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Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Story of Modern Pop by…
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Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Story of Modern Pop (2013)

by Bob Stanley

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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
This book should have bitten off far more than it could chew. It discusses just about every major genre of pop music between 1950 and 2000 with the affection of a true fan and ties the story of all of them together in easy to read chapter/essays. It should be overwhelming and endless but I found Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! to be extremely fun to read and as succinct as it could be, eveb at 550 pages. Of course, there are artists that I was shocked that he talked so much about (The Bee Gees get their own chapter) and others that he only mentions in passing (Radiohead). Surely this would be the case with any book of this scope. If you're looking for basically the ultimate long read on pop music, best enjoyed with YouTube at hand so you can hear anything that you're not familiar with, this is it. ( )
  k8_not_kate | Aug 6, 2018 |
Bob Stanley knows his stuff. One third of St. Etienne, music writer, label boss and, probably above all else, a pop music obsessive, this book is quite obviously a labour of love. It's also one of the best books on music I have ever read.

Taking as his starting point the publication of the first British chart in 1952, Stanley traces pop music's development via Rock 'n' Roll, Elvis, The Beatles, right up through Hip Hop, House and modern R&B. He pretty much covers all the bases, hopping back and forth across the Atlantic as the epicentre of pop switches between London, New York, LA and back again. He tracks the peaks and troughs, the explosions of creativity, the attempts of the music business to catch up and control each trend and profiles the major players with a succinctness that is admirable. For instance he manages to nail the essence of the Beatles in one chapter.

Yes he gives short shrift to some and eulogises others and you won't agree with everything he writes, but mostly he's incisive, witty and enthusiastic. This is a great read, it's not dry and academic, it's a fan's love letter to pop music. Stanley knows that pop music is ephemeral, it's here today and gone tomorrow, but it has also been the soundtrack to our lives for the past 60 odd years. And that's no small thing. Be it Marvin Gaye, Green Day or Stereolab, those of us that love pop music will have been moved, amused, shocked or even bored by it at one time or another. Stanley knows that and Yeah Yeah Yeah celebrates that fact.

Highly recommended. ( )
1 vote David.Manns | Nov 28, 2016 |
This book should be an impossibility. Instead it’s merely insanely ambitious; the equivalent of attempting to simultaneously scale Everest on physical and philosophical levels. Not only does it seek to scale the mountain it seeks to admire and understand it. The Sherpa and Zen master for this expedition is Bob Stanley; fan, journalist and member of St Etienne. The only other person remotely qualified to write something of this breadth and depth with the same level of understanding is Neil Tennant and he’s probably a touch too busy to attempt a project like this.

Like the mere thought of scaling a mountain it’s a deceptively simple concept; the history of British and American pop through the five decades where the single was the common unit of currency. Essentially Stanley’s theory is that the advent of downloads, emphasis on marketing tricks and the rise of dedicated music channels meant that this period around the turn of the century was when the pop charts stopped mattering, that they were no longer the common cultural currency they’d been for nearly five decades (the rise of the MP3 player and playlist culture might also factor in here). He traces the history of the charts from the pre-rock ‘n’ roll days of David Whitfield through to Beyoncé by essentially replicating the format he’s writing about; each chapter is a short, sharp but hook filled burst covering genres, years or important artists, the equivalent of a single. This allows room for pop’s titans and the one-hit pygmies who belied their stature for three or four minutes of glorious noise. Naturally he covers all the well-worn territory that these books have to cover but the twin joys of the book are the unexpected angles he finds to appreciate records and the nuggets dug up along the way; the relationships and patterns he draws out from pop history that only a book of this scale would allow him to draw.

Stanley’s background as journalist and fan also allows him to pull off the tricky balancing act between rational assessment and conveying the emotional hit of the music. It’s clear he’s attempting at least a fair assessment; for instance whilst he’s obviously a huge Bee Gees fan their flaws are clearly drawn out and acknowledged and where Westlife and Stock, Aitken and Waterman are disparaged at times there’s even a thought that he may investigate their discography someday. But he’s prepared to make the case for the bands and records he adores; for the KLF, for the pure beauty of Wichita Lineman’s lyric ‘And I need you more than want you/ And I want you for all time.’, for Brill Building songwriting; for the vocal performance on N-Trance’s ‘Set You Free’ and even for the arrangements on David Whitfield’s records. This is a book designed to open eyes and actually properly assess pop music. As such it isn’t a quick read; most chapters demand a dive into your music collection, YouTube or Spotify. Incidentally, Stanley’s assessments of that Wichita Lineman lyric and the KLF as his favourite lyric and band respectively are compelling cases, though it helps that I was inclined to agree with him before reading that.

There are minor flaws, notably a willingness to draw an easy trajectory of decline on certain bands – I’d certainly argue with his assessments of the fall of REM and the Pet Shop Boys for instance – and, perhaps a certain modesty. His own band gets a casual mention I passing (naturally, in the Britpop chapter) and as a result one of the most heartrending, beautiful singles of the 1990s, ‘Hobart Paving’, goes unmentioned. Sarah Cracknell’s voice is the sound of falling tears and sweet heartbreak (particularly in the magnificence of ‘Rain falls, like Elvis tears’ and ‘Don’t forget to catch me’). But then that’s like complaining a conqueror of Everest made one step out of line with the route Hillary took when successfully climbing the mountain; something only a perfectionist might quibble with. As it stands this is likely as close as there will ever be to a definitive, joyous history of what looks like a bygone age of shared musical culture. What remains are shards; instead of a mountain the future pop historian looks like they’ll be a wandering through foothills. As an epic recounting of the ever churning, ever hungry pop machine this is likely to stand as far above other pop books as Everest does above all other mountains; physically and philosophically. ( )
  JonArnold | Feb 12, 2016 |
excellent!!
  lulaa | Apr 11, 2015 |
Somewhat British-centric, but that's not a surprise given the author is British. An excellent history overall and the author isn't afraid to state an opinion. I didn't agree with him all the time, but I appreciate anyone who makes me think.

Just keep in mind this covers pop, so not every band/musician you might like is mentioned or gets much of a mention. ( )
  tommasz | Oct 11, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
This excellent book enacts its own version of pop justice as it spotlights not only bands that have suffered condescension – such as the Bee Gees – but also forgotten DJs like the Light Programme's Jack Johnson and Detroit's The Electrifying Mojo.
added by Edward | editThe Guardian, Sukhdev Sandhu (Nov 6, 2013)
 
Like an overenthusiastic Mastermind contestant, Stanley's remit is very broad – too broad, maybe – but you can't help but salute his dedication and loving tone.
added by Edward | editThe Observer, Kitty Empire (Oct 26, 2013)
 
Stanley downgrades sacred cows, sprinkles in delicious droplets of arcane trivia as if he’s hosting the best pub quiz on the planet and pulls things together with analogies and metaphors that are erudite and apt but never feel as if he’s showing off.
added by TimFootman | editCultural Snow, Tim Footman (Oct 25, 2013)
 
The overwhelming influence of Liverpool’s popular beat combo is a problem for music historians. One is faced with either writing a revisionist account that stresses the importance of the Swinging Blue Jeans, say, or else telling a story that everyone knows far too well, from Yeah Yeah Yeah to Ono. Stanley gets around the problem by focusing on each new flowering of pop, in 65 essays. I repeat: 65. This is a hefty work.
 
No one who knows the history of Stanley's indie-dance band, Saint Etienne, will be surprised at his choice of heroes. When he and schoolfriend Pete Wiggs started the group it was with the intention of drafting in female singers for one use only (before they very sensibly decided to stick with Sarah Cracknell). So it is the faceless writers of the Brill Building, and studio mavericks like Joe Meek and Phil Spector, that earn his veneration.
 
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0571281974, Paperback)

For fifty years, pop music was created and consumed like this: you heard a record on the radio, or read about it in a music paper; you bought it on Saturday; you lent it to, or taped it for, a friend; and they reciprocated with another record. It was a secret network. It was how you made friends, how you met girls, and how you soundtracked your world. Bob Stanley's Yeah Yeah Yeah tells the chronological story of the modern pop era, from its beginnings in the fifties with the dawn of the charts, vinyl, and the music press, to pop's digital switchover in the year 2000, from Rock Around the Clock to Crazy In Love. There was constant change, constant development, a constant craving for newness. It was more than just music - it could be your whole life. Yeah Yeah Yeah covers the birth of rock, soul, punk, disco, hip hop, indie, house and techno. It also includes the rise and fall of the home stereo, Top Of The Pops, Smash Hits, and "this week's highest new entry". Yeah Yeah Yeah is the first book to look back at the entire era: what we gained, what we lost, and the foundations we laid for future generations. There have been many books on pop but none have attempted to bring the whole story to life, from Billy Fury and Roxy Music to TLC and Britney via Led Zeppelin and Donna Summer. Audacious and addictive, Yeah Yeah Yeah is essential reading for all music lovers. It will remind you why you fell in love with pop music in the first place.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:02:28 -0400)

For fifty years, pop music was created and consumed like this: you heard a record on the radio, or read about it in a music paper; you bought it on Saturday; you lent it to, or taped it for, a friend; and they reciprocated with another record. This book covers the birth of rock, soul, punk, disco, hip hop, indie, house and techno.… (more)

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