Entertain Us: The Rise and Fall of Alternative Rock in the Nineties
by Craig Schuftan
I wasn’t as engaged with Alternative Rock in the nineties as someone who was born in the seventies would have been. Many of the band names in this book were unfamiliar, but since I had the advantage of a paid membership to a streaming music service, I was able to listen to these groups and hear their music as I was reading about them.
I knew the major players such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Oasis, and Smashing Pumpkins. I had listened to many of the other groups on the radio back then, but didn’t really pay much attention to their stories. I was 41 in 1990 and had to go to work everyday. This book taught me a lot about what was happening in music back then.
Since I’m an American I knew more about the Seattle music scene than what was going on in Manchester, England. Much of the British music never made it here, and I’m sure that most of the lesser known American bands never were popular in Europe. So even if you grew up during the nineties, to really appreciate the book that Mr. Schuftan wrote, you will have to listen to some of the music that he writes about.
Entertain Us goes into depth discussing the role of Alternative Rock. Mr. Schuftan talks about grunge, and how fame affected the way that Kurt Cobain and Eddie Vedder thought, how they tried to make their music less accessible and therefore less popular. He talks about other movements in music, how female musicians revolted, and formed groups that pushed back against the sexist role of women in rock. How MTV used the music of everyone in rock to sell hamburgers and toothpaste. How some bands couldn’t justify the money they made, when they wanted to change the world. Then some people went the other way, and took whatever was up for grabs, and said that it was only rock and roll, not revolution. There was a lot more going on behind the music than I ever knew about,
Entertain Us is a thoroughly enjoyable book about music in the nineties. If you think that none of it will be new to you, you will be surprised, because there was such a separation of music between the US and the UK. Many bands never became popular because there was such a big difference in what was going on in music in their own countries. I can’t emphasize enough that you will have to spend the extra time and effort to listen to the music that Mr. Schuftan talks about as you are reading about it. If you don’t, you will just be reading a bunch of words that won’t make a connection in your brain. Entertain Us needs to come with a soundtrack. Maybe someone can put up a playlist on Spotify or Beats Music, so that we can more easily listen along. It would have helped a lot.
I give Entertain Us 4 1/2 Stars out of 5 and a Big Thumbs Up! If you grew up during the nineties and claim the music from that time, read this book, because you will like the trip down memory lane, and also because you will learn more about what was going on at the time. If you are older, you probably don’t know most of the back story, but unless you are a real music fan, you may not care.
I received a Digital Review Copy of this book from the publisher.
In 1990 alternative music was where it belonged – underground. It left the business of rock stardom to rock stars. But by 1992 alternative rock had spawned a revolution in music and style that transformed youth culture and revived a moribund music industry. Five years later, alternative rock was over, leaving behind a handful of dead heroes, a few dozen masterpieces, and a lot more questions than answers. What, if anything, had the alternative revolution meant? And had it been possible – as so many of its heroes had insisted – for it to be both on MTV and under the radar? Had it used the machinery of corporate rock to destroy corporate rock? In ENtERtAIN US! Craig Schuftan takes you on a journey through the nineties – from Sonic Youth’s ‘Kool thing’ to Radiohead’s ‘Kid A’, NEVERMIND to ODELAY, Madchester to Nu-Metal, Lollapalooza to Woodstock ’99 – narrated in the voices of the decade’s most important artists. this is the story of alternative rock – the people who made it, the people who loved it, the industry that bought and sold it, and the culture that grew up in its wake – in the last decade of the twentieth century.
About the Author
Muso and pop philosopher Craig Schuftan has written two previous books: CULTURE CLUB and HEY NIETZSCHE! LEAVE THEM KIDS ALONE. He broadcasts his program Culture Club each week on Triple J. Last year curated The Eighties exhibition for the Powerhouse Museum. He has a fervid online following.