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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The People's Songs
This wonderful book covers seven decades of music, looking at songs that have tracked the changing times of the country. It is a people's history of modern Britain, told through shared musical memories and each chapter has an emblematic record. Of course, this book accompanies the radio series by Stuart Maconie, and, if you enjoyed that, then you will certainly like...
Published 15 months ago by S Riaz

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining but not as good as the radio series
Pop music is, ultimately, far more important than the orthodox canon of classic albums and iconic artists that appear in weighty lists and turgid books. Which is why I like the idea of The People's Music so much. It operates from exactly this point of view, and picks fifty pop songs from the last sixty years that encapsulate a period in time or summarise a cultural shift...
Published 9 months ago by Mark Vardy


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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The People's Songs, 22 Jun 2013
By 
S Riaz "S Riaz" (England) - See all my reviews
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This wonderful book covers seven decades of music, looking at songs that have tracked the changing times of the country. It is a people's history of modern Britain, told through shared musical memories and each chapter has an emblematic record. Of course, this book accompanies the radio series by Stuart Maconie, and, if you enjoyed that, then you will certainly like this too. It is not only a musical history of the country, but also a social history, encompassing many different aspects of our shared memories as a nation.

The book begins with "We'll meet again" and ends with hip-hop. In between, many different musical styles are represented, including skiffle, rock and roll, progressive rock, heavy metal, folk music, disco, Britpop and punk. Some songs are truly universally known, such as "She Loves You" by the Beatles - an euphoric beginning to the Sixties. Others are of importance for other reasons - "Move it" by Cliff Richard, which kicked off British rock or "Rock Island Line" by Lonnie Donegan, which started the skiffle boom and caused so many great future artists to form groups all over the country. Other songs are truly of their time, and not remembered widely now, unless you were actually around at the moment - for example, Dickie Valentine's "In a Golden Coach", which was hugely popular during the Coronation in 1953.

This is a fascinating account of the times and encompasses diverse events, such as package holidays, education, the home and family life, Thatcherism, Band Aid, talent shows and music festivals. It charts not only the history of the country, but that of our music; looking at the first singles chart, radio, those whose influence lasted and musical trends. From Joe Meek, the Beatles, Bowie, the Bay City Rollers, boy groups to pop divas, musicals and novelty records, all are covered in this celebration of our musical tastes. Stuart Maconie writes with humour and intelligence and this is a great read for music lovers.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Just like a great song, 15 Aug 2013
By 
Mark Rupert Webster (London) - See all my reviews
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Stuart Maconie has done a great job of doing what a clever pop song does: capture something pithily, astutely and wittily, without being too pompous or overbearing, yet without compromising on opinion and passion, and with an occasionally brilliant turn of phrase. This is to music what Andrew Marr's History of Britain Since 1945 was to modern British history; easy to enjoy, of course open to criticism from those who like to see everything as much more complex than the general public can cope with, but (to use a very British phrase), really rather good.

Yes, there will be some who feel that he should have focussed on the miners strike more, or that x or y's significance is underplayed and z's overstated, or that some of the links between song and topic are a bit questionable (though nothing like as tenuous as some of the generalisations and interpretations occasionally made by some of the more serious music journalists out there).

If you are the kind of person rarely if ever buys one but would be very happy to find a discarded copy of Q or Mojo magazine in the seat pocket on a long flight, then you will probably love it. If you are the kind of person who has subscribed to the NME for more than 5 years and have used the word 'important' when talking about pop music in the last three months, then you probably won't.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A lovely book, 17 Dec 2013
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The People's Songs is typically Maconie; warm,funny,moving,insightful No-one writes so well about this quirky country of ours and the music we love and which touches all our lives in some way, even though we don't always know it at the time.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining but not as good as the radio series, 16 Dec 2013
By 
Mark Vardy - See all my reviews
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Pop music is, ultimately, far more important than the orthodox canon of classic albums and iconic artists that appear in weighty lists and turgid books. Which is why I like the idea of The People's Music so much. It operates from exactly this point of view, and picks fifty pop songs from the last sixty years that encapsulate a period in time or summarise a cultural shift. Maconie's introduction articulates much better than I can why pop history is social history, so central is it to so many people.

The radio series - sorry, landmark Radio 2 series (it says here) - is essential listening for any fan of pop. The book, introduction aside, is a little lacklustre by comparison. It consists of the scripts for each programme - as entertaining as you'd expect from Maconie - but, without the interviews that are the programme's raison d'etre (it bills itself as an "aural history", after all), each individual piece seems too short and somewhat disjointed. And of course the book can't include any music at all.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read, 20 July 2013
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I really enjoyed this as a trip though recent social History. My only grumble which is what stopped it bring five stars is he abrupt ending. I know why it was done but it was still frustrating.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Britain's musical heritage in 50 songs, 19 Jun 2014
By 
John Burton "Gaz" (Newcastle upon Tyne) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The People's Songs: The Story of Modern Britain in 50 Records (Paperback)
Once again , Maconie demonstrates his wide ranging knowledge of all things musical and for anyone who has been buying 'records' over the last few decades this is an essential read. Whether your tastes are eclectic or more specific, it is difficult not to be totally involved as he chooses 50 songs reflecting Britain's history. Part of the pleasure is of course nostalgic but for younger readers who have never experienced the excitement and sheer joy of listening to a new release at their local record store, they will probably learn more about modern Britain and its musical history than anything they may learn at school.
You may not agree with some of the choices but that only enhances the read and its difficult not to start composing your own list (mine would include 'Are You Sure ', 'What Do You Want', 'Blue Moods', 'Sebastian')
Not everyone will be familiar with every song but don't let that put you off-I'm sure there will be CD eventually!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The People's Choice, 3 Jun 2014
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Yet again, Stuart Maconie makes great writing look deceptively simple. It does exactly what it says on the tin (cover).
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4.0 out of 5 stars but the author weaves this seemingly light pop into wider concerns like the Windrush immigrants, 7 Aug 2014
By 
The title of this book is very slightly misleading. Whilst it does indeed pick out 50 (or rather 49) songs to illustrate the changing nature of Britain, it does so in a way that brings in other songs into the discussion, so as the reader might discover other tracks to look up.
Some of the choices are almost self-selecting, for example, The Specials' "Ghost Town" to illustrate the unrest in the early 1980s. Others are not so. I would not have chosen "My Boy Lollypop" as a particularly pivotal recording, but the author weaves this seemingly light pop into wider concerns like the Windrush immigrants, the formation of Island records, and the role of West Indian immigrants in British life in general.
This is more than just a music book, and if you have any interest in the popular social history of Britain, I can recommend it wholeheartedly.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Such a good book!, 17 Jun 2013
Stuart Maconie writes so beautifully (unlike me) - the book is very funny and full of interesting and thought provoking facts linking music to our lives in Britain over the past 50 years. Everyone with an interest in modern music and our social history should buy this.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A breezy social history of pop music, 28 Aug 2014
By 
Paul (Newcastle upon Tyne, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The People's Songs: The Story of Modern Britain in 50 Records (Paperback)
An informative and humorous breeze through recent British history via 50 (or 49) records - a kind of social history of pop music. Stuart Maconie has a charmingly chatty writing voice, and this is another easy and entertaining read. It's probably best seen as a companion to the Radio 2 series rather than a standalone work, as you'll want to listen to the tracks as you read about them. (My solution was to cue them up on Spotify as I read.)
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The People's Songs: The Story of Modern Britain in 50 Records
The People's Songs: The Story of Modern Britain in 50 Records by Stuart Maconie (Paperback - 27 Mar 2014)
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