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on 3 September 2008
Part musical memoir, part biography, part documentation of art practice, part philosophical discourse on the nature of art and music.
And along the way lots of typical Drummond musing and digression.
The easy criticism is that it's just middle aged angst of a man desperately clinging to youthful passions. But Drummond takes his passions more seriously than that and is willing to fight for them.
And like much of what Drummond does the ideas have an appeal that has you examining things from the perspectives they throw up even as you realise their contradictions, failings or even untruth. But then these aren't really ideas to be taken literally - they're philosophical and artistic exercises, means of approaching problems from a new direction and hoping to throw new light on them. A challenge to every day conceptions.
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on 14 August 2009
imagine waking up tomorrow, all writing has disappeared. all books, all forms of written notation gone.
a world without words.

what is more, you cannot even remember your last good read or what it was about. you only remember that it had existed, that it had been important to your civilisation.
and you long to read something once more.

then imagine bill drummond throwing some thoughts together with nothing but diatribe and lazy aknowledgement of what a good read is.


im being slightly unfair, but this is the least entertaining of drummond's works to date.
whereas the first 2 parts of the bad wisdom trilogy are rollercoaster reads of deconstructed madness and works such as 45 are gloriously entertaining anecdotal joys, this is however, a largely unexciting half-baked diatribe. stronger editing could doubtless have made this a much more rewarding book.

there are many interesting toughts in the book, but with little depth to back them up on deeper analysis, it is much more a personal voyage through the author's distaste with popular music. riddled with contradictions (though he happily acknowledges this) he is at times aware of its flaws, yet is happy to plow on in a rather freewheeling style.

that drummond is a very good writer is undeniable, but here his mildy deconstructed approach reads instead as a tad lazy and unfocused. constantly disengaging from his narrative and sparse in atmospheric detail the overall effect is of a a dragged out and overlong work, with the feel that he has already used up most of his best music business anecdotes.....leaving us with a largely unedited, freestyle diary.
it will make you think, but unfortunately one of those thoughts will be 'how many pages are left?'

some great ideas but they tend to come from his already well documentated distaste with the music business; and it is their personal nature that stops it from being a better considered analysis of where we are with music. he is happy to accept this is pertinent mainly to himself, but it leaves the reader desparate for more consideration.

one for (big) fans only and certainly not the place to start if you havent read any of his previous works (go instead for the wonderful '45' or the delightfully distasteful and esoteric 'bad wisdom').

still it does make you think, even if often in disagreement.

roll on the 3rd part of the bad wisdom trilogy. therein lies drummonds true contribution to the canon.
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on 21 September 2008
I liked this so much I bought some other ones for friends. Drummond is maddeningly opinionated but it all adds to the fun. Along with Julian Cope, he is the only famous person of his generation to have ambition beyond hit singles and being on a reality show. Although, in fact, Drummond almost WAS on a Celebrity Big Brother series. Like all Drummond's productions, this book is lovingly designed and adds class to even the dustiest of living rooms.
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Bill Drummond contests that all recorded music is redundant and uses this premise to launch a performance art choir concept called The17, the members of which at any given time are any seventeen people willing to be involved.

This book is mostly Drummond's diary from March 2006 to June 2007 as he launches the choir and uses his existing notoriety to help tour it across arts festivals and into schools. Meanwhile and in no particular order he also looks back on his own life association with music, from the first record he ever bought through to his 1980s jobs working with Stock Aitken Waterman and as a tour manager for Echo & The Bunnymen.

The sections about The17 are typical of Drummond's writing- prosaic yet sometimes aimless, stream of consciousness thoughts. Drummond insists on writing using pen and paper and often his attitude and opinions at the end of a chapter are very different from how that chapter began. As the 'scores' (written lists of instructions) for The17 become more and more grandiose and unrealisable the choir seems to be more of a struggle than a joy. It's difficult to be captivated by The17 concept- Drummond has to admit it's not totally original and since there will never be any available recordings of the choir, you find yourself wishing Drummond could concentrate on describing the sound a bit more.

As usual though Drummond uses his art as a starting block to talk about himself, especially when The17 is less successful. To quote him out of context, "it's more about [his] own shortcomings than about the failings the target of [his] projections may have." And Bill Drummond is a difficult character and not always likeable- he's very unapologetic about all sorts of damage he has caused.

And yet it's actually in the openly autobiographical sections that this book is at its most interesting. The anecdotes about his involvement in the Liverpool music scene in the late 70s and early 80s should really be a whole book in their own right, full of comic rock & roll stories that out-do Spinal Tap, and the few pages about what it was like working with Pete Waterman in his heyday are absolutely great. Drummond avoids going into any detail about his work with Jimmy Cauty, and suggests that that is also another books' worth of material in it's own right.

In a final slightly arsey twist Drummond gets three students from the Royal College of Art to add annotations to his book. This should be the height of unreadable pretension but in fact the comments are refreshingly honest and help ground the whole text a bit more. The most accurate of these is:

"I think [the17]'s just an interesting idea for a project that has turned into a bigger book because he can use it as a way to wax lyrical on his more general gripes with the music industry."

...which sums it up very well.

PS. Better than "45".
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on 9 October 2010
You are in the pub with a mate and get deep into conversation about your love of popular music. You talk about what has meant most to you, your concerns at the industry and the ability of young musicians to carry on creating great music. Our mate here, Bill Drummond, is on his fourth beer now and is ranting on about his plan to rethink how we make and listen to music. He tells us how he got rid of his music collection to fulfil his plan and how he has traveled around Europe putting his theories into practice with interesting tales of St Petersburg, Middlesborough and Nice. Being a decent, wise sort of bloke, Drummond always checks back on himself and asks us: "Am I talking rubbish?". Whether you think his ideas are rubbish is not always the point, as Drummond is thought provoking and a great raconteur.
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VINE VOICEon 29 March 2009
Art/Music agitator Bill Drummond's rant against the state of modern pop and a suggestion for an alternative future for the genre.

Whilt the books an interesting read, the main issue I had with it that all of Bill's insights, (that black music is more forward looking than it's white counterpart, that the rise of the MP3 has had the effect of people appreciating music less, that punk rock was essentially nostalgic, that the alternatives presented by British postpunk in the early 80s were ignored, etc,) aren't really new ideas at all, and have in fact part of the discourse on popular music for years. For instance, Simon Reynolds book 'Rip It Up And Start Again' dealt with all of these issues in much greater depth and with far more intellectual rigour several years ago. When Mr. Drummond tries to deal with more contemporary music like hip hop he becomes thoroughly unstuck, making daft claims such as that it's impossible for black musicians to be postmodern or ironic: He's obviously never heard of OutKast, for instance.

His 'alternative' - a sort of extemporary wordless choir who produce one off, unrecorded performances from non musical scores, doesn't seem to me to be that original an idea either, carrying as it does the whiff of both 1960s experimental music and 1970s performance art.

In his defence, Drummond does preempt some of these criticisms, - a couple of friends of his write an ongoing critique of the work in sidebars, and he admits as he goes along that his internet research has thrown up many instances of people having similiar ideas to his years ago -but he doesn't change any of his ideas in response to this knowledge.

In short, an entertaining enough rant whcih doesn't really say anything new or that interesting.
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on 3 December 2014
Simply wonderful. Some of it is really thought provoking and I just found it a joy to read.
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