Gets as close to the heart and soul of America and American music as the best
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.
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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