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on 24 May 2011
First up I need to declare I am a big fan of Mark Radcliffe- his and Stuart Maconie's Radio 2 show kept me company on the long drive home when I was working late, until their move to 6 Music and I have previously given very favourable reviews to his previous "Showbusiness" and "Thank You For The Days" offerings, so I want to try and avoid this turning into a hagiography.

This is, however, a well thought out and structured book. Each chapter covers a year in his life since he was born, with each named after a song from that year. There is a clever mix of pop history, autobiography and general history, putting everything into context from the personal to the political, and each chapter has a slightly different angle- in some the actual song takes centre stage and Radcliffe uses his encyclopedic knowledge and wide-ranging tastes to dissect it, whereas in others the track is merely refered to in passing, but still provides a theme. One chapter is simply a letter of apology, starting "Dear Kate", but most people will work out quite quickly who he is addressing.

I know it is a bit of a cliche to talk about laugh out loud moments when reading, but many hackneyed phrases become such because they do contain a basic truth. Radcliffe's great use of the English language in a non-prentitious way shows that you can exhibit intelligence without being ostentatious- that it's okay to be clever and still come across to the common man. There is the odd bit that would probably work better on a radio show than it does on the written page- eg his riff on DJs named after kitchenware (although he does make a good comeback from this one with Mary Anne Hobbs).

Generally this is written as he speaks, so anyone used to his radio show will probably hear his voice reading it to you (although the book doesn't incluse as many "ummmmmms" and "errrrrrs", to be fair!) so as a handy insight into how a DJ who became such because of a true love of music rather than some desire to be famous got to where he is, it is inspirational, especially to those who decry playlist based celeb presenters- (for example- unlike Chris Evans, I don't think Mark would get a question on what the next lines in "Fairytale of New York" are wrong on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire").

In summary this is a funny, well developed and interesting take on the autobiography format. Due to its structure it encourages the reader to think about what would define the years of their lives for themselves, as well as throwing up a few forgotten gems from the past- in effect Radcliffe puts the reader's own lives at the centre of what is supposed to be his autobiography. It is a refreshing escape from celeb-land and X-Factor world, and Mark shows what dedication and an open-minded approach to music, not bound by genre, can make for not only good radio but good books as well.
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No point beating around the bush, Mark Radcliffe's 2009s "Thank you for the days" was not a uniquely entertaining memoir, indeed if truth were told it was rather dull in parts. A shame since he and his ex Fall best mate Marc Riley were an hilarious partnership. I once accidently spat tea at a passenger on a train as I spluttered laughing at a Mark and Lard's "Beat the clock" and a particularly vicious attack on Kelly Jones of the Stereophonics. Who could also forget "pathelogical News", "stone deaf again" and particularly "classic cuts" where their love of music was combined with wicked p-takes. The great news is that in terms of his new book "Reelin in the years: The soundtrack of a Northern life"" Radcliffe has decided to concentrate primarily on his first love for the music but obviously throw in plenty of autobiography, history and anecdotes for good measure. His premise is a cracking one to choose a song that soundtracked each of his 53 years on terra firma. This does not mean it will necessarily be the best song of that year. He accepts for example that in 1981 the defining song was the Specials anti Thatcher classic "Ghost Town". Instead he picks the wonderful "Love Action" by the Human League who started as a "four piece of badly dressed occasionally mustachioed and inadvisably coiffured blokes" and went on in their second phase to produce infectiously immaculate pop songs. He also thinks that Phil Oakley and Co have a classic ingredient, a fundamentally great band name, unlike the one judged by he and Marc Riley to be the worst ever - "Grab, Grab the Haddock".

Radcliffe manages not to pick any records by the Beatles, the Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Oasis and most surprisingly his hero David Bowie (except a cover). Equally six years before the punk explosion his choices define my own generations pre new wave musical confusion and schizophrenia. Ranging from 1970s Woodstock era Canned Heat "Lets work together", the 1971 hybrid skinhead/glam rock in Slade's "Cos I Luv You", the slightly less glam of 1972's Mott the Hoople's epic cover of Bowie's "All the Young Dudes", the first album chosen in the book Pink Floyd's 1973 "Dark side of the moon" and then a bit of prog in terms of Genesis 1974 "Lamb lies down on Broadway". The radical shift begins in 1975 with Bob Marley's "Trenchtown Rock" and then in 1976 comes the Damned punk epic "New Rose". True he flirts with Dire Straits and U2 in the mid 80s despite the "proselytising of St Bono", but reckons Eno's production of the "Where the streets have no name" demonstrates "the most important sonic manipulator of our generation". He also includes for good measure artists as diverse as Sandie Shaw's 1967 euro vision winner "Puppet on a string" to Grandaddy's 2000 Americana classic "The Crystal lake".

Unsurprisingly Manchester also plays a key part with Joy Division being the only band to feature on consecutive years with respectively "Transmission" and "Atmosphere" chosen for 1979 and 1980. The Stone Roses "Made of Stone" pops up ten years later in 1989 plus an amusing anecdote about a Scouse doorman announcing the arrival of the Greek keyboard conjurer Vangelis (described by Radcliffe "as the Appolion polyphonic Hagrid") over a studio intercom as "there's a Frank Ellis here to see you"

Radcliffe describes these 50 plus essays as "the addled ramblings of a middle aged disc jockey" but they are full of humour and warmth none more so when he his championing Pulp's brilliant 1995 anthem "Sorted for E's & whiz" or greatly enjoying the success of his friend Guy Garvey and Elbow's 2008s "One Day like this". Interestingly his 2010 choice is Band of Horses lush beauty "Factory" and he has also recently stated in an interview that PJ Harvey's "Let England Shake" looks like a "shoe in" for 2011. He concludes by recognizing that right now "someone, somewhere in the world is making my next new favourite record". A perfect sentiment to end a splendid book.
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on 19 June 2011
You probably have to be a fan of amark Radcliffe already to thoroughly enjoy this book, I can't help myself and found it a joyful read from start to last. The previous reviewer said it really well; Mark can use the English language as the expert he undoubtedly is (his use of aliteration is legendary), yet he keeps it all simple and incredibly readable and thoroughly enjoyable. It is true to say he writes as he talks on the "Radcliffe and Maconie" radio show, and you can hear his dulcet Bolton accent jumping off the page.
For me, Mark's trump card is his humour, which shines through in spades in "Reelin' in the Years". Of course humour is a very individual thing and if you are a person from Stoke Poges who takes themselves too seriously, this book is not for you. Mark has been there and bought the t-shirt, you know his stories are from first-hand and he is one class story-teller, without any question. And a very funny one at that.
I was totally fscinated by his choices of the records which he chose, the ones that have punctuated his (up to press)52 years on this earth. I await the accopanying CD; meanwhile I have set out to collect all the 52 tracks, by one means or another. I have seriously annoyed some of my friends in this pursuit, so nothing new there then. I am convinced that the tracks selected are not necessarily Mark's favourites per se, e.g. From all the fantastic works from the Summer of Love,1967, he picks "Puppet on a string", seriously? But they all have a very personal meaning for Mark, which is fine by me. He also weaves historical facts and important political events etc into the mix, which adds a great deal to the overall flavour and makes the book well worthwhile if History floats your boat instead of listening to good music.
My favourite chapter is 1984 on The Smiths, and if you are browsing this book among the rows of laddy lads in W.H.Smith's, check out this chapter first and you will know immediately if this book is a must-buy for you, as it was for me.
Buy it and enjoy.
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on 24 August 2011
Rather like two naughty school boys on the back row, it seems that Messrs Radcliffe and Maconie have been looking at each other's home-work as well as DJing together. In Maconie's recent new book, "Days of Hope and Glory" he takes a seminal date from each decade of the twentieth century and wraps an interesting state-of-the-nation essay around it. Here, Mark Radcliffe finds a music single to represent every year of his life from 1958 to 2010 and spins a few thoughts and memories from it. So quite a conceptual over-lap, but no reason for that to detract from either work, although I think Radcliffe's 52 essay task is a lot harder to maintain momentum over than Maconie's 10 essays. Reelin' In The Years also tries very hard to avoid the obvious choices of music and artist (no Bowie, Stones, Beatles, Pistols, etc), but this is a good decision as it makes the playlist slightly obscure, very personalised, and therefore very autobiographical. Quite a few tracks I'd never heard before (especially recent ones) and I wish now I'd played each one on Youtube as I read the corresponding chapter (year) in the book. Never Mind - still an enjoyable book with quite a few laughs along the way.
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on 18 April 2012
Mark Radcliffe has had a long career as a DJ on radio including BBC radio 1 and 2, and also has performed as drummer in several bands. The idea behind the book is to review the best record (single or album)for every year since 1958 when the author was born, as chosen by the author. Fair enough. Each chapter would cover a year and give background and context of the years' events, and of the author's own life and/or family. The book started very well, was amusing and clearly the author has a great passion for "popular" music of all genres, and a great deal of knowledge on the subject. (I really like this type of book and loved John Peel's autobiography "Margrave of the Marshes" which I have read twice.)Mark Radcliffe has obviously met many of his music heroes and been lucky enough to see and record in the book some seminal moments in music history. Somehow though the latter half of the book, which dwells on the authors DJ career as part of the afternoon show on Radio 2, palls a bit and I guess it's a case of if you weren't there you won't really "get it". There is also an uneasy mix of "look at my success" and "what an ordinary and not really very well off bloke I am". Does he REALLY still take his sister for lunch at a department store cafe? A bit tight then if it's true!On the plus side Mark Radcliffe does not try to be too clever or fashionable about music, or to knock any easy targets. (With the exception of Craig David)The message he gives is "It's (the music) OK if it's right"
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VINE VOICEon 17 July 2011
After Mark Radcliffe's previous journey into music related writing, Thank You For The Days, a book which literally described eventful days from his life it seems a logical, indeed natural, step to examine a piece of music released from each year of that life. Music is as honest a reflection of one's personality as anything else and in the choices Radcliffe has made - 'Move It' from 1958 through to last year's 'Factory' by Band of Horses - the changing tastes as he develops an interest in music for it's own sake are the stuff that anthropologists dream of! The fact that Radcliffe chooses to ramble about the most irrelevant of associations rather than deconstruct the music, try to discover why he chose that particular song or what his emotive state was when he first heard it only adds to this book's undeniable entertainment value. 1976's 'New Rose' by The Damned, for example, is treated with due reverence before Radcliffe treats us to some of his own, previously unpublished poetry. The link, as tenuous as any link can be, is a passing reference to John Cooper Clarke, the punk poet of Salford. In such exhalted literary company Captain Sensible and the lads should feel deeply honoured.
Reelin' In The Years is not a book that is going to be referenced and widely quoted on late night arts programmes on BBC2 by musicologists attempting to explain the deeper relevance of 'Puppet On A String' by Sandie Shaw (1967). It will however be read time and time again by people of a certain age who will agree, disagree or be prepared to argue with Radcliffe's yearly choices. For this latter group it will also provide a whole juke box worth of laughter and pleasure. Here's to the next fifty years Mark!
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on 13 June 2011
I really enjoyed this book. It was interesting and 'I laughed out loud' on a number of occasions. The book improves as the years are reeled in ... during some of the early years the text really scats around the place and is occasionally disjointed, but as the years approach Mark Radcliffe's teenage years and adulthood the text improves and is highly readable, informative and funny. A strong recommendation for any fan of Mark Radcliffe, this book will also please any music fan. I'd like to see/hear an accompanying CD!
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 19 December 2012
Oh Scrawn, you've entertained me on the radio and also on the telly. You're books have been a really good read too - especially Northern Sky.

But this one is a bit too self indulgent in places, and that spoils things a bit.

Where it's good, it's really good, but I don't need you to tell me how good your radio shows were, or how you got away with stuff that made you cutting edge - I was listening, so I know that already. If I wasn't listeningnI'm hardly likely to just take your word for it?

You've entertained me now for years, but this isn't your finest work, I'm afraid.

Oh, and Jarvis DID NOT bare his backside to Michael Jackson at the Brits... Why would you play a part in perpetuating this myth. Watch it back - the video is online and can be found in seconds - as any fule no, he just waved his hands behind his back exactly like he said he did in interviews at he time.

I expected more from you, scrawny bloke.
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I took this latest book by Mr Radcliffe on holiday, expecting to dip in occasionally whilst enjoying the sun. I must admit it had me hooked me from the first page. I ended up reading it in just a couple of sessions much to my wife's annoyance. I enjoyed the concept of choosing a song from each year of Marks life and it provoked several debates about what songs we would choose. Sorry for the cliche but I agree withother reviewers regarding the 'laugh out loud' moments of which there were many [His description of Tommy Steele, Noddy Holders sparkly hat and his Mum's equal pride in her newborn son and new fridge plus many others]. As you might expect from the professor of pop there was a liberal use of music and popular cultural references which added depth to each chapter.
On balance I thought it was witty, funny and entertained from start to finish. Well worth a read.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 9 May 2013
Mr Radcliffe was in front of an open goal with not even the keeper to beat. Needless to say he slotted the ball home with style and aplomb. Then again, how could me miss? 55 year old DJ, all round good guy, and music obsessive writes a book (when he was 52 years of age) about his favourite songs (one for each year of his life), which is read by a 51 year music obsessive. It was already a pretty good "fit".

I don't share Mark's enthusiasm for Pink Floyd or Genesis, though daresay I would have if I was four years older, however - that aside - I agreed with virtually all of his opinions.

It's fair to say I didn't learn anything about the artists or tunes I didn't already know (except the origin of Leadbelly's moniker (chronic constipation triv fans)), however I did read a lot of interesting biographical stuff about Mark, and warmed to his dry, matter-of-fact, and quietly witty style.

If you can answer "yes" to at least two of the the following:

Do you love popular music?
Do you find Mr Radcliffe engaging?
Do you enjoy biographies?

Then I'd say you will really enjoy this book too. I have ordered his biography "Thank You for the Days: A Boy's Own Adventures in Radio and Beyond" on the strength of this one. I shall, of course, report back.
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