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on 13 October 2013
I did not find this book as interesting as I though and will be sending it to my 52 year old son who lives in Sicily and will be more interested in it than I will be.
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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.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 19 February 2015
This is a mammoth ambitious undertaking , resulting in a real doorstep of a book, an incredible achievement to try and provide an overview of Pop Music history. It is presented in broadly chronological order, with thematic chapters on different genres . There is a good coverage of both UK and US cultural references. I personally found the early and middle part of the book the most informative and enjoyable, with lots of great insight, fascinating snippets, and it is well researched and easy to read. I suspect many readers will dip into the chapters that interest them most on the genres and artists that particularly appeal to them. I persevered and have ploughed my way progressively through the whole tome. Inevitably each reader may quibble that some of their favourites are overlooked , or take a different view on a few of the opinions proffered on the merits of some artists and genres , but most of the time this book is likely to please most of its audience, I agreed to disagree only a few times on the opinions put forward, but learnt a great deal along the way The last section of the book into the 90's was less enjoyable for me personally and I found it harder going, but the main classic pop period has been exceptionally well covered. Bob Stanley is obviously a liftime pop fan, and as a performer in his own right with St Etienne he will have gained first hand insider experience , which probably helps to frame this work in a more knowledgeable way than a more arms length detached academic author could achieve.It gives a fascinating insight into the development of pop , and is to be applauded and admired for its scope . I would love someone to pick up the baton and do something similar for folk music in the future, Overall highly enjoyable and strongly recommended.
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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.
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on 26 April 2016
Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Story of Modern Pop' by Bob Stanley is the best book written about popular music, maybe even popular culture in general, that I have ever read. Stanley takes the reader on a compendious tour through the beginning of what he describes as the modern pop era in the early 1950s to what he considers as its demise in the late 90s with the beginning of our own digital era.

Unlike Peter Doggett's gigantic 'Electric Shock: From the Gramophone to the Iphone- 125 years of Pop music' - which tries to be all things to all people by including pre-WWII pop trends and a sampling of world music - Stanley is unapologetic in his focus upon the Anglo-American development of popular music from the 50s-90s, aside from a paragraph on Krautrock and single chapters devoted to Abba and the influence of Jamaican music respectively. I am of the opinion that Stanleys book compares favourably to Doggett's as a consequence.

Stanley is acute in his observations - Heavy Metal is: 'starter-pack rock. It works as both a gateway to other forms of modern pop, via volume, speed and power, and as a model of pure escapism –the roar of the fairground, the cheap thrills of the slasher movie, sex and horror..... It is also deeply conservative, with its own canon, its own heroes, a true metal code of conduct. Along with country, it’s quite likely it will outlast every other genre in this book.' Bob Dylan's back catalogue meanwhile is described as: 'a library, with narrow, twisting corridors and deep oak shelves drawing you in: start leafing through the pages and you may never want to stop.'

Often brilliantly catty in his portraits - Kim Wilde 'emerged in 1981 with a three-years-too-late budget-Blondie sound she’d bought from a petrol station in Hertfordshire.' Martin Fry from ABC looks like an 'emaciated but victorious lion.' Smokie 'sounded like an Eagles covers band playing on a sightseeing boat,' whilst the Boomtown Rats are like 'Showaddywaddy on their way to a swingers party' -

Frequently surreal yet oddly accurate in his descriptions - so Fleetwood Mac 'sound like a walk beside a sea shore on a windy day, collar pulled up against the spray' whilst Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit 'took the Pixies’ quiet/loud aesthetic and nailed it to something that sounded like Hüsker Dü covering ‘More than a Feeling’ and the Velvet Underground were like 'a tear in the space-time continuum, this was 1967. But is was also 1977. And 1987.'

Stanley has a gifted writer's knack of finding a turn of phrase to sum up and describe an artist, an era or a genre that pithily encapsulates what you may also have thought but were not able to describe as wonderfully well as Stanley.

I dont necessarily agree with all his assertions. Im not convinced that The Monkees were as amazing as Stanley claims (love his description of them as the 'pre-fab four' however) plus I think his assessment of U2 is harsh but that would be to miss the point. I think that one of the main reasons this book is so appealing is BECAUSE Stanley is so opinionated and tendentious as well as the fact it is extremely well-written, researched and witty. Stanley starts the book with a cri de coeur about the inverse snobbery of what he describes as 'rockism' in musical criticism (think the 'disco sucks' movement as 'rockism's' apogee with its thinly veiled misogyny and homophobia) and a call for musical elclecticism: 'the separation of rock and pop is false.... disco and large swathes of black and electronic music have been virtually ignored by traditional pop histories.' Stanley's passion for pop music animates the whole book and makes it a fantastic read. He is a fan! So of course he is opinionated! Why wouldnt he be? Thats part of the the charm and appeal of the book as far as Im concerned.

Overall I think this is a significant achievement of pop culture scholarship and erudition (hopefully thats not an oxymoron!) that is also immensely readable. Ive read it twice and its an even better read the second time around, that speaks volumes. By far and away my favourite book about music. Anyone with a love for popular music of the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s (pretty much 99percent of us I would have thought!) should read this. It can be read from start to finish or, if you prefer, dipped in and out of, due to the style in which it is written with self contained chapters about particular artists or genre's. Recommended to all who love popular music.
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on 17 July 2015
Bob Stanley’s Yeah Yeah Yeah is a brave attempt to cover pretty much everything significant in the fifty years that popular songs were consumed chiefly via the single record (initially 78rpm discs, then 45s, cassettes, CDs and ultimately downloads). The result is a tome that’s maybe slightly too opinionated to qualify as definitive but is certainly informative, passionate and well written with welcome touches of wit. It’s also formidably well researched, as you’d expect from a true music obsessive like Stanley, whose day job is as part of pop classicist outfit St. Etienne – if he mentions in a footnote that When Doves Cry was the first hit not to feature a bassline since Andrew Gold’s Never Let Her Slip Away six years previously you can be damn sure he’s listened to every record that got into the charts between them to check.

The author takes a sensible broadly chronological approach, starting in the early 50s and using each chapter (of which there are 65) to concentrate on a particular development, genre or, occasionally, single artist. Each chapter can thus be read as a stand-alone essay, though it’s undoubtedly easier to perceive the various throughlines that Stanley carefully sets out if you start at the beginning and work your way through. Some of the subjects here have already been copiously documented (Elvis, Beatles, Dylan, Motown, Pistols) and these chapters don’t add too much to what’s already been said, but the bulk of the book deals with musicians and subgenres that I can’t remember being covered in this depth before outside of ponderous and over-earnest features in places like Mojo and Uncut, and Stanley’s readable and funny (breezy, even) writing style is a cut above what you generally find in those magazines. In particular, the sections on the era immediately before rock’n’roll kicked in and those on mid-sixties rhythm and blues are packed with information and enthusiasm and make you want to go out and try to find the original singles right away.

Where the book is less effective is in those passages where Stanley lets his own preferences and idiosyncracies colour his descriptions. He makes no secret of his disdain for much of the music of the early 70s and sometimes comes out with comparisons that seem calculated to wind up rock-snobs: was the music of The Sweet really on a par with that of Led Zeppelin? Later on he seems a bit sniffy about my beloved post-punk and overly dismissive of certain massively successful acts (The Police were undoubtedly a bit cynical and sometimes horribly pretentious but they did put out some cracking singles). I found the last part of the book the hardest to get through, though that’s probably more down to my lack of understanding of the appeal of techno and the myriad subdivisions of house than any failure of the author.

Stanley doesn’t quite succeed in conquering his impossible self-imposed brief – certain artists and genres (The Velvet Underground, lots of 90s alt-country stuff) get short shrift from his habit of squeezing less mainstream trends into pithy capsule summaries – but this is still a mightily impressive project, and a very handy reference for things you might catch on the radio and not instantly recognise. And also it’s a fun book to pick fights with. Just don’t slag off The Beach Boys within earshot of the author.
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VINE VOICEon 25 July 2014
One of my friends recommended this book to me as we're both music geeks. I'd read mixed reviews in the press but, swayed by his opinion of the book and the reviews here, I decided to try it for myself.

It's an easy read divided into sections roughly devoted to decades, and each chapter focuses on a particular band or genre of music popular at the time. Even in a book as thick or long as this some acts are given short shrift, whereas others get more coverage, sometimes deservedly so but in other instances it feels as though they are favourites of the author. The chapters feel almost like self-contained essays or articles, and if a particular genre or act isn't your cup of tea you could always skip that chapter rather than read every page as I did.

Sadly I found the book to be rather disappointing, even dull. There are several factual errors (also formatting errors on the Kindle edition) and much of the content is subjective, the author's personal opinions skewing the narrative as he often dismisses acts as being dull or irrelevant, whilst others who barely made an impact are apparently great. There are also times when it seems that some editing has been done but the text hasn't been checked, such as at one point it mentioned that a particular artist had "returned to England" but it didn't say where from, so it felt as though something was missing. I'd have preferred the book to have been written in a different way, perhaps in more of a chronological style based on what was popular in each year, and without the personal bias.

For me, "Yeah Yeah Yeah" was a long book but was frustratingly brief about too many acts, as though it had tried to cover every act under the sun in a single book, as though - as another reviewer commented - the author had tried to write a rough guide to pop music. Maybe the author should have written this as a number of books, each devoted to a decade, and then he could have done the subject justice. As it stands I found it easy to read but fragmented, sketchy, and ultimately rather dull. Looking at the reviews though it appears I'm in the minority, but we're all different.
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on 28 July 2014
The best book about music since Simon Reynold's "Retromania". This really is that good.

Surprisingly, no-one has written a history of modern pop. After "Yeah Yeah Yeah", it is doubtful that anyone will. This is the definitive history. Erudite, complete and always putting pop into a social or economic context. It starts with the changes of the immediate post-war era, with chapters lovingly devoted to long-forgotten scenes, and moves through the years to, well, now. Criss-crossing the Atlantic between the UK and the US (with occasional forays outside the anglo-saxon world, to Jamaica, Dusseldorf or Sweden), most of the chapters are about musical genres. There are few devoted to persons or groups (obvious exceptions: Elvis, The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Beach Boys Bowie and Bolan ... but also Abba and the Bee Gees, Kraftwork, Pet Shop Boys or New Order).

There is a reason for this: Bob Stanley is in love with the single, rather than the rockist obsession with oeuvre. He manages to describe the sound of a song and the feelings it induces in you in a very personal fashion. There are fascinating details about the people involved and the way the songs were recorded, with some of the most delicious anecdotes reserved for the page notes. If anything, the book could have been longer, and Stanley would have managed to bring in even more detail. As it is, the 800-odd pages fly by in a style that is both reverent and irreverent, dry, funny and personal.

Bob Stanley's heart is very clearly on his sleeve in wanting to challenge the Mojo / Q consensus about what constitutes important music or musical events. The whole Laurel Canyon scene is dismissed as being self-indulgent, Live Aid is a disaster, the Doors are awful (as is the whole Britpop movement, and Oasis in particular). But there are also hilarious moments. When he makes a (justified) parallel between mid-1980's New Pop and American Rock,there is clear reason for this. AC/DC are dismissed as playing one song over and over again, whereas Status Quo are described as Krautrock, even like Neu. This is all very funny, but also makes important and challenging points.

But Bob Stanley is no ordinary author. ⅓ of Saint Etienne (one of the most under-rated bands in British pop history) he is also pop historian, curator of fine records, filmmaker and journalist. Modestly he fails to reference his own band, although Saint Etienne appear in a list of acts that appear on a magazine cover, and I had to laugh when he slipped in his own Cola Boy single. And Stanley can write, not only humorously but making important links (sometimes very left field) and constructing a great narrative in the development of music.

If I had to pick a hole, it is the fact that the chapters end without an idea of the influences that each genre left on pop today in 2014. I suspect that that is a deliberate choice to make this book timeless. There is another obvious comment: the book more or less ends in 2005, with 'Crazy in Love' the last great single. After that, there would appear to be no important pop movements. This is also the Simon Reynolds thesis: subsequent developments in music concentrate on the media (YouTube, Spotify, iTunes...) rather than the music itself. From that point of view, this book really is the definitive history.

That should seem like a sad conclusion, but it isn't: there is so much jumping out of every page here, with ideas for music to listen to. If pop music is important for you, your faith in music will be restored and affirmed by this important but also lovely book. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
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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...
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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.
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