:

  • For the most part, his opinionated tone is really good. I agree with much of it, and his opinions lead to interesting connections and thoughts about specific songs. And his chattiness keeps the story tight and moving. But sometimes he will pop off with a dismissive opinion that clanks and seems bit too tossed-off to be discussed in a book that is kinda trying to be scholarly in a rock sort of way.

  • Proofreading inaccuracies: I came across enough that I ended up keeping track of some howlers:

  • Steve Miller- born in Milwaukee, and not Canadian as stated twice

  • Stevie Wonder played the clavinet synth on Superstition, not the clavichord, which was a proto-piano from 200 years ago.

  • He described the song “Horse with no Name” as an ecology song, not about a heroin bender

  • Roger McGuinn yes, he took his name Roger from airplane jargon, but based on religious teachings he had. Just tossing off that he named himself after an airplane word was a cheap shot

  • Washington DC’s Black Flag?? Rollins, yes, but the band was famously founded in SoCal

  • REO lyric for Keep On Loving You - he says it is “instead you lay still in the grass all coiled up and innocent” What?! That doesn’t even scan. It is actually “coiled up and hissin’”

So I wish he had a better proofreader. Overall, issues aside, I am glad I read it.

Monday morning bump

Anyone else read this? I believe I heard about it from Exapno

Loved this book a lot. Hated hated hated the Brownstein book.

I read the UK version of Yeah Yeah Yeah because Amazon reviews said that it had more content than the American, specifically material about English popular music circa WWII and then skiffle. The American version also apparently downplays the popularity of bands like Sparks and Squeeze who didn’t quite cross over to the US.

My thread! It lives!

Salad Smell - interesting to hear; I thought he brought a ton of UK history to the discussion, seamlessly and in an interesting way. I knew about many of the artists he includes in his UK focus, but he covers a ton of ground.

Not yet a zombie!
Bump, late to the party here.

Nowhere near finished with it yet but I’ve read the glam bit and the pre-punk (Storm Warning) punk, post-punk, two tone, and dipped into metal where he’s spot on about Status Quo, Queen and Thin Lizzy (none of them would probably qualify as “Metal” these days, but back then, yup).

I’m finding some of his commentary very funny…

Pink Floyd (who he clearly “gets” but doesn’t seem to like much) describing the situation when they’ve just dumped Syd and brought in Dave:

The Dammed:

Same page, on hair:

He is (unusually) accurate about the history of punk, who influenced who, the Pistols/Clash divide, what a twat Sid was etc. I’ve read a lot of very wrong versions of this elsewhere, and as someone who lived through it, it’s good to see someone get it right for once. Even if he’s reminded me of the Oi! genre, that I had managed to utterly forget (clue, it’s Oi! as in “Oi! You!”, not Oi-vey).

I know I’m being British centric (English, specifically) but I don’t think he quite gets over how fantastically important the John Peel show was (maybe there’s more in the “Indie” chaper). Or The Old Grey Whistle Test, which everyone watched (it was the only rock show on telly). He mentions the appearance on that show by the New York Dolls, which turned out to be very influential, despite, or because, they were treated as a joke. (They were awful, I guess I ought to check youtube, but I’ll trust my memory for now).

I too like the way he does (rather lightly) pass judgement, Steely Dan make the music they do because they weren’t good enough to be real Jazz musicians. How, in the end, Paul will be everone’s favourite Beatle.

I’m not surprised he makes factual cock-ups about American acts. I don’t know if you can go into the detail (like he does about the UK scene(s)) without having been there.

Off to do the shopping, I’ll post again if anything grabs me.

I liked the book because it is somewhat of a popcentric corrective to the boring “history of rock” summaries that seem to have taken root as the official story. Like the poster above I appreciated his injections of opinion which were often funny and seldom if ever unfair. The negative opinion of his that stands out for me is the one about Joni Mitchell whose accelerating phrasing technique rubs him the wrong way.

Well, I’m on a week long business trip with about ten books I don’t feel like starting. Now I know what’s up next. WordMan delivers the next installment of his mix tape of, um, books.

Yes, I enjoyed Stanley’s English focus and detail. I also like his snarkiness like the ones mentioned by Small Clanger, but some of his stuff lands flat. I recall early on that he was praising an early proto-rock woman singer and he said this one song of hers rocked more than the entire catalogue of, I think, Aerosmith and Motley Crue. Look, we can argue about the Crue - I am not a fan but they have a place in the story. But Aerosmith rocks just fine, thankyouverymuch. No need for that shot and there are a few of those.

I liked Stanley’s take on post punk a LOT more than the book Rip it Up and Start Again - that book was boring as hell but is held up as a great look at the era.

ETA: Pork Rind - yeah, I really went on a run. Taking a breather, but open to another one if I can find the right hook. I am still staying away from Chrissie Hynde’s, not sure about Kim Gordon’s, but there are a bunch of others.

I recently really enjoyed Our Town by Mark Yarm. It’s an oral history of the Seattle music scene told only by quotes from interviews with nearly everyone involved. I knew some of the more incidental players, so it was nice to see them there and in context.

I picked it up right as we were moving from Seattle to Santa Barbara. It was a fun way to close out the last 21 years.

Plus, it has one of the greatest photo captions you’ll ever see. Roughly, “Mark Arm and Mark Yarm arm in arm.”

For the record the writer Dewey Bunnell has denied it has anything to do with heroin. But, y’know - there is also the Beatles and their denials about Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, so take it with a grain of salt :D.

If Lennon wants to tell me what Lucy is about, I’ll listen (but still go with LSD). But regardless of what Mr. America claims it to be about, it’s a heroin song in pop culture, and his oral history is the footnote.

Pork Rind - hope you are enjoying SB. I went to school there and my sister still lives there. Wonderful area. Hope you are playing a bit.

Will check out the Seattle book. I read Azerrad’s Our Band Could Be Your Life and have spokenly very highly of it on previous threads. It is not just Seattle/Olympia, but has enough bands represented I got a good sense of it. I read his bio of Kurt Cobain, too, and then Brownstein’s. I think I am PNW’d out for now ;).

I am looking to get a bit more guitar geeky vs. another Rock Bio. There is a book that is a published “anthropological study” of modern luthiers that features a few of the top builders today. Contemplating that or another Think Piece book, like the History of Rock in 10 Songs, but better. I am not a Greil Marcus guy.

Oh, another great UK rock book: The Dark Stuff, by Nick Kent:

If I could find another book like that, it would be fun.

Sorry for the meandering hijack.

Sparks is very much a US band, and did okay over here.