Friday, December 16, 2005

Read Me

Words and Music: A History of Pop in the Shape of a City
by Paul Morley

This book first came to my attention when I was studying abroad in England two years ago. I took a video documentary class that was taught by Carol Morley. She is Paul Morley's brother. Paul Morley wrote for the NME in the late 70s and early 80s. Let's just say he's a beloved music critic. Anyway, before I left, she recommended this book to me. It had just been released and was not widely available, so I had trouble finding it in London. I went home and forgot about it for about a year and a half. When my Joy Division/New Order addiction kicked in this year, I came across some of Paul Morley's writing on the bands. I then saw a reference to the book and I had to find it. It's hard to find in stores, but Amazon has it.

On the surface, the book is about Kylie Minogue's "Can't Get You Out of My Head" and a 45-minute experimental audio piece by Alvin Lucier called "I Am Sitting In a Room". But it also mentions just about every band you've ever heard of and hundreds more you haven't. It's about pop music. From new wave to hip-hop. And just about everything else.

It took me a very long time to read this book and that is my fault, not the book's. Every time a new band/song was mentioned that I wasn't familiar with, I would stop reading to download and listen. I don't think it's necessary to have that knowledge or to have heard most of these songs to read and enjoy the book. It's not about knowing what the songs sound like. He does a good job of explaining when it's required, but obviously there are certain things you will want to hear if you haven't already. What works so well about the book, I think, is that even if you don't care THAT much about music, the book is still exciting and fun to read. As much as you'll learn, you'll be even more entertained. The book just steamrolls forward until it stops. I feel like I can't really tell you what else this book is about. What I do know is that my knowledge of music has increased by one thousand percent due to reading it.

If I took anything from the book, it's that I now have a much greater appreciation of electronic and other experimental music because of it. Specifically the ambient works of Brian Eno.

This is what the back cover of the book says:
"Has pop burnt itself out? Paul Morley takes the reader on an epic drive through the history of music to find out. A succession of celebrities, geniuses and other protagonists led by Madonna, Kraftwerk, Brian Eno, Erik Satie, John Cage and Wittgenstein appear to give their points of view. Detours and sights along the way include Missy Elliot, Jarvis Cocker, Eminem, Human League, Radiohead, Lou Reed, Now! That's What I Call Music, Ornette Coleman and the ghost of Elvis Presley."


At 11:53 pm GMT-6, Anonymous said...

Eno has just re-released After the Heat, probaly my favorite Eno ever. By the way if you are looking for "different music" this is a great source


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