“Just Around Midnight: Rock and Roll and the Racial Imagination”: Rock, Race and What We Take for Granted

Just Around Midnight: Rock and Roll and the Racial Imagination
Jack Hamilton
2016 – Harvard University Press

 

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It happened fast. In 1952, Alan Freed popularized the term “rock and roll” for what had been known as “race records.” In 1955 Chuck Berry scored his first hit with “Maybellene,” about which Rolling Stone would later say, “rock and roll guitar starts here.” In 1965, Diana Ross and the Supremes were on the cover of TIME magazine for the feature “Rock and Roll: Everybody’s Turned On.” Just five years later, an obit for Jimi Hendrix referred to him as an “a black man in the alien world of rock.” In less than 20 years, rock and roll grew up, entered the mainstream and turned white.

In “Just Around Midnight: Rock and Roll and the Racial Imagination”, Jack Hamilton, pop critic for Slate and an assistant professor of American studies and media studies at the University of Virginia, looks at how rock music became the genre of “white men with guitars” while shedding light on some common truisms about music to which we’re usually oblivious. The book goes beyond chalking things up just to appropriation and examines the concept of musical authenticity and how the term has been co-opted and defined by whites. As any student of history and politics knows, those who successfully define the terms have the upper hand in the battle.

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The Playlist That Never Was, or Back to the Vault Pt. 2

More songs from the playlist I would have played on the Deep River Music Vault.

6. Adrian Belew and David Bowie, “Pretty Pink Rose” (Young Lions, 1990)

The followup to 1989’s “Mr. Music Head,” “Lions” continued to present a more accessible, single-friendly Belew and included covers of tracks by King Crimson (“Heartbeat”) and Traveling Wilburys (“Not Alone Anyore”). This track is one of two Bowie collaborations on the album, the other being “Gunman.”

7. Chicago, “Make Me Smile” (Chicago II, 1970)

The minimally edited version. Simply brilliant.

8. Gil Scott Heron, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” (Small Talk at 125th and Lenox, 1970)

I was 20 years old, living in Iowa and working in a chain record store in a mall. Suffice it to say my tastes and experience were limited. My boss put on “The Best of Gil Scott-Heron” and I still can’t find words to talk about it.

9. Steely Dan, “Daddy Don’t Live in that New York City No More” (Katy Lied, 1975)

Just cooler than shit.

10. The Cars, “Take What You Want” (Live at the Agora, Cleveland 1978)

The best live version of this track I’ve heard. A double vinyl release of this show was a 2017 Record Store Day release; maybe it will spread the word that in the early days, the Cars really were loose and edgy live. Check out Elliot Easton’s solo – fans will recognize a few bars that later found their way into “Dangerous Type.”