All Shook Up Glenn Altschuler Essay Definition


"One of the first to do rock-and-roll the significant service of locating it within the cultural and political maelstrom it helped to create. Altschuler does so with a good ear for the music and a deft hand, making this account a pleasure to read and ponder. He is not a flashy writer, but so much the better for his storytelling, which shows intelligence and narrative discipline.... Altschuler surpasses the admittedly sparsely populated field in the nuanced way he places the music within the conflicts--racial, sexual, commercial, and political--that it variously helped to encourage, exacerbate, and (occasionally) ameliorate. Altschuler tells a story of liberation and fear, of inspiration and exploitation, of repeated attempts to homogenize a form of cultural expression that sprang from somewhere so authentic in Western youth culture that it proved bigger and more powerful than any combination of its myriad opponents."--Eric Alterman, Atlantic Monthly


"A well thought out, well researched work, peppered with evocative archival photos and full of terse, sharp comment and considerable feel for the music and its performers."--Toronto Globe and Mail
"In All Shook Up, Glenn C. Altschuler vividly demonstrates that Rock 'n' Roll--as music, lyric, and gesture--provides the guide, the Ariadne's thread, through the labyrinth of social, cultural, generational, and sexual upheaval that was post-World War II America."--Kevin Starr, author of Americansand the California Dream
"While incorporating extensive research and quotes from the most astute rock music critics, past and present, he manages to craft prose that will suit a general audience."--Library Journal
"A book rich with shocking and humorous anecdotes.... Also offers insight into the often complicated racial and legal issues surrounding rock 'n' roll in the 1950s."--AP Weekly
"A soulful, scholarly, and thoroughly fascinating examination of the transforming power of rock and roll in American culture. Brandishing the chops of a loving fan and a scrupulous historian, Altschuler nimbly tracks the rock-propelled revolutions in manners and morality that first rumbled forth from the 1950s, a decade that seems ever more the epoch of Elvis not Eisenhower. His is a finely tuned, perfectly pitched appreciation of the rhythms of a music that became not only a soundtrack but a heartbeat to American life."--Thomas Doherty, Brandeis University
"Includes enough tantalizing tales along with thumbnail sketches of the forefathers and key moments from the annals of pioneer rock to keep the narrative lively and flowing.... This PhD is such an enthusiastic fan, my '50s generation awards him our ultimate accolade: he's obviously a 'Good Rockin' Doc.'"--Miami Herald
"A fascinating and important look at a pivotal decade in American history.... Put on those old 45s and curl up for an enlightening and eminently readable story."--PW Daily
"A remarkably thorough short history of the birth of rock and roll and its cultural contexts. Glenn Altschuler manages to weave the stories of musicians and record producers, cultural critics and legislators, psychologists and sociologists, businessmen and teenaged consumers into a lively, astute narrative of cultural change. The result is not just an especially informative history of rock, but an important cultural history of the 'long' 1950s."--Tom Lutz, author of Crying: A Natural and Cultural History of Tears and American Nervousness, 1903: An Anecdotal History

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A slender academic treatment of rock music as a cultural, political, and historical force.

Rock ’n’ roll has a long pedigree, and Altschuler (American Studies/Cornell Univ.) follows its history only partway to its birth in the union of black country blues and hillbilly balladry. Instead, his story begins in the late 1940s and early ’50s, when a few daring “race” artists managed to bring their sound to white teenagers in an era when “the orchestras of Mantovani, Hugo Winterhalter, Percy Faith, and George Cates created mood music for middle-of-the-road mid-lifers, who hummed and sang along in elevators and dental offices.” Greil Marcus, Peter Guralnick, and other rock historians have done better than Altschuler in capturing the mood of the revolution that followed, but Altschuler shines when he sets the history of rock in the context of other social trends, particularly the growing civil-rights movement and American advertising’s discovery of adolescents as a market segment. All were calculated to bring down the harrumphing of older social critics, who were legion: the authors of U.S.A. Confidential, who worried that disk jockeys and their audiences were “hopheads. . . . Many others are Reds, left-wingers, or hecklers of social convention”; the poet Langston Hughes, who grumped that rock ’n’ roll “makes a music so basic it’s like the meat cleaver the butcher uses”; even the late-in-the-day editorialists at the New York Times, who harped at the “nightmare of mud and stagnation” that supposedly was Woodstock. Rock ’n’ rollers weren’t the only ones to endure controversy, Altschuler adds, noting that the NAACP turned on Nat King Cole for his political indifference (Cole later became a committed civil-rights activist), and even safe-as-milk Pat Boone was once suspected of harboring hophead thoughts. Rock ’n’ roll carried the day against all its critics, though, to become whatever it is now, capable of exciting puritan and prurient emotions alike.

So dry at times that the reader may worry whether rock is truly dead. But an informative depiction of the early sound and fury all the same.

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