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The Secret History of Rock 'n' Roll Paperback – October 5, 2010


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Viva Editions (October 5, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1573444057
  • ISBN-13: 978-1573444057
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,010,454 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"I found The Secret History of Rock 'n' Roll: The Mysterious Roots of Modern Music to be a good read... entertaining and thought provoking. Anyone who's interested in rock and roll, especially its history, I expect will enjoy Christopher Knowles book."
— soulofrocknroll.com

"[Knowles] manages to capture the fascination and religious fervor that rock ‘n’ roll can inspire. Knowles manages to be both educational and juicy as he explores ancient cults and their counterparts in modern music. If this book is anything, it’s fun. "
— Star Foster, patheos.com

"Do you believe that rock music has only been around since last century, or do believe that is possible for it to have roots dating back to the Stone Age? Perhaps those alive during ancient times had their own rock stars. This theory is explored in the new book titled The Secret History of Rock ´n' Roll: The Mysterious Roots of Modern Music...This book shows us a valid possibility worthy of checking out."
— Lisa Rene Plumlee, metal.com

"Rock ‘n’ roll music — that hip-gyrating, innocence-robbing, beat-driven racket that ate the world — is really an ecstatic heathen ritual. Tell us something we don’t know. Author Christopher Knowles aims to do just that in his new book, The Secret History of Rock ‘n’ Roll, which investigates the historic correlation between the pantheistic priests of yore and the gender-blurring, mutilation-prone avatars of rock. Everyone knows that Jim Morrison was the Lizard King and David Bowie the Starman, but were you aware that the Greek god of debauchery Dionysus “was also closely identified with various groups of long-haired, armored priests, whose thrashing musical performances were the headline act of Mystery rituals from Phrygia to Samothrace, from Eleusis to the Vatican Hill”? And there’s even more to this ancient analog of glam and metal. Knowles has some persuasive evidence that tight trousers, trashy makeup and high decibels are hardly new under the sun."
— Casey Rae-Hunter, thecontrarianmedia.com

"Christopher Knowles's The Secret History of Rock N' Roll is a hit...Christopher presents an intriguing case for his unusual observations and thesis. Because of his scholarly research, which I found illuminating, and of his clear and concise writing style, Knowles's argument is convincing...In the end, The Secret History of Rock 'N' Roll is a "wish I'd read this when I was younger"-type book. Indeed, it is a well-written tome positing an unusual thesis not without precedent but uniquely expressed and detailed here in a learned yet friendly manner."
— Acharya Sanning, truthbeknown.com

"Knowles has done an excellent job of throwing light on the origins of mankind’s myths and their rebirth in the rock ‘n’ roll era, with stories and concepts that transcend time and continue to exert their powerful hold on the nature of what people are."
— UFO Magazine

"Finally, someone with obsession, intelligence, and (most importantly) taste has placed the gods of rock against the backdrop of the ancient pagan mysteries, to establish what ecstatic fans have known all along: that the transports of rock are the transports of spirit." — Erik Davis, author of Led Zeppelin IV

"Mr. Knowles always finds the hidden gnosis at the heart of the seemingly profane, from comics and cartoons to sci-fi, and now to his fascinating treatment of modern popular music. Knowles actually identifies the individual divine archetypes at work, the mystical personae embodied by each of our most widely worshiped rock and pop idols. The Secret History of Rock 'n' Roll elucidates the ancient mystery dramas that many of us were unwittingly initiated into during our youth by an industry merely looking to make a buck from the sale of these apples of forbidden wisdom No wonder our parents instinctively felt threatened by the music we listened to." — Tracy R Twyman, The Merovingian Mythos and the Mystery of Rennes-le-Chateau

"Christopher Knowles has done it again. Having traced for us the esoteric and mystical roots of the superhero comic in Our Gods Wear Spandex, here he traces for us the ancient ecstatic and mystical roots of rock n’ roll, all the way back to the Greek Mysteries and the archetypes of the ancient gods and goddesses, it turns out. Boldly speculative, beautifully written, and eerily onto something, this is a book that reaches out to recover, celebrate, and understand the musical geniuses who helped birth a colorful counterculture that is still with us, humming just under the surface of things." — Jeffrey J. Kripal, J. Newton Rayzor Professor of Religious Studies, Rice University, author of Authors of the Impossible: The Paranormal and the Sacred

From the Back Cover

Sex. Drugs. Loud music. Wild costumes. Dazzling light shows.

These words can all describe a great rock concert or a hot dance club, but they were also part and parcel of the ancient cultural phenomenon known as the "Mystery religions," whose rites often made Lollapalooza look like a church picnic.

The Secret History of Rock 'n' Roll
picks up where other rock histories leave off. It tells the story of the Mysteries -- their rise, their fall, and their eventual rebirth in the New World, where rhythms and melodies from the West African and the Celtic diasporas collided and changed the sound of popular music forever. You'll meet history's first pop divas, headbangers and guitar heroes, and learn the true story of the Puritan Woodstock.

The Secret History of Rock 'n' Roll
also traces the development of rock's most popular genres such as punk and heavy metal, and explains exactly why stars like Jim Morrison were called "modern Dionysians." You'll learn why rock legends like The Rolling Stones, Beatles, and Led Zeppelin mixed gurus and gods with guitars and groupies. And you'll see how Deadheads, PhishHeads and many of rock's other great cults are simply following in their ancient ancestors' footsteps.

Get ready for a wild ride that will take you from the Stone Age to the Space Age.

Customer Reviews

The book consists of two parts.
J. Michael
The book does exemplify how the power of myth has been transferred to human figures, like movie and rock stars.
Angie Lisle
Very laughable, even undermining attempt at said history.
Amazon Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Mark Trueblood on September 26, 2010
Format: Paperback
The use of music to alter the mental state of the musicians and the listeners is an ancient practice. And as long as humans have been making music, it's had a symbiotic connection with worship. The music we hear today has deep connections with very old archetypes, which have an undeniable influence on our culture. Christopher Knowles (who was nice enough to share an advance copy with me) has done a really nice job discussing these connections. Mr. Knowles wrote this book with an exciting tonality that belies the book's classification as "non-fiction." It is fun, funny, informative, and surprisingly provocative. If you have some experience with the ecstatic states produced by music, you should for sure read this book. Mythology enthusiasts would enjoy this one too. It would also make a great gift idea for friends or family who love music, but aren't normally big on reading. And I say that because the writing style and the content are sure to keep their interest all the way through.

Good stuff.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By J. Michael on January 18, 2013
Format: Paperback
Since the beginning, the critics of rock and roll have used the adjectives "Dionysian" and "Bachanalian" to describe the raucous and unrestrained spirit which the music provoked in its devotees. The reference, of course- familiar to any educated person before 1960 or so- is to the Mystery cults of ancient times, some of which achieved spiritual transcendance through the use of wine, music and sex in their ecstatic rites. Chritopher Knowles takes what is basically an allusion or historical metaphor and goes off half-cocked on a confused and incoherent essay conflating the Mystery cults and modern rock and roll. I think an intelligent writer could have done more with the idea, but Knowles is not an intelligent writer.

The book consists of two parts. In the first part, the author writes about the most prominent mystery cults and lists their various beliefs and practices. Another reviewer here describes the passages as appearing to have been lifted from wikipedia. I would dispute that assertion as undeserved praise, rather than criticism, because no wikipedia article I have ever read was so error-riddled as Knowles' "history." The author then seems to assert the continuation of the mystery cults, or at least their spirit, through medieval peasant paganism, then the antics of Puritan libertine Thomas Morton, the secret societies and finally through the music of Celtic and African migrants to America, resulting in rock and roll.

The vast majority of the book then is devoted to short synopses of various rock, punk and heavy metal bands, which the author attempts to shoehorn into the corresponding categories of the ancient mystery cults. In short, it's ridiculous and it's a bore.
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Acharya S aka D.M. Murdock on September 30, 2010
Format: Paperback
Christopher Knowles's "The Secret History of Rock N' Roll is a hit." When I first read the book's premise, which is that the musical genre of "rock and roll" is significantly based on and related to ancient mystery cults, I thought, "Interesting angle--I'm waiting to be convinced." As a scholar of ancient religion and mythology, I could sense where Knowles was going but I had not seen the specifics of his viewpoint. Cutting to the chase: Christopher presents an intriguing case for his unusual observations and thesis. Because of his scholarly research, which I found illuminating, and of his clear and concise writing style, Knowles's argument is convincing. I'm not sure every last detail represents precisely how this fascinating development may have occurred--such a feat would be impossible to accomplish--but overall the hypothesis appears to be sound. Logical enough, in fact, that one is tempted to slap one's forehead and exclaim, "Doh! Why didn't I think of that?"

Basically, Knowles's premise is that rock and roll's secret history represents "the startling evolution of rock music itself and how it has acted as an outlet for deep memetic currents that were once thought to have been consigned to history." (94) In a nutshell, rock and roll is a renewed expression of the deeply rooted ancient mysteries, such as those of Orpheus, Cybele and Attis, Isis, Mithra, the Druids, etc. What Knowles essentially describes could be deemed an "ancient rave," loud music and drugs included.

In his quest, Christopher's citation of ancient authorities such as Herodotus, Diodorus Siculus, Strabo and Plutarch demonstrates evidence of his thesis from ancient times, putting together many important elements from the mystery schools and doctrines.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on January 20, 2011
Format: Paperback
The Secret History of Rock n Roll: The Mysterious Roots of Modern Music offers a fine survey of rock bands and their mystique, drawing connections between 'mystery religions' and rock and how these religions used many of the trappings of modern rock and roll. The connection between violence, behaviors and rock music makes for an intriguing social history unlike any other rock n roll music history book!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Charles R. Rumberg on April 13, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a great book. What for many could be perceived as a giant leap from the deabauchery of sex, drugs and rock n'roll to the sanctity of ancient (and not so
ancient) mystery cults which celebrated our essential connections with the "powers that be", is presentd as a seamless extention of our inate ability and "need" as
human beings to participate in and enjoy life to the fullest. Music, by whatever form we experience it, is not a spectator sport but an invitation to join in the dance. When we FEEL the noise, we resonate with the harmony of the spheres, and are truly integrated within the unfathomable chain of being.
I must admit that when I first looked through the book, I thought "yech!". After reading "The Bushman Way of Tracking God" by Keeney , I felt I had to explore The Secret History. I found the two books to be a whole greater than the sum of its parts. This was a very enjoyable mind and body experience.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews


More About the Author

Christopher Knowles is the author of the newly-published The Secret History of Rock 'n' Roll: The Mysterious Roots of Modern Music (Viva Editions). He is also the author of the Eagle Award-winning Our Gods Wear Spandex: The Secret History of Comic Book Heroes (RedWheel Weiser) and the critically-acclaimed Clash City Showdown: The Music, The Meaning and The Legacy of The Clash (PageFree Publications). He's co-author of The Complete X-Files: Behind the Series, the Myths, and the Movies (Insight Editions), the authorized companion to the long-running TV series.

Christopher was a longtime associate editor and contributing writer for the five-time Eisner Award-winning magazine Comic Book Artist and has contributed feature articles to magazines like Comic Book Marketplace and the popular industry website, Comic Book Resources.

Christopher has also written features, columns and reviews for Classic Rock, one of the top music magazines from the UK. His Jimmy Page cover-story was featured in the best-selling issue in that magazine's history.

Christopher has appeared at the New York Comicon and lectured on pop culture and mythology at the Center for Theory and Research at the legendary Esalen Institute in Big Sur in 2008 and 2009.

Christopher has appeared in the documentaries Wendy O. Williams and The Plasmatics (MVD Visual), Wonder Woman: Daughter of Myth (Warner Bros.) and The Man, the Myth, Superman (Warner Bros. Christopher has appeared on the popular ABC newsmagazine 20/20 as well as numerous podcasts and radio talk shows on NPR, Voice of America and various commercial stations.

Christopher lives in New Jersey with his wife and family.

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