At first glance, the premise of Lenny Kaye’s Lightning Striking has the air of clickbaity listicle about it: the tale of rock’n’roll boiled down to “10 transformative moments” in 10 (well, 11) urban epicentres, from Cleveland in 1952 to Seattle in 1991. But in Kaye’s hands, it’s a rich and stimulating read – a journey through time and place narrated by a beat historian with an encyclopaedic knowledge of, and boundless passion for, his subject.
He’s often writing not merely as an expert witness but as an eyewitness – someone who, as Patti Smith’s guitarist, was at the heart of the CBGBs scene in 1970s New York; who opens the chapter on UK punk recalling watching Zulu round Mick Jones’ flat; who, as a record producer, was passed a pre-Nevermind Nirvana demo.
The “moments” of the subtitle is slightly misleading: arguably, the book is as much about the cultural momentum that culminates in rock’s great leaps forwards as those leaps themselves. As Kaye underlines, the Beatles’ story didn’t begin in 1962, and neither did Never Mind The Bollocks spring up out of nowhere. In a “world of immediate gratuity” globalised by technology, Kaye briefly ponders whether such transformative moments and the vibrant, independent, localised music scenes that birthed them might now be a thing of the past. If so, then Lightning Striking is an evocative epitaph.
Lightning Striking: Ten Transformative Moments In Rock & Roll, Lenny Kaye (White Rabbit)
Price: £20. Info: here
words BEN WOOLHEAD
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