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210 × 148 × 20 mm
254 pages
45 illustrations
01 Sep 2015
  • £14.95

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Easy Riders, Rolling Stones On the Road in America, from Delta Blues to 70s Rock John Scanlan

Easy Riders, Rolling Stones delves into the history of twentieth-century American popular music to explore the emergence of ‘road music’. This music – blues, RnB and rock – took shape at pivotal moments in this history, made by artists and performers who were, in various ways, seekers of freedom. Whether journeying across the country, breaking free from real or imaginary confines or in the throes of self-invention, they incorporated their experiences into scores of songs about travel and movement, and created a new kind of road culture.

Starting with the Mississippi Delta blues and tracking the emblematic highways of road music and the life of movement it represented, John Scanlan identifies ‘the road’ as the key to an uncompromising existence and an inspiration for musicians such as Jim Morrison and Bob Dylan. These artists also drew stimulus from the Beat movement, which was equally enthralled with the possibilities of travel. Quintessentially American ideas about freedom and travel would also greatly influence a generation of English bands, spearheaded by The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin. And while they may have felt at times like foreigners adrift in the vastness of the U.S., they also found their spiritual home there, and glimpsed the possibility of a new kind of existence: on the road.

This rich account of a key strand of American music history will appeal to both road music fans and scholars who want to ‘head out on the highway’.

‘John Scanlans fascinating study explores the theme of being on the road in 20th-century American popular music, from the itinerant blues guitarists of the Mississippi Delta travelling Highway 61 in the 1920s, to the mostly English, blues-inspired rock groups of the 1960s and 70s, such as the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin . . . A wonderfully evocative musical odyssey.’ — Guardian

‘John Scanlan delivers a beautifully rich and finely researched account of how Americas 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 . . . Its 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

‘Beginning with early blues artist Charley Patton, [Easy Riders] explains how a mythology can quickly build up around itinerant musicians who never stay in one place too long . . . a fascinating read for anyone whos ever wanted to head out on the highway.’ — Classic Rock magazine

‘Despite the vast nature of his subject matter, Scanlan manages a concise, well-structured and presented picture of the musics 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 . . . Easy Riders, Rolling Stones proves a fascinating look at a bygone era from an outside perspective.’ — PopMatters

‘The many facets of the road are delineated in John Scanlans absorbing new book, from the Faustian pacts made by the old bluesmen at the crossroads, to the importance of the road to the aura of excess that grew up around bands such as Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones. When we talk about the road, of course, we mean the great highways of America not the M6 and Scanlan suggests that for both generations, the road provided a space that allowed music to become a vehicle for journeys that would inform the kind of experience that leads to self-discovery.’ — Choice Magazine, Paperback Book of the Month

‘The road has long been one of the most evocative cultural motifs in popular music. In Easy Riders, Rolling Stones John Scanlan provides a fascinating account of the emerging relationship between music and movement, from its origins in the pre-war Mississippi Delta to its deafening denouement in the rock shows of the 1970s.’ — Matthew Gandy, Professor of Geography, University College London

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John Scanlan is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Sociology at Manchester Metropolitan University.He has previously worked at the Universities of Glasgow, St Andrews and Bristol. He is the author of On Garbage (Reaktion, 2004), Van Halen: Exhuberant California, Zen Rock & Roll(Reaktion, 2012), Memory: Encounters with the Strange and the Familiar (Reaktion, 2013), Easy Riders, Rolling Stones: On the Road in America, from Delta Blues to 70s Rock (2015),


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