GM interviewed at Amazon.com about his upcoming book, The History of Rock ‘n’ Roll in Ten Songs (Yale University Press).
A: My editor Steve Wasserman wondered if I’d write a history of rock ’n’ roll. I thought it was a terrible idea, that it had been done to death, well and poorly, that there was a finished and accepted narrative that rendered any retelling of the story redundant and pointless. But, then I thought: What if the book was nonchronological, discontinuous, and left out almost everyone who couldn’t be left out (Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, James Brown, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, the Sex Pistols, Michael Jackson)? What if it neglected the well-known, iconic moments (the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show, Bob Dylan going electric), and centered instead on a small number of songs, each of which in its own unique way embodied rock ’n’ roll? That interested me–and the idea became this book.
Q: Isn’t this a ridiculous conceit?
A: Sure. The premise of the book–trying to ascribe the entire history of a form containing hundreds of thousands of exemplars into ten–is fundamentally absurd. That’s what makes it fun. Maybe we could hold a contest to see what ten songs readers would choose to sum up this history. The prize would be a copy of this book for the winner to tear up.