NIGHT BEAT, A Shadow History of Rock & Roll, by Mikal Gilmore, is the collected writings of the award-winning author and rock critic. It compiles twenty years of reviews, essays and social commentaries previously published in Rolling Stone, Musician, The L.A Times, L.A. Weekly, The Los Angeles Herald Examiner, and others.
Music critics, rock historians and casual fans alike will find Gilmore’s piercing insights on the music that’s formed the soundtrack of our lives to be uncannily accurate and informative. The influence of dozens of artists --- Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Grateful Dead, and Nirvana, among others --- are viewed in their historical perspectives and reviewed for their cultural impact. Particularly interesting is the story of rock-as-rebellion, the powerful protest music that helped rally public opinion against the Vietnam war.
From the earliest days through the rise and fall of punk we get personal glimpses of the people who shaped the musical times. (He almost convincingly explains the creation and appeal of disco – a feat in itself.)
Gilmore feels it is each generation’s duty to embrace musical forms that parents find repulsive and shocking. It is in this light that Metal and Rap are discussed. He is a supporter of rap and puzzles at a friend’s refusal to listen to it, "because I rarely buy the music of people that want to kill me." Gilmore points out that the social problems metal and rap discuss would exist if the music were banned. That we can’t deny.
Whether one agrees with all of Gilmore’s conclusions or not, the thought and eloquence with which he writes makes his a voice worth hearing. NIGHT BEAT is a treat, a book to be read slowly, preferably as you listen to the music being discussed.
Reviewed by Ricky C. Thomason on February 16, 1999