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

3.88  ·  Rating Details ·  1,648 Ratings  ·  181 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—block by block, by musicians who knew, admired, and borrowed from one another. Crime was everywhere, the government was broke, and the infrastructure was coll ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published September 4th 2012 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published November 2011)
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Ed Wagemann
Nov 28, 2011 Ed Wagemann rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 30, 2011 Tosh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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
Gus Sanchez
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
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
Mar 28, 2013 Adam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Dec 06, 2013 Allan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
I've always had an interest in the NYC music scene in the 70s, and this book provided me with the perfect fayre for my trip to the Big Apple.

In addition to detailing the burgeoning punk, disco and hip hop scenes at the time, this book also included very enjoyable accounts of the rise of the likes of Springsteen, as well as the classical, jazz and salsa scenes. The general social commentary and anecdotes personal to the author were also interesting and enjoyable.

Not for everyone, but perfect for
Frank Jude
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
Apr 02, 2016 Patrick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Joshua Buhs
Jun 11, 2017 Joshua Buhs rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, music
Carefully curated.

Yes, I realize "curated" has become the word choice for pretentious d-bags, and there's some of that here, no doubt. But it is also the appropriate word for museum work, and there's some of _that_ here, too. The book is about music in New York City during the 1970s, but the passion, the detail . . . the curation . . . could have been about any number of cultural forms from the same period, cherished by the generation that grew up with it. Even as I was reading about punk and sa
Robert Boyd
Mar 05, 2012 Robert Boyd rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 06, 2012 Caroline rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 24, 2012 Katie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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.
Richard Kearney
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
Mar 15, 2017 Greg rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent anthology of NYC music and culture in the mid seventies
Tim Niland
Jan 22, 2012 Tim Niland rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
LK Hunsaker
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
Mar 03, 2012 Roderick rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jan 28, 2012 Rupert rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 06, 2012 Jeff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 01, 2012 Joseph rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jacob Wren
Oct 06, 2012 Jacob Wren rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jack Mcpherson
Mar 13, 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.
Jun 18, 2017 Joe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great book that takes an in-depth look at music in New York City between 1973 and 1977. In those five years, as the city faced monumental challenges, punk rock, hip-hop, loft jazz, disco, salsa and minimalism were either created or reinvented. Hermes does a great job of following the artists who pushed music forward, as well as those who were lost in the shuffle. It's the story of immense change in a city that's always changing.
Jan 04, 2017 Timothy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Solid musical archaeological dig into mid late 70s NYC. The personal vignettes added a worthwhile narrative dimension that helped weave the disparate scenes' threads together. Yes I just used a plural possessive.
David Collins
Feb 08, 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
Brad Hodges
Aug 03, 2013 Brad Hodges rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The knock on the 1970s is that it was a shitty decade for music, particularly coming after the brilliance of the 1960s. When I first started buying music in that decade, it was of older stuff like The Beatles, or groups that tipped their hat to them, like Queen and ELO. Will Hermes, who is about my age, also came of musical age in the '70s, but he lived in Queens, just a subway ride away from Manhattan, were exciting things were happening.

In his book Love Goes to Buildings on Fire, he recounts t
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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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