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Live At the Brixton Academy: A riotous life in the music business [Paperback]

Simon Parkes , JS Rafaeli
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
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Book Description

23 Jan 2014

In 1982, aged twenty-three, Simon Parkes paid £1 for a virtually derelict building in Brixton. Over the next fifteen years he turned it into Britain's most iconic music venue. And now he's telling his story: full of fond - and wild - reminiscences of the famous musicians who played at the venue, including Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, Lou Reed, The Ramones, New Order, the Beastie Boys and The Smiths.

This is about one man's burning desire for success against the odds, his passion for live music and the excitement of those wilderness years, a far cry from the corporate world that controls the scene today. From rock-star debauchery and mixing it up with Brixton gangsters to putting on the first legal raves in the UK and countless backroom business deals, this is the story of how to succeed in business with no experience and fulfil your teenage fantasies.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Serpent's Tail (23 Jan 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846689554
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846689550
  • Product Dimensions: 23.2 x 15 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 45,476 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


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.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BRING IT BACK... OR FIND A NEW WAY 29 Jan 2014
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chloe 30 Jan 2014
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An awesome read! 24 Jan 2014
By Zambros
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For anyone who loves real music 21 May 2014
By GavC900
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a great book. Highly readable. Honest, gritty and funny. Simon Parkes takes his rightful place in my personal 'music heroes' list. Buy it now.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant read! 4 Feb 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Fascinating insight into the world of Brixton Academy and the colourful incidents that occurred within its walls. A must read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars anyone who loves music will love this book 2 Feb 2014
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put this book down 31 Jan 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a great page turner about a bygone era before concerts were sanitised, a time when Simon Parkes and a small handfull of others were pushing the envelope and creating great musical experiences. Simon should be very proud of the legacy he has left in Brixton and reading this book it is a miracle he lived to tell the story.. But what a story ...
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars an amazing and interesting insight in to the world I grew up in
Really enjoyed this book and the behind the scene view of the amazing Brixton Academy. what a fascinating life in the rock and roll life
Published 3 days ago by Vykke
5.0 out of 5 stars It was brilliant. That venue means so much to me over ...
It was brilliant. That venue means so much to me over the years from grunge to metal gigs to raves to the pogues at christmas time. Read more
Published 6 days ago by Nathan Pierce
5.0 out of 5 stars Great piece of music history
During a book jam in Brixton I was entirely captivated by the reading that Simon Parkes gave of his book.
Extremely interesting, well written and enjoyable. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Eleonora Cristo
5.0 out of 5 stars A riotous read!
This has to be one of the most enthralling reads about the live music industry ever. "Mr Nice" really gives the reader an insightful and exhilarating ride through the time he ran... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Mr. N. J. Jacques
5.0 out of 5 stars Really interesting
I loved this - he writes of his incredible success in a very natural way that is hugely entertaining that totally captures an era in music. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Mabbers
5.0 out of 5 stars Wild
I have read many rock n roll autobiographies (Motley Crew,The Dirt, Slash, RHCP Scar Tissue, Scott Weiland etc etc) In many ways this is wilder and more exciting. Read more
Published 1 month ago by J. Leggett
5.0 out of 5 stars ATTITUDE, BALLS AND LUCK
Excellent read, no hard luck stories here! Simon Parkes is an inspiration, great stories about the music scene but this should be taken as a live life as you want book, if you... Read more
Published 2 months ago by mike mackenzie
5.0 out of 5 stars With Your hands on Your head...or on the trigger of your gun
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. Read more
Published 2 months ago by T. Satchwell
5.0 out of 5 stars great read
I really enjoyed this. An honest behind-the-scenes look at one of the most iconic UK music venues in modern times and the story of the man who built it from nothing. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Johnny Boy
5.0 out of 5 stars well done simon a great read hope it turns into a pension for you.
Brilliant book so reminded me of what Simon did at Brixton. Some bits missed out not doubt to protect the innocent.
Published 2 months ago by big boy
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