on 4 November 2013
I loved this book, and I love it even more the more I think about it. He just gets so much right. A proper appreciation of Nat Cole, Philly soul, Todd Rundgren, Big Star, The Beach Boys, Abba, Red Bird records,'Sugar Sugar', the KLF, Pistols over Clash, Blondie over Patti Smith, etc etc etc, is balanced with a magisterial dismissal of Queen ('more a multi-national company than a band') post 'Exile' Stones ('forty years a Stones tribute act') and the woefully over-rated post Syd Floyd. Metal is equated with country (Stanley rightly sees them both as conservative genres,) and I've spent a few happy few days revisiting acid house, SOLAR, early-mid-period Bee Gees and Fleetwood Mac, and facing up to my enjoyment of Beyonce's 'Crazy in Love' and Whitney Houston's 'It's Not Right But It's OK'.
I spotted one sort of mistake, and even then I saw his point. John Waite's 'Missing You' was mentioned in the chapter on American Rock; but John Waite is a Lancastrian (and as an adopted son of Lancaster and a pal of his brother Jo, I just wanted to give credit to the Bay City). But I guess if you're going to mention John Waite at all, American Rock is very much the place for him, given the absence of a chapter devoted to Lancaster's rock aristocracy.
With its excellent bibliography and index, this deserves to be the standard introduction to the subject for years to come.
It is surely no coincidence that the title of this book comes from one of the most exuberant and joyful pop records ever made, because this is certainly written with boundless enthusiasm and a real love of music, which shines through. In five parts, the author takes you on the journey of popular music from 1952 until the early 1990's. The book begins with the first UK singles chart, the advent of the 45 and early rock 'n' roll. In the first part the author looks at the importance of skiffle, Larry Parnes and fledging British rock, Joe Meek, Phil Spector, the Brill Building and Elvis, among others.
Generally, each part of the book concentrates on a decade - the fifties, sixties, seventies, eighties and the start of the nineties. I have to admit that I found the first half of the book the most interesting, but that probably just reflects my musical tastes. However, whether you are a fan of the Beatles, Dylan, Motown, Glam Rock, Punk, Britpop or anything in between, they are all covered. Although the author obviously cannot give detailed biographies of every artist involved in popular music, he puts bands and styles of music in context and assesses their legacy as well as listing musical influences and who, in turn, each successive generation influenced. Also, despite the huge time period and amount of musical styles and bands covered, there is an abundance of interesting and funny stories, which bring each section to life. This is a book that you will be quoting from for some time if you read it and I cannot think of a better gift for a music lover. Considering the task that the author set himself, this is a magnificent achievement.
on 7 November 2013
Some may be put off by the sheer size of this book - but it's an easy read and not a word is wasted. The story of modern popular music is told from the 1920s on to the present day with plenty of Temptations, Abba, Nirvana and Josh Wink along the way. By necessity it does tend to skip over some periods, genres and key artists more quickly than others but the end result is a clear and entertaining overview of the progression of popular music over the past century.
The story is told in a series of digestible nuggets with chapters which are more than manageable. It crosses continually back and forth from one side of the Atlantic to the other, with continental Europe touched upon reasonably regularly as well.
The author is thankfully unafraid to express an opinion, usually subtly but occasionally not, which gives the story a human touch. It's clear throughout that this is written from the point of view of a genuine lover (and maker) of music rather than that of a detached snob with a holier-than-thou record collection.
As a child of the mid-90s, I was looking forward to reaching this part of the story and wasn't disappointed. It was also quite pleasing to see the likes of Pulp and Suede being given more attention than Oasis and Blur.
Where it does perhaps fall down slightly is in the post-90s chapters. American R&B is quite rightly covered in depth but the story finishes rather abruptly there, with an epilogue focussing on the new ways music tends to be digested since the advent of Napster and iTunes. Presumably the author feels that music produced over the last seven or eight years is still a bit too recent to be properly analysed and perhaps he's right - but nevertheless it does feel that the story finishes a bit prematurely.
That's my only criticism of what really is a terrificly fun and passionate piece of work. The best compliment I can pay this book is that it's made me want to read through again more slowly so I can try and fill in some of the gaps in my pop education! Probably using Spotify and YouTube rather than 7" vinyl of course but that's progress for you...
on 14 January 2016
This book looks like a massive reference work - which in many ways it is - but don’t let that put you off because it’s actually a series of well written and incredibly well researched essays on just about every aspect of Rock & Pop.
Each chapter holds together on its own as an overview of a particular musical genre/movement and each can be read, on its own, if you just want to dip in & out of the book. But, read sequentially, they constitute a highly engaging overview of more than 60 years of popular music in all its multifarious forms. It’s history presented as an intriguing "story"; something that few history books achieve because few authors’ have the combination of required skills. Bob Stanley does and, coupled with his obvious love of music and his incredible knowledge of it, he’s produced something that's awe inspiring in its scope and sheer "readability".
Sure, you can nit-pick about some things, but that’s probably because he doesn’t go into sufficient detail for you about your favourite genres or artists; but, of course, if he did – which, based on what’s in here, he almost certainly could - this already large book would run the risk of becoming the encyclopaedically "dry" reference work that Stanley so cleverly avoids. You could also question some of his opinions or, how much space he devotes to some artists compared to others, but, hey, this is music he's dealing with which it's pretty impossible to write about in such an engaging manner without some degree of subjectivity.
As it is, the only real problem is that the paperback version is actually quite difficult to physically hold – the Kindle version is recommended.
on 1 February 2014
I'm a big music fan of types and so, at more than 700 pages, this was ideal holiday reading for me. Bob Stanley's book covers the first 50 years of "modern pop" (a broad definition, which covers most types of music which charted between the 1950s and 1990s) and he focuses on the main trends and trendsetters rather than the most popular. By and large, he does an excellent job and I was particularly interested in the new stuff: the 1950s (when I wasn't around) and emergence of house and techno in the late 1980s which passed me by at the time). The book is excellently researched and highly readable throughout. The only gripe I had with it was that the book was subjective when covering the formative years of the author (basically the late 60s and 70s) - which means you don't get any Bohemian Rhapsody (surely one of the most impactful singles ever), Janis Joplin (who blazed the trail for so many female singers), Peter Frampton (one of the best selling live albums ever), Steppenwolf (whose Born to Be Wild introduced the term "heavy metal") or Jackson Browne (despite a chapter on Laurel Canyon). There was also an amazing assertion that Led Zeppelin and the Sweet sound alike and that 1970 was a weak year (which works well as an "end of the sixties" storyline , but ignores the fantastic hard rock, motown, soul, reggae which came out that year, not to mention the emergence of T. Rex. In my book, 1970 was like any other year - some great, some good and some downright awful!
Overall, though, these are minor gripes and like every music fan, Bob has the right to be subjective and could not be expected to cover everything in these 700 pages. This book is highly recommended for music fans of all ages and will have you reminiscing and digging out all those old records once again!
on 1 October 2013
This is a truly wonderful book about the popular music of the second half of the 20th century. It is vast and encyclopaedic, yet divides the subject up in such a way that each chapter is a perfect size to be approachable and enjoyable. Its greatest strength is the way Bob Stanley combines a detailed knowledge about literally every genre of pop music over the period with a deep love and affection both for the music itself and for the impact it had on all of our lives as we listened to it growing up. The warmth and enthusiasm behind the writing is infectious: the music I already knew seems better for the context the book provides, while the music I didn't know (or had heard of but never listened to) seems endlessly fascinating - I found the book to be a great springboard for discovering gems hidden in parts of pop music history I had never previously considered. Genuinely essential reading for anyone interested in pop from the 1950s to the first decade of the new millennium.
Arresting, beguiling, comprehensive, diverting, exciting, fabulous, groovy, hit-filled, inspiring, joyous... you get the idea.
"Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Story of Modern Pop" is a trove of fascinating opinions and insights from Professor Bob Stanley who - in addition to being a a member of Saint Etienne, a journalist, compiler of fine compilations, and a film producer - has a PhD In Musicology.
If, like me you ever listened with impatient anticipation to the latest top thirty chart run down, pen in hand, or pause button primed, then "Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Story of Modern Pop" is your Bible. It's all here, the entire modern pop era, from NME's first chart published on 14 November 1952 (Al Martino's "Here In My Heart" at number one pop pickers) to "Crazy In Love" when, as we know, the story becomes far less interesting.
750 pages of illuminating excellence. I came away with a c500 song poptastic playlist. Yes, it's really that good.
on 25 December 2013
A "fab" (as in fabulous), intelligent, knowledgable and well-writen book about pop music and the people who made it.
I love the way Mr. Stanley condenses huge amounts of information into each chapter. Even if you think that you know everything important there is to know about artists like The Beatles, Bob Dylan, writers like Carole King and Gerry Goffin, labels like Tamla Motown, producers like Phil Spector and Joe Meek, Mr. Stanley continally surprises you with new insights.
I can't recomment it highly enough.
on 5 November 2014
Bob's clearly a massive pop fan and deserves credit for leading the reader through half a century of the pop canon. Always some arbitrary choices as to who makes the cut and who doesn't but, as always, opinion and personal bias will prevail. My main criticism is an all too abrupt ending and I would dispute when the demise of great music occurred - we are just in another phase of pop's relentless progress onwards. It will outlive X-factor and The Voice. In fact, more optimism is justified as so much music can be created solely by the artist with the technology we are blessed with in the digital age.
on 4 October 2013
I've not written a review before so I'll keep it simple - I love this book. Bob Stanley has bravely written a hugely entertaining, informative book on pretty much the whole scope of popular music over the last 60 years and I am absolutely loving it. This could have been a turgid disaster but is the complete opposite - I challenge anyone not to read through it with barely a break (despite it's nearly 800 page length, this is a weighty tome) as it's just too enjoyable a read.
The best book about music (or about anything for that matter) I've read in ages - thank you Bob!