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TV-a-Go-Go: Rock on TV from American Bandstand to American Idol Paperback – July 1, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Long before American Idol captivated audiences, rock music was practically everywhere on TV, starting with Bo Diddley and his sexually encoded lyrics on The Ed Sullivan Show in the mid-1950s and crescendoing to MTV and VH1, which "made" pop-rock icons like Michael Jackson and Madonna. In a series of engaging essays, Austen, editor of Roctober magazine, debates the role of rock on the small screen as an audience magnet, mass culture monolith and subversive tool. He charts the simultaneous rise of rock on the airwaves and rock on TV through standards like Your Hit Parade, American Bandstand and Soul Train, as well as through guest spots on Saturday Night Live and other non-musical venues; and explains how Elvis Presley and the Beatles became overnight stars through TV audiences who never attended a live concert. Austen leaves no Rolling Stone unturned in this rich, compelling discourse on how rock became a magnetizing (some would claim insidious) force on American TV. From bop and R&B to rock, punk, hip-hop and rap, Austen has a handle on the entirety of the rock phenomenon and how it infiltrated American homes via the tube. Photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"Sprawling, high-definition retrospective of pop music on the tube." —Giant

"Fans of Chuck Klosterman's insightful pop culture skewering will love Jake Austen's Tv-a-Go-Go." —Zink

"Takes up the cause of nearly every pariah music elitists love to pillory." —Time Out Chicago

"Engaging." —Chicago Tribune

"Impressive . . . Not only informative but a heck of a lot of fun." —Chicago Sun-Times

"Austen leaves no Rolling Stone unturned in this rich, compelling discourse." —Publishers Weekly

"A wonderful romp through rock TV . . . with an ideal tour guide at hand." —Chicago Journal

"A cool, behind-the-scenes history. A fascinating reference." —

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press (July 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1556525729
  • ISBN-13: 978-1556525728
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,607,924 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Harold Lime on July 31, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I just finished reading TV A-Go-Go and don't recall any "claims of being the definitive book on its subject," as Mr. Rector claims. In fact, Mr. Austen's introduction states "Obviously,a comprehensive overview of all rock on TV is imposible... No one writer could cover everything and nobody would want to read a book that did."

Apparently Mr. Rector wanted an encyclopedia of rock on TV, rather than a series of entertaining essays with thought-provoking theses. I'm sorry he didn't get what he wanted, but this was a very worthwhile read.

Further, I could find no claim in the book "that punk rock only became popular after Fear appeared on Saturday Night Live in 1981." In fact, Austen writes: "After polling more than a hundred musicians, zine editors, and fans active in hardcore, none of them cited Fear's Saturday Night Live appearance as their point of entry into the scene (the most frequently cited TV moment that led pollsters to punk/hardcore was actually Devo on Saturday Night Live in 1978)... One reason may be that very few people were watching SNL at that point... the evidence of its realness--the downtime between songs, the lack of distance between audience and artists, and the imperfect performance--may have been unappealing to those not familiar with the hardcore experience."

Mr. Rector should talk about the book that exists, not the book he's (for better as well as worse) imagining.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By John Lazar on August 13, 2008
Format: Paperback
This is an extremely well-researched book, although not every subject covered here appeals to me (PARTRIDGE FAMILY, MAKING THE BAND, AMERICAN IDOL). Nevertheless, there's something here for every rock music/TV fan, including a whole chapter on rock `n` roll cartoons! I enjoyed the coverage of Elvis Presley and The Beatles -- two subjects that have been covered to death, but in this case the author offers perceptive insights. While I'm not a fan of Michael Jackson (though I respect his stature in rock music history), the chapter on him is one of the strongest entries in the book. I also appreciated the author's defense of the underrated contributions of The Monkees, as well as his on-target appraisals of TV hosts Steve Allen, Ed Sullivan, Dick Clark, Mike Douglas, Don Cornelius, and Carson Daly.

In time, rock `n' roll music thrived on television, despite the uneasy alliance between the two. Television has repeatedly sabotaged and diluted the very essence of this rebellious art form. Television has also been responsible for presenting us with many moments of pure gold. TV A-GO-GO does a commendable job of chronicling this facet of music history, examining the legendary, the surprisingly good, the idiosyncratic, and the awful acts (and programs that showcased these acts) that have flashed across television screens for the past five decades.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Kim Cooper on August 3, 2005
Format: Paperback
Essential, witty and thoughtful guide to the history of televised rock and pop, from regional dance party shows to Ed Sullivan, punk's invasion of the SNL set to Michael Jackson's metamorphosis into a pop icon. Jake Austen, who oversees the brilliant obsessives who make up the staff of Roctober Magazine, both loves and understands the mass media, and subjects it to an incisive yet affectionate analysis that's as entertaining as it's rare. The result is an enormously entertaining and informative book, recommended for anyone who's curious about the intersections between music and the idiot box.
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By Nathan on August 4, 2005
Format: Paperback
My older siblings were into Kenny Loggins and Bread, and when they wanted to rock, it was Elton John, or maybe Queen. But as a wee `un I knew better than to be unduly influenced by their example. Fortunately, I was under the able, personal tutelage of Television (not the Richard Hell kind, the other kind)-Scooby and the gang running from werewolves to a bubblegum soundtrack; 60s superhero rock gods The Impossibles; the Mosquitos on Gilligan's Island and the Bedbugs on F-Troop: if I'd lived above CBGB's in the late 70s, I still woulda yelled down to cut out that noise, the Banana Splits are on! And now, Austen has penned the definitive tome on all things Rock TV. His prose crackles like a man in awe of his subject, and rightfully so; lucid and engaging, TV-A-Go-Go not only has everything and then some inside, but includes-rather than a mere detailing of who-was-on-what-all manner of interesting, cogent theses on culture woven into the text. As important as bubblepop and sillypunk are to the brain (Austen's chapter on punk rock is spot-on, especially his detailing of Fear's 1981 Saturday Night Live performance), most pleasing is the enormous gamut he covers, from early TV to our American Idol age, with chapters on dance shows, fake bands, 70s TV rock, video programs, international stuff, an investigation into how Michael Jackson and TV shaped each other, and my favorite chapter, on black music television, which describes über-rarity The !!! Beat. Plus appendices on international rock TV and a "Rock N' Roll TV Guide" that'll make you drool and shiver. This is one to buy.
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