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In this exceptional cultural history, Atlantic Senior Editor Ronald Brownstein tells the kaleidoscopic story of one monumental year that marked the city of Los Angeles’ creative peak, a glittering moment when popular culture was ahead of politics in predicting what America would become.  Los Angeles in 1974 exerted more influence over popular culture than any other city in In this exceptional cultural history, Atlantic Senior Editor Ronald Brownstein tells the kaleidoscopic story of one monumental year that marked the city of Los Angeles’ creative peak, a glittering moment when popular culture was ahead of politics in predicting what America would become.  Los Angeles in 1974 exerted more influence over popular culture than any other city in America. Los Angeles that year, in fact, dominated popular culture more than it ever had before, or would again. Working in film, recording, and television studios around Sunset Boulevard, living in Brentwood and Beverly Hills or amid the flickering lights of the Hollywood Hills, a cluster of transformative talents produced an explosion in popular culture which reflected the demographic, social, and cultural realities of a changing America. At a time when Richard Nixon won two presidential elections with a message of backlash against the social changes unleashed by the sixties, popular culture was ahead of politics in predicting what America would become. The early 1970s in Los Angeles was the time and the place where conservatives definitively lost the battle to control popular culture. Rock Me on the Water traces the confluence of movies, music, television, and politics in Los Angeles month by month through that transformative, magical year. Ronald Brownstein reveals how 1974 represented a confrontation between a massive younger generation intent on change, and a political order rooted in the status quo. Today, we are again witnessing a generational cultural divide. Brownstein shows how the voices resistant to change may win the political battle for a time, but they cannot hold back the future.


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In this exceptional cultural history, Atlantic Senior Editor Ronald Brownstein tells the kaleidoscopic story of one monumental year that marked the city of Los Angeles’ creative peak, a glittering moment when popular culture was ahead of politics in predicting what America would become.  Los Angeles in 1974 exerted more influence over popular culture than any other city in In this exceptional cultural history, Atlantic Senior Editor Ronald Brownstein tells the kaleidoscopic story of one monumental year that marked the city of Los Angeles’ creative peak, a glittering moment when popular culture was ahead of politics in predicting what America would become.  Los Angeles in 1974 exerted more influence over popular culture than any other city in America. Los Angeles that year, in fact, dominated popular culture more than it ever had before, or would again. Working in film, recording, and television studios around Sunset Boulevard, living in Brentwood and Beverly Hills or amid the flickering lights of the Hollywood Hills, a cluster of transformative talents produced an explosion in popular culture which reflected the demographic, social, and cultural realities of a changing America. At a time when Richard Nixon won two presidential elections with a message of backlash against the social changes unleashed by the sixties, popular culture was ahead of politics in predicting what America would become. The early 1970s in Los Angeles was the time and the place where conservatives definitively lost the battle to control popular culture. Rock Me on the Water traces the confluence of movies, music, television, and politics in Los Angeles month by month through that transformative, magical year. Ronald Brownstein reveals how 1974 represented a confrontation between a massive younger generation intent on change, and a political order rooted in the status quo. Today, we are again witnessing a generational cultural divide. Brownstein shows how the voices resistant to change may win the political battle for a time, but they cannot hold back the future.

30 review for Rock Me on the Water: 1974—The Year Los Angeles Transformed Movies, Music, Television and Politics

  1. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    Rock Me on the Water is a nonfiction investigation into the transformative year of 1974 in LA; a time when music, tv, movies and politics all began a sea change in the accepted culture. As Brownstein says in an early chapter, it was a time when the medium matched the moment. There was a lot of interesting history, especially concerning the democratic and accepting culture of the music scene, indicating who played with whom, slept with whom and covered each other’s songs. For example, I never kne Rock Me on the Water is a nonfiction investigation into the transformative year of 1974 in LA; a time when music, tv, movies and politics all began a sea change in the accepted culture. As Brownstein says in an early chapter, it was a time when the medium matched the moment. There was a lot of interesting history, especially concerning the democratic and accepting culture of the music scene, indicating who played with whom, slept with whom and covered each other’s songs. For example, I never knew the four men that went on to become the Eagles started out as Linda Ronstadt’s backup band. But I often got the feeling I was being told rather than shown - superlative adjectives were thrown around too often as opposed to leaving it to the reader to make their own realizations. Of course, it’s hard to express music in a book. Much easier to do it in the form of a documentary, such as Laurel Canyon on Epix or Echo in the Canyon on Netflix. I enjoyed the sections on tv more because I knew less about it. I loved the story about Norman Lear styling All in the Family on an English show but modeling the characters on his own parents. The backstories of the tv shows I remember so well (MASH, All in the Family, MTM) were fun. I was less enthralled with the sections on the movies. While Chinatown and Godfather, Part 2 were masterpieces, Shampoo was not. And other years had many more seminal movies that dealt with the cultural changes. He also includes several movies (Jaws, Nashville) that were filmed in 1974 but released in 1975. He does the same when discussing inclusion and other issues, going several years beyond 1974 to make a point. The format of the book was confusing at times, with each chapter a month in the year. I would have preferred it if the book had tackled each subject in toto. On more than one instance, Brownstein relates the same story in different chapters. In summary, this was an interesting book with lots of fun facts. But I didn’t really buy into the whole premise that 1974 was as important as Brownstein makes it out to be. It might have been more appropriate to make this about a larger range of years than a single one.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne

    I have mixed feelings about Ronald Brownstein’s ROCK ME ON THE WATER: 1974. Brownstein is persuasive that the 1970’s was an extremely creative, productive period for Los Angeles, signaling a shift in the metro area as well as the entire country. But the book itself reads like a series of well-researched magazine articles placed back-to-back and formed into a book. Every time he mentions someone famous, he re-introduces them to readers. Every time Joni Mitchell is mentioned, and it is often, she I have mixed feelings about Ronald Brownstein’s ROCK ME ON THE WATER: 1974. Brownstein is persuasive that the 1970’s was an extremely creative, productive period for Los Angeles, signaling a shift in the metro area as well as the entire country. But the book itself reads like a series of well-researched magazine articles placed back-to-back and formed into a book. Every time he mentions someone famous, he re-introduces them to readers. Every time Joni Mitchell is mentioned, and it is often, she is amazing, wonderfully talented and sleeping around. There’s not a real discussion of her work just the repetition of the same points. The book is filled with introductions of fascinating people and mini biographies. But two chapters later, Brownstein will act as though they are new to the book and start over again with the introductions. Perhaps the chapters were originally free-standing pieces, but greater integration was needed to make this book good. Otherwise it’s just a list; well-researched and with a great idea, but a list nonetheless. I received my copy from the publisher through edelweiss.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    Ronald Brownstein's Rock Me on the Water: 1974—The Year Los Angeles Transformed Movies, Music, Television and Politics is typical of most New York disquisitions about Southern California. That is especially true when dealing with the entertainment industry, which is much more than an industry. I have been a resident in LA since late 1967 and saw all the changes happen. What Brownstein left out almost entirely is the cultural component: the Beats, the Hippies, the Teeny-Boppers, the Freep, the Su Ronald Brownstein's Rock Me on the Water: 1974—The Year Los Angeles Transformed Movies, Music, Television and Politics is typical of most New York disquisitions about Southern California. That is especially true when dealing with the entertainment industry, which is much more than an industry. I have been a resident in LA since late 1967 and saw all the changes happen. What Brownstein left out almost entirely is the cultural component: the Beats, the Hippies, the Teeny-Boppers, the Freep, the Sunset Strip, and most of Venice and the Valley. The reason for 1974 being a pivotal year is that artists were attracted to the ferment. They did not care a tinker's damn about the awards shows (unless the were in marketing). To make things worse, the organization of the book is a mess, with each chapter being a month of the calendar -- for no particular reason. Movies, music, television, and politics are all scattered throughout, passim! And altogether too much attention is paid to box office and the business end of the entertainment industries, what with all the cocaine-snorting executives and their dollies. The fact of the matter is that the culture's effect on the art is critical, irrespective of the Geffens and their ilk. Somehow, the think the word "Industry" belonged in the long subtitle of this book.

  4. 4 out of 5

    David Berlin

    Ron Brownstein says that Los Angeles 1974 stood as the pinnacle of the cultural renaissance. I’m not sure if 1974 was the key year, but that specific time period might have represented a transition of eras with a lot of residues of influence that still stands today. I would not get caught up as a reader that everything described in this book happened in 1974. The careers of such all-time great figures such as Robert Altman, Jane Fonda, Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spiel Ron Brownstein says that Los Angeles 1974 stood as the pinnacle of the cultural renaissance. I’m not sure if 1974 was the key year, but that specific time period might have represented a transition of eras with a lot of residues of influence that still stands today. I would not get caught up as a reader that everything described in this book happened in 1974. The careers of such all-time great figures such as Robert Altman, Jane Fonda, Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Norman Lear, and many others did not start in 1974, but they all did landmark work around that time. In addition to Movies and TV, Brownstein also covers the Music and Politics, making a point that the movement of the 60s went from revolutionary to evolutionary by the mid-70s. Personally, speaking for someone who loves to learn about cultural history from the 60’s and 70’s, this book was hard to put down. Anyone who is curious, will be rewarded for their curiosity if they read Rock Me on the Water. Brownstein does a great job of giving great contextual backgrounds of a lot of historical figures from that time, many from behind the scenes. Hollywood was outdated in the early and mid-60’s compared to the French New Wave and other cinema that was coming overseas. In the latter part of the 60s the Studios released 3 major films that young people adopted as symbols of style, liberation, and rebellion. Those films were The Graduate, Bonnie & Clyde, and Easy Rider. Those films influenced American artistic expression like never before or after. Films were no longer traditional, authority was questioned, protagonists were flawed and often not heroic. Endings were not always happy, leading men like Pacino, Nicholson, Hoffman and DeNiro did not look like Clark Gable, Carry Grant, or John Wayne. The great 70s films were edgy, avant-garde, off beat, socially conscious while being entertaining. Some of the great films of that era discussed in this book were Chinatown, American Graffiti, The Godfather Part 2, The Last Picture show, Shampoo, and Nashville. Some of my favorites not discussed were Taxi Driver, Network, Rocky, A Clockwork Orange, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, Deliverance, and One who flew over the Cuckoo’s nest to name a few. The TV shows of the 1960s like Leave it to Beaver, My Three Sons, Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres, The Andy Griffith show, and many more were safe, non-controversial, and rural. In the 1970s here came All in the Family, M*A*S*H and Mary Tyler Moore. The most talked about show at that time was All in the Family. The shows centers on blue-collar, angry, middle aged white man, Archie Bunker. Within minutes, is raging against “your spics and your spades” complaining about “Hebes” and “black beauties”. Calling his wife, Edith, a “silly dingbat” and telling her to “stifle” and describing is son-in-law, Mike as a “dumb pollack” and the laziest white man I’ve ever scene. The show was a carousel of Archie encounters with minorities- Blacks, Jews, Puerto Ricans, gay men, even transvestites – who didn’t conform to his stereotypes, and every minority character was smarter than Archie Bunker. The genius of Lear was showing a willfully ignorant, racist like Archie, who would no doubt be an avid Trump supporter today, and making him lovable, because he showed his humanity. A valid criticism of All in the Family was that Archie did not speak of minorities in the angry venom that real racists speak. But there was nothing like All in the Family before its time or after. M*A*S*H was influenced by the Robert Altman film representing the Korean War, but symbolizing Vietnam. Alan Alda offered a combination of intelligence and irreverence. M*A*S*H was vaudeville, rapid fire and knowing the equivalent of Groucho Marx firing on Viet Nam through the guise of Korea. Mary Tyler Moore took on being a smart, highly capable, working, single, woman in a man’s world. Mary Tyler Moore” and “M*A*S*H,” took on socially conscious themes like civil rights, women’s liberation and the toll of war. Rock Me on the Water also covered the politics of the time, particularly Jerry Brown as Governor of California, and the partnership of Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden. With the assassinations of MLK and RFK in 68 and Nixon winning two presidential elections it seemed that the 60’s decades dreams of fundamental transformation were dissolving. Rock Me on the Water covered the Laurel Canyon music scene of that time. All of the musicians played at the legendary Troubadour like Linda Ronstadt, The Eagles and Jackson Browne. Maybe I am not old enough, but I never thought that Linda Ronstadt and Jackson Browne were as significant as some of the great 60s LA groups like The Byrd’s, The Doors, and CSNY. To me the rock renaissance was from 1967-71. I will say that The Eagles and Ronstadt crossed genres with that county-rock sound that was popular in the music charts with both rock and country music lovers alike. To me, the strength of the book is when Brownstein describes the film and television significance. One disheartening fact the book highlights is that many of the Norman Lear TV shows were written, directed and produced by white men, even though when they were specifically about Women and Black families. One of my personal favorites was Good Times. John Amos played James Evans, who to me was the greatest, bad ass, tv dad I have ever scene on television. I do not know the full story, but I know he feuded along with Ester Rolle who played his wife on how black characters were written. Esther Rolle was furious that the character of her son, J.J., was turned into a racist stereotype by the white writers. It still can’t be understated how culturally significant, funny, and entertaining the Norman Lear shows like All in the Family, Maude, Good Times, and The Jeffersons were. Few people would look to TV again as a source of social insight and cultural commentary until a new golden era began around 2000, with The Sopranos, The Wire, Mad Men and Breaking Bad. ABC’s market research in 1975 concluded that after Watergate and Vietnam, viewers had tired of “social issue or confrontation comedy “and craved a return to traditional values, of an earlier time. Happy Days gave them exactly that. As Brownstein pointed out, "All in the Family" and "Happy Days" make very appropriate bookends to the way our television viewing tastes evolved in the 70s. Happy Days was the show that started the phrase, “jump the shark” was less adult orientated, and did not challenge and provoke, but did entertain. There was a change from political activism to personal pleasure that enshrined the 1970s as the Me decade and the 80’s on deck. The new hit shows were Cosby & Family Ties. In film, the directors had more influence in their films than exposing their audiences to what they considered uncomfortable truths. The ’70s were morphing into long gas lines and inflation. Tired of confrontation, Americans just wanted to be entertained. Steven Spielberg and George Lucas accommodated them with Jaws and Star Wars. Lucas felt it was time that people felt better coming out of the theater than when they went in. Oh boy, did he capitalize! The studio influenced blockbusters started. Movies became franchises and Marvel comics films aim for the intellect of 10-year-old boys today. In closing I would say Brownstein suggests the 60s and 70s were not politically transformative, but they won the cultural war. There is no more military draft, gay people can be married, looser sexual norms, you’re not considered a traitor if you question the government, women have made significant gains, there is way more minority representation in Hollywood than ever before, more personal freedoms, and a much greater concern for the environment. A book like this could have used some photos – Especially at close to 400 pages. I still give it 5 stars because Brownstein has concisely written about people in an era where there was never a dull moment reading.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Trevor Seigler

    I was inclined not to take this book seriously for a few reasons: 1.) it's talking at times about the music of the pre-punk early Seventies, which to me was godawful if I'm just being honest. There are some outliers who were great either as one-hit wonders or artists with a sustained career, to be sure, but I freaking hate the Eagles, and guess what group gets profiled a lot in this book? and 2.) I wasn't sure that the various fragments of what Ronald Brownstein was profiling would tie together I was inclined not to take this book seriously for a few reasons: 1.) it's talking at times about the music of the pre-punk early Seventies, which to me was godawful if I'm just being honest. There are some outliers who were great either as one-hit wonders or artists with a sustained career, to be sure, but I freaking hate the Eagles, and guess what group gets profiled a lot in this book? and 2.) I wasn't sure that the various fragments of what Ronald Brownstein was profiling would tie together in the end. You can tell from the five stars I gave it that this book defied my expectations. "Rock Me On the Water" could read like a Boomer's lament about how "kids today" have no appreciation for the music, TV, and film of an earlier era, but it doesn't. It's a fantastic social history of one transformative era in pop culture that really peaked, according to the author, in the twelve months that saw not only Nixon resign but a burgeoning rebellion against conformity come into power in various ways in the entertainment capital of the world. Brownstein, who I know from his reporting on CNN, proves to be deft at interweaving all the strands of TV, music, movies, and politics that intersected in Los Angeles during that era. Brownstein uses the year 1974 as the starting point to explore the lives and careers of very different people caught up in the moment when Hollywood (so argues Brownstein) was at its peak in terms of artistic swagger and confidence. From Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty to Glenn Frey and Linda Rondstadt, Brownstein shows that the bright lights of Hollywood could both nurture and crush an aspiring performer's dreams, with an all-boys club in terms of control at the top levels (few avenues for women or people of color to the boardrooms or CEO chairs in Hollywood, even today). There was a gradual move towards more openness and diversity, but there were still challenges (Black-led shows like "The Jeffersons" and "Good Times" were overseen by Norman Lear, and the writing staffs were universally white and male). But out of the unequal playing grounds, a new sense of rule-breaking could take place in television, long tethered to the concerns that losing an advertiser was more important than losing the young audiences eager to see themselves and their concerns on the small screen. Inspired by the changes of the Sixties, the cinema in Hollywood was beginning to embrace more voices and more topicality, highlighting the corruption at the root of the American dream in such films as "Shampoo" and "Chinatown." And the world of music was becoming more personal, with singer-songwriters taking to Laurel Canyon to write about their lives and concerns. In Brownstein's telling, the era that culminates in 1974 is a bit of a lost idyll, a paradise that was slowly crumbling even as it reached for the heights that it sought. I enjoyed the heck out of this book, I have to admit, and that's even with all the pages give over to the Eagles (ugh). This is a great social history of American culture and society at a time when we seemed to be on the cusp of a more open era but, in reality, were slowly coming into the downward slide that the Reagan era would bring. Conservatives, however, lost the culture war at this time, something that's not lost on today's merchants of nostalgia for a time to "make America great (read: white) again." But as Brownstein definitively shows, the year 1974 may have been the high-water mark for a lot of advances that have slowly slipped away, but it doesn't have to be the end of an era for more openness and tolerance. Plus, great art.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    Each chapter reads like a magazine article about Los Angeles in the 1970’s, with not-so-behind-the-scenes celebrity anecdotes that might have been culled from TV Guide and Rolling Stone. The over-arching argument - that 1974 was some kind of annus mirabilis in American politics and culture.- is specious, tenuous, strained and ultimately buried beneath page after page of celebrity profiles. 👎

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Larose

    I was 10 years old in 1974, the year this book details, and I was just becoming aware of the popular culture around me. I very well remember the greatest Saturday night in television history, my family were avid watchers. And I recognized much of the music discussed, and it has spurred me to find more from that time period. This was a truly great read for me.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    What a mess. There's nothing wrong with the idea of this book--I've read very good books that focus on the music of 1970 and of 1971, so why not 1974? In fact, if it had just concentrated on west coast music of 1974, it would've been fine--a couple of my favorite parts are the discussions of Heart Like a Wheel and Late for the Sky. But Brownstein wants to bring in the movies of 1974, and the television of 1974, and the California politics of 1974, and the transition from the sixties to the seven What a mess. There's nothing wrong with the idea of this book--I've read very good books that focus on the music of 1970 and of 1971, so why not 1974? In fact, if it had just concentrated on west coast music of 1974, it would've been fine--a couple of my favorite parts are the discussions of Heart Like a Wheel and Late for the Sky. But Brownstein wants to bring in the movies of 1974, and the television of 1974, and the California politics of 1974, and the transition from the sixties to the seventies, and the generation gap, and the changes wrought by 1974 on 1975, and the retrenchment of the late 70s, and.... It's too much. The organizing principle of 1974, LA, and movies/TV/music/politics could work, I suppose. But in order for Brownstein to talk about the people he wants to talk about (e.g., Jerry Brown, Jack Nicholson, Linda Ronstadt, Norman Lear, Bert Schneider, Tom Hayden, etc. etc. etc.) he starts with the beginning of their stories (usually in the '60s), concentrates on something that happened in 1974, and then follows their story further--sometimes to their death. So the discussion of Spielberg, for example, focuses on the filming of Jaws, which happened in 1974, though the film was released in 1975. And really, Brownstein wants to talk about what Spielberg and the younger filmmakers of the early '70s represented: a move away from social relevance in movies, and from the interests of filmmakers like Rafelson and writers like Towne. But how does Spielberg differ from George Lucas; and what about the older directors like Penn and Altman; and how did he and they and the other they differ from Paul Schrader and Peter Bogdanovich, etc. etc. etc. What might have worked would be to focus on a few individuals--maybe Lear, Towne, David Geffen, and Jerry Brown, and their spheres. But instead, the book is arranged into monthly chapters (January - December 1974) that have very little to do with what really happened in that month. Brownstein's attempt to discuss all these forms of art and society means that the LA part is generally ignored, 1974 is just one year of many, and other issues (women/feminism, race issues, Vietnam, Watergate, the broader national/international scene) get short shrift. Which all leads to the "December" chapter trying to summarize everything that followed from 1974 to the present day. To be fair, at least I finished the book. A lot of the personal stories are interesting--definitely not revelatory, but worth reading if you don't know them; I liked learning about Bert Schneider, for example, who to me was just the Monkees guy. However, what makes this a one-star book instead of a two-star book is Brownstein's horrible habit of mixing metaphors. Once you start to see that people are sunbursts who melt away, who burn their illusions and then rebuild them from the shards of what remains, and who are drawn to the center and then turn down the road leading to the landmark as the decade pivots, you want to throw the book across the room. And the song "Rock Me On the Water" came out in 1971.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Alan

    I’m giving this book a 3, which I think is slightly generous since only about half of it dealt with the actual year 1974. Also the fact that he included a lengthy discussion of Linda Ronstadt which increased my rating. The book was also very repetitious, reciting events and names over and over again throughout. What upset me the most with his book is the author’s seeming attempt to glorify many of the actions of the actors, musicians and politicians instead calling them out for their hypocrisy w I’m giving this book a 3, which I think is slightly generous since only about half of it dealt with the actual year 1974. Also the fact that he included a lengthy discussion of Linda Ronstadt which increased my rating. The book was also very repetitious, reciting events and names over and over again throughout. What upset me the most with his book is the author’s seeming attempt to glorify many of the actions of the actors, musicians and politicians instead calling them out for their hypocrisy when appropriate. These people were no different than their predecessors- wanting fame, money and sex. It seemed many of them felt their actions were above those of the common man. I think the author should have called out these celebrities and movers and shakers for their self indulgence and continuation of the sins of their forefathers. This is not to say that I don’t revel in 70’s music and admire many of them for their talent and their continued enhancement of my life. But I just can’t put them on a pedestal for how they lived their lives. They just perpetuated the same problems and tried to wrap them up in a glimmer of hope.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sue Larson

    I thorough enjoyed reading about the pivotal role that LA played in 1974 in the realms of film, TV, and music. Many of the movies, musicians, and TV shows were familiar to me and it was fun learning more about the backdrop to those impressive times.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Don

    This is an enjoyable journey through the music, film, television and politics of Los Angeles in the early 1970's. I found the sections on television and politics the most informative, primarily because I knew relatively little about the subjects. The section on music, about which I am more knowledgeable, was still interesting. I was less thrilled with the section on the movies. My main problem with the book is that Brownstein makes a valiant, but ultimately unpersuasive case for 1974 being a wate This is an enjoyable journey through the music, film, television and politics of Los Angeles in the early 1970's. I found the sections on television and politics the most informative, primarily because I knew relatively little about the subjects. The section on music, about which I am more knowledgeable, was still interesting. I was less thrilled with the section on the movies. My main problem with the book is that Brownstein makes a valiant, but ultimately unpersuasive case for 1974 being a watershed year. The focus on '74 is a bit artificial and, I suspect, the result of Brownstein trying to find a central theme. Treating the first half of the '70's as a focal point makes more sense for music and TV, at least. The section on movies focuses on two films--Chinatown and Shampoo. Brownstein suggests that these represent the turning away from political-themed films of the late '60's and reflect the end of the younger generation of film makers before an even younger group (Spielberg, Lucas, etc.) lead a movement toward big commercial blockbusters. I think it's more accurate to say that the real revolution in Hollywood movies occured in the late '60's. I would recomment Mark Harris' Pictures at a Revolution as a book covering that moment that is more insightful Brownstein's somewhat cursory survey of the industry in the time period of Rock Me on The Water. In the music sections, Brownstein treats his time period as the real flowering of the LA music scene as the center of the music business at that time. That's not inaccurate, but it is probably more historically correct to view the early '70's as the final movement of a scene that began in the mid-'60's with the Byrds, Doors, Buffalo Springfield, CSN&Y, Joni Mitchell, Mamas & Papas and others. Brownsteing does acknowledge that, and argues that the Eagles, Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Brown period represented a turning inward from a more political period in music. It's an interesting view although I think the reality was more complex than that. In the political sections, Brownstein tells an interesting tale of the evolution of activism, as represented by Tom Hayden and Jane Fonda, from radicalism to a more mainstream progressivism. For all of its weaknesses as an effort to define a period, the book is nevertheless an interesting, well-written guide through that time in Los Angeles.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Hkp

    2.5 stars rounded down, because the book fails on its own terms. As opposed to trying to pile everything on 1974 (which doesn’t work), Brownstein should probably have opted for organizing his narrative over a five-year period: 1969-1974. Then it might all have been more convincing, the argument less tortured. As it stands, you have great characters, fascinating factoids, some good reporting, a lot of repetition, and a lot of questions. (BTW, Season of the Witch, about San Francisco, opts for a di 2.5 stars rounded down, because the book fails on its own terms. As opposed to trying to pile everything on 1974 (which doesn’t work), Brownstein should probably have opted for organizing his narrative over a five-year period: 1969-1974. Then it might all have been more convincing, the argument less tortured. As it stands, you have great characters, fascinating factoids, some good reporting, a lot of repetition, and a lot of questions. (BTW, Season of the Witch, about San Francisco, opts for a different structure and is a better book.)

  13. 5 out of 5

    Janet

    As a kid growing up in the 70’s, this exceptional book was a pleasant walk down memory lane. It was then that I discovered each of those talented singer/songwriters who graced the LA landscape with their beautiful voices and touching lyrics. Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, Joni Mitchell, CSNY, etc. injected life into the music scene with their unique style of music. The author, Ronald Brownstein, encapsulates the music scene, which was taking hold in 1974, in a succinct and well written style. H As a kid growing up in the 70’s, this exceptional book was a pleasant walk down memory lane. It was then that I discovered each of those talented singer/songwriters who graced the LA landscape with their beautiful voices and touching lyrics. Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, Joni Mitchell, CSNY, etc. injected life into the music scene with their unique style of music. The author, Ronald Brownstein, encapsulates the music scene, which was taking hold in 1974, in a succinct and well written style. He pays homage to the Laurel Canyon scene where many talented singers and bands gravitated were hoping to be discovered. The author succeeds in providing a unique overview of the decade. Brownstein explores the world of music, television, movies and the political atmosphere. It was a year of great change, and he does a wonderful job introducing the reader to individuals who were pioneers in each of these cultural areas: Geffen, Lear, Jerry Brown, Polanski, etc. A great overview of the 70’s landscape. A must read for those interested in cultural history during a year which saw the emergence of talented musicians, actors and politicians. Rock Me on the Water should be on your summer reading list. You won’t be disappointed. Janet G.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Umar Lee

    Read this after reading Season of The Witch which is about San Francisco from 1967-1982 and is a much better book. I struggled to finish this book as I don't find music and musicians all that interesting and numerous passages were dedicated to their sex lives and such. The book was more interesting when it discussed the transformation of American television in the 1970's and the film industry. The radical politics of the seventies and the juxtaposition with American electoral politics is fascina Read this after reading Season of The Witch which is about San Francisco from 1967-1982 and is a much better book. I struggled to finish this book as I don't find music and musicians all that interesting and numerous passages were dedicated to their sex lives and such. The book was more interesting when it discussed the transformation of American television in the 1970's and the film industry. The radical politics of the seventies and the juxtaposition with American electoral politics is fascinating; but covered very superficially in this book.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Martin Kilkenny

    A great history of TV, movies, music and politics.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Todd Stockslager

    Review title: L. A. Consequential Brownstein weaves together the impact of music, movies, and television on politics and culture in the golden year of 1974 and the city: Los Angeles. This is multidimensional history of a formative year in my life and one of consequence to the country as culture and politics intersected and transformed in ways that put us on the route the next 50 years would unfold. Brownstein sets the stage to provide context. By the end of the tumultuous 1960s: --The civil right m Review title: L. A. Consequential Brownstein weaves together the impact of music, movies, and television on politics and culture in the golden year of 1974 and the city: Los Angeles. This is multidimensional history of a formative year in my life and one of consequence to the country as culture and politics intersected and transformed in ways that put us on the route the next 50 years would unfold. Brownstein sets the stage to provide context. By the end of the tumultuous 1960s: --The civil right movement had made advances in equal rights in voting, education, housing and employment, but triggered segregationist backlash in many parts of the country. --The sexual revolution had opened doors for new approaches to marriage (and divorce), gay rights, and interracial marriage, but triggered concerns that shifting morals were disintegrating the foundations of society. --Vietnam, Watergate, assassinations of the Kennedy brothers and King, and mass protests against the war and racial injustice had shaken confidence in the foundations of government. Yet on May 4, 1970, the day four Kent State students protesting the war were killed by the National Guard: The evening broadcast schedule on CBS opened at 7:30 p.m. with Gunsmoke, a Western that had debuted on the network in September 1955. At 8:30 p.m., the network followed with Here's Lucy, starring Lucille Ball playing a variation on the daffy character she had first introduced ty television audiences in 1951. At 9 p.m. came Mayberry R.F.D., the spin-off and extension of The Andy Griffith Show, which had premiered in 1960. At 9:30 came The Doris Day Show, the eponymous vehicle for the singer and actress who had made her debut with Big Bands before World War II. (p. 90) The context--and the contrast--is stunning. Television, and movies still in the last years of the studio era, and even music despite its greater political and cultural relevance, failed to reflect and reflect upon the world as it was in the new decade. It was as if the 1960s had never happened. How did these important sources of information and entertainment become so disconnected from the times, and what role did Los Angeles in 1974 play in reconnecting them? Brownstein steps through the year 1974 month by month, citing a significant milestone event that occurred that month as the basis for discussing a key facet of the intersection of the three cultural pillars with the When (the politics of the time), the Who (the people in the studios writing, making, and selling the products), and the Where: the city of Los Angeles. His long tenure as a journalist for the Los Angeles Times placed him to uniquely observe and analyze why these elements came together so uniquely and powerfully placing Los Angeles on the fault line of culture and politics in this magical year. In music, Brownstein focuses on Jackson Browne (one of his songs providing the book's title), Linda Ronstadt, and the musicians who would come together to form the Eagles. Their mellow relationship-focused blend of folk-rock was a distinctive "LA" sound when I was a teenager, and here Brownstein explains why that mix was culturally relevant as both in the clubs and studios--where musicians paired and shared their talents and songs--and in the bars and bedrooms after hours where they lived out the new freedoms that the 1960s had championed. In television, he highlights the new CBS lineup that in 1974 included All in the Family, MASH, and The Mary Tyler Moore Show, which finally tackled the big issues their viewers were facing in their real-world lives: the generation gap, bigotry, the war, and the changing relationships between men and women in the home, the workplace, and the bedroom. The behind the scenes history of how these shows were imagined, created, written, cast, and scheduled is fascinating and often surprising. While Brownstein writes about the Baby Boom writers, directors, and executives who were more in tune with the times and slowly included more women and people of color, it was Norman Lear, a white Jewish comedian from the borscht-belt era, who created All in the Family, the ground-breaking show that proved that television could be funny, provocative, and popular at the same time. Similarly, in movies, he contrasts the then-young innovators Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, who created the new blockbusters following the old-school pattern of the Saturday Matinee (Star Wars, Indiana Jones) and the drive-in horror show (Jaws, Close Encounters), with the previous generation directors who were making "the boldest statements about America, the most piercing social critiques." (p. 200). Brownstein focuses on two movies in production in Los Angeles in 1974 that transformed the movies as they addressed the shifting worlds of politics (Chinatown) and culture (Shampoo). Critically acclaimed from the moment of its release, Chinatown is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest movies ever made. Shampoo, though not reaching those heights, was a huge box office hit and marked another landmark in early 1970s popular culture. Though different in tone and ambition, the movies represented matching parts, wth each reflecting the disillusion with political and social change common by 1974 among those who had once hoped the 1960s would transform the world. (p. 167) Chinatown, with Jack Nicholson as the private detective trying to get to the bottom of what he thinks is just another domestic squabble but finding out hidden layers of corruption in Los Angeles politics and water supply, is one of my all time favorite movies (as is L. A. Confidential, also set in the mid-20th century years when the city was emerging from its small-town beginnings). Shampoo, which I must confess I've never seen, is about Warren Beatty's hairdresser character sleeping his way through his married clients without arousing suspicion because their husbands assume a male hairdresser must be gay. lt was in this way that Shampoo represented a bookend to Chinatown. Each film documented the decline in early 1970s America by exposing the corruption and decadence of an earlier era in Los Angeles. One movie is about concealment, the other about display, and yet they reach the same bleak destination. In both movies, idealism is dashed. Nothing escapes the rot of corruption. . . . Chinatown portrayed corruption on a grand scale: a vast public conspiracy (to steal water) and a monstrous personal offense . . . Shampoo found its center in smaller moments of intimate betrayal and self-deception. Yet [Beatty's character] George’s dashed hopes for love, juxtaposed with Nixon's election, seemed to capture how dreams of personal and political transformation that so many harbored during the 1960s had all been extinguished. (p. 185) Brownstein does a masterful job of writing his history into the weave of his monthly chapters, using specific events and situations to tell the broader story of the changes taking place in the three art forms. He touches on: the struggles of women to be taken seriously as creators and not sex objects; the struggles of African-Americans to find roles both in front of the camera and behind the camera as writers, directors, and executives; changes in agent representation of artists and executives relationships with the creators; the changes in television scheduling due to "family hour" guidelines; the impact of rampant drug use on both the product and the lives of the people making them. While his scope and structure are somewhat arbitrary (he reaches both backward and forward in time and follows his topics to New York and elsewhere when necessary), he justifies them with his analysis and conclusions. This broad reach enables the kind of juxtaposition that catholic readers like me thrive on; while not turn-by-turn directions, it does provide a suggested route to the world we live in today. "Much of the Los Angeles story in the early 1970s was that culture preceded politics in reflecting the changes remaking the country." (p. 322). As we live in times as turbulent as those that preceded 1974, and as we see out of sync culture and politics colliding as never before, with the new content form of social media added to the cultural mix, learning history may help us shape our present and future history.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Geoffrey Kelley

    This is a fun book about the trends in movies, television, and music in the early 1970s, and the key role the talented artists and producers from the City of Los Angeles. Ron Brownstein weaves together stories featuring many of the leading actors of the day, from Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty to Norman Lear and the “ All in the Family” cast to the musicians who emerged from the Troubador in Laurel Canyon— Joni Mitchell, Linda Ronstadt, the Eagles, CSN&Y, Jackson Browne and others. It is a gre This is a fun book about the trends in movies, television, and music in the early 1970s, and the key role the talented artists and producers from the City of Los Angeles. Ron Brownstein weaves together stories featuring many of the leading actors of the day, from Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty to Norman Lear and the “ All in the Family” cast to the musicians who emerged from the Troubador in Laurel Canyon— Joni Mitchell, Linda Ronstadt, the Eagles, CSN&Y, Jackson Browne and others. It is a great cast of characters! Brownstein argues that 1974 was the apotheosis of the political activism that began in the 1960s, that led to shows such as “ M*A*S*H” and “ The Mary Tyler Moore Show” replacing “ The Beverly Hillbillies” and “Andy of Mayberry” on TV, and “ Chinatown” and other gritty films replacing the big historical epics of the 1960s. He even includes some political figures, including the Watergate hearings and the fall of Richard Nixon as a backdrop while the Jerry Browns, Tom Hayden’s and Jane Fonda’s articulate a new political vision. Brownstein focuses on this year because in his view it all unravelled shortly after. Drug use and abuse took its toll. Escapism and a focus on personal well-being drew people away from the political consciousness. This trend is shown by two movies being filmed that year—Robert Altman’s “ Nashville” and Steven Spielberg’s “ Jaws”. There were great expectations for both films, but the latter won the ratings day, ushering in an era of blockbuster, special- effects films. It is always easy to second guess a book like this by finding films, shows or musicians whose work does not fit the thesis being presented. But this book is thoughtful, and the author has interviewed many of the surviving players from this era. It is bound to start many summer discussions among Baby Boomers like me!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    "Rock Me on the Water" is the latest in an increasing number of books in which a particular year is cited as "the year that changed everything" (There have already been books on every year from 1964 to 1971; What's holding up titles on 1972 and '73?) but Brownstein's choice of 1974 fudges a little bit with chronology to make its point that the final year of the Nixon administration was also the period where Southern California became the cultural capital of the United States. It was, Brownstein "Rock Me on the Water" is the latest in an increasing number of books in which a particular year is cited as "the year that changed everything" (There have already been books on every year from 1964 to 1971; What's holding up titles on 1972 and '73?) but Brownstein's choice of 1974 fudges a little bit with chronology to make its point that the final year of the Nixon administration was also the period where Southern California became the cultural capital of the United States. It was, Brownstein suggests, a time in which the weakening social and political movements of the previous decade were left behind, replaced by hedonism, self-absorption and political pragmatism. The point may be valid, but the examples are sometimes less than convincing. In politics, Brownstein describes the rise of Jerry Brown and Tom Hayden, but barely mentions the Watergate hearings that dominated television screens for most of the year. In cinema, he rightly exalts "Chinatown", "The Godfather Part II", "Shampoo" and "Nashville" (though the latter two, filmed in 1974, were not released until '75) while noting that "Jaws" (also released in '75) would seal the film industry's commitment to blockbusters and juvenile entertainments, making it harder for films like those first four to be produced. In television, Brownstein celebrates the CBS Saturday night line up of "All in the Family", "M*A*S*H", and "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" (which debuted in 1971, '72 and '70 respectively) and the rise of producer Norman Lear. Brownstein is not the first to describe these shows as groundbreaking, but I'd argue that whatever progressive tendencies they had were eagerly embraced and ignored by the television audience that kept them atop the ratings. What they mostly inspired was simply a lot more television shows just like them; even Archie Bunker evolved into a cuddly bar owner with an orphan under his wing. Whatever groundbreaking can be attributed to the CBS line-up, 1974 was also, as Brownstein explains, the year in which the television industry tied the hands of such programming by embracing the "family hour" , a self-imposed rule that Archie's rants, Hawkeye's anarchy and Mary's unmarried independence were no longer welcome on the screen until 9 P.M. (8 P.M. Central). In some respects, "Rock Me on the Water" treats the film, television and politics of 1974 almost as distractions; Brownstein's real love is the music of the time, in particular the small roster of commingling artists signed by David Geffen: Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne and the Eagles. As someone who listened to a lot of music in 1974 , I found Brownstein's enthusiasm unpersuasive. Sure, Ronstadt is a superb singer and "Already Gone" is a pretty catchy tune, but the Southern California sound didn't just dissolve into coke-fueled self-indulgence; those were central to it from the start. A hint of what if would become is contained in one of the books final pages (which I don't think is intended to be ironic) when Brownstein notes that on New Year's Eve of '74, Lindey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks were invited to join Fleetwood Mac. What Brownstein does best is describe an uncertain culture in transition, turning its back on the optimism of the 1960s and leaping into something new with little idea of where it would end up. In its most insightful pages, Brownstein suggests that the achievements of the era were also something of a swan song, the last hurrah of a kind of creative freedom that would soon be outdone by greed, complacency and the bottom line.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Brooke

    I never understood why the author chose to divide the books into months of the year. As far as I could tell, the months did not have significance to the events in the chapter. Very repetitive, introducing the same personalities over and over, as if we hadn't heard about them in the previous chapter. Ending up doing some skimming, especially in the political sections. Not sure he made his point. 1974 was a pivotal year but many of his topics actually ranged over several years. I never understood why the author chose to divide the books into months of the year. As far as I could tell, the months did not have significance to the events in the chapter. Very repetitive, introducing the same personalities over and over, as if we hadn't heard about them in the previous chapter. Ending up doing some skimming, especially in the political sections. Not sure he made his point. 1974 was a pivotal year but many of his topics actually ranged over several years.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Susan Olesen

    Wow. With a June birthday, I spent half of 1974 aged 8, and half aged 9, so my biggest memories are my birthday, Christmas, and the fact that a bunch of angry old white men who all looked alike were very mad at the President, enough that they pre-empted my lunchtime regimen of Brady Bunch reruns and Jeopardy! (with Art Fleming, mind you. Trebek was the host of High Rollers back then). It was also a brutally hot summer, with my birthday being around 98 in the shade. We only listened to AM radio, Wow. With a June birthday, I spent half of 1974 aged 8, and half aged 9, so my biggest memories are my birthday, Christmas, and the fact that a bunch of angry old white men who all looked alike were very mad at the President, enough that they pre-empted my lunchtime regimen of Brady Bunch reruns and Jeopardy! (with Art Fleming, mind you. Trebek was the host of High Rollers back then). It was also a brutally hot summer, with my birthday being around 98 in the shade. We only listened to AM radio, got 3.5 TV channels in black and white, and I knew the lyrics to more folk songs than pop hits. I was still required to go bed by 9, even in summer, though I’d spend the next two hours or more reading in the dark or beginning the plots of the stories that would be written down as my first novel the following year. I had very little idea of what was going on in the world, except that the coolest shows like MASH and The Lucy Show went on right as I was being sent to prison, er, bed. So this book helped fill in some of the gaps on things I’d later come to appreciate much more fully. Brownstein makes an excellent case for his theory – that 1974 was the most pivotal year for American culture, the year that much of the impenetrable Old Guard of Hollywood began to fall, and brainless pablum of films – whose lackluster performance in the boxoffice was sinking studios – and new talent began to take hold, allowing directors such as Scorsese, Spielberg, Lucas, and many more to get a foothold. Movies such as Chinatown, Shampoo, Godfather II, Blazing Saddles, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and more – things never before allowed – were being made and breaking both society and box office records. Why? Because in 1974, most Baby Boomers (the ones we complain about today because they’re so OOOOOOLD!) were 10-30 years old, in huge numbers, and they had money, and they wanted entertainment aimed at that more youthful audience. In Music, LA became the center of a rock/country/blues infusion, giving rise to superstars like Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne, The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, CSNY, and more. New York had become too entrenched and rigid in their musical outlook, so LA and their more bohemian fluidity became front and center. Anyone who was anyone in music wound up in LA that year, trading ideas, riffs, and background accompaniments. By the end of 1974, the doors had opened for Punk, Disco, Techno, and more. In politics, LA became central as upcomer Jerry Brown and his liberal, more inclusive views toppled Ronald Reagan’s starchy Old School Establishment to become governor of California (of course, that paved the way for the country to founder under Reagan’s regime just 6 years later). The Vietnam War was failing badly, and into that fray came Hanoi Jane Fonda and her soon to be husband Tom Hayden, who was a leftist free-loving radical of the type stereotypically feared by “The Establishment,” a pursuer of failed free-love communes and now – in a similar vein of If-You-Can’t-Beat-Them-Join-Them-And-Work-From-the-Inside Gerry Adams – protester and then politician. Fonda, whose cause I’d never followed or understood, shows up as best confused, at worst a serious Trump-level wacko who claims returning POWs who were tortured were making it up for political gain. – WTF? – And Brownstein goes into how this kind of insanity worked against their cause – as well as the backlash against that little fiasco that summer called Watergate. In TV, 1974 was the flashpoint, with – like the movies – a switch from old establishment and EVERYTHING IS FINE DON’T LOOK AT THE NEWSPAPERS to programming that reflected a more accurate picture of America – All in the Family became the #1 show, depicting the constant war of Old School with New Progress, Mary Tyler Moore was breaking down the barriers showing a woman who not only didn’t have a man, but was focused on a career, of all things. MASH, with Korea standing in for Viet Nam, not only changed the face of situation comedies, but set the tone for ensemble casts, and showed the development of Margaret from a 2-dimensional female joke to a 3-Dimensional female character of her own. Shows became realistic, violent, sexual, and graphic. 1974 also saw the first women breaking into the all-male world of scriptwriters and directors (not one woman ever directed an episode of All in the Family.) It saw the rise of Black and Hispanic characters, with Chico and the Man, Good Times, The Jeffersons, Sanford and Son, and more, even if there were no black writers or directors for such shows. The walls were crumbling. By the end of 1974, the Great Experiment was over. America was tired of radical, exhausting politics and arguing about society on television, and 1975/76 saw a retreat to sentimental pablum like Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley, Charlie’s Angels, and The Bionic Woman. 1974’s openness on filming paved the way for 1975’s rise of the blockbuster, with Jaws, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and Dog Day Afternoon, which all began in 1974. If there was ever a turning point between the turbulent protests of the 60’s and the consumerism of the 80’s, 1974 was the year, a fact Brownstein makes clear in this informative, well-documented, and pleasant to read book. Here is a history of the 70’s, in an easily digestible form. Very good.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Chris Jaffe

    It's an interesting and generally very well done look at a moment when LA was at the Mecca of all US entertainment. It wasn't just that TV and movies were centered there - that has been the case for a looong time - but both were undergoing commercial/critical revolutions and peaks. Movies were in that brief window between the fall of the old studio system and before the rise of the blockbuster, where directors were given considerable autonomy to enact their visions - and the result is usually se It's an interesting and generally very well done look at a moment when LA was at the Mecca of all US entertainment. It wasn't just that TV and movies were centered there - that has been the case for a looong time - but both were undergoing commercial/critical revolutions and peaks. Movies were in that brief window between the fall of the old studio system and before the rise of the blockbuster, where directors were given considerable autonomy to enact their visions - and the result is usually seen as a golden age in cinema. 1974's most famous contributions to this were Chinatown and Godfather II. TV was having it's own revolution led by CBS and Norman Lear. The early 1970s saw the medium finally start to notice demographics, which meant networks didn't worry as much about offending small town America if it meant more young viewers - and so MASH and Mary Tyler Moore, and most of all the Norman Lear juggernaut centered on All in the Family took center stage. By 1974, Lear was at his apex, and the CBS executive who worked with him hadn't yet been forced out. While Brownstein does a good job showing how those LA-centered areas of entertainment and culture were revolutioned, he's less successful with music. He does argue that the LA music scene was in its ultimate ascendency, as the Laurel Canyon sound that combind folk and country with pop sensibilities was peaking. Everyone hung out at the Troubadour, got signed by David Geffen, and did well for themselves. Yeah, LA was dominant, but .... what's the revolution? It really doesn't come off as one, just that the most popular music was coming from LA at the same time that the TV and movie industries were experiencing an actual revolution. (Brownstein does note the oncoming rise of punk, but never mentions the rise of disco - a massive oversight when talking about changing trends in pop music in the mid-1970s. There is one way the music industry was revolutionized in this period, and it does relate to the Laurel Canyon sound - but Brownstein covers is in a paragraph or two. It's the rise of stadium tours and bigger than ever concerts. The Eagles and CSNY both engaged in that in 1974 - and it really set the stage for the future - yet Brownstein decides that deserves far less time to that than to the Linda Ronstandt's breakout album. Hey - she was really big in the mid/late-1970s, but the stadium concerts had a far bigger lasting legacy. Brownstein also covers politics, with the unexpected rise of Jerry Brown. While Brownstein does a nice job covering it, the whole segment feels like a weird, awkward add-on to the rest. It doesn't quite fit with the entertainment focus, and is more a local story than a national trend.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Scott Budman

    It's an audacious, delicious thesis: The year 1974, in Los Angeles, saw the peak of movies, music, and television shows. Longtime journalist Ronald Brownstein does a ton of legwork to try and prove it, and the interviews he gathers are juicy enough to warrant this great ride of a book. Depending on your age and cultural awareness, this book might hit you differently: For me, the TV shows like 'All In The Family" and "Mary Tyler Moore" were not a big part of my life, and were seen largely later in It's an audacious, delicious thesis: The year 1974, in Los Angeles, saw the peak of movies, music, and television shows. Longtime journalist Ronald Brownstein does a ton of legwork to try and prove it, and the interviews he gathers are juicy enough to warrant this great ride of a book. Depending on your age and cultural awareness, this book might hit you differently: For me, the TV shows like 'All In The Family" and "Mary Tyler Moore" were not a big part of my life, and were seen largely later in re-runs. I've always loved movies and music of the 70's - my parents got me into Linda Ronstadt and Jackson Browne early, and my friends and I devoured The Eagles, along with movies like "Chinatown" and "Godfather" over and over. Still, you'll almost yell at this book as you decide that Brownstein is missing your favorites (Neil Young as LA??? Come on. And, while we're at it, his peak was "After The Gold Rush" four years earlier). But I won't give anything away, other than to say the one big flaw I found was the pages given to Tom Hayden/Jane Fonda and Jerry Brown. Yes, politics was also interesting in the 70's, but this was a real slowdown to the pace of the book. For example, a solid chapter is dedicated to the paucity of black and female writers during that time, even as "MTM" and "Maude" brought in big audiences, and actors like Redd Foxx and Esther Rolle complained about lack of representation; a solid chapter until you realize that much more time was given to .. politics. Other than that, this book is hard to put down. A great history lesson, a great lesson in how the "golden age" ended (and we sunk back into shows like "Happy Days" - remember that lyric from "Lawyers In Love," Jackson Browne fans?) It's a great, great read, with a touching ending about how, as one great band wound down its Long Run, another was being born (with just as many hits and just as much drama), featuring a young couple being approached by a drummer. Read this - you'll want to discuss it after.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Amy Lively

    3.5 Stars -- worth the read if the subject is of interest to you, which it definitely is to me. Just be prepared for a bit of a slog. The book would have been much better with some editing. As several reviewers have already pointed out, this book feels like a series of 12 separate essays that have been stitched together. I am not sure if that is because it actually WAS 12 separate essays or if Brownstein believed that most readers would hop around to chapters of interest or what, but the repetiti 3.5 Stars -- worth the read if the subject is of interest to you, which it definitely is to me. Just be prepared for a bit of a slog. The book would have been much better with some editing. As several reviewers have already pointed out, this book feels like a series of 12 separate essays that have been stitched together. I am not sure if that is because it actually WAS 12 separate essays or if Brownstein believed that most readers would hop around to chapters of interest or what, but the repetitive nature of some of the information -- reintroducing people and their projects -- was a bit annoying. I didn't need to be reintroduced to Linda Ronstadt every time she appeared in the narrative. Case in point on the editing: The chapter on Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden went on and on so much about Fonda's missteps and naive statements in the 70s -- which she has addressed many times in the 50 years since -- that it started to feel like Brownstein had a personal vendetta against her. Even though I read the book primarily for the sections on music, I found them to be a bit rehashed from other sources. I was pleasantly surprised, though, on what I learned about the television of the era, which truly was groundbreaking. As Brownstein pointed out, "All in the Family" and "Happy Days" make very appropriate bookends to the way our television viewing tastes evolved in the 70s. I do not think that the book proved that 1974 in Los Angeles was a landmark year of cultural change. This book meandered far away from 1974, both back toward the 60s and forward into the 80s. So, if you are looking to prove some kind of thesis about 1974, you won't find it here. However, because the book is so well-researched, there are some good nuggets of information here and there. Also, the last chapter is probably the best as Brownstein ties together his arguments, so it is worth hanging in there for that.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Glen Helfand

    I had my bar mitzvah in 1974, in the San Fernando Valley. Which is to say, the what happened that year, in that place, were entering my consciousness. But strangely, the Jackson Browne song that serves as this book's title is not one that I remember (besides, that one came out in 1971). The book is filled with fascinating details about Los Angeles culture at a particular turning point. (The city has gone through many since then.) Brownstein takes us through the music (Browne, Rondstadt, The Eagl I had my bar mitzvah in 1974, in the San Fernando Valley. Which is to say, the what happened that year, in that place, were entering my consciousness. But strangely, the Jackson Browne song that serves as this book's title is not one that I remember (besides, that one came out in 1971). The book is filled with fascinating details about Los Angeles culture at a particular turning point. (The city has gone through many since then.) Brownstein takes us through the music (Browne, Rondstadt, The Eagles), the TV shows (All in the Family, Mary Tyler Moore), movies (Chinatown, Jaws, Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty) and political figures (Jerry Brown, Jane Fonda, Tom Hayden). They resonate for me at various levels, but all stoke my So Cal nostalgia. Brownstein's premise is that this particular moment, that transitional point between hippie optimism and 70s cynicism was rooted in LA. It makes sense, though the year structure, with each chapter a month of 1974, is a bit of a stretch. The characters he pays most attention to are the top tier, but they echo through each chapter when they are re-introduced. It may have been more interesting to look at a broader range. (For example, there is nothing about visual art, an arena the city would later wrest from NYC, nor is there any mention of Eve Babitz, an astute social critic of the city in the Seventies.) There's just one chapter, one month, that addresses the status of women and P.O.Cs, which is something that could have been addressed throughout (granted, Rondstadt's narrative offers some insight.) But there are great tidbits of cultural history, like the fact that broody screenwriter Paul Schrader was hired to write a script for Close Encounters, a mismatch that so wonderfully captures the dynamic tension of the times. But in the end, this offers view that is limited in its generality, one that ends on a downbeat. It's a somewhat long winded take on a brief flowering of cultural confluence.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Don S

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I was 16 in 1974 so it was interesting to examine this time period anew from a historical perspective. I enjoyed the deeper dives into TV, film and music but the political segments were less interesting. Tom Hayden and Jane Fonda? Blah. The title is misleading as the book really is focused on the 10 years leading up to 1974. A time period that saw Los Angeles emerge as arguably the main avatar of culture in America. It was no doubt helped by the fact that New York was on its back both financiall I was 16 in 1974 so it was interesting to examine this time period anew from a historical perspective. I enjoyed the deeper dives into TV, film and music but the political segments were less interesting. Tom Hayden and Jane Fonda? Blah. The title is misleading as the book really is focused on the 10 years leading up to 1974. A time period that saw Los Angeles emerge as arguably the main avatar of culture in America. It was no doubt helped by the fact that New York was on its back both financially and artistically during this time period. I agree with many of the previous commentators who felt that the book almost seems like a collection of magazine articles. Characters are introduced in a chapter even though they had been integral components of prior chapters. Very strange. The mini bio's of the famous (Warren Beatty, David Geffen, Jack Nicholson, et al) and the not so famous (Larry Gelbart- creator of MASH) were very informative (and save oneself the time of reading a full bio). The author suggests that 1974 was both the pinnacle and the end of the LA creative renaissance as a strong tide of conservativism quickly took hold around that time which produced media products containing far less social commentary. In TV- think All in the Family vs Happy Days, movies Chinatown vs Jaws. I agree and believe the cause was the simultaneous ending of the Vietnam War and the Nixon White House. These two events let the air out of the anti-everything movement and the country seemed to just want to exhale and relax. A looming recession was just icing on the cake. The book is not perfect but provides a good slice of history for those interested in this time period.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sea Cliff Staff Reads

    As a kid growing up in the 70’s, this exceptional book was a pleasant walk down memory lane. It was then that I discovered each of those talented singer/songwriters who graced the LA landscape with their beautiful voices and touching lyrics. Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, Joni Mitchell, CSNY, etc. injected life into the music scene with their unique style of music. The author, Ronald Brownstein, encapsulates the music scene, which was taking hold in 1974, in a succinct and well written style. H As a kid growing up in the 70’s, this exceptional book was a pleasant walk down memory lane. It was then that I discovered each of those talented singer/songwriters who graced the LA landscape with their beautiful voices and touching lyrics. Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, Joni Mitchell, CSNY, etc. injected life into the music scene with their unique style of music. The author, Ronald Brownstein, encapsulates the music scene, which was taking hold in 1974, in a succinct and well written style. He pays homage to the Laurel Canyon scene where many talented singers and bands gravitated were hoping to be discovered. The author succeeds in providing a unique overview of the decade. Brownstein explores the world of music, television, movies and the political atmosphere. It was a year of great change, and he does a wonderful job introducing the reader to individuals who were pioneers in each of these cultural areas: Geffen, Lear, Jerry Brown, Polanski, etc. A great overview of the 70’s landscape. A must read for those interested in cultural history during a year which saw the emergence of talented musicians, actors and politicians. Rock Me on the Water should be on your summer reading list. You won’t be disappointed. Janet G.- Sea Cliff Library

  27. 4 out of 5

    Brian Thornton

    Great Book With a Muddled Middle Brownstein is a solid journalist and a good writer. And I appreciated his thematic approach and the separation of each chapter into months (the twelve months of the pivotal year of 1974). I give it four out of five stars because I felt like Brownstein got lost in the minutiae of the left wing politics of Tom Hayden/Jane Fonda, Bert Schneider and the gubernatorial candidacy of Jerry “Governor Moonbeam” Brown (the ascent of Los Angeles’s first black mayor, Tom Bradl Great Book With a Muddled Middle Brownstein is a solid journalist and a good writer. And I appreciated his thematic approach and the separation of each chapter into months (the twelve months of the pivotal year of 1974). I give it four out of five stars because I felt like Brownstein got lost in the minutiae of the left wing politics of Tom Hayden/Jane Fonda, Bert Schneider and the gubernatorial candidacy of Jerry “Governor Moonbeam” Brown (the ascent of Los Angeles’s first black mayor, Tom Bradley, gets short shrift by comparison), and of CBS’s Norman Lear-led TV revolution (“All in the Family,” “Mary Tyler Moore,” “M*A*S*H*,” etc.) during the looooooong middle chapters of the novel. The opening and closing chapters (especially 10 through 12) are really solid and much more balanced than the muddle in the middle, which I feel might represent Brownstein’s personal interests more heavily than the more balanced approach he employs to such terrific effect elsewhere in the book. YMMV.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Schultz

    Read if you: Want a detailed look at an important year in movie, television, and music history. I've noticed a slight increase in books that focus on one specific year (Can't Slow Down by Michaelangelo Matos, which focuses on pop music and 1984; next year will bring a book that focuses on 1996 sports history). This is an entertaining account of 1974, as well as the city of Los Angeles. From the Eagles, to Jane Fonda's activism, the popularity of TV shows like All in the Family, MASH, and The Mar Read if you: Want a detailed look at an important year in movie, television, and music history. I've noticed a slight increase in books that focus on one specific year (Can't Slow Down by Michaelangelo Matos, which focuses on pop music and 1984; next year will bring a book that focuses on 1996 sports history). This is an entertaining account of 1974, as well as the city of Los Angeles. From the Eagles, to Jane Fonda's activism, the popularity of TV shows like All in the Family, MASH, and The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and movie stars such as Warren Beatty and Jack Nicholson, 1974 brought about enormous cultural and political changes. Librarians/booksellers: A great purchase for your entertainment and late 20th century history collection. Many thanks to Harper and NetGalley for a digital review copy in exchange for an honest review.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Charlie Gessner

    Brownstein’s book on the year 1974 is a very good read that highlights the best and worst of what happened in movies, music, television and politics. If I had one problem with this book, it would be that it attempts to tackle too many topics. Music and television are covered in depth and quickly bring you back to that period of time. From artists such as the Eagles, Linda Ronstadt, and Jackson Browne, all of the major players are covered. These areas of the book flow well and really inform the re Brownstein’s book on the year 1974 is a very good read that highlights the best and worst of what happened in movies, music, television and politics. If I had one problem with this book, it would be that it attempts to tackle too many topics. Music and television are covered in depth and quickly bring you back to that period of time. From artists such as the Eagles, Linda Ronstadt, and Jackson Browne, all of the major players are covered. These areas of the book flow well and really inform the reader of what that time was like. My problem was when the book attempted to talk about the movie industry (not enough), and politics (too much). I believe if the focus had stayed on the arts, it could have been a better read. With that said, it’s still an enjoyable read, but not as good as I would have hoped.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Matich

    I followed up the brilliant “The Big Goodbye” about the making of “Chinatown” with “Rock me on the Water” - which expands beyond Chinatown and documents the Los Angeles cultural mecca of the early 70s, with the thesis that 1974 was the artistic apex with music (The Eagles, Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstandt), movies (Chinatown, Godfather II) and tv (All in the Family, MASH) all capturing the zeitgeist. It sounds interesting and I did learn some cool facts (especially the political sections), but th I followed up the brilliant “The Big Goodbye” about the making of “Chinatown” with “Rock me on the Water” - which expands beyond Chinatown and documents the Los Angeles cultural mecca of the early 70s, with the thesis that 1974 was the artistic apex with music (The Eagles, Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstandt), movies (Chinatown, Godfather II) and tv (All in the Family, MASH) all capturing the zeitgeist. It sounds interesting and I did learn some cool facts (especially the political sections), but this book meanders and is a bit dry and academic, some sections read like a Wikipedia entry. I also think he loses sight of his thesis, the book ISN’T really much about 1974 but the events leading up to. And there isn’t enough about the LA of that time, shouldn’t that be a major character, the city itself?

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