Fast Forward, Play, and Rewind

Backbeat: Rowman & Littlefield. Oct. 2020. 384p. ISBN 9781493050925. pap. $27.95. MUSIC
Oberman’s compilation is as charming an artifact as its title suggests. Spanning pop music journalism from nearly its infancy—one of the entries informs us that Rolling Stone is “a bi-weekly rock newspaper”—to Oberman’s retirement from that business in 1973, the collection of the author’s music columns for Washington, DC’s Evening Star newspaper is full of historical snapshots that feel as though they come from another era. As indeed they do: the pre-internet era, when the local paper might be the only way you’d learn about an up-and-coming band. Thus, Oberman might be forgiven a few columns that read like rewritten press releases, especially early in his career. Later, with a few interviews under his belt, his prose gets more assured, as when he reflects that he might be the only person of his generation willing to admit he wasn’t at Woodstock (he went to the Atlantic City Pop Festival instead). Memoir-ish “Musings” bring us close to the present.
VERDICT It’s hard to say who this book is for, exactly, as the musical era of the late Sixties and early Seventies recedes further into the past. But there’s something more than nostalgia here: It’s documentation of a particular period of pop music, from a time whose documents are less than readily accessible. An appealing slice of pop music history for fans and researchers of the era.
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