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Greil Marcus: Mystery Train - Images of America in Rock'n'Roll Music

[cover art]

[Cover 3rd ed.] [Cover 4th ed.] [Cover 5th ed.] [Cover 25th anniversary ed.]

Gets as close to the heart and soul of America and American music as the best of rock'n'roll.
--Bruce Springsteen

Should be read by anyone who cares about America or its music.
--The New York Times

More than 20 years after its initial publication, Mystery Train remains one of the smartest, most provocative books ever written about rock-and-roll. Marcus puts his subjects--which include Robert Johnson, Elvis Presley, The Band, Randy Newman, and Sly Stone--into their proper context, which is the culture-at-large. He makes you understand why these musicians matter, and what they've contributed to the American imagination. In his introduction, Marcus confesses that he's no longer "capable of mulling over Elvis without thinking about Herman Melville"--to the benefit, I might add, of both parties. review

When it was first published in 1975, critic after critic called this brilliant study of rock'n'roll and American culture the best book on the subject. Now, firmly established as a classic, an inspiration to a generation of musicians, fans, and writers, Mystery Train has been revised and its delightful, informative Notes and Discographies updated and greatly expanded for this third edition. Most would still agree with Rolling Stone that Mystery Train is "probably the best book ever written about rock".

The highlights of Mystery Train are numerous, and a remarkable chapter about Elvis, called the "Presliad", is regarded by many as the most insightful writing we have about Presley. Even after Presley's death, Marcus's essay emerges from the hoopla and hysteria as a landmark in American cultural criticism, reaching "a pitch of ecstasy, horror and understanding" (Frank Rich, Village Voice).

Focusing on six artists - "Ancestors" Robert Johnson and Harmonica Frank and "Inheritors" Randy Newman, the Band, Sly Stone, and Presley - Marcus has, as Jon Landau wrote in Rolling Stone, "taken stylistic, intellectual and creative risks in writing so original and ambitious a book on both America and rock'n'roll. Marcus has often quoted Robbie Robertson of the Band to the effect that music should never be harmless. The best thing about this wonderful book is that it never is."

Plume published the third edition of Mystery Train in 1990, a fourth revised edition in May 1997 and a fifth edition in March 2008. Faber and Faber in the UK published a fifth revised 25th anniversary edition in November 2000.

Greil Marcus: Mystery Train - Plume/Faber and Faber - 1990, 1997, 2000, 2008

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