Seventies Rock
Frank Moriarty
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Buy *Seventies Rock: The Decade of Creative Chaos* by Frank Moriarty online

Seventies Rock: The Decade of Creative Chaos
Frank Moriarty
Taylor Trade Publishing
288 pages
September 2003
rated 2 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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When you first start reading this overview of rock during the Seventies, there is a sense that the writer has real direction, some salient points he wants to make, and is interesting in bringing the reader to a place of greater understanding. But the deeper you get into it, the more you realize that many of his observations are terribly wrong - so unbelievably off-base that it makes it difficult to believe in anything else he might say.

The book opens with a paean to Jimi Hendrix, and that works. But then the author tries to tie the legendary guitarist to Simon and Garfunkel. It's the very loosest of threads, and this device is used over and over, attempting to dovetail disparate styles of music on gossamer connections. In this first chapter, Hendrix's song "Machine Gun" is analyzed as "overtly political," and of course this interpretation is correct. Then, the author hangs the political theme on a brief Paul Simon quote: "My strength is not political writing."

That's like taking a sledgehammer to open a walnut - yeah, the nut opens but you destroy everything in the process.

There are some very bad calls here. They include but are not limited to

  • Comparing Lynyrd Skynyrd to John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra. The only similarity here is that there are guitar players in both bands.
  • Calling Grand Hotel Procol Harum's best album. Wrong. Broken Barricades is openly acknowledged as their crowning moment.
  • Crawling up the backside of #2 is citing Mick Grabham as Procol Harum's most creative guitar player. This is so stupid, it's not worth the ink of bringing up Robin Trower's name.
  • Dismissing Jeff Beck's Blow By Blow album and calling the extraordinary keyboard playing of Max Middleton disco-ish or something. Middle was the greatest interpreter of Beck's music - ever.
There are many, many more. On top of this, he does exactly what every other music journalist does who has never had the entree or access to interviewing bands and artists themselves - he poaches from the professionals and only occasionally cites the source. Moriarty uses at least three quotes from journalist Steven Rosen (one a very lengthy narrative from King Crimson's Robert Fripp) and only cites him once.

Then there's just the problem of limited writing skills when he says, "That was mightily tempting," when he certainly meant "Mighty tempting." Artistic license aside, that's pretty pathetic.

And the final humiliation is when he constantly refers to bands as singular entities. Rock bands are always plural, a lesson he should have learned in Basic Writing 101.

There are far too many other books on this subject to waste your money on this one. Don't.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at Steven Rosen, 2008

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