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Uncommon People: The Rise and Fall of the Rock Stars 1955-1994 Hardcover – 18 May 2017
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"Marvellous . . . The age of the rock star is over, and Hepworth’s never-less-than fascinating book is a more than fitting farewell" (Dylan Jones GQ)
"David Hepworth is such a clever writer . . . Uncommon People is a gorgeous read, celebratory and bittersweet, both pep rally and memorial, throbbing with insight and incident" (Julie Burchill Spectator)
"This book is a kind of elegy for a glorious but passing phase in entertainment history . . . brim[s] with insight, humour and a certain genial astringency" (Stuart Maconie Mail on Sunday)
"[A] wonderful portrait of rock stardom . . . Hepworth’s writing is sublime" (Daily Mail)
"The effect is that of faded, evocative, partisan Polaroids scattered from the memory of one obsessive music fan . . . Uncommon People emerges as part of the drive to capture, analyse and archive key moments in musical history that might otherwise vanish from popular memory before we know it" (Observer)
About the Author
David Hepworth has been writing, broadcasting and speaking about music and media since the seventies. He was involved in the launch and editing of magazines such as Smash Hits, Q, Mojo and The Word, among many others.
He was one of the presenters of the BBC rock music programme The Old Grey Whistle Test and one of the anchors of the corporation’s coverage of Live Aid in 1985. He has won the Editor of the Year and Writer of the Year awards from the Professional Publishers Association and the Mark Boxer award from the British Society of Magazine Editors.
He lives in London, dividing his time between writing for a variety of newspaper and magazines, speaking at events, broadcasting work, podcasting at www.wordpodcast.co.uk and blogging at www.whatsheonaboutnow.blogspot.co.uk.
He says Chuck Berry’s ‘You Never Can Tell’ is the best record ever made. ‘This is not an opinion,’ he says. ‘It’s a matter of fact.’
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Fascinating, gripping, interesting and mildly shocking.
One of the most intriguing claims that Hepworth makes, which is almost thrown away in the early stages of the book but is really rather - well - monumental (!), is that one of the most profound causes for the end of the era of the rock star is the development and rise of the drum machine. Hepworth refers to this in the text as "automated percussion", but "drum machine" is what the devices are known as in common parlance. I had often thought this myself, but had thought I was an outlier, just griping that my instrument (the drum kit) was being stolen from me. How wonderful to hear someone else articulating this for me, albeit briefly.
This book examines rock stars, their rise, sometimes their falls, their behaviour, their stories, their motivations, their successes and their failures. Not every word of it I take as gospel, because sometimes I feel as if I have a slightly more privileged standpoint (for example, his explanation of the dismissal of Pete Best to be replaced by Ringo Starr in The Beatles I really do take issue with - not the history of it, which is no doubt accurate, but his analysis of the two drummers' different attributes), but in total this is an excellent book from which I have learned a lot. I will be buying this again as a gift for at least one friend who loves music, and very probably more.
Thus he takes us from Little Richard's recording of "Tutti Frutti" to the birth of the MP3 via other notable events, such as the first proper meeting between Lennon and McCartney, Bob Marley's Lyceum concert, Michael Jackson's scalp=igniting incident, and a vaguely depressing number of deaths. His theory is that post-1995, pop music is no longer central to pop culture - it's just another distraction; and that while there are notable popular musicians, they are no longer perceived as larger than life.
The book is basically an excuse to tell the story of rock music in an intriguing manner, weaving tales with which most music devotees will be familiar into a persuasive narrative. The story-telling is compelling (if a tad repetitive in style), but some events seem to be ignored (the Sex Pistols are given short shrift), and his chosen time-scale means that he avoids dealing with the rise of the new breed of female stars (Winehouse, Swifty, Adele, Beyonce), who must surely be described as iconic; not to mention the whole hip-hop thing.
Still, this is a highly entertaining read, sure to provoke many drunken arguments amongst blokes of a certain age.
It works well on Kindle as there are no pictures.
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