Award-winning journalist and beloved music critic David Browne continues his string of successful band profiles, digging past his recent subjects of Jeff Buckley and Sonic Youth, to four of the most undisputedly influential rock legends falling apart at the end of the Decade of Love. As the seasons turn, the interlocking portraits of these four struggling musical partnerships shed new light on an often overlooked moment in the history of a country and a music scene.
Earphones Award-winner Sean Runnette narrates the book like he is sitting in your living room. Browne has set an easy-going tone that Runnette delivers with a friendly charisma and a fine ear for the sad parts of the story. This is a time where the bestselling albums in America all belonged to bands on the brink of implosion. Ironic parallels between the album content and the lives of the musicians abound. The Beatles are tying up loose ends on Let It Be while McCartney and Lennon each refuse to leave the other's nasty press quotes alone. James Taylor is riding the wave of Sweet Baby James while privately ignoring his heroin addiction. Simon and Garfunkel debut Bridge Over Troubled Water while burning bridges as Simon turns to teaching and Garfunkel turns to acting. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young are pushing out Deja Vu while all four are much more focused on their solo careers.
As a backdrop to these tales of celebrity won and sanity lost, Browne provides ample historical context. Students killed in the Kent State riots drew the attention of Neil Young, the next wave of protest movements drew several rock stars to Joni Mitchell in competing romantic intrigues, everybody was glued to the news coverage of Apollo 13, and the meteoric rise of Led Zeppelin was poised to give all four bands a run for their money. In the hands of a less capable narrator, this fascinating moment in music history might amount to nothing more than a major bummer. But Runnette keeps the listener engaged and optimistic, adding a nostalgic flavor that will make you want to blow the dust off these albums and appreciate what you've been missing in a much more nuanced way. Megan Volpert
January 1970: the Beatles assemble one more time to put the finishing touches on Let It Be; Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young are wrapping up Déjà Vu; Simon and Garfunkel are unveiling Bridge Over Troubled Water; James Taylor is an upstart singer-songwriter who's just completed Sweet Baby James. Over the course of the next twelve months, their lives---and the world around them---will change irrevocably.
Fire and Rain tells the story of four iconic albums of 1970 and the lives, times, and constantly intertwining personal ties of the remarkable artists who made them. Acclaimed journalist David Browne sets these stories against an increasingly chaotic backdrop of events that sent the world spinning throughout that tumultuous year: Kent State, the Apollo 13 debacle, ongoing bombings by radical left-wing groups, the diffusion of the antiwar movement, and much more. Featuring candid interviews with more than 100 luminaries, including some of the artists themselves, Browne's vivid narrative tells the incredible story of how---over the course of 12 turbulent months---the '60s effectively ended and the '70s began.
©2011 David Browne (P)2011 Tantor
"Browne's engrossing account of this fertile but volatile period sets the standard by which comprehensive musical histories should be judged." (BookPage)
For at least 2 generations, the flower children and the 'me's, 1970 was a watershed year, and David Browne's fascinating book takes us back there. I kept pausing the narrative to race off to listen to the music again and again. I felt it had some flaws in the storytelling style, however. There were narrative jumps and pivots that were really jarring - a sort of 'huh? How'd we get here' - rather than neat tie-ins between story lines. The narrator has a pleasant tone and cadence, but I'm not sure I'd seek him out again on purpose. Overall, a very enjoyable and recommended listen.
Maybe by David Browne but not read by Sean runnette
He is very boring to listen to. He ends virtually every sentence in a down note. He is not interested in the material and his execution makes it sounds that way.
While the research that went into this book is impressive, I felt that the overarching message was somewhat of a downer. Everyone who lived through that era and was tuned into the music was aware of the prevalence of drugs and partner-swapping in that culture. That the book focused so heavily on those issues, along with the conflicts between band members, caused the narrative to drag on in places. I found myself anxiously awaiting more positive stories or anecdotes. Sadly, that did not come until near the end. I got the impression that Browne was fairly young in 1970. Perhaps not having experienced that time period as a young adult, he became more intrigued by the flaws in the characters than in the happier aspects of their lives and associations.
The narration could have been much more pleasing if done by a more dynamic reader. I felt that the material deserved a reader who is enthusiastic about rock music. Sean Runnette is a good reader of general history, but, in my opinion, this history needed the reader to be in tune with the genre. And the mispronunciations! I have listened to several books read by him and tolerated many of his mispronunciations of science terminology, but for him to mispronounce names of well-known people is inexcusable for a reader of his scope. Granted, Laura Nyro and Jorma Kaukonen were not "major" stars, but if he did not know for sure how to pronounce their names, he owes it to his listeners to look them up before reading the book.
Lest I have discouraged other listeners, let me say that I did enjoy the book and I am glad I bought it. I will probably listen to it again, in time. After you listen to the book, go listen to the music, and be reminded that a lot of incredible things came out of all that turmoil and conflict.
A history of that year and the interaction music had with the social issues at that time was completely intertwined for me as teenager at that time. Remembering all the unrest in the nation and the music seemed to match the feeling of the youth. If you are in your 50's or older you will relate to this book. I think the younger generation will be lost if they listen although it would be good for them to see how music influenced us. If you love rock &roll listen to this book
Music me and the Mob or the Wrecking crew.
Yes but did not have the time
This brought back many memories of my youth. I was 11 years old that year and music was playing a major part of my consciousness. I would read books in the back yard listening to CSN's first album. I loved the song Guinevere and Abby road was my first album I ever owned.
I think the author was right on in the end when he commented that today there are to many things that interfere with music listening like video games and access to instant movies. Music was all we had in those days and three channels of TV so the music shaped a generation.
Not so today! We worshipped these musicians
I wouldn't listen to another spoken version musical history by David Browne.
Mr. Browne was describing multiple artists using a chronological order. So as he went through the time period he jumped from artist to artist. Perhaps in the book there was a heading or some other way to indicate a change coming, but on the audible format you have no indication that a change has occurred...after awhile it becomes annoying to suddenly realized he has jumped to another performer/group when a name gets mentioned. "Oh", you think, "James Taylor didn't do that, it was Neil Young".
The story was also rather depressing - I wanted to know more details but wasn't prepared for the downer this story would become.
Not necessarily - maybe other authors have organized their books differently.
The book is an interesting overview of the paths of several artists in the music field, and how they variously came to crossroads of their careers in the year 1970. The book's thesis is that this was a watershed year for these artists, and how extraordinary was that. But I feel the author stretches awfully hard to make events fit his premise. Still, an interesting collection of the arc of these artists' careers.
Perhaps only in the sense of being cautious of how much more there is to say about the period.
The narrator reads very well. However he makes a grave error (perhaps the error of the producer) in attempting a range of accents to portray various characters in the book. While it might not bother most people, his attempts at various UK accents - English, Scots - are all, in fact, Irish. Which is only distracting if you know the difference or care. For myself, it's similar to Joey, on the sitcom Friends, thinking his pseudo-Jamaican accent is, in fact, Southern US. It simply pulls you away from the text. But only if you care about such minutiae.
If it were able to document on film or video some of what it presents as fact, or have the artists in question interviewed and enlarging on those ideas.
I was looking for something different, and though I was young, I do remember 1970, so I thought - why not? There are some interesting "behind the scenes" anecdotes, so overall it's entertaining. The hardest part was trying to get all those old songs out of my head!
I am a professional photographer, a motorcyclist, and an avid reader and listener. I enjoy history, business books and
I was in my first year of high school in 1970 and a Beatles fan, I remember the newspaper story telling of the Beatles brake up. I was sad and for several years I wondered around trying to find something that excited me, but I was not a fan of the other three this book followed. In fact, I thought I would go back and visit their music after all these years and see if I was missing something. I was not. I didn't likle their music then and I don't like that music now ; but that being said I enjoyed this book. It was a much about the times as the groups and it was interesting hearing about the trials and tribulations of creative people trying to make music while personal issues pushed them apart. Sean Runnette's reading was very good, perfect for the story and the music it talked about. I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to anyone who lived through that period of time. Oh, and by the way, after drifting through old 50s rock for a couple of years I heard Deep Purple's Machine head album and was hooked. I've been a hard rock fan ever since.
I enjoy listening to audiobooks while working in my shop or around the house -sort of mental multitasking.
This book is worth listening to. It presents many interesting facts about these musicians and their rise and, in some cases, fall. However, the author seems to pine for, and sympathize with, good old political violence, like bombing buildings, that took place back in the day.
let's face it, most of the people involved here, besides being talented musicians, aren't that interesting. I got kind of tired with the whole lot of them about halfway through. Also, too bad they couldn't exploit the audible book medium by including music clips
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