Mystery Train: Images of America in Rock 'n' Roll Music Paperback – 6 Nov 2000
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More than 20 years after its initial publication, Mystery Train remains one of the smartest, most provocative books ever written about rock-and-roll. Marcus puts his subjects--which include Robert Johnson, Elvis Presley, The Band, Randy Newman and Sly Stone--into their proper context, which is the culture-at-large. He makes you understand why these musicians matter and what they have contributed to the American imagination. In his introduction, Marcus confesses that he is no longer "capable of mulling over Elvis without thinking about Herman Melville"--to the benefit, I might add, of both parties. --Gala Brand
?Gets as close to the heart and soul of America and American music as the best of rock ?n? roll.? ?Bruce Springsteen ?The finest examination to date of American popular music.? ?Alan Light, "Entertainment Weekly" ?Probably the best book ever written about rock.? ?"Rolling Stone"See all Product description
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8 March 2015
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
'Images of America in Rock 'n' Roll Music', told via the following artists - Harmonica Frank, Robert Johnson, The Band, Sly Stone, Randy Newman and Elvis. Not an easy book to describe after one read through, but the subtitle conveys the theme. The best I can say is that I found it a genuinely enlightening and enjoyable read. And as a consequence I bought myself a copy of Sly and the Family Stone's - 'There's a Riot Goin' On'; Randy Newman's - 'Sail Away'; and a good compilation of early Elvis - 'Elvis Gold'. Whether you already have the albums or not - a good read.
15 May 2017
I would say that, at least as far as rock/pop music literature or criticism is concerned, this is essential reading. I certainly don't agree with everything the author writes, but there wouldn't be much point in reading it if I did. I found a lot of fresh ideas in the book, which did provoke thought. No doubt we all have things we liked, but I particularly enjoyed the ideas in the first two "pieces" about Harmonica Frank and Robert Johnson. But for me a let down is the author's arrogance: he knows more about what motivated the performers and writers of the music than they do themselves. I don't doubt this can be possible, but mr Marcus seems to feel he knows this in every case. His views on "The Band" being songs about "a worried man" don't exactly match what Levon Helm and Robbie Robertson have written. I find it hard to swallow Marcus's views on Elvis single handedly inventing Rock n Roll. I found his comments on Ray Davies to be way off the mark, perhaps because he doesn't get English irony. After 50 or so pages of the book I felt I was being lectured by the sort of know all undergraduate I used to be myself! So, though only three stars, I recommend this book, as it will certainly make you think and it will provoke a reaction.
29 April 1999
Mystery Train is much more than just a very good piece of rock criticism, nor should it be remembered as perhaps the Father of Rock Criticism. This book is astounding because what Marcus is able to do is get inside a piece of music, an artist, a certain place in time, a brief second inside a recording studio or on a movie screen, and not only recall the moment (or what the moment might have resembled) but also manage to make the moment real for the reader. So often, when reading music criticism, one feels a distance between the work of art itself and the criticism in front of you. Seldom is the excitement, passion, or wonderful possibilities of art well discussed and analyzed, because most authors are unable to find that fine balance between salivating fan and distanced critic. In Mystery Train (and in his other books as well), Greil Marcus has found that balance - or, more precisely, he has refused to accept the balance as necessary. Whatever Marcus trains his eye upon becomes fascinating and important because he sees every possibility, every ramifcation, every opportunity to return to the overriding theme, which is America. After reading Mystery Train, I not only wanted to track down those old Harmonica Frank tapes and re-listen to my Robert Johnson record, and scrutinize The Band's "Brown Album"and Sly Stone and Randy Newman and Elvis - I also wanted to go beyond the book, to attempt to apply Marcus' vision to what I saw around me. For some reason, this book reminds me of the works of Thomas Pynchon, but not just because they're both regularly classified as "post-modernists" by critics and profs. Rather, I find that after reading Marcus and Pynchon, I find myself looking at things differently, recognizing possible patterns around me, being amazed at the myriad possibilities and variety of life. Mystery Train is not simply "a book about rock and roll." It is a work which exists on its own, a work which is both dependent upon and an improvement on the works it discusses and analyzes. Certainly, in 50 years, this book will be looked at as one of the finer moments in American criticism.
31 December 2002
...This is a tremendously influential book about Elvis, Robert Johnson, Sly Stone, The Band and Randy Newman as American legends, putting them into the context of the unwritten history and mythology of the frontier, the riverboat, and the Appalachian mines. Later on Marcus got a bit too academic and obscure for this reader's taste (e.g. in 'Lipstick Traces') but this is the business. If you are remotely interested in America or in rock music, there's plenty for you here. Buy it!
4 March 1999
Just about the best book about artists which (with the exception of Sly & The Family Stone) I've never bothered to listen to. But Marcus' choice of performers is irrelavant. What matters is his thesis on how rock & roll has influenced American culture, and vice versa. The introduction, about Little Richard's rant on Dick Cavett's early-70's show on ABC, nicely sums up what Marcus does in this book---insisting that rock & roll is THE postwar American music, no matter what the elitists tell you.
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