Punk rock and hip-hop. Disco and salsa. The loft jazz scene and the downtown composers known as Minimalists. In the mid-1970s, New York City was a laboratory where all the major styles of modern music were reinvented—all at once, from one block to the next, by musicians who knew, admired, and borrowed from one another. Crime was everywhere, the government was broke, and the city's infrastructure was collapsing. But rent was cheap, and the possibilities for musical exploration were limitless.
Love Goes to Buildings on Fire is the first book to tell the full story of the era's music scenes and the phenomenal and surprising ways they intersected. From New Year's Day 1973 to New Year's Eve 1977, the book moves panoramically from post-Dylan Greenwich Village, to the arson-scarred South Bronx barrios where salsa and hip-hop were created, to the Lower Manhattan lofts where jazz and classical music were reimagined, to ramshackle clubs like CBGBs and The Gallery, where rock and dance music were hot-wired for a new generation. As they remade the music, the musicians at the center of the book invented themselves: Willie Colón and the Fania All-Stars renting Yankee Stadium to take salsa to the masses, New Jersey locals Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith claiming the jungleland of Manhattan as their own, Grandmaster Flash transforming the turntable into a musical instrument, David Byrne and Talking Heads proving that rock music "ain't no foolin' around." Will Hermes was there—venturing from his native Queens to the small dark rooms where the revolution was taking place—and in Love Goes to Buildings on Fire he captures the creativity, drive, and full-out lust for life of the great New York musicians of those years, who knew that the music they were making would change the world.
In the 1970s it seemed like the end of the world had occurred in New York City; crime was rampant, the government was broke, and the idealism that had fueled protests in Washington Square Park and spurred new musical styles was shattered. Although the 1970s appeared to be a musical wasteland (remember Debby Boone?), senior Rolling Stone critic Hermes reminds us forcefully and refreshingly in this breathtaking, panoramic portrait of five years (1973 1977) of that decade that music in New York City was alive, flourishing, and kicking out the jams. He colorfully recalls how Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash hot-wired street parties with collaged shards of vinyl LPs; how the New York Dolls stripped garage rock raw and wrapped it in drag, taking a cue from Warhol's transvestite glamour queens; how Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith took a cue from Dylan and combined rock and poetry into new shapes; how Eddie Palmieri, Willie Col n, and the Fanta All-Stars were transforming Cuban music into multicultural salsa and making East Harlem and the South Bronx the global center of Spanish-language music; and how Philip Glass and Steve Reich were imagining a new sort of classical music, using jazz, rock, African, and Indian sources. Hermes's fast-paced and affectionate overview provides intimate glimpses into the often forgotten but profound changes wrought in the 1970s New York music scene.