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All Shook Up: How Rock 'n' Roll Changed America (Pivotal Moments in American History) Paperback – December 9, 2004

3.8 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"One of the first to do rock-and-roll the significant service of locating it within the cultural and political maelstrom it helped to create. Altschuler does so with a good ear for the music and a deft hand, making this account a pleasure to read and ponder. He is not a flashy writer, but so much the better for his storytelling, which shows intelligence and narrative discipline.... Altschuler surpasses the admittedly sparsely populated field in the nuanced way he places the music within the conflicts--racial, sexual, commercial, and political--that it variously helped to encourage, exacerbate, and (occasionally) ameliorate. Altschuler tells a story of liberation and fear, of inspiration and exploitation, of repeated attempts to homogenize a form of cultural expression that sprang from somewhere so authentic in Western youth culture that it proved bigger and more powerful than any combination of its myriad opponents."--Eric Alterman, Atlantic Monthly

"A well thought out, well researched work, peppered with evocative archival photos and full of terse, sharp comment and considerable feel for the music and its performers."--Toronto Globe and Mail

"In All Shook Up, Glenn C. Altschuler vividly demonstrates that Rock 'n' Roll--as music, lyric, and gesture--provides the guide, the Ariadne's thread, through the labyrinth of social, cultural, generational, and sexual upheaval that was post-World War II America."--Kevin Starr, author of Americans and the California Dream

"While incorporating extensive research and quotes from the most astute rock music critics, past and present, he manages to craft prose that will suit a general audience."--Library Journal

"A book rich with shocking and humorous anecdotes.... Also offers insight into the often complicated racial and legal issues surrounding rock 'n' roll in the 1950s."--AP Weekly

"A soulful, scholarly, and thoroughly fascinating examination of the transforming power of rock and roll in American culture. Brandishing the chops of a loving fan and a scrupulous historian, Altschuler nimbly tracks the rock-propelled revolutions in manners and morality that first rumbled forth from the 1950s, a decade that seems ever more the epoch of Elvis not Eisenhower. His is a finely tuned, perfectly pitched appreciation of the rhythms of a music that became not only a soundtrack but a heartbeat to American life."--Thomas Doherty, Brandeis University

"Includes enough tantalizing tales along with thumbnail sketches of the forefathers and key moments from the annals of pioneer rock to keep the narrative lively and flowing.... This PhD is such an enthusiastic fan, my '50s generation awards him our ultimate accolade: he's obviously a 'Good Rockin' Doc.'"--Miami Herald

"A fascinating and important look at a pivotal decade in American history.... Put on those old 45s and curl up for an enlightening and eminently readable story."--PW Daily

"A remarkably thorough short history of the birth of rock and roll and its cultural contexts. Glenn Altschuler manages to weave the stories of musicians and record producers, cultural critics and legislators, psychologists and sociologists, businessmen and teenaged consumers into a lively, astute narrative of cultural change. The result is not just an especially informative history of rock, but an important cultural history of the 'long' 1950s."--Tom Lutz, author of Crying: A Natural and Cultural History of Tears and American Nervousness, 1903: An Anecdotal History

About the Author

Glenn Altschuler is Thomas and Dorothy Litwin Professor of American Studies and Dean of the School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions at Cornell University. He is the author of several books on American history and popular culture, including Changing Channels: America in T.V. Guide.

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Product Details

  • Series: Pivotal Moments in American History
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (December 9, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195177495
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195177497
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 0.8 x 6.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #116,173 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on August 11, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I just finished reading, "All Shook Up." Although some of Altschuler's sociological themes are very interesting, particularly those dealing with the lingering effects of rock and roll on white America, his discussions of the formative years of rock and roll and the seminal crosssover influences are vey weak, and from my perspective, inaccurate and superficial. Altschuler would like the reader to believe that it was primarily big name individuals (Presley, Berry, Boone, Nelson, etc.) who were the most influential in bringing rock and roll to the general culture. Although individual musicians played an important role in the evolution of rock and roll, it was the early rhythm and blues and doo wop groups that provided the most important and earliest crossover influences. There are many other books dealing with the early influence of such groups, but in this book, they are given relatively little attention compared to individual singers. Also, having grown up in the forties and fifties in Brooklyn, New York, my recollections are quite different from the accounting presented in this book. By the time Presley, Berry and other individuals mentioned in this book arrived on the scene, the crossover process was well underway. What happened before Presley, etc. is a critical part of the historical record and warrants much more attention than is presented in this book. In reading this book, I had the same feeling that I have had visiting the Rock and Roll of Fame - the creative and historical influences of rock and roll on our culture are lost, relatively speaking, to name recognition occurring several generations down the road.
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"All Shook Up - How Rock `N' Roll Changed America" by Glenn Altschuler is a terrific and well documented book on the seismic social, sexual and racial changes in the United States that was both reflected and precipitated by a new music sweeping the nation in the 1950s and 1960s. This new music with its roots deeply entrenched in largely black American R&B and Gospel literally shook a nation that wanted to believe itself innocent but was undergoing rapid change with the return of combat vets, the ensuing Baby Boom and the suburbanization of our country. Disposable income was rapidly on the rise and technological marvels of the day, such as the transistor radio, rapidly spread this revolutionary new music. Altschuler does a superb job in his narrative documenting this revolution from both a societal and a musical perspective. He is perhaps at his best in describing the backlash against rock and roll as it began break in a color barrier that was still sacred to many, mostly white, Americans. He quotes authors of the day, "with tom-toms and hot jive and ritualistic orgies of erotic dancing, weed-smoking and mass mania, with African jungle background. Many music shops purvey dope; assignations are made in them. White girls are recruited for colored lovers . . . and guarantee a new generation subservient to the Mafia". Obviously some strong backlash.

Oxford University Press is to be commended along with the editors of this series, Pivotal Moments in American History, David Hackett Fischer and James M. McPherson for living true to their words of historical interpretation and reporting "they were the results of decisions and actions by people who had opportunities to choose and to act otherwise".
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Format: Paperback
"All Shook Up" is bold; Altschuler uses it as a platform to demand the recognition of rock `n' roll in the history of America. The culture of music was pivotal, as Atlschuler's thesis implies, and as a reader, I am inclined to believe it. The narratives he chose were purposeful and insightful--highlighting the struggle, the separation, and the uniqueness of the United States in the 1950s. Also narrowing the history lesson to only that decade shows Altshuler's discipline as an author--especially considering the `guts and glory' came from the later sex and drug attitudes added to the rock `n' roll lifestyle in the `60s and `70s.
But back in the age of Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis, racial, generational, and political attitudes were all addressed, questioned, and formed as a result of the culture of rock `n' roll. Technological advances in radios and music equipment also bolstered the role of musicians in the lives of millions--especially the young generations born into post-WWII affluence and leisure. The kids wanted to shake, rattle, and roll while the parents wanted to protect their kids from those wants. Sexuality was launched in the public sphere as music icons like T-Bone Walker and Elvis shook, rattled, and rolled an impressionable crowd. As a result, a generation gap had formed six strings wide. But while family units felt the strain of musical expression, a bond was formed between white and black teenagers sharing in a common identity. Talent took precedence over race and all the while, African Americans could boast of creating rock `n' roll to begin with.
The Cold War brought with it an anxiety that found an escape in the full-bodied rhythms of a Fender guitar and harmonization of a couple of doo-woppers.
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