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Love Goes to Buildings on Fire: Five Years in New York That Changed Music Forever Hardcover – November 8, 2011
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A fantastic journey through New York's 1970s underground music scene.
--Booklist (starred review)
"A fascinating book that covers not only the new rock music of the day, but looks back at New York between 1973 and the end of 1977, a time when hip-hop was being birthed, salsa was finding its voice, the avant-garde scene was being heard, and the new loft jazz scene was being born."
-Bob Boilen, NPR's All Songs Considered
"Love Goes to Bldgs on Fire by @WilliamHermes is as fun & insightful as that other 1970s NYC classic, Jonathan Mahler's Bronx is Burning."
--Hugo Lindgren (New York Times Magazine) via Twitter
Although the 1970s appeared to be a musical wasteland (remember Debby Boone?), senior Rolling Stone critic Hermes reminds us forcefully and refreshingly in this breathtaking, panoramic portrait of five years (1973-1977) of that decade that music in New York City was alive, flourishing, and kicking out the jams.
--Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Hermes's attitude, sharp ear and smart big-picture view turn what could have been a small book into something special. A hip, clever, informative look at an unjustifiably dismissed musical era that will have readers scouring iTunes for the perfect accompanying soundtrack."
Practically every paragraph about music here is also about something else just as fascinating--race, city planning, ambition, drugs, hair-dos. Braiding intricate research with his own teenage memories, Hermes has a bird's eye view of a great city, and has his ear to the ground. (Sarah Vowell)
By simply putting things in chronological order, Will Hermes shows just how astonishing New York City's music was in the 1970s. But he does more than that: he brings depth and discernment and an eye for odd detail, making his book an essential work of cultural history. (Luc Sante)
Love Goes to Buildings on Fire is an almost perfect portrait of New York music culture: specific yet comprehensive, enthusiastic yet objective, and as informed as it is personal. The four-page section of what (seemingly) every interesting person in NYC was doing on the night of the '77 blackout could have been a book unto itself. (Chuck Klosterman)
A must-read for any music lover, Love Goes to Buildings on Fire will no doubt inspire nostalgia in readers who lived through the era, and make those who didn't wish they had. (Liz Raftery, The Boston Globe)
Will Hermes grew up in Queens, but Love Goes to Buildings on Fire, his new book on New York's 1970s music scene, is no nostalgia jag--it's a detailed time-machine trip that zooms in on everyone from the New York Dolls to Steve Reich. (Rolling Stone)
Meticulously researched and engaging. (Eric Been, The Wall Street Journal)
I thought there was nothing left to say about the seventies NYC music scene, but Hermes puts it all together--punk, salsa, jazz, hip-hop, disco--into a portrait of a city in ferment, with new bubbles of innovation popping up all over. (Dan Kois, Vulture Recommends (New York magazine))
Revelatory. (Entertainment Weekly (Grade: A))
There's no mistaking that this book will have a special appeal for people who were exposed to this music when it was developing--mostly those living in New York in the mid-70s--but Hermes does what a good writer does. He makes the rest of us (this writer included) wish we'd been there. (Georgia Young, Paste)
[Hermes] does an expert turn here in his book about the music scene in 1970s New York, moving between musical genres and the human worlds they contained with the light-headed excitement of a bright grad student who's transferring from one subway line to another. (Emily Carter, Minneapolis Star-Tribune)
[A] breathtaking, panoramic portrait of five years . . . that music in New York City was alive, flourishing, and kicking out the jams. (Publishers Weekly (starred review))
Hermes moves effortlessly back and forth between the various musical genres while interspersing stories of New York at a time when the city was on the verge of financial ruin and moral collapse. (Booklist (starred review))
From the Author
"(4 stars) The first book to trace the parallel ascents of every sound born in the city in that dense time--not just punk, disco and hip-hop but salsa, loft jazz, and downtown minimalism... Rich in details and laced with the author's own musical memories, this tells the sonic tale of a city at a low point that finds its creative peak."
-Mojo magazine UK
Top customer reviews
Will Hermes book does a lot to place Hip Hop and Disco in the proper context. Not only does he seem to have a fond appreciation of the genres, he places them against a political and social economical backdrop that does a lot in explaining why the genres would grow as big as they did. Such insights were long overdue in writings about popular culture.
But the book even goes further than that. Will Hermes restores Bruce Springsteen’s place in the early seventies Rock and Punk scene. Because Springsteen became an act of mega proportions it is easy to forget how close he was to acts like the Tuff Darts, the Dictators and the Heartbreakers early in his career when he played the same joints as the Ramones and Patti Smith.
Hermes also analyses parallel developments in classical music, Jazz and Latin-American music. Minimalism seems to have been a common trend across the board as a response to the dire economical times.
Will Hermes often writes form the perspective as a fan, tells about his own experiences seeing some of the now legendary acts when they were just coming up, thus adding a contagious flavour to the book. But he also seems to have gone to great lengths to familiarize himself with the genres that did not necessarily play an important part in the soundtrack of his youth.
The book portraits a full picture of an era without coming of too academic. Though the book comes off as a bit fragmentary at times I applaud the author in how he avoids creating connections where there are none, but leaves the reader to discover the common thread. Will Hermes has managed an enthusiastic but to the point style, which left me curious for music I would not have considered listening to before reading this book. I highly recommend reading Love Goes to Buildings on Fire with a little help from Spotify, mister Hermes and the music will take you on a trip through the Big Apple that by now has (sadly) disappeared.
Hermes proceeds chronologically giving a good amount of historical context: local and national politics and news. Very much gives the flavor of 'being there'.
Fantastic piece of work.