Rock & Roll Books
Faking It: The Quest for Authenticity in Popular Music
by Hugh Barker and Yuval Taylor
W.W. Norton, 375 pp., $25.95
"The real deal." "Sellin' out." "Keeping it real." All are appraisals of artistic expression but perhaps no more than in music, where authenticity can be more important than talent. Due to its thorny nature, it's no surprise authenticity ain't a typical tome topic. Kudos to Barker (London musician and publisher) and Taylor (Chicago writer and editor) for tackling the issue. Relevant, too: Issues of authenticity come into greater relief with technological advancements that offer novel ways of circumventing reality's chaos theory (playing God with Pro Tools). In alternating chapters, the authors provide a tandem voice, but chapter lengths vary considerably, as do the success of their aims. "Sugar Sugar" contrasts John Lennon and the Monkees' Michael Nesmith, while Neil Young and Billy Joel are similarly set up with only Young's Tonight's the Night getting review. In evaluating the Archies' success, Gorillaz aren't entertained. Yet Kraftwerk, Donna Summer, Woody Guthrie, Buena Vista Social Club, Moby, et al. are deconstructed. Authenticity resides in the beholder's ear, but as Johnny Lydon opines, it ain't so simple: "Audiences are far too fucking demanding on the people they like and dislike. The truth always lets them down because it destroys their fantasies."