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The Mansion on the Hill: Dylan, Young, Geffen, and Springsteen and the Head-on Collision of Rock and Comm erce Hardcover – January 14, 1997

28 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

If you wanted to write the definitive history of rock music, you'd need three things: a deep appreciation of the music, an understanding of business, and a journalist's skills and instincts. Fred Goodman has all three, and The Mansion on the Hill is a must-read for anyone interested in how a counter-cultural phenomenon with moral overtones became--in a mere thirty years--a multibillion-dollar business. Goodman, a former editor at Rolling Stone, traces the arc of this weird transformation by focusing principally on the stories of a handful of key artists and their managers--Bob Dylan and Albert Grossman, Neil Young and David Geffen, and Bruce Springsteen and Jon Landau--but the book is richly populated with others, famous and not-so-famous. Goodman makes good use of his extensive research (he conducted 200 interviews over three years), and admirably balances reportorial analysis with a certain passion for the values that rock music once stood for--and sometimes still does.

From Booklist

Fans shocked by Bob Dylan's nonreaction to a bank's using "The Times They Are A-Changin'" as an ad jingle have their worst fears confirmed by Goodman's screed on the co-opting of Woodstock nation's music. Taking his title from separate songs by Hank Williams (senior, and barely mentioned), Neil Young, and Bruce Springsteen, Goodman examines how a music marketed for its antiestablishment stance became mere product in the hands of hip capitalists like Jon Landau and David Geffen. Ex^-Rolling Stone editor and reviewer Landau is portrayed as an operator unconcerned with niceties like conflict of interest, such as reviewing records by musicians with whom he was financially involved, in his pursuit of pelf. This should not surprise us about big-time entertainment, of course, and Goodman just underscores how a pop music that arose from the left-wing, anticapitalist American folk scene was merchandised and hyped until it became what it originally reacted against: the boring, unimaginative mainstream. Good book, sad story, and excellent companion to Selvin's Summer of Love (1994). Mike Tribby

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 431 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; 1 edition (January 14, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812921135
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812921137
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 6.8 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #803,895 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on December 22, 2002
Format: Paperback
I bought this book because I was mildly interested but before long I was sucked into the tale about how the money talked louder than any musician's ability.
This is story of how several clever people took the talent-driven music of the mid to late sixties and gradually turned this into a money-driven enterprise where all the artist needed to do was keep the gullible public into believing that "it's all about the music, man!"
The book covers some of the major players like Bruce Springsteen's manager, Jon Landau, and record mogul David Geffen, along with the artists they were involved with like Dylan, Neil Young, the Eagles, and plenty more. The book shows how the industry evolved from Warner Brothers execs (in WB blazers) signing the Grateful Dead (and being scared to death of being given LSD) - to the CBS policy of the mid-eighties of taking acts that the company wanted to succeed and have them make a few low-selling albums and play live gigs so they would have more credibility with record buyers.
The execs were every bit as exotic as the artists they represented, and thought nothing about double-dipping their clients' earnings even though they were already assured of millions. I was astounded to learn that at the height of the Eagles' success they went out on tour and got NINETY-SEVEN AND A HALF PERCENT of the receipts, leaving the venue with just two and half percent.
Essential reading for anyone interested in the music industry, especially people trying to break into the scene. Check your integrity at the door, because it will just be an impediment otherwise.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 5, 1999
Format: Paperback
You don't have to be a raving fire 'n brimstone type to lament the passing of the "good old days" of rock. You just have to switch on your radio now and hear songs that were once anthems being used to hawk jeans, beer, bank cards, etc. and if that doesn't make you even a little indignant, you're either too young to remember or too embalmed to give a damn. Fred Goodman's book is a good accounting of some of the other nails in rock's coffin, the forces of the entertainment business who saw gold in them thar hills. Yeah, I know, I know---how foolish, how naive to think that rock could be anything BUT a commodity, as with any other form of popular entertainment. Perhaps so, but naivete is what started rock off in the first place, the idea that boundaries were made to be broken and that not all rebels join the herd in the end. I'm still playing my Dylan albums, though, and if the lustre has worn off the man's image somewhat as time has gone by, it doesn't change the fact that Dylan---and Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen and Joni Mitchell and even Glenn Frey and Don Henley---still made a large body of music that mattered then and matters now. But the old image of rock as "music of the people" or whatever, that's gone the way of all flesh.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By John L Murphy TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 24, 2008
Format: Paperback
The year of Springsteen's commercial peak, 1985, Dylan's quoted by Goodman: "If you want to defeat your enemy, sing his song." (351-2) This narrative history by Goodman does not, as some previous readers appear to have expected, give you in-depth studies of the music or the lives of Springsteen, Dylan, Neil Young, although these three singers share the subtitle with Geffen. It's about the business, not the music itself.

Instead, this study focuses on such men as the managers and handlers who prospered along with their clients: Dylan's Albert Grossman, Springsteen's Jon Landau, Dee Anthony with Peter Frampton and Humble Pie, Irv Azoff vs. Geffen with the Eagles, and of course Geffen himself as the main character throughout, morphing from agent and advisor to owner of a label with Young and the Eagles and CSNY & Joni Mitchell and Nirvana and dozens of other artists. I found many of the blow-by-blow deal making accounts necessary but rather dull. It's difficult, on the other hand, to provide a thorough treatment of the business that makes music without such details. So, some readers may be engrossed by the complex litigation around Mike Appel vs. Springsteen and Landau, or how Grossman played off the industry differently than Geffen. The author shows his talent in charting the rise of the capitalist behemoth that crushed the fragile naivete of the counterculture. "The shark entered the lagoon"-- as Ned Doheny puts it. Geffen comes to L.A. as the 1970s begin, and the business overtakes the music.

The Eagles and then the Boss, in different poses and for different reasons, appear to be the prime motivators here for getting from coffeehouses and bars to arenas and mansions in Malibu or Beverly Hills.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 7, 1998
Format: Paperback
I found Goodman's book eminently readable, and at times difficult to put down...yet, when I took a step back at the end, there was less there than it seemed. One big problem...from reading the Notes, it becomes clear that none of the "main" characters in this book...that is, Geffen, Landau, Springsteen, Dylan, Grossman, or Young, actually spoke to Goodman. Which means that our insights into them are being filtered, not only by Goodman, but by the people Goodman did talk to...many of whom carry some grudges. Yes, it's likely that these grudges are well earned, and believe me, I have no sympathy for Jon Landau or David Geffen, and yes, there is a printed trail that follows them, but the book suffers from the absence of their voices is a problem. In the case of Springsteen, it's less than fair (and I'm not a fan). Goodman also jumps around too much, and leaves several threads dangling...the LA performers all disappear as soon as they split with Geffen. And, he buries one of the most compelling stories in the book...the meteoric rise and fall of Peter Frampton.
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