David Hepworth channels Bryan Ferry for the title of his new book, coming hot on the heels of last November’s ‘Nothing Is Real’, and dealing with, as its subtitle suggests, how the LP ‘saved our lives’. Indeed, he dedicates the book to anyone who knows how it felt to carry an album down the street, something I suspect we can probably all relate to.
He classifies the era when the album was at its peak as a serious influential art form as beginning in 1967 with the release of Sgt Pepper and ending in 1982 with Michael Jackson’s Thriller, after which the coming of the Walkman, followed by cds, downloading and streaming, would gradually strip away the relevance and importance of the LP as a concept.(I can already hear dissenting voices!) For each of the intervening years, he picks out a couple of releases which he perceives as being particularly significant and influential (including some rather surprising choices it has to be said!), and puts them in the context of both then and now, covering not just the music and the artists, but also the way in which the music was actually listened to by its purchasers.
As always, the book is well researched and passionately written, as the author fondly, and sometimes contentiously, dissects the cultural significance of the humble long player. In his conclusion, Hepworth makes a significant point – although many of us will have got rid of our once treasured vinyl collections long ago, it would be easy enough to go out and buy again a select few classic albums and a new turntable. The question is, can we still convince ourselves that for the ensuing forty minutes we have nothing better to do than to sit and listen to an entire album from start to finish – because that’s how it was in the golden age of the LP, when it seemed as though we had all the time in the world.
If you’ve read any of the previous books by Hepworth, you’ll pretty much know what to expect – trenchant views, but expressed with a smattering of his usual dry Yorkshire wit. I’d actually put this down as my favourite effort so far, certainly on a par with Never A Dull Moment and superior to the last couple. Indeed, it reads at times like a very long magazine article, which wouldn’t have been out of place serialised in The Word – can there be a better recommendation ?
Length of Read:Medium
Might appeal to people who enjoyed…
Hepworth’s previous work, The Word, Mojo etc etc.
One thing you’ve learned
The author, accompanied by Mark Ellen, will be discussing the book at Foyles on Charing Cross Road on 19 March, for those who are in the vicinity (advance booking required).