Music business

Music industry stories from the people who lived it – The Irish Times

The story of a rookie American college student obsessed with rock music eventually becoming one of the most well-known and respected public relations agents in the music industry. Access all areas: a behind-the-scenes look at 50 years of music and culture by Barbara Charron (White Rabbit, £20). In 1974 Charone decamped from Chicago to London, where she worked as a music writer for Sounds. As the 1980s progressed, she moved into public relations, first with WEA (Warners Elektra Atlantic) and then, more than 20 years later, as co-founder of MBC PR (which does public relations for big names such as Madonna, Metallica and Foo Fighters as well as many other music groups). Charone tells her story in music (though not necessarily her life, which is, predictably, given a stormproof coat of PR paint) in a conversational, friendly tone. If anyone, however, expects a serious and revealing exposé from her high-profile clients (whom, in all honesty, she protects like a mother lion all along), they will be deeply disappointed.

One person who isn’t shy about sharing, no matter the outcome, is Chris Blackwell. As the author (along with “ghost” music writer Paul Morley) of The Islander: My Life in Music and Beyond (Simon & Schuster, £19.99) he describes his founding of Island, the UK label that was (and still is, to some extent) highly regarded for its approach to signing acts based on their creative potential and non-commercial. Coming from a mix of aristocrats and upper-class entrepreneurs, Blackwell (“I’m a member of the Lucky Sperm Club”) traveled between Jamaica and London, initiating a crossover interest in ska/reggae music, taking a punt on U2 (“Bono kept talking, never afraid to fail”), and ultimately selling Island in the late 1980s for $300 million. exciting, rational and intelligent (and fun: he didn’t sign Pink Floyd because “they seemed too boring”). In strictly business terms, his legacy may be the platform he gave Bob Marley, U2 and Grace Jones, but let’s not forget that it was Blackwell’s innate risk-taking that set up artistic, maverick plans for hundreds of independent labels to follow.

The Bowie Odyssey series (10 books each year covering Bowie’s work in the 1970s) continues with the third, Bowie Odyssey 72, by Simon Goddard (Omnibus, £20). As a series, it’s an impressive undertaking by music writer Goddard; as the understanding of the year that took Bowie’s name from cult to mainstream, it is perhaps even enlightening for the most discerning fan. Rather, the book is an object lesson in how to collect, ingest, and digest the details gleaned from the hundreds of books written about Bowie since the late 1970s. In the Hands of a Lesser Skilled Writer , the information would be there, but not the prose, which sashays and swirls with all the flair of a classic Bowie glam rock tune. A short book (140 pages of text) that crams everything from the birth of Ziggy Stardust to the gestation of Aladdin Sane, Bowie Odyssey 72 is a wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am addition to the best Bowie books you’ll ever have. never read or needed.

Alongside Bowie for most of the first half of the 1970s were, of course, Marc Bolan, Slade, Suzi Quatro, Sweet, David Essex, and several other artists categorized under the “glam rock” genre. Several were probably archetypal boys dressed in various layers of foil, and even more were obvious bandwagon jumpers, but thanks to Glam – When super stars shook the world 1970-1974, by Mark Paytress (Omnibus, £30), wheat and chaff are neatly separated. While respected music writer Paytress maps ‘glam’ credentials from Bowie, Elton John, Slade, Sweet and others, the guideline is Bolan, whose band T.Rex scored 11 of the top 10 singles at British hits from 1970 to 1973, and whose appearances on Top of the Pops (he wore shiny satin clothes and flecks of sequins under his eyes) effectively gave birth to glam rock. In tandem with the expertly retold pop culture story, there’s a slew of illustrations that showcase the fashion sensibilities of a musical genre often copied but never bettered.

The same could be said of Kraftwerk’s essential contribution to electronic music, and in The noise of the machine: my life at Kraftwerk and beyond, by Karl Bartos, translated by Katy Derbyshire (Omnibus, £20), we have the inside story of why in Kraftwerk’s finest moments, Bartos writes, “the compositions testify to our search for the poetry hidden in machine sound ” . He describes his life as a Beatles fan (hearing A Hard Day’s Night for the first time “was the moment sound took on new meaning”), studying at the Robert Schumann Conservatory in Düsseldorf, attending a performance by American minimalist composer Steve Reich (“the music put me in a kind of hypnosis”), auditioning for the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, and from there to join, in 1974, Kraftwerk. “From the start, I saw Ralf [Hütter] and Florian [Schneider] more as refined artists, later designers… They seemed convinced that synthesizers would give birth to a new species of pop music. Life after Kraftwerk (he left in 1990) continued, of course, but the aftertaste was bitter (“community ended, I thought, where financial interests began”). Nonetheless, Bartos aptly charts his future solo and collaborative career path, advising that no matter what “when it comes to computers, you should never forget where the switch is.”

Another person who managed to stick around, despite adverse circumstances, was PP Arnold, an American singer who began her career as a backing vocalist for Ike & Tina Turner and later rose to solo fame in London in the 1960s. What followed were decades of session work, driven as much by financial need as a rigid commitment to singing. Soul Survivor: The Autobiography, by PP Arnold (Nine Eight Books, £20), tells the gripping story of a behind-the-scenes but highly believable performer who endured personal tragedy and maintained a roller-coaster lifestyle (“musicians on the road don’t are just sex maniacs”) from the Rolling Stones to Primal Scream.

If it wasn’t so regularly fun, Paper Cuts: How I Destroyed Britain’s Music Press and Other Misadventures by Ted Kessler (White Rabbit, £18.99), would be depressing. Even the intro is disappointing. Kessler, the former (and last) editor of Q, the British monthly music magazine that sank in the summer of 2020 after 35 years of intermittent business, begins his memoir by writing that in 2004, the year he joined Q, “the Internet always seemed like an opportunity, not an assassin”. Although the story of his life and his years at Q may not be of major interest to all but the reader British music magazine magazine, his qualifications ring true for any avid music fan: “I could instantly quote any lyric from Orange Juice or Pale Fountains. My brain the subject was the recorded work of The Fall, 1980-87. Between autobiography, pop-cultural commentary, a fascinating encounter with maverick songwriter Kevin Rowland and a playful epilogue, Kessler delivers a brilliant and insightful story. You might have had to be there for some of these tales, sure, but from signing the allowance to “finding the rock ‘n’ roll spirit” in a Mini Metro, he tells and writes them. good.