cover image London, Reign Over Me: How England’s Capital Built Classic Rock

London, Reign Over Me: How England’s Capital Built Classic Rock

Stephen Tow. Rowman & Littlefield, $28 (216p) ISBN 978-1-5381-2717-9

This vibrant pop history makes a strong case for London being the true birthplace of modern rock. Tow (The Strangest Tribe) first differentiates the socioeconomic rebellion of British youths, who “played in bombsites and inhaled the smoke from coal fires” and were eager to explore other music forms, from the more affluent American music fans, baby boomers rebelling “aggressively against their elders.” Tow then describes how eager experimentation took blues from such American musicians as Muddy Waters and Sister Rosetta Tharpe, refracted it through the neo-folkie jamboree style of skiffle, incubated in scuzzy places like Crawdaddy, and tossed in the raw new “R&B” sound of the Rolling Stones and the Beatles. The book moves at rocket speed as it describes how the music pivoted and grew, with the Animals and Yardbirds pushing the pop format, the Who taking time off from trying to “destroy everything in its path” to make concept albums, and Pink Floyd and the Crazy World of Arthur Brown opening the doors to psychedelia. Tow makes a strong case that fans’ involvement was crucial: “Audiences were open to it all. That’s what made it work.” What results is a passionate study of a unique moment in rock history. [em](Feb.) [/em]