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Publisher's Summary

Sex. Drugs. Loud music. Wild costumes. Dazzling light shows. These words can all describe a great rock concert or a hot dance club, but they were also part and parcel of the ancient cultural phenomenon known as the "Mystery religions". In this book, author Christopher Knowles shows how the long-dead Mystery religions got a secular reincarnation when a new musical form called rock 'n' roll burst onto the scene.
Knowles shows how the Mysteries prefigured subcultures as diverse as Santeria, Freemasonry, and Mardi Gras, and explains exactly how ancient rituals and music found their way to the New World. In the process, The Secret History of Rock 'n' Roll traces the development of rock's most popular genres, such as punk and metal, and reveals how many of rock's most iconic artists fill the same archetypal roles as the ancient gods. You'll see how many of the rituals, customs, and musical styles of our postmodern society have stunning ancient parallels. You'll meet history's first pop divas, headbangers, and guitar heroes and read the untold story of the Puritan Woodstock. Get ready for a wild ride that will take you from the Stone Age to the Space Age.
©2010 Cleis Press (P)2011 Cleis Press
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
2 out of 5 stars
By Bruce on 02-07-12

Excellent reading, disappointing book

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

Quinn does a fine job with the reading. One of my favorite things about audio books is getting the pronunciations of foreign and unfamiliar terms, and he weaves them in smoothly. His pacing and dynamics were both great. I'll be looking for more by him.

What was most disappointing about Christopher Knowles’s story?

Weak scholarship, distracting cutesy phrasing, and above all, deep tunnel vision, showing little awareness that anyone else's tastes could really matter as much as his or be nearly so interesting. Would have been a better memoir, maybe.

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

The first part, going over the existing accounts and physical evidence of the mystery cults of antiquity with an eye on possible similarities of practice with contemporary music and related celebrations, was fun. A lot of it's speculative, but he's clear about it, and some of the connections he traces intrigued me enough to suggest further reading. The farther his subject is from himself, apparently, the better Knowles is at writing interestingly about it for people who don't share his immediate tastes.

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7 of 9 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars
By Darrin Snider on 02-18-15


The author seems to want to tie rock and roll culture into the mystery religions of ancient civilization. What it comes out as is a brief primer on ancient mtyhology and an encyclopedia of well-documented rock trivia (hardly "secret"). The two are never really adequately tied together (nor is the central theme really mentioned much again) aside from the over-use of the word "dionysian" to describe just about everything and everyone.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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