by Len Lear
Stephen Tow is a brilliant writer and researcher, but his timing is world-class unlucky. Tow is the author of “London, Reign Over Me: How England’s Capital Built Classic Rock” (Rowman & Littlefield), which chronicles rock music from the British Isles in the 1960s and early 1970s. the music of the British invasion of the 1960s (The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Hollies, The Kinks, The Animals, Gerry and The Pacemakers (singer Gerry Marsden died on January 3 at the age of 78) , et al, can’t help but be hooked by Tow’s stories about these trend-setters, whom he interviewed 90. I read the whole book in a weekend while my reading was uninterrupted than through meals.
In contrast, the book was released on February 15 last year, just weeks before the coronavirus pandemic wiped out all appearances and book tours by personal authors, not to mention live theater, concerts. , dance recitals, cinemas, restaurants and so much more.
“A number of dedications and book readings were therefore canceled,” said Tow, 58, a history professor at Delaware Valley University in Doylestown. “I hope I can start over after the vaccine has made its rounds. There were record stores, local libraries, and college events that I hope to postpone into the fall. I will put all of this on my website (stephentow.com) once this happens.
Tow, who is also the author of “The Strangest Tribe: How a Group of Seattle Rock Bands Invented Grunge” (Sasquatch Books, 2011), grew up in Levittown and now lives in Abington. Why would a professor with a BA in Accounting from Penn State (1985) and an MA in History from West Chester U. (2006) spend years researching and tracking down over 90 old British rock stars for to write this book?
“I wrote it because I’m a huge music fan,” Tow told us. “The Beatles broke up when I was 7, so I always felt like I missed out on that great era in music. By the time I came of age in high school in the late 1970s, the Mainstream music had become pretty outdated. I could name 20 artists who had vital records in the late 60s or early 70s and released “meh” albums in the late 70s. I mean, compare ‘Who are you?’ to ‘Who’s next?’ or ‘In Through the Outdoor’ to ‘Led Zeppelin II’…
“I found the music boring, that’s when I discovered the previous era. One of my roommates ‘friends gave me a copy of’ Quadrophenia ‘, and I said’ Wowwww! It’s so much better than what’s popular today. So I spent the 80s discovering popular music two decades ago – the Stones, Who, Hendrix, Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, Yes… Everything sounded much better to my ears than contemporary mainstream music.
“Later, when Nirvana and Seattle turned the 80s upside down, it became my 60s. I liked it. Finally, the groups were back. The music was back. So it became the subject of my first book, “The Strangest Tribe”, where I explored how and why grunge came to Seattle.
For “London, Reign Over Me”, was it difficult to get interviews with 90 British rock stars from the 60s? ” It was not easy. I am not from the typical pipeline of music authors. I didn’t write for Rolling Stone magazine. I didn’t have lunch with Elton John the other day. It was pure persistence, literally years of waiting. Finally, I was able to score high level interviews with people like Ian Anderson and Martin Barre of Jethro Tull; Steve Howe, Rick Wakeman and Jon Anderson of Yes, Dave Davies of the Kinks, Peter Frampton, John Mayall, Peter Noone, Paul Rodgers and many more.
Since most of those interviewed by Tow live in the UK and the author lives here, most interviews were conducted by telephone. Tow visited England in person while there for research. Some favorite written interviews by email.
What were Tow’s favorite interview topics and why? “Greg Lake of King Crimson and Emerson, Lake & Palmer was such a warm interview. His passion and love for music went beyond the standard “professional” interview. Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits and Stan Webb of Chicken Shack (a late ’60s blues band that starred Christine Perfect, later Christine McVie) went far from the script. I didn’t even have to ask them any questions. This resulted in some great stories about just living and experiencing the madness of that time. “