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Love Goes to Buildings on Fire: Five Years in New York That Changed Music Forever

3.87  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,470 Ratings  ·  171 Reviews
Punk rock and hip-hop. Disco and salsa. The loft jazz scene and the downtown composers known as Minimalists. In the mid-1970s, New York City was a laboratory where all the major styles of modern music were reinvented--all at once, from one block to the next, by musicians who knew, admired, and borrowed from one another. Crime was everywhere, the government was broke, and t ...more
Hardcover, First Edition (U.K.), 384 pages
Published November 8th 2011 by Faber & Faber Ltd. (first published November 2011)
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Jul 30, 2011 Tosh rated it really liked it
"Love Goes to Buildings On Fire" is not only one of my favorite songs by Talking Heads, but it's also a very warm and fascinating book by Will Hermes. Focusing on the years 1973 to 1977, in New York City, is a combination social history and a love message to the artists of that era - who really defined NYC as a creative force. A place that touched greatness from George Maciunas (one of the founders of Fluxus) to Patti Smith to Grandmaster Flash to New York Dolls to Philip Glass to Richard Hell t ...more
Ed Wagemann
Aug 23, 2012 Ed Wagemann rated it did not like it
There hasn't been much in American culture to get excited about since the 1970s. The cable tv revolution and gadget boom of the 1980s might have been interesting for a minute. Grunge in the 1990s became boring quickly. Rap is crap. The prescription drug craze, the tech boom, talk radio, all pretty much pale in comparison to the culture that was produced in the 1970s. The '70s had it all, from streakers to wife-swapping swingers and Morgana the kissing bandit to bra-burners and draft-dodgers to C ...more
Gus Sanchez
Jan 19, 2012 Gus Sanchez rated it really liked it
New York City, mid-1970's. The whole place is falling apart. Crime is rampant, the city teeters on complete financial bankruptcy. Things just aren't looking good for the Big Apple. Yet from the state of emergency comes a phenomenally vibrant and highly influential wave of music whose influence still resonates today. The punk scene that emerged from CBGB's; the explosion of Latin music as performed by the Fania All-Stars; experimental forays into jazz and classical music; the emergence of disco f ...more
John Norman
Dec 01, 2011 John Norman rated it liked it
This book covers a period of amazing musical experimentation in NYC - punk, jazz, disco, "latin" - a lot was going on, and there was a good deal of cross-pollination between these genres.

Hermes tells a lot of stories -- many I knew, some that I didn't. The ones that were new to me were valuable and provocative.

I think the most valuable part is the account of the rise of Latin / Cuban music, though it gets repetitive towards the end.

Having said all that, I really can't recommend the book. The pr
May 30, 2012 Tuck rated it liked it
fairly good and entertaining re-cap of music in nyc in 1973-1977. the punk and rock portions won't reveal anything new to the punks out there, but the parts on loft scene and latin/salsa worlds are very nice, and steve reich and glass, and those dudes, and laurie anderson, those parts are interesting to me because i didn't know much about that. and the dj's too, herc, and siano. plus all the bars and clubs and storefronts, and parks and youth centers and lofts and theaters where music was heard ...more
May 24, 2013 Adam rated it it was amazing
This is definitely the most fun I’ve had reading a book in a while, maybe not the best, though it is really good. The book is a kaleidoscopic social history of New York during its darkest years in the supposedly musically fallow seventies. So much of my favorite music bubbled under the surface in the seventies I always forget that it really was pretty awful time for popular music (as a quick listen to a current day oldies or classic rock station will show). Hermes travels similar ground to other ...more
Apr 02, 2016 Patrick rated it really liked it
A history of five years of music in NYC, 1973 to 1978. I really liked this book and it was an excellent follow up to David Van Ronk's the Mayor of MacDougal Street. Tonally, they were both similar in that they were about heavily mythologized eras but looked at them with a refreshing level-headedness. Both were able to articulate what was great about their respective scenes without overpraising or being oversnarky about the negative.

Although Hermes approaches these five years from a personal per
Frank Jude
Feb 16, 2014 Frank Jude rated it really liked it
Will Hermes’ Love Goes To Buildings On Fire: Five Years in New York That Changed Music Forever is one of the most ambitious works on popular culture that I have ever read. Perhaps the most ambitious in that is surveys the radically creative hotbed of New York City in the 1970s (specifically the years from 1973 through 1977) meshing sociology, cultural analysis, and music history into a fascinating tale that those of us who lived through it, as well as those for whom this is history, will find ex ...more
Robert Boyd
Mar 05, 2012 Robert Boyd rated it really liked it
Shelves: music
The conceit of this book is a bit strange--that five years in New York City (1973 to 1977) were unbelievably creative years in all musical genres. But he works hard to prove it, writing about the pre-history of hip hop, the rise of punk, the maturation and peak of salsa, the "loft jazz" scene, the origin and rise of disco, the triumph of minimalism, and the emergence of particular musical artists like Patti Smith and Bruce Springsteen. The thing is, so many of these things were unrelated--hip ho ...more
Jun 11, 2012 Caroline rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2012
New York in the mid to late 70s was one of the most creatively active and diverse periods in American history, and it's probably the number one destination for my time machine To Do list. So I expected to really love this book, but it lacks strong narrative and is an uninspired read. It's hard to say how much of that is due to the writer, because it's a necessarily overwhelming period to cover. I did find that his musical descriptions were not helpful, and I ended up skipping sections on genres ...more
Sep 28, 2012 Katie rated it it was ok
I didn't finish this one. I was looking forward to reading (or listening to) this one because the 70s in New York seemed to be the perfect time and place for interesting innovative music. It was an exciting time in the arts.

Unfortunately, this book read a bit like a wikipedia article and somehow squashed the excitement of the music scene. It took effort to pay attention. Maybe it's that I already read Patti Smith's Just Kids, so I know how well the story can be told.

I'm convinced that Will Her
Joe Drape
Nov 12, 2011 Joe Drape rated it really liked it
Very readable and insightful snapshot of the New York music scene in the 1970s. Hermes shows how punk, salsa, hip-hop and good old rock n roll were taking flight in dive music bars across the city. Great portraits of Bruce Springsteen, Patti Smith and the Talking Heads in their formative years. I'm a casual music enthusiasts and this held my attention. Really enjoyed it.
Jun 03, 2015 Roderick rated it it was ok
This was a very strange and ultimately disappointing "book," if it can even be labeled as such. The narrative is constructed almost entirely chronologically, with an almost complete absence of style or authorial presence. The author pops up very occasionally to remember what he was doing on certain dates, but it's mostly a series of short sections about what was happening on the New York music scene between 1973 and 1977. I suppose the author might say that the events are self-explanatory and th ...more
Brian Gruber
May 08, 2012 Brian Gruber rated it it was ok
Essentially a long, largely chronological list of facts about musicians in New York in the time period, occasionally interrupted by personal, memoir-style anecdotes and bits about music journalism. There seems to be some hope that the sheer mass of information will cause a larger statement to emerge, but it never really does.

Given the way I responded to the coverage of punk, new wave and hip hop (the histories of which I'm already familiar with in this period) versus the coverage of jazz, disco
Richard Kearney
Aug 13, 2012 Richard Kearney rated it liked it
Often fascinating, sometimes frustrating, Will Hermes' "Love Goes to Buildings on Fire: Five Years in New York that Changed Music Forever" offers a chronicle of several important music scenes in New York City during the mid-1970s (1973-1977, to be exact). Organized into five chapters, each covering a single year, Hermes discusses New York rock'n'roll, punk. salsa, jazz, classical, disco, and hip-hop through a selective focus on key figures and locales.

A Queens kid too young to witness most of th
LK Hunsaker
May 23, 2012 LK Hunsaker added it
Shelves: abandoned
I think I have to give up on this one.

Okay, I love music of many genres and since my series starts in 1974 and revolves around music, I thought this would be a great way to plunge myself into the atmosphere and pick up hints and research. I've been reading it off and on for quite some time now. Yesterday I hit page 66 and my brain screamed, "I just can't go on with this!"

There are facts galore, bands galore, drugs galore, crimes, misdemeanors, political throw-ins... but it's not a story. It's no
Tim Niland
Jan 22, 2012 Tim Niland rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012-reads
Many books and articles have been written about the music scene of the 1960's and then the punk scene of the late 1970's, but in music history, the mid-1970's have been something of a lost era, snubbed by critics as a time of vapid pop and pretentious progressive rock and jazz fusion. Will Hermes looks to set the record straight by focusing on the vibrant music scene in New York City during the years 1973-1977. Taking a wide angle view from rock to jazz, salsa and disco, Hermes shows that in New ...more
Feb 02, 2012 Rupert rated it it was amazing
I can't rave enough about this book. It covers all types of music exploding in New York from 1973 to 1978. The city was falling apart, so rent and buildings were cheap and artists built from the ruins. Punk and New Wave was starting up, jazz musicians like Sam Rivers and Ornette Coleman were booking shows at their loft spaces, Kool Herc was scratching vinyl for the first time, the Latin scene was selling out Madison Square Garden and Philip Glass held a legendary first US staging of "Einstein on ...more
Jan 15, 2013 Jeff rated it it was amazing
Being a fan of music, I have always sough out new (to my ears) and different music to listen to. I love all types of music and will give everything a listen from the simplest straight up pop song to complex free jazz, experimental noise that I don't understand to just something with a good beat as well as songs in a language I don't understand. This books takes five years out of the New York music scene from 1973 to 1977 and shares the story of the beginnings of salsa and hip hop, supposedly the ...more
Dec 07, 2012 Joseph rated it it was ok
I could charitably attribute the scattershot presentation to an attempt at emulating Walter Benjamin's "constellations" method, but Hermes ain't no Benjamin, and it reads like the ramblings of someone with untreated ADHD. The book is most interesting when it contradicts its own basic theses and allows itself the development of context and perspective--which is too rare. Worth checking out from the library so that one can photocopy its 6-page discography and 22-page index, and use them as resourc ...more
Sep 29, 2011 Jacob rated it liked it
Although I ate this up, I can't imagine too many others will. A long, long list of facts, trivia, and history about tons of great music and bands. Surprisingly little theme-making or any larger unifying thread runs through all the disparate music discussed. I think Hermes' point is supposed to be about some intangible magic of New York in the 70s -- but he never really makes the point and besides, I can't go for that.
Jameson Fink
Dec 25, 2015 Jameson Fink rated it really liked it
This is practically a reference book for those looking to explore the music scene in New York from the early to late 70s. I wish I would have jotted down notes of bands, musicians, and songs while reading. (Idiot.) It gives equal consideration to jazz, salsa, hip hop, and more in great detail. Love Goes to Buildings on Fire, of course delves into CBGB so there's plenty about Patti Smith and Talking Heads.

Would be a five-star rating but I didn't enjoy the format of the book where one page(ish) w
Patrick  O'Rourke
Jun 24, 2016 Patrick O'Rourke rated it really liked it
An excellent read. Hermes weaves the activities of several different strands of music innovation in mid seventies New York. Early punk, radical contemporary, salsa, disco, rap and jazz are explored in chronological parallels from 1973 to 1977. Hermes isn't making any grandiose claims other than there was huge diversity of musical in New York at that time. He writes as a fan reminiscing about coming of age at the time, but doesn't try to place himself centre of the narrative. The epilogue does la ...more
Jack Mcpherson
Aug 01, 2015 Jack Mcpherson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: liked
There are only so many books you can read about this period in music before you start to hear the same stories. This isn't Will Hermes' fault but it killed the book for me. If you haven't read any of the approx. 500 books out there about 1970s New York, this would be a great one to start with.
Feb 10, 2016 Rogelio rated it it was amazing
Seriously one of the most inspiring books I've ever read...
The chronological storytelling is eye opening, an excellent slice into a time of artistic exploration and transition. Touching on experimental minimalist classical music, salsa and a boom of Spanish language dance music, the birth of hip-hop, of punk and art rock, free form loft jazz, disco and electronic dance music culture, and more than a little New York history.

Good stuff about the NY pre-punk 70's bands (Patti Smith Group, Televisio
Jacob Wren
Feb 23, 2015 Jacob Wren rated it really liked it
As I was reading this, from time to time I would wonder if forty years from now anyone could or would write a similar book about music being made (somewhere in the world) right now. For some reason I find it almost impossible to imagine.
Jun 14, 2016 Jenna rated it really liked it
2016 Book 40: The amount of information and detail in this book is ASTOUNDING. I found it a bit overwhelming at times but grateful that someone has chronicled all of these genres, people, and places into one volume. Not only is the musical history astonishing, Hermes also creates a vivid picture of New York City between 1973 and the end of 1977. Having recently reread Patti Smith's Just Kids, I found that this book took up where she left off in the early 70s describing the music scene, with much ...more
Jesse Young
Jan 24, 2016 Jesse Young rated it really liked it
Music nerds only need apply -- but an engrossing read, if so. The book effectively contrasts the economic/cultural/governmental decay of 1970s New York with the insane flowering of musical creativity taking place in parallel. The book's main flaw is that, if you don't deeply care for salsa or compositional avant garde music, 10 pages on those genres will drag. Hermes does his best to keep things interesting when trying to describe far-out sonic textures (a risky proposition for any writer), but ...more
David Collins
Feb 19, 2016 David Collins rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Origin of the title: the title of Talking Heads' first single, usually just referred to as "Building on Fire."

LGtBoF transported me to New York in the 1970s in much the same way as Patti Smith's Just Kids, which came out the year before Hermes's book and is cited as a source. In her memoir, the Godmother certainly provided plenty of great reminiscences of CBGB, Max's, and other milieux and the inhabitants of the downtown scene. Hermes takes a much broader view, alternating the focus among six di
Jun 18, 2015 Robert rated it liked it
Shelves: history, music, jazz
Love Goes to Buildings on Fire: Five Years in New York That Changed Music Forever has a fairly lofty scope that lives up to some of its expectations but fails in other areas. The scope of the book is wide, covering every major genre that ultimately had some sort of impact on music and only doing so in a little over 300 pages. Disco, Jazz, Punk Rock, Rap, and Salsa are all covered here alongside some of the major events that occurred in New York during this five year time period (New Year's Day i ...more
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Hi there. I write about music and popular culture for Rolling Stone, The New York Times and other outlets, and am a regular contributor to National Public Radio's "All Things Considered." I co-edited "SPIN: 20 Years of Alternative Music" with my pal Sia Michel.
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