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Editorial Reviews

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
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Publisher's Summary

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
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Critic Reviews

"Browne's engrossing account of this fertile but volatile period sets the standard by which comprehensive musical histories should be judged." (BookPage)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By NCKitkat on 07-28-11

Fascinating information, easy to listen

I bought this because I graduated from high school in '70 and began college- and couldn't remember a whole lot of details from that year. The author has researched it meticulously, giving quotes from members of the bands and setting political backdrops. The narrator is also very good. I have a very hard time putting it down- it is as if you have someone in your living room with you, telling you about what was going on as if he knew these people well, and remembered it perfectly. I have told several people about this book and may give it as a gift, along with some of the music. I find myself playing the songs he describes-

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20 of 20 people found this review helpful


By fred on 08-04-11

The Original VH1 Behind the Music

An insightful look at the classic rock star arc: poor, some success, a bunch of excess then immortality after losing touch. Some B-side and bottom of the album references were meaningless but a real, heavy-duty fan of the bands would understand. There is a bit of innocence throughout and a ton of sex/drugs...did they really not know the long-term effects or did they not care? Well, sex, drugs and rock-n-roll had to start somewhere. I was not aware of the inter mingling between the groups and that made the book even more interesting. Not a short book. The reader does not imitate the singer's voices but does an admirable job of reflecting the intonation. Hard core, classic rock lovers will love it. Casual fans with an interest in history will like it. You'll still enjoy it if you like to hear about rags to riches to not-so rags stories.

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14 of 14 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By Goldfrapper on 05-07-17

Good journalism, boring narration

At first I was disappointed, having expected from the sample that it would be part-memoir, part-history of a single year in rock history. In the end there was no memoir, but the presentation of its selected artists in detail, made me realise that 1970 is not the most covered year; I learned much more about CSNY and James Taylor than I'd known before, even Simon & Garfunkel. Only The Beatles segments taught me nothing new, but I've read so much about them that even here there will much of interest to non-experts.

There was a backdrop of the year's wider events, such as The Weathermen terrorist bombs, pop festivals, space missions, the Kent State shootings.

The negative was the narration. It was so tediously monotonous and lacked any excitement, that it sent me off to sleep more than once. The narrator even unwisely attempted the occasional English - even Liverpool! - accent, which were laughable failures.

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By Rose on 07-27-16

smackheads, crackheads, dope fiends and poor excuses for doing as they pleased

This book is packed full if stories and information about the first year of the new decade after the turbulence of the 1960.s. It's also full of stupid weak excuses for taking drugs and 'chilling out'. I mean, to say they didn't know what drugs would do is jsut silly considering the sixties were riddled with adicts and to say everyone else was doing it is jsut as weak. Still that's what they said. I gave this book the rating I did because I can't stand the style of writing. It's too journalistic for my taste. who cares whe recalled what? If it's the truth that's all that matters not who said what or remembered something or simpl;y 'recalled' as a lot of people did in this book. So I have mixed feeling about this book. The narator can't seem to make up hsi mind whether to attempt the various accents or not. Caught in two minds and doing neither seems to be the thing. However if you want facts then read this if you are not as exacting as I am re style you might even enjoy it more than I did.

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