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Dancing in the Distraction Factory

Music Television and Popular Culture

1992
Author:

Andrew Goodwin

Dancing in the Distraction Factory

This first comprehensive, integrated analysis of MTV provides new ways to understand television and popular music narratives.

This first comprehensive, integrated analysis of MTV provides new ways to understand television and popular music narratives.

”A smart book: it will have an impact on the debates surrounding popular culture.” --Susan McClary

Elvis, Chuck Berry, and Little Richard are but three of rock and roll's pioneers who understood that they were also part of a visual medium. Their fans wanted to see, as well as hear, them perform. Until the late 1960s, however, neither movies nor television seemed capable of capturing rock's dual essence. Movies changed with Monterey Pop and Woodstock, to name but two films. After a number of false starts such as Shindig and Midnight Special, television and rock found symbiosis with the advent of music television (MTV) in 1981. Goodwin's first solo book (he previously coedited On Record with Simon Frith, 1990), analyzes how music television is produced and consumed. More scholarly than Michael Shore's The Rolling Stone's Book of Rock Video (CH, Mar '85), Dancing in the Distraction Factory extends and updates the research of E. Ann Kaplan's Rocking Around the Clock (CH, Dec '87). A music television ‘time line,’ extensive endnotes, and a superlative bibliography distinguish this important contribution to understanding one aspect of contemporary popular culture. Highly recommended for cultural studies courses at advanced undergraduate and graduate level.

Choice

Cultural Studies

“Entertaining proof that good sense means good theory, this book is the first to treat music TV as vision and sound. Academically, I had most fun applauding Andrew Goodwin’s elegant skewering of postmodernists; as a rock fan I was constantly startled by Goodwin’s exposes of my most deeply held prejudices. I’m now convinced; there’s much more to MTV than meets the eye.”
Simon Frith
The John Logie Baird Centre

“Dancing in the Distraction Factory is the best study of MTV I have read. At a time when many critics dismiss music videos either as advertisements for interchangeable commodities or as tiny, soundless movies, Goodwin manages both to analyze the business components of this new medium and also to take videos seriously as complex cultural texts involving music, visuals, stars, and much else. Dancing in the Distraction Factory is a smart book; it will have an impact on the debates surrounding popular culture, and also offers a great deal that will interest the pop music fan.”
Susan McClary
McGill University


Awards

A Choice Outstanding Academic Title

Dancing in the Distraction Factory

Andrew Goodwin is associate professor of communication arts at the University of San Francisco. His criticism appears regularly in the East Bay Express, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and the Chicago Reader. He is coeditor, with Garry Whannel, of Understanding Television. He is a corresponding editor of the international communications journal Media, Culture, and Society.

Dancing in the Distraction Factory

Elvis, Chuck Berry, and Little Richard are but three of rock and roll's pioneers who understood that they were also part of a visual medium. Their fans wanted to see, as well as hear, them perform. Until the late 1960s, however, neither movies nor television seemed capable of capturing rock's dual essence. Movies changed with Monterey Pop and Woodstock, to name but two films. After a number of false starts such as Shindig and Midnight Special, television and rock found symbiosis with the advent of music television (MTV) in 1981. Goodwin's first solo book (he previously coedited On Record with Simon Frith, 1990), analyzes how music television is produced and consumed. More scholarly than Michael Shore's The Rolling Stone's Book of Rock Video (CH, Mar '85), Dancing in the Distraction Factory extends and updates the research of E. Ann Kaplan's Rocking Around the Clock (CH, Dec '87). A music television ‘time line,’ extensive endnotes, and a superlative bibliography distinguish this important contribution to understanding one aspect of contemporary popular culture. Highly recommended for cultural studies courses at advanced undergraduate and graduate level.

Choice

Reasonably but firmly takes on the postmodern analysis of MTV as a pastiche of deliberately unmeaningful images and what are called in the trade ‘blank parodies’ of other ‘texts.’

Chicago Reader

Goodwin does achieve his ambition to ‘advance and reframe’ the debates around music video and music television.

Journal of Popular Music

This thoroughly researched and annotated book does a splendid job of geting to the heart of music television and its relationship with popular culture.

Popular Culture in Libraries

Goodwin’s approach is multidisciplinary, highly detailed, very perceptive-and it works. . . . . The industrial approach to music television favored here covers a lot of ground and provides the kind of clear, focused thinking so often lacking in other accounts of MTV.

Cinefocus