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Rebels Wit Attitude: Subversive Rock Humorists Paperback – December 1, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

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Ellis, academic and avowed arrested adolescent, traces the history of humorous rebellion in American rock from the 1950s (Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins) to the 1990s (Eminem, Nirvana, Marilyn Manson), in sections on “Bawdy Women” (e.g., Big Mama Thornton, Wanda Jackson), rap, and sundry other designations. The anecdotes and insights are rich and plentiful, but with those come such tidbits of rumination as, “Post-irony . . . is not a fixed determinant but a broad field with gradations of humor,” and similarly scintillating declamations—despite which, Ellis knows his rock humorists. His distillation of Frank Zappa’s integration of “scathing humor and sustained satire” into all aspects of his music cites the time Zappa invited some stateside marines on stage to dismember dolls during the Vietnam War. They enthusiastically obliged. Madonna, Dylan, the Ramones, and bubblegum as a precursor to punk are among Ellis’ other specific subjects. Despite the occasional dreary academic expostulation, good enough for general-interest rock lit collections, excellent for episodic reading. --Mike Tribby

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