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Do you really want to hurt Bruno Brookes?,
This review is from: Wired for Sound: Now That's What I Call an Eighties Music Childhood (Paperback)
Nostalgia-driven jog-trots through childhood are ten a penny since Nick Hornby's Fever Pitch first hit paydirt nearly 20 years ago. This book by Tom Bromley is an enjoyable addition to the genre. Bromley is absolutely a child of the '80s, just about becoming aware of music as the decade began and beginning to detach himself gently as the decade ended, and his knowledge of and affection for an often much maligned era in popular culture is infectious.
Bromley's tastes are thoroughly mainstream. He actually liked Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Wham! and everyone else it was deeply uncool to like at the time, only tuning in to the Smiths very late in the day when late adolescence struck. He even remembers the engagingly pointless Tiffany v Debbie Gibson rivalry that any sane man would have blotted out of his mind as the scene spiralled into decline in the later years, despite the brief glory of the Stone Roses. He is also spot on in his analysis of how developments in technology drove and were driven by the music. This is all organised thematically by some key tracks of the time, albeit only loosely.
If I must be critical, I would say that Bromley can't quite decide whether it wants to be an in-depth look at his own past through the medium of the music (including toe-curling dips into teenage diaries and his own lamentable attempt to become a pop star himself) or a critical analysis of the music itself. Thus it does tend to fall in between two stools.
(A minor factual quibble, too. At the start of the second part, Bromley slates Bob Geldof for getting the University of York's Central Hall, the only decent venue in his home town, closed down as a music venue after swearily telling the audience to come down and dance in a venue that was structurally unsound for it. Not quite right: I was at the event in question and whilst there were certainly ructions, gigs went on. Next up was Ian Dury, who was physically incapable of dancing because of his polio and who sagely advised us to 'Wiggle your arse, like I have to'. The Boomtown Rats even played the venue again; this time, His Bobness simply told us 'I can't stand it, stand up'. We did. The Hall is still there.)
Overall, though, there is much to like and I'll even forgive the failure to even mention any of the five best tracks of the '80s ('Party Fears Two' - the Associates, 'Enola Gay' - OMD, 'Running Up That Hill' - Kate Bush, 'Story of the Blues' - Wah!, 'Mad World' - Tears for Fears: no correspondence will be entered into) and even going back to see Drone Drone many years on as a married man with young children. Bruno Brookes, in case you were wondering, once read out a letter from Bromley but failed to send him the promised Radio One pen in the post, so nobody believed it had ever happened. How does the man sleep?
There was dross, there was self-indulgence, there were some self-satisfied wannabes in the parts of the land that floated happily on the mirage of Thatcherism. But it was a great time. If you weren't there, you could find worse places to find out.