Dwight Rounds,
The Year the Music Died, 1964-1972
(Bridgeway, 2007)

The title of this book, accompanied by a cover archival photo of a crowd of fans greeting the Beatles, suggests the author will blame the British invasion for the demise of good, popular music. That's not exactly his premise. In spite of his slightly ambiguous title, Dwight Rounds' contention is that "the year the music died" was 1972, and that everything that's been released since then is sub-par.

This book is definitely a commentary that's somewhat irreverent. It is one devoted fan's opinions of all the top musical groups and top hits of that eight-year period.

Rounds begins by describing his ratings style and defining listeners into two categories: the "elite" and the "proletariat." He also divides the major groups and musicians of the day into four tiers. The first (top) tier consists of the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Byrds, Doors and the complete four-man line-up of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. The second tier is the Beach Boys, Buffalo Springfield, Cream, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, the Mamas & the Papas, Simon & Garfunkel, The Who and Neil Young. The third tier includes 21 groups/individuals, the fourth tier has 44, and an additional category called "Mad Dogs & Englishmen: The Others" lists 24 more.

Rounds provides basic histories of the upper-tier groups, then lists their top-10 hits and albums. Surely some readers will question his placement of Dylan and Hendrix in the second tier instead of the first, but I can go along with him on both of those points. However, his choice to devote an entire chapter to John Lennon (in the first-tier section), while seemingly expressing dislike for Lennon's solo work, remains a mystery.

Of course, anyone who reads this book will find at least one fault or will disagree with some of Rounds' pronouncements. I notice the omission of one of my idols, John Denver. Rounds fails to give him songwriting credit in the entry for the Peter, Paul & Mary hit "Leaving on a Jet Plane," and he doesn't even place Denver among the also-rans, even though "Take Me Home, Country Roads," rose up to No. 2 on the charts in 1971. Shame, shame, shame, Mr. Rounds! If you include individuals like Bobby Sherman and James Taylor, you should mention John Denver. On the other hand, I find in Round a fellow fan of "Temptation Eyes" by the Grass Roots. Not enough good can be said about that song.

I happened to turn to this book soon after I finished Can't Buy Me Love, Jonathan Gould's detailed history of the Beatles. The text here is thin by comparison. Most of the book consists of lists and interesting facts and trivia questions that will further stir readers to nod or shake their heads. In general, it's the kind of book one pages through, to stop occasionally on one list or another and then quickly moves on. One of the more valuable chapters raises some interesting questions about the qualifications and classifications of musicians and groups nominated and entered into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. And I will admit that I picked up a few new-to-me nuggets between the covers here.

Other than a few scans of old columns clipped from fanzines like Tiger Beat and 16 Magazine, no factual sources are cited. Even though this is an informal treatment, it would have been nice to know where Rounds got his information. My guess is he's been collecting stories and details for so long, he might not have kept track of the origins of the facts and quotes.

This book may be picked up by fellow Baby Boomers with a penchant for music trivia, and to that end, it will provide casual entertainment. Others might want to acquire the latest edition of Joel Whitburn's The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits and create their own trivia questions.

review by
Corinne H. Smith

22 December 2007

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