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Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain's Visionary Music Paperback – May 10, 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
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“Rob Young's ambitious Electric Eden presents a flip side to the well-known story of the evolution of electric rock in Britain in the 1960s, a story of the rediscovery of England's native folk music in the early 20th century by the likes of William Morris and Cecil Sharp, who went from town to town recording and notating the music that would hold great sway with those musicians who became associated with England's less loud, more earthy music--the likes of Vashti Bunyan, Davy Graham, The Incredible String Band, Pentangle, Fairport Convention and Sandy Denny, Richard Thompson, John Martyn, John Renbourn, Bert Jansch, Nick Drake, and many others would each deploy traditional folk music to their own ends in various recombinant ways, writing new songs laced with the idealism of the exploding sixties youth culture, while paying homage to the spirit and traditions of old. Eventually the tide of this music swelled to inspire some of the most influential names in electric rock, from the Beatles and Pink Floyd to Led Zeppelin and David Bowie. Thoroughly researched and well written, this book uncovers the secret history of British popular music in the sixties and beyond. Highly recommended.” ―Lee Ranaldo, Sonic Youth
“An exhaustive, widely researched, lovingly written book about the mythic roots of folk music originating in the UK . . . Beautifully panoramic in scope.” ―Suzanne Vega
“Encyclopedic and often mesmerizing . . . [Electric Eden] creates its own sort of timeless music.” ―Tom Nolan, San Francisco Chronicle
“Rob Young has written such a richly detailed, evocative, and readable account of Britain's fascination with folk music that it's hard to believe it exists. Electric Eden begins modestly as an account of folk rock in the sixties and seventies, and soon is sweeping boldly through time, turning up an alternative and often darker history of England, and subtly undermining the received wisdom on tradition, nostalgia, pop song, and high modernist theories of culture. Those who care about American music have much to learn from this book.” ―John Szwed, author of Alan Lomax: The Man Who Recorded the World
“Rob Young's theme--the visionary instinct--allows him to treat British music of the 20th Century as a continuous narrative rather than one that begins or ends with rock music. As such, Electric Eden deserves to be shelved next to Alex Ross's The Rest Is Noise.” ―Wesley Stace, author of Charles Jessold, Considered as a Murderer
“The author is blissfully quotable . . . These lines about the early years of the British psychedelic movement are so terrific that they contain the seeds of a sour, funny, lovely Philip Larkin-ish poem . . . Electric Eden is a lucid and patriotic guided tour, as vigorous as one of Heathcliff's strolls across the moors . . . [Young's] book throws plenty of lightning, and it will have you scrambling to download some of the music that's filling his head.” ―Dwight Garner, The New York Times
“Electric Eden is far more ambitious than a simple retelling of the past. In sync with his assertion that folk music echoes across time, Young's narrative slips fluidly forward, backward, and through the cracks of canonical music history. And he doesn't just stick to music; like Greil Marcus with a thirst for ancient paganism and postmodern urban theory, Young weaves a poetic, philosophical tapestry as rich and heady as the songs he champions. Nick Drake and Sandy Denny are voices from a séance; vintage album covers are tarot cards to be decoded. Films like The Wicker Man and books like The Hobbit loom in the background. As the high-decibel dystopias of glam and punk begin to eclipse folk-rock's heyday, astronauts takes a place at the table alongside bards and druids.” ―Jason Heller, The A.V. Club
“Electric Eden is a stunning achievement.” ―Simon Reynolds, author of Rip It Up and Start Again
“I'm currently on my sixth album purchase because of this book. The guy should be getting a kickback from Amazon, he really should.” ―Robin Turner, Caught by the River
“Hugely ambitious . . . A thoroughly enjoyable read and likely to remain the best-written overview [of the modern British folk phenomenon] for a long time . . . I've already made several precious musical discoveries thanks to this book and I expect to make more.” ―Michel Faber, Guardian Book of the Week
“Young's grasp of context is enviable, his knowledge encyclopaedic . . . Electric Eden constructs a new mythography out of old threads, making antiquity glow with an eerie hue.” ―Peter Murphy, Sunday Business Post
“Stunning . . . The thread of mapping modern instruments on to traditional folk tunes leads Young from Peter Warlock to Bert Jansch, Steeleye Span and the Aphex Twin, via the bucolic psychedelia of the Incredible String Band, the Beatles and Pink Floyd. This is no easy path to navigate but Young rarely wavers.” ―Bob Stanley, Sunday Times
“A comprehensive and absorbing exploration of Britain's folk music, which serves, too, as a robust defence of the genre . . . Folk, be it traditional, mystical, mythical, radical or experimental, is a living, breathing form, Young believes. It is everywhere, in all the music we hear, in every song we sing. Electric Eden defies you to disagree.” ―Dan Cairns, Sunday Times
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Top Customer Reviews
He begins with the "inward exodus" by singer Vashti Bunyan, whose 1968-69 trek away from London by horse-drawn caravan up finally into Gaelic-speaking Scotland symbolizes this era's idealism. Young's discography lengthens as hippies crowd out folksingers; Bunyan's search brings her to Donovan, producer Joe Boyd, and his clients The Incredible String Band, who epitomize the fashions and styles she imagined but did not know. In "the dual landscape/ dreamscape of Britain's interior", rock met and blurred and blended with folk.
The preliminary section, "Music from Neverland", efficiently explains the contexts for this Aquarian Age. Young charts the contributions of Cecil Sharp and Francis Child as song and ballad and dance collectors. Gustav Holst and Ralph Vaughan Williams enriched classical forms with folk melodies drawn from the last remnants of the oral tradition, its untutored composers from the peasantry.Read more ›
The final part of the book is less sucessful and deals with the decline of British Folk after 1975 and includes a lot of modern stuff that was not that interesting to me. But the first 500 pages is more than worth the money. Just be warned that once you start reading this you will be hooked and not be able to put it down until you get to the end. Very well researched and very well written with lots of little insider turns of phrase and anecdotes. Highly recommended!
Unfortunately, though Young is an engaging writer with valuable insights, he is not a reliable historian. He writes, for example, that
'[Donovan] released the double album "A Gift From a Flower to a Garden" in 1967... its sleeve included a picture of Donovan in Rishikesh, India, where he had just been staying with the Beatles and other celebrity truth-seekers on a high-profile creative retreat under the tutelage of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. He flew back high as a magic carpet with a pipe-load of Eastern mysticism and a newly piqued interest in Celtic medievalism and Victoriana, manifested in songs such as "Guinevere," "Legend of a Child Girl Linda[sic]," and "Season of the Witch.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Horrible. Yet again, an author who uses the latest trick of writing about animal torture--Why? A whole story about killing an elephant. Skipped that one. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Dix88
thoughtful book about musical movement with surprising staying powerPublished 6 months ago by Jerry Samet
Great read. Ended up spending a lot of money purchasing music critiqued in this book. Excellent survey of the innovators and the brilliant also rans who might not have made the... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Moldymind
Fairly academic with flashes that evoke the thrill of being there in the SF Acid-Rock scene, with bits of swinging folk-rock England. Hard going, though. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Douglas B. Jones