The History of Rock 'n' Roll in Ten Songs

By Greil Marcus
Yale University Press, Hardcover, 9780300187373, 307pp.

Publication Date: September 2014

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Unlike all previous versions of rock n roll history, this book omits almost every iconic performer and ignores the storied events and turning points that everyone knows. Instead, in a daring stroke, Greil Marcus selects ten songs recorded between 1956 and 2008, then proceeds to dramatize how each embodies rock n roll as a thing in itself, in the story it tells, inhabits, and acts outa new language, something new under the sun.
Transmission by Joy Division. All I Could Do Was Cry by Etta James and then Beyonce. To Know Him Is to Love Him, first by the Teddy Bears and almost half a century later by Amy Winehouse. In Marcus's hands these and other songs tell the story of the music, which is, at bottom, the story of the desire for freedom in all its unruly and liberating glory. Slipping the constraints of chronology, Marcus braids together past and present, holding up to the light the ways that these striking songs fall through time and circumstance, gaining momentum and meaning, astonishing us by upending our presumptions and prejudices. This book, by a founder of contemporary rock criticismand its most gifted and incisive practitioneris destined to become an enduring classic.

About the Author
Greil Marcus is the author of "The Doors", "Mystery Train", and other books.

Saturday, Aug 30, 2014

What makes an essential rock song? Music journalist Greil Marcus argues that it's not the stature of the performer, but the degree to which a song tells the story of rock 'n' roll itself. More at

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