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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Industry insider Stan Cornyn had pulled together material twice before to write a history of media goliath Warner Music Group, but both projects were snuffed out before they could be completed. Thankfully, he saved all his notes. Now, with the help of Rolling Stone editor Paul Scanlon, he tamps down his 34 years of experience in the company for a big blowout of a book: Exploding, an entertaining exposé of the history of Warner.
Cornyn's lifelong love affair with music is evident in this saga, and the perspective earned in his own rise through the ranks of the record industry is colored with a reverence for the artists being promoted. He entered Warner Bros. Records in its infancy, as editorial manager -- which then meant typing "everything from liner notes to order forms" -- at a time when the first big hit the company had was a comedy performance by Bob Newhart. His career led him everywhere from the early years spent following Frank Sinatra around to his emergence as a driving creative force in the company. Exploding tracks the rock-'n-roller-coaster fate of Warner -- from 1904, when Sam, Abe, and Jack Warner's father first bought them an Edison Kinetoscope, through the 1910s and early '20s, when the Warners first began making "quickies," through 1958, when the film giant gave the music business a second chance under the axiom, "Control your marketplace with your own distribution." Cornyn leads us through the industry's explosion in the '60's and '70s, when Warner merged with Elektra and Atlantic. Through conversations with the now-retired Warner legends he calls "The Montecito Book Club," Cornyn attempts to make sense of the company's decline in the '90s. Along the way, we get fascinating glimpses of Warner players who shaped the fate of the company -- and the industry as a whole -- as well as an insider's look at the rise of music legends like Al Jolson ("the Mick Jagger of his time"), Keith Richards, and Johnny Rotten.
While this book is a big history of a big player in an even bigger industry, Stan Cornyn doesn't claim to have written the whole story. He's started a web site where other insiders will, hopefully, tell it how they saw it. Nevertheless, Cornyn's own authoritative account is sure to make rock history. (Elise Vogel)