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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 13 November 2008
This book purports to be a history of the vinyl LP, its rise, decline and (slight) return, but it is really just another potted history of mainstream popular music from the '60s to the present day. It's a shame, because it starts out so well - the first third of the book tells the story of the development of the vinyl long-player in fascinating and apparently well-researched detail. If the author had kept this up throughout, the book would have been great. Unfortunately, by chapter 6 he seems to have run out of anything to say about the format itself, and reverts instead to a plodding and over-familiar exposition of popular music from the Beatles through psychedelia, prog, punk, post-punk, so on. I'm guessing that the target audience for this book is made up of Mojo-reading anoraks who will know this stuff back to front anyway, so really, what is the point? And the author has a wearying tendency to fall back into glib cliche (for example, "...after the murder of a fan at Altamont in 1969, [the Rolling Stones] retreated into a cocoon of coke and morphine"....Of course! That was what got them started). The story isn't helped by a surprising number of mis-spellings and minor, but annoying, inaccuracies.

Overall, this is a missed opportunity, a good idea poorly executed. So many potentially interesting facets of vinyl culture are not covered at all (as a previous reviewer notes, developments in audio engineering are not even touched on), or mentioned only in passing (the gatefold sleeve, cover art, quadrophonic sound, mysterious pressing plant inscriptions on the runout groove, etc). The eventual decline of the format is given about 2 pages, the recent surge in interest / sales a few sentences. There is a whole book about this fascinating subject still waiting to be written.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 28 January 2010
This book purports to be a history of the vinyl LP, its rise, decline and (slight) return, but it is really just another potted history of mainstream popular music from the '60s to the present day. It's a shame, because it starts out so well - the first third of the book tells the story of the development of the vinyl long-player in fascinating and apparently well-researched detail. If the author had kept this up throughout, the book would have been great. Unfortunately, by chapter 6 he seems to have run out of anything to say about the format itself, and reverts instead to a plodding and over-familiar exposition of popular music from the Beatles through psychedelia, prog, punk, post-punk, so on. I'm guessing that the target audience for this book is made up of Mojo-reading anoraks who will know this stuff back to front anyway, so really, what is the point? And the author has a wearying tendency to fall back into glib cliche (for example, "...after the murder of a fan at Altamont in 1969, [the Rolling Stones] retreated into a cocoon of coke and morphine"....Ah, yes, of course. They'd been clean up till that point... ). The story isn't helped by a surprising number of mis-spellings and minor, but annoying, inaccuracies.

Overall, this is a missed opportunity, a good idea poorly executed. So many potentially interesting facets of vinyl culture are not covered at all (as a previous reviewer notes, developments in audio engineering are not even touched on), or mentioned only in passing (the gatefold sleeve, cover art, quadrophonic sound, mysterious pressing plant inscriptions on the runout groove, etc). The eventual decline of the format is given about 2 pages, the recent surge in interest / sales a few sentences. There is a whole book about this fascinating subject still waiting to be written.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 12 November 2008
More padding than a Police Dog Trainer's trouser crotch!

One might wonder if an account of the Lp record could stretch to 468pages (including pretentious Bibliography and index) an you would be right to do so.

Travis Elborough (frankly looking too young in his publicity shot to have seen the invention of the ipod, let alone the Cd), warbles verbosely through a Thesaurus like knowledge of the English language, sometimes engagingly, hanging every moment of interest since 1948, somehow, (and God knows he tries so hard to) on the Long Playing record.

His knowledge I have to say seems/feels born, not out of a deep interest in Vinyl and all that we record junkies love, but instead a deep sea talent in internet information dredging. He adheres moments and motifs together in a way that reminds me rather generously of someone everyone mistakenly listens intently to at a party, believing them to be interesting, thoughtful and knowledgeable.

His writing appears to me as a cut and paste job, with cracks lightly dusted over with a frosting of probably public schoolboy over confidence. I could not shake this over-riding feeling that he's spent many hours looking at other people's amassed knowledge, displayed for all on t'internet. Then appropriating it, rather than actually listening to an Lp or two, he witters on incessantly. The writing just feels that way to me. The line he often seems to trace throughout the book seems at times nothing more than an Oxfam bargain bin collectors vision of Lp records, and touches very poorly indeed on the excesses of the collecting art, or the depths of the Lps developmental history. His knowledge of areas I take particular interest in seemed like a thin veneer potholed with forgetfulness, either that or he just didn't know what he was talking about!.

So in summation I feel like he's looked at stuff about the Lp online, and gone to his local charity shop, had a look through the records there and then padded a book out thinly based on these two gargantuan efforts or `research'. Yet he makes the book look like he's spent the last 10 years researching it, with pretentious footnotes (that mean nothing at all) and a Bibliography/Index, etc.

I was so looking forward to this book, ahh well, back to the turntable I've got records to play.
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on 30 September 2012
If you were to judge this history of the LP - that is slightly misleadingly subtitled as The Album from Vinyl to iPod and Back Again - solely by looking at its 50 pages of source references, bibliography, and index, you might be expecting a solemn, academic review of its subject matter. However, you would be wrong. The wonderfully named Travis Elborough (a "life-long fan" of vinyl, apparently) has written a book which seeks to combine some ironically written social history with some rose-tinted reminiscences, in a similar fashion to The Bus We Loved, his nostalgic appreciation of London's Routemaster.

The first half of this 21st century evocation of this 20th century creation deals with the genesis of the long-player in solid, if unspectacular style. Subjects covered include: the format war between Columbia Records, who launched the 12in, 33 1/3 rpm disc, and RCA , who responded with the seven-inch, 45rpm single; the eventual consignment of another choice - the shellac 78 - to the dustbin of history; how Frank Sinatra's cleverly packaged Capitol albums with Nelson Riddle (Only the Lonely, Songs for Swinging Lovers) cemented his position as America's most popular singer; why the LP was a particularly good vehicle for the kind of comedy that would not normally be available on radio and television; how insane amounts of easy listening music, such as composer Vivaldi's Four Seasons, the soundtrack to South Pacific, and works of Mantovani were shifted in the 1950s and 1960s, and classical music's pivotal role in the shaping of the 60-year history of the long-playing record. All of this well-researched, generally well-written history clearly shows the reader how the long player has always enjoyed a totemic power - as an artistic medium, fetishistic object and cultural icon, as well as how the development of LP was, rather prosaically, really just a series of accidents.

Having established the album as the pre-eminent medium for popular music the second half of The Long-Player Goodbye - a punning reference to Raymond Chandler's detective novel The Long Goodbye - isn't quite so impressive. The challenge of editing a seemingly infinite stream of information about music and the LP since the 1960s into coherent and meaningful chapters is one that he struggles with. As a result Elborough's style and narrative thread start to noticeably fray from about the sixth chapter onwards. You can see that in the way he idly writes when recounting Bob Dylan's history, "oh, do the math, repeat to fade". That follows his less than revelatory chapter on The Beatles which begins with the unappealing phrase "A music journalist friend of mine", and doesn't get much better from there. The book basically stops being an intriguing synthesis of cultural insights and social history, and starts to become a very loosely-edited, dutiful précis of some of the major movements in pop history (prog-rock, glam-rock, punk-rock, and hip-hop). You can see this in the way he becomes rather keener to talk about Ian MacDonald's Revolution in the Head and Jonathan Coe's The Rotters' Club, or Lester Bangs music journalism, than he is to explain in detail in his narrative the significance of the development of a whole series of new formats, like the cassette, the eight-track, and the compact disc, in the winding story of the LP.

The author's weakness for footnotes is also another real failing. He uses them in what he sees as a playful, post-modern way to digress on matters of personal interest and experience. But his tedious and aggressive use of this device to waffle on about tenuous trivia - such as the relative merits of the Oxfam shop in Dalston - show that he might well be suffering from what is known in academic circles as 'foot-and-note disease'. It's a shame that he indulges this penchant for the unnecessary digression and unfunny aside because this self-styled "magpie" can write well - for instance, the physical detail of his description of the "woodlouse dampish" smell of a record sleeve reminds me of so many second-hand record shops. You could also - if you were looking to be pernickety - bemoan the fact that there is little information about the technical aspects of the LP's development to be found here, and potentially interesting facets of vinyl culture, like the gatefold sleeve or cover art, are not covered in depth in the way you would perhaps expect.

The embryonic development of digital culture (MP3s, downloads,and the now ubiquitous iPod) has changed the way most people use the LP. Elborough tells us, via a vivid metaphor, how he dislikes the way listeners are now, more than ever, consuming albums "in the manner of small children nibbling away at sandwiches and leaving the crusts". But he is unable (unwilling?) to struggle with a paradox which emerges: if as we are led to believe the album is about as relevant to modern life as the lute, why was it that in 2005 a gargantuan 44,000 of them were released, as opposed to a mere 5,000 in 1973? These seemingly contradictory movements are only given perfunctory coverage in his unseemly rush to the untidy conclusion of the book. And the continuing reissues of limited vinyl editions and the spectacle of long-defunct rock bands reforming to play their classic album are another awkward reminder of the author's own edict earlier in the book about how those new eras "in the record business never arrive quite so neatly".

Elborough's affectionate but flawed history of the long player is, according to its own author, "an unashamedly rhapsodic, if highly partial, tour of the LP's life and times". That self-deprecating statement gets it just about right.
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on 23 August 2011
Getting heavily into music this summer, I'd lost interest in the novels I'd bought to read at the start and so picked up the hard copy of Elborough's book instead. I read the first chapter and laughed several times on every page. From his photo Mr Elborough looks like a Dr Who fan familiar only with obscure facts about things most people don't want to know about. However, Mr. Elborough proves annoyingly clever, funny, intelligent etc. who can talk about Sartre as easily as about Lightnin Hopkins. Unlike the average Dr Who fan, Mr Elborough connects easily with common experiences and this is the secret of this book. I am sure many people who grew up with vinyl and have lived through the changes to aural culture described in the book will connect with the words the author finds to refer to key musical moments we all know but have rarely expressed. I shall keep this book.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
This often laugh-out loud, pin-sharp account of the various interlocking stories behind the vinyl LP's success is rather wonderful. Elborough has clearly aimed to make a details-driven book for a non-music-nerd audience and the book achieves this balance rather well. The author seems to be something of an emerging specialist on social history with an eyebrow raised (the author's other book was a similarly broad review of the history and demise of the Routemaster bus - a long time feature of London's streets) and a similar approach is used here. The chapters on the insane amounts of smooth and easy listening that shifted in the 50s and 60s are a particular highlight, particularly resonant as one considers the maddening success of the likes of James Blunt... Hmmm... And as one might have expected given its now-stricken state, most of the music industry's success with the LP seems to be a series of domino-style accidents, a point the author captures nicely. A top read.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 22 November 2008
One of those subjects that just seems to consist of curious little facts, petty rivalries, greed, beauty and art. The Long Player Goodbye is a sterling attempt to squash the history of the long player record into a relatively concise and certainly entertaining romp about a subject that touches so many. Perfect bath time reading.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 10 June 2009
I bought this in hardback and enjoyed every fact splattered page, providing as it does not just a history of everybody's favourite teenage obsession - but also a commentary that is pithy, wise and funny. I'm glad its out in paperback now because I have a couple of birthdays coming up and this will be an ideal gift for a few mates who will forever be armchair record producers. If you like to slide those faders up to 11, kick back and feel the noise - then you'll love this.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 23 September 2010
Verbose waffle from an opinionated writer. Too little information about the technical aspects of the LP development. A very dull read.
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13 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 28 August 2008
It seems churlish to criticise a book that cites so many sources, which imply that Elborough did his homework, but fat bibliographies do not ensure accuracy. (Neither does the author's weakness for footnotes.) Despite the long list of reference works, somehow this book is so riddled with mistakes and misprints that it is rendered - like a dictionary with but one erroneous definition - utterly undependable. That it's highly readable should be enough to support a recommendation, but the jarring misspellings and factual errors occur far too frequently. Any LP lover/music fanatic/record collector who actually bought vinyl records when they were the primary format will find it infuriating, especially if they also have shelves full of Mojo or Record Collector.

For what purports to be a history of the LP and its impact, this author is far to glib and too concerned with looking both hip and dismissive - very 1970s NME. His grasp of the contemporary zeitgeist and its relationship with the music of the day is tenuous at best, betraying his age with his third-hand view of events. Astonishingly, Elborough somehow managed to skirt the entire role of the industry that developed the LP's playback to the highest fidelity - the audio industry - which is not unlike writing about motor racing and leaving out Ferrari, Dunlop and Shell.

Clearly, Elborough ignored the rule which advises: never write about something you didn't experience first-hand if the topic exists within living memory and witnesses are plentiful. And if you can't resist, go to primary sources: the living participants. A pity this book wasn't edited by someone who knew how to spell Ezio Pinza, Astrid Kirchherr, Glenn Miller, et al.
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