Here Comes the Night: The Dark Soul of Bert Berns and the Dirty Business of Rhythm and Blues

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Selvin captures the appetites of the power players, as well as their vulnerabilities and blind spots, and he somehow manages to tease a seamless tale from a bottomless catalogue of sources. He eschews the gossipy showbiz tone embraced by many pop culture chroniclers. Instead, he traces the works of iconic names Leiber and Stoller, for example from songwriters to publishers to label owners. When he explains the demise of these artists, we feel compassion more than sensation.

With everything up for grabs, these electric intersections and moments dazzle readers.

The Dark Soul of Bert Berns and the Dirty Business of Rhythm & Blues

A hit is born. Writing, recording, wheeling, dealing, he lives flat out, with an almost crazed passion. No matter how dire things get, his spirit never falters. Nor does his sense of expediency in the eat-or-be-eaten realm of a business marking its own turf. These could be traded in for cash at a local rack jobber. For Berns, though, it was not only business but social connection. He entertained and intertwined the shylocks and monsters. Yes, they managed his acts, shook down deadbeats, engaged in all sorts of off-the-books activities.

Apple Music — Bang! The Bert Berns Story

Records office. Today, in our world of top-heavy regulations, accounting and second-guesses for every dollar spent, we find it hard to imagine creativity as a mercurial commodity, not something doled out, something manufactured. Much of what passes for creativity nowadays turns out to be marketing, to be products determined by focus groups. At the moment his heart takes him out, it feels like the inevitability he played against, the reality we knew all along.


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Take the freaks, punish them for being wildly creative, then mitigate … if not eradicate … room for magic to happen. You end up with machined music devoid of soul, all too often what we hear of EDM, hip-hop and production-driven pop.

Joel Selvin - Here Comes the Night

To understand how Solomon Burke could tear a hole in your being, how Van Morrison or even Neil Diamond might quicken pulses all these years later, we must understand the power of the singular creative soul at full bore. For Joel Selvin, writing about one such creative has been not just another day in the office, but 18 years spent following the credits, squinting at the liner notes and listening to whispers from those previously unnoticed. But although they exploited artists, this new breed of music entrepreneurs also helped to create and shape a previously non-existent teen market—the idea that youth has a culture of its own did not exist before the s.

The emergence of the teen market was a necessary step on the way to the revolutionary youth culture which followed. In that era even payola—the payment of bribes by the record companies to get radio airplay—had a positive aspect.

SMART ASS: Bert Berns

Payola rates were low and that allowed for music that was fundamentally outside the existing mainstream to get heard. This could make a writer cynical. His conclusion? Under such strictures, however, these men and women made magnificent music, these glorious records, filled with imagination, wonder and beauty.


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Weekend Edition September 20, Friday - Sunday. Jeffrey St. Clair Roaming Charges: Pompeo and Circumstance. Editorial Reviews. From Booklist. Attempts to provide a picture of the entire popular music industry from late fifties through the late sixties and largely succeeds. One of the best books on pop music that I've read.