I said I’d post some extended thoughts on Elijah Wald’s Dylan Goes Electric! and Stephen Witt’s How Music Got Free and by God I’m going to do it. But, if you haven’t read my review of those books in the Los Angeles Review of Books, do that first, otherwise none of what follows will be in context. And hey, show LARB some love. I enjoyed working with my editor Michael Goetzman on what became a long review essay of something like 3700 words. Usually, as I work, I keep a “notes and outtakes” document running; that document for this essay was nearly 12000 words. There’s a lot to discuss, but some of it I’ll hold off on because it may show up in the chapter on Dylan I’m writing for Nothing Has Been Done Before.
When I decided to review the two books together using the theme of transgression with Great White Wonder as the link between them, I underestimated just how much I was tackling. So I had to make some hard decisions about what made the cut and what didn’t. With both books, some of the more typical “book review” elements got cut. That’s not uncommon with review essays, which function in a different way, but I’ve included a lot of those below.