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Rock Til You Drop
By John Strausbaugh
Verso, $25

This is a brave and sometimes foolish book. The 50-ish Strausbaugh — editor of New York Press, a Manhattan alternative weekly — posits some very bold assertions in Rock Til You Drop. His central point in a few words: Rock is a young person's game and old farts like Mick Jagger and Pete Townshend have no business playing. Or, to quote the book, "Rock simply should not be played by fifty-five-year-old men with triple chins wearing bad wighats, pretending to be excited about songs they wrote thirty or thirty-five years ago and have played some thousands of times since."

Strausbaugh builds fun, forceful but often ridiculous arguments. It's one thing to contend that Jagger is a parody of his former self — it's quite another to suggest that he has an obligation to hang up his tights. In the words of former Soul Coughing frontman M. Doughty, who Strausbaugh uses as something of a foil, "... (Jagger) sold out Shea Stadium, what, eight nights in a row? There's nothing to tell this guy he should stop. (Strausbaugh's) is a quintessentially baby boomer argument: I don't like this. This displeases me. Take it away."

In Strausbaugh's view, it would be OK if Jagger and his ilk sat on a stool and sang blues tunes, but unacceptable if they prance and preen. From here, he looks to be standing on shaky ground. Nevertheless, his skewering of over-the-hill rockers is routinely witty and irreverent, and good argument fodder.

Rock Til You Drop is not, thankfully, one long rant. Strausbaugh examines selected histories through the eyes of behind-the-scenes folk like Giorgio Gromelsky (rock impresario and the first Stones manager), '60s radical John Sinclair, feminist Ellen Willis and others, all of whom offer far more intelligent and articulate perspectives than most rock stars. He offers effective revisionism on early punk, and his analysis of the rise and shameful fall of Rolling Stone magazine is the book's most effective chapter.

In all, Rock Til You Drop is well worth reading despite its flaws.

—Eric Snider

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