Inside David Browne’s Rock & Roll Book Deal

By Jason Boog Comment

030681515X.jpgEarlier this week, rock journalist David Browne scored a deal with Da Capo press for 2011–a book entitled, Fire and Rain: How Rock & Roll and America Changed in 1970. As GalleyCat headed out for the Thanksgiving holiday, we caught up with Browne to find out more about his brand new book.

Da Capo also published Browne’s recent rock tome, Goodbye 20th Century: A Biography of Sonic Youth. A prolific music journalist, Browne also wrote the biography, Dream Brother: The Lives and Music of Jeff and Tim Buckley.

This Rolling Stone contributing editor explained how the deal came together: “My agent Erin Hosier went for it right away, and Ben Schafer, my editor at Da Capo, which did a very nice job with Goodbye 20th Century: A Biography of Sonic Youth, wanted to work with me again, so it all came together pretty fast.”

Browne explained why the 1970s might speak to contemporary readers: “The parallels between then and now are uncanny: OPEC was essentially created in 1970, the Weather Underground had its ‘greatest hits’ (so to speak) that year, and thanks to an unpopular war, the country was heading into a recession. One of the things we can learn is that tumultuous times really do make for great art, and we can also learn that for every ending is a new beginning (Think of all the great work Paul Simon, Neil Young, John Lennon and others did after this period). Crashes can be as good for art as for rebuilding an economy.”

He continued: “When I started researching that particular year, I discovered that it truly was the year the ’60s ended. Everything that seemed to be moving in a positive direction in 1969 (from the moon landing to rock festivals to the anti-war movement) collapsed in 1970 (Apollo 13, Kent State, increasingly gnarly, post-Altamont rock fests, Richard Nixon’s ‘Southern Strategy’).”

He added: “Although I’ve just begun my primary-source research, readers will learn how so much pop grew introspective and quieter, almost as if everyone was worn down by the battles of the ’60s; it’s no surprise that James Taylor ‘s “Fire and Rain” was one of the year’s biggest songs.”

Browne concluded with a note about the birth of one of musics most popular and infamous genres:

“In a sense, Adult Contemporary was launched in 1970 as the first rock audience started to lurch toward … 30! Readers will see how rock itself almost became dismantled [in 1970]: that was also the year Diana Ross left the Supremes, Lou Reed left the Velvet Underground, and Creedence Clearwater Revival began its decline. (And let’s not forget Bob Dylan’s abysmal Self-Portrait.) They’ll also learn how much blood, sweat and tears into the making of those seemingly mellow albums.”