Let’s get this out of the way:
Randal Doane is an assistant dean at Oberlin.
Politics aside (and he doesn’t shove it up your nose), this means you’ll trip over academic, culture-critic jargon — “codes” and “gestures” abound; “Eros” crashes the party — while otherwise enjoying his new book, Stealing All Transmissions: A Secret History of The Clash.
And there’s a lot to enjoy.
Stealing distills one fan’s decades of wide reading, deep listening, and just plain thinking into a multi-faceted gem.
In the hands of a less skillful writer, this book would feel like an out-of-your-league sexual pass, an awkward attempt to squeeze too many topics — the evolution of punk music (along with the etymology of the word); the rise and fall of AM and FM radio; the underground scenes in New York and California, to name but three — between only two (virtual) covers.
Somehow, though, Stealing works, distinguishing itself from similar titles by piling on plenty of original insights; for one thing (a bit like the recent How The Beatles Destroyed Rock ‘n’ Roll,) this book explores how the medium changes the message — that is, how the technology we employ to consume music alters music itself, along with the culture at large.