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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 29 January 2014
I literally couldn't put this book down - it robbed me of my sleep just as the Academy (did) and therefore any book on the Academy should!

It is such an integral venue to the London music scene and discovering just how it became so is both eye-opening and inspiring.

The music biz aint the same no more - it sure as hell would be better if it was - but it's good to know that that reality really ain't far behind us.

It's up to us now...

I recommend this to anyone interested in any of the music of the last 30 years.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 24 January 2014
This book is packed with great stories! A very fun and engaging read, that will give you an insight into the story behind one of the world's greatest ever venues and the people that occupied the stage and the backstage... Highly recommended!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 30 January 2014
Just shows what you can do if you have the balls! Simon you are an inspiration to us all. Great read couldnt put it down
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on 22 February 2015
I received this book as a Xmas gift and read it in two sittings. It is a thoroughly enjoyable gallop through the history of the iconic (and my favourite) London venue.

Simon Parkes, a Gordonstoun-educated son of a Northern fishing magnate, fell in love with the venue’s “dilapidated elegance of that art deco”. He tells how he bought the old “Brixton Astoria’s” lease from a top brewer company for merely a quid (in return for a deal on Watneys beer concessions) and hired a bunch of South London roughnecks to clean up the place and provide the necessary “security”. The book is a trove of lively stories about how he then built up the “Academy” brand, first through Jamaican reggae gigs and post punk New Wave and, later on, rap, dance/rave and Britpop. Throughout the 80s he contended with drug pushers, Brixton gangsters, Jamaican “Yardies”, and the cut-throat world of live music promotion in London.

There is some interesting history about the old theatre at the start of the book. When it was built in 1929 the original theme of the Astoria was “the Mediterranean Night”. The proscenium arch was modelled after the Rialto bridge in Venice and the ceiling in the auditorium was decorated with twinkling stars to give the audience the impression of sitting under the Venetian night sky. As Parkes says “a bit of Venice in South London, who’d ever have thought it?

And, of course, Parkes’ friendships with legends across the whole spectrum of pop, rock and dance music propel the narrative and keep you riveted. The names will be familiar to those who have stood over the years on that sloping floor: The Clash, The Cult, The Pogues, The Pixies, Run DMC, Motorhead, The Smiths, Primal Scream, The Happy Mondays and so on.

Parkes closes the book with some comments about the relative decline of live music due to shifting priorities dictated by the corporate rock business “suits” and the rise of manufactured “identikit” pop groups who couldn’t play live (for example, the Spice Girls). Indeed, it could be argued that Parkes’ stewardship of the Academy from 1980 until the mid 90s saw out the last golden era of live rock’n’roll in London.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 2 February 2014
not in the habit of reading non fiction but this book is an exception. workload growing as i find myself distracted (just another chapter then i'll put it down) by this brilliant account of the wierd and wonderful world backstage at the academy. got to be a film. too sound and visual for just a book. but a comedy? musical? love story? gangland thriller? the least it deserves is 'three weddings and a funeral goes urban' with balls on. anyway read this book its brilliant. unless of course you dont like music?!
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VINE VOICEon 2 May 2014
This was a great read. Well written for an easy read.
Amazing when you read all about the "business" that goes on behind the running of a venue. I remember going to The Cult gig at The academy and thinking....will it be safe as at the time the area did have a certain reputation. It was a great gig and no hassles.
Some scary stories, and you really don't think about all of this when you go to a just want to get there..enjoy it and get home without having to get the night bus!
It is amazing how the venue (SP and gang) built it up from a leaky wreck to hosting Rock Royalty.
Interesting to hear Simon P's comments about the many cccchhhh anges over the years.....indie shows then the authorised raves and club nights..then up to big rock shows (and pre band tour rehearsals and video shoots) Then the slump due to the manufactured bands and their c=**ppy videos taking the live market away.
But what goes around comes around...and the reformed bands doing "albums" performances has brought the live scene back(even if it is as extraordinary prices!!!)

If you like going to gigs ...and as another reviewer said it's well worth a read!!!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 1 February 2014
Like thousands of others, I've been lucky enough to visit Brixton Academy on a number of occasions to witness amazing gigs (The Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers immediately spring to mind) but I was never aware of the story behind the venue. Parkes eloquently lays out the meandering path he took in great detail, from his early child right up to selling the venue when it was at its peak. The book is littered with feel good, and often nerve-wracking, accounts of how Parkes and his team over came adversity in it's many forms (both legal and illegal), as well as numerous stories about the world class rock, hip hop, metal, dance, reggae and even pop acts that passed though the doors during his tenure.

Parkes is openly honest about it all, without ever really breaking rank by fully lifting the lid on what undoubtedly went on behind the Academy's closed doors. I suppose this is my only slight gripe in that, aside from the opening gambit about the Manchester promoter, there's very little detail or even tales of the sex, drugs and debauchery that he occasionally alludes to. I'm sure there's at least another book in him if he ever wanted to divulge the full story, although his (and their) lawyers would probably have the final say on that!

Parkes predominantly comes at this from a logistical perspective and, as a avid gig goer and music fan, it was fascinating to find out first hand what went on behind the scenes to make the many hundreds of gigs and raves a reality. Very enjoyable from start to finish!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 31 January 2014
This is a great page turner about a bygone era before concerts were sanitised, a time when Simon Parkes and a small handfull of others were pushing the envelope and creating great musical experiences. Simon should be very proud of the legacy he has left in Brixton and reading this book it is a miracle he lived to tell the story.. But what a story ...
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on 30 August 2015
A really good read. Many books written about music are penned by musicians. The problem with musicians is that they have big egos, and are often convinced that they're good writers. Often they are wrong - see Morrissey's unreadable autobiography. In this case, Simon Parkes is an excellent writer with an easy, free flowing style, and he's got some great stories to tell. The industry was certainly very different back in the seventies and eighties and the story of how he took the decrepit building from ruins to riches is a fascinating one. The slimy agents, nasty bank managers, local gangsters and exploding drummers are all here in a book that's hard to put down. Highly recommended for any live music fans, particularly ones who've experienced a gig or three at the Academy over the years.
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on 11 August 2014
this is the fastest I've ever read a book.

a great document of the music industry in it's prime, and from the ground up. If you have any interest in the UK music industry of the last 30 or so years, or gang related crime tbh, I think there's something for you here. I genuinely laughed out loud at least 3 times, and was in explicit awe at many of the operations that went through to create shows and build the venue to popularity.

I really enjoyed this. Recommended if you enjoyed showbiz reads like The Dirt or Hollywood Babylon, but replace the sex with violence.
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