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Greil Marcus to Tell the History of Rock 'n' Roll With Just Ten Songs

Greil Marcus is one of our greatest music writers, both for Rolling Stone magazine and in such classic books as Mystery Train: Images of Rock 'n' Roll Music, Ranters and Crowd Pleasers (later called Fascist Bathroom: Punk in Pop Music) and Invisible Republic: Bob Dylan's Basement Tapes.

On September 2, Marcus and Yale University Press will publish The History of Rock 'n' Roll in Ten Songs, a new examination of rock through the use of just ten, somewhat obscure, tunes.

Per the press release:
"Transmission" by Joy Division. "All I Could Do Was Cry" by Etta James and then Beyoncé. "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 criticism -- and its most gifted and incisive exemplar -- is destined to be embraced as an enduring classic.
The songs he selected for the book:
  • Shake Some Action (1976)
  • Transmission (1979/2008/2010)
  • In the Still of the Nite (1956/1959/2010)
  • All I Could Do Was Cry (1960/2008/2013)
  • Crying, Waiting, Hoping (1959/1969)
  • Money (That's What I Want) (1959/1963)
  • Money Changes Everything (1978/1983/2005/2008)
  • This Magic Moment (1959/2007)
  • Guitar Drag (2000/2006)
  • To Know Him Is to Love Him (1958/2006)


Jokerman59 said…
Greil Marcus is an over rated hack. This guy is a pompous bore and his opinions and writing are mostly nonsense. Greil Marcus does know $hit. He's made a career out of writing it.
lester said…
that seems rather harsh. i might even grant you the over-rated part and the pompous part. he's only a bore if you're not interested in either history or music. i have found much to disagree with in his work, but he often makes interesting connexions and points our enquiries in interesting directions. Invisible Republic and Mystery Train are wonderful even when not strictly coherent.
mckee said…
While Lester's comment may seem rather harsh, as a victim of many a Marcus tome, I can't even begin to number the amount of times I'd shake my head and think,

" I know that I read it, but I'll be damned if I understand what the hell he's trying to say."

In fact, I believe that one could go through each of his books and extract enough text to publish a book called, "POINTLESS."

He's earned a modicum of respect for Stranded, the Self Portrait, "what is this shit" album review (which, btw, is something I've often said as I foolishly return to reading his work.)

And for being the only human on earth named Greil, which comes pretty close to the sound my dog makes when she scarfs down her chow too quickly.

That said, I know that I'll read his new book either because I'll read anything related to rock and roll or I've still got a problem with self abuse (no, not that kind, thank you.)

Jeff McKee
Richmond, Va.