“Ghost” is a word that pops up a fair amount in Greil Marcus’s new The History of Rock ‘n’ Roll in Ten Songs, describing those factors in music’s fundamental appeal that common logic can’t explain away. It’s an easy place to return to, especially for an author who borrowed the cryptic blues title “Mystery Train” for one of his early books. However, a larger part of the thrill of secret histories, including Ten Songs, is learning what does add up, giving color and detail to unknown knowns that were heretofore mythical or perhaps just forgotten.
It’s a game I play with myself, too. As a younger pop omnivore than Marcus, my attention is drawn to ephemeral tracks like Candy’s 1985 “Whatever Happened to Fun” (1970s American power pop bouncing atop the dying embers of Los Angeles Paisley Underground, in era-appropriate Sunset Strip clothes) and Kevin Paige’s 1989 “Don’t Shut Me Out” (a boyband confection owing to Scritti Politti’s “Perfect Way” and Robbie Nevil, while straddling the division between the urban toughness of new jack swing and the Vegas flash and dazzle of Eddie Van Halen’s “Beat It” guitar solo).
The History of Rock ‘n’ Roll in Ten Songs reviewed by Jody Beth, Tiny Mix Tapes, October 2014