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Desperados: The Roots of Country Rock Paperback – January 16, 2001


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Cooper Square Press (January 16, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0815410654
  • ISBN-13: 978-0815410652
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #628,977 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Experimental young longhairs in 1960s Southern California brought about the birth of country rock, rife with complications as it was. Musicians dug the sound of groups like Poco, the Dillards, Buffalo Springfield and the Byrds, but scaredy-cat rock execs often deemed them too countrified for the mainstream, while Nashville scoffed at the rock 'n' roll carpetbaggers. Finally, in 1971, when Linda Ronstadt's backing band reinvented itself as the Eagles, country rock became legit. Interestingly, as biographer and music historian Einarson notes in the first full genre history, The Eagles' Greatest Hits surpassed Michael Jackson's Thriller as the bestselling record of all time. Drawing from more than 60 exclusive interviews, Einarson (Neil Young: Don't Be Denied) masterfully weaves flavorful, revealing quotes from country-rock originators like Chris Hillman, Randy Meisner and Jim Messina into this engaging, up-close look at the passions, chemistry, conflicts and politics that shaped the genre from 1963 to 1973. Without airbrushing the pioneers, he profiles legends like brilliant, irresponsible Gram Parsons, who died at 26, and also praises the unsung. He documents curveballs like the British Invasion, which caused many country rockers to either resign or redesign, as well as landmark collaborations somewhere an entire album's worth of unreleased Johnny Cash/Bob Dylan tracks gathers dust. Einarson gives glimpses into what might've been: The Band considered being called The Honkies or The Crackers, and both Stephen Stills and Charles Manson reportedly auditioned for the Monkees. Music lovers and historians will widen their trivia repertoire with this book and its discography, and they'll appreciate the tribute paid to those who rocked country-style before it was cool. 16 pages b&w photos; index not seen by PW.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Rock writer Einarson here provides a well-researched, readable history of country rock (country with a rock beat and rock with a country twang). Using a chronological format, the author indicates the influence certain artists such as Bob Dylan had on the genre and painstakingly recounts the formation, countless personnel changes, and breakup of other major country rock pioneers such as the Byrds, Poco, the Flying Burrito Brothers, and Buffalo Springfield. Though sometimes leading the reader on a tedious journey, Einarson redeems himself by delving into the contributions of lesser-known country rockers such as the Dillards, the Great Speckled Bird, the International Submarine Band, Shiloh, and the First National Band. Country rock came to a halt in 1973 with the death of Gram Parsons, just as the Eagles and Linda Ronstadt began to achieve pop stardom. Chock full of revealing material from more than 60 interviews, this authoritative guide covers a long-neglected era of rock history. Recommended for rock and music fans. Dave Szatmary, Univ. of Washington, Seattle
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Not the best move, for a bunch of reasons.
Matt
If you liked Einarson's book on Buffalo Springfield (another must-read) you'll love this one.
Ken Young
Finally, the book has no index, which is just inexcusable.
Canzone

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Alan Rockman on March 3, 2001
Format: Paperback
"Desperados" is a no-holds barred, chock full of insightful informative history of California Country Rock.
Author Einarson, who gave us an equally great read in his history of the Buffalo Springfield several years back has done it again.The story of California Country Rock is an important one, as it was in California with groups and individuals as diverse as Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Chris Hillman, Gram Parsons, Clarence White, Poco and two guys named Henley and Frey where this classic pop slice of American culture began.
Yet very little has been written of the glorious and at times tragic history of California Country Rock. From the start, the "purists" (what an inaccurate term for these cretins!) like Ralph Emery pooh-poohed the genre, and even to this day dedicated Country and Country Rock artists such as Haggard, Owens, Hillman, and even Dwight Yoakum aren't totally accepted in Nashville. On the other hand, the "with-it" underground rock stations looked with askance on what the Byrds, Burritos, and Poco were trying to accomplish. It was only the Eagles, who freely borrowed from Gram Parsons, Chris Hillman and Richie Furay, who achieved real success, and only after they became an atypical stadium rock band - leaving their country roots in the dust.
Parts of the narrative do leave the reader dangling in mid-air, especially when the author skips from one band to another without a clear, concise summarization - i.e., how long did the Corvettes back Linda Ronstadt, and who actually succeeded them, Swampwater or the future Eagles, for example? Or the time future Burrito John Beland backed two guys named Glenn Frey and J.D. Souther at the Troubadour club. And where is Steve Gillette?
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By DJ Joe Sixpack HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on August 9, 2001
Format: Paperback
For a while there in the '70s and '80s, it was chic to sneer at country-rock -- just another reason to hate L.A. In part, this was due to the style's runaway success, what with the Eagles and Linda Ronstadt's domination of the soft pop market during the height of the disco years. Country rock has often been hard to pin down, though -- are we talking about the sleek Top 40 stuff, or the scrappy hippie bands that would just as soon pick up a sitar as a pedal steel? This book is a well-written, highly readable look at the history of this rather amorphous subgenre, spanning from Buck Owens' Fender-bending twanginess to the present-day musings of bands like the Jayhawks, Steve Earle and Lucinda Williams. The bulk of the attention is on the 'Seventies, when country-rock was a marketable niche, and Einarson does a great job fleshing out the personalities and development of the scene, including interviews with numerous artists who may seen peripheral or obscure to us now. There's also the inevitable eulogizing of the great Gram Parsons, amid a detailed portrait of SoCal's longhair hipster hordes, with a rich play-by-play of the artistic development of the Byrds, Michael Nesmith and Ricky Nelson, giving credence to a wealth of hippie-era experimentation which if often written off as indulgent or ill-formed, and helping frame its importance to the growth of the present-day "young country" Nashville crossover sound. Einarson's exploration of the deep interconnections between hard country and early rock is a little facile -- he points to Elvis and Hank Williams, where pre-rock artists such as Hank Penny and Moon Mullins might have been a little more instructive. But really, that's just nitpicking -- this is a fine book, and certainly a must for folks drawn in by the whole "No Depression" scene. Recommended!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Ken Young on February 16, 2001
Format: Paperback
John Einarson's Desperados is a definitive history of the musical movement that came to be known as country rock. It's chock-full of quotes from the pioneers in this genre--Gram Parsons, Chris Hillman, Bernie Leadon, etc.--and tells the story of the various groups and individuals who were involved. If you liked Einarson's book on Buffalo Springfield (another must-read) you'll love this one.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Matt on November 24, 2006
Format: Paperback
Since I own tons of records by this work's focal artists, I figured I'd get this book. Not the best move, for a bunch of reasons. First off, as one writer referred to, it totally lacks organization. The chapters jump all over the place, making it hard to keep things in mind. Second, why should a work that deals with such lyrical and evocative music be written like a college term paper? Excuse me, Mr. Einarson, you're not proving a thesis, don't be afraid to inject some imagery! The BEST books about musical artists from this period (see Bud Scoppa's Byrds biography NOT Johnny Rogan's, and the wonderful "CSN") are better organized, more pictoral, and livelier! Man, if the times were as dry as Einarson's writing, this genre would never have come about!!!!!

And how anyone could knock the Byrds' "Untitled" album is beyond me....
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Canzone on March 22, 2005
Format: Paperback
I guess I'm the lone detractor, but this book simply is not as good as it should have been, certainly not for anyone not already closely acquainted with the topic. Major problems: although Einarson sensibly avoids cramming every sentence with dates, he goes to the other extreme and includes so few that it's difficult to keep track of persons, events and band membership. Also, the book lack a chronology/time line; anyone not knowledgeable with the musicians involved will have a tough time remembering how and when a Byrd became a Burrito. Finally, the book has no index, which is just inexcusable. And some less serious problems: although most folks wouldn't call CSN/CSN&Y country rock, all members (except perhaps Graham Nash) certainly played country-influenced rock at some time. But you'd never know that from Desperados; aside from a couple of passing references, there is no discussion of them (while many pages are devoted to Ian and Sylvia/Great Speckled Bird, hailed as significant purveyors of country rock, although their efforts in that arena had virtually no influence in the U.S.) Finally, a good proofreader would have found minor typos such as the insertion of commas in the title of Steve Young's Rock Salt & Nails.

There are lots of interesting facts and comments in the book, but the lack of organization makes this a frustrating read.
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