Thursday, 29 April 2010

Daily Mail

Roger Lewis's very generous review of Rejoice! Rejoice! has now been posted on the Daily Mail website. Looks very good.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010


As I was on my way to bed last night, I turned on Radio Five Live to hear Tony Livesey hosting a phone-in about whether pop music was better in the 1970s than it is now.

I got a little thrill when I realized that this discussion was prompted by the forthcoming V&A exhibition My Generation: The Glory Years of British Rock. Mr Livesey, it appeared, was querying whether the subtitle was accurate: were those really the glory years?

Since it was me who wrote that subtitle, for the book which accompanies the exhibition, I was somewhat surprised to find that it was in any way controversial. The phrase 'glory years of British rock' (apart from echoing the subtitle of our previous book Halfway to Paradise: The Birth of British Rock) seemed to me a fairly straightforward factual description: the decade we cover with Harry Goodwin's photos (1964-74) was self-evidently the era when British pop music had its greatest influence on the world.

It wasn't intended as a value judgement. Though as it happens, and just for the record, the decade was also quite clearly the time when most of the best British rock was produced. It won't ever be that good again.

Friday, 23 April 2010

St George's Day

This year I'm celebrating St George's Day with the help of a splendid review of Rejoice! Rejoice! by Roger Lewis in the Daily Mail. It's an 'entertaining, insightful and wide-ranging survey,' he writes. My thanks to him and to the Mail for the kind words and the splendid presentation.

Also today, my copies of the book turned up, and very fine it looks too. Should be in the shops next week.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Must Read

I've never been in the Must Read column of the Sunday Times before. So I'm dead pleased with today's paper:

Friday, 9 April 2010

Talcy Malcy RIP

What can anyone add to the millions of words that have spoken about Malcolm McLaren (most of them by himself)?

Well, maybe the one thing that doesn't get sufficient emphasis is pop music. As opposed to rock. The reason I fell in love with punk back in 1976 was nothing to do with, say, Iggy & the Stooges, of whom I knew nothing. Instead I came from a position of liking the Bay City Rollers. (Incidentally, I still reckon their fourth album is a bit of a powerpop classic, with fine production by Jimmy Ienner, who'd earlier shaped the sound of the Raspberries.)

To get back to McLaren, he was a bit fond of the Rollers as well. Indeed that was his concept of what a pop group should be, how he envisaged the Sex Pistols would turn out. Admittedly they evolved into something a bit different, thanks to the genius of Johnny Rotten, but still they made damn fine pop records: the same handful of chords you'd hear on Shang-a-Lang, the same attraction to big catchy choruses. Never really got the hang of bridges, though.

One of the joys that came with listening to the Rollers, Mud, Showaddywaddy and the rest of the post-glam pop bands of 1974-75 was that, being an ignorant kid at the time, I found it provided me with an education. They were covering songs by people like Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran, so I went back to the 1950s to listen to the originals. And I haven't stopped since. The sounds of the first wave of rock and roll remain my favourite music.

And again, when punk erupted, we found that McLaren was similarly enchanted by the '50s. His favourite reference point was the great British entrepreneur Larry Parnes, who brought us Billy Fury, Marty Wilde, Vince Eager and more. I know he dressed it all up in art school attitudes, talked about cash-from-chaos, spouted bollocks about situationism (has there ever been a sillier adolescent disorder than situationism?), but ultimately you knew that he was at heart a genuine fan of the music, that the elegant simplicity of rock and roll was as fascinating to him as the Machiavellian machinations of the industry.

At least, I think he was. But who knows? Maybe he was just a lucky bastard. After all, he was the manager of the New York Dolls who managed to split them up. He looked at Adam and the Ants, decided that he could do better than that, and sacked the singer so that he could launch Bow Wow Wow - just before Adam became the biggest pop star in the country. In between those two episodes, he lucked into discovering Johnny Rotten, who turned out to be one of the great artists of his generation, for a short while at least.

But my suspicion was that behind all the bullshit, beyond the wind-ups and gimmicks, he had a simple love of pure pop music. And so, in honour of the late Malcolm McLaren, here's a Harry Hammond photo of one of his favourite pop stars, Billy Fury:

Monday, 5 April 2010

New titles

April is the kindest month. Or rather, this April's pretty good, since I have two new books due to be published.

And so I've added new subsections to my website for each of them: Rejoice! Rejoice! Britain in the 1980s (Aurum Press), which is the sequel to Crisis? What Crisis?, and My Generation: The Glory Years of British Rock (V&A Publishing), which is the sequel to Halfway to Paradise. Both should be in the shops in the next couple of weeks or so, but - for anyone who really can't wait - bits of them are now available for online viewing.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

More Rejoicing

It pretty much goes without saying, of course, that Dominic Sandbrook is a very fine social historian (Never Had It So Good, White Heat &c.), so I'm hugely flattered by his review in the Sunday Times of my forthcoming book, Rejoice! Rejoice!

Here's just a few words:

'Turner’s book on the 1970s was for my money the most enjoyable of the recent crop on that turbulent decade, and he is on equally entertaining form here. The tone is that of a wildly enthusiastic guide ­leading us on a breakneck tour through politics, sport and culture, bursting with weird nuggets of knowledge gleaned everywhere from semi-forgotten John ­Mortimer novels to Wham! singles, football matches and episodes of Doctor Who.'