So tonight I finished ‘How Soon Is Now‘ by Richard King – a book about independent music and the labels who really kicked it all off. I thought I still had quite a way to go on the book (the ending felt a bit abrupt), but actually don’t be fooled – much like the Steve Jobs biography, the last 25% or more is taken up with credits.
So, the book. This was of particular interest to me as I work for some of the labels mentioned and it’s always nice to have something which joins the gaps with the labels – which this does. It’s also quite interesting, and has made me take a step back from what I’m doing – and ask more questions about things. There’s information which fills in gaps I didn’t really know much about, and there are stories which were legendary and have been repeated (the Vaughan Oliver sliding down the glass roof naked one. I used to work where the glass roof area is and before I knew that story I did often want to slide down it, though fortunately for everyone, not naked) – as well as the drug taking and breakdowns and what happened next.
In addition to this, a lot of the people you’ll come across in music today seemed to start at Rough Trade – a lot of names rang bells.
Would this book appeal if you don’t work in music? Probably – a lot of the people featured haven’t had many books written about them (if we pretend to forget that Geoff Travis of Rough Trade and Alan McGee of Creation already have), though with a 4AD book on the horizon there’s going to be fewer people to write about – but there’s still lots in here.
The chapter on the KLF was pretty entertaining (especially the Brits performance with Extreme Noise Terror) – and probably the straightest thing which has been written about them that I’ve come across. The Factory sections didn’t really bring anything new if you’ve already read those books (’24 Hour Party People’, Shaun Ryder’s book, Peter Hook’s Hacienda book, ‘Touching From a Distance’ by Deborah Curtis, and so on) but it’s an important part of it all – though ultimately you can’t cover anything – I don’t recall much of a mention of say, Probe in Liverpool (and Geoff is meant to be a character and quite entertaining).
Criticisms? I spotted some typos which isn’t the end of the world – names spelt incorrectly, or the wrong album being talked about. One day I’ll be a music book proofreader… it’s something I’d enjoy doing anyway, even if I’m not the best writer. It’s also quite wordy in parts, but get beyond that and it’s a good read.
I bought a copy from Amazon when the Kindle edition was £1.50 – it’s gone back up to full price now though, but I’d say if you like reading music books, it’s worth sticking on your wish list.
That also reminds me, I really must get back into ‘Rip it Up and Start Again’ by Simon Reynolds as I never finished that book, and I suspect the two will complement each other quite well in parts.
You know the sad thing though? The music industry is missing these kinds of characters these days, and that made me feel a bit sad.