Babylon's Burning: From Punk to Grunge

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Canongate, 2007 - Music - 694 pages
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Destined to become a classic on the subject alongside Legs McNeil's Please Kill Me, Babylon's Burning is a comprehensive, groundbreaking, and definitive account of one of the most influential and lasting music movements in history, one that ironically was built on self-annihilation. In August 1977, just a few months before the Sex Pistols' Never Mind the Bollocks was released to worldwide controlled chaos, Johnny Rotten commented on Elvis's death, saying, "In a way I don't really feel that [his death] has anything to do with me. . . . He became everything we're trying to react against. . . . I don't want to become a fat, rich, sick, reclusive rock star. . . . Elvis was dead before he died, and his gut was so big it cast a shadow over rock and roll." Thus was launched the first potent salvo in punk rock's vainglorious history. In his provocative and definitive history, Clinton Heylin asserts, among other things, that real punk rock bands don't make second records. He finds the origins of punk in a small circle of critics and social misfits who defined the aesthetic before the music even existed. Writers like Nick Kent, Ben Edmonds, and, most significantly, Lester Bangs reacted against rock as it had evolved by the mid-'70s, and argued for something altogether freer, younger, louder, and more anarchic. As the words, pictures, and fashions depicted in magazines spread, bands sprouted in places like Cleveland, Detroit, Los Angeles, Brisbane, and San Francisco in addition to the commonly known movements in New York, London, and Manchester. From early progenitors like Suicide, the New York Dolls, and Patti Smith in New York to Rocket from the Tombs in Cleveland and the Saints in Australia, Heylin brings to life the strands of a global art form that birthed simultaneously. Punk eschewed conventional lyrics and promoted a gutteral musicality, yet contained a keen pop sensibility. Heylin tells the story of the Sex Pistols' meteoric rise and fall, and the bands who legitimately took up the mantle (with evolved underlying principles) in the eighties, nineties, and up to Kurt Cobain's untimely death, which heralded the end of an era.

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Babylon's Burning: From Punk to Grunge

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Heylin goes for the gusto in this expansion of his seminal New York punk roundup,From the Velvets to the Voidoids . Beginning with the death throes of the Stooges (and the myriad young rogues rising ... Read full review


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About the author (2007)

Clinton Heylin is recognized as the world's leading Bob Dylan scholar, as well as an authority on folk music and popular music in general. He is also known for his acclaimed studies of American punk (From the Velvets to the Voidoids); rock bootlegging (Bootleg!)--Record Collector's book of the year in 1994; and Dylan's studio recordings (Dylan: The Recording Sessions), nominated for the Ralph J. Gleason Award in 1996. He edited The Penguin Book of Rock and Roll Writing and is the general editor of Schirmer's Classic Rock Albums series. A native of Manchester, he now makes his home in Somerset, England.

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