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Customer Review

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Making Hay While the Sun Shines, 22 July 2010
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This review is from: Document And Eyewitness: An Intimate History of Rough Trade: The Rough Trade Story (Paperback)
The author has done a good job of collating the memories of most of the protagonists behind Rough Trade. Given the nature of the subject - the idealistic vision of an independent music culture that would not only take on the major record companies but often beat them at their own game - this is a fascinating and important story that by default sheds considerable light on the way things have ended up now in "musicland".

One revealing aspect is to be found in the book's account of how Rough Trade's audience was so central to the success of their early years - by the mid 80s, the focus had switched to the perceived need to pander to the ambitions of The Smiths at the same time as seeing this one band as the solution to all RT's problems in terms of their dichotomy between the worlds of brown rice and white bread. There's a revealing passage just before the slippery slope of RT's financial problems really kicked in, where The Smiths are revealed to be a bunch of primadonnas on a European tour, and still the penny didn't drop for either the author or his subject(s).

The book briefly records how many small labels went under in the 1991 meltdown. We were nearly one of them, having been closely involved with RT for 10 years. What the book cannot record, because you cannot talk to everybody, is the day-to-day level of incompetence that one experienced. It's a bit like the Tony Wilson Factory maxim that the author mentions between fact and legend, but this is actually a boring conceit that gets no further than Pere Lachaise.

There ought to be a chapter on the phone, because you could never get through to them. For a good long time RT "got away with it", because in terms of the culture and the record sales of independently produced and distributed music, it was all about <what would happen next>. We didn't realise we were making hay while the sun shined.

It's interesting to read that RT spent £700,000 on a computer system that didn't work. A bit like the NHS and numerous others. Why so many organisations balls this up is quite another story not covered by this book - I'm only saying that because Rough Trade distribution went down the swanee just at the time when PC's became affordable.

I'm glad this book does tribute to Daniel Miller's patience. I was reminded of a lot of things reading it and I do recommend it, but more as an 'industry book' where you'd be best informed knowing something of the background.
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