Sunday, July 21, 2013

Detroit: More Than Murder, Cars and Bankruptcy!

Detroit Rock City: The Uncensored History of Rock ‘n’ Roll in America’s Loudest City – Steve Miller (Da Capo Press)

You’ve probably at one point or another played the game where someone whispers something to a person and then that person passes it on to the next and so on. By the time it reaches the end of the group, the original comment has been changed pretty dramatically. That is almost the gist of this documentary style format retelling of the history of Detroit rock ‘n’ roll, by the folks who contributed to the city’s noisy history.

That’s what makes Detroit Rock City: The Uncensored History of Rock ‘n’ Roll in America’s Loudest City from journalist and author Steve Miller, not to be confused with the Fly Like and Eagle guitarist, so interesting. It’s all about perspective, as Miller tosses out a nugget and Detroit’s finest offer up their version of how things went down. It’s certainly interesting and often entertaining to read the occasionally wildly varying remembrances of the same events.

While the musical side of the Motor City is often framed around the exploits of Berry Gordy’s Motown Records which spawned so many icons and hits, it is impossible to overlook the monumental rock ‘n’ roll output that the gritty city served up. Guitar heroes from Ted Nugent and Dick Wagner to the White Stripes’ Jack White all called Detroit home. Add to that the likes of Bob Seger, Iggy Pop, MC5, Alice Cooper, Mitch Ryder, Mark Farner and Grand Funk Railroad and the list goes on and on. A case could easily be made the for the Rock ‘n’ Roll hall of fame to be located in Detroit. The end result turned out to be so darn lame that it’s probably better housed in Cleveland.

While the legendary laundry list of stars all have their say here, it is the folks who worked the music scene; the sound guys, disc jockeys, music journalists, managers, club owners, groupies, girlfriends, and hangers-on that add the layers of color to the story told here. While fame and fortune are cool side effects, it was really the music that mattered. It is a striking comparison to today’s Auto-tuned, pabulum puke that is instantly forgettable.

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