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Totally Wired: Postpunk Interviews and Overviews [Paperback]

Simon Reynolds
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

5 Feb 2009

Totally Wired features 32 interviews with the post-punk era's most innovative musicians and colourful personalities. From Ari Up, Jah Wobble, David Byrne, Edwyn Collins, it also includes conversations with the most influential of label bosses, managers, record producers, DJs and journalists - such as John Peel and Paul Morley. Crackling with argument and anecdote, these conversations bring a rich human dimension post-punk's exceptional characters, from their earliest days to their glorious and sometimes disastrous musical adventures. Along with interviews, we get 'overviews': further reflections by Simon Reynolds on key icons and crucial scenes, including John Lydon and Public Image Ltd, Ian Curtis and Joy Division, and the lineage of glam grotesquerie running from Siouxsie & The Banshees to the New Romantics to Leigh Bowery.

Product details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (5 Feb 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571235492
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571235490
  • Product Dimensions: 23.2 x 15.2 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 84,813 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Book Description

From the author of the bestselling post-punk history Rip It Up and Start Again comes a formidable companion book of conversations.

About the Author

Simon Reynolds is the author of Energy Flash: A Journey through Rave Music and Dance Culture, Blissed Out: The Raptures of Rock, The Sex Revolts: Gender, Rebellions and Rock and Roll (co-written with Joy Press), Rip it Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978 - 1984 and, most recently, Bring the Noise: Twenty Years of Hip Hop and Hip Rock.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars essential companion to Rip It Up And Start Again 20 Mar 2010
By freewheeling frankie TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
If you're remotely interested in the post-punk era of the late 70s/early 80s this book of interviews by Simon Reynolds of important (though in a few cases quite obscure) figures from the era is absolutely fascinating.

Rip it Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984 presented Reynolds's history of the - I hesitate to say genre of such a disparate bunch of music, maybe attitude is a better word because post-punk was more about being forward-looking than sticking to a particular musical formula. It's inevitably shone through the prism of his own tastes and interests to some degree; I didn't personally have a problem with that and he is quite even-handed for the most part.

But in the process of writing it, he inevitably interviewed numerous musicians and others involved at the time and this book reproduces those and other relevant interviews, edited for relevance and clarity more than length, letting the artists speak for themselves. And most of them are absolutely fascinating if you're interested in post-punk. Apart from the interviews, there are a few essays by Reynolds, and lastly he ... interviews himself, mostly on the subject of why and how he came to write Rip It Up... This may sound as if he's slightly up himself, but as rock writers of the era go, he's refreshingly free of hubris and unfashionably interested in letting the music he loves speak for itself.

An all round excellent read.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition
Found this remaindered for a couple of quid and (despite having enjoyed 'Rip It Up...') expected to find it no more than a fleeting diversion. Actually, ended up reading to cover to cover... often finding the most interest in the least familiar names. Clearly a slightly cynical cash-in, then... but still an illuminating collection of interviews for those with a taste for the faintly left-field.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rip It Up 15 Jan 2011
Interesting interviews with interesting people. While Rip It Up is essential, I wouldn't say this is as it's just some interviews that goes a bit more in-depth with some of the subjects of Rip It Up, but it is definitely a pleasant read if you're interested in the era, or any of the personalities within.

I also enjoyed Reynolds' 'afterword', the interview with himself. If it's something I can understand that people are annoyed with (I'm not), it's his sort-of fanboy approach in Rip It Up. Here he openly admits that that was the point, as he feels the post-punk era is undermined by punk rock, and strongly deserves celebration. There's also the rallying call that some of the bands and scenes are hardly skimmed over with Rip It Up.

Is Rip It Up still the only decent book on this era? I can't wait for there to be released a book that covers more of what Reynolds' didn't, or for a book about the further evolutions of british rock (indie pop and so on).
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5 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars again and again and again.... 8 July 2009
There is apparently a new hefty work of non-fiction soon to be published by John Paul Middle Reynolds called "More notes..." in which he/she/they have gathered notes that were written on scraps of paper, backs of enveloppes, found in bins, written whilst various music books were written then gahered together in this book with a cut up collage of previous covers, shopping lists and reminders such as- take cat to vet- and some indecipherable phone numbers.
Rather lengthy at 927 pages, including notes about the notes and a bibliography that is 194 pages and some very dark family photos.
But its a must for any true fan of post-punk-rock-hip-glam-electro-jazz-folk-funk.

"Rip it up and start again" was a great piece of work. Do we need this as well? Discuss in no less than 50,00 words
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great follow-through to "Rip" but I wanted even more 26 April 2011
By John L Murphy - Published on
For American consumers of his "Rip It Up and Start Again" post-punk history, this raw material and added fiber's nourishing. A chapter was cut there that appeared in the British edition, so I enjoyed SST's inclusion along with "interviews" (thirty-two singers, players, producers, provocateurs) and "overviews" on Ono-Eno-Arto along with Malcolm McLaren and NYC "concept rock"; John Lydon's autobiography and his stint with PiL; London's glam-club revival, SST Records' "progressive punk;" and two films on Manchester's scene, "24 Hour Party People" + "Control." Reynolds concludes by interviewing himself, expanding and refining his definition in "Rip" of why post-punk matters as "a space of possibility" opened up 1978-84 by the assault of punk, but eclectic and inventive enough for individual voices and very diverse desires.

Tony Wilson of Factory Records early on defines what set punk apart from post-punk. He riffs off of Joy Division-New Order's Bernard Sumner and distinguishes the "F[---] you" of the former movement's music with its anger but its limitations aesthetically and ideologically, with the "I'm f[---]ed" of what followed. I agree with David Thomas of Pere Ubu: rock music represents the culmination of modernist art, and however avant-garde such music as his band created sounded to many, it was mainstream. That is, it spoke to everyday issues and real people, made not by the likes of Mick Jagger singing in his fifties about teenaged girls. Also, such groups as Pere Ubu had ambitions far outstripping those of the manufactured Sex Pistols and their ilk. Thomas insists he wanted to "create something worthy of William Faulkner and Herman Melville," and it's hard to fault him when you read his prickly, intelligent reflections.

I was impressed by the quality of those interviewed, and the in-depth knowledge of their interviewer. I learned a lot from PiL's Jah Wobble and Suicide's Alan Vega, but I also appreciated the thoughts of the late (more than one person included has died not long after) John Peel as elder statesman, and ZTT Records "aesthetician" Paul Morley as much as those who actually made the music that others promoted and played. Groups that for me stayed on the fringe, such as Cabaret Voltaire's Richard H. Kirk, Swell Maps + Jacobites' Nikki Sudden, Josef K's Paul Haig, and the Associates' Alan Rankine, kept my attention due to their articulate accounts of how provincial scenes and local friendships spurred many to follow the lead set down by London and New York. A strength of this anthology is that Sheffield and Glasgow, Bristol and Cardiff, Cleveland and Leeds earn as much if not more attention than the usual metropolitan voices and labels.

As Reynolds comments, the trio of music papers weekly in England mattered, since in the provinces, records were discovered as if hidden treasures imported and hoarded and worn out, and word of mouth carried songs and ideas into the workplace, the classroom, the pub, the tearoom. Before the net, outside of nearly all radio, with hardly any record stores or alternative networks nationwide, the shock of the new and the tension with tradition spread slowly, by conversations, record-playing and Penguin paperbacks. Week by week, within a few months or years, these transformative possibilities percolated into the minds and through the instruments and lyrics of those who were scattered, bored, and desperate for renewal.

The power of these years lingers. Even those whose music I have little or no interest in proved very eloquent and well worth hearing about their own experiences, such as Edwyn Collins of Orange Juice, Phil Oakey of The Human League, Green Gartside of/as (a telling transition as Reynolds shows, from the socialist, squatter Rough Trade collective of late-70s post-punk to the capitalist pop of the ZTT, New Romantic, MTV neon dancefloor) Scritti Politti. Also, juxtaposing, say, two members of Devo, Mancunian Wilson and Liverpudlian Bill Drummond, transplanted New Yorkers David Byrne, James Chance and Lydia Lunch, or The Fall + Blue Orchids' Martin Bramah with Ludus' Linder Sterling and JD + NO's Steven Morris make for great counterpoints that tease out connections and reverberations about how local scenes and bands (r)evolved.

Reading how Oakey looked at increasingly meticulous (and pre-computer, very exacting) production as a leader of his band vs. how his producer Martin Rushent did proves instructive. So many of these individuals were self-taught, crafting their sounds and words in near-isolation, and learning from a few other outliers how their instruments worked, how songs grew, and how DIY could jumpstart a whole new system, for a while, of record distribution, community pride, and heady talent.

My quibble, although I admit I'm a glutton for this genre, is that I wish Reynolds had taken the opportunity to restore the other missing "Rip" material from the British original printing. Goth and industrial music, and especially Howard Devoto & Subway Sect's long-lasting impacts are heard only at a distance by those interviewed. Devoto and Vic Godard merited their own spotlight. Maybe the publisher here's at fault, but given the reactions of disappointed fans stateside (like me) to what we were sold as "Rip," I'd hoped for all the missing material to have been restored in this follow-up.

Also, some of the overviews added, as in the John Lydon review of his "No Blacks, No Irish, No Dogs," sound (as did "Rip" at times) too term-paper-ish, even if Reynolds gets around to some provocative comments on the singer's abandonment of PiL's vision to cash in on "filthy lucre" and the "flogging the dead horse" (my phrases, borrowed not from the book) of Pistols' reunion tours. I wondered, if he added these largely previously published articles to his collection, why he could not have appended the excised material from the "director's cut" (his phrase for some pieces) of "Rip"'s British original.

Even if the second half of the book, the New Romantic-dance stage, interests me far less as music than as movement, Reynolds provides a fine testimony to what he admits is an overlooked generation. Much as I as with anyone interviewed admire the music of their predecessors, this revision and re-examination of previous music and modern trends provides too a welcome antidote to endlessly self-satisfied books on the Sixties, I agree. Those of us who came of age later (he's two years younger than me) deserve our pop culture moment.

(P.S. I've read "Rip It Up" only in its US edition, 200 pages shorter. I suspect that the US "Totally Wired" may also differ slightly from its British predecessor in content. Like those import vs. US Beatles LPs?)
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a great companion to 'Rip It Up and Start Again' 22 Feb 2011
By E. Oslan - Published on
I wasn't a fan of 'Rip It Up and Start Again' because of Simon Reynolds' typically verbose journalistic style of writing as well has his slagging off of John Lydon's post-'Flowers...' versions of PiL and most of Killing Joke's career. Since Reynolds is the only one who has since written about post-punk in depth, his opinion seems to have become the standard. Fortunately he also (sort of) wrote 'Totally Wired', which compiles a number of interviews as well as other articles and overviews. This makes for way more compelling reading. We get fresh interviews from David Byrnes, Lydia Lunch (Teenage Jesus and the Jerks), Jah Wobble (PiL bassist), Martin Brammah (Fall guitarist), Steve Morris (Joy Division drummer), along with Factory records owner Tony Wilson and many more artists of post-punk. Much of the info was already stated in 'Rip It Up...' but it's more interesting to read the direct quotes rather than Reynolds' summary. Especially interesting were ::spoiler alert:: David Byrnes' claim that he wrote the Talking Heads song "The Overload" after reading a Joy Division album review and trying to mimic what he thought the music sounded like.

My only complaint with the book is the second section, which contains Reynolds' articles from other publications. In the reviews for John Lydon's 'Rotten' memoir and PiL's 'Metal Box', he continues to slag the singer, almost as if he has a personal vendetta against him. The later, theoritical articles about Brian Eno and Yoko Ono are similar to the writing style of 'Rip It Up...', that is, verbose and full of journalistic theorizing, rather than straight reporting. Needless to say I rolled my eyes at the statements, "if Yoko Ono was the first proto-punk then Eno was the first proto-post-punk." It's writing like that which annoys musicians and makes them hate journalists so much.

Otherwise, since most of the book consists of interviews, it definitely is compelling reading, even for the musicians who I never heard of such as Ludus.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simon Reynolds, TOTALLY WIRED 20 Jun 2011
By Chad - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you have read the book "Rip it Up and Start Again" by Reynolds, then you might be feeling how I feel. Overwhelmed by the vast amounts of music he talks about in the 6 years between 78-84. Overwhelmed, and excited to have a huge encyclopedia of bands and albums and labels to check out. I read Rip it Up, about 3 years ago, and I am still exploring bands he talked about. So if you are a fiend and cannot stop ingesting music history, as you cannot stop ingesting music into your ears, and you have loved everything you have discovered through Rip It Up, then naturally, you need to get "Totally Wired". It's just more good stuff, full interviews with some of the star characters in Rip It Up. It's more about the artists in the first half of the book, they are interviewed, and Reynolds, being the brilliant critic and journalist that he is, pretty much stays out of the picture in these interviews and lets the artists take it away.

The book is in 2 parts, interviews, and then overviews. I haven't gotten to the overviews, so I dunno what that is like, but really, do we have to ask? I'm sure it';s gonna be great, filled with more knowledge and good music than we will ever be able to listen to in our lifetimes!~
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Reference Book 4 Jun 2013
By Phillip Rogers - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Really interesting interviews with some of the important figures from an interesting point in music history. Punk was great but post-punk is when things really started to get interesting for me.
3.0 out of 5 stars An interesting companion to Rip It Up 21 Mar 2013
By lfoley - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
An interesting, if not quite as crucial, companion to Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984 that is worth buying if you are particularly interested in the genre.
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