Shop now for Christmas.
Just a short note to try and sort out some of the books from 1983 that you might get requests for, prior to your run later in December. In no particular order:
"The BBC Radiophonic Workshop — The First 25 Years"
by Desmond Briscoe and Roy Curtis-Bramwell (BBC £7.75 softback)
Strange noises have been coming out of the door marked Radiophonic Workshop at the British Broadcasting Corporation since 1958 when men in suits and ties would wind long loops of tape around ancient lumps of electrical equipment, and women with sculpted hair-dos would blow penny whistles and await sound processing.
Dalek voices, theme tunes, incidental music and sound effects are the BBC's requirements, and this book, "remembered" by RW boss-person Desmond Briscoe, documents the workshop's development from musique concrete to Fairlight CMIs (spot the difference), from noises-off in Samuel Beckett plays to Marvin The Paranoid Android in The Hitch-Hikers's Guide To The Galaxy.
Good pictures balanced by a rather rambling text seem somewhat stiffly priced at getting on for eight quid, but if you're interested in sound for sound's sake, this Workshop manual is worth a glance or two.
"The Guitar Greats"
by John Tobler and Stuart Grundy (BBC £6.95 softback)
While we're on the subject of the BBC, this is a book based on the interviews done for a Radio One series of the same name. There are 14 subjects: B B King, Scotty Moore, James Burton, Hank Marvin, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Pete Townshend, Jimmy Page, Ry Cooder, Ritchie Blackmore, Steve Miller, Carlos Santana, Joe Walsh, and Brian May. This effectively stops the discussion of guitar playing at the late 1970s — surely the instigators could have rounded things off more contemporarily: perhaps a basic Brit like Robert Smith, or even US noisist Adrian Belew. A whiff of the Eighties, at least?
What we get is interviews with these chaps (apart from Eric Clapton, who declined), and actually very little on guitars and guitar playing but plenty on chronological histories and other standard fare. Exceptions include Townshend who talks at length about style and equipment, but generally there isn't a great deal to justify the title. B B King tells you his rhythm playing's awful; Jeff Beck says 'Hi Ho Silver Lining' was trash; and Brian May admits to going over the top. Dreadful "design", too, makes the book very hard work, and the picture captions will make you cringe.
"The Guitar Handbook"
by Ralph Denyer (Dorling Kindersley £10.95 hardback, Pan £5.95 softback)
This is a hell of a lot better — and a different packet of strings altogether. For once, a publisher's description seems quite apt: "A unique source book for the guitar player."
Guitarist and journalist Denyer offers eight sections for the aspiring guitarist, or the seasoned player needing a refresher course, with the bulkiest bit devoted to Playing The Guitar. This is the book's strength: clear, useful, and it's all here.
Other sections include biographies of Greats from Reinhardt to Fripp; acoustic and electric general info; maintenance and customising; and amplification and recording.
There's a full chord dictionary at the end, rounding off a book which should help you regardless of your style or level of knowledge. And we hear the packagers have a keyboard handbook on the way too. Can't wait!
by Tom Wheeler (Harper & Row £14.95 hardback)
More musical lumps of wood, this time from the editor of the respected if sometimes rather dull US magazine "Guitar Player". This book covers virtually every American guitar maker in an encyclopediac A-Z format, from Acoustic to Weyman (never heard of either of them, right?), taking in the more expected names like Fender, Gibson, Gretsch, Martin and Rickenbacker, along the way.
The accent is on company histories and model specs, and will suit you if you're keen to identify a strange guitar, or are simply interested in the mass of guitars that have been steadily produced in the US of A since the, er, dawn of time.
There's a big 16-page colour section in the middle of the book which may have something to do with 'American Guitars' large price, but it's a sumptuous addition. A must for guitar fanatics.
"The Musician and The Micro"
by Ray Hammond (Blandford £6.95 hardback, £4.95 softback)
This book attempts to sort out the growing micro (-computer and -processor) invasion. It ends up sounding rather too isn't-science-wonderful about it all and loading itself down with all-encompassing stupidities like: "The price of microprocessors is falling so rapidly that micro-power should be available to the vast majority within a few years." Cripes!
More interesting than the author's muddled thoughts are the interview sections hidden within, featuring chaps like Peter Gabriel, Hans Zimmer and Warren Cann (heroes all), and the descriptions of the workings of most of the current (January 1983) computer-based instruments.
Never missing an opportunity to blow one's own real-time-sampled trumpet, I personally prefer our own Honeybone's monthly approach to the subject, but then I am exceptionally biased.
by Brian Southall (Patrick Stephens £6.95 hardback)
This is apparently "the story of the world's most famous recording studio." Famous, mostly, because a group called The Beatles called one of their LPs 'Abbey Road' (and, incidentally, recorded an awful lot of their stuff there). Otherwise, EMI's studio in London NW6 would be just another recording studio as far as that ever-reliable bunch of people, the General Public, are concerned.
The book is a relatively straightforward attempt to chart the studio's history, recording the thoughts and feelings of management, recording personnel and (mostly EMI-related) musicians.
If you're interested in the actual recording process, the book is disappointing. It limits its technical explanations to an unheralded add-on chapter called (groan) 'Just for the record', and a glossary of 2½ pages. Despite this, the general story of the studio's development from the 1930s, through its 1960s hit-making, to current recording activity, is related in an interesting and workmanlike fashion.
edited by George Martin (Pan £5.95 softback).
An enormous tome which gathers together loads of producer Martin's pals to talk about what they do — they range from Adam Ant on promo videos to Paul Simon on songwriting, Midge Ure on playing live to Quincy Jones on production, Herbie Hancock on synths to Richard Branson on talent scouting. Some 60 other people involved in the business contribute items, split into four main sections: writing and arranging; performing; recording; and business.
The book wins out on bulk alone — you're just bound to find something of interest within. Some of the items are brief, even gratuituous, others are oddball — a surprisingly interesting conversation between Eric Clapton and John Williams, for example. Some lack focus, like Paul McCartney's bit on bass playing, while other people have obviously put a great deal of effort into their contributions.
Martin hopes that "we give encouragement" with the book, and indeed they do. It's good value, too, at under six quid for a touch over 350 pages.
"New Rock Record"
by Terry Hounsome (Blandford £5.95 softback)
The third version of this astounding document: around 600 groups and artists listed alphabetically with details of their LPs, line-ups and session players, followed by an enormous A-to-Z of musicians cross-referenced back to the group/artist listing. Sounds mad? Dead right.
For casual browsing the tiny typewritten text, crammed on each of the 700-odd pages, makes overwhelmingly tiring reading, even though it can be worth the trouble when you come across a group called Big Balls And The Great Idiot, for example.
As a reference work it's invaluable, even though there are a good crop of inevitable mistakes, omissions and errors. Also, the cut-off date of "early 1983" seems to vary from group to group — some '83 LPs get in, others don't.
You might even get a surprise when you find out what you've played on.
Review by Tony Bacon
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