Rock Me on the Water: 1974-The Year Los Angeles Transformed Movies, Music, Television, and Politics by Ronald Brownstein
Genre: Historical, Non-Fiction
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea
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.
Looking for a feast for the eyes that revolves around the year 1974? Then look no further.
This book is a bit of a mishmash concerning the things that happened in 1974. It’s heavy on pop culture and politics. The writing is easy and this is a quick read. Check it out if you’re interested in music, film and television from that year.
I have to admit there are times when the author gets a bit heavy on politics. There is a certain flair revolving around the election of Jerry Brown. That said, it’s not bad. Just a lot of information. The book is made up of chapters labeled as each month of 1974. There are touches on music – namely the west coast sound, Jackson Brown, Linda Ronstadt and the Eagles – television – All in the Family and MASH – plus films, including the work of Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson, and the emergence of women writers and producers. It’s a lot more balanced than I initially thought it might be and was an interesting read.
Conservativism shows up as well as the change in the world from more of a young person mentality to a ‘family hour’ one where pop culture was encouraged to consider the family hour when creating content. I do like how the author contrasted the movements and showed both the minuses and the pluses to both.
If you’re looking for a long-form overview of the year, how the year and happenings within influenced the future and want to read about the music, films, politics and television of that time, then this is the one for you.