on June 5, 2011
If you were in JR. High and High School between 1968-1977 or so and collected and enjoyed the music of the talents mentioned in the title, then you'll enjoy this book. Like many geezers my age (52), these acts were, among others, the soundtrack of my youth and reading the particulars behind the music was an enjoyable journey to the past. I've been reading a number of musical biographies lately, 'you never give me your money' (beatles), 'The bitch is back' (Elton John), 'Broken Music' (Sting), all have been interesting and this one was no exception. I recommend it without reservation.
on June 14, 2011
It's been a long time since I had a *better* time reading a book than David Browne's FIRE AND RAIN. I gulped it down in two sittings and still wanted more.
I was 20 in Mr. Browne's target year, I had just gotten my first auto-changing turntable, and we had a groundbreaking FM rock station in town, whose playlists came to be cited in the national trades. I reveled in all the music: I was an intense fan of all four acts he explores, and I read about them and others in the new, hip mag Rolling Stone. Pop music was one of the most important things in my cultural life back then, and I did pay attention to details - but Mr. Browne went far beyond. His research is amazing. I learned stuff I didn't know in every single chapter. He took me onstage for shows I only dreamed about from far-off Mississippi. I personally think the Seventies began in 1972, with McGovern's defeat, but Mr. Browne makes a compelling case for 1970 itself, at least where pop music is concerned. If you care[d] at all about the genre in 1970, you will not be able to put this thing down.
Full disclosure: I edited Mr. Browne's first book, DREAM BROTHER, but I had nothing to do with this one. Too bad: it's still a muggafugga.
on May 27, 2011
Thank you, David Browne, for capturing the essence of this time for those who remember, and describing it beautifully for those who don't.
This book crafts a gorgeous narrative of four artists whose work dovetailed and really defined at least one generation. Browne's research is extensive and the facts uncovered are a goldmine. Definitely a compelling read for all people who listen to music, of any age.
on June 22, 2011
OK, I'd like to have given four-and-a-half-stars, for only one dark reason. This fine, carefully and consciously researched book is about the most salient music in 1970, which as, as David Browne notes on page 298, had a "collective message [that] couldn't be denied. Be it bands, community, the antiwar movement, none of it could be relied on anymore."
But that message was received in the fall of 1969. What's missing in this book is what happened, decisively, during the fall and winter before 1970. I was 20 years old at Woodstock, and even then, it seemed more like the Last Gathering of the Tribes than it did a signal of a new renaissance. And we all knew that the Beatles had signed off on the whole thing when Abbey Road came out that fall - "And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make." Right, bless you, and now we're all on our own - an attitude that David Brown captures very lucidly - seeing "Bridge over Troubled Water" and "Let It Be" as the elegies they were.
The Stones' tour late that fall was a wake, the funeral being Altamont, captured in awful clarity by Stanley Booth's "True History of the Rolling Stones," which you who read this excellent book ought to read next. CSN&Y were clearly Frozen-Nosed hold-overs, and "Teach Your Children" was seen as painfully pathetic by those of us who knew a certain Dream Was mostly Over - but what wasn't at all dead in that Dream had to be kept alive, for the sake of our souls, pretty much. Except now, in 1970, only on an individual basis.
So people like James Taylor and Joni Mitchell - and the Band - exemplifying keeping yourselves and hopefully your friends together, somehow, was a way past, a way out, a way through this weird, unnecessary, inevitable collapse - of a deeply, lovingly imaginative, dis-economic, unempowered, socially valid and morally clear vision of a better humanity. Buy this book- it's the only one of its kind, and it's radically necessary cultural history.
David Browne's evocative, insightful FIRE AND RAIN takes the reader on a magical mystery tour through the musical and societal upheavals that took place in 1970. 1970 was one of those landmark years that many of us would like to forget, a 'bummer' year beset by struggle, strife, sex, drugs and rock 'n roll beginnings and endings. Against the backdrop of an imploding America, music critic David Browne charts the varying fortunes of the Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and James Taylor. The times they were a'changing and Browne poignantly captures it all in this 2011 Da Capo Press release.
Musically, in 1970: the Beatles, ostensibly putting the final touches on their 'Let It Be' album, were about to crash and burn. So too were Simon & Garfunkel, set to release 'Bridge over Troubled Water.' A new super-group - CSN&Y - with the warmest harmonies this side of heaven was blossoming and already beginning to self-destruct! And a sweet-voiced, stone-faced troubador named James Taylor was inching his way into the American consciousness. As if that wasn't enough, sweeping changes were taking place in the music industry. Far more important changes were taking place in American life. The anti-war movement was floundering with a lunatic fringe carrying out a bombing campaign nationwide. Students were killed at Kent State. Three astronauts almost died on Apollo 13 and so on. In short, 1970 was a wild-and-crazy year.
FIRE AND RAIN captures all of 1970's craziness, sweetness, sadness and confusion in an affectionate, compelling style. Impeccably researched, Browne's book is a great read. Highly recommended.
The year that this book details, 1970, covered the second half of my freshman year and first half of my sophomore year in college, and the music he focuses on was the soundtrack to my life then and still today. And yet much of this information was new to me. I listened to the music, but I had no idea of the psycho-drama being played out behind the scenes.
I suspect that if you can't hear the songs in your head as you read the anecdotes, the book would be much less meaningful. Browne is great with a metaphor to describe the sound of a particular voice or instrumental, but unless you can match that up with a memory, it may not mean much. I look forward to a day when a book like this will not only be read on a kindle-type device, but have song clips embedded right in the text, so that you can listen along as you read.
It had seemed to me that much that passes for "the sixties" in popular culture actually happened in the early 70s, but this book does make a compelling case that there was a real shift that occurred in 1970, with the innocent hippie days coming to an end in 1969, and a harsher era, both in terms of music and politics, beginning in 1970. Like others, I had forgotten, or perhaps never known, about all the acts of domestic terrorism that occurred. I do recall the Kent State killings as a rude awakening, and the sense that if there was going to be a revolution, it was not going to be a peaceful one.
At times, I felt a little bogged down in stories of who played back up for whom at which recording session, but this is a historical record, and needs to be as complete as possible. All in all, an interesting story, well told.
on March 17, 2012
The story flew by ... good smooth read/listen ('read' this one on Audible.com). It is a novel concept ... pick a few bands in 1970 and weave a story together that shows a relationship to each. Arguably, you could do this with any year and set of bands. Fortunately, this one was done well.
Learned more about the stories of Simon & Garfunkel and James Taylor than I knew before ... and to a lesser extent, Stephen Stills and the Beatles, 'Let it Be' period. The JT story could be one on its own. Nice job with that arc.
You have to give in to the fact that the author truly was not there. Some of the anecdotes, while the fit in with the context, may or may not have gone own as such, i.e. how they hell does someone know what someone else was thinking unless they were them. But, that is storytelling ... a bit of embellishment makes good stories great stories so long as it doesn't get twisted in knots trying to make a point.
on June 17, 2011
Full confession: I had a decade-long crush on Graham Nash. The song "Our House," his love song to his ex Joni Mitchell (Her Blue was my favorite cry album through high school and college), has a prominent place in my novel Playdate, along with The Beatles' Octopus's Garden. But, given all my love for CSNY, Y alone, the Beatles, James Taylor and, even, Simon & Garfunkel, the soundtrack of my adolescence, it wasn't until I read Browne's exhaustively researched, impeccably written book that I was able to weave all these musicians' stories together at a critical juncture: 1970. They meant so much to me personally and Browne, in this book, demonstrates how much they meant to pop culture and to music more generally. Even though I'm naturally a fiction reader, I tore through this nonfiction book as if it was a thriller. Browne's Fire & Rain is the work of a big brain propelled by a modest, truthful, insightful spirit.
on November 22, 2011
If you're someone who listened to Sweet Baby James and Bridge Over Troubled Water when they first came out, and you remember that time fondly, this book is for you. It will take you back and fill you in on the stories you may not have ever known. Filled with details about the personalities, the music industry, the politics of the time, it's a very entertaining read.
on August 17, 2011
I am also a member of this musical moment and enjoyed reading about the transitional time in the culture. I've always thought of this time as a kind of 60s hangover...we were still wearing the clothes, growing our hair and, yes, listening to the music: hippies in training. I remember being disheartened making it to college just as disco was sweeping in. But the Bee Gees it was, and the artists in this book were... well, is it better to burn out than to fade away?
Anyway, David Browne really sets us up and gives a few fresh details to the stories I knew (Beatles)and insight into those I knew less well (the others). The book grows a bit long in the tooth w/ CSNY and Simon and Garfunkle disolving into a soap opera of sorts. But Browne never veers into pathos or wistfulness.
A good, important book.