Hit Factories: A Journey Through the Industrial Cities of British Pop

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Read 05/04/2021-18/04/2021

Rating 3 stars

Hit Factories is a curious and eclectic book. The title and the flyleaf blurb suggest a social history of pop in industrial cities – how the industrial landscape influenced the music and vice versa. It’s not that, though. It’s more personal, built around an attempt by author Karl Whitney, a Dubliner transplanted to the North East of England, to understand Britain differently.

Whitney has drawn on a travel writing approach of exploring the relationship between landscape and community, finding the out of the ordinary and drawing on the voices of those involved in the story. The book examines why certain industrial cities developed, or didn’t, distinctive music scenes and represents the condensed musical histories of 11 cities across just over 300 pages. Continue reading

Set the Boy Free

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Read 03/05/2020-07/05/2020

Rating 4 stars

I love Johnny Marr. He’s an absolute peach of a human. Mr Hicks bought me his autobiography a while ago now. It’s a hefty hardback that I’ve been reluctant to carry with me on my commute. What better time than a lockdown to read it, then. Continue reading

This Searing Light, the Sun and Everything Else

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Read 28/04/2019-03/04/2019

Rating 5 stars

This Searing Light, the Sun and Everything Else is a history of the Manchester band Joy Division, drawn from oral history interviews compiled by Jon Savage and from music press reviews and interviews, and fanzines. It made me nostalgic for a moment in my childhood where I could only ever have been an observer. Continue reading

The Big Midweek: Life Inside the Fall

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Read 02/12/2016-09/12/2016

Rating: 5 stars

From Albert Camus’s The Fall to the autobiography of a man who spent 18 years as a member of the band named after that book.

The book begins in 1973. Even though for most of that year I was only two years old, Steve Hanley describes the Manchester I remember from my childhood. The weird pet shops on Tib Street. The fact that the Northern Quarter wasn’t. It was just Tib Street and Band on the Wall. The rest was run down and called Smithfield. You only went to Tib Street for Army & Navy surplus, bootleg recordings, second hand tapes, and lizards. Even into the 80s.

Hanley spins a good tale. There’s no embellishment. His writing voice is as frank and deadpan as the way most of us speak round here. It helps with accepting the more bizarre elements of his story as truth. Continue reading