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Black Vinyl White Powder [Paperback]

Simon Napier-Bell
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
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Book Description

3 Jan 2007

The most authoritative, intelligent, diligently researched and unpretentious analysis of the British pop scene yet written' Sunday Telegraph

Black Vinyl White Powder charts the amazing fifty year history of the British music business in unparalleled scale and detail. As a key player across the decades, Napier-Bell - who discovered Marc Bolan and managed amongst others The Yardbirds and Wham! - uses his wealth of contacts and extraordinary personal experiences to tell the story of an industry that is like no other. Where bad behaviour is not only tolerated but encouraged, where drugs are sometimes as important as talent, where artists are pushed to their physical and mental limits in the name of profit and ego.

'The Greatest Ever Book Written about English Pop-Breathtakingly Brilliant' Julie Burchill

'The cold print equivalent of a sparkling evening with a world-class raconteur.' Charles Shaar Murray, Independent

Bitchy, glib, fun and shrewd' Daily Telegraph

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Product details

  • Paperback: 95 pages
  • Publisher: Ebury Press; New Reduced Edition edition (3 Jan 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0091880920
  • ISBN-13: 978-0091880927
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 109,533 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

The lowly third position of musical pursuits in the familiar cry of "sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll" suggests what Simon Napier-Bell's book Black Vinyl White Powder makes all too clear: from it's mid-1950s beginnings: pop music has always been intrinsically linked not only with sex, but with all manner of illegal substances. Indeed, it is an often-repeated fact that success in the music business will frequently be accompanied by more than mere musical activity. "Drugs are sometimes as important as talent," explains Napier-Bell in this entertaining and often compelling read, and it is from this angle that he presents his gripping 50-year history of pop.

The author's previous memoir, the often-hilarious You Don't Have to Say You Love Me, detailed his career in the pop industry from his esteemed position as joint-roller for the Johnny Dankworth Orchestra to his later role as manager of huge acts such as Japan and Wham! With such a career behind him, his range of contacts and experiences result in an often breathtaking sprint through the history of pop, incorporating major icons such as Elvis and the Beatles to leading figures from numerous late 90s dance movements. In Black Vinyl he diligently notes the particular pharmaceuticals used in order to satisfy the creative and, more often, hedonistic needs of the artists in question. Fascinating anecdotes abound, from the amusing, (such as the report of keyboard player Graham Bond's frequently heard airport custom's cry, "If you want the drugs I've got them up my arse"), to the tragic, (as figures from Syd Barrett to Kurt Cobain fall by the wayside, their drug habits supported, if not actively encouraged by an industry where such behaviour is the norm).

If a fault can be aimed at this mostly enjoyable read, it is that Napier-Bell's insistence on maintaining the link between drug-taking and the music it frequently accompanies often results in a sensationalist tabloid feel which steers him away from the more revealing anecdotal style that proved so enjoyable in his earlier book. However, his droll approach is always entertaining and Black Vinyl White Powder is recommended to anyone interested in an industry where, according to one interviewee, half of those involved are left with "scrambled eggs for brains". --Steve Price --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"'Breathtakingly brilliant' - Julie Burchill"

"'The definitive history of British pop" (Observer Music Monthly)

""one of the most fascinating, revealing and enjoyable journeys through 50 years of the UK record business"" (Music Week)

"`Here you get a great autobiography of a very experienced man (he famously managed Wham!), who describes in great detail the advent of the pop industry and, of course, all the pitfalls that have become associated with it." (Mousse T, singer Sunday Times)

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the great music books 9 Feb 2002
Fabulous book. I picked it up in the library but will certainly buy a couple of copies to give as presents. It's full up with mad little anecdotes from start to finish. An original page-turner which seems to cover every event, trend and star in the history of British pop music - and to connect each of them with their own drug. It all makes sense when you read it anyway. The constant reminders of the gay influence over the British pop industry of the last 50 years is quite hilarious at times, and Simon Napier Bell's own memories are full of wit and no regret. Recommended completely.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
I enjoyed every word of this wonderful account of the British music business. I was born in 1960 and found that this was a reminder of the soundtrack of my life, from Dusty Springfield, through the days of Marc Bolan and Ziggy Stardust to the greed of the eighties.
The way in which Napier-Bell links the sounds of each era with the most popular drug could have been a bit of a cheap gimmick, but it works beautifully and is never less than totally convincing.
Anyone who's interested in popular music should read it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read between the white lines 17 April 2001
By A Customer
This is the most readable and thought-provoking history of the music business that I've read. Although you might be forgiven for thinking that gay sex was just as influential as drugs, the book is a shrewd and honest insight into a business which has had a major influence on youth, and now adult, culture for the past 50 years. It may have taken 3 years to write - and if drugs is so influential then it's hardly surprising - but Black Vinvyl White powder was well worth waiting for.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars When more is not enough... 26 Nov 2004
This book comes loaded with great raves on the cover by many well known writers and critics on UK pop music - why, is easy to see in that the book tells more of the truth by a longtime insider in a manner that none of those writers have ever approached.
Napier- Bell has a simple thesis which is that UK pop owes it all to drugs and gay culture from the 1950s to date and certainly tells enough scurrilous but amusing anecdotes to support the proposition. His own predelictions (being gay but not into drugs) allow a writing style that seems to match Kenneth Anger and Hunter Thompson in sparing no blushes but also making telling points that this was sadly how it all was.
The most incisive aspects of the book and that justify it being a great read are on the wheeling and dealing by artiste's managers and the record companies and the tricks played along the way to maintain their control, with "rip off" being the only term applicable. With his own involvment with the Yardbirds and Wham being honestly told, the story has a level of depth and range that is rare in other pop books and avoids the researcher/avid fan tomes that litter this area of writing.
An excellent airplane or beach read - gripping but enjoyable.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sex, drugs and rock and roll 13 Mar 2001
I've managed to read a preview of this book, and if you at all interested in the history of British music, and the influence drugs has had in this fickle industry over the years then this well written, easy to read book is for you. Really enjoyable. Note: Fans of Japan and Wham / George Michael will particulary like it!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars EXCELLENT READ FOR THE CONVERTED 23 Feb 2009
I sort of felt ripped off when I first read this book as it was not what was promised on the cover. Then I read the author's book about Wham! which was fantastic (sic)! I woke up to his raconteur style and went back to 'Black Vinyl', and appreciated it much more. Napier Bell has been at the centre of several major developments in the music industry so why not run it as a sort of memoir? It's certainly less self-indulgent that Walter Yetnikoff's book. There seem to be a few errors-- Billy Currie RE-formed Ultravox with Midge Ure for the 'Vienna' album, and Band Aid's song was called 'Do They Know It's Christmas?', not 'Feed The World'. And I thought Asia formed in the early Eighties, not the Seventies. But this is all relatively innocuous, given the wealth of information in the book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Unrivalled 13 May 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Fascinating, frank, funny, knowledgeable, full of insight, well constructed and thoughtful. I liked this very much and would recommend it highly.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Powder Burn 7 May 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
An entertaining and interesting book.Napier -Bell tells a good story. The personalities,the stars.the drugs that fuel the music business are all here.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Just Superb even Years Later. . .
This is not a cheesy book whatsoever. It is absolutely accurate about what really goes on. Just look at the banks ! It is one of the few books that I really didn't want to finish. Read more
Published 19 months ago by kidk
5.0 out of 5 stars If you're interested in the history of British music, buy this book
I don't usually review the items I buy on here. I thought I must on this occasion however, because I think some of the reviews of this excellent book are a bit unfair. Read more
Published on 18 Nov 2010 by Scott W
5.0 out of 5 stars Very entertaining
A fun look at the British music scene, linking various types of music to the drugs that were taken at the time, and the influence of gay culture. Read more
Published on 1 Sep 2010 by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars couldnt put it down
a fascinating insight into the world of pop music warts & all you will but you wont be amazed at what goes on within the music industry LOVED IT
Published on 22 Aug 2010 by R. Wilkes Ta Records
4.0 out of 5 stars Read it!!
A brilliantly insightful and anecdotal account of the development of the British Music Industry and its artists from the 50's through to the 90's.
Published on 21 Oct 2009 by J. Viney
2.0 out of 5 stars Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear
A corny and cheesy title for a corny and cheesy book. The endorsement by Julie Burchill on the front cover should have put me off. Read more
Published on 15 April 2008 by Dudley Trishell
2.0 out of 5 stars "Black Vinyl..Or is it Simon Napier Bell's autobiography?!."
Embossed with biased journalist quotes on both front, back and inlay, "Black Vinyl-White Powder" is most certainly not "The greatest book written about pop... Read more
Published on 1 Jan 2005 by "schlamiel"
5.0 out of 5 stars A Terrific Snort
Callow has a point he wants to get across in this history of British rock and pop: none of it would have happened without drugs. Read more
Published on 30 May 2002 by Jim 8888
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