Reviews: Books Issue #36
Here at Long Live Vinyl, we read every music book that hits the shelves so you don’t have to. Here our some of our top picks from the last month…
Broken Greek – Pete Paphides
When Jenny, the protagonist of track three on The Velvet Underground’s Loaded album, was just five years old, she put the radio on and her life was saved by rock ’n’ roll. A similar thing happened to music journalist Pete Paphides. This time, however, the saviour was pop music. Having been displaced from Cyprus to Birmingham as a nipper, Pete was a shy, anxious kid (he was convinced his parents wanted to swap him for Jimmy Osmond) who didn’t speak to anybody other than his family from the age of four to seven. In his withdrawn world, the pop songs blaring out of the radio and the bands singing them took on a heightened importance. Meaning that at various times, Pete was in total thrall of Brotherhood Of Man, Lynsey de Paul, Wings and, even, The Barron Knights – convinced that their songs were talking directly to him. So, if you’re in the market for a wonderfully written, deeply touching, pitch-perfect childhood memoir laced liberally with 70s nostalgia, then you need look no further.
Shooting At The Moon – Kevin Ayers
Canterbury scenester and louche bohemian singer-songwriter Kevin Ayers was a founding member of the Soft Machine, and a major yet laid-back force in the English psychedelic movement. The late, great John Peel wrote in his autobiography that “Kevin Ayers’ talent is so acute you could perform major eye surgery with it.” He was also the ‘bugger’ infamously referenced in the John Cale lyric on the Slow Dazzle album track Guts (“the bugger in the short sleeves, fucked my wife/did it quick and split”). With affectionate, heartfelt introductions from his daughter, Galen, fellow Softie Robert Wyatt, and writer John Payne, Shooting At The Moon includes the collected lyrics from his gloriously erratic solo career, covering such cult works of wonder as Joy Of A Toy, Bananamour, Whatevershebringswesing and his 2007 reflective swansong The Unfairground. It also contains pages from Ayers’ own notebooks, a slew of exclusive photos and even the occasional recipe (mixed smoked fish platter anyone?). Ayers passed away in 2013, and this book is a great way to remember him.
Bass, Mids, Tops – Joe Muggs & Brian David Stevens
Ever since the arrival from the Caribbean of the Windrush generation, soundsystems have been instrumental in shaping several generations of British youth culture. Reggae, ska, dub, rave, jungle, grime and dubstep have all had their basslines blared out through towering home-built speakers, often directly onto the swarming streets of events such as the Notting Hill Carnival. It’s an important story less told, which is why Bass, Mids, Tops: An Oral History Of The UK’s Soundsystem Culture is such a fascinating read and an essential 488-page slice of cultural history. Comprising of interviews expertly conducted over many years by dance music journalist Joe Muggs, and more than ably assisted by the striking photography of collaborator Brian David Stevens, it skilfully recounts the pulsating narrative of bassbin Britain in no uncertain amount of style and unfailing dedication. The book leaves no pertinent interviewee unquestioned, with Dennis Bovell, Norman Jay MBE, Youth, Adrian Sherwood, Skream and Rinse FM’s Sarah Lockhart among many others to appear on its hallowed pages.
She’s A Rainbow – Simon Wells
The German-Italian actress/model Anita Pallenberg was no mere girlfriend of the band, and her impact on The Rolling Stones was considerable, influencing the way they looked and the modish circles they moved in. Long-term partner Keith Richards openly admits her sartorial sway over him: “I started to become a fashion icon, for wearing my old lady’s clothes,”he once noted. A powerful and intimidating muse, it’s strongly rumoured the Beggars Banquet album was remastered after she criticised it, her out-of-the-ordinary life is recounted in detailed and dynamic fashion by music writer Simon Wells. Pallenberg may have been carousing with Federico Fellini’s Dolce Vita crowd three years before the band had formed, but she will always be inextricably associated with the Stones, notably her relationships with Richards, but also Brian Jones (she left him for Keith after Jones became abusive) and Mick Jagger (they got very close on the set of the movie Performance). Coincidentally, it’s also the second book in this issue of Long Live Vinyl to come with a pair of fetching knees on its cover.