Balearic Mike`s Book Club

Words & selections by Balearic Mike.

I don’t often post about books, but what with being a librarian by day, I thought I’d give it a go, as I’ve read some right belters recently…You won’t be surprised to find they are all – in some way – music related…

Tracey Thorn – My Rock ‘n’ Roll Friend – Canon Gate 2021

Tracey Thorn – My Rock ‘n’ Roll Friend

This isn’t really a book about music. It just so happens that the two main protagonists – the author Tracey thorn and the subject Lindy Morrison – both happen to be in bands. The real story is one of friendship, specifically female friendship. It’s also about ageing, and sexism and misogyny in the record industry – and world in general – the different standards that women are held to in life and work in particular. It’s also a remarkable retelling of a story that has edited out one of its key components when told by others. To be honest, I don’t really have much interest in The Go-Betweens as a band. I own one record, the one record everyone owns by them – Streets Of Your Town of course! – but have never been especially interested in them. However, this is a really compelling story, beautifully told. Lindy is a complex, interesting woman, for whom being in a band was actually just one part of her life. Tracey Thorn is a brilliant writer, able to tackle and draw you into complicated and multifaceted ideas and situations. She has a very economical and straight forward writing style, and I’d highly recommend all 4 of her books to anyone. This almost works like a novel, it’s so brilliantly conceived. I ploughed through it in a couple of days, and then so did Balearic Wife. We both loved it. You will too.

Harold Heath – Long Relationships: My incredible journey from unknown DJ To Small-time DJ – Velocity Press 2021

Long Relationships.indd

I don’t think any book that I’ve read quite captures the experience of being swept up in the UK acid house scene in the late `80s, taking part in it for the rest of your life, and yet still not actually managing to make a living out of it after over 30 years, anything like as well as this book does. I have to admit to having never heard of Harold before, despite him mentioning DJing with LuvDup, and eulogising about a record which included the first remix I ever worked on with Mark & Adrian LuvDup – although he didn’t play the mix we did! – plus him and me both living in Brighton AND both working at The University of Sussex (I think he had left before I joined). This is probably because his main success came as a DJ and producer on the tech-house scene, which I don’t really know much about. But the experiences he relates to the reader are universal, and he manages to convey the feelings of both great gigs and disastrous ones with equal emotional clout and hilarity. I tore through this in a day or so. I couldn’t put it down. It had me howling with laughter and also holding back a little sob of melancholy. It’s a really brilliant book, superbly written by someone who has a great eye for detail and can sum up the magical and the ridiculous in a situation with equal ease. Go buy it now!

David Elliott – 1984: British Pop’s Dividing Year – York House Books 2020

David Elliot 84-square

Major geek essential purchase alert! This book isn’t really for the casual music fan. It’s an exhaustive and comprehensive look at the UK pop music scene in 1984, the turning point year for what became known as ‘the new pop” of the early `80s. It’s probably my favourite period in music bar 87-93. It’s almost overwhelming how much was going on, but David tries to cover it all, and just about manages, to give him his due. The book`s organised really well into genres, labels, etc., but also has sections on pop video directors, the music press, music television. It also doesn’t cover pop in any sort of narrow sense. It really is everything from Culture Club to Penguin Café Orchestra to Big Black, and anything else in between you could think of. The closest thing I can compare it to is Simon Reynolds excellent Rip It Up And Start Again, which I might go back and re-read again once I’ve finished this – I’ve got just a couple of chapters to go. It might sound quite heavy, but it’s so well written, and logically laid out, that I’ve flown through it pretty quickly, and really enjoyed it, even the chapters about music I couldn’t care less about. My only criticism is that I did spot three small errors in the bits on dance music. Nothing that completely ruins it though.

Dylan Jones – Sweet Dreams: The story of the New Romantics – Faber & Faber 2020

Dylan Jones – Sweet Dreams

I bought this last year when it was published and had read it by Christmas. It’s a brilliant book, about a truly amazing cultural phenomenon, which is often derided and rarely given the credit it deserves.The book is written in the same way as Jones` Bowie opus from a few years ago, in that it’s all other people’s words, with the interviews chopped up and strung together to create the narrative. This is a style which I think he does really well, but I did get to a point where I was thinking “If someone else says ‘we were just all really into Bowie and Roxy …’ then I’m throwing this fucking book on the fire”… but the moment passed. Jones manages to trace the roots of the scene back to before punk, and by the end of the book you realise that not only did this tiny group of people invent the pop music scene of the next decade – OK, well, at least the next 4-5 years – and beyond, they pretty much laid the foundations for the nightlife culture that acid house would germinate in towards the end of the coming decade. And they pretty much invented the 80s (ish?).

For more from Balearic Mike you can find him on both Facebook and Instagram – @balearicmike. Mike also has a Mixcloud page packed with magnificent, magical, music. 

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