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Reelin' in the Years: The Soundtrack of a Northern Life Paperback – 10 May 2012
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'A pleasant ramble through five decades of pop culture seen through the eyes of a music-loving northerner... Radcliffe writes in much the same way that he talks - warmly and wryly' --Independent
'Funny, well-informed and self-deprecating' --Metro
'Radcliffe's given us a remarkable music history and picked 52 defining albums, one from each of those years. Diverse is just one way to sum it up' --Mirror
'An entertaining new memoir. Starting at 1958, Radcliffe picks a favourite song from each year and uses it as a launch pad for his trademark rambling reverie. The chosen tracks are diverse (everything from Cliff Richard to Prince), and the writing is funny and there's an expert X Factor takedown to savour' --Shortlist
'An easy-read memoir is reliant on good anecdotes, and Radcliffe has more than a few' --Guardian
About the Author
Mark Radcliffe was born in Bolton and attended Manchester University. He has been employed by the BBC to talk in between records for over twenty years, many of these with Lard (aka Marc Riley) and currently with Stuart Maconie on Radio 6. He has won 6 Gold Sony Awards plus Sony's Music Broadcaster of the Year 2009, and has recorded five albums with two bands. He has three daughters and lives in Cheshire.
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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.
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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