A non-fiction pick today, just to make a change…
I was very much buying pop music through a lot of this era, so it was fascinating to read the story behind the music, as told by (most of) the people who were there. The majority of this book takes the form of quotes from the people involved – with comments and context from the author inserted where necessary. Michael Cragg is a music writer, who works (or has worked) for a lot of major UK publications – so if he hasn’t interviewed the people specifically for this book, he has interviews that he’s done with them in the past that he can draw on. So you have four of the five Spice Girls (you can guess which one isn’t in this) and members from pretty much every band that is mentioned.
As someone who was a young person at the time that a lot of this was happening, I found it really interesting to read about what was going on behind the scenes and the press coverage and see how that affected my perception of the various bands and band members involved. And of course the other thing that’s really fascinating is how the spotlight of fame affected the people in the bands. Many of them were very young when they joined the bands – and you get to see an array of different ways that fame – or being in a band can mess your life up. But in the early stages of this period, a lot of it was going on behind closed doors – as the book hurtles towards the mid 00s, you see the arrival of TV talent shows and people learning how to be in a band whilst on camera and making their mistakes in public.
As you may remember – I went to an event for this book where Michael Cragg interviewed Nicola Roberts from Girls Aloud – and it was absolutely fascinating (and sort of horrifying) to hear her talking about her own experiences, now she has the benefit of distance (and I suspect some counselling/therapy) to analyse what was going on and how it affected her. She also talked about how the era of the adverts in the stage, open auditions and TV talent shows provided a gateway for people without connections in the industry to get their big breaks – even if they didn’t have the advice and support that they needed to navigate the world that they found themselves in – and that the pendulum has now swung the other way and that music is the poorer for it.
This is really good – but it’s a big old book – so it took me a while to read just because you can’t heft a 500 page hardback around with you. It is however broken up into nice chapters so you can pick it up and put it down as you need to. But if you have an e-reader, it might be worth considering buying it on that for ease of reading! It is available on Kindle and Kobo although the prices reflect the fact that it’s currently a hardback release – the paperback is due out in October, in time for Christmas.