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March 09, 1986|ROBERT HILBURN

POPULAR MUSIC SINCE 1955: A CRITICAL GUIDE TO THE LITERATURE by Paul Taylor (G. K. Hall: $37.50). This valuable and exhaustive--though dry--bibliographical guide to pop music literature offers, among more scholarly concerns, lots of trivia delights. Among them: fuel for the continuing debate over who was the most significant force in rock: Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan or the Beatles? If you accept the number of books inspired by the artist as a measure of influence, Presley was No. 1. He is the subject of 90 books (ranging from memoirs of his gatekeeper-uncle to a collection of love letters sent to the rock star by fans), as opposed to 83 for the Beatles and just 27 for Dylan. But Beatles loyalists could claim victory because there are also 32 books on John Lennon and 10 on Paul McCartney. (For the record: There are no books on Ringo Starr.) This reference provides brief evaluations of more than 1,600 books plus sketches of key artists and a glossary of terms. By listing books on everything from the relationship between rock and religion to rock's influence on fashion, Taylor also documents the many ways in which the pop experience has touched us.

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