Seay, an editor of Contemporary Christian and coauthor of San Francisco Nights, a history of psychedelic music, and Neely, founder of Exit Records and producer of the radio series Rock Scope, base this book on the research, interviews and music assembled for Rock Scope between 1978 and 1983. Beginning with Quakers, Shakers and early black Christians, a ``spiritual force'' is traceable from early blues and gospel to ``Christian aerobic dance musicBelievercise,'' the authors maintain. They connect musical genres to religious movements, showing, for example, Pentecostalism's influence on Southern singers such as Roy Acuff, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Marvin Gaye. Other chapters examine the feverish performances of James Brown, the gospel roots of Sam Cooke and Little Richard, Pat Boone's white-bucks wholesomeness, the ``incense-drenched insights'' of the Beatles, the Grateful Dead cult, ``electric shaman'' Jim Morrison, the nihilism of punk and heavy metal, Bob Dylan's ``Christian fervor.'' The melodious mysticism of Donovan is perhaps the only omission in the authors' sermon, but even this oversight doesn't spoil an ambitious, comprehensive and entertaining book. (November)
Not another history of rock's gospel roots, but a serious look at how the more simplistic religious ideas of Protestant fundamentalism and Eastern mysticism have shaped rock's content and the lives of some of its stars. Blues, r&b, and early rock 'n' roll derived their power from the tension between sacred and profane elements. With the rise of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, et al., rock 'n' rollers imagined they had something important to say about life's big questions. Often what we got were empty slogans or cartoon-like Satanism. In the 1970s and 80s, the harder major artists like the Who, Led Zeppelin, and Dylan strove to tackle spiritual questions the more muddled and irrelevant their music became. The authors conclude that rock as a creative art form is exhausted. Challenging, opinionated, expertly written, this is the best sustained piece of rock criticism since Greil Marcus's Mystery Train. Thomas Jewell, Waltham P.L., Mass.