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Love Goes to Buildings on Fire: Five Years…
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Love Goes to Buildings on Fire: Five Years in New York That Changed Music…

by Will Hermes

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An archaeology of urban American musics, presented as a series of vignettes from mid-1970s New York City: punk, salsa, jazz, minimalist, dance; traditional forms stretched to new limits, the repurposing of rhythms and textures; magnetic tape, turntables, impromptu performance spaces. It was supposed to be the decade of malaise and urban decay, but the story told so well here is of something different and unexpected. It’s hard to imagine a period of such innovation and street-level cultural exchange ever happening again. ( )
  HectorSwell | Oct 8, 2013 |
This book covers a period of amazing musical experimentation in NYC - punk, jazz, disco, "latin" - a lot was going on, and there was a good deal of cross-pollination between these genres.

Hermes tells a lot of stories -- many I knew, some that I didn't. The ones that were new to me were valuable and provocative.

I think the most valuable part is the account of the rise of Latin / Cuban music, though it gets repetitive towards the end.

Having said all that, I really can't recommend the book. The problem is that there is very little organization aside from grouping the chapters by year. It's hard to tell what's important. Hermes plays an annoying game in places where he will introduce a relatively unknown character that music zealots know is important (example: Arthur Russell) but never sum up the character's importance until the very end. Unless you're paying attention, I'm not sure how an ordinary reader would really pick up on the importance of Arthur Russell.

Another thing that is lacking is a selected discography. There's a discography, to be sure, but it's everything that is discussed. Hermes clearly has claims about importance based on facts and contemporary opinion - I think he should sum it up.

So: For the general reader: I just don't see it. If you're interested in NYC music in the mid-/late-70s, or are interested in Latin/Cuban music, or are interested in this period of jazz experimentation (largely ignored by official histories which have privileged the Marsalis / Crouch reorganization of jazz history), try it.
( )
  tuke | Dec 1, 2012 |
Researched to the max, this takes '73 to '77 New York music scene and mashes it like nothing else I've read about this defining era in music. I'm completely flipped out by its densely packed info and meticulous attention to detail, Hermes throwing in his own personal stories for good measure. It takes almost an anthropological slant, reconstructing those five years into a forward moving and always engaging panorama of personalities, politics and places, recreating song lines of a true melting pot of creativity. Will Hermes' real talent is the way he rushes you around, you become a voyeur of many many musical corridors. The sealant for me is that you are given exact dates, exact times, exact places--each page is a smorgasbord of info, bound & blended together by the author's skill in juxtaposing historical fact with culture in a way that gives those 5 years the blowtorch treatment. Hermes' ear to the ground approach is for the prototype of how to write a book about music properly. ( )
1 vote voz | Jan 25, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0865479801, Hardcover)

Punk rock and hip-hop. Disco and salsa. The loft jazz scene and the downtown composers known as Minimalists. In the mid-1970s, New York City was a laboratory where all the major styles of modern music were reinvented—all at once, from one block to the next, by musicians who knew, admired, and borrowed from one another. Crime was everywhere, the government was broke, and the city’s infrastructure was collapsing. But rent was cheap, and the possibilities for musical exploration were limitless.

Love Goes to Buildings on Fire is the first book to tell the full story of the era’s music scenes and the phenomenal and surprising ways they intersected. From New Year’s Day 1973 to New Year’s Eve 1977, the book moves panoramically from post-Dylan Greenwich Village, to the arson-scarred South Bronx barrios where salsa and hip-hop were created, to the Lower Manhattan lofts where jazz and classical music were reimagined, to ramshackle clubs like CBGBs and The Gallery, where rock and dance music were hot-wired for a new generation. As they remade the music, the musicians at the center of the book invented themselves: Willie Colón and the Fania All-Stars renting Yankee Stadium to take salsa to the masses, New Jersey locals Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith claiming the jungleland of Manhattan as their own, Grandmaster Flash transforming the turntable into a musical instrument, David Byrne and Talking Heads proving that rock music “ain’t no foolin’ around.” Will Hermes was there—venturing from his native Queens to the small dark rooms where the revolution was taking place—and in Love Goes to Buildings on Fire he captures the creativity, drive, and full-out lust for life of the great New York musicians of those years, who knew that the music they were making would change the world.  

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:56:56 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Chronicles five epochal years of music in the Big Apple against a backdrop of the high crime and low rents of the mid-1970s, tracing the formations of key sounds while evaluating the contributions of influential artists.

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