Saturday, September 4, 2010

Paul Du Noyer's "In The City: A Celebration of London Music"

In the City: A Celebration of London MusicIn the City: A Celebration of London Music by Paul Du Noyer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The title says it all! Remarkable history of London music from the 15th Century through Gilbert and Sullivan to Noel Coward to ....Blur and beyond. Paul Du Noyer was (or still is?) a writer for MOJO, and his book comes off as a good magazine read. Which to anyone sounds "oh oh" but in this case it is a total delight. Mojo has been a consistent well-written journal on music for the past ten years or so - and the writers who work or edit for that magazine are very talented.

Paul Du Noyer takes a difficult and long subject and makes it bite-like segments to tell a narrative what makes London based music so unique. Also the importance of street musicians through out its history is a plus for that culture as well as strange enough the World War 2 era - during and the post-war period as well.

Noel Coward documented the (gay) aesthetic from the 1920's Pretty Things to the support of British morale during the blitz - and is a remarkable pop artist. Also being London, the subject matter of class plays it big in London pop music. Anthony Newley was one of the first Cockney pop singers who convey the depths of songwriting craft as a writer and as a performer. Bowie was influenced by Newley as well as by Syd Barrett with respect that both writers expressed themselves via using their British accents and writing about subjects close to home. A lot of pop was an imitation of American singers at the time. But Newley in the 60's pushed a rather strong British sound to his mainstream pop.

Also another figure of interest is Lionel Bart, who wrote the musical "Oliver" and Tommy Steele's first rock 'n roll record "Rock With The Caveman." Jewish, gay and a bridge between the West side musical and the world of London rock. There are so many fascinating figures in this book: Andrew Loog Oldham, Simon Napier-Bell, Brian Epstein, Vince Taylor, and plenty of obscure artists from the 20's and the 19th Century.

So yeah, this is a really amazing book and its fascinating way of looking at London via the pop song of the last four or five centuries.

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