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All Shook Up: How Rock 'n' Roll Changed America (Pivotal Moments in American History) Paperback – December 9, 2004

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Product Details

  • Series: Pivotal Moments in American History
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (December 9, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195177495
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195177497
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #132,498 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"One of the first to do rock-and-roll the significant service of locating it within the cultural and political maelstrom it helped to create. Altschuler does so with a good ear for the music and a deft hand, making this account a pleasure to read and ponder. He is not a flashy writer, but so much the better for his storytelling, which shows intelligence and narrative discipline.... Altschuler surpasses the admittedly sparsely populated field in the nuanced way he places the music within the conflicts--racial, sexual, commercial, and political--that it variously helped to encourage, exacerbate, and (occasionally) ameliorate. Altschuler tells a story of liberation and fear, of inspiration and exploitation, of repeated attempts to homogenize a form of cultural expression that sprang from somewhere so authentic in Western youth culture that it proved bigger and more powerful than any combination of its myriad opponents."--Eric Alterman, The Atlantic Monthly

"A well thought out, well researched work, peppered with evocative archival photos and full of terse, sharp comment and considerable feel for the music and its performers."--Toronto Globe and Mail

"In All Shook Up, Glenn C. Altschuler vividly demonstrates that Rock 'n' Roll--as music, lyric, and gesture--provides the guide, the Ariadne's thread, through the labyrinth of social, cultural, generational, and sexual upheaval that was post-World War II America."--Kevin Starr, author of Americans and the California Dream

"While incorporating extensive research and quotes from the most astute rock music critics, past and present, he manages to craft prose that will suit a general audience."--Library Journal

"A book rich with shocking and humorous anecdotes.... Also offers insight into the often complicated racial and legal issues surrounding rock 'n' roll in the 1950s."--AP Weekly

"A soulful, scholarly, and thoroughly fascinating examination of the transforming power of rock and roll in American culture. Brandishing the chops of a loving fan and a scrupulous historian, Altschuler nimbly tracks the rock-propelled revolutions in manners and morality that first rumbled forth from the 1950s, a decade that seems ever more the epoch of Elvis not Eisenhower. His is a finely tuned, perfectly pitched appreciation of the rhythms of a music that became not only a soundtrack but a heartbeat to American life."--Thomas Doherty, Brandeis University

"Includes enough tantalizing tales along with thumbnail sketches of the forefathers and key moments from the annals of pioneer rock to keep the narrative lively and flowing.... This PhD is such an enthusiastic fan, my '50s generation awards him our ultimate accolade: he's obviously a 'Good Rockin' Doc.'"--Miami Herald

"A fascinating and important look at a pivotal decade in American history.... Put on those old 45s and curl up for an enlightening and eminently readable story."--PW Daily

"A remarkably thorough short history of the birth of rock and roll and its cultural contexts. Glenn Altschuler manages to weave the stories of musicians and record producers, cultural critics and legislators, psychologists and sociologists, businessmen and teenaged consumers into a lively, astute narrative of cultural change. The result is not just an especially informative history of rock, but an important cultural history of the 'long' 1950s."--Tom Lutz, author of Crying: A Natural and Cultural History of Tears and American Nervousness, 1903: An Anecdotal History

About the Author

Glenn Altschuler is Thomas and Dorothy Litwin Professor of American Studies and Dean of the School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions at Cornell University. He is the author of several books on American history and popular culture, including Changing Channels: America in T.V. Guide.

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 45 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 11, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I just finished reading, "All Shook Up." Although some of Altschuler's sociological themes are very interesting, particularly those dealing with the lingering effects of rock and roll on white America, his discussions of the formative years of rock and roll and the seminal crosssover influences are vey weak, and from my perspective, inaccurate and superficial. Altschuler would like the reader to believe that it was primarily big name individuals (Presley, Berry, Boone, Nelson, etc.) who were the most influential in bringing rock and roll to the general culture. Although individual musicians played an important role in the evolution of rock and roll, it was the early rhythm and blues and doo wop groups that provided the most important and earliest crossover influences. There are many other books dealing with the early influence of such groups, but in this book, they are given relatively little attention compared to individual singers. Also, having grown up in the forties and fifties in Brooklyn, New York, my recollections are quite different from the accounting presented in this book. By the time Presley, Berry and other individuals mentioned in this book arrived on the scene, the crossover process was well underway. What happened before Presley, etc. is a critical part of the historical record and warrants much more attention than is presented in this book. In reading this book, I had the same feeling that I have had visiting the Rock and Roll of Fame - the creative and historical influences of rock and roll on our culture are lost, relatively speaking, to name recognition occurring several generations down the road.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"All Shook Up - How Rock `N' Roll Changed America" by Glenn Altschuler is a terrific and well documented book on the seismic social, sexual and racial changes in the United States that was both reflected and precipitated by a new music sweeping the nation in the 1950s and 1960s. This new music with its roots deeply entrenched in largely black American R&B and Gospel literally shook a nation that wanted to believe itself innocent but was undergoing rapid change with the return of combat vets, the ensuing Baby Boom and the suburbanization of our country. Disposable income was rapidly on the rise and technological marvels of the day, such as the transistor radio, rapidly spread this revolutionary new music. Altschuler does a superb job in his narrative documenting this revolution from both a societal and a musical perspective. He is perhaps at his best in describing the backlash against rock and roll as it began break in a color barrier that was still sacred to many, mostly white, Americans. He quotes authors of the day, "with tom-toms and hot jive and ritualistic orgies of erotic dancing, weed-smoking and mass mania, with African jungle background. Many music shops purvey dope; assignations are made in them. White girls are recruited for colored lovers . . . and guarantee a new generation subservient to the Mafia". Obviously some strong backlash.

Oxford University Press is to be commended along with the editors of this series, Pivotal Moments in American History, David Hackett Fischer and James M. McPherson for living true to their words of historical interpretation and reporting "they were the results of decisions and actions by people who had opportunities to choose and to act otherwise".
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By AjitMan on March 21, 2013
Format: Paperback
Altschuler attempts to capture the generation of Americans who had been "all shook up" by the birth of rock 'n' roll and is largely successful. His book dives into the three main "fault-lines" of society: family, sexuality, and race. He argues that rock 'n' roll, which had been pioneered by African-Americans, opened up the way for later civil rights movements. By entering the mainstream, it also gave blacks credibility and respect as musicians. Rock 'n' roll also stirred up the pot regarding sexuality; desire was now thrown into the public forum and was open for discussion through music. Lastly, rock 'n' roll broke the traditional boundaries of family. In an era of immense prosperity and growth, the most avid fans of the music (teenagers) held a lot of buying power. They could decide what to buy for themselves.

Overall, the book is a good introduction to rock 'n' roll, but fails to achieve its goal: to describe how the music changed America. It also ignores the ills of rock 'n' roll, such as the obvious masculinity and emphasis on traditional roles for women. This, combined with the onslaught of facts, names, and songs that Altschuler provides, makes for a dry read. Essentially, it will appeal only to a niche audience that enjoys 50's music. The book is, however, successful in retelling a history of the music. It also relates events or trends of historical importance with popular culture, which is often neglected.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca S Dobrinski on November 15, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
In All Shook Up, Glenn C. Altschuler examines the changing times of the 1950s through the lens of popular music. During the 1950s it seemed that nothing was truly safe from change. McCarthyism and anti-communism changed labor unions and politics. Suburban construction changed the demographics of cities. A tired seamstress on a bus changed how people used public transportation. The swivel of a man’s hips and the twang of a guitar changed music forever.

Altschuler focuses his chapters on rock ‘n’ roll’s affects on specific aspects of social culture in the 1950s. He describes how white kids listened to and danced to music performed by black artists. He also shows the different ways black artists either catered to white audiences or tried to assimilate into white culture. Coinciding with the publication of the Kinsey Report, rock ‘n’ roll lyrics came under even more scrutiny, with parents and lawmakers believing that the music was responsible for teenagers experimentation with sex. Rock ‘n’ roll music was blamed for generational conflicts and teenage rebellion. Some people even linked the lure of rock ‘n’ roll to communist conspiracies.

However, I think Altschuler is giving too much responsibility to this single aspect of popular culture. While I believe in the power of music as well as the importance it plays in modern teenagers’ search for identity, I hesitate to give music as much responsibility for social change as he does. By singling out rock ‘n’ roll music and giving the genre such weight in affecting the lives of teenagers, the country should have experienced the highest rates of unmarried teenage pregnancy, a complete turn around into a communist country, high rates of incarceration and lawlessness, and a frenzied orgy in every small town.
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