Fans of early rock and roll have a friend in Jim Oldsberg. He grew up listening to his parents' records of Gene Pitney and Elvis Presley and, eventually became interested in regional rock. That led to a book eight years ago, the 400 copies of which sold out. That success inspired Oldsberg to write "Flip Side: An Illustrated History of Southern Minnesota Rock & Roll Music from 1955-1970" ($14.95).
Oldsberg, 35, became an avid collector of singles by regional bands and decided that others like himself would be interested in the history of the bands. That interest also inspired Lost and Found, the annual magazine he founded five years ago. Issue No. 5 dealt with bands from Northern Minnesota, issue No. 4 covered bands from the Dakotas. So, whether your curiosity about the music is the result of having danced to the bands in your teens, or the result of your parents' influence, Oldsberg is an authority.
For his book, Oldsberg spent almost three years tracking down and interviewing members of the 41 bands he covers. They include The Ferraris from Winona, Little Caesar & the Conspirators from Owatonna, The Chances R from Mankato, The Stingrays from Rochester, The Continental Co-ets from Fulda (the first all-girl band from the state to make a record), and another all-girl band, The Silver Shadows with two members from New Ulm and two from Gaylord. In addition to interviews, there are numerous photographs of the bands, posters, records, awards, business cards and other memorabilia.
Oldsberg didn't include Minneapolis bands for two reasons: Southern bands had a hard time breaking into the Twin Cities, and there were so many bands in the cities, they would have required two books on their own. No matter, he says. "The 16-year period beginning in 1955 with Steve Carl and the Jags and winding up with Kreed best represents what I feel was the most energetic and creative time in music the state of Minnesota has ever experienced."
In addition to his magazine and book, Oldsberg also contributed to the liner notes for the new compact disc, "Big Hits of Mid-America 1963-67," and the photos for the notes are from his personal collection. The book can be ordered from P.O. Box 44002, Eden Prairie, MN 55344; the disc is available in stores.
Rock and roll also is the subject of two other new books.
Classic Rock Stories, by Tim Morse (St. Martin's Griffin, $12.95), reveals the inspiration for more than 220 of rock's greatest songs, as told by the men and women who wrote them and performed them. Drugs, controversial lyrics, love and lust, protest songs and the great anthems -- they're all here. Joni Mitchell talks about writing "Woodstock," The Who's Pete Townshend discusses "My Generation" and Elton John and Bernie Taupin comment on "Take Me to the Pilot." ("I have no idea what that's about and neither does he [Taupin]," John said.)
Some songs seem just to happen. The protest song "Ohio" was written by Neil Young for Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young after four college students protesting the Vietnam War were killed at Kent State University in Ohio. "I had the Time magazine there, with that girl looking up from a dead student lying on the ground with the blood and the whole deal. I just wrote it. It just came out right there on the porch. It was really like the folk process at work. You know, that was really like music as news."
Morse also lists his top 25 classic rock albums, update the status of some of rock legends -- some of them dinosaurs now -- and provides an alphabetical index for all the song titles.
-- Robert Armstrong is a sports news editor for the Star Tribune.