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Flowers in the Dustbin: The Rise of Rock and Roll, 1947-1977 Paperback – September 19, 2000


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone; First Edition edition (September 19, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684865602
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684865607
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #925,766 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

It appears that Flowers in the Dustbin author James Miller has just about had his fill of rock & roll. After chronicling a succession of triumphs in the development of the genre and its allied ancestors and offspring, here the veteran music scribe and editor of the superb first edition of The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll surveys an environment tainted by "the Muzak of the Millennium" and "artifacts of stunning ugliness" (exemplified by Marilyn Manson and Wu-Tang Clan). Miller ponders, "What if rock and roll, as it had evolved from Presley to U2, had destroyed the very musical sources of its own vitality?" The erudite yet eminently readable author doesn't answer his query in these pages, but he does prompt a longing for a time when pop culture moved too fast and impulsively to be processed and packaged.

Miller makes it his mission to tell the story of the "explosive growth" of rock & roll by recounting creative and commercial breakthroughs, dating from Wynonie Harris's 1947 recording of the jump-blues hit "Good Rockin' Tonight" through the last-gasp mutiny of the Sex Pistols and the death of Elvis Presley in 1977. In between, the development of top-40 radio begets the payola scandal of the '50s, Norman Mailer's "white Negro" becomes the model in a line of ever-more-self-conscious mavericks, and the 1960s trinity of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan pile remarkable musical and lyrical innovations atop one another like gifted children eager for attention. Once rock had reached its zenith, from the author's perspective, it didn't so much crumble as settle into regurgitated mush. That Miller is able to chronicle these dour developments in such an involving manner is testimony to his talent as a writer and historian, and to the thrill of rock & roll when it's right. --Steven Stolder --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Wynonie Harris's 1948 hit, "Good Rockin' Tonight," popularized the term "rock" but was confined to Billboard's "race" charts and never crossed over to the larger white audience (though a contemporary African-American performer, Louis Jordan, sold millions of singles). The reason, according to Miller (a 1994 NBCC finalist for The Passion of Michel Foucault), is that "rockin'" wasn't merely teenage slang for "having a good time"; it meant "having sex." For Miller, rock and roll's development is best understood as a succession of such contradictions, not as a smooth and continuous progression. Crisply written and carefully contextualized, Miller's story takes into account both the technological and social forces that helped cement rock's position in Western popular culture. In Miller's view, Leo Fender's invention of the solid-body electric guitar and the adolescent restlessness of the baby boom generation played equally important roles. While many of the pivotal moments Miller cites are perhaps too obviousAElvis Presley's first visit to Sam Philips's Sun recording studios, Brian Epstein's discovery of the Beatles at the Cavern, Bob Dylan's electric set at NewportAthere are plenty of less celebrated happenings and characters to keep even the most jaded rock critic turning pages. (The white R&B songwriting team of Leiber and StollerAwho wrote "Kansas City"Aloom almost as large here as Lennon and McCartney.) Particularly refreshing is Miller's attention to the place of such movies as Richard Brooks's Blackboard Jungle and Perry Henzell's The Harder They Come in the development of rock. The portentous subtitle of the book points to rock's "fall"; in Miller's view, this is part and parcel of its cultural acceptability, which has robbed the music of its original revolutionary energy. For him, the genre's bestselling album, Michael Jackson's Thriller, was possible only after the original thrill of rock and roll was gone. Photos. (Aug.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

The book is well-written and readable.
Jana S Drummond
Miller beginss the book with an examination of various elements within American popular music which prefigured the birth of Rock n' Roll.
Donald A. Planey
Good book on the history of rock n roll.
doctorgus

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By S. Roche on August 30, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This book was a great read. I recommend it for folks, like me, who do not know much about early rock 'n' roll or its evolution. I really had a sense of awe and discovery at reading about 1940s and 1950s rock. The author effectively captures the excitement that the new music generated and the cultural revolution it spawned. The chapters on the early years, 1947 and Jump Blues, the 1950s and Elvis, and so on, were excellent and made me want to go out and buy some of these records. Believe me, no book has ever made me want to buy an Elvis recording, but this one has. Most of the book is taken up with the 1940s-60s, and are the best parts. I lost some interest at the point where I was familiar with the music personally, having started collecting records in 1972, and could relate to the 1970s music and artists myself.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 19, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Jim Miller brings his deep knowledge of rock across in this engrossing cultural history by exploring essential moments in the genre's rise--from Dylan "going electric" to American Graffiti, from Elvis discovering his body to "Anarchy in the U.K."--in entirely fresh and fetching vignettes that convince even hard-core fans that they've hardly skimmed the surface of what made rock the cultural watershed it was and the commercialized washout it was to became. If you're weary of the slavish celebrity pieces or muckraking music-mag stories that define most rock "criticism," give the clear-eyed accounts and ardent intelligence of Miller's Flowers in the Dustbin a try-‹it's a book that might strike you with the novelty and power of your first 45.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By "samydunn" on August 16, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Frank Zappa is supposed to have once said that writing about music is like dancing about architecture--it doesn't make sense. He might have revised his opinion had he been able read Miller's latest work. Even if you have been weaned on music magazines and think you know everything there is to know about America's preeminent cultural contribution (just an opinion), you're going to get an education. But that's not the real reason to pick up this book. The bottom line is, it's just a good read--entertaining, challenging, provoking.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 2, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Some rock & roll books have an ear for the telling anecdote. Some have an eye for factual accuracy. Some have a voice to give their subject a larger context. This book has all three.
I thought I knew this stuff, but Jim Miller makes the story sound fresh and new again. If you want to discover how rock & roll became what it is, read this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Donald A. Planey on August 29, 2012
Format: Paperback
It's hard to think of something as shrouded in romantic BS as the 50s-60s era of Rock n' Roll. People talk about the artists of this era as if they were deities, gods among men whose raw artistic power dwarfs the mere mortals who descended from them. Listening to this sort of rhetoric on oldies stations, or the canned VH1-style clichés of deification can make one retch. At the same time though, there's a powerful truth to the notion that Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Elvis, the Beatles, the Grateful Dead, and the Rolling Stones really did participate in something special, something which could only happen once, and had a permanent impact on human culture.

"Flowers in the Dustbin" is historian-journalist James Miller's attempt to provide a level-headed, yet exciting history of Rock n' Roll in the 50s, 60s, and 70s which portrays the musical zeitgeist of this era without buying into its mythology. Although Miller spends plenty of time documenting musical innovations and important Rock personalities, his true objective is to explain where Rock n' Roll came from, why precisely it became such a massive cultural phenomenon, and how it helped spark young peoples' desires for social and political revolution. For Miller, Rock n' Roll occurred at a unique cultural moment which probably will never be repeated again, but, at the same time, he clearly believes that a look at the history of Rock n' Roll is absolutely necessary in order to grasp why our culture evolved along the path that it did. I briefly met Miller while visiting the NSSR, and I was charmed by his wit and energy, which he certainly brought to "Flowers in the Dustbin."

Miller beginss the book with an examination of various elements within American popular music which prefigured the birth of Rock n' Roll.
Read more ›
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By M. Richmond on June 5, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Until I read this book, I had a shallow understanding of the rise of rock...blues and folk got together, Elvis put a white man's voice on it, and the rest became history. Well, there's a lot more to it than that, and this book fills in the gaps. It reaches way back to the early part of the 20th century and then moves forward, weaving together the various musical influences, technologies, and marketing schemes that came together to give us rock as we know it. It stops at the arrival of Bruce Springsteen in the late 70s, when The Boss "saved" rock and roll from the disco and bubblegum stagnancy of the era. My one criticism is the author's over-appreciation for the likes of David Bowie, the Sex Pistols, the Doors, and (in my opinion) other overrated acts.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By fairleft on December 27, 2006
Format: Paperback
This is an excellent book. Miller takes us to the behind the rock scenes where the real decisionmakers managed and provided our 'authentic' experience. Much of what we want from rock is pretty simple, just rhythm to dance to and some dreams to escape into. But rock's managers hyped it into so much 'more' than that. It's good and refreshing to read something that brings down the overblown edifice that rock is in many minds.

A key scene in the book is when a be-feathered 'hippie' Jimi Hendrix runs into a record exec who'd known him a couple years earlier as a 'normal' rhythm-n-blues guy. Jimi sheepishly explains, "It's for the show."

Miller probably should've given punk some recognition that it was intended as a rejection of the indulgent, decorated, overly pretentious rock of the early 70s and late 60s. Yeah, maybe a short chapter on the Ramones woulda been nice. But I can see the point that they never had a big impact, never had the numbers.

And as for criticism of Miller for stopping at the end of the 70s: I think that is perfect, since the rock 'culture' had really ended, split forever into multiple subcultures. In fact, the split had occurred in the early 70s, but Miller rightly marches on for several of the 'great hopes', the next Beatles, who never panned out.
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