The taboo, defined as "a prohibition imposed by social custom or as a protective measure," is an uncommon phenom in the 21st century, but with this reading of excerpts from How the Beatles Destroyed Rock & Roll: An Alternative History of American Popular Music, author Elijah Wald will defy one of Western pop culture's last and most dearly held myths. No mere upstart hatchet job, this: Wald, as assiduous researcher and exceedingly analytical historian, traces the rise, decline and fall of the big beat from its earliest stirrings, closely examining the blues-jazz-swing-jive evolution, placing such oft-dismissed spearheads as Paul Whiteman and Mitch Miller in their correct historic context and highlighting the double standard that enabled the Fabs to plunder the work of African-American artists and unlike Elvis never be held accountable for the pillage. A complex, fascinating and long-overdue response to decades of industry-driven revisionism that's sure to outrage lemmings and invigorate lions, the book has been getting some powerful advance praise ("Wald's book is suave, soulful, ebullient and will blow out your speakers," Tom Waits reckons). For his part, Wald is already suffering: "I've been having these bad dreams where half the reviewers hate me for being anti-Beatles and the other half hate me for not being sufficiently anti-Beatles ... I figure I'm hitting a reasonable compromise by treating the Beatles fairly, alongside Paul Whiteman and Mitch Miller." You be the judge.
Tue., May 26, 7 p.m., 2009