Understanding Rock: Essays in Musical Analysis

By John Covach; Graeme M. Boone | Go to book overview

Preface

In the summer of 1974, the rock critic Lester Bangs was invited to type a review of a J. Geils Band concert onstage as part of the band's show. Jumping at the chance to jam with a favorite band and, at the same time, to storm the ultimate barrier between music and meaning, Bangs set up his typewriter next to the musicians as if it were another instrument. As he typed away in rhythmic and mental counterpoint to the music, he became more excited and frustrated until, at the song's climax, he smashed the table and finally stomped the typewriter itself in a fit of ecstatic rage. 1

Is this the way it is, or should be, between rock music and the critical mind? Since the beginning of rock 'n' roll, opponents of the music, and some fans too, would have us think so. The plaint of rock's enemies is familiar: loud, raucous, drug ridden, and narcissistic, if not nihilistic, rock music causes degeneration in youth, transmitting social evils and subverting rational thought and responsibility; even worse, it is boring, annoying, bad music. The same, of course, was thought about earlier musical crazes that now seem tame and stodgy by comparison: swing, ragtime, the waltz, the minuet, the sarabande. Each of these did in fact threaten some perceived element of social order, and rock has posed its own distinct threats: arising in a time of social upheaval, it has reflected, accompanied, enabled, and at times even constituted the rumblings of that upheaval.

Partly for that very reason, however, a generation has grown up for whom this music is fundamental and necessary; partly also because it has simply been there, a

-v-

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Understanding Rock: Essays in Musical Analysis
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Notes ix
  • Notes xi
  • Contents xv
  • Contributors xvii
  • 1: Progressive Rock, "Close to the Edge," and the Boundaries of Style 3
  • Notes 25
  • 2: After Sundown the Beach Boys' Experimental Music 33
  • Notes 54
  • Notes 59
  • Notes 89
  • Notes 111
  • 5: Swallowed by A Song Paul Simon's Crisis of Chromaticism 113
  • 6 155
  • Notes 166
  • Notes 171
  • Notes 206
  • Index 211
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