The B Side

The B Side

The Death of Tin Pan Alley and the Rebirth of the Great American Song

Book - 2015
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"Everybody knows and loves the American Songbook. But it's a bit less widely understood that in about 1950, this stream of great songs more or less dried up. All of a sudden, what came over the radio wasn't Gershwin, Porter, and Berlin, but "Come on-a My House" and "How Much Is That Doggie in the Window?" Elvis and rock and roll arrived a few years later, and at that point the game was truly up. What happened, and why? In The B Side, acclaimed cultural historian Ben Yagoda answers those questions in a fascinating piece of detective work. Drawing on previously untapped archival sources and on scores of interviews--the voices include Randy Newman, Jimmy Webb, Linda Ronstadt, and Herb Alpert--the book illuminates broad musical trends through a series of intertwined stories. Among them are the battle between ASCAP and Broadcast Music, Inc.; the revolution in jazz after World War II; the impact of radio and then television; and the bitter, decades-long feud between Mitch Miller and Frank Sinatra. The B Side is about taste, and the particular economics and culture of songwriting, and the potential of popular art for greatness and beauty. It's destined to become a classic of American musical history" -- from publisher's web site.
Publisher: New York, New York : Riverhead Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA), 2015.
ISBN: 9781594488498
1594488495
Branch Call Number: 782.42164 YAG
Characteristics: 310 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, portraits ; 24 cm

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c
CarmanJ
Sep 26, 2015

One of the best books I've ever read about the Great American Songbook. It explains so well how the standards became standard and how the sequence of events wasn't as simple as "They used to write great songs and then rock and roll wrecked everything." Yagoda illuminates the details of the constantly changing music industry and the American way of life and paints a vivid picture of the evolution of American popular song. Superb!

i
inthehouse
Apr 17, 2015

Great book - actually quite funny, Yagoda has an eye for the absurd.

a
athena14
Mar 31, 2015

This book wanders around in pop music history, often repeating anecdotal content. The many pages of quoted denunciations of rock'n'roll are boring and irrelevant.

m
mswrite
Mar 16, 2015

An entertaining overview of the arc of American popular music, most significantly from the early 1930s through the late '60s. As you may suspect from the terrific cover photo, the influence of Frank Sinatra and the ups and downs of his musical career dominate the book, but the Sinatra saga is not nearly the only story explored here.

I vaguely remember the popular "Sing Along With Mitch" TV series, which even to my pre-adolescent mind seemed pretty vanilla (but then, so was a lot of U.S. mainstream television in the early to mid-sixties) but had no idea Sinatra loathed Mitch Miller so or why. "The B-Side" does a nice job of explaining the origins of that feud among other amusing and poignant stories.

ChristchurchLib Mar 01, 2015

According to cultural historian Ben Yagoda, America's songwriting peaked decades ago - from about 1925 through the end of World War II. But The B-Side doesn't wage war on current crooners; rather, it unearths the elements that have changed the American musical landscape, from copyright law to Hollywood and Broadway to rock 'n' roll itself. If you're interested in the Golden Age of Songwriting, simply love music in all its varieties, or are an armchair musicologist, The B-Side is "consistently engaging" (Kirkus Reviews). Popular Culture newsletter March 2015.

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