Over the last few years at Glossop Record Club, we’ve had sessions dedicated to the years 1966, 1967 and 1968, little vinyl time capsules exploring music made in those years by playing key tracks and albums as they celebrate their 50th anniversaries. So it follows that we’ll be doing the same for 1969, and as we bring the decade to a close with a stack of records, we’ve also picked out a stack of music-related books from the shelves of George Street Community Bookshop that represent the incredible arc of the 60s, from biographies and autobiographies to cultural histories and even some fiction.
It’s still an endlessly fascinating era for writers in books and magazines, a fast-moving decade rich in world-changing music. As we get further away from that time, some may wonder if all these things really happened at all. The music tells only part of the story, and so it’s to books like these we can turn to paint the picture in greater detail.
The books we’ve picked out actually start in 1950s Memphis, with Elvis Presley (Greil Marcus’ Mystery Train) and Johnny Cash (his autobiography) at Sun Records, cutting discs that would prove a vital spark for the next and subsequent generations of artists. Without the foundations they laid, it would be hard to imagine all that followed.
From The Beatles (represented here by Philip Norman’s Shout!, one of the first books to offer a comprehensive overview of their career), The Rolling Stones (Keith Richards’ autobiography Life) and The Who (the retrospective Whose Who) to the tall tales and excess of The Doors (No One Here Gets Out Alive by Jerry Hopkins & Danny Sugarman), Led Zeppelin (When Gods Walked The Earth by Mick Wall) and Phil Spector (Wall Of Pain by Dave Thompson), this selection provides a good overview of some of the main movers and shakers of the 60s. For those who want to dig deeper and go further than the usual suspects, biographies of Marianne Faithfull (Mark Hodkinson) and Neil Young (Sylvie Simmons) do just that. There’s even a fictional 60s pop star in the shape of Nick Cohn’s Johnny Angelo, loosely based on PJ Proby.
For a more in-depth history and analysis of 1960s music and culture (and beyond), James Miller’s Almost Grown (The Rise Of Rock) and Robert Palmer’s Dancing In The Street fill that role. Palmer’s book accompanied the mid-90s BBC TV series, and takes a fresh look at the accepted history of pop by placing blues and soul centre stage, and how that influence was taken by white artists into the mainstream.
Clinton Heylin’s ‘Bootleg: The rise & fall of the secret recording industry’ explores the illicit world of bootleg records, a phenomenon that first raised its head with Bob Dylan’s Great White Wonder, a collection of outtakes, demos and live recordings, which alerted fans to existence of recordings other than those that were officially released by the record companies.
Finally, a couple of books that look to the 1970s, with David Bowie (Dave Thompson’s fan-fiction work To Major Tom: The Bowie Letters) and Elton John (a mid-70s profile edited by Paul Gambaccini). By the close of the 60s, these future superstars were on the cusp of finding fame, Bowie scoring his first hit with Space Oddity (after a succession of misses), and Elton releasing his debut album.
There are loads more great music books on the shelves in the bookshop, covering many eras and genres, including some very interesting looking jazz books. So if you want some reading material to go with the music, go and have a dig and see what you can find.
Glossop Record Club is the musical equivalent of a book group or a film society, and meets once a month in Glossop Labour Club to listen to albums on vinyl and in full on a decent sound system, in a relaxed environment as free from distraction as possible.
The sessions usually revolve around a theme, with one or two featured albums played in full and a selection of other relevant songs aired along the way. There’s also the occasional guest host sharing stories and records that mean something to them.
Mystery Train - Greil Marcus
Cash - Johnny Cash (autobiography)
Shout! The True Story Of The Beatles - Philip Norman
Whose Who? A Who Retrospective - Brian Ashley & Steve Monnery
Life - Keith Richards (autobiography)
Led Zeppelin: When Gods Walked The Earth - Mick Wall
No One Here Gets Out Alive (The Doors) - Jerry Hopkins & Danny Sugarman
Wall Of Pain: The Life of Phil Spector - Dave Thompson
Neil Young - Sylvie Simmons
Elton John & Bernie Taupin
To Major Tom: The Bowie Letters - Dave Thompson
As Tears Go By: Marianne Faithfull - Mark Hodkinson
Andy Warhol and Pat Hackett - POPism
Almost Grown - The Rise Of Rock - James Miller
Bootleg: The rise & fall of the secret recording industry - Clinton Heylin
Dancing In The Street - Robert Palmer
I Am Still The Greatest Says Johnny Angelo - Nick Cohn
This blog post is by Lucy who runs the Manchester Book Club and, lucky us, volunteers in our shop.
This week's What I'm Reading blog post is from Cat, one of our volunteers who is a member of the Glossop Lowbrow Book Group.
I have been a member of Glossop Lowbrow Book Group for just over 6 years now, I joined to make friends when I moved to Hadfield and it's been great! We are a friendly bunch of 30 somethings (and beyond) who all love reading, but as the group name suggests, are not up for things getting too serious. That being said, we do enjoy when the book talk is full enough not to drift off too soon, so something with lots of content to discuss is a good place to start. We generally meet in a pub of choice, of that month's ‘host’ of the book, one Thursday a month at 8pm. Details can be found: https://glossopbookgroup.wordpress.com/
Due to this, lots of my reading is influenced by the book group, or researching what I would like to suggest next . The thing I enjoy about being a member is that it introduces me to books I wouldn't have ever thought of reading... although, sometimes this is a struggle! However, the number of times I haven't really enthused about starting something and it surpassing my expectations is a real reward.
Last month's book was my choice, Beside Myself by Ann Morgan. I hadn't actually read this before suggesting it, a risky move, but it came recommended from a friend’s book group as it divided people and made for good conversation. It is the story of twin sisters and their lives following a childhood game that goes wrong. It is a bit of a mystery, and it was that aspect of wanting to find out the truth that kept me reading. However, we were all mixed in our opinion of what actually happened and writing style, techniques used, and so on. It roused discussion for the group, and did make me want to keep page turning... it also had a lot of interesting ideas raised, but I think the overriding issues most of the group faced were the actual execution of those ideas.
I have just finished Eureka Street by Robert McLiam Wilson, which I read is a coincidence as Lucy mentions this in her blog. I totally agree that I feel I don't know enough about the troubles, so I will be taking her recommendation of Making Sense. Book Group is tomorrow, so I don't know what the group will make of it, but I caught moments to read this book on holiday in Italy... on buses, airports and things, and thinking that I wouldn't have enough time to finish it, how many pages I had devoured in each sitting. The story follows two friends, a Protestant and a Catholic, in Belfast before and after the most recent ceasefires, so these characters and their stories I found were relatable, human, funny and real amid everything that was happening around them. I definitely was left wanting to learn more about the history of the troubles and will look up Lucy's recommendation.
Our next book is The Kiss by Kathryn Harrison, which is a real life story of incest, so I am really intrigued about that! My next choice is being read in a few months, How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran. I volunteer in the book shop on a Monday morning, and as well as serving customers and tidying up the books, I love some time to browse the shelves for myself. I picked up this book one particularly rainy and cold Monday, and I sat with a coffee and started to dip in... it had me gripped straight away, and chuckling to myself (luckily no customers came in at that point). I haven't got that far through yet, but am looking forward to reading more ready for my month at book group.
Come in and say hello next time you're passing on a Monday morning and recommend me my next read!
The first blog for our website. Here’s where we’ll post bits of news, random views, book reviews and other things that rhyme with ooze…
I’m hoping there’ll be ongoing ‘what I’m reading’ posts where members can share their reading diary and hopefully inspire people to pick up a book that perhaps they mightn’t have read otherwise. I’ll try to set up a form you can use to submit a post, but in the meantime email us to let us know what you are or have been reading, what you thought of the book(s) and what you’re looking forward to reading next.
Here’s a couple to start us off:
Lucy, Shop Volunteer. Runs the Manchester Book Club.
I am just about to start Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Froer; one of my choices for book club this month - so no pressure there then! I’ve been anxious to start this one for a while as it got great reviews when it came out. Following his father’s death in the 9/11 World Trade Centre attacks, nine year old Oskar Schell is catapulted into a broad, sweeping adventure across New York and through space and time to solve the mystery of a key he finds in his father’s closet. I love the idea of a well-written child narrator and I have wild hopes for the New York I fell in love with reading Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch so here’s hoping!
Interspersed with my fiction reading (I’m a fiction gal at heart) and rather topically given recent events, I’m also ploughing through Making Sense of the Troubles by academics David McKittrick and David McVea. For book club last year, we read Eureka Street by Robert McLiam Wilson. It is an awesome portrayal of two friends living in 1990s Belfast that, although hugely entertaining and thought-provoking, left me feeling appalled at my scant understanding of the Northern Ireland conflict. Following a friend’s recommendation, I have been reading chunks of Making Sense between other books over the past few months and it is excellent; an engaging, thorough study that examines the conflicts from day dot but that is also written in clear, accessible English. If this is a topic for you then I would highly recommend it.
Steve, Bookshop Manager.
I’ve been on a bit of a book reading binge recently, after a visit to Hay on Wye and its fabulous bookshops. I brought back with me a bag full of Hard Case Crime pulp noir style reads, including Donald Westlake, Laurence Block and Gregory MacDonald among others. I love hard boiled crime with snappy dialogue that isn’t scared to use humour and I devoured these almost in one sitting. Glorious. I also bought and read The History of Bees by Maja Lunde, a dystopian story that flits backward and forward through the years and is about our relationship with nature and each other. Fantastic.
I was a bit late to Kate Atkinson’s Transcription, but I enjoyed it immensely. It’s an espionage/cold war story that is almost politely told but gripping - for me a bit like listening to Terry Riley’s in C. It’s funny, or witty, and very satisfying to get stuck in to.
Peter Carey’s A Long Way from Home has just been gobbled up too and while there is lots to admire, I sometimes found myself annoyed by the characters in a ‘don’t do that you idiot’ kind of way. The message of the book is important, although I won’t tell you what it is exactly, so if you fancy learning about the politics of Aboriginal oppression, a round Australia road race and having a chuckle at the same time, it’s well worth a read.
I always have an audio book on the go for when I’m walking our dog and just recently I’ve thoroughly enjoyed listening to William Boyd’s Love is Blind and Restless both of which are great stories and the narration is superb. Now listening to a fun Donald Westlake crime caper, Dancing Aztecs.
Next up to read is a new one from David Downing, Diary of a Dead Man on Leave, an old one by Penelope Fitzgerald, The Beginning of Spring. I’m also determined to tackle, I’ve been putting it off for about a month, Shoshana Zuboff’s The Age of Surveillance Capitalism.