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

Notebook

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Read 27/02/2021-28/02/202

Rating 5 stars

I was all set to start a different book when Tom Cox’s Notebook arrived in the post. This is a book I’ve been waiting for, delayed by the pandemic, pledged for in 2019. Cox is an author who does his own thing, publishing through Unbound since 2017, and a writer whose work fits the contours of my brain so perfectly that I don’t think twice about pledging for his books.

Before I even opened the cover, an extract on the back sleeve made me laugh.

Continue reading

Beastie Boys Book

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Read 17/05/2020-24/05/2020

Rating 5 stars

Beastie Boys Book opens with Adam Horovitz (Ad-Rock) talking about the best Beastie Boy – Adam Yauch (MCA). I loved MCA. He was a renegade. He seemed to live life at a million miles an hour, curious about everything, folding his experiences into his creative output. Horovitz knows Yauch was the best Beastie Boy, too. It’s a beautiful tribute to Yauch.

Beastie Boys Book is a collection of reminiscences by Horovitz and the other surviving Beastie Boy, Michael Diamond (Mike D), with essays by music critics, famous fans and musical collaborators mixed in. 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

Random Thoughts on Lockdown 2

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I read something today that contained a phrase I found pleasing. It’s in a blog post by Clare Fisher, author of How the Light Gets In. The post is part of a lockdown collaboration between Influx Press, Picador Books and Burley Fisher Books that brings together short story writers and highlights their work. It’s called Short Stories for Strange Times and is billed as a series of virtual events.

But what is the phrase I enjoyed so much? Continue reading

Swing Time

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Read 11/04/2020-20/04/2020

Rating 3 stars

Zadie Smith’s Swing Time is a sprawling tale of how two girls’ lives intersect and separate over the years. It’s about growing up poor but aspirational, a tale of friendship and rivalry, and of the inadequacies of adulthood. Continue reading

Record Play Pause: Confessions of a Post-Punk Percussionist

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Read 15/02/2020-23/02/2020

Rating 4 stars

Record Play Pause is the first volume in Stephen Morris’s two-part autobiography. Although Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook have both written memoirs, I haven’t read them. I’ve read plenty else about Factory Records over the years, though, including Jon Savage’s recent oral history of Joy Division, which whetted my appetite to read more about the band’s members, in both its incarnations.

Record Play Pause is very Stephen. Continue reading