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The Rise and Fall of Popular Music Hardcover – 26 Jan 1995

5.0 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Hardcover, 26 Jan 1995
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Viking; 1st ed edition (26 Jan. 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670832448
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670832446
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 4.5 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,378,247 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Have just finished reading Mr Clarke's excellent book. As a rock/blues fan, I particularly appreciated having some lamentable gaps in my knowledge of the history of jazz filled in.
However, having just put down the book, it struck me that there had been no mention of Frank Zappa (unless I missed it?).
I am no huge fan of Zappa (my tastes run to a rather simpler form of rock music) though many of my friends are, and I have sat through many hours of Zappa nights over the decades. But his music seems to cover range of styles from the hilariously satirical (e.g. Dancing Fool) to cerebral attempts to fuse rock with jazz or even classical forms of music. This would seem to place Zappa up there with many of the jazz names who have attempted more "serious" works over the years, and about whom Mr Clarke writes at some length.
I realize that Mr Clarke can't be expected to mention everybody in the long history of pop, but I'm just intrigued about why he should have missed out a towering rock force like Zappa - when other more dire West Coast rock bands of the Sixties rate marches in his history.
I also realise that this missive should is not so much a book review for Amazon as a topic that I would love to discuss with Mr Clarke, but I've been unable to find a way of commenting directly to you, Donald - despite checking out your very good website ( - where, funnily enough, you include a comprehensive entry on Zappa's career. Obviously, Mr Clake is well aware of Zappa but apparently didn't think it worth mentioning him in book. I am intrigued.
How Lewis (
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Format: Kindle Edition
Although 20 years old, and popular tastes change quickly, there is still much to be recommended here, particularly the chapter 'The Heat Death of Pop Music' which takes delicious swipes at the pretentious emptiness of much pop/rock from the Sixties on. The notion of the 'serious artist' with such MUSICALLY mundane figures as Sting, Prince, Springsteen,and Madonna is effectively demolished.
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By HJK VINE VOICE on 6 April 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This was recommended to me by the lecturer on a music appreciation course - it covers from 1820 to 1980's and is a good little reference guide.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An absolutely wonderful book for anyone interested in popular music. Mr Clarke is immensely knowledgeable with a great gift for describing music, andhis abilities as a critic are unparalleled.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.3 out of 5 stars 10 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Decline and Fall from Prez to Poop 1 Feb. 2000
By S. Dougherty - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is not a bad overview of American popular music. Mr. Clarke is clearly a jazz fan who regards the days of Lester Young, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, et al. as the high point from which we have declined, and sees the present state of commercial popular music as a "culture of musical impoverishment." The career of A&R man Mitch Miller, the evil genius whose venality and lack of taste was a landmark in adult pop's precipitous decline in the 1950s, is touchingly portrayed. I think Clarke's conclusions are correct; however, this is a matter of taste to some degree. Many will think differently, no doubt. Read it anyway, along with Will Friedwald's history of Jazz Singing.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Survey 19 Jan. 2002
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
I particularly liked the start of this book that gave the origins of popular music from Europe.
The author dwells a bit too much on the details of Jazz but his premise is well taken and he shows how and why pop music has become grunge, rap and muzak. He recognizes the originality in performers like the early Elvis and Hank Williams even though he regrets the decline of the real learned Jazz musicians. He shows how the corporate entities and listener surveys have destroyed a promising genre if it can be called that.
Interesting that the Internet seems to be allowingl real musicians to connect with the public directly without needing the middle corporate ground.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars From Art to Product 14 Feb. 2002
By Bernie Koenig - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is a fascinating book going back to the origins of popular music forms, going through jazz and blues and getting to today's pop music.
A main theme of the book appears to be that the further the music gets away from its roots, the less musical value it has. And then today too much music has just become product to sell with little musical value.
Sometimes a bit too opinionated, but mainly an excellent analysis of the of the fall of pop music.
4.0 out of 5 stars Rise and Fall is right ! 20 Nov. 2014
By Big Band Leader - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
Having been a big band leader and professional musician until recently, I must applaud this
book, because a lot of rock writers seem to want to revise history and try to tell us that there
was nothing worthwhile before the Beatles, or even before Elvis. Oh, come on! Mr. Clarke
rightly points out the things leading to the "fall" and it didn't start with Mitch Miller. The post war
disinterest on the part of the general public in Bop, probably set the stage for an increase
in Novelties, and don't forget the explosion in Broadway Cast albums on LP. shortly
thereafter. But the music on singles became increasingly banal around the mid-50's
while adults seemed to go more for LP packages and singles continued a downward
slide.(musically) as a vehicle for teen-age hits. By the 60's with guitar goups and such things got worse and as jazz writer Stanley
Dance put it in the mid 60's "The amateur musician with his unkempt voice and clumsy
rhythm has found a remarkably renumerative position in a di-it-yourself culture" How right
that was, and, as as someone put it, where did that lead to? Just tune in a top 40 radio station
an hear for yourself !
By W. Sockwell - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
If you want to read a book of music history regarding American popular music, do NOT buy this book! It is one of the worst "popular music" history books I've ever read. He loves jazz music and takes up for it roundly, but jazz is NOT popular music. Jazz is JAZZ! Popular music has the following items: R & B, Soul, Pop, Rockabilly, Rock and Roll, Hard Rock, New Wave, etc. Clarke shows a complete snobbish "let them eat cake" attitude toward any kind of music outside of jazz music. Don't get me wrong, I love jazz, too. But, I love many other forms of music, and British writer Clarke should not have written anything outside of classic jazz. He hates, Bill Haley, Buddy Holly, The Kinks, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, et. al. PLEASE save your money if you're looking for a book about music history! This is by far the worst excuse for it ever written (even worse than Nick Tosches).
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