Apocalypse Jukebox: The End of the World in American Popular Music

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Soft Skull Press, Dec 23, 2008 - Music - 256 pages
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From its indefinite beginnings through its broad commercialization and endless reinterpretation, American rock-and-roll music has been preoccupied with an end-of-the-world mentality that extends through the whole of American popular music. In Apocalypse Jukebox, Edward Whitelock and David Janssen trace these connections through American music genres, uncovering a mix of paranoia and hope that characterizes so much of the nation’s history.
From the book’s opening scene, set in the American South during a terrifying 1833 meteor shower, the sense of doom is both palpable and inescapable; a deep foreboding that shadows every subsequent development in American popular music and, as Whitelock and Janssen contend, stands as a key to understanding and explicating America itself.
Whitelock and Janssen examine the diversity of apocalyptic influences within North American recorded music, focusing in particular upon a number of influential performers, including Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, John Coltrane, Devo, R.E.M., Sleater-Kinney, and Green Day. In Apocalypse Jukebox, Whitelock and Janssen reveal apocalypse as a permanent and central part of the American character while establishing rock-and-roll as a true reflection of that character.

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About the author (2008)

Dr. Edward Whitelock spent most of the year 1978 stealing and hoarding his grandmother’s meds in preparation for suicide. Why? Just the usual story: he was a poor, clumsy, socially awkward kid whose daily life was comprised of the slow, lonely, seemingly unending torture of the middle-school outcast. Then, Devo appeared on Saturday Night Live. Everything changed; the future was revealed: The geeks would inherit the earth.

He is now a Full Professor of English at Gordon College. He earned his PhD from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 1997. He has published poems in over a dozen literary journals as well as numerous articles in professional journals and anthologies.

Dr. David Janssen grew up in the mountains of the Northwest with blisters on his fingers resulting from his religious devotion to a cheap acoustic guitar. With visions of rock and roll apotheosis dancing in his head, he practiced his faith in his bedroom with Chuck Berry, John Fogerty, and Johnny Cash, copying chords and solos like a rosary. He was told in a dream that he would be the punk Bob Dylan. He ardently pursued his destiny into twenty-something adulthood until one dark day when his guitar and amp were stolen, which he read as a providential sign to enroll in graduate school.

He is now an Associate Professor of English at Gordon College. He earned his PhD from the University of Georgia in 1999. He is the associate editor for Studies in Popular Culture. He has also published essays and presented conference papers on English literature, composition studies, popular culture studies. His essay “The Simpsons, South Park, and the Satiric Tradition,” published in Studies in Popular Culture in October 2003, received that Association’s award for the best essay published for that year.

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