Good evening, Bookworms!
I’m back! Back! BACK!!! Yes, your blogger returns with another entry, inspired by a couple of serious sessions in Waterstone’s this week! I’d been into town on Tuesday to suss out a place I need to go to next week for a job interview, so, with this location being on Deansgate, it was natural that, once I had found what I was looking for (which was fairly straightforward – I’m not Bono, thus I have found what I’m looking for, he’s still looking for it, lol!), and had some lunch, the inevitable visit to Waterstone’s occurred! So long did I stay, and with it being a Tuesday, that at least a couple of members of staff thought it was Book Club Night, lol! I had to confirm that it wasn’t, as that had been the previous week and my next meeting is on 30th June! I also saw our current lady in charge of the book club, she served me at the counter as I acquired some reading matter.
She asked me how I was getting on with the book, By Grand Central Station I Sat Down And Wept, and I had to tell her I really wasn’t getting the author, finding Elizabeth Smart annoying. She agreed with me about the parts and chapters issue! Such a short book does not need parts! Indeed, it is debatable as to whether it even really needs chapters! Most of my Tuesday acquisitions were not for myself, but one book was. I chanced upon a book called Play It Again by Alan Rusbridger. An amateur against the impossible is the subtitle, as this guy is a journalist, the editor of the Guardian, no less, and in 2010 he set himself the task of learning to play Chopin’s Ballade No 1 on the piano, a piece of music so tricky that many professional pianists dread it! Rusbridger challenged himself to learn it within a year, a tough enough task without the demands of his work and all the news that he had to cover in 2010 and 2011 including the Arab Spring, Japanese tsunami and the riots here in the UK! Not started reading it yet, and I think I need to hear this piece by Chopin first, to familiarise myself with it and how bloody tricky it is for someone to perform.
However, the book I am currently engrossed in, since I bought it yesterday in the Trafford Centre branch of Waterstone’s, is also on the theme of music, albeit popular music from my era – the 1980s, and by an author I have previously read and enjoyed. We shall come back to that shortly, but I went in Waterstone’s looking at a couple of books on special half price offers – So, Anyway, the autobiography of the comedian and actor, John Cleese, and The Sunrise, the most recent of Victoria Hislop’s novels, this one set in Cyprus. I have read one of hers previously, The Return, which was set in Spain. I enjoyed that one very much.
In the end, however, I bought neither of these, and left the shop with two completely different books, those being The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett, which is apparently one of the most popular books at the moment, and Wired For Sound: Now That’s What I Call An 80s Music Childhood, by Tom Bromley, who also wrote All In The Best Possible Taste, which I read and loved a few years ago, and which is about 1980s television. As you can imagine, I am loving Wired For Sound – it is my era, and I worked out that the author is a mere 4 months older than I am, being a December 1972 baby as opposed to an April 1973 baby like myself. Anyway, he’d have been in the same school year as me and sat his GCSEs in 1989 as I did. He also watched Top of the Pops, taped songs off the charts on a Sunday evening and read Smash Hits, so we clearly have much in common, Tom and I! For a statto, though, he does get one or two facts wrong, so I do need to correct him on the following matters… Tom, if you’re reading…
Abba’s year of Eurovision glory with “Waterloo” and thus the start of their international success, was 1974, not 1972!
And Michael Jackson sadly passed away in 2009, not 2010. Indeed, he popped his clogs on my sister’s birthday! 25th June 2009 was the day he ceased to be. For future editions, you may wish to put these matters right.
Apart from those two errors, however, the book is a truly great read. He also, handily, points out that, in the build up to the 80s, 1979 was a pretty significant year. The final year of the 70s contained a lot of synthesizer-based music which gave us all a taste of the sounds to come, particularly with Gary Numan and Tubeway Army hitting the charts with “Are Friends Electric” and “Cars” in that year. Bromley also blows a punk myth out of the water, regarding the Sex Pistols concert in 1976 at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in Manchester. Our author points out that the actual attendance was more around the 40 people mark. If all the people who like to claim they were there that night had actually been there, it would have been a more Old Trafford-like attendance! (And that’s Bromley’s description, not mine even though I am a biased Red as you probably all knew long before now, lol!). Punk, Bromley points out, did encourage teenagers of the time to take up instruments and have a go themselves, but not necessarily to make punk music, simply to make music in general. Many of them would give the latest technology a go and experiment with synthesizers and electronic music, hence the sounds which defined the 80s and the decade in which I grew up, starting out as 6 going on 7 at the start of 1980, and 16 going on 17 as we waved goodbye to 1989 and prepared to let in the 90s.
I am already around halfway through Wired For Sound, which has a chapter entitled What Have I Done To Deserve This?, so I feel confident that I’ve got some serious mention of the Pet Shop Boys to enjoy at some point, but Neil Tennant has already had a few mentions, due to him having been deputy editor of Smash Hits prior to becoming a pop star. I have been a PSB fan since my teens, so I may be a tad biased, lol! As Yoda might put it: PSB fan I am. Deal with it you must!
Trevor Horn gets some mentions, too. Firstly for being a member of the Buggles, having enjoyed a number 1 in 1979 with the prophetic Video Killed The Radio Star, the first song whose video was shown on MTV in the USA when the channel started up a couple of years later, but also, mostly because of his success as a producer and his work with many of the bands of the 80s, including Spandau Ballet and Frankie Goes To Hollywood. Horn also produced some Pet Shop Boys stuff in the late 80s, particularly on the dance music album Introspective, including Left To My Own Devices, still amongst my fave PSB songs – if I was compiling my top ten all-time fave PSB songs, that would be one of them. I am still a huge fan of their early stuff. It was the 80s, it’s synth at its best, and I was a teenager then. It got me through that crap time called high school, so, as Abba would put it, Thank You For The Music! 🙂
Once I have finished Wired For Sound, I should return to some other half-finished book, probably The Storied Life of A J Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin, although I have also started By The River Piedra I Sat Down & Wept by Paulo Coelho. I have a few Coelho books, and have read a couple already, but that one was in my collection, and having a similar title to my current book club reading matter, I thought I would try it to see how it compares to Ms Smart’s book. It compares much more favourably at present. Far more readable. I don’t know how it will continue as yet, and I don’t know if the Smart offering will improve or not, but right now, I’d rather be sitting by the River Piedra with Pilar than by Grand Central Station with Elizabeth! I shall leave you with that thought for now! Until next time, take care and Happy Reading!
Books mentioned in this blog entry:
- By Grand Central Station I Sat Down And Wept – Elizabeth Smart
- Play It Again: An Amateur Against The Impossible – Alan Rusbridger
- So, Anyway – John Cleese
- The Sunrise – Victoria Hislop
- The Return – Victoria Hislop
- The Versions Of Us – Laura Barnett
- Wired For Sound: Now That’s What I Call An 80s Music Childhood – Tom Bromley
- All In The Best Possible Taste – Tom Bromley
- The Storied Life Of A.J. Fikry – Gabrielle Zevin
- By The River Piedra I Sat Down & Wept – Paulo Coelho