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33 Revolutions Per Minute [Paperback]

Dorian Lynskey
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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Book Description

3 Mar 2011

Why 33? Partly because that's the number of rotations performed by a vinyl album in one minute, and partly because it takes a lot of songs to tell a story which spans seven decades and five continents - to capture the colour and variety of this shape-shifting genre. This is not a list book, rather each of the 33 songs offers a way into a subject, an artist, an era or an idea.

The book feels vital, in both senses of the word: necessary and alive. It captures some of the energy that is generated when musicians take risks, and even when they fail, those endeavours leave the popular culture a little richer and more challenging. Contrary to the frequently voiced idea that pop and politics are awkward bedfellows, it argues that protest music is pop, in all its blazing, cussed glory.

Product details

  • Paperback: 864 pages
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber (3 Mar 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571241344
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571241347
  • Product Dimensions: 15.4 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 235,550 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'This rabble-rousing romp through politically motivated pop music is a delight.' -- Arthur House, Sunday Telegraph Books of the Year >>
'Extensive ... enormous but readable.' --Will Hodgkinson, The Times Books of the Year

'Lynskey s ability to link history, culture, politics and music makes the argument not just for the potency of protest but the need for music journalism. The stories he tells are as epoch-shaping as the songs themselves.' -- NME, Book of the Year
'A panoramic view of music, politics and social history that s wonderfully well-written, informative and often surprisingly funny.' -- Uncut
'A scrupulously researched, elegantly written and highly absorbing account of the intersection of politics and music.' - Independent
'Magnificent.' --Wire

Book Description

An astounding history of protest music, told through 33 momentous songs.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A labour of (listening) love 12 Mar 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a vast and meticulously researched book which is accessible enough to sustain interest through many periods and styles of music in search of protest songs on a wide range of issues. It is both good music criticism and fascinating social history. The reader's pleasure is further enhanced by the opportunity to read whilst listening to the songs in question and make one's own judgement on their impact. There is perhaps over-sensitivity to potential criticism about which songs have been "left out" by the inclusion of sprawling appendices and lists of other worthy songs. The writer could have more confidence to stick to the chosen 33 songs, all of which merit their place in a general survey, including an interesting turn away from Britain and the US in the middle. Having said that, one of the joys of such a book will be the pub debate about what should be in it: where, for example, is "Gimme Shelter"?!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent history of protest songs 9 Nov 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Dorian has produced a very well researched and well written book covering the history of protest songs from Billie Holiday and Woody Gutherie in the US, through disco (yes, not what I would have thought of as a hotbed of the protest song), rap, punk (including the wonderful Crass) and much more.

The sections that cover my personal music tastes (such as the chapter that looks at The Clash, particularly comparing them to the Sex Pistols) are of more immediate interest in some ways but the whole concept is very well conceived and conveyed in writing which, to my mind, stands above much of what I've read in non-fiction recently.

I didn't give it five stars only because there are times where it is perhaps a little too much like a history text book with very detailed dates on who did what on which day which demonstrates a thorough approach to research and a knowledge and understanding of the subject matter (which is partly what you're paying for) but can impact on the readability.

Overall, however, it's a great social history. There is a common thread through all the artists featured, despite the huge disparity in musical styles, which pulls the whole thing together into what is a great read for anyone with an interest in music.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't Stir The Heart 15 Aug 2011
They say don't build your hopes don't they - having seen this talked up by Lynskey's fellow journalists I bought the hype, and the book, and as with the equally lauded Rob Young's 'Electric Eden' and Alex Ross's 'The Rest Is Noise', found the content erring on the cut and pastey papier mache side of things. It's curious to find a book so long which deals so lightly with its subject - perhaps the author tried to cut the cake too many ways in order to agree with the snappy title. I'd read much of the stuff on Strange Fruit before in David Margolick's brilliant book on the song, and overall Lynskey's book reads like 33 newspaper columns stitched together. Which, as he is a newspaper writer, it may well be, for all I know. So, a coherent book on this very important subject still needs to be written, and I'll be browsing more closely before buying the next tome championed in the press.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Change the Title! 19 Oct 2011
I had been looking forward to getting this book for ages. I have to say I've nearly finished it and it has been a bit of a let down. The book itself promises insights and detailed backgrounds to the songs themselves that I was looking forward to, as many of my favourite musicians are included. However only after the first few chapters I quickly realized that Lynskey should of just called the book 'Protest Songs, A general history' as when you start a section about a particular song he quickly whisks you off to what someone else was doing around that time.

There is obviously a need for setting the scene but the way the book is written you learn more about the times than the songs for example Gil Scott Heron (one of my all time favourite poets) only gets about a paragraph on what his song was about in the whole ten pages and the only inspiration Lynskey can think of is a possible stealing of someone else's title.

All in all I think the book should have not promised any kind of insight into any of the songs included. If you are new to musical knowledge and want to a know a 'general' background to protest songs then buy it but if you really want to know about the musicians and what inspired them...go somewhere else or you will be bored!
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A terrific book 11 April 2011
It's hard to believe that no-one seems to have attempted a history of protest songs before, but it's pretty safe to say that no-one need bother now, as it's impossible to imagine that anyone will do it better that Dorian Lynskey does it here. It's a huge book, but crammed to bursting with fascinating stuff.

The book starts with Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit", about the lynching of black men in the Southern states, moves through "This Land Is Your Land" and "We Shall Overcome" and on to the work of Dylan, Lennon, Stevie Wonder, The Clash, Billy Bragg etc, right up to Green Day, and not just looking at one particular song, but the performer's body of work.

Most of all, Lynskey provides a very astute social commentary of the circumstances that produced the songs of those times. It's not so much a wallow in nostalgia as a hard-nosed reminder of the way things really were back then.

And along the way there's a thousand little nuggets for your enjoyment. Did you know, for instance, that Chic's Nile Rogers used to be in the Black Panthers? Or that Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five were bitterly opposed to releasing "The Message", much preferring a song called "Dumb Love"?

Alas, it also feels a little like an elegy. There's nothing out there now to be mentioned in the same breath as the songs discussed in this book. These songs may not have changed the world but they surely gave a focus to people who were working for a cause. This has gone now and it's impossible to imagine it coming back to any great extent and we're much the poorer for it. And, hey, one or two, like Special AKA's "Nelson Mandela" actually did change the world.

One small caveat.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Great but flawed
Very well researched and at times fascinating-the plaudits for this book have been eloquently put forward on the previous reviews so I thought I'd concentrate on my issues with... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Johnny 5 Eyes
5.0 out of 5 stars Seriously interesting
This was a Xmas present for my hubby. He 's hardly put it down since he started it & has really enjoyed it. A well researched & fascinating book.
Published 17 months ago by Mj KM Lowrie
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book
This excellent tome, (and it is a door stopper) sheds a clear and sharp light on all those rumours and legends you hear as an avid listener to meaningful music. Read more
Published 22 months ago by suitorjonny
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting review of the modern history of protest songs
As one or two other reviewers have said the songs here are a structure on which to hang a history of protest songs in the modern era where pop & politics became mixed. Read more
Published 23 months ago by Lendrick
4.0 out of 5 stars By and large a good book but why Huggy Bear?
Chapter after chapter of insightful and informative writing and then, suddenly and for no good reason, a massively partisan piece on Huggy Bear's "Her Jazz. Read more
Published on 23 Dec 2011 by mr carlton b morgan
5.0 out of 5 stars Aaah - music
Love this book - in a world of disposable nappy music blasted out on mp3s and heard through cheap tinny speakers just for a few moments you can connect to another world where... Read more
Published on 27 Nov 2011 by Hud
5.0 out of 5 stars A1 condition
As with all my purchases from Amazon the product was in excellent condition. It was bought as a gift so this was a priority.
Published on 19 July 2011 by MC1970
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Loved this book. Greater political and historical content than I was expecting and that improved it. Well researched, well delivered, fantastic idea for a book. Read more
Published on 12 May 2011 by njbarmstrong
5.0 out of 5 stars Mixing pop and politics...
I have been surprised by books before but never in such a pleasant way- when I first ordered the book I assumed it would be a thinnish volume about 33 different songs- something I... Read more
Published on 12 April 2011 by M. McCann
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