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Ranters and Crowd Pleasers: Punk in Pop Music, 1977-1992

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  698 ratings  ·  35 reviews
Was punk just another moment in music history, a flash in time when a group of young rebels exploded in a fury of raw sound, outrageous styles, and in-your-face attitude? Greil Marcus, author of the renowned "Lipstick Traces," delves into the after-life of punk as a much richer phenomenon a form of artistic and social rebellion that continually erupts into popular culture. ...more
Paperback, 448 pages
Published March 15th 1999 by Harvard University Press (first published January 1st 1993)
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3.80  · 
Rating details
 ·  698 ratings  ·  35 reviews

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Apr 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
First read this when I was a stupid kid; it probably left me a little less stupid (as a "punk," I was mystified by the near-constant references to and raptures on Springsteen).

Reading it again now leaves me a great deal less stupid. This book is proof of the power of just this sort of criticism. The impassioned and informed critique of popular culture is not just another manifestation of that culture, but, at least potentially, a far more powerful account of the times in which it was produced t
Rafael Eaton
Dec 09, 2009 rated it liked it
This would be a lot better if one out of every two articles wasn't about Gang of Four.
Jan 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: music, non-fiction
A fine collection of Marcus' writings that revolve around punk and postpunk music for the likes of Rolling Stone, Artforum, and other publications. It's a reminder of how intelligent and thoughtful criticism of music and pop culture has suffered a bit in the internet era. I'm sure great stuff is still out there (Tell me!—Where?), but Marcus is unique in how he mixes highbrow assertions with what could be construed as lowbrow subject matter, and then goes deep, sometimes in the course of just 2 o ...more
Gaelan D'costa
Apr 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: music, punk, culture
Even though the very title telegraphs the synthesis of Punk and Politics, I was taken aback at this collection of writings by Greil Marcus.

I didn't learn all that much about the music: like Robert Christgau, Greil Marcus' essays evoke moods which endear me to the albums he's discussing, makes me want to listen to them not because I know anything about how I'd enjoy them but because I want to feel anything close to the same sort of profundity Marcus writes about.

The bigger sledgehammer, though, i
Jun 29, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
(mdc) this is a collection of this dude's essays and articles over the years. i'm only a little ways into it but i think i love it. the guy writes really well and manages to convey his passion for the music he's writing about without lapsing into worshipful dicksucking, like a lot of critics. also the book starts off with an essay about why Let It Bleed is so important, and that's been my favorite Stones album since I was 10. The essay made me want to put it on, which is a sign of good music wri ...more
Dec 12, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Must read for fans of Elvis Costello, Gang of Four, The Sex Pistols, The Mekons, and The Slits.
Drea Carmen
Nov 14, 2017 rated it did not like it
Wanted to love this book, and could've given the rich, compelling subject matter. But I will never understand how Marcus is considered a good writer. No, sometimes the subject just can't overcome horrible writing.
Roz  Milner
Why should you or me or anyone at all read a book of rock criticism, especially when it’s filled with stuff about records from 30 years ago or longer, of bands who aren’t around anymore and musicians who aren’t even alive? It’s a good question. Why should anyone read Greil Marcus’ 1992 collection Ranters and Crowd Pleasers (also republished as Inside the Fascist Bathroom)?

It’s tempting to say something about how it putts music in a proper context, like reading a period review would help us get i
Jun 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
5 stars? Yeah. What can I say? I like my punk writing to be overly-intellectual.
May 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Greil Marcus is one of my favorite writers. I feel this way not because of his opinions about specific bands but mainly for his political and sociological perspectives upon his experiences with rock music in modern American culture and a little bit of British culture as well. This book is primarily made up of short essays written for magazine publication, and most focus on record or concert reviews placed into his unique historical and sociological contexts. He sees the contradictions and injust ...more
Mar 10, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: music-related
I'm really really into music. I watch reviews by theneedledrop, read Nick Hornby novels and check Pitchfork for Best New Music regularly. So when I found this book in a flea market I figured that I could learn more about punk.

Weeeell it was a little bit different than what I expected and I should explain that I "browsed" through the book. It consists of articles by the author and often deals with gigs, albums, songs, tv appeareances or interviews by people who played a certain role in the punk
Sep 11, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who like to rock out to Roland Barthes
Shelves: bins, punk, doodads, california
While it is true that Mr. Marcus is occasionally given to disappearing into a semiotic fog, on the whole this collection is pretty entertaining. He does a good, I would guess serendipitous, job of chronicling the arcs (I can't say careers) of acts (not to say artists) such as Gang of Four, the Mekons, the Clash, Elvis Costello, and Bruce Springsteen. Standout articles include cogent reviews of LET IT BLEED and ARMED FORCES, and a remarkably perceptive account of the dissoluton of the Clash. My f ...more
May 02, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
This is probably the book that had the largest influence on me. I read it at least once a year, and have done so every year since I first found it in a bargain bin in Western Connecticut. It's a collection of reviews and articles Marcus wrote between 1977 and 1992, loosely organized around punk rock. As a jaded 18-year-old punk, I was exposed to all kinds of new things by reading this. If it weren't for this book, I might never have heard the invigoratin, life-affirming music of Elvis Costello, ...more
Feb 18, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: music, non-fiction
It took me a while to get through this whole book, but I'm glad I did. Lately I've been less interested in music than I used to be and I decided to read some of the legendary Greil Marcus' musings as a way of getting myself interested again. I'm not sure if it did that as much as I had hoped, but it was good to read someone gushing about all the post-punk bands that I love, especially the feminist ones. If nothing else, it makes me feel like I should Gang of Four a second chance. Admittedly, som ...more
Jun 16, 2008 rated it it was ok
I like Greil Marcus' work collected in this volume, but a little goes a long way -- this is something to just dip in to. In aggregate, it's a little much. This is less music criticism as an exploration of aesthetics and more as an exploration of politics. The Mekons, Gang of Four, the Clash, Bruce Springsteen and Elvis Costello all make multiple appearances. The twin spectres of Reagan and Thatcher loom over everything. There is some interesting exploration of gender and punk/post-punk.

It's ver
Nov 24, 2008 rated it it was ok
I hoped this would be a worthy companion to the ultra-enjoyable Please Kill Me but unfortunately it's bloated and pompous for the most part, and in that annoying self-absorbed critic way, more about Greil Marcus and how in-the-know he is than about the music. But there are a few decent pieces in this collection. I liked one that looked at the Sex Pistols and the work of Margaret Drabble to try to understand something about English culture at the time, and a pretty terrific excoriation of "We Are ...more
Ray Dunsmore
Aug 13, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Greil Marcus is a man who knows the spirit that guides rock music, that hedonistic urge that crawls up your spine and lays eggs in your brain once you hear, say, the Sex Pistols or the Gang of Four or the Mekons for the first time. It's the one thing that comes closest to absolute freedom, to being totally unbeholden to anyone or anything, the freedom to spit in the face of a higher caste and get away with it. It's the cracks in the face of fascism where the tossed-aside crawl into the brain and ...more
Jan 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Some of Marcus' best short criticism, especially of early Elvis Costello, Gang of Four, and other British post-punk or para-punk British bands of that era, including the Au Pairs and Delta 5--and the Clash. Across the critical appreciation falls the deepening shadow of what we now call neoliberalism, as personified in the cheerfully brutal regimes of Thatcher and Reagan. If you were there then, you'll appreciate the sharpness and subtlety of Marcus' attention. And if you weren't, he'll help you ...more
Ed Wagemann
Why Everything You Think You Know About Punk Is Completely Wrong:

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Oct 08, 2008 added it
Very formative, or it could've been - I read this in high school and made a list of all the rad bands mentioned therein, the better to track them down at Cellophane Square. Alas for me, they were all bands like Kleenex (impossible to find until the turn of the millennium; name changed at the behest of Colgate-Palmolive) (insert Slits drummer joke here) and Delta 5 (who would wait for their reissue til 2006). I coulda been the raddest freshman at the college radio station.
Sep 03, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Definitive book on post-punk, lots of absurd and pretentious writing but even more utterly fascinating criticism of and reporting on bands like Mekons, Gang of Four, Essential Logic, Delta 5 and The Clash, many of whom never had anything like the attention they deserved from a critic nearly so gifted. Some of his enthusiasms haven't aged well but overall this defines an aesthetic.
Oct 23, 2007 rated it really liked it
Used to be called Ranters & Crowd Pleasers but was republished under a new name... I think just to confuse people into buying it twice. Not his best, but very interesting one-offs and some fiction. In the fiction he tries for (I think) Burroughs mixed with Gibson in a kind of punk stew and does pretty well.
Dec 07, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: music
This is a collection of reviews and articles that Greil wrote with a focus on punk. As the subtitle to the book explains, this is a about punk in pop music, not necessarily about punk rock. The collection is tied together by pop musicians that have had a punk asthetic. It is an interesting read for anyone who is interested in the "outside" musicians in mainstream culture.
Guess at date
Oct 31, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Introduced me to the Au Pairs and the Raincoats.
Mar 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Don't be fooled: this book is not actually about pop music. It's about Ronald Reagan, and its engine is rage.
Jul 08, 2015 rated it liked it
You've got to wade through a lot of Bruce Springsteen, Melons and Elvis Costello pieces (most of the book is this) for the good stuff...but the good stuff is better than other Marcus that I've read.
Richard McColl
Apr 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Perhaps the first "punk" book or book about punk which really saw me reaching beyond and trying to understand the anger, angst and the movement which still defines me in some way today.
Aug 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
I frequently find Marcus' writing to be abstract to the point of being undecipherable, but he is still my favorite music critic.
Jan 13, 2008 is currently reading it
Liz gave me this for Christmas, and I dove into the little mag articles from the end of the seventies. Punk Rock Show reviews and extended political analysis all in 700 word nugs.
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Greil Marcus is the author of Mystery Train (1975), Lipstick Traces (1989), The Shape of Things to Come (2006), When that Rough God Goes Riding and Bob Dylan by Greil Marcus (both 2010), and other books. With Werner Sollors he is the editor of A New Literary History of America (2009). In recent years he has taught at Berkeley, Princeton, Minnesota, NYU, and the New School in New York. He lives in ...more
“If you're lucky, at the right time you come across music that is not only "great," or interesting, or "incredible," or fun, but actually sustaining. Though some elusive but tangible process, a piece of music cuts through all defenses and makes sense of every fear and desire you bring to it. As it does so, it exposes all you've held back, and then makes sense of that, too. Though someone else is doing the talking, the experience is like a confession. Your emotions shoot out to crazy extremes; you feel both ennobled and unworthy, saved and damned. You hear that this is what life is all about, that this is what it is for. Yet it is this recognition itself that makes you understand that life can never be this good, this whole. With a clarity life denies for its own good reasons, you see places to which you can never get.” 17 likes
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