Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Local Author Publishes Book About "Subversive Rock Humorists"

Posted By on Wed, Dec 3, 2008 at 4:26 PM

Manchester-born, East-London raised writer Iain Ellis, an English professor at KU for the past eight years, has just published a book you might be interested in. Out this past December 1, Rebels Wit Attitude: Subversive Rock Humorists, is a study of the funny side of rock rebels such as Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Bob Dylan, the Velvet Underground, Warren Zevon, Randy Newman, Alice Cooper, Talking Heads, Ice T, Madonna, Weird Al, Nirvana and Beck, to name just a few of the people on the 350+ page tome's table of contents.

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Here's an excerpt from the book's introduction; read more at its publisher's web site.

Whether it is Aristophanes scolding the Athenian authorities of ancient Greece for their democratic shortcomings or the Beastie Boys exposing hypocrisy in U.S. foreign policy, subversive humorists throughout history have performed the role of social rebels and representatives. French philosopher Henri Bergson called such comedians "disguised moralists" as they are often the sanctioned truth-tellers of our culture, the proud pied pipers of the cliché that many a true word is spoken in jest.

There have been few artistic forms or periods that can boast such a plethora of subversive humorists as the rock & roll movement of the last half century. With its seeds of dissenting humor planted in blues, jazz, folk, and country, rock music rose to prominence in the United States during the mid-1950s; it has since become a primary force of expression and enjoyment in cultures all around the world. ...

For over fifty years, rock music has been the principle outlet of youth rebellion, and though much has been made of these rock rebels, little analysis has been done of rebel-rock humor. This book will scrutinize this humor: what it consists of, how it manifests itself, who and what it is targeting, and how it ultimately functions and affects society.


Ellis has been writing about subversive rock humor for a couple years over at PopMatters.com. Click here for a list of his articles, featuring pieces on artists as disparate as Mike Skinner and Kinky Friedman. Holy shit, this guy's done his homework.

This prompts many questions. Among them: Where did this Iain Ellis come from and how has he been hiding out in Lawrence so long? Why haven't we heard of him until now? Why does he have an extra "i" in his name? Is that like "shop" versus "shoppe?" Expect The Pitch to launch a few investigation of Ye Olde Iain in the coming weeks.

-- Jason Harper

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