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Distributed for Reaktion Books

Easy Riders, Rolling Stones

On the Road in America, from Delta Blues to 70s Rock

Distributed for Reaktion Books

Easy Riders, Rolling Stones

On the Road in America, from Delta Blues to 70s Rock

Easy Riders, Rolling Stones delves into the history of twentieth century American popular music to explore the emergence of 60s “road music.” This music—which includes styles like blues and R&B——­­took shape at pivotal moments in history and was made by artists and performers who were, in various ways, seekers after freedom. Whether journeying across the country, breaking free from real or imaginary confines, or in the throes of self-invention, these artists incorporated their experiences into scores of songs about travel and movement, as well as creating a new kind of road culture. 

Starting in the Mississippi Delta and tracking the emblematic routes and highways of road music, John Scanlan explores the music and the life of movement it so often represented, identifying  “the road” as the key to an existence that was uncompromising. He shows how the road became an inspiration for musicians like Jim Morrison and Bob Dylan and how these musicians also drew stimulus from a Beat movement that was equally enthralled with the possibilities of travel. He also shows how the quintessential American concepts of freedom and travel influenced English bands such as the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin. These bands may have been foreigners in the US, but they also found their spiritual home there—of blues and rock ‘n’ roll––and glimpsed the possibility of a new kind of existence, on the road.
Easy Riders, Rolling Stones is an entertaining, rich account of a key strand of American music history, and will appeal to both road music fans and music scholars who want to “head out on the highway.”

248 pages | 35 halftones | 6 x 8 1/4 | © 2015


Music: General Music

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“Despite the vast nature of his subject matter, Scanlan manages a concise, well-structured and presented picture of the music’s evolution, placing it within a social and cultural context that owes as much to history as those with a reverence for the past and its preservation. Touching on the heavy hitters and lesser known performers in equal measure, Scanlan paints a holistic picture that serves as a sampler platter of sorts for a variety of artists, offering an inroad to those who may seem somewhat inaccessible.With his clear, sharp prose and decidedly British and openly reverential take on his subject matter, he presents a well-argued thesis and exploration of some seventy-five years of popular music rooted in the American South and eventually filtered through a British lens and back into a relevant form years after its initial appearance. No easy task, but one Scanlan manages with aplomb. Unlike the thematically similar On Highway 61 by Dennis McNally, Scanlan retains a sharp focus that never strays from the work’s expressed thesis. In this, he succeeds in creating a compelling trip across the country and through time, all the while adhering to the well-defined thematic through line of travel and the freedom afforded by a life on the open road. In this, Easy Riders, Rolling Stones proves a fascinating look at a bygone era from an outside perspective.”

John Paul | PopMatters

“Scanlan delivers a beautifully rich and finely researched account of how America’s endless highway has influenced and manifested itself in key artists’ work. . . . Scanlan draws from known documentation but displays an innate feel for his subject as he throws up insightful theories about the more direct times before social media, when artists could be covered at close range by chroniclers of the time. . . . It’s rare to find a tome which makes you ponder then punch the air in agreement, but this highly recommended work is as much an endangered species as its subjects.”

Record Collector

Table of Contents


1. Early Delta Blues
2. Journeys into the Past: Delta Myths and Realities
3. Robert Johnson’s Crossroads
4. Journeys into the Future: From Blues and Rock’ n ’Roll to Dylan
5. Jim Morrison’s Highway to Oblivion
6. Rolling Stones, Through the Looking-Glass
7. Live in Front of Your Naked Eyes and Ears
8. Led Zeppelin: Travelers of Time and Space


Photo Acknowledgements

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