Customer Reviews

122 Ratings

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5 out of 5 stars
By James on 25-05-11

Facinating look at a neglected moment in history

Before listening to this book - the fifties only meant Sputnik, Elvis and doo wop to me (born in 54). How wrong I was. This book opened a new world to me from investigation of classic jazz recordings to some very interesting pre-60's philosophy and thought that I knew nothing of.

If you want your perception of the 50's as a sleepy decade to be given a jolt, this is the book to do it!! Very well done - even handed and broad in scope.

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9 of 9 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Parola138 on 10-03-11


I enjoyed this book very much. It had a very broad history of the time that really illuminated the beats, jazz music, and race struggles of the time leading up to, at, and beyond 1959. Narration was great. Well-written.

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6 of 6 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars
By Martha on 16-04-11

Great window into near past

This book brough together the threads and names of the late 1950's. Names I knew well, but had never seen as parts of larger patterns. Some surprises. Even though I was 12 in the year, I had no sence of how many profound pathes were being started in that time. Reads easily. A full story of the evolution of jazz during the time.

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4 of 4 people found this review helpful

2 out of 5 stars
By HK Brad on 27-02-12

A simplified view through rose-colored glasses

What disappointed you about 1959?

This author presents an incredibly simplified and rose-tinted view of most of the subjects covered. The author is clearly not much of a historian, but rather a reporter whose love of Kennedy, jazz and the beat generation assures that he has no ability to look critically at almost anything he covers in this book. There are some interesting facts, but given that he constantly stretches to count things as occuring as

Has 1959 turned you off from other books in this genre?

No, I assume there are more talented writers out there.

Have you listened to any of Joe Barrett’s other performances before? How does this one compare?


If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from 1959?

Irrelevent. The whole premise is flawed and the author so in love with his subjects that the book requires too much editing to bother

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

1 out of 5 stars
By William on 19-12-11

Every excruciating detail related to jazz music.

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

This would have been a 4- or 5-star experience if technology, politics, and rock & roll had been given as much attention as jazz music.

What was most disappointing about Fred Kaplan’s story?

It was extremely difficult to listen to all the details regarding jazz music. You learn the actual DATES on which obscure jazz musicians made obscure recordings, and the recording halls in which they made them. It seems there were also a few mentions of what the musicians had for breakfast on the morning of the recordings, along with the actual street locations of certain recording studios. Hours and hours were devoted to jazz music, but only about an hour total related to rock & roll, computer technology, and politics (one part of a chapter covering the Cuban Missile Crisis). I don't recall anything related to television programming or technology. If The Tonight Show was mentioned, I don't remember it.

Which character – as performed by Joe Barrett – was your favorite?

Not applicable

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?


Any additional comments?

If you want to know all there is to know about jazz music and jazz musicians in the quarter-centuries before and after 1959, this is the book for you. And, oh, yes - the 2 or 3 chapters devoted to William Burroughs and The Naked Lunch were also painful. I knew a lot more about both after reading the wikipedia article than I did after listening to this book.

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4 of 6 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars
By Douglas on 24-03-14

Interesting and Educational

This book wasn't what I expected but it was still worth reading. It was certainly interesting and (for me at least) very educational. I really didn't know much about the culture of the late 50's so all of that stuff was new to me. The sections on jazz, art, literature were the highlights for me.

This book is unusual in that it really doesn't attempt to weave different narratives together throughout and then pull them all together at the end or anything like that. There's an introductory chapter and a closing chapter that sort of try to give a broad perspective. But the rest of the book is made up of chapters concerning different areas of America in the late 50's, and there really aren't strong links from chapter to chapter.

The title of the book is neat but not exactly an apt description for the book. The book is basically about the late 50's and the early outbreaks of change that would lead to the dramatic changes of the 60's.

The narrator is fine.

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