50 YEARS OF ROCK EXCESS (Channel 4 TV)
Ozzy Osbourne being excessive.
On the University of Rochester’s History of Rock MOOC ’rude’ words are blanked out and presenter John Covach is careful to paraphrase any of the raunchier lyrics. The notorious Rock’n'Roll lifestyle of wild sex and hard drugs is coyly referred to as if the educational institution is fearful of being seen to condone such lewd behaviour.
The producers of the Channel 4 rockumentary ’50 Years of Excess’ clearly had no intention of presenting such a sanitized version of events. They revel in exploring what they gleefully refer to as the “depths of debauchery”. The tacky subtitle “Amps, Whips & Rebel Riffs” gives fair warning that a very selective and heavily sensationalized retelling of the story of rock is in store.
The problem with such a journey into the dark side is that it is so primed towards unearthing salacious details of the ‘rock gods’ that any coherent musical context becomes peripheral. For example, Jimi Hendrix is completely ignored while ample space is found to cover the crude shenanigans of the talentless Motley Crue. Influential genres like punk and grunge are dismissed as passing fads as the juggernaut of classic rock drives on. View full article »
WAGING HEAVY PEACE by Neil Young (Penguin Books, 2012)
Be honest, you didn’t really expect this to be a straightforward autobiography, did you?
Neil Young has always done things his own way and having just turned 68, you’d hardly expect him to change a habit of a lifetime now.
I don’t think you could call him truly avant-garde but his singular quality definitely sets him apart from his peers. His style is that of a loner and a hard task master, but this is what makes him such a unique artist.
He writes as he sings, with a disarming simplicity and openness. He continually admits his own limitations and recognises his idiosyncratic approach: “There is a lot to cover and I have never done this before. Also, I am not interested in form for form’s sake”.
By rights, there should be a footnote to say that no editor has interfered with any aspect of this book. The publishers appear to have accepted the finished work on trust, warts and all. “Today, my past is a huge thing”, Young states with a vagueness you quickly become accustomed to. Some chapters have titles while, for no obvious reason, others don’t and you will look in vain for any coherent narrative thread. View full article »
THE IRON MAN by Ted Hughes, illustrated by Laura Carlin (Walker Books, 2010)
At a recent British Library public discussion on Ideology in Children’s Literature, editor, and now independent publisher, David Finkling raised the question as to whether it is right to make a distinction between books for children and adults.
His point was that this largely arbitrary separation is often nothing more than a marketing tool which ignores the fact that many titles can and should be enjoyed by all ages.
This might not apply to Peppa Pig publications but is most certainly the case for Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy and Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, both of which were edited by Finkling.
Ted Hughes’ poetic creation The Iron Man has a message that isn’t confined to fledgling readers, nor has it anything in common with the Marvel comics’ superhero. View full article »
EARTHBOUND by Paul Morley (Penguin Books, 2013)
By common consensus Paul Morley is a pretentious tosser and, moreover, he knows it.
He was a weekly source of irritation during his tenure at New Musical Express from 1977 – 1983 but somehow his pieces were impossible to ignore.
His self-consciously provocative style was exasperating but I have to concede that the man can write. With the benefit of hindsight, I think he was providing a valuable service to NME readers by making the point that writing about music is always subjective and personal.
When we listen to recordings or find bands, we bring our own baggage which includes plenty of prejudices and preconceptions. We can never hear these sounds in a vacuum; our responses are coloured by our mood, background and the space in which we experience the music.
In Earthbound, Morley admits that his articles would “seem to be about one thing and then half way through, start to be about something else altogether” and this book follows much the same pattern.
The book is one of twelve pocket-sized Penguin paperbacks inspired by a different tube line to celebrate 150 years of the London Underground. They are intended to illustrate how, although we are all connected in some way, the space we live in shapes our imagination in different ways. View full article »