Songs and Celebrity in American Music
Via regular reader NG, and apropos the ongoing conversations we’ve been having about the shifting role of personality/persona in gospel music, a review of a new book about American pop and rock, provocatively titled, How the Beatles Destroyed Rock-n-Roll. It’s not at all about sg, but it may be of interest to anyone curious about the tensions in commerical music between song-driven albums and celebrity brands built on live performance. Money quote:
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Wald’s tome starts and ends with them, but in between there are 16 chapters, hundreds of pages, without so much as a mention of the Fab Four.
It’s a book about the whole scope of American pop, from ragtime, swing and foxtrots to teen idols, disco and the Twist - not to mention how nightclubs replaced balls and barn dances; how radio ruined the sheet-music business; how small combos and DJs replaced dance orchestras; and particularly how records slowly became a bigger business than live music.
That switch took most of the 20th century; it was not really complete until the Beatles retired from touring into the studio. (And it might be reversing itself again now.) While dance bands were somewhat interchangeable, records are marketed on novelty and uniqueness, so a pop mentality that once centred on songs (which would often become hits in multiple versions) evolved to focus on individual musicians as artists and celebrities.