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27 February 1992
Dead Elvis: A Chronicle of a Cultural Obsession 
by Greil Marcus.
Viking, 256 pp., £17.99, February 1992, 0 670 83846 2
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Rythm Oil: A Journey through the Music of the American South 
by Stanley Booth.
Cape, 254 pp., £16.99, October 1991, 0 224 02779 4
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... then you’re indifferent. Uncle Vester, thus, is either another messenger at the shrine or another unfortunate chorus-sweller in the vaudeville farce we might, even without the prompting of GreilMarcus, call Dead Elvis. In any case, it all seems far longer than a decade and a half since he was around – generations earlier than other rock’n’roll deaths like Brian Jones or Janis Joplin. Greil ...


Tom Vanderbilt: ‘The Manchurian Candidate’

21 August 2003
The Manchurian Candidate: BFI Film Classics 
by Greil Marcus.
BFI, 75 pp., £8.99, July 2002, 0 85170 931 1
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... the late 1980s (in fact its disappearance had more to do with a falling out between the producers and United Artists). As with everything to do with the Cold War, it mutated in the imagination. As GreilMarcus suggests in his short study, the film ‘prefigured the sense that the events that shape our lives take place in a world we cannot see, to which we have no access, that we will never be able ...

You could catch it

Greil Marcus

25 March 1993
Panegyric. Vol. I 
by Guy Debord, translated by James Brook.
Verso, 79 pp., £29.95, January 1993, 0 86091 347 3
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The Most Radical Gesture: The Situationist International in a Post-Modern Age 
by Sadie Plant.
Routledge, 226 pp., £40, May 1992, 0 415 06222 5
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... On 22 February 1991, a small ad appeared in the Times Literary Supplement. Running in French, just below the much larger announcement of a ‘Search for the Director of the Bancroft Library’ at the University of California at Berkeley, the ad read: GUY DEBORD Judging it necessary to disavow the new Editions Lebovici, SEEKS LITERARY AGENT or highly-placed independent editor for books that will ...
16 November 1995
... Lo and Behold!’ opens on the rails, the first notes on the piano setting the wheels in motion, the singer with one foot on the platform and the other foot on the train as it pulls out within the room. It’s the summer of 1967, in the basement of Big Pink, a couple of months into fooling with old tunes, moving across a common landscape, new songs now coming in a rush; almost three decades later ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: The Wyatt Continuum

20 November 2014
... don’t, and if a Robert Wyatt song never sounds like it’s actually over, that’s probably because he decided early on not to let the fat lady out of her dressing room. Different Every Time, Marcus O’Dair’s fascinating authorised biography (Serpent’s Tail, £20), explains how much Wyatt had going for him at the outset and why the music is good. For a start there were his parents: his ...


Jerome McGann

22 June 1989
Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the 20th Century 
by Greil Marcus.
Secker, 496 pp., £14.95, June 1989, 0 436 27338 1
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... a rich culture from their brief and undesired appearance in one of our imperial histories. Nevertheless, the true history of the Massagetae has escaped us. It remains a closed book, a secret history. GreilMarcus’s ‘secret history of the 20th century’ does not mention the Massagetae. His principal subjects – the Sex Pistols, Dada, the Situationist International – send him plunging back into ...

Play hard

Dave Haslam

20 October 1994
The Dark Stuff: Selected Writings on Rock Music 1972-93 
by Nick Kent.
Penguin, 338 pp., £9.99, May 1994, 0 14 023046 7
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... in the UK press as Lester Bangs was in American journals like Creem, writing with a raw power that sought to emulate the mood onstage: furious, wide-eyed and speed-driven. Bangs, once described by GreilMarcus as ‘a one man orgy of abandon, excess, wisdom, satire, parody’, died in 1982 of a heart attack triggered by stimulants, but his prose – Kerouac’s narrator in On the Road, three steps ...

The Hell out of Dodge

Jeremy Harding: Woodstock 1969

15 August 2019
Woodstock: Three Days of Peace and Music 
by Michael Lang.
Reel Art Press, 289 pp., £44.95, July 2019, 978 1 909526 62 4
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... by a tractor while sleeping in a field. In Altamont four died, including Meredith Hunter, an African American stabbed and kicked to death by Hell’s Angels while the Rolling Stones were playing. As GreilMarcus summed it up later, a young black man in a predominantly white crowd was murdered ‘by white thugs as white men played their version of black music’. Altamont, the columnists pronounced ...


Dave Haslam

20 July 1995
The Black Album 
by Hanif Kureishi.
Faber, 230 pp., £14.99, March 1995, 0 571 15086 1
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The Faber Book of Pop 
edited by Hanif Kureishi and Jon Savage.
Faber, 813 pp., £16.99, May 1995, 0 571 16992 9
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... is by the ‘super fans’. As they get older fans and writers usually declare that pop music isn’t as good as it used to be, that commercialism has taken over. But some, like Simon Reynolds and GreilMarcus, emerge with their enthusiasms undiluted and are able to explore the links between the memorable moments and the groundbreaking acts, serving as a corrective to the inclination to see pop ...
10 January 1991
Stone Alone 
by Bill Wyman and Ray Coleman.
Viking, 594 pp., £15.99, October 1990, 0 670 82894 7
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Blown away: The Rolling Stones and the Death of the Sixties 
by A.E. Hotchner.
Simon and Schuster, 377 pp., £15.95, October 1990, 0 671 69316 6
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Are you experienced? The Inside Story of the Jimi Hendrix Experience 
by Noel Redding and Carol Appleby.
Fourth Estate, 256 pp., £14.99, September 1990, 1 872180 36 1
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I was a teenage Sex Pistol 
by Glen Matlock and Pete Silverton.
Omnibus, 192 pp., £12.95, September 1990, 0 7119 2491 0
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by George Michael and Tony Parsons.
Joseph, 242 pp., £12.99, September 1990, 0 7181 3435 4
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... rip-off of an Abba song. (Glen’s mum, however, liked it because it reminded her of the Shadows.) The Sex Pistols have recently been commemorated at stupefying length by the American rock critic GreilMarcus as the natural culmination of every Anarchist/Dadaist/Situationist movement of the century. I think they sounded rather like the Stones at their fiercest. Matlock half-agrees: drummer Paul ...

Me First

Andrew O’Hagan

7 March 1996
Peter York’s Eighties 
by Peter York and Charles Jennings.
BBC, 192 pp., £12.99, January 1996, 0 563 37191 9
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... Rockers from this time and that. This has given rise to some champion moments in recent writing; some excellent, warm-hearted excursions to the centre of our listening and imagining worlds – see GreilMarcus, Nik Cohn – and yet it has also given rise to some of the laziest and most puerile garbage currently available in print. The worlds of pop music are accessible and real – to do with bought ...


Adam Shatz: Ornette Coleman

15 July 2015
... most challenging music, of blues and swing, the fundamentals of Afro-American jazz.Coleman’s quartet of the late 1950s and early 1960s formed an ‘image of community’, to borrow a phrase from GreilMarcus. Coleman never counted off his pieces, and yet – as George Russell marvels in Made in America – ‘everybody would instinctively or intuitively come in at the same time and you didn’t ...
19 December 1991
England’s dreaming: The Sex Pistols and Punk Rock 
by Jon Savage.
Faber, 602 pp., £17.50, October 1991, 0 571 13975 2
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... The boy looked at Johnny (also 1978), a book of scurrilous mythologies adapted from Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon, are elegantly tacky and anti-intellectual exercises in mimetic form. GreilMarcus’s much-admired and equally mocked Lipstick Traces (1989), on the other hand, is a massively prolix and pretentious voyage round Dada and Situationism and every revolt against history since ...

That Wild Mercury Sound

Charles Nicholl: Dylan’s Decade

1 December 2016
The Bootleg Series, Vol. 12: The Cutting Edge 1965-66 
by Bob Dylan.
Columbia, £60, November 2015
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... speed – but none of this mattered, Robertson said, because ‘we weren’t making a record, we were just fooling around.’ The gloomy echo-chamber ambience is indeed part of their allure. As GreilMarcus wrote in his book about the recordings, Invisible Republic (1997), ‘the murk creates its own mystique.’ News of the secret cache of Dylan compositions began to leak out in the early months ...

Crack Open the Shells

Hal Foster: The Situationist Moment

12 March 2009
Correspondence: The Foundation of the Situationist International (June 1957-60) 
by Guy Debord, translated by Stuart Kendall and John McHale.
Semiotext(e), 397 pp., £12.95, February 2009, 978 1 58435 055 2
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... too – but there is romance here as well, and in part it is one of failure. Early in Lipstick Traces (1989), his ‘secret history of the 20th century’ in which the Situationists figure centrally, GreilMarcus limns a phantom community in the shadows: Is history simply a matter of events that leave behind those things that can be weighed and measured – new institutions, new maps, new rulers, new ...

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