Read ’em and leap
Whether soaking up the rays abroad or merely avoiding a soaking at home, a good book makes the summer complete. Here, Tony Clayton-Lea runs through five of the best for music fans
TIME OUT: 1,000 SONGS TO CHANGE YOUR LIFE
Ebury Press £10.99 in UK 280pp Like the city guides and listings magazines with which this book shares part of its title, there are certain things we can expect: attention to detail, a little bit of smart-arsery, solid writing and some interesting opinions.
It’s good fun reading through a book that was produced for enthusiasts rather than aficionados, and the trick that works here is the mix of contributors (including David Cavanagh, Garry Mulholland and Bob Stanley) and the breadth of topics (love, loss, rebellion, sex, happiness, gender, early mornings), and we love its top 10 lists (smoking, drinking, and – yes! – awkward time signatures).
Excerpt: “Three decades after Paul Weller’s committed but rather wordy tale of getting beaten up while waiting for the last tube home, you’re now more likely to be assaulted by a Transport for London-approved busker playing Weller’s Wild Wood on a licensed busking stage at the bottom of an escalator. Some people call this progress.”
SEX PISTOLS: THE GRAPHIC NOVEL
By Jim McCarthy; illustrated by .Steve Parkhouse Omnibus Press £12.95 in UK 90pp, If you don’t know anything about the Sex Pistols, but are looking forward to seeing them in Ireland at Electric Picnic, then cop a jaundiced eye over this potted history in graphic novel format. Of its kind, the illustration is passable, but the well-thumbed story is broadly outlined in terms that insult the reader. As a primer for punk rock kids, it’s just about tolerable, but for those who want a far more informative telling, head straight to Jon Savage’s England’s Dreaming.
Excerpt: “Sirs, I have it that the Anglo-Saxon word ‘bollocks’ found in most dictionaries is not in fact an obscenity but an old English term, both slang for ‘testicle’ and ‘priest’ – but here it refers simple to ‘nonsense’.”
ON SOME FARAWAY BEACH: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF BRIAN ENO
By David Sheppard Orion Books £20 in UK 470pp Eno has written his own (sort of) autobiography with the excellent A Year With Swollen Appendices (1995), but Sheppard’s is the first serious, critical exploration of Eno’s life and work. Written with the input of Eno , this is probably as authoritative an insight into the workings of the man as we’re likely to get. Fresh interviews with his wife Anthea, Bryan Ferry, John Cale and
David Byrne (but curiously enough, not Bono), mixed with the author’s assiduous approach, give a rounded, intelligent insight into one of the most innovative sonic artists around. Or, as Wire’s Colin Newman might have it: “He’s a brilliant opportunist . . . an incredibly adept bullshitter.”
Excerpt: “His faithful black notebooks would bulge with remarks and stratagems ranging from the plain didactic (‘abandon normal instruments’) to cryptic (‘Twist the spine’) . . . Other comments would take the form of rather grand, Zen-like aphorisms, the most famous of which – ‘honour thy mistake as a hidden intention’ or ‘repetition is a form of change’ – have subsequently become art-speak colloquialisms.” By Bill Drummond Beautiful Books £14.99 in UK 410pp Bill Drummond is back, and that is always a good thing. The man behind the likes of Echo & the Bunnymen, KLF and too many conceptualist art scams to mention has written a diary-like book about his most recent art project, The17, which (briefly) concerns his attempts at creating a new form of music using pre-determined instructions via a series of choirs consisting of 17 people. Episodic in structure and frustratingly unfocused, 17 is also an invigorating, questioning and provocative book that should be in top 10 lists by the end of the year.
Excerpt: “ Push The Button by The Sugababes is my favourite pop record so far this decade. I would be quite happy to never hear another record by The Sugababes in my life. Does my devotion to this record undermine everything that I have written in this book so far?”
THE LONG PLAYER GOODBYE
By Travis Elborough Sceptre, £14.99 in UK 468pp Whither the humble album? That’s the theme explored by Travis Elborough in his overlong yet illuminating book. He has a point; what, precisely, is the thrill of downloading a song? What happened to the anticipation of an album by your favourite music act, the bringing home of the record and playing it in full for the first time? Anti-nostalgists might baulk at such a theme, but luddites like me think Elborough is right: albums are deeply embedded in cultural history, and if they disappear, what, then, is left of the music experience? Ah, YouTube. That’s alright, then.
Excerpt: “In the 1980s, secret messages on LPs were suddenly of burning concern. The issue reared its head in 1982 when two Republican senators, Robert Dorman and Phil Wyman, submitted a bill to Congress asking for warning labels to be placed on rock records that contained backward messages extolling the worship of Satan.”