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All Shook Up: How Rock 'n' Roll Changed…
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All Shook Up: How Rock 'n' Roll Changed America

by Glenn C. Altschuler

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1072177,258 (3.14)2
"The birth of rock 'n roll ignited a firestorm of controversy--one critic called it 'musical riots put to a switchblade beat'--but if it generated much sound and fury, what, if anything, did it signify? As Glenn Altschuler reveals in All Shook Up, the rise of rock 'n roll--and the outraged reception to it--in fact can tell us a lot about the values of the United States in the 1950s, a decade that saw a great struggle for the control of popular culture. Altschuler shows, in particular, how rock's 'switchblade beat' opened up wide fissures in American society along the fault-lines of family, sexuality, and race. For instance, the birth of rock coincided with the Civil Rights movement and brought 'race music' into many white homes for the first time. Elvis freely credited blacks with originating the music he sang and some of the great early rockers were African American, most notably, Little Richard and Chuck Berry. In addition, rock celebrated romance and sex, rattled the reticent by pushing sexuality into the public arena, and mocked deferred gratification and the obsession with work of men in gray flannel suits. And it delighted in the separate world of the teenager and deepened the divide between the generations, helping teenagers differentiate themselves from others. Altschuler includes vivid biographical sketches of the great rock 'n rollers, including Elvis Presley, Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Buddy Holly--plus their white-bread doppelgangers such as Pat Boone. Rock 'n roll seemed to be everywhere during the decade, exhilarating, influential, and an outrage to those Americans intent on wishing away all forms of dissent and conflict. As vibrant as the music itself, All Shook Up reveals how rock 'n roll challenged and changed American culture and laid the foundation for the social upheaval of the sixties."--Publisher description.… (more)

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A fairly strong critique of the cultural influence of Rock 'n' Roll. It does a good job with the 1950s explaining the multiple music traditions that would blend into what would be come described as Rock and R. Most prominent of these were of course recordings by black musicians that would have tremendous impact on Elvis and other icons of the Rock pantheon. As Rock mutated it would serve the rebellious undercurrent of 50s and 60s teens and blend with the Civil Rights movement, anti-war movement, and other segments of the emerging counterculture.
The narrative is first rate when it covers the ascent of the early rockers, the upheaval in the record industry, and the religious and conservative forces that attempted to stifle the growth of R and R. It is suspect and much too cursory in evaluating the 1960s and such performers as Dylan. To suggest that Dylan's career as a political protest singer commenced in '65 with " Like a Rollin' Stone" is way off the tracks. He was well established by then and had recorded his most famous protest songs before that.
One other noteworthy defect is the organization of the chapters. There are rarely any markers or breaks between ideas and themes, and the paragraphs often run on interminably, containing lists and artists, and do not effectively transition between topics.
Those criticisms aside, it is a good snapshot of the era and has enough engaging content to earn a good but not outstanding rating. ( )
  VGAHarris | Jan 19, 2015 |
Altschuler is at his best when writing about the sociolgy of how Rock'n'Roll impacted the wider cuture of the time; be it as a lighting rod for adults disconcerted by galloping social change, a tool for adolescents making an identity statement, or a bone of contention between rival commercial syndicates. What Altschuler is less than good at is writing about the music itself. At that point your attention is going to wander, though Altschuler does have some interesting remarks to make about the limits of Rock'n'Roll as an instrument of integration. It also would have been helpful if he had spent more time earlier in the book discussing the social stresses of the time from the perspective of the critics; particularly the period obsession with juvenile delinquency that flavored so much of the social opposition to the new music (instead of about half way through the text). ( )
  Shrike58 | Sep 10, 2006 |
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