Review: High On Rebellion by Yvonne Sewall-Ruskin

High on RebellionTitle: High On Rebellion – Inside the Underground at Max’s Kansas City

Pages: 287 Pages

Publisher: Open Road Media

The Blurb

With a foreword by Lou Reed: The definitive oral history of Max’s Kansas City, favorite hangout of the most outrageous and notorious characters of New York’s 1960s and ’70s underground cultural scene

From its opening in December 1965 on Park Avenue South, Max’s Kansas City, a hybrid restaurant, bar, nightclub, and art gallery, was the boisterous meeting spot for famous—or soon-to-be-famous—figures in New York’s underground art, music, literary, film, and fashion scenes. Max’s regulars included Andy Warhol (and his superstars such as Viva, Ultra Violet, Edie Sedgwick, Gerard Malanga, Holly Woodlawn, and Candy Darling), Mick Jagger, Lou Reed, Patti Smith, Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Bob Dylan, Jane Fonda, and dozens more. A hotbed of drugs, sex, and creative collaboration, Max’s was the place to see and be seen among the city’s cultural elite for nearly two decades.

With reminiscences from the likes of Alice Cooper, Bebe Buell, Betsey Johnson, Leee Black Childers, Holly Woodlawn, and John Chamberlain, along with Max’s owner Mickey Ruskin and several waitresses and bartenders, this vivid oral history evokes an unforgettable place where a spontaneous striptease, a brawl over the meaning of art, and an early performance by the Velvet Underground were all possibilities on any given night. High on Rebellion dazzles with rare photos and other Max’s memorabilia, and firsthand accounts of legendary nights, chance encounters, romances sparked and extinguished, and stars being born.

The Review

Music scenes are usually synonymous with places – in particular, clubs. Mersey Beat with the Cavern in Liverpool, Indie pop with Leeds during the noughties and Punk with New York – in particular clubs like CBGBs. One club that I didn’t know a lot about was Max’s Kansas City. I had heard about it, sure, any self respecting fan of music will have come across it in the annals of history but I didn’t know its diverse and fascinating history.

When I came across High on Rebellion on NetGalley I knew I had to jump at the chance to read it. Wow. Part biography of owner Mickey Ruskin and part biography of the club, High on Rebellion makes me so sad that I wasn’t part of that music scene. That I was born 30 years after it took place. If the walls of Max’s Kansas City could talk then they probably would have written this book. The book gives you insights from the people who frequented the club, people who grew up, who loved and who lived there. It has a level of truth because it isn’t written from a third party perspective.

High on Rebellion is a fascinating read and is a staple text for anyone with a love of music and the scenes in which they encapsulate.

High On Rebellion by Yvonne Sewall-Ruskin is available now.

For more information regarding Open Road Media (@OpenRoadMedia) please visit

35 Stars

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