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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Subtitled 'A History of Pop in the Shape of a City'-
Paul Morley follows up his wonderful auto/biography/exploration 'Nothing' (2000) with 'Words and Music'- which uses Kylie's Can't Get You Out of My Head as its starting point: Kylie's pop classic pointing back to a past when there was an idea of the future: Kraftwerk, Moroder, Human League, New Order. Morley takes us on a journey from and around Can't Get You Out of My...
Published on 21 July 2003 by Jason Parkes

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Words and words
Paul obviously has an encyclopedic knowledge of "pop" and other branches of music that serve his cause but to me the book felt a little rushed, a stream of conciousness which needed a bit more editing. Maybe this "Karourac"style was intentional showing his enthusiasm but it left me exhausted and trying to keep up. However the lists, links and
musical references are...
Published on 15 Aug 2010 by TJSIMMONDS


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Words and words, 15 Aug 2010
By 
TJSIMMONDS "terje theodore" (brighton england) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Words and Music: A History of Pop in the Shape of a City (Paperback)
Paul obviously has an encyclopedic knowledge of "pop" and other branches of music that serve his cause but to me the book felt a little rushed, a stream of conciousness which needed a bit more editing. Maybe this "Karourac"style was intentional showing his enthusiasm but it left me exhausted and trying to keep up. However the lists, links and
musical references are fantastic, and if like me, you share Paul's tastes the book is well worth making the effort to read.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Subtitled 'A History of Pop in the Shape of a City'-, 21 July 2003
By 
Jason Parkes "We're all Frankies'" (Worcester, UK) - See all my reviews
(No. 1 Hall OF FAME REVIEWER)   
Paul Morley follows up his wonderful auto/biography/exploration 'Nothing' (2000) with 'Words and Music'- which uses Kylie's Can't Get You Out of My Head as its starting point: Kylie's pop classic pointing back to a past when there was an idea of the future: Kraftwerk, Moroder, Human League, New Order. Morley takes us on a journey from and around Can't Get You Out of My Head- the destination here the lists to end all lists, in a book that flows with cultural reference points- from Morley himself (& other notable music critics, eg Lester Bangs, Nick Kent, Simon Reynolds) to Messiaen to Philip Glass to Amazon to Philip K Dick to Eno to Tangerine Dream to T Rex to Now That's What I Call Music! to The Art of Noise (and on and on and on it flows forwards & backwards & sideways and around...)Anyone who LOVED Paul Morley's now mythic period at the NME (I was mildly too young...)should love this book- in the list sense, it's far more Rick Moody (Demonology-The Black Veil- Ring of Brightest Angels...) than Nick Hornby. Which is a good thing. As with 'Nothing', Morley shifts through many styles- and there are lists galore- there is also some wonderful humour. A wonderful history of pop culture occurs and recurs throughout the book and the presence of The White Stripes in the 1963 section is almost as amusing as The Manic Street Preachers section (as Welsh as...), or the section on Metal Machine Music that concludes with the hilarious list'How to Be Annoying' (TYPE ONLY IN UPPERCASE-Begin all your sentences with 'Ooh,la la'-Leave tips in Bolivian Currency etc) which is the most amusing thing here. Demented humour rules with this list & the handy tip "Rouse your partner from sleep every morning with Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music"!
There's so much here- impossible to get into 1000 words- but it's safe to say you could pretty much forget about buying most of the music press and what's hip this month (moustaches, ironic 70s retro that sounds like Lynrd Skynrd or Nazareth) & get this instead. I'm a great lover of books with lists and bits- the words relating to the music here & would rate this up there with lovely books like JG Ballard's A User's Guide to the Millennium & the Bangs collection Psychotic Reactions&Carburretor Dung. Words & Music and the upcoming publication of more of Bangs writings shows that great music criticism- which may use music as its starting point & go off anywhere (Allen Ginsberg- Eminem- Britney Spears- Scott Walker- Claude Debussy- Eric Satie- Joy Division- Captain Beefheart- Crash- Amazon- I am sitting in a room- Can't Get You Out of My Head- and on and on and on...)- is alive and kicking. You just wouldn't know it if you read the majority of the music press (& can anyone tell me when, or rather why, Uncut has turned into Mojo?). The lists are great, proof that music has never been better and always been as great- wonderful to see nods to such wonderful records as Tilt, I Travel, I'm a Slave 4 U, Rock Bottom, Laughing Stock, John Cage, Faust, Eno/Eno/Eno/Eno/Brian Eno, James Joyce, Madonna, Pop Group, Overload, Neu!, Nick Drake, Magnetic Fields, Depeche Mode etc- because pop can be anything. and everything. and I suppose sometimes nothing. Yes, the lists and the footnotes are an utter joy. Where else can you read about Britney Spears one second and Slint the next? Or about Ballard's Crash then Can't Get You Out of My Head magnified, as if In Every Dream Home a Heartache...
Words And Music is a great book for those who can't get either out of their heads, for those who want more and think more of music than the Cowell-Fuller 50s exploitation department, or the futile retro of Oasis. Morley's argument about Radiohead is one I'm coming round to- much more interesting than the majority who wish Radiohead were like The Bends (again)- it points out how unweird Radiohead are and offers a few lists to show why. Rather than bemoaning Radiohead for not being a conservative sub-Zooropa band, they should be bemoaned for not being weird enough- they're not exactly Swans, are they? Words & Music is shockingly NOW, which is great, as the music scene has severe problems- mainly derived from its increasingly corporate behaviour (merge, drop, etc). & for anyone who has read or written about music on the net- here on Amazon maybe?- Page 122 will be a joy! A great book, one that I'll come back to again and again...(Thanks, Paul)...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a history of music and machines, 5 April 2009
This review is from: Words and Music: A History of Pop in the Shape of a City (Paperback)
After reading this book for a couple of days, I still wasn't sure whether to love it or to hate it. To love the rich allusive exploration of music that explores the connections between genres with wit and enthusiasm; to hate the repetitive pretentiousness of the style, the endless comparisons. What this book is not is a history of pop- the 50s and 60s hardly get mentioned- it's as if the Beatles, the Stones, Motown and the Kinks never happened. Instead Morley focuses on the work of experimental composers- Reich, Glass, Schoenberg and traces how their experimental recording methods have influenced modern music.
Morley's unwitting narrator is Kylie Minogue driving through her recent video, but the book is not so much about Kylie as the recordings that may have influenced the construction of her music. Why then the dull sections on the Human League and Fad Gadget? Why long lists of recordings and artists at the end that are never mentioned in the narrative of the book?
Yet, just as I got so frustrated by one section that I wanted to get rid of the book, Morley would produce a piece of prose so insightful and dynamic that I longed to hear the music.
Morley claims that he has been at one point in his lifetime the greatest writer about the music scene, and in truth this is a book about him and the music he loves, its infuriating inconsistency at times obscuring the wisdom of his ideas.
I'd skip rereading the 23 page interview with Jarvis Cocker or the 15 page discussion of Kraftwerk that hardly touches on their music but would return to many of the other element of this highly original and imaginative work time and again.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Pretentious, revisionist drivel., 12 Mar 2014
This review is from: Words and Music: A History of Pop in the Shape of a City (Paperback)
If you think that pop/rock started in the 80s then you may glean something from this nonsense. As a fellow Manchester City fan, I hate to say it, but this really is awful.
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11 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Some kind of wonderful, 9 Sep 2003
There are good books and bad books about music. As a music lover I've bought a lot of them. In my opinion Words and Music is a peerless book. It is in a class of its own. It is Nothing Like Nothing Like the Sun. To Nick Hornby's 31 Songs it is 310,000 Songs. It has quite remarkable ambition, brilliant jokes, Kylie Minogue and an avantgarde artist called Alvin Lucier paired together and bracketing the book, history (past present and future), some very strange bits, too many lists and facts for it's own good, which is quite deliberate on the part of the author who is making a point about lists, but above all it bursts with belief. Words and Music made me want some of what Mr Morley was on when he wrote it. Most probably, on the evidence of this outstanding book, the answer is music.
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54 of 79 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Let's get ready to ramble..., 3 Sep 2003
There's a thoroughly insightful book lurking in here. It's about a fifth of the size of 'Words And Music' (I'm being generous) but unfortunately you will have to scan through the whole damn thing to find it.
As a work of art one might open at random to admire the torrent of wordplay and nothing more, it serves a purpose - he does have a beguiling way with language after all. As a way of learning the names of albums and artists you've never heard of before, it also serves a purpose - but then so does The Wire in its own earnestly anal cutting edge way. As an ego trip it will be hard to beat even in the crowded field of music journalism, so it could be said to be setting a standard of a kind there. Lucky us.
The basic premise of the book - taking two seemingly contrasting pieces of music as a starting point of a journey through pop/rock/dance/the avant-garde of any description and so on and so forth - is perfectly fine. The problem arises when it becomes clear that Mr Morley, for all his detailed knowledge of the musical firmament, doesn't know how to edit himself effectively. Nor will he let anyone else do it for him, clearly.
Maybe he considers it to be his trademark; it's not a particularly flattering mix.
A couple of examples to illustrate: why take sixteen pages to argue why Kraftwerk are what they are and how they inspired everything of any musical worth to be released in the last twenty-five years (dubious) when it could so easily be done, to more convincing effect I suspect, in a mere two pages? Or maybe even just one. Why make those inevitably selective (and contradictory) lists which come across like 'I'm strange and a little bit wacky, me - just look at this!' junk emails that get trashed after one cursory glance through. Fluff and nonsense.
It's infuriating that in amongst the unnecessary repetition and yawning pretentiousness there are genuine nuggets of inspiration and humour to be found. The comments on Eno, Moby's Play, the Now... compilation series, Merzbow (ridiculous list assertion aside) and Madonna all spring to mind. The overall historic chronology - the one list that is worth a second look - contains genuinely intriguing details when it takes the trouble to explain entries beyond the obligatory one line.
Nevertheless, the title is a grand deceit. Words? If by that he implies lyrics, then we are being sold short. Far too many names of songs and not much else here folks. Singer/songwriter types will find little of interest because Mr Morley evidently finds little of interest in singer/songwriter types.
Nick Drake/Joni Mitchell/Kate Bush/David Byrne/Morrissey/Michael Stipe/PJ Harvey etc? Mostly irrelevant it seems. Jarvis Cocker gets interview space, but that's all. Only the two initial pieces - Kylie's 'Can't Get You Out Of My Head' and Alvin Lucier's 'I Am Sitting In A Room' - plus The Rolling Stones' '...Satisfaction' receive any thoughtful analysis of their lyrical content. (still, I hesitate to include the latter)
And Music? Tricky that. One can rarely, if ever, come close to the experience of listening to it, dancing to it or trying to ignore it, and that enduring fact remains music journalism's biggest stumbling block. This book fails the test magnificently. Once again we are cast adrift in a sea of names with too many tediously fanciful explanations to mention. Only with Kylie and Alvin is a sense of the musical experience conveyed anywhere near adequately. Meanwhile, the incessant bias against acoustic instruments turn the whole proceedings into something approaching farce. Pianos and strings? Dead apparently, unless you're Arvo Part, in which case he'll make an exception. Bless 'im.
So, use it as a heartfelt reference point for future listening if you like (with an appropriately generous pinch of salt), but don't imagine that a new world will be revealed to you. 'Words And Music' is far bigger than it is clever.
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9 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars pure passion for music, 11 Sep 2003
By A Customer
Morley's wonderful book is dazzling, infuriating, confusing, obsessional--and spot on about the life-affirming power of music; if you want a tour d'horizon of everything pop music has been and might someday be, this book is for you. Plus it comes with scores of lists, helping the reader put together a 600-record deep collection of great music.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The music is the star, even if he probably is the best rock writer of all time, 21 July 2007
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This review is from: Words and Music: A History of Pop in the Shape of a City (Paperback)
Possibly the greatest rock writer of all time, possibly the natural heir to Wittgenstein, possibly the greatest book ever written about Pop music.

Through a car ride with an image of Kylie and a collection of lists Paul Morley, former NME journalist and cultural impresario, charts the progress and connections found in popular music over the last four decades. Paying particular attention to the leftfield and the near unknown, Morley not only directs us to the music we either love or should love, he also shows us how to best appreciate this musical menagerie and goes further than most in depicting the importance and purpose of this music in the listeners life.

Morley is an engrossing and eloquent writer gripping the reader on an unconventional journey through the city of music with an engaging array of lists, footnotes, and details of travels with a Kylie avatar.
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5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Can't get it out of my head, 12 Nov 2003
By 
Gives you a fresh pair of ears in order to see the world with.
If you've ever been transported somewhere else by music then this book will do the literary equivalent.
Read it.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars GREAT BOOK, 1 Jan 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Words and Music: A History of Pop in the Shape of a City (Paperback)
BECAUSE I KNOW IT WILL BE A GREAT READ, ABOUT MY CITY AND THE BANDS IN IT, ITS WRITTEN BY A LOCAL LAD
THANKS
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Words and Music: A History of Pop in the Shape of a City
Words and Music: A History of Pop in the Shape of a City by Paul Morley (Paperback - 19 July 2004)
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