Fever: How Rock & Roll Transformed Gender in America

Overview

Tim Riley is the author of Tell Me Why: A Beatles Commentary, Hard Rain: A Dylan Commentary, and Madonna: Illustrated. His writing on pop culture has appeared in The Washington Post, Boston magazine, The Boston Phoenix, and the on-line journals Salon.com and Feed.com. He is currently the pop critic for NPR's midday news-magazine, Here and Now.

From the moment Elvis Presley started swinging his hips, social critics targeted rock 'n' roll as a broad threat to American morals. ...

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Overview

Tim Riley is the author of Tell Me Why: A Beatles Commentary, Hard Rain: A Dylan Commentary, and Madonna: Illustrated. His writing on pop culture has appeared in The Washington Post, Boston magazine, The Boston Phoenix, and the on-line journals Salon.com and Feed.com. He is currently the pop critic for NPR's midday news-magazine, Here and Now.

From the moment Elvis Presley started swinging his hips, social critics targeted rock 'n' roll as a broad threat to American morals. Parents worried that Presley's style was a corrupting influence that would drive their children away from the wholesome ideals of 'the greatest generation.'

In Fever: How Rock 'n' Roll Transformed Gender in America, renowned music critic Tim Riley turns that line of thinking on its head. Riley argues that instead of being a negative influence, rock 'n' roll provided new role models for an entire generation of Americans—liberating men from rigid, macho straitjackets and encouraging women to express the full range of their desires.

Beginning with Elvis's break from the John Wayne mold, Riley traces the development of men and women who challenged the status quo while articulating a new code of behavior. Rock's code, Riley argues, allows men to explore their feelings more openly, while freeing women to let loose their lusty and aggressive impulses. Provocative and illuminating, Fever shows how rock stars from Tina Turner to Mick Jagger—and Lesley Gore to Bruce Springsteen—have taught men and women new ways to think about themselves, and about each other.

"A fascinating look at the ways rock has shaped how we think about sexual identity in America. Riley presents serious academic points within a rock-critic analysis of icons that even a layperson would appreciate. Whether he's dissecting 'Tears of a Clown' or calling Michael Jackson a 'product of pop gone crazy,' Riley is always witty, acerbic, and smart."—Charles R. Cross, author of Heavier Than Heaven

"In his new book, Fever, Tim Riley goes beyond his unique fusion of technical music knowledge and stunningly perceptive emotional exegisis of lyrics to a wider-angle social vision . . . Riley is at his very best."—Ron Rosenbaum, The New York Observer

"Fever combines brainy and audacious cultural analysis with genuine musical understanding—a combination rare enough to inspire exhilaration."—Tim Page, Pulitzer-Prize winning author of Time Page on Music

"A fascinating look at the ways rock has shaped how we think about sexual identity in America. Riley presents serious academic points within a rock-critic analysis of icons that even a layperson would appreciate. Whether he's dissecting 'Tears of a Clown' or calling Michael Jackson a 'product of pop gone crazy,' Riley is always witty, acerbic, and smart."—Charles R. Cross, author of Heavier Than Heaven

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Tim Riley’s Fever is a fascinating look at the ways rock has shaped how we think about sexual identity in America. Riley presents serious academic points within a rock critic analysis of icons that even a layperson would appreciate. Gender is only the starting off point for Riley though: Fever also touches upon many of the great albums of the past thirty years-from the Beatles to Bruce Springsteen-and Riley uses this framework to bounce off astute, incisive writing. Whether he’s dissecting 'Tears of a Clown,' or calling Michael Jackson a 'product of pop gone crazy,' Riley is always witty, acerbic, and smart."

-Charles R. Cross

In this new book, Fever, he goes beyond his unique fusion of technical musical knowledge and stunningly perceptive emotional exegesis of lyrics to a wider-angled social vision that focuses in good part on the glorious complexities-societal as well as musical-of the "girl-group" sound, from the Chantels and the Exciters to Chrissie Hynde.

Mr. Riley is at his very best when he comes to what Spector and Veronica Bennett (later Veronica Spector) achieved with the Ronettes. Indeed, he writes one of the best single passages I’ve ever read about one of the ultimate girl-group songs: a passage that focuses on the breathtaking wordless opening of "Be My Baby," with its dangerous heart-arrhythmia of cathartic beats: the ones Mr. Riley transliterates as "Boom! ... boom-boom BLAM!"

- Ron Rosenbaum, The New York Observer

Publishers Weekly
When Elvis walked onstage and sang "Love Me Tender" or "Hound Dog," he changed and challenged more than just popular music. According to Riley, his gyrating hips and his invitations to nights of lusty love and rock and roll altered his audience's thinking about sexuality and gender relations, challenging their parents' more circumspect ideas and opening up new ways of freely experiencing their sexual selves. In this rather simplistic study of the impact of rock and roll on sexuality and gender, Riley opens with a comparison of John Wayne's and Elvis's sexual personas. Of course, Elvis shakes the foundations of male sexuality with his openness, his eagerness for experience and his dynamic and forthright declarations of the pleasures of love. While Elvis is shaking up the males, the girl groups-the Chantels, the Ronettes, the Crystals, the Shirelles-are providing a similar experience for the women. Perhaps sex could be saved for marriage, the songs said, but the singers insisted in their lyrics that women could experience plenty of sexual pleasures outside of marriage and that they should. Riley weaves this thesis through the history of rock and roll, tracing its development through Tina Turner, Bonnie Raitt, Joni Mitchell, Bruce Springsteen, Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love, among others. Whether or not rock and roll played the largely positive role in changing ideas about gender remains questionable, for many listeners-and many women in rock, such as Grace Slick-would contend that men's view of women has not changed much since John Wayne. Moreover, Riley's view is very selective, for much of rock music reinforces gender stereotypes, encouraging its audiences to do the same. While Riley's book contains some interesting moments, it fails to go far enough in looking at rock's more checkered history of gender relations. (June) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312286118
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 6/1/2004
  • Edition description: REV
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.34 (w) x 9.56 (h) x 1.01 (d)

Meet the Author

Tim Riley
Tim Riley

Adam Goucher has been testing software professionally for over ten years. In that time he has worked with start-ups, large multi-nationals and ones in between in both traditional and agile testing environments. A believer in the communication of ideas big and small, he writes frequently at http://adam.goucher.ca and teaches testing skills at a Toronto area technical college. In his off hours he can be found either playing or coaching box lacrosse - and then promptly applying lessons learned to testing. He is also an active member of the Association for Software Testing.

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Table of Contents

1 Are you lonesome tonight? 1
2 Chains 35
3 Private dancer 51
4 I just don't know what to do with myself 69
5 Man overboard 113
6 Walk like a man 145
7 Double fantasies 187
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 12, 2004

    A book for mucicians and music lovers...

    I'm a fan of Riley's Beatles book - Tell Me Why. Though this book has more social commentary, Riley's strength in analyzing the MUSIC and not the gossip and lives of musiciansstill puts him above the rest. His social commentary brings the music into context, not the other way around. As a musician, this is the way it should be done.

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