I started reading this last year — probably late summer or early autumn — in part as preparation for our trip to New York, though in part because I’d have wanted to anyway.
The trip to New York is over now. I finished the book a day or two before we left, and I’m not sure in the end that it made much difference to the trip — though it did mean I knew one or two things that the guy who lead our East Village rock & punk walking tour told us, and I was able to answer at least one of his questions: who might own a bar called “Manitoba’s”? The answer being “Handsome” Dick Manitoba of the Dictators.
But we’re here to talk about the book. The five years in question are 1973-1977, inclusive. They saw the tail end of the hippy era turning into glam, the growth of both punk and disco, and the early years of hip-hop. And that’s just in what we might call “rock” or “pop” in the most general sense. New York in those years also saw the growth of minimalism, with people like Steve Reich and Phillip Glass (both of whom I’ve seen live, incidentally); a burgeoning jazz scene; and the development of salsa and other latin-derived forms.
Hermes goes into great detail about all of these. He was a teenager in Queens at the start of the time (and in fact still a teenager at its end), and it’s clear that he lived for music. He went on, I discover, to write for Rolling Stone and others.
It’s a fantastic book, full of both scholarly detail and fannish anecdote, and I would heartily recommend it to anyone who has even a passing interest in any of those genres, or in New York’s history or that of music.
A minor crossover of my readings of the last half-year or so: we hear of Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers’ trip to London, and how he gave Viv Albertine heroin, as also described in more vivid detail in Viv’s book.
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