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Live At the Brixton Academy: A riotous life in the music business Kindle Edition

4.8 out of 5 stars 79 customer reviews

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Length: 433 pages Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled

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Review

The king of gigs (Sunday Times)

Brixton was always the one. It was so authentic as a venue, it's when things became 'real'. A proper old Victorian beer hall of a place with a century's sweat and ale steeped into the woodwork and plaster, and the faded glamour of that mighty proscenium arch. The first time I stood on that stage was in the Libertines supporting Morrissey. All my life I'd wanted to be an actor playing to an adoring theatre crowd, and here I was in front of a sea of stony faces with beer cans bouncing off my head. (Carl Barat)

Brixton Academy has always been a special venue to me. From the age of 15 I saw countless shows there, from Blur to Foo Fighters. London is a city of countless music venues but in my eyes playing Brixton was the true sign of a successful band. I've been fortunate enough to play there a number of times now, firstly as part of the NME Awards tour but subsequently as the headline act - and the feeling of prestige never gets old (Russell Lissack, Bloc Party)

For me, the Brixton Academy has something of a mythical status. As a young teenage boy in south east London I'd always see the listings in the NME or Melody Maker, listings for bands that I desperately wanted to see, but at the time was too young. I remember a school friend claiming that he "knew a back way in" and perhaps we should chance it for the Food Records Christmas Party - playing host to Jesus Jones, and at the time a lesser known Blur. That prospect of this 'back way in' stayed with me until a few years later, when at the height of their powers, the Lemonheads' Evan Dando treated those of us who'd hung around the side alley to an impromptu acoustic set of covers and requests as he straddled the dressing room windowsill.

The thing that I always remembered was that it felt like outside inside. If they'd have painted stars on the ceiling I would have believed it was so. Those turrets and balconies... It seemed vast. Playing there with Hot Chip, our front of house engineer pointed out the 'sweet spot' where you could clap your hands and hear a never ending echo as the sound bounced from floor to ceiling to floor and back, proving there was indeed a roof, but to me it sounded like a flock of birds. From the stage, the width of the audience is what first surprised me, twice as wide as it is deep, and on a full house you can still see every face.

(Rob Smoughton, Grosvenor/Hot Chip)

Book Description

Sometimes you have to take a chance, and Simon Parkes is nothing if not a risk-taker. The riotous life-story of a music impresario and how he turned a near-derelict hall into a legendary stage.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 6875 KB
  • Print Length: 433 pages
  • Publisher: Serpent's Tail (23 Jan. 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00IOLFGSS
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars 79 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #16,923 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I literally couldn't put this book down - it robbed me of my sleep just as the Academy (did) and therefore any book on the Academy should!

It is such an integral venue to the London music scene and discovering just how it became so is both eye-opening and inspiring.

The music biz aint the same no more - it sure as hell would be better if it was - but it's good to know that that reality really ain't far behind us.

It's up to us now...

I recommend this to anyone interested in any of the music of the last 30 years.
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Format: Paperback
This book is packed with great stories! A very fun and engaging read, that will give you an insight into the story behind one of the world's greatest ever venues and the people that occupied the stage and the backstage... Highly recommended!
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Format: Paperback
Just shows what you can do if you have the balls! Simon you are an inspiration to us all. Great read couldnt put it down
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Format: Paperback
I received this book as a Xmas gift and read it in two sittings. It is a thoroughly enjoyable gallop through the history of the iconic (and my favourite) London venue.

Simon Parkes, a Gordonstoun-educated son of a Northern fishing magnate, fell in love with the venue’s “dilapidated elegance of that art deco”. He tells how he bought the old “Brixton Astoria’s” lease from a top brewer company for merely a quid (in return for a deal on Watneys beer concessions) and hired a bunch of South London roughnecks to clean up the place and provide the necessary “security”. The book is a trove of lively stories about how he then built up the “Academy” brand, first through Jamaican reggae gigs and post punk New Wave and, later on, rap, dance/rave and Britpop. Throughout the 80s he contended with drug pushers, Brixton gangsters, Jamaican “Yardies”, and the cut-throat world of live music promotion in London.

There is some interesting history about the old theatre at the start of the book. When it was built in 1929 the original theme of the Astoria was “the Mediterranean Night”. The proscenium arch was modelled after the Rialto bridge in Venice and the ceiling in the auditorium was decorated with twinkling stars to give the audience the impression of sitting under the Venetian night sky. As Parkes says “a bit of Venice in South London, who’d ever have thought it?

And, of course, Parkes’ friendships with legends across the whole spectrum of pop, rock and dance music propel the narrative and keep you riveted. The names will be familiar to those who have stood over the years on that sloping floor: The Clash, The Cult, The Pogues, The Pixies, Run DMC, Motorhead, The Smiths, Primal Scream, The Happy Mondays and so on.
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Format: Paperback
not in the habit of reading non fiction but this book is an exception. workload growing as i find myself distracted (just another chapter then i'll put it down) by this brilliant account of the wierd and wonderful world backstage at the academy. got to be a film. too sound and visual for just a book. but a comedy? musical? love story? gangland thriller? the least it deserves is 'three weddings and a funeral goes urban' with balls on. anyway read this book its brilliant. unless of course you dont like music?!
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Format: Paperback
This was a great read. Well written for an easy read.
Amazing when you read all about the "business" that goes on behind the running of a venue. I remember going to The Cult gig at The academy and thinking....will it be safe as at the time the area did have a certain reputation. It was a great gig and no hassles.
Some scary stories, and you really don't think about all of this when you go to a gig.....you just want to get there..enjoy it and get home without having to get the night bus!
It is amazing how the venue (SP and gang) built it up from a leaky wreck to hosting Rock Royalty.
Interesting to hear Simon P's comments about the many cccchhhh anges over the years.....indie shows then the authorised raves and club nights..then up to big rock shows (and pre band tour rehearsals and video shoots) Then the slump due to the manufactured bands and their c=**ppy videos taking the live market away.
But what goes around comes around...and the reformed bands doing "albums" performances has brought the live scene back(even if it is as extraordinary prices!!!)

If you like going to gigs ...and as another reviewer said it's well worth a read!!!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Like thousands of others, I've been lucky enough to visit Brixton Academy on a number of occasions to witness amazing gigs (The Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers immediately spring to mind) but I was never aware of the story behind the venue. Parkes eloquently lays out the meandering path he took in great detail, from his early child right up to selling the venue when it was at its peak. The book is littered with feel good, and often nerve-wracking, accounts of how Parkes and his team over came adversity in it's many forms (both legal and illegal), as well as numerous stories about the world class rock, hip hop, metal, dance, reggae and even pop acts that passed though the doors during his tenure.

Parkes is openly honest about it all, without ever really breaking rank by fully lifting the lid on what undoubtedly went on behind the Academy's closed doors. I suppose this is my only slight gripe in that, aside from the opening gambit about the Manchester promoter, there's very little detail or even tales of the sex, drugs and debauchery that he occasionally alludes to. I'm sure there's at least another book in him if he ever wanted to divulge the full story, although his (and their) lawyers would probably have the final say on that!

Parkes predominantly comes at this from a logistical perspective and, as a avid gig goer and music fan, it was fascinating to find out first hand what went on behind the scenes to make the many hundreds of gigs and raves a reality. Very enjoyable from start to finish!
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