Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll

Just read Simon Napier-Bell's Black Vinyl, White Powder, which charts (if you'll forgive the pun) 50 years of the British music industry. I'd read his Wham! in China book last autumn (see post) and also You Don't Have to Say You Love Me (his rather flippant book about the sixties), but BVWP is the one. He was there of course: joint-roller for the Johnny Dankworth Orchestra in the late 50s, music editor for What's New Pussycat, co-lyricist for that Dusty Springfield hit, and then manager of the Yardbirds, Japan, Wham! and a few other lesser-knowns.
He also - another pun alert! - takes us on a trip through each decade's drug of choice: amphetamines, cocaine, LSD, heroin, cannabis, ecstasy, uppers & downers... the works. But it's the cut-throat managers, record label directors, A&R men, critics, DJs, pluggers and, lest we forget, the musicians who are the main characters in what is a whistle-stop tour through skiffle, beat, psychedelia, glam, heavy metal, a bit of prog, punk, two-tone, new romantics, acid house, dance, britpop and boring boy bands. It was originally published in 2001 so the massive shake-up caused by the internet doesn't figure, but actually that's a bit dull. What we really want is rock operas, groupies, televisions thrown into swimming pools and general wanton excess. And it's here in spades. Very funny, but also refreshingly honest and very shrewd. 
He's been based in Pattaya in Thailand for many years now, but despite my four years in Bangkok, strangely we never met.

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