Browne (Goodbye 20th Century) revisits the musical, political, and cultural shifts of 1970, a year that left an indelible mark on rock history. As the Beatles disintegrated, the career of a shy, unassuming singer/songwriter named James Taylor was just beginning. Meanwhile, Simon & Garfunkel and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young released iconic albums (Bridge Over Trouble Water and Déjà Vu), each of which ultimately led to the demise of their collaboration. Using new interviews with the artists and their colleagues, as well as access to rare documents and recordings from the period, Browne employs a smart narrative style to make such well-worn stories as the Beatles' breakup fresh again. Through it all, he remains convinced that the first year of that new decade was just as pivotal as its well-documented predecessors—a perfect reflection of the chaotic end of the Sixties and the beginning of a new era in rock. This book will appeal to classic rock fans, as well as younger readers who may find this to be a fascinating look at an era when an artist's reputation was built not on social media sites, but on the music itself. (June)
Rolling Stone editor Browne focuses his fourth book on the year 1970 and how the music from four mega-bands responded to and influenced the times. His audio time line weaves descriptions of national events—Kent State and the Weathermen bombings—with the melodrama of the musicians' lives. The story is one of tragedy and transition. Three of the four groups discussed have disbanded by the narrative's conclusion, and the music and promise of the 1960s has come to an end. Browne's excellent reporting on the music makes up for the flimsy premise tying his stories together. Veteran voice actor Sean Runette performs excellently, but transitions between unrelated subjects can make the time line challenging to follow in stop-and-start audio format. Recommended for fans of the highlighted musicians. ["Browne engagingly illuminates many overlooked stories that may not be familiar to even dedicated rock enthusiasts," read the review of the Da Capo hc, LJ Xpress Reviews, 6/10/11.—Ed.]—Mark John Swails, Johnson Cty. Community Coll. Lib., Overland Park, KS
Through the lens of four fabulously successful musical acts, aRolling Stonecontributing editor looks at the moment 1960s idealism "began surrendering to the buzz-kill comedown of the decade ahead."
By decade's end, the '60s counterculture ethos of peace, love and togetherness lay pretty much in ruins. Browne (Goodbye 20th Century: A Biography of Sonic Youth, 2008, etc.) alludes to many dismal headline events that dominated the news of 1970—the shootings at Kent and Jackson State, the Manson trial, the Weather Underground's terror bombings, Apollo 13 limping home from space—but focuses here on the music makers, the most visible representatives of the youth subculture whose collaborations became every bit as dysfunctional as the Establishment they mocked. Released in 1970, the Beatles'Let It Be, Simon & Garfunkel'sBridge Over Troubled Water and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young'sDéjà vuwere their final albums together and signaled the end of an era. The early fame and the seemingly effortless camaraderie gave way to jealousy, greed, infighting and disarray. Artists turned their backs on group albums in favor of solo efforts; intimate concerts were replaced by stadium shows; outdoor festivals, attempting to duplicate Woodstock, were brushed by fans demanding free admission. Hard drugs hovered over the entire scene, crippling musicians—Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin overdosed—and addling fans. That same year, James Taylor, famously a former mental patient, himself strung out, issuedSweet Baby James, for better or worse, the herald of a softer, more relaxed vibe that would dominate the years ahead. Browne skillfully interleaves the stories of these musicians during this tumultuous year, making room for substantial walk-ons by other significant industry figures like Bill Graham, Peter Yarrow, Phil Spector, Rita Coolidge, Carole King and Joni Mitchell. Intimately familiar with the music, fully comprehending the cross-pollination among the artists, thoroughly awake to the dynamics of the decade's last gasp, the author expertly captures a volatile and hugely interesting moment in rock history.
A vivid freeze-frame of Hall of Fame musicians, some of whom would go on to make fine records, none ever again as central to the culture.