Saturday, 2 July 2022

Ways of listening: Glastonbury, new music and old age

A screengrab from iPlayer's Glastonbury page
Too Much Stuff

I turned on the television last weekend and Supergrass were on stage at Glastonbury singing “We are young”. I remembered buying that song when it came out, and how much that line – the cheek and celebration of it – meant to me. They were about 20 and I was in my 30s, but I felt young because of new-found freedom. 

I realised that Supergrass are older now than I was when I first heard that song. A lot older.

Sunday, 15 May 2022

Why we need books about music by women

Line drawing of a cassette, with the words "I love this song very much" written on it.
Here’s the good news: “In 2022, lots of women are writing books about music and getting them published.”

That’s the first line of a recent article by Jude Rogers in The Quietus. She has her own new book to promote and everyone says it’s good. I am trying to get my local library to stock it. They have a suggestion form. I also asked them to get the new anthology This Woman’s Work. “More music writing by women, please,” I said in the comments box. 

It's good that there’s more music writing coming out now by women, but it’s scuppered my plans for the Women’s history of pop section in my blog. I’ve got a backlog of books that I’ve read but not yet reviewed, and I’m not going to keep up.

A while ago American music writer Jessica Hopper put together a spreadsheet of books about music by women. (Actually it’s titled “non-men” but I’ll overlook that.) I was planning to work my way through it, but that’s now feeling a bit ambitious. If the list keeps getting longer, though, that can only be a good thing. 

Because writing about music has been a boys’ club for too long, and women have things to say too. 

Thursday, 14 April 2022

Book review: She Bop

Front cover of She Bop, 25th anniversary edition: yellow and dayglo pink text and an open woman's mouth.

Last year, a friend posted on Twitter: “I’d like some big sprawling pop history books written by women now, please.” Obviously, it caused a bit of a discussion.

And it made me wonder. I like books, and I particularly like music books written by women, but I don’t think I like sprawling books. And I wondered if I actually like the word “sprawling” either. It feels like a male word. A word for people who are used to taking up space, regardless. More space than is actually necessary. Maybe a sprawling book is the literary version of manspreading. I can’t think of many books by women that do that. 

There are some long pop history books by women, but that’s not the same as being sprawling. She Bop (25th Anniversary Edition) by Lucy O’Brien is one example. It’s 423 pages long and it’s the opposite of sprawling. Because there’s a lot to fit in, so it has to be concise.

Friday, 31 December 2021

The year of melancholy thinking

The year in brief:


Blah, Blah, Blah.

I was tempted to stop there. Greta Thunberg’s words say it all. Anything else is just description.

I could talk about another year of living in fear, and another year of being lied to, and a second pandemic year which is different from the first one because this time we’re not all in it together.

Wednesday, 29 December 2021

A year, some books, accidental learning


A pile of books: Funny Weather by Olivia Laing, David Copperfield by Charles Dickens, Life Without Children by Roddy Doyle, Treacle Walker by Alan Garner.
December's books. Guess which one's for book group.

In 2021 I made a new year resolution that I kept. This might be a first. It was to read four books a month.

It doesn’t sound much, and it’s nothing compared to people like Andy Miller, but it gave me the chance to tackle a bit of the feeling I get of “so many books, so little time” every time I go on Books Twitter.

Actually I’ve averaged five. I could have read more, but I don’t live alone, and I feel obliged to spend Quality Time with my husband occasionally.

I can read fast – I sometimes finish a book in one or two sittings – but I don’t think reading fast is necessarily a good thing. It dawned on me some time this year that the time spent reading a book is longer than the time you are physically looking at the pages. There’s the time you spend processing it afterwards. If I ate up books at the rate I did as a child, or went from one book straight to another, I’d lose that.