Thursday, January 5, 2017

S+A sweeps Books 2016 lists - Sunday Times, Guardian, NPR, Times, Telegraph, Observer, Financial Times,The Herald, Irish Examiner, Mojo, The Scotsman, Hot Press, Shindig!, Uncut, The Times (South Africa), 4.52, Rough Trade....

Books of 2016 List placings: 

The Sunday Times Music Books of the Year

Guardian Music Books of the Year

NPR Best Books of 2016

Financial Times Pop Music Books of Year - #1 of 3

The Scotsman Music Books of the Year - #4 out of 10

The Telegraph's Top 50 Books  (#30)

The Times (UK) - included in 5 music books of the year

Shindig! - Book of the Year

Uncut Books of the Year - #2 of 10

Mojo - included in 10 music books of the years

Hot Press - in music books of the year

Observer (US) - in 5 Music Books of the Year

The Herald - in music books of the year

Irish Examiner Top 10 Music Books of the Year

The Times (South Africa) - Music Books of the Year 

Rough Trade Books of the Years list

4.52 Music Book of the Year

S+A long-listed for Penderyn Music Book Prize

brand new reviews

"Epic and incredibly entertaining" - Stereogum

"Reynolds is skilled at jumping back and forth across the pond, translating uniquely British and American viewpoints or cultural frames of reference so that Shock and Awe truly encompasses a complete analysis of glam. Although the author is sitting on a wealth of theoretical academic underpinnings, never does Shock and Awe plumb the pedantic depths of Baudrillard or Butler when it could instead stay focused on the music. This book is laden with insight into the problem of persona in performance studies, the concerns of commodity fetishism, and the fluidity of gendered bodies, but Reynolds gloriously captures these academic debates without ever getting bogged down in their language.... Shock and Awe is a very interesting read. You can pick it up if you love Bowie, or if you love one or two bands that have ever even marginally been tagged as glam. It’s about being a weird kid and making it work for you, rather than against you. It’s about finding a home in ostracism and driving your enemies into a jealous rage. It’s a book about class warfare and corporate machinery, gender coding and sexual stigmatization, the politics of performance, and the ideological investments made by an audience of rock music fans. It’s about the fact that glam is very much alive in music today, and Reynolds makes inarguable the premise that glam is not only not an insult, but it’s a powerful revolutionary strategy." - Megan Volpert, Popmatters.

"A can’t-put-down read..." - The Portland Phoenix

"... Nothing short of a near-flawless exploration of each and every aspect of glam rock and how this particular style... relates to countless other artistic, ideological, and philosophical movements out there....   It is highly fascinating to see Reynolds weave all the different threads together and show how the characteristics of glam rock crop up again and again in other genres, both the ones that predated glam rock and the ones that followed in its wake. One thing that I really dug while reading it is when Reynolds injects personal anecdotes and experiences into the larger narrative. I found those to be very heartfelt and even a tad sentimental in a good way.... Shock and Awe is a comprehensive and compelling study of what made glam rock so attractive (and at times repulsive). It is extremely rich in detail, there are countless interesting stories and anecdotes scattered throughout, and each chapter is basically a small revelation in and of itself" - J. Nepper, Eternal Terror

"Simon Reynolds’s in-depth look at the origins, history, and legacy of glam rock focuses largely on the 1970s, and ventures into some fascinating places–everything from David Bowie at his most extreme to the impressive musical and cultural influence of Suzi Quatro. And given the scope of his book, he also makes a sharp observation: that some of the same aesthetics that had their apparent heyday in the 1970s have been revived in recent years" - Tobias Carroll, Signature – "10 Weird and Wonderful Biographies On the Music of the 1970s"

brand new interviews

interview with KDHX's Rob Levy

interview with David Chiu at CuepointMedium about David Bowie one year after his death

interview with Iain Lee on his talkRADIO show

interview with KSTX San Antonio

recent reviews

"Veteran music journalist Simon Reynolds made his mark years ago with Rip It Up and Start Again, the definitive account of post-punk. He's outdone himself with Shock and Awe, only this time, the topic is glam rock. From the gender-bending majesty of the late David Bowie to the 21st century glitter of Lady Gaga, Reynolds offers a massive, in-depth look at the music, fashion, politics and impact of glam — a genre whose reach is far deeper, and more reflective of the culture at large, than you may realize." - Jason Heller, NPR

"Getting from Wilde to Alice Cooper is the kind of move that makes Reynolds, the author of previous books about rave music, postpunk and pop music’s retro fetishes, such a fun tour guide... Reynolds admits in the book’s introduction that glam is a “fuzzy” category, overlapping with prog rock, hard rock and other subspecies. That fuzziness plays to one of Reynolds’s great strengths: his capaciousness as a critic and listener, his ability to write about all of those categories (and more) with authority and genuine interest.... But if you’re going to have a baggy book, you want it to be written by Reynolds, a tireless researcher with an eye for entertaining diversions." -  John Williams, The New York Times 

"Myriad books have been written about the birth of punk... Yet with a few exceptions, punk’s gold-sequined older sibling, glam rock, has mostly been ignored by the critical establishment. Simon Reynolds’ “Shock and Awe” goes a long way to fill that void. If David Bowie’s death inspired more writers to tackle the subject, they’ll be hard-pressed to surpass Reynolds’ work." - Elizabeth Hand, The Los Angeles Times 

"Given the sadness of his passing, the four chapters on David Bowie in Simon Reynolds's Shock & Awe: Glam Rock and its Legacy...  are the highlights of an exceptional work." - Andrew Donaldson, The Times (South Africa) 

a perceptive review by Carl Wilson in the new issue of Bookforum - only in print form at present.

"The death of David Bowie at the beginning of 2016 set off a small avalanche of biographies and memoirs. He is also the central figure of Simon Reynolds’s Shock and Awe: Glam Rock and Its Legacy (Faber), a useful and entertaining survey of a period of social and cultural experimentation in the 1970s that takes in Marc Bolan, Alice Cooper, Slade, Lou Reed, Roxy Music, the New York Dolls, Wayne/Jayne County, David Essex, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Cockney Rebel, Ultravox, Iggy Pop and Kraftwerk. Reynolds is a perceptive historian of this strange period, capable of making sense of a “movement” that could encompass the cheerful Top of the Pops inanity of the Sweet and the theories of the rock boffin Brian Eno. He also copes well with the necessity of writing about Gary Glitter" - Richard Williams, The Guardian Music Books of the Year

"A few David Bowie books have appeared since the great man’s death this year, but none has been definitive. Reynolds’s history of glam rock, the genre that made Bowie famous, is a safer way to remember him for now. In a dense tome, the author conjures up all the bombast and transgression of glam, which ranged from the sublime (Bowie, Marc Bolan) to the ridiculous (Noddy Holder). It is often hard to take glam rock seriously, but this book invites you — authoritatively — to do so" - The Sunday Times, Music Books of the Year

"Can glam rock, that early 1970s outburst of glitter and androgyny, survive the weight of 700 pages of scrutiny? In Reynolds’ hands, yes. The rock writer brings knowledge and style to the subject, from its transgressive apotheosis with Marc Bolan and David Bowie to digital afterlife at the hands of Lady Gaga" - Ludovic Hunter-Tilney, Financial Times  Books of the Year: Pop Music (#1 of 3)

"A dazzling perspective on glam rock and its legacy by the Rip It Up pop ponderer" - Mojo music books of the year round-up

"A brilliant, panoramic and suitably dazzling history of glam rock and an era when "pop music was titanic, idolatrous, insane". All the main players were present - Bolan, Alice, Roxy, the Dolls, Lou - but welcome digressions also took in less celebrated names. The four long chapters on David Bowie were, however, the highlights of an exceptional book' - Uncut music books of the year

'This affectionate and comprehensive history of glam rock shows how Bowie, Bolan, Roxy Music and Co reacted against dull denim-clad rock to make flamboyant, decadent and very visual music. There’s a reminder of its dark side too, with a walk-on part for the odious Gary Glitter.' 4**** The Sun 

'When in 1971 Marc Bolan, a former hippy star child who once claimed to have lived up a tree in France with a wizard, appeared on Top of the Pops in silver satin trousers and glittered cheeks to sing Hot Love, glam rock was born. So begins Simon Reynolds’s colourful history on the most vainglorious musical genre of all. He covers the camp irony of the art-school kids, Roxy Music, David Bowie’s fascination for the American degenerates Lou Reed and Iggy Pop, and the dubious pairings of underage girls and spoilt rock stars at Los Angeles’s groupie haven, Rodney’s English Disco.'" - The Times music books of the year

"Not quite the brickies-in-eyeliner slice of sci-fi I was hoping for perhaps, but Reynolds’s hipster academic approach looks back at glam through the stories of individual stars, from Bolan and Bowie to Alice Cooper and The Sweet. Bowie is the book’s hero, of course, but there are productive diversions through the back story of Roxy, Sparks and Queen among many others. He takes on the poisoned story of Gary Glitter and explores the politics of image and riff recycling at exhaustive length. Sore on the wrists, but good for the brain." - Teddy Jamieson, The Herald 

"Sometimes a book comes along that people, usually friends of the author, claim defines a genre. It is quite an impressive claim and always looks good on the posters in the London Underground. To quote the mighty Shania, ‘That Don’t Impress Me Much’. Sometimes though, there is a spark of truth in it, and those are quite special and unusual books....  But only a spark – let’s be fair, how can a single book define anything? Well, that was what I thought until I sat down to read Simon Reynolds’ ... opus on Glam Rock, in all its shiny shiny silverness and space age funky 12-bar glory, when the scales fell from my eyes and I realised that I had been living a lie all along. For Mr Reynold’s book not only defines that time of excessive Bowie-driven musical discovery, but does it with style, humour and grace and with a way with words that is a pleasure to hear inside

your head. So yes, this book is better than you could ever imagine, historic
whilst being entertaining, brilliant whilst being cool. This man Reynolds, he is a
bit of a special writer, you really need to read this." - 4.52, Music Book of the Year

"Reynolds is great on David Bowie, but also Gary Glitter, who was no more of an opportunist who’d failed with other styles. The double-drumming of the disgraced Leader’s hits was the soundtrack to my youth club being trashed by the Clockwork Orange-apeing Young Mental Drylaw"-- # 4 Music Book of 2016 - Aidan Smith, The Scotsman

"There may be no better candidate to trace the lineage of the debauched genre known as glam rock than U.K. music scribe, Simon Reynolds. Best known for Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978–1984 and Retromania: Pop Culture’s Addiction to Its Own Past, Reynolds’ M.O. is applying a fine-toothed comb to particular music genres and eras and its cultural effect then dissects it like the disciplined critic and super-fan he is. Shock and Awe: Glam Rock and Its Legacy, from the Seventies to the Twenty-first Century is no different in its painstaking approach. At an epically thick 700 pages, Reynolds paints glam as the anti-hippie, a glitter-smeared, high-heeled, space age alien scene shepherded by the likes of David Bowie, Alice Cooper, T. Rex’s Marc Bolan, Bryan Ferry of Roxy Music and the New York Dolls then connects the genre’s dots in historical, cultural and social context. Fittingly, Bowie looms large as glam’s star-powered central character and provocateur in Shock and Awe, complete with a section devoted to the glam pioneer’s death, which sadly coincided during the writing of Reynolds’ opus. Reynolds proves such a glamhead that, by book’s end he’s chewing over Lady Gaga’s role in the movement." - Brad Cohan, Observer (US)

"Outsize but periodically acute history of Glam... When it comes to David Bowie I think Reynolds gets the tone exactly right, and pulls together a really superior potted Bowie biog. In this telling, the years that matter aren’t just Berlin and Los Angeles but also 1964-70, the apprentice years leading up to his Glam breakthrough" - Ian Penman, London Review of Books. 

RECENT interviews

interview with WYNC

interview with Julian Weber for Taz kultur

fun chat with Chris Ott for a Shallow Rewards podcast

good chat with Luke Clancy for Culture File on RTÉ Radio (Ireland) -listen


"Scintillating, spangled glam history.... the writing is lithe, deft, sequinned with light-catching insights and descriptions. Vitally, too, it unflinchingly confronts the era’s darkest side.... Shock and Awe thinks hard about this noize, as Slade would have it, but it also feels it...  For anyone interested in pop and its possibilities, the book is full of thrills, a grown-up take on a teenage dream." - Victoria Segal, The Sunday Times

"Simon Reynolds' book :Shock And Awe...  - which is a career highlight - shows you what can happen when the right writer attacks a fresh subject with finesse and dynamism. In a book that takes in The Heavy Metal Kids and Cockney Rebel as well as the more obvious candidates such as Bowie and Roxy Music (in fact Shock And Awe is better when it spends time on its subject's periphery), Reynolds uses his inquisitiveness and scattershot research mechanisms to produce a classic piece of academic pop criticism. In the past, Reynolds has often overemphasised the lines he has drawn between big cultural themes and seemingly unrelated pop music, yet in this book all his reference points come together perfectly. No one has written about glam rock with such dedication, enthusiasm and ingenuity, and by dint of that, Shock And Awe will become a classic text" - Dylan Jones, GQ

"Vast, entertaining trawl through the history of glam rock.... Shock and Awe is so captivating it comes and goes in a flash - much like glam itself" - Will Hodgkinson, The Times

'Something great happens in Shock and Awe: the eight-year-old enthusiastic pop-lover that Reynolds once was combines with the 53-year-old deep thinker he now is. The results are frequently giddy and wonderful.' - Jude Rogers, The Observer - full review 

"This study of the elaborate and the outrageous is written with windowpane clarity and great humour." - Andrew Harrison,  The New Statesman, - full review

Book of the Day  The Guardian -  "This is a wonderful celebration of – and reckoning with – a generation of chancers, chameleons and lunatic geniuses who proved, as Adam Ant later claimed, that “ridicule is nothing to be scared of”." - Sukhdev Sandhu, The Guardian - full review

"An engrossing intellectual history of glam rock, providing as much structure and coherence as the sprawling, protean genre will bear....  Encyclopedic, and idiosyncratic.... To the extent that one could accuse Reynolds of overreaching, it’s done in glam’s devil-may-care, raid-the-storeroom spirit. But if Shock and Awe takes occasional walks on the wilder side of cultural history, it always comes back to the music....  Tawdry, ridiculous, pretentious, and crass, glam produced some of the most sublime pop music of its era. Now it has a history worthy of it." - Chris O'Leary, Los Angeles Review of Books - full review

“Superb look at the heady thrill of glam rock’s rich pageant” – Jonathan O’Brien, The Sunday Business Post (Ireland)

"It's funny, thoughtful, and packed with historical detail, chin-stroking theorising and illuminating anecdotes." - Grant Smithies, Sunday Star Times (New Zealand)

"Perceptive...  persuasive prose that hits every correct historical note... For all its occasional tinfoil follies, over 40 years later glam rock’s waves continue to ripple. This excellent book tells us why. " - Tony Clayton-Lea, Irish Times

"A panoramic and appropriately dazzling history of glam"  9/10  - Uncut 

"Reynolds has written perhaps the most incisive commentary on Bowie’s career that has yet appeared. An essential account for the Record Collector reader"  4 stars/ **** - Jamie Atkins, Record Collector - full review

"Impeccable journalism and intriguing thought processes. A fascinating read"  4 stars /**** -  Mark Blake, Mojo

"Simultaneously intellectual and visceral, Shock & Awe is a carefully calibrated celebration of that most shiny, brilliant, seedy, decadent and subversive of all pop genres" 5 stars / ***** - -  Shindig 

'His best work yet [...] Beautifully researched and written this is a book that changes perceptions and sets glam in its rightful place: 10/10  - John Robb, Louder Than War

"There is so much to quiver about in this book's awesome range of reference and some boggling anecdotes... A book that does so much in both creating a historical record and analysing it... With a prodigious frame of reference, Reynolds traces the trajectories of these reactions, which even now are still motion"  - Louise Gray,  The Wire

"Finally, glam rock has its consummate academic work" 8/10 - Kris Needs, Classic Rock

"Reynolds is one of our very best writers and Shock & Awe a crucial read." - Benjamin Myers,  Prog Magazine

"A brilliant examination of the phenomena that shaped the teenage years of so many of us in the early Seventies" - Choice Magazine

"As with all of his previous books, Reynolds’ immersion in his subject is obvious and his passion for it infectious. Over six hundred and something pages, Shock and Awe offers a definitive, smart and celebratory account of glam from its (dyed) roots to its ongoing and far-reaching influence, covering all of the main players and key moments in this outrageous, and occasionally hilarious, scene." - Loud and Quiet

"The author deftly examines the musical, social, and sexual underpinnings of glam rock, but the work is most insightful when dissecting glam’s greatest contribution to rock music: the larger-than-life image of the rock star. VERDICT Reynolds’s erudite yet readable approach will be of interest to glam fans as well readers of popular music histories" - Library Journal  (USA)

"The scope and breadth of Shock and Awe will enthrall and delight"- Wales Arts Review

'A beautifully written, witty and down-to-earth page turner of a book' - 4.52am

interviews + podcasts + radio

Dazed & Confused  with Alex Denney

Fordham University newsletter report on the Fordham event 

Wales Art Review interview with Craig Austin

interview for Salon with Scott Timberg

interview for The Spin Off with Grant Smithies (New Zealand)

Shock + Awe related pieces by me

Me on the Weeknd and his new Bowie-homaging album Starboy - decadent dirges and nihilist slow-jams from the king of WeimaR&B (the Guardian)

Killer Riffs - a historical survey of parody in pop - Pitchfork

"Is Politics the new glam rock?" - a Guardian Review piece about glam's premonitions of Trump / looking at the current political scene (Trump, Clinton, Obama, and Corbyn) through the lens of glam and the concept of political theatre. Director's cut version with constantly expanding reading list of Trump-related discourse at ReynoldsRetro archive blog.   

Lady Gaga as the 21st Century digi-glam superstar - a remixed and expanded and updated excerpt from S+A, in Vice

Alice Cooper's "Elected" as Trump prophecy - MTV News piece 

Translations due 2017

Germany translation - Ventil Verlag

Italian translation - Minimum Fax

Spanish translation - Caja Negra - 2017

France TBA

Japan TBA

UK Paperback due July 2017


  ... or at least, if not endorsing / encouraging, then at least accepting the existence and inevitability of theatricality as a social mech...