Ricky's Reviews > Twilight of the Gods: A Journey to the End of Classic Rock

Twilight of the Gods by Steven Hyden
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it was amazing
bookshelves: entertainment, non-fiction

“What a Long Strange Trip Its Been”

These lyrics from the Grateful Dead’s "Truckin" captures how I felt reading Twilight of the Gods: A Journey to the End of Classic Rock, which author Steven Hyden subtitles “a journey to the end of classic rock.”

Hyden is a Gen-Xer—an early-nineties alt-rock baby—and a music critic. As he takes the reader on his “journey to the end of classic rock,” it is easy to forget that Hyden came of age after many of the classic rock bands had split up, lost key members to death, and passed their prime. Although Hyden was not born until 1977, “the year … the Clash imagined a world without classic rock,” his knowledge and appreciation of the music that came of age before he did is exemplary. Hyden came about his love of classic rock through the radio. By listening to the classic rock stations.

As Hyden writes, “classic rock didn’t exist as a genre until the early 1980s, when stations in middle-American cities like Cleveland and Houston that had once aspired to a progressive mix of new music and obscure album cuts began relying on the same old familiar songs by the most famous and successful bands of the sixties and seventies.” So is classic rock only about the sixties and seventies? Does it include the early sixties? Does it include all bands from this era? Is classic rock an era or a genre or both?

In "Twilight of The Gods," Hyden answers these questions and more.

Classic rock began in the summer of 1967 with the “release of 'Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band', the album where the Beatles officially stopped being lovable mop-topped pop stars and became serious rock intellectuals.” Classic rock ended in 1999 with Nine Inch Nails’ "The Fragile."

“Clearly, my definition of ‘classic rock’ is shaped by classic-rock radio," explains Hyden. "The overriding factor in determining who was classified as classic rock—and who was classified as folk, punk, new wave, or metal—was mainstream popularity,” he adds.

"Twilight of the Gods" is a four-part book designed as a double LP; each part represents a side of the double album. It almost makes you want to wrap the book in aluminum foil, slather yourself with baby oil or Hawaiian Tropic, and sit in the sun. Throughout the well-sequenced journey, Hyden provides facts interwoven with anecdotes and critique.

Hyden’s critiques are usually on target. What I mean here is that I typically agree with Hyden’s critiques. But we diverge on the Eagles. Hyden dislikes the Eagles and likens them being “cool like the captain of the high school baseball team is cool.” Hyden is right that “[Don] Henley and [Glenn] Frey were never cool in the way that Jimmy Page was cool,” but I like "Witchy Woman" and "Hotel California." Still, Hyden does not shy away from the importance of the Eagles in classic rock. “But whether you love the f**king Eagles or you blame the f**king Eagles for f**king Sublime, the fact remains that no other band better encapsulates the arc of classic rock’s cultural prominence.”

“A journey to the end of classic rock” must deal with the end of classic rockers. “You can’t talk about classic rock now without also thinking about death,” writes Hyden, who began writing "Twilight of the Gods" “around the time that David Bowie died, and [he] finished it around the time that Tom Petty passed.”

Eventually, the end of classic rock might die out when the icons of classic rock die. “When you can’t actually view Mick Jagger or Ozzy Osbourne or Neil Young in the flesh, loving classic rock will require a process of animation not unlike a religious ritual,” Hyden laments.

But is it classic rock, classic rockers, or the memory of our youth that dies? As Hyden points out “when a rock star dies, what people are mourning is their own mortality.”

Part eulogy, part retrospective, part historical, mostly opinion, and always entertaining, Twilight of the Gods: A Journey to the End of Classic Rock is a great journey.

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Reading Progress

July 27, 2018 – Shelved
July 27, 2018 – Shelved as: to-read
October 19, 2018 – Started Reading
October 19, 2018 – Shelved as: entertainment
October 19, 2018 – Shelved as: non-fiction
November 12, 2018 – Finished Reading

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