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Love Goes To Buildings On Fire: Five Years In New York That Changed Music Forever

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Punk rock and hip-hop. Disco and salsa. The loft jazz scene and the downtown composers known as Minimalists. In the mid-1970s, New York City was a laboratory where all the major styles of modern music were reinvented--all at once, from one block to the next, by musicians who knew, admired, and borrowed from one another. Crime was everywhere, the government was broke, and t Punk rock and hip-hop. Disco and salsa. The loft jazz scene and the downtown composers known as Minimalists. In the mid-1970s, New York City was a laboratory where all the major styles of modern music were reinvented--all at once, from one block to the next, by musicians who knew, admired, and borrowed from one another. Crime was everywhere, the government was broke, and the city's infrastructure was collapsing. But rent was cheap, and the possibilities for musical exploration were limitless. Love Goes to Buildings on Fire is the first book to tell the full story of the era's music scenes and the phenomenal and surprising ways they intersected. From New Year's Day 1973 to New Year's Eve 1977, the book moves panoramically from post-Dylan Greenwich Village, to the arson-scarred South Bronx barrios where salsa and hip-hop were created, to the Lower Manhattan lofts where jazz and classical music were reimagined, to ramshackle clubs like CBGBs and The Gallery, where rock and dance music were hot-wired for a new generation. As they remade the music, the musicians at the center of the book invented themselves: Willie Colón and the Fania All-Stars renting Yankee Stadium to take salsa to the masses, New Jersey locals Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith claiming the jungleland of Manhattan as their own, Grandmaster Flash transforming the turntable into a musical instrument, David Byrne and Talking Heads proving that rock music "ain't no foolin' around." Will Hermes was there--venturing from his native Queens to the small dark rooms where the revolution was taking place--and in Love Goes to Buildings on Fire he captures the creativity, drive, and full-out lust for life of the great New York musicians of those years, who knew that the music they were making would change the world.


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Punk rock and hip-hop. Disco and salsa. The loft jazz scene and the downtown composers known as Minimalists. In the mid-1970s, New York City was a laboratory where all the major styles of modern music were reinvented--all at once, from one block to the next, by musicians who knew, admired, and borrowed from one another. Crime was everywhere, the government was broke, and t Punk rock and hip-hop. Disco and salsa. The loft jazz scene and the downtown composers known as Minimalists. In the mid-1970s, New York City was a laboratory where all the major styles of modern music were reinvented--all at once, from one block to the next, by musicians who knew, admired, and borrowed from one another. Crime was everywhere, the government was broke, and the city's infrastructure was collapsing. But rent was cheap, and the possibilities for musical exploration were limitless. Love Goes to Buildings on Fire is the first book to tell the full story of the era's music scenes and the phenomenal and surprising ways they intersected. From New Year's Day 1973 to New Year's Eve 1977, the book moves panoramically from post-Dylan Greenwich Village, to the arson-scarred South Bronx barrios where salsa and hip-hop were created, to the Lower Manhattan lofts where jazz and classical music were reimagined, to ramshackle clubs like CBGBs and The Gallery, where rock and dance music were hot-wired for a new generation. As they remade the music, the musicians at the center of the book invented themselves: Willie Colón and the Fania All-Stars renting Yankee Stadium to take salsa to the masses, New Jersey locals Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith claiming the jungleland of Manhattan as their own, Grandmaster Flash transforming the turntable into a musical instrument, David Byrne and Talking Heads proving that rock music "ain't no foolin' around." Will Hermes was there--venturing from his native Queens to the small dark rooms where the revolution was taking place--and in Love Goes to Buildings on Fire he captures the creativity, drive, and full-out lust for life of the great New York musicians of those years, who knew that the music they were making would change the world.

30 review for Love Goes To Buildings On Fire: Five Years In New York That Changed Music Forever

  1. 5 out of 5

    Tosh

    "Love Goes to Buildings On Fire" is not only one of my favorite songs by Talking Heads, but it's also a very warm and fascinating book by Will Hermes. Focusing on the years 1973 to 1977, in New York City, is a combination social history and a love message to the artists of that era - who really defined NYC as a creative force. A place that touched greatness from George Maciunas (one of the founders of Fluxus) to Patti Smith to Grandmaster Flash to New York Dolls to Philip Glass to Richard Hell t "Love Goes to Buildings On Fire" is not only one of my favorite songs by Talking Heads, but it's also a very warm and fascinating book by Will Hermes. Focusing on the years 1973 to 1977, in New York City, is a combination social history and a love message to the artists of that era - who really defined NYC as a creative force. A place that touched greatness from George Maciunas (one of the founders of Fluxus) to Patti Smith to Grandmaster Flash to New York Dolls to Philip Glass to Richard Hell to Suicide to Bruce Springsteen to....and beyond. The first "other" book one would think of is "Please Kill Me," but this is different because Hermes pulls the camera back to expose all that was happening in NYC in those years. So here you get a mixture of Salsa, disco, punk, and avant-garde jazz/classical artists. Great snapshot of a particular time and thank (whoever) there are at least recordings that still exist. And yeah, this book as well. Oh and this is a galley, and the book is coming out sometime in November 2011.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ed Wagemann

    There hasn't been much in American culture to get excited about since the 1970s. The cable tv revolution and gadget boom of the 1980s might have been interesting for a minute. Grunge in the 1990s became boring quickly. Rap is crap. The prescription drug craze, the tech boom (that led to the sitting around staring at a screen all day culture), talk radio, all pretty much pale in comparison to the culture that was produced in the 1970s. The '70s had it all, from streakers to wife-swapping swingers There hasn't been much in American culture to get excited about since the 1970s. The cable tv revolution and gadget boom of the 1980s might have been interesting for a minute. Grunge in the 1990s became boring quickly. Rap is crap. The prescription drug craze, the tech boom (that led to the sitting around staring at a screen all day culture), talk radio, all pretty much pale in comparison to the culture that was produced in the 1970s. The '70s had it all, from streakers to wife-swapping swingers and Morgana the kissing bandit to bra-burners and draft-dodgers to CB radio-culture truck drivers to test tube babies, super duper dare devils (like Evil Knievel and Phillip Petite). It had the Thriller in Manilla, the Battle of the Sexes, Renee Richards and jesus freaks. And moonies and hare krishnas and all variety of outsider religious cults (the People's Temple, the Forever family, Heavens Gates, the Branch Davidians). There were UFO abductees and Big Foot chasers along with science and nature adventurers (Jacques Cousteau, Carl Sagan and Marty Stouffer). There were pioneering film makers (Stanley Kubirck and Martin Scorcese), rough and tumble journalists (from Hunter S. Thompson to Lester Bangs). There were muscle cars and jumbo jets, crop circles (earth art), hippie communes, self-help books and black hole thermodynamics. Then of course there was the music: funk, disco, punk, new wave, prog rock, singer-songwriter folk rock, outlaw country, heavy metal, raggae, yacht rock, glam/glitter (shock) rock, kraut rock, classic hard rock (including southern rock), power pop, experimental/electronic music all which got their starts or hit their peaks during the Swinging Decade--the last great decade for old weird American culture. And the epicenter of this cultural melting pot was often New York City, especially when it came to the music. Will Hermes attempts to document the music culture of NYC from the middle of the 1970s in his book Love Goes To Building On Fire. The subject matters is fascinating, but right from the get go Hermes proves that he is not up to the task. His scope is too broad and he ends up giving it a superficial wash in a google-by-numbers cut and paste approach that just barely scratches the surface. There are a wide range of artists covered - but without going into any significant detail on any of them, the book reads like an extended Wikipedia posting, with the occasional (and entirely non-related and unnecessary) personal anecdote by the author thrown in for god knows why. These autobiographical reflections were especially confusing, for there seemed to be no good reason for their inclusion. Was Hermes trying to say, "Look, I was in NYC during this time and I therefore have the authority to write about this"? Because if that's the case, his recollections actually did the exact opposite since he admitted that he was just a junior high school kid in Queens who was primarily listening to '70s prog rock during the time. Or was he including these personal reflections in an effort to give an even broader perspective of the already too broad focus that he was trying to illuminate? Or maybe he included the personal recollections simply because that kind of writing is in vouge lately and he was trying to kiss the asses of his publishers. This might have worked if Hermes could have intertwined his personal reflections into his music scene research in some interesting narrative way. Instead what he gives us is embarrassingly pathetic drivel like this from page 93: "It's hard to convey the extent to which drugs were a part of life in New York during the mid-'70s" "And who could forget the strap-on, resuscitator-style 'grass mask' pipes?" "Maybe exercising control over one's consciousness was compensation for being unable to exert control over anything else." Jesus Christ! I mean seriously, what kind of shit-ass writing is that? The effect of these numerous cardboard personal reflections is that Hermes looses all credibility. He has no authority to tell the fascinating story of the NYC music scene from that era. And in fact he DOESN'T tell that story. He simply gathers a bunch of information and strings it all together in a sanitary and boring manner that entirely misses the incredible story that the subject matter suggests. This is a book that would have been better off it was never written and one that will hopefully sink into obscurity quickly and thereby not be able to compartmentalize the NYC mid '70s music scene into some kind of soulless, scholastic cultural history. The one positive thing I can say about this 'product' is that I would love to have a poster of the cover illustration. For that reason I give Love Goes To Building On Fire one half out of 5 WagemannHeads. NEXT!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Adam

    This is definitely the most fun I’ve had reading a book in a while, maybe not the best, though it is really good. The book is a kaleidoscopic social history of New York during its darkest years in the supposedly musically fallow seventies. So much of my favorite music bubbled under the surface in the seventies I always forget that it really was pretty awful time for popular music (as a quick listen to a current day oldies or classic rock station will show). Hermes travels similar ground to other This is definitely the most fun I’ve had reading a book in a while, maybe not the best, though it is really good. The book is a kaleidoscopic social history of New York during its darkest years in the supposedly musically fallow seventies. So much of my favorite music bubbled under the surface in the seventies I always forget that it really was pretty awful time for popular music (as a quick listen to a current day oldies or classic rock station will show). Hermes travels similar ground to other tomes such as Please Kill Me, Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop, and Ladies and Gentlemen the Bronx is Burning, but his focus is different. His taste is very catholic and he draws on the whole experience of music in New York. The CBGB scene of Blondie, Talking Heads, Ramones, Television, Patti Smith and Suicide gets covered, the ascendance of disco, and the DJ parties that birthed Hip Hop, but Hermes has wider and more eclectic tastes and he draws in the vibrant Latin/Cuban music scene, the minimalist classical scene (Glass, Reich, Riley, and Young), the post Coltrane/Ayler loft jazz scene, rock myth-maker Bruce Springsteen, and multimedia and genre eccentrics like Arthur Russell, Laurie Anderson, and Meredith Monk. He draws connections between all of them and shows what an interconnected town it was. He brings to life a vast assortment of personalities, and places them in the context of that dystopian era of New York (as exemplified by the images from Scorsese’s Taxi Driver), an era of financial disaster, looting, arson, serial murder, power outages, garbage strikes, and crime. He intertwines this all with a bit of a personal memoir which doesn't really distract and when it involves his personal take on several important albums of the era (Patti Smith’s Horses, Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run, Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks and Basement Tapes, and Television’s Marquee Moon) and movies of the era it works at other times it’s a bit inessential. I found the epilogue to be a bit sentimental but not damningly so. My only hope now is that he writes a sequel.

  4. 5 out of 5

    John

    This book covers a period of amazing musical experimentation in NYC - punk, jazz, disco, "latin" - a lot was going on, and there was a good deal of cross-pollination between these genres. Hermes tells a lot of stories -- many I knew, some that I didn't. The ones that were new to me were valuable and provocative. I think the most valuable part is the account of the rise of Latin / Cuban music, though it gets repetitive towards the end. Having said all that, I really can't recommend the book. The pr This book covers a period of amazing musical experimentation in NYC - punk, jazz, disco, "latin" - a lot was going on, and there was a good deal of cross-pollination between these genres. Hermes tells a lot of stories -- many I knew, some that I didn't. The ones that were new to me were valuable and provocative. I think the most valuable part is the account of the rise of Latin / Cuban music, though it gets repetitive towards the end. Having said all that, I really can't recommend the book. The problem is that there is very little organization aside from grouping the chapters by year. It's hard to tell what's important. Hermes plays an annoying game in places where he will introduce a relatively unknown character that music zealots know is important (example: Arthur Russell) but never sum up the character's importance until the very end. Unless you're paying attention, I'm not sure how an ordinary reader would really pick up on the importance of Arthur Russell. Another thing that is lacking is a selected discography. There's a discography, to be sure, but it's everything that is discussed. Hermes clearly has claims about importance based on facts and contemporary opinion - I think he should sum it up. So: For the general reader: I just don't see it. If you're interested in NYC music in the mid-/late-70s, or are interested in Latin/Cuban music, or are interested in this period of jazz experimentation (largely ignored by official histories which have privileged the Marsalis / Crouch reorganization of jazz history), try it.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Gus Sanchez

    New York City, mid-1970's. The whole place is falling apart. Crime is rampant, the city teeters on complete financial bankruptcy. Things just aren't looking good for the Big Apple. Yet from the state of emergency comes a phenomenally vibrant and highly influential wave of music whose influence still resonates today. The punk scene that emerged from CBGB's; the explosion of Latin music as performed by the Fania All-Stars; experimental forays into jazz and classical music; the emergence of disco f New York City, mid-1970's. The whole place is falling apart. Crime is rampant, the city teeters on complete financial bankruptcy. Things just aren't looking good for the Big Apple. Yet from the state of emergency comes a phenomenally vibrant and highly influential wave of music whose influence still resonates today. The punk scene that emerged from CBGB's; the explosion of Latin music as performed by the Fania All-Stars; experimental forays into jazz and classical music; the emergence of disco from the underground clubs to the mainstream; the birth of hip-hop from the slums of the South Bronx. You name it, it happened here. Love Goes to Buildings on Fire (the title cribbed from a Talking Heads song, is a loving, exhaustively researched chronicle of a five-year period of the New York music culture, a time frame from which some of the most enduring, shocking, controversial, and astonishing music ever came. Will Hermes, who himself hails from Queens (School of Hard Knocks!), offers his own oral history on how the music influenced him and his future as a music journalist; one can clearly see how the variety of music heard on every street corner during that time deeply seared into his very soul, and that's no exaggeration. The portrait of NYC in the 1970's does seem like it's passing by so fast, and with good reason: the entire scene simply exploded, hurtling itself into both the mainstream and the underground at the speed of light. There's no time to breath while reading Love Goes to Buildings on Fire, because everything happens so fast, you're forced to catch up. No matter, though, because it's all exhilarating nonetheless. The cast of characters in Love Goes to Buildings on Fire reads like a musical Who's-Who: the New York Dolls, the Ramones, Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash, Hector Lavoe, Willie Colon, Celia Cruz, Blondie, Lou Reed, Philip Glass, Patti Smith, Bruce Springsteen, Talking Heads, Television, Laurie Anderson, Eddie Palmieri, Anthony Braxton, and so many more. Their stories are told with great detail, their influence easy to define. A highly recommended read for music historians, and anyone who has a jones for what may be the greatest music scene ever.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Frank Jude

    Will Hermes’ Love Goes To Buildings On Fire: Five Years in New York That Changed Music Forever is one of the most ambitious works on popular culture that I have ever read. Perhaps the most ambitious in that is surveys the radically creative hotbed of New York City in the 1970s (specifically the years from 1973 through 1977) meshing sociology, cultural analysis, and music history into a fascinating tale that those of us who lived through it, as well as those for whom this is history, will find ex Will Hermes’ Love Goes To Buildings On Fire: Five Years in New York That Changed Music Forever is one of the most ambitious works on popular culture that I have ever read. Perhaps the most ambitious in that is surveys the radically creative hotbed of New York City in the 1970s (specifically the years from 1973 through 1977) meshing sociology, cultural analysis, and music history into a fascinating tale that those of us who lived through it, as well as those for whom this is history, will find exciting and maybe even a bit daunting and/or inspiring… For such an ambitious work, Hermes' pretty much succeeds. I wish I could give an extra 1/2 star because it's really better than the four I've given it, but I'm hesitant to say it's a five-star "amazing" book. Hermes’ tale is filled with painstakingly intimate details that bring the time into vivid focus; he often uses the device of speaking about diverse activities that were occurring throughout New York City in a given time span and even sometimes simultaneously on the same night like the New Years Eve that ended 1976, when The Ramones and the Heartbreakers played at the loft space called Sea of Clouds while The New York Dolls played the Beacon and Television’s performance was being filmed down at C.B.G.B. But this book is not just about punk. Hermes’ also describes the burst of creativity that fomented Hip-Hop with wonderful stories of Bronx street parties and the accidental beginnings of scratch technique; the birth of disco (including the random “invention” of the 12-inch 45 that became the dj “instrument” of choice; the rise of minimalism of LaMonte Young, Terry Riley, Steve Reich and Philip Glass; the experimentation that revitalized Latin music (salsa, in particular); and the amazingly creative loft-jazz scene. What is striking is the DIY nature of much of this creativity and how over the course of five years, grassroots “do-it-yourself” artistic momentum led to profound changes in the mainstream culture. I found Hermes’ fan-boy perspective enjoyable and his enthusiastic descriptions of pieces of music I was unfamiliar with led to several hours of You-Tubing, greatly expanding my knowledge and appreciation of some forms I’d not paid much attention to at the time. Personally, I had spent formative years hanging out at the jazz lofts (in particular, Sam Rivers’ Studio Rivbea which was down the block from CBGB) and the avant-garde lofts as well as original Kitchen performance space, and then made my way back to rock via the punk explosion, adding CBGB and Max’s Kansa City to my musical menu. Hermes’ weaves descriptions of New York politics – some of which I’d forgotten, such as the wave of FALN bombings – and some of which I can never forget, like the garbage strike during a New York City heatwave or the time President Ford was paraphrased in a daily local as saying “Drop Dead NY” only to be shamed by European political leaders into an 11th hour bailout of the city from declaring bankruptcy. I don’t want to sound like I’m romanticizing the decadence and sheer degradation of the city: believe me, it smelled bad, and not only just during the garbage strike; the South Bronx was literally burning, and the East Village looked like a war torn city with buildings burned out, or collapsing. Yet, I think it also true to admit it was because of such conditions (and the cheap-ass rent such conditions led to: my three-room flat with bathtub in the kitchen ran $184 a month rent and that was higher than some!) that such creativity was loosed in the city. Sadly, among those conditions were $2 to $5 bags of very strong Mexican brown heroin, so many of those responsible for the creativity died all too young. If you are a fan of any of the above listed musics, or if you are interested in cultural history, this is a book made for you. If you are not an impassioned fan, this book probably offers too much information and may seem over-whelming in its scope. But still, I highly recommend this fascinating read.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

    New York in the mid to late 70s was one of the most creatively active and diverse periods in American history, and it's probably the number one destination for my time machine To Do list. So I expected to really love this book, but it lacks strong narrative and is an uninspired read. It's hard to say how much of that is due to the writer, because it's a necessarily overwhelming period to cover. I did find that his musical descriptions were not helpful, and I ended up skipping sections on genres New York in the mid to late 70s was one of the most creatively active and diverse periods in American history, and it's probably the number one destination for my time machine To Do list. So I expected to really love this book, but it lacks strong narrative and is an uninspired read. It's hard to say how much of that is due to the writer, because it's a necessarily overwhelming period to cover. I did find that his musical descriptions were not helpful, and I ended up skipping sections on genres I didn't care about (well, one: jazz) because his writing couldn't engage me. I think anyone interested in this period who already has a strong familiarity with it would be better off reading more focused books rather than this overview. My favorite part of the book involved this quote from Robert Palmer, NY Times, responding to negative reviews of disco as "part of a general refusal to see disco partying as anything but mindless escapism when, in fact, a good case could be made for it as a vital tribal rite, an affirmation of high spirits and shared delight, a coming together to let loose that in no way ignores the problems of everyday life, but relieves them. Maybe we need a whole new aesthetics for the disco one that includes the ritual as well as the music."

  8. 5 out of 5

    Allan

    I've always had an interest in the NYC music scene in the 70s, and this book provided me with the perfect fayre for my trip to the Big Apple. In addition to detailing the burgeoning punk, disco and hip hop scenes at the time, this book also included very enjoyable accounts of the rise of the likes of Springsteen, as well as the classical, jazz and salsa scenes. The general social commentary and anecdotes personal to the author were also interesting and enjoyable. Not for everyone, but perfect for I've always had an interest in the NYC music scene in the 70s, and this book provided me with the perfect fayre for my trip to the Big Apple. In addition to detailing the burgeoning punk, disco and hip hop scenes at the time, this book also included very enjoyable accounts of the rise of the likes of Springsteen, as well as the classical, jazz and salsa scenes. The general social commentary and anecdotes personal to the author were also interesting and enjoyable. Not for everyone, but perfect for me!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sean

    This book has been sitting on my shelf for years, despite the fact that my friend, Ray, (who, himself is a rock/punk/jazz fanatic from NYC, coming of age in the 70s) has been haranguing me for not reading it yet. Ray was right. This book is fantastic. It’s so wide in breadth...and surprisingly deep. Rock, salsa, punk, classical, jazz, hip hop...it’s here...cultural moments and touchstones...disco...Koch...movies...movements...burning Bronx...Son of Sam...Scorsese...it’s all here. I loved it. I o This book has been sitting on my shelf for years, despite the fact that my friend, Ray, (who, himself is a rock/punk/jazz fanatic from NYC, coming of age in the 70s) has been haranguing me for not reading it yet. Ray was right. This book is fantastic. It’s so wide in breadth...and surprisingly deep. Rock, salsa, punk, classical, jazz, hip hop...it’s here...cultural moments and touchstones...disco...Koch...movies...movements...burning Bronx...Son of Sam...Scorsese...it’s all here. I loved it. I only wish there were more pictures and sone maps...and another volume. Spotify has some great playlists that cover the subject matter of the book, as well, and I can’t stop listening to them.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Patrick

    A history of five years of music in NYC, 1973 to 1978. I really liked this book and it was an excellent follow up to David Van Ronk's the Mayor of MacDougal Street. Tonally, they were both similar in that they were about heavily mythologized eras but looked at them with a refreshing level-headedness. Both were able to articulate what was great about their respective scenes without overpraising or being oversnarky about the negative. Although Hermes approaches these five years from a personal pe A history of five years of music in NYC, 1973 to 1978. I really liked this book and it was an excellent follow up to David Van Ronk's the Mayor of MacDougal Street. Tonally, they were both similar in that they were about heavily mythologized eras but looked at them with a refreshing level-headedness. Both were able to articulate what was great about their respective scenes without overpraising or being oversnarky about the negative. Although Hermes approaches these five years from a personal perspective, it isn't really a memoir. His personal perspective adds another layer of context to understanding this place during these years. Hermes tracks the history and intersection of the development of punk, salsa, loft jazz, minimalism, disco, rap, club djs, music journalism, graffitti, and probably some other stuff that i am leaving off this list during these five years against the geographic and cultural context of NYC at that time. I don't think he is breaking much new ground regarding any one of these threads--at least in terms of the broad events if not the specific details, I knew of much of this before reading the book. What was fascinating to me was that he weaves the threads together to give a sense of what each year was like. Hermes shows the relations, proximity and simultaniousness of events that are often treated in isolation. One of the reasons I was so moved by this book is that I lived through this era and it's about stuff I followed at the time as a teenager in Houston. I was born in 62 and grew up interested in music, new york city, art, etc. So i remember how this era seemed at the time in contrast to the mythology that has grown around it after. It's hard to convey the extent to which the early 70s felt like a great big washout from the aftermath of the 60s. There was such a drag from the 60s at the time--everyone just a bit older was always explaining how things had been much better back just a few years previous. Yet, there was plenty of fantastic stuff going on....if you were willing to be receptive to it. And that is sort of the big idea underlying the book that gets me so worked up--it is so important to not let the mythology of the past obscure what is going on in front of you right now. I liked how Hermes touches on the economic aspect to many of these lives. So many of these artists who produced iconic works received so little for them. I hadn't realized that Glass had to resume driving a cab after the production of Einstein at the Beach at the Met. The books is not always so strong at the sentence level--there are definitely passages that could use some reworking. Also, some of the context setting is a little too Remember the 70s! But, for me, the overview of the era made it easy to overlook that stuff. As I mentioned before, a great follow up to the David Van Ronk and an excellent companion to Please Kill Me, Patti Smith's Kids, and probably a handful of other books.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Tuck

    fairly good and entertaining re-cap of music in nyc in 1973-1977. the punk and rock portions won't reveal anything new to the punks out there, but the parts on loft scene and latin/salsa worlds are very nice, and steve reich and glass, and those dudes, and laurie anderson, those parts are interesting to me because i didn't know much about that. and the dj's too, herc, and siano. plus all the bars and clubs and storefronts, and parks and youth centers and lofts and theaters where music was heard fairly good and entertaining re-cap of music in nyc in 1973-1977. the punk and rock portions won't reveal anything new to the punks out there, but the parts on loft scene and latin/salsa worlds are very nice, and steve reich and glass, and those dudes, and laurie anderson, those parts are interesting to me because i didn't know much about that. and the dj's too, herc, and siano. plus all the bars and clubs and storefronts, and parks and youth centers and lofts and theaters where music was heard was nice to think about. it only makes sense that nyc, manhattan specifically, was a huge area of innovation and art. the summation too reinforces that idea that in 20teens huge amounts of art and music are coming from nyc. but really? if you did a per capita new bands new music comparison betweeen stillwater oklahoma and brooklyn new york you would find that oklahoma has WAY more bands than that oh so great city of nyc. and hey, it's not even a fair fight, 48,000 dumb ass okies, rednecks, freaks, and cowboys vs 9.3 million sophisticates, but we win :) i forgot to say, the majority of stories and factoids are about punk: ramones, suicide, ny dolls, television, patti smith (and lots of little stories about bruce sprinsteen, just because he supported her so much and came over to the island a lot), richard hell and voidoids, heartbreakers, jonathan richmond, john cale, wayne county (of all people),

  12. 4 out of 5

    Robert Boyd

    The conceit of this book is a bit strange--that five years in New York City (1973 to 1977) were unbelievably creative years in all musical genres. But he works hard to prove it, writing about the pre-history of hip hop, the rise of punk, the maturation and peak of salsa, the "loft jazz" scene, the origin and rise of disco, the triumph of minimalism, and the emergence of particular musical artists like Patti Smith and Bruce Springsteen. The thing is, so many of these things were unrelated--hip ho The conceit of this book is a bit strange--that five years in New York City (1973 to 1977) were unbelievably creative years in all musical genres. But he works hard to prove it, writing about the pre-history of hip hop, the rise of punk, the maturation and peak of salsa, the "loft jazz" scene, the origin and rise of disco, the triumph of minimalism, and the emergence of particular musical artists like Patti Smith and Bruce Springsteen. The thing is, so many of these things were unrelated--hip hop wasn't really noticed by anyone outside of the Bronx until after 1977. Salsa was ethnically and linguistically isolated from the rest of New York. The only people who really had their toes in all scenes were recording engineers and session musicians. That said, this is an entertaining read. By keeping fairly strict to a chronology, he is constantly shifting scenes--here at CBGB's, then suddenly at Fania Records, then suddenly at a concert by Meredith Monk. The accumulation of detail is impressive, and he makes the narratives compelling. So even if his thesis is a bit bogus, I'd suggest that a music lover will enjoy this, even if you aren't already familiar with the multitude of musical genres that Hermes writes about.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    I didn't finish this one. I was looking forward to reading (or listening to) this one because the 70s in New York seemed to be the perfect time and place for interesting innovative music. It was an exciting time in the arts. Unfortunately, this book read a bit like a wikipedia article and somehow squashed the excitement of the music scene. It took effort to pay attention. Maybe it's that I already read Patti Smith's Just Kids, so I know how well the story can be told. I'm convinced that Will Her I didn't finish this one. I was looking forward to reading (or listening to) this one because the 70s in New York seemed to be the perfect time and place for interesting innovative music. It was an exciting time in the arts. Unfortunately, this book read a bit like a wikipedia article and somehow squashed the excitement of the music scene. It took effort to pay attention. Maybe it's that I already read Patti Smith's Just Kids, so I know how well the story can be told. I'm convinced that Will Hermes' writing for Rolling Stone is probably very good. He has an obvious passion for his subject and I believe that this would have more impact on a shorter scale. It just wasn't interesting enough.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jacob

    Although I ate this up, I can't imagine too many others will. A long, long list of facts, trivia, and history about tons of great music and bands. Surprisingly little theme-making or any larger unifying thread runs through all the disparate music discussed. I think Hermes' point is supposed to be about some intangible magic of New York in the 70s -- but he never really makes the point and besides, I can't go for that. Although I ate this up, I can't imagine too many others will. A long, long list of facts, trivia, and history about tons of great music and bands. Surprisingly little theme-making or any larger unifying thread runs through all the disparate music discussed. I think Hermes' point is supposed to be about some intangible magic of New York in the 70s -- but he never really makes the point and besides, I can't go for that.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Joe Drape

    Very readable and insightful snapshot of the New York music scene in the 1970s. Hermes shows how punk, salsa, hip-hop and good old rock n roll were taking flight in dive music bars across the city. Great portraits of Bruce Springsteen, Patti Smith and the Talking Heads in their formative years. I'm a casual music enthusiasts and this held my attention. Really enjoyed it. Very readable and insightful snapshot of the New York music scene in the 1970s. Hermes shows how punk, salsa, hip-hop and good old rock n roll were taking flight in dive music bars across the city. Great portraits of Bruce Springsteen, Patti Smith and the Talking Heads in their formative years. I'm a casual music enthusiasts and this held my attention. Really enjoyed it.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Buhs

    Carefully curated. Yes, I realize "curated" has become the word choice for pretentious d-bags, and there's some of that here, no doubt. But it is also the appropriate word for museum work, and there's some of _that_ here, too. The book is about music in New York City during the 1970s, but the passion, the detail . . . the curation . . . could have been about any number of cultural forms from the same period, cherished by the generation that grew up with it. Even as I was reading about punk and sa Carefully curated. Yes, I realize "curated" has become the word choice for pretentious d-bags, and there's some of that here, no doubt. But it is also the appropriate word for museum work, and there's some of _that_ here, too. The book is about music in New York City during the 1970s, but the passion, the detail . . . the curation . . . could have been about any number of cultural forms from the same period, cherished by the generation that grew up with it. Even as I was reading about punk and salsa and hip-hop and free jazz and reinvigorated classical music, I could not help thinking about the movie that came out just as this story ended: Star Wars, and all the people who tenderly nurture its legend. As Luc Sante notes on the back of the book blurb, the most radical and interesting choice Hermes made was to simply arrange the various stories he told in chronological order. And so we get the tale of how hip-hop was born, and how rock and roll reinvented itself in the wake of the 70s as poetic bombast, as punk, and as the offspring of both of those, of the beginnings of salsa, of the attempts to move jazz forward after the experiments of Miles Davis and Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane, and how Philip Glass and his circle gave new life to the stultified classical music. When presented this way, in order, the connections between the various musical evolutions becomes clear in ways that are otherwise hard to see. There rock and roll kids were each going to the other's shows, and recording at the same studios, and so there was some wild mixing. (For what it's worth, Hermes's heart seems to be most in this story, but he is admirable in not giving short shrift to the other narrative lines.) Early hip-hop DJs were eclectic, mixing in rock tracks and salsa ones--salsa then being created in the Spanish-speaking parts of New York. Jazz musicians working the loft scene and those with more classical inclinations both turned to popular forms to find new ways forward. There are examples of sessions between them and the rock n rollers that show the lines of influence radiated like blaster shots from Star Wars. Hermes has clearly done his homework. He knows these stories in intimate detail, from various biographies, autobiographies, interviews, and extensive reviewing of old newspapers. One gets the feel for life in the city during the mid-1970s, and the creative ferment--creative possibilities. He was around during this time, too, just entering his teen years. (Which is when, of course, these kind of pop cultural changes most impact us; the old joke: When was the golden age of science fiction? Twelve. In this case, when was the golden age of music? Twelve.) And Hermes inserts himself into the story here and there, but the intrusions don't feel, well, intrusive, but, rather, informative: another voice int he poly-vocal song to New York City. I would have liked to hear more about the mechanics of the music making and song crafting--as in Azerrad's "Our Band Could Be Your Life"--but Hermes prefers the biographical, and he's got the material to make the stories work. And make no mistake, this is a hymn to New York City, a love song. Which is where the limitations of the book--such as they are--are most noticeable: the problems inextricably bound to the curating sensibility. New York City was, undoubtedly, an important center of the musical changes he documents. But it was not the only place, and so there are weird contortions in the narrative to acknowledge Philadelphia, Detroit, and Cleveland as foci of music in the 1970s. And London--indeed, London becomes so central that Hermes has to leave the friendly confines of New York City and travel across the Atlantic to spend time there so that his story makes any kind of sense. There are other weird malformations of the story, too. Alternately, Hermes has to berate some musical forms as passé, and then praise them as influential. So Marvin Gaye style funk is too watered down, but also an influence on the early DJs. Summer of Love rock n roll and Woodstock are weak tea, but also, when needed, proof of some particular character's commitment to pop music, that they would travel to Woodstock. The Band is great and also out of step with the times. Thurston Moore shows up in various places, but why? Hermes's is both working against the rockism tradition, but also trapped inside of it. Some of the paragons of rock--Led Zeppelin, in particular--are powerful but also tired. Rather, he looks for authenticity in his beloved New York City. He finds best those acts that eschew sentimentality, that are hard as nails--the way New York City is. He doesn't seem to see what Michael Foley would (later) point out: that Punk Rock was not just a reaction against the free love hippie movement, but mourned its death because the punks believed in those ideals and were frustrated to see them die. The celebration of the unsentimental is reflected in Hermes's curiously parochial vision of New York City. For all that the book mentions the City's history, it is a rather conventional view of the time: the city was falling apart, given over to drug addicts and prostitutes, on the edge of bankruptcy. He name checks Charles Bronson and his Death Wish movies, and, really, his book is just an obverse view of the city: New York was falling apart, which allowed creative DIY-types to invent new forms of music without interference. Hermes can sometimes be ironic about the situation, and poke fun at it--but only insofar as he is also part of it, the way Star Wars fans can make fun of the movie's horrible dialogue, but take offense when outsiders do the same. It is a conventional view of the city, and the book limited, to an extent, by its relentless focus on New York, but the real surprise is how defensive, almost pleading it could be. This is not Saul Steinberg's View of the World from 9th Avenue hubris, but almost a demand that New York City be seen as the equivalent of grunge-era Seattle or Austin, not the world's capital, but a cool, shabby place. Hermes spends time noting how various stars passed through New York City, or came there from else where to reinvent themselves, as though this were news, as though New York city was not a long-time magnet for artists. And the book ends with a straining description of 2001--almost thirty years out from his main focus--and a description of Jayzee's "New York City" that emphasizes how it is about the Empire State and the rapper himself from the area, almost as if New York needs Jayzee's street cred. Despite these limitations--heck, maybe because of them--the book is still a passionate recreation of a time and place in musical history, one that is well known, but still worth revisiting. Just like a Gen-Xer rewatching Star Wars: we all know the lines, we all know the stories behind the movies, but it still somehow touches us. We just can't seem to get enough.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Richard Kearney

    Often fascinating, sometimes frustrating, Will Hermes' "Love Goes to Buildings on Fire: Five Years in New York that Changed Music Forever" offers a chronicle of several important music scenes in New York City during the mid-1970s (1973-1977, to be exact). Organized into five chapters, each covering a single year, Hermes discusses New York rock'n'roll, punk. salsa, jazz, classical, disco, and hip-hop through a selective focus on key figures and locales. A Queens kid too young to witness most of th Often fascinating, sometimes frustrating, Will Hermes' "Love Goes to Buildings on Fire: Five Years in New York that Changed Music Forever" offers a chronicle of several important music scenes in New York City during the mid-1970s (1973-1977, to be exact). Organized into five chapters, each covering a single year, Hermes discusses New York rock'n'roll, punk. salsa, jazz, classical, disco, and hip-hop through a selective focus on key figures and locales. A Queens kid too young to witness most of the events he discusses here, Hermes grew up to be a music journalist and critic. He argues at the outset of the book, "there remains a myth that the early- to mid-70s...was a cultural dead zone," and in the subsequent chapters he aims to dispel this myth once and for all. Hermes is clearly on solid ground in making his case. One might reasonably characterize the early years of rock'n'roll and its associated musical styles (1950s-1960s) as a series of struggles for greater cultural freedom in a Cold War environment that would otherwise have denied them. The labor movement's vigorous, sustained battles for social and economic justice were probably the greatest factors in the achievement of widespread economic prosperity in the postwar years, and these in turn helped create conditions whereby a multitude of freedom movements could also make progress through the end of the 1960s. Together the civil rights, black power, third-wave feminist, gay rights, and ethnic nationalist movements struck major blows against the empire at home, such that by the time Hermes begins his narrative the central issue and challenge for up-and-coming musicians had shifted subtly but significantly to the uses of that freedom, with all the creative possibilities this suggested. The human geography of New York City in the 1970s was also well-suited for new musical ferment. Hermes frequently reminds us that the city had fallen on hard fiscal times during these years, but these woes also sustained several low-rent enclaves in Manhattan where artistic bohemias could emerge and flourish for a time. Hermes devotes much of "Love Goes..." to the scenes that sprang up around CBGB's in the Bowery and Sam and Bea Rivers' Studio RivBea in NoHo, among other key spots, places that would be impossible to establish today amid the sky-high rents of Manhattan real estate. Young musicians of the ongoing baby boom generation continued to arrive in New York, often inspired by the freedom struggles of the era and with heightened expectations of what they might accomplish in terms of both artistic and even polular success. It is also worth noting that government and philanthropic support for the arts in cities like New York was still a real if declining factor, particularly for several jazz and classical musicians and composers. A reinvigorated music press was also on board in these years to help call attention to new music. During the early 1970s Village Voice music editor Robert Christgau hired a number of young writers with a passion for the different musical styles thriving in New York, and there were several newer publishing venues like the SoHo Weekly News, Latin NY Magazine, Punk Magazine, and others covering music that old guard New York critics either ignored or dismissed. The reporting and criticism coming out of these publications was an important means of getting the word out about musicians who often had difficulty getting recording contracts, label support, or radio play. Despite the enormous popularity it eventually enjoyed, rock'n'roll music often drew its most potent strength from songwriters, performers, and promoters who came from the social margins, from places where a musical vision could be developed in relative freedom (though at the cost of initial obscurity). Hermes deals with many types of music in "Love Goes...," but all of them have in common these 'outside' wellsprings of inspiration. In several cases, "outsiders" came from the outer boroughs, as with the Ramones (Queens) or Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five (Bronx), while in other cases the musicians are migrants from other parts of the country or - as in the case of Afro-Cuban salsa - from outside the U.S. In Hermes account, the mid-70s were the years when all of the styles evolved into the forms that would either propel them to some form of popular success or - at minimum - give them an integrity sufficient to pass on to the next generation. Hermes structures this complex narrative by using a fairly strict chronological approach, with chapters following musical developments during the course of each year, although he digresses in several places for a more analytical discussion of a given topic. While he tries to give each of the six primary musical styles he traces roughly equal attention, it's clear from the start of "Love Goes..." that his main interest is in rock'n'roll and so his treatment of the careers of the New York Dolls, Patti Smith, Bruce Springsteen, the Ramones, Suicide, Television, and Talking Heads are the most fully realized sections of the book, and from these we get the most sensitive and intimate human portraits interwoven with reflections on the music and its significance. By comparison, the sections on salsa, classical, and avant-garde jazz are more detached and remote, if not quite perfunctory, in their tone. They read more like an obligation than as an integral part of the narrative, which is unfortunate, as the main audience for the book is probably less likely to be familiar with these styles. Hermes has several interesting stories to tell in each section, but only the early hip-hop and disco sections approach the rock'n'roll, making the book uneven. The book is further weakened by a number of irrelevant passages describing contemporary events that have nothing to do with the main story. Here Hermes could have used some better editing. Despite these weaknesses, however, "Love Goes to Buildings on Fire" offers enough wonderful vignettes and critical insights into the centrality of New York's music scenes in the 1970s to be of interest to anyone curious about this most important social, cultural, and musical milieu.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    Covering five years in the musical life of New York City, from 1972-1977, Hermes makes a case for an astounding primacy of creativity all in one place at one time. Willie Colon, Steve Reich, David Murray, the Ramones, Patti Smith, Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five, Hector Lavoe, Phillip Glass, Talking Heads, Eddie Palmieri, Rashied Ali - so many of the most important musicians in American history were all inventing new things while living and playing in New York in the 70s. Hermes offers tons Covering five years in the musical life of New York City, from 1972-1977, Hermes makes a case for an astounding primacy of creativity all in one place at one time. Willie Colon, Steve Reich, David Murray, the Ramones, Patti Smith, Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five, Hector Lavoe, Phillip Glass, Talking Heads, Eddie Palmieri, Rashied Ali - so many of the most important musicians in American history were all inventing new things while living and playing in New York in the 70s. Hermes offers tons of anecdotes, inserts some historical details to set the scene, and makes me want to hear hundreds of records I've either loved for years or not discovered yet. One of the best music history books I've read.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Dominique

    So bad. I hate the way it’s written.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jack Silbert

    My friend Alirio said, "You gotta read this book!" And then "Have you read it yet? I'll loan you my copy." And finally, he gave me a copy for my birthday. It's that special level of enthusiasm that goes beyond enjoying something to making sure that everyone else will enjoy it as well. And we who are obsessed with music are a special subset of the passion-sharers. Starting the book (I knew I had to move it up in my on-deck circle, or Alirio would never let up), I quickly understood his proselytizi My friend Alirio said, "You gotta read this book!" And then "Have you read it yet? I'll loan you my copy." And finally, he gave me a copy for my birthday. It's that special level of enthusiasm that goes beyond enjoying something to making sure that everyone else will enjoy it as well. And we who are obsessed with music are a special subset of the passion-sharers. Starting the book (I knew I had to move it up in my on-deck circle, or Alirio would never let up), I quickly understood his proselytizing. The book, for those who don't know, is a history of music in New York City from 1973 to 1977. So we start at New Years 1973 and it's a thrilling "you are there" rush: New York Dolls and Modern Lovers sharing a bill, Laurie Anderson trying out some performance art, Springsteen auditioning at Columbia Records, etc. etc. Stories keep criss-crossing, familiar names crossing paths at the earliest points in their careers, important events often happening on the same night just a subway ride away. I was having this "this is the greatest book I've ever read" sort of feel. Eventually, my booklust cooled just slightly. And I remembered asking my friend Therese on my birthday if she'd read the book. She said she'd started it, read a chunk, was going to get back to it.... Here's the thing: This book attempts to accomplish a whole lot, and it succeeds. But in covering the overlapping tales of punk, rock, avant jazz, disco, experimental music, and the earliest glimmers of hip-hop, it's the rarest of readers who is going to equally interested in all of the genres. Sure, it's never less than compelling (for the same reasons that I sometimes force myself to read articles in MOJO that don't immediately jump out at me), but maybe for a couple of pages you're secretly wanting to know what the Ramones are going to do next. I'll admit to being mostly in the rock/punk camp. And I think author Will Hermes would make the same admission. In an interesting format decision, Hermes weaves himself into the narrative whenever possible, the music-loving teen from Fresh Meadows, Queens, coming into Manhattan for concerts. I have to imagine if an early iteration of this music was Hermes' rock-and-roll memoir. Whatever the case, he doesn't overdo it, and it gives him added credibility in telling the story. However, Hermes tips his hand in terms of loyalty to the rockers. Young Will never shows up at one of DJ Herc's turntable battles, for example. Still, it's a terrific book, well worth the time for anyone with a great passion for music and a curiosity about that "Ford to City: Drop Dead" era in New York. If just indie rock is more your bag, there's no shame, and Our Band Could Be Your Life by Michael Azerrad is the book to pick up. Though I hear good things about the Yo La Tengo and K Records books too....

  21. 4 out of 5

    Craig Werner

    Fun and informative. Hermes does a terrific job of chronicling the many different musical scenes that co-existed and sometimes cross-pollinated in New York City between 1973 and 1977: punk, hip-hop, salsa, loft jazz, Rich-Glass minimalism, Springsteen, Gorecki, and on and on. If he missed one, I didn't catch it. He appreciates each of the scenes in its own terms and doesn't condescend to anybody. My time in NY both slightly predates and slightly post-dates the focus of this book, but I recognize Fun and informative. Hermes does a terrific job of chronicling the many different musical scenes that co-existed and sometimes cross-pollinated in New York City between 1973 and 1977: punk, hip-hop, salsa, loft jazz, Rich-Glass minimalism, Springsteen, Gorecki, and on and on. If he missed one, I didn't catch it. He appreciates each of the scenes in its own terms and doesn't condescend to anybody. My time in NY both slightly predates and slightly post-dates the focus of this book, but I recognized many of the clubs and streets his characters walk. As is almost always the case when I read bout the 70s, I feel an urge to go back and listen to Television, The New York Dolls, The Slits, Richard Hell and the Voidoids and the countless other punk bands, but I've learned that I like the descriptions more than the music, so I'll stick with Patti Smith (one of Hermes' favorites, deservedly) and Rocket to Russia by Queens' finest, The Ramones. I compiled a fairly lengthy list of salsa and loft jazz CDs I want to revisit. The only thing that keeps this from being a five star book is that Hermes doesn't really have a whole lot to say about What It All Meant. Given the success rate of music books which do attempt to answer the Big Questions, that's probably just as well. A very strong four stars. All y'all music people on my list who haven't already read it, should.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Brian Gruber

    Essentially a long, largely chronological list of facts about musicians in New York in the time period, occasionally interrupted by personal, memoir-style anecdotes and bits about music journalism. There seems to be some hope that the sheer mass of information will cause a larger statement to emerge, but it never really does. Given the way I responded to the coverage of punk, new wave and hip hop (the histories of which I'm already familiar with in this period) versus the coverage of jazz, disco Essentially a long, largely chronological list of facts about musicians in New York in the time period, occasionally interrupted by personal, memoir-style anecdotes and bits about music journalism. There seems to be some hope that the sheer mass of information will cause a larger statement to emerge, but it never really does. Given the way I responded to the coverage of punk, new wave and hip hop (the histories of which I'm already familiar with in this period) versus the coverage of jazz, disco and salsa (with which I'm largely unfamiliar) I would say that this book only works if you already know what it says. Otherwise, it just seems like the list of recording and performance dates it mostly is. The frequent superlatives are frankly unconvincing. Saying that a piece of music is great doesn't make me think it is so. The memoir sections felt self-indulgent rather than relatable, and I'm from the exact same neighborhood as the author. Those sections also seemed to arise out of nowhere. The one place where the writing seems to find purpose is when Hermes writes about music journalists; I found myself wishing I was reading a book that focused on them instead of one in which they were merely a sidebar.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Rod

    This was a very strange and ultimately disappointing "book," if it can even be labeled as such. The narrative is constructed almost entirely chronologically, with an almost complete absence of style or authorial presence. The author pops up very occasionally to remember what he was doing on certain dates, but it's mostly a series of short sections about what was happening on the New York music scene between 1973 and 1977. I suppose the author might say that the events are self-explanatory and th This was a very strange and ultimately disappointing "book," if it can even be labeled as such. The narrative is constructed almost entirely chronologically, with an almost complete absence of style or authorial presence. The author pops up very occasionally to remember what he was doing on certain dates, but it's mostly a series of short sections about what was happening on the New York music scene between 1973 and 1977. I suppose the author might say that the events are self-explanatory and that they speak for themselves, and it was indeed a remarkable time, but if you're going to subtitle your book "Five Years in New York That Changed Music Forever," I think you owe your readers some interpretive work that explains how and why and in what ways that is the case. As it stands, the book seems to function as some kind of gazetteer or reference work. It's full of fascinating facts and confluences, but Hermes does nothing with any of it. He just lays it out, very drily. This must be deliberate, but that doesn't make it any more satisfying. These are, in effect, the notes for a book that never got written. I don't even know how many stars to give something like this, because it isn't really a book at all. Dammit.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Rupert

    I can't rave enough about this book. It covers all types of music exploding in New York from 1973 to 1978. The city was falling apart, so rent and buildings were cheap and artists built from the ruins. Punk and New Wave was starting up, jazz musicians like Sam Rivers and Ornette Coleman were booking shows at their loft spaces, Kool Herc was scratching vinyl for the first time, the Latin scene was selling out Madison Square Garden and Philip Glass held a legendary first US staging of "Einstein on I can't rave enough about this book. It covers all types of music exploding in New York from 1973 to 1978. The city was falling apart, so rent and buildings were cheap and artists built from the ruins. Punk and New Wave was starting up, jazz musicians like Sam Rivers and Ornette Coleman were booking shows at their loft spaces, Kool Herc was scratching vinyl for the first time, the Latin scene was selling out Madison Square Garden and Philip Glass held a legendary first US staging of "Einstein on the Beach" and put himself $80,000 in debt. Hermes writes about each genre and all the genre mixing going on with passion and first person credibility. Reads like a great novel and will reward you with new knowledge even if you know this time and its music well. He also throws in short paragraphs of New York timeline history that help anchor the musical events. Best book on music I've read since Boyd's White Bicycle or Shelton's critical biography of Dylan.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    Being a fan of music, I have always sough out new (to my ears) and different music to listen to. I love all types of music and will give everything a listen from the simplest straight up pop song to complex free jazz, experimental noise that I don't understand to just something with a good beat as well as songs in a language I don't understand. This books takes five years out of the New York music scene from 1973 to 1977 and shares the story of the beginnings of salsa and hip hop, supposedly the Being a fan of music, I have always sough out new (to my ears) and different music to listen to. I love all types of music and will give everything a listen from the simplest straight up pop song to complex free jazz, experimental noise that I don't understand to just something with a good beat as well as songs in a language I don't understand. This books takes five years out of the New York music scene from 1973 to 1977 and shares the story of the beginnings of salsa and hip hop, supposedly the end of rock and beginning of punk, the end of an era in jazz and the beginning of a different type of jazz. I found out there was a Latin musical called Hommy inspired by the Who's Tommy and I will be able to discover bands that I missed out on the first time around such as Suicide and Television and rediscover music that I haven't heard in awhile such as Henry Threadgill. Any music fan will enjoy this book.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Phyllis

    After hearing an interview with the author, I was excited to read this book and delve into the various facets of New York City's music scene in the early to mid 70s interlaced with Will Hermes' anecdotes. However, the execution suffers. The book is organized chronologically with a few paragraphs dedicated to an important song, album, or other event. So, you might read about an artist putting out a record on page 71 and then not hear about them again until page 208. I never felt as though there w After hearing an interview with the author, I was excited to read this book and delve into the various facets of New York City's music scene in the early to mid 70s interlaced with Will Hermes' anecdotes. However, the execution suffers. The book is organized chronologically with a few paragraphs dedicated to an important song, album, or other event. So, you might read about an artist putting out a record on page 71 and then not hear about them again until page 208. I never felt as though there was enough depth to any part of each tidbit and there weren't enough personal observations from the author to really tie it together. I don't know if the book would have been better if it were organized differently or if the book tried to cover too much, but it isn't one I can recommend, unfortunately.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Joseph

    I could charitably attribute the scattershot presentation to an attempt at emulating Walter Benjamin's "constellations" method, but Hermes ain't no Benjamin, and it reads like the ramblings of someone with untreated ADHD. The book is most interesting when it contradicts its own basic theses and allows itself the development of context and perspective--which is too rare. Worth checking out from the library so that one can photocopy its 6-page discography and 22-page index, and use them as resourc I could charitably attribute the scattershot presentation to an attempt at emulating Walter Benjamin's "constellations" method, but Hermes ain't no Benjamin, and it reads like the ramblings of someone with untreated ADHD. The book is most interesting when it contradicts its own basic theses and allows itself the development of context and perspective--which is too rare. Worth checking out from the library so that one can photocopy its 6-page discography and 22-page index, and use them as resources for building playlists on Spotify.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jacob Wren

    As I was reading this, from time to time I would wonder if forty years from now anyone could or would write a similar book about music being made (somewhere in the world) right now. For some reason I find it almost impossible to imagine.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jack Mcpherson

    There are only so many books you can read about this period in music before you start to hear the same stories. This isn't Will Hermes' fault but it killed the book for me. If you haven't read any of the approx. 500 books out there about 1970s New York, this would be a great one to start with. There are only so many books you can read about this period in music before you start to hear the same stories. This isn't Will Hermes' fault but it killed the book for me. If you haven't read any of the approx. 500 books out there about 1970s New York, this would be a great one to start with.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Danna

    Oh, gosh. Thanks to a Facebook friend, I know what I want for my birthday.

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