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" (20040525)
"'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