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Summary

Unlike all previous versions of rock 'n' roll history, this book omits almost every iconic performer and ignores the storied events and turning points everyone knows. Instead, in a daring stroke, Greil Marcus selects 10 songs recorded between 1956 and 2008 and then proceeds to dramatize how each embodies rock 'n' roll as a thing in itself in the story it tells, inhabits, and acts out - a new language, something new under the sun.

"Transmission" by Joy Division. "All I Could Do Was Cry" by Etta James and then Beyoncé. "To Know Him Is to Love Him", first by the Teddy Bears and almost half a century later by Amy Winehouse. In Marcus' hands these and other songs tell the story of the music, which is, at bottom, the story of the desire for freedom in all its unruly and liberating glory. Slipping the constraints of chronology, Marcus braids together past and present, holding up to the light the ways these striking songs fall through time and circumstance, gaining momentum and meaning, astonishing us by upending our presumptions and prejudices. This audiobook, by a founder of contemporary rock criticism - and its most gifted and incisive practitioner - is destined to become an enduring classic.

©2014 Greil Marcus (P)2014 Audible Inc.

Critic reviews

"Reading Marcus's words with the intensity and focus of a performance artist, Rollins describes how songs such as 'Crying, Waiting, Hoping' by Buddy Holly, 'Sweet Home Chicago' by Robert Johnson, and 'Money Changes Everything' sung by Cyndi Lauper changed music and changed lives." (AudioFile)

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What listeners say about The History of Rock 'n' Roll in Ten Songs

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  • Anonymous User
  • 21-03-15

An ecstatic, inspiring read

Seemingly random choices by the writer have a beautifully inevitable and comprehensive quality that references nature's infinite organizing power. Rollins' unhurried, reverential performance is spot on, and I always felt I was in good hands on this journey. Marcus made me want to write my own history. Thanks to both the reader and the author for the love you poured into this project.

15 people found this helpful

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  • Nyghtewynd
  • 03-05-15

Don't just read the title!

Is there anything you would change about this book?

The title isn't accurate. This isn't really a "history of rock". It's more of an impressionistic word painting of rock. The writer is trying really hard to be unique and interesting in both the selections and the way they're described. If that's what you're expecting, cool. For me, I couldn't finish it. Read the description, decide whether that's what you're into, and then go from there.

Would you be willing to try another book from Greil Marcus? Why or why not?

Probably not...I'm interested in the subject, but not THIS interested.

What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?

Rollins is good for the subject matter and this writing, but not overall. He. Speaks. Too. Slowly.

Was The History of Rock 'n' Roll in Ten Songs worth the listening time?

Not for me. For someone who was really into the subject and a conaisseur of the genre, sure. I simply found it obscure and pretentious.

31 people found this helpful

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  • Raymond
  • 03-02-15

Fresh treatment of Rock history!

Original and thought-provoking history of this music genre that has surrounded my life for decades. I learned some new things and look at others from a new perspective.

My only wish is that these books could include the actual songs!

I recommend this book to all Rock 'n' Roll fans.

18 people found this helpful

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  • Jacob
  • 03-04-15

Ambiguous, But Awesome

I've recently developed a strong interest in rock n roll history, and this book is a good exploration (AND exercise!) through this rich music genre. I loved this book. However, it was not exactly what I had anticipated. I expected a history of fine points (perhaps TEN points, to be exact!), but what the book actually does is better. Great Marcus takes you on a journey through rock n rolls history by looking at 10 songs (and none of them are songs that've received much focus as being genre-busters or particularly definitive pieces) and touches base with other songs and artists that live in the theme of the 10 songs. It's in no way an end-all, be-all history book. It's a history through a singular lens of the author. In the bonus features of the audiobook (I believe it was the interview between the author and the narrator Henry Rollins), it's mentioned that any 10 songs could have formed this book, which I agree with. But Greil Marcus manages to weave the 10 songs and their influences together to form a full, rich mosaic that is too unique to belong to any music form BESIDES rock and roll. Henry Rollins' narration is superb. And his insight of his experience reading the book only further enriches your listening experience. It feels almost as if you've had a discussion of the book with a friend (Rollins) and the book's author (Marcus) when you've listened to the bonus features along with the audiobook. This was a particularly invigorating listen throughout, and has been by far my favorite Audible experience. -Jake G

16 people found this helpful

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  • J. Fraas
  • 07-07-15

Amazing,dense,and not what your thinking

This isn't your average top 10 song that define some or any category. This is deeper and it's read by Henry Rollins which is perfect for the book. Also there is some bonus content that I didn't expect and loved every second of it.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Kris
  • 16-05-15

Disappointing

I had such high expectations for this book. Henry Rollins did a great job but I couldn't get past the pretentiousness of the text.

13 people found this helpful

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  • Dubi
  • 07-10-15

Bait and Switch

Greil Marcus, the shamelessly judgmental music critic, uses the word "cheat" at least twice in this book, most heinously in dismissing Beyonce's entire body of work a "cheat". I barely know Beyonce's music, but I know enough about rock 'n' roll (having been accused, not affectionately, of being a walking RnR encyclopedia and music snob) to know that Marcus is the cheat.

If he wanted to call this book "Hipper Than Thou: Songs I know every little thing about that you never even heard of (and even one that is not a song at all)", then I'd shower him with praise for being honest. He even admits it in the interview tacked on at the end where he confesses that the initial idea for this book was to write about the Flamin' Groovies' Shake Some Action, a song he knew full well has never heard by the vast majority of listeners (and which, along with the entire chapter devoted to it, is not even a footnote in RnR history).

But THE History? The TRUE history, as he promises in his introduction? No. Not here. Not at all. He comes close in only one chapter, using Buddy Holly as a fulcrum to connect Elvis to the Beatles, Stones and Dylan, but his 12,000 word essay does not cover as much ground as the 870 words (repeated choruses and all) of Don MacLean's American Pie (which Marcus does not deign to mention, citing songs and poems referring to Holly's death that no one else ever heard of).

If you're seriously considering listening to this book, start with the chapter on Guitar Drag, which is just noise, not even a song, created by a non-musician (and a friend of the author, to no one's surprise). With all of the songs he could have chosen, even snobby selections like Shake Some Action, Money Changes Everything, Transmission, and Crying Waiting Hoping, he wastes one of his ten entries on noise. He could have written this essay based on John Brown's Body or Jimi Hendrix's Star Spangled Banner, that may have made a sense. As is, it's nothing short of drek. You will not want to read further after sampling it.

Among his other crimes: mistaking movie recreations of scenes of spontaneous creativity for the real thing (Transmission, All I Could Do Was Cry), ranting about commercialism and then failing to address the issue in a chapter covering two songs about money, going on two long fantasies imagining if Robert Johnson and Buddy Holly had lived on in which he engages in the crassest kind of mythologizing that he disparaged in his introduction (the hypocrisy of "I can deify my idols, but you're not allowed"), and worst of all, mistaking his insecure need to re-establish his identity as the smartest guy in the room for true knowledge. As if we care.

Henry Rollins does an excellent job of narration, though he himself doesn't rate a mention by Marcus despite his status as a highly influential punk rock icon.

3 people found this helpful

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  • BearMaster
  • 21-04-15

PoetryThe

Greil Marcus says in the interview afterward that he never intended for the book to be read aloud. Too bad, Because Henry Rollins performance elevated the book to pure poetry.

11 people found this helpful

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  • jackson
  • 30-04-15

I want to listen to another Rollins-Marcus mix

I recommend this more than any other audiobook I have heard. Somehow even the non spoken parts make perfect sense.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Em
  • 13-07-15

I expected more

I really like Henry Rollins and expected more from him as a reader. His reading was clunky and awkward all the way through. He paused for way too long in the middle of sentences and made weird choices on what words to emphasize. The book itself wasn't terrible, but I can't recommend this audiobook because of Rollins's reading.

15 people found this helpful