Love Goes to Buildings on Fire Five Years in New York That Changed Music Forever

Will Hermes

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



Trade Paperback

384 Pages



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Punk rock and hip-hop. Disco and salsa. The loft jazz scene and the downtown composers known as Minimalists. In the mid-1970s, New York City was a laboratory where all the major styles of modern music were reinvented—block by block, by musicians who knew, admired, and borrowed from one another. Crime was everywhere, the government was broke, and the infrastructure was collapsing. But rent was cheap, and the possibilities for musical exploration were limitless.

Love Goes to Buildings on Fire is the first book to tell the full story of the era's music scenes and the phenomenal and surprising ways they intersected. From New Year's Day 1973 to New Year's Eve 1977, the book moves panoramically from post-Dylan Greenwich Village, to the arson-scarred South Bronx barrios where salsa and hip-hop were created, to the lower Manhattan lofts where jazz and classical music were reimagined, to ramshackle clubs like CBGB and the Gallery, where rock and dance music were hot-wired for a new generation. As they remade the music, the musicians whose stories Will Hermes tells invented themselves: Johnny Pacheco and the Fania All-Stars renting Yankee Stadium to take salsa to the masses; the New Jersey locals Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith claiming the jungleland of Manhattan as their own; Grandmaster Flash transforming the turntable into a musical instrument; David Byrne and Talking Heads proving that rock music "ain't no foolin' around."

Hermes ventured to the small, dark rooms where the revolution was taking place, and in Love Goes to Buildings on Fire he captures the creativity, drive, and full-out lust for life of the great New York musicians of those years, whose music went on to change the world.


Praise for Love Goes to Buildings on Fire

"[A] meticulously researched and engaging book on New York's music culture of the mid-1970s . . . during a time when 'artists were breaking music apart and rebuilding it for a new era' . . . Love Goes to Buildings on Fire offers up a cyclorama of everything from salsa and art rock to the births of hip-hop and punk."—Eric Been, The Wall Street Journal

"Hermes unpacks a stream of revelatory moments in the coolest five years of NYC's musical history (1973 through 1977, which covers both the birth of punk and the roots of hip-hop) and also provides tertiary rock & roll details like the complete contents of a Greenwich Village head shop."—Kyle Anderson, Entertainment Weekly

"I thought there was nothing left to say about the seventies NYC music scene, but Hermes puts it all together—punk, salsa, jazz, hip-hop, disco—into a portrait of a city in ferment, with new bubbles of innovation popping up all over."—Dan Kois, Vulture Recommends (New York magazine)

"[Love Goes to Buildings on Fire] melds uptown and down, high and low, and gay and straight cultures to capture the city's cacophony at its wildest, loudest and most enduring."—Jim Farber, New York Daily News

"Steers a steady course between shop talk and ecstatic elegy . . . [Hermes] does an expert turn here in his book about the music scene in 1970s New York, moving between musical genres and the human worlds they contained with the light-headed excitement of a bright grad student who's transferring from one subway line to another."—Emily Carter, Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

"[Hermes's] sympathy and affection for artists fighting to make their way from the margins to the center and for an era stuck between the parentheses of history comes through on every page."—David Gates, The New York Times

"A symphonic history of music, and an evocative portrait of a New York long gone."—John Reed, The Daily Beast

"Calls to mind Jonathan Mahler's great snapshot of the city 1977 in The Bronx Is Burning . . . [A] love letter to a time and place."—Michael Hill, The Huffington Post

"A prodigious work of contemporary music history . . . of what was arguably the most rangy, inventive and influential period of music making in the city's (and the nation's) life."—Gerald Marzorati, The New York Times Book Review

"A must-read for any music lover. Love Goes to Buildings on Fire will no doubt inspire nostalgia in readers who lived through the era, and make those who didn't wish they had."—Liz Raftery, The Boston Globe

"Will Hermes grew up in Queens, but Love Goes to Buildings on Fire, his new book on New York's 1970s music scene, is no nostalgia jag. It's a time machine that zooms in on everyone from the New York Dolls to Steve Reich and everything in between."—Rolling Stone

"There's no mistaking that this book will have a special appeal for people who were exposed to this music when it was developing—mostly those living in New York in the mid-70s—but Hermes does what a good writer does. He makes the rest of us (this writer included) wish we'd been there."—Georgia Young, Paste

"Hermes has crafted a panoramic nonfiction account of the bursting 1970s music scene in New York City, with stories about such seminal artists as Patti Smith, DJ Kool Herc, and Willie Colón."—Entertainment Weekly

"Imaginative, poetic, and frequently humorous . . . As important a volume for music lovers as Michael Azerrad's Our Band Could Be Your Life."—Jedd Beaudoin, PopMatters

"What Hermes, a senior writer for Rolling Stone and an NPR contributor, captures so well is the burbling creative energy that gripped the city . . . [Love Goes to Buildings on Fire is a] big-hearted and inclusive embrace."—Steve Futterman, The Barnes & Noble Review

"Practically every paragraph about music here is also about something else just as fascinating—race, city planning, ambition, drugs, hairdos. Braiding intricate research with his own teenage memories, Will Hermes has a bird's-eye view of a great city, and has his ear to the ground."—Sarah Vowell, author of Unfamiliar Fishes and The Wordy Shipmates

"Love Goes to Buildings on Fire is an almost perfect portrait of New York music culture: specific yet comprehensive, enthusiastic yet personal. The five-page section of what (seemingly) every interesting person in New York City was doing on the night of the '11 blackout could have been a book unto itself."—Chuck Klosterman, author of Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs and Eating the Dinosaur

"By simply putting things in chronological order. Will Hermes shows just how astonishing New York City's music was in the 1970s. But he does more than that: he brings depth and discernment and an eye for ode detail, making this book an essential work of cultural history."—Luc Sante, author of Low Life and Kill All Your Darlings

"I have to tell you [Love Goes to Buildings on Fire] is sort of mindboggling—an incredibly scenic and detailed history of the music made in New York over a few years in the 70s. (It's one of the first things I've read that gives you an acute sense of all these musicians really walking the same streets on the same days—the sense that Willie Colon might night have been packing up after a downtown gig while Patti Smith, just two blocks away, was coming home from the studio, the night before a legendary block party up in the Bronx . . .) It's a tremendous thing to have put together."—Nitsuh Abebe on his Tumblr site, a grammar

"[Hermes's] attitude, sharp ear and smart big-picture view turn what could have been a small book into something special. A hip, clever, informative look at an unjustifiably dismissed musical era that will have readers scouring iTunes tor the perfect accompanying soundtrack."—Kirkus Reviews

"A fantastic journey through New York's 1970s underground music scene . . . Hermes moves effortlessly back and forth between the various musical genres while interspersing stories of New York at a time when the city was on the verge of financial ruin and moral collapse."—June Sawyers, Booklist (starred review)

"[A] breathtaking, panoramic portrait of five years . . . of that decade that music in New York City was alive, flourishing, and kicking out the jams."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

Love Goes to Buildings on Fire

This is the era where everybody creates.
--Patti Smith1

An hour after midnight on January 1, 1973, Ernie Brooks was barreling down...

Read the full excerpt


  • Will Hermes

  • Will Hermes is a senior critic for Rolling Stone and a longtime contributor to NPR's All Things Considered. His work also appears in The New York Times, The Village Voice, and elsewhere. He was the coeditor of SPIN: 20 Years of Alternative Music.

  • Will Hermes Adam Weiss
    Will Hermes