“MusicQuake”: Music’s Most Disruptive Moments

The experience of hearing something new for the first time is one many of us will have in our lifetime. It’s often difficult to articulate, which is why Robert Dimery – editor of the superb 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die – is here to put words to something that many find indescribable and intangible. MusicQuake: The Most Disruptive Moments in Music traces the beginnings of fifty individual moments in music that shaped the records we now take for granted.

Sure, there’s Patti Smith and Public Enemy, but the most interesting areas are the ones that are less frequently commented on, whether it’s celebrating Fela Kuti’s contributions to world music, or understanding the importance John Cage held on a generation of musicians (or so-called musicians).

The book also brings folks back to the events of recent years, discussing the importance of the Black Lives Matter and #MeToo movements. In some ways, the book can be seen as a commentary on history, although it’s not social commentary that makes up the majority of the work. Rather, it’s more about the engaging material that inspired the artists to take it to the edge.

In that regard, this is a more difficult read than 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die because it veers into the terrain behind the work. And for that reason, it might not have the enjoyable factor of the original tome (1001 Albums has stood as one of my essential texts since I read it for the first time at fourteen.) Yet there’s so much research, that it makes for vivid reading, and even for those music fans who are already super-initiated.

Even at 200 pages, the book zips along, offering a type of lecture that University courses rarely indulge in. More interestingly, the book makes a strong effort to applaud the many women who helped shape modern music, from peering into what made Missy Elliott tick as an artist, to recognizing what it was that ABBA – all synth hooks and lapels – had in their drawer.

There’s a small matter of Stormzy, an artist who made a pertinent jab at the British government when he appeared at Glastonbury in 2019. He was the first black solo artist to headline the famous event in its forty-nine-year history (and at twenty-five, the youngest after David Bowie), so this was not a moment he took lightly. That the artist melded the political with the pastoral showed his dedication to the cause.

Pop music is now at a point where it deserves to be commemorated. Two of The Stones and two of The Beatles are dead. There are no surviving members of The Ramones and none of the original members of Yes feature in the current iteration of the band. 2016 saw the deaths of George Michael, David Bowie, and Prince, three titans of the genre that hold a catalog that only grows richer with every passing year. It’s time that people like Mark Lewisohn, Peter Doggett, and Robert Dimery step up to the plate, and with MusicQuake: The Most Disruptive Moments in Music, Dimery has produced a work that is worthy of your attention.

-Eoghan Lyng

Photo: Patti Smith (Getty Images)

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1 comment on ““MusicQuake”: Music’s Most Disruptive Moments

  1. Norman Normous

    Hey man, where’s The Beatles?

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