How the Beatles Destroyed Rock 'n' Roll: An Alternative History of American Popular Music

Product Details
$18.99  $17.66
Oxford University Press, USA
Publish Date
6.09 X 9.32 X 0.9 inches | 1.04 pounds

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About the Author
Elijah Wald is a musician, writer and historian, whose books include Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues; Narcocorrido, about the modern Mexican ballads of drug trafficking; The Mayor of MacDougal Street (with Dave Van Ronk), and Global Minstrels: Voices of World Music. He is currently teaching at UCLA, and contributing regular pieces to the Los Angeles Times. For more information, please visit

"I couldn't put it down. It nailed me to the wall, not bad for a grand sweeping in-depth exploration of American Music with not one mention of myself. Wald's book is suave, soulful, ebullient and will blow out your speakers."--Tom Waits

"Wald is a meticulous researcher, a graceful writer and a committed contrarian... an impressive accomplishment."--New York Times Book Review

"A complex, fascinating and long-overdue response to decades of industry-driven revisionism."--Jonny Whiteside, LA Weekly

"It's an ambitious project, but Wald's casual narrative style and eye for a juicy quote give it a lightness that even a novice to pop, rock, or jazz history can appreciate... The title is appropriate: This is a provocative book, in all the right ways."--The Onion AV Club

"Wald is a sharp, fair critic eager to right the record on popular music... deepens the appreciation of American popular music."--Boston Globe

"This is a debatable premise... you don't have to agree with it to admire this book... It is as an alternative, corrective history of American music that Wald's book is invaluable. It forces us to see that only by studying the good with the bad--and by seeing that the good and bad can't be pulled apart--can we truly grasp the greatness of our cultural legacy."-- Malcolm Jones, Newsweek

"A serious treatise on the history of recorded music, sifted through his filter as musician, scholar, and fan... It's a brave and original work that certainly delivers."-Christian Science Monitor

"A smart, inclusive celebration of mainstream stars, such as 1920s bandleader Paul Whiteman and the Fab Four, who introduced jazz, blues, and other roughhewn musical forms to mass audiences."--AARP Magazine

"A powerfully provocative look at popular music and its impact on America."--Dallas Morning News

"Elijah Wald is a treasure... There is far too much in these 300 pages to even summarize here. Wald is an economical and lucid writer with an amazing grasp of his subject. I know quite a lot of musical history, and I did not find a single clinker in this symphony of renewal and re-examination."--Winston-Salem Journal

"As catchy and compelling as a great pop single, this revisionist retelling is provocative, profound and utterly necessary... Clearly the product of years of passionate research, it's so rife with references and surprising anecdotes that it's potentially overwhelming, but Wald makes a superlative tour guide-- frank, funny and generous but judicious with his inclusions-- and his book is a beguiling, blasphemous breeze."--Philadelphia City Paper

"Elijah Wald's provocative, meticulously researched new book, How the Beatles Destroyed Rock 'n' Roll: An Alternative History of American Popular Music, turns the stock rock-and-roll narratives on their head."--Very Short List

"Brilliant and provocative... the most challenging and head-clearing history of American popular music to be published in decades."--The Buffalo News

"Wald explains musical and recording techniques and sociological phenomena in an engaging style accessible to a wide range of readers. Throughout, he makes a compelling case for why the figures most historians have disregarded or footnoted need to be considered in order to understand the totality of American popular music. This is an ideal companion to the plethora of standard histories available. Highly recommended." --Library Journal starred review

"Wald's arguments are as nuanced as his scope is wide, which makes this a fascinating and useful volume--required reading for any fan of pop music."--Memphis Flyer

"Fascinating... It's hard to imagine any American music buff coming away from this book without a fresh perspective and an overwhelming desire to seek out Paul Whiteman CDs. Highly recommended."--San Jose Mercury News

"Wald's book may be the literary equivalent of revisionist Civil War histories which tell the war through the eyes of soldiers rather than the generals, for he highlights how consumers actually heard and experienced music over the years, whether as screaming teeny-boppers watching Dick Clark's Bandstand or swing afficionados dancing to Glenn Miller at the Roseland."

"A subtle polemic, one that is fundamentally broad-minded and seeks to educate the reader on the rich legacy and development of American popular music, the music that spawned the Beatles and from which that group departed, for better and worse."--Brooklyn Rail

"Walds eminently readable book is a scholarly, provocative and opinionated account of the history of pop music from Sousa to the Stones, from genteel parlor piano recitals to arena rock spectacles."--Kansas City Star

"A bracing, inclusive look at the dramatic transformation in the way music was produced and listened to during the 20th century... One of those rare books that aims to upend received wisdom and actually succeeds."--Kirkus Reviews

"Some of the smartest historiography I've ever read. The examples and turns of phrase sometimes make me laugh out loud, and nearly every page overturns another outmoded assumption. Wald just calls it like he sees it and transforms everything as a result."--Susan McClary, MacArthur Fellow and author of Feminine Endings: Music, Gender, and Sexuality

"This is a ground-breaking book, a muscular revisionist account that will get people thinking quite differently about the history of pop music. I've learned much from it and admire the writing style that is so light on its feet, lucid and elegant."--Bernard Gendron, author of Between Montmartre and the Mudd Club: Popular Music and the Avant Garde

"Meticulously researched."

"A fascinating and scrupulous piece of pop scholarship...Tantalizing." --Paste Magazine