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Night Beat: A Shadow History of Rock & Roll Hardcover – December 29, 1997

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1 edition (December 29, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385484356
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385484350
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.8 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,781,878 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Gilmore is perhaps best known as the brother of executed killer Gary Gilmore, whose story he related in the award-winning Shot in the Heart. But he has also been a rock critic with Rolling Stone for 20 years, and his criticism is collected here.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

Essays on pop culture by longtime Rolling Stone contributor Gilmore, steeped in the same sensitivity to moral and emotional darkness that made his memoir, Shot in the Heart (1994), a classic American horror story. Gilmore constructs here what he calls ``an outline, a shadow, of rock & roll history'' out of his rock journalism. Although many individual musicians go unmentioned, Gilmore draws a refreshingly inclusive arc of rock history from Elvis through Tupac Shakur, encompassing not only disco, punk, and speed metal, but also Miles Davis, Phil Ochs, and Timothy Leary. While a few of the essays here read as boilerplate, the great majority reflect the author's deeply felt responses: Long pieces on the Allman Brothers Band, Bruce Springsteen, and Jerry Garcia manage to encourage new respect for the music and worldviews of these much-maligned warhorses, and when Gilmore writes about Bob Dylan, the Beatles, and the Rolling Stones, he recreates the incalculable thrill of their impact on the '60s American status quo. A fine obituary of Allen Ginsberg warrants inclusion because he too ``helped set loose something wonderful, risky, and unyielding in the psyche and dreams of our times.'' But rock 'n' roll is not always about edification: A 1980 profile of the (then) excess-prone Van Halen yields singer David Lee Roth's admission that onstage ``there's no pause for thought. My basement faculties take over completely.'' The basement faculties of Jim Morrison and Megadeth are also carted out, but Gilmore is always primarily interested in what rock musicians reveal about their own and the culture's deeper concerns: He stresses the often contradictory political impulses of both performers and audiences, probing Sin‚ad O'Connor's and the Clash's tumultuous careers and Michael Jackson's inexplicable, inevitable ``moonwalk to his own ruin.'' Not an essential volume, but Gilmore's angles are consistently provocative. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Robert Smith on October 18, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Mikal Gilmore is the finest critical voice in popular music writing today, as immediate as the great Dave Marsh or Greil Marcus, but without the former's bluster or the latter's almost serial tendencies toward stretching historical comparison. Throughout his 25 year career, Gilmore's greatest gift has been his ability to find and document the seedier underpinnings of the musician's craft, a keen night vision which has owed as much to a violent upbringing (chronicled in his excellent memoir Shot in the Heart) as to a proclivity toward music whose makers and listeners exist on the fringe of economic and political power. Night Beat is a compendium of those documents, a "greatest hits" of Gilmore's published work, some of which the author reconsidered, restructured, and rewrote specifically for this volume. This "shadow history" tells the stories of acknowledged icons (Elvis, the Beatles, Dylan), iconoclasts (David Baerwald, Sinead O'Connor, Tupac Shakur), and peripheral figures (Allen Ginsberg, Timothy Leary) in a way which casts each as a seam in the fabric of the music as a whole, bearing the implication that without any one figure, rock's patterns and product would not be the same. Cultural ties are also implicit; the voices Gilmore records often speak for others who cannot - a bond between listener and artist which sustains each through difficult circumstances. Nowhere in Night Beat is this more evident than in the extended essay "Bruce Springsteen's America," which chronicles the evolution of Springsteen's music and audience through the Reagan/Bush years. Gilmore sees the edgier motifs in Springsteen's 1980s work as a negative response to the knee-jerk patriotism of the time, and not (as it was widely felt then) an embrace of it.Read more ›
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Bonny on April 7, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Mikal Gilmore is, simply, a marvelous writer. I have followed his work since his first piece came out in Rolling Stone in 1976, and now-a-days I only pick up the magazine when I see his name in the table of contents -- not nearly often enough. I bought NIGHT BEAT the first day it was available, and read it straight through over the next two days. I expected a lot from Gilmore -- and I wasn't disappointed. One of the things I love about his style is that he shows a gentle respect for all of his subjects, even those who are clearly buttheads. He doesn't presume to "know it all", and, even after thirty-some years, he is as compassionate for Kurt Cobain and Tupac Shakur as he was for Elvis Presley and Jim Morrison. At the same time, Gilmore has his dark side -- his is not a series of "don't worry, be happy" rock writing. Neither is this a bunch of semi-nostalgic profiles from rock and roll's archaic past; each piece breathes new life into how American culture got from there to here. Gilmore's skill in word-shaping presents indelible portraits of rock's illuminati, including Bob Dylan, Jerry Garcia, Lou Reed, Ella Fitzgerald, Randy Newman, Sinead O'Connor and -- yes! -- Frank Sinatra and Michael Jackson. The highest praise I can think of for a book like this is that even people with no specific interest in rock and roll would enjoy reading NIGHT BEAT as a well-written and fascinating historical chronicle. Gilmore writes, "I've tried to put it all thgether in an orderly way that might make for a story arc of sorts." It does. Mikal, thanks for the memories.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By David J. Loftus on January 18, 2000
Format: Paperback
I don't buy or listen to much popular music anymore. (Just so you know, my favorite bands between ages 12 and 25 were, in chronological order, the Beatles, Creedence, Deep Purple, Yes, and Gentle Giant, although I had everything from Led Zep and Pavlov's Dog to the Carpenters and the Banana Splits in my collection. Now I listen to Oregon, Bobby McFerrin, Tingstad & Rumbel, the Bobs, Bartok, Stravinsky and Bach.) But I still love to read rock criticism. Gilmore strikes me as one of the best.
This is a collection, smoothed out and updated, of his writings from roughly two decades of work for Rolling Stone magazine and various other publications. Gilmore's judgments seem quite fair, and never dismissively exclusive for effect the way many lesser critics can be, and his prose doesn't wave its hands in the air a lot to distract you, which tends to happen with the late Lester Bangs, or Greil Marcus. (Don't get me wrong, I enjoy them both!)
I admired his heartfelt weighing of the career of Michael Jackson, who is so easy to hate. Perhaps the loveliest surprises were his extended pieces on people the young folks of our era won't know as well and won't be able gain access to via recordings -- Timothy Leary and Allen Ginsberg and his crowd.
If I have any complaint it is that Gilmore succumbs to a verbal flourish at the conclusion of too many of these pieces on the order of "we will not likely hear this again" or "better than anyone ever will," which may be true in every case, but somewhat gratuitous and ultimately unknowable. (I also remain skeptical that "irrestrainable" -- page 144 -- is actually a word.)
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