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Words and Music: A History of Pop in the Shape of a City Paperback – 19 Jul 2004

3.5 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC; New edition edition (19 July 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747568642
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747568643
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.4 x 19.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 194,791 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'An exhilarating history of pop - a brilliant and joyous book' Guardian 'From Cage's 4'33' of silence to total noise, and everything in between - a passionate, irresistible encouragement to listen more, and to listen better' Sunday Times 'At his best he's the Brian Eno of the sentence, setting the whole page buzzing with oblique strategies: the missing link, maybe, between Kenneth Tynan and John Lydon' Time Out 'Briliant ... thought-provoking and intriguing ... anyone with even a pssing interest in perhaps the greatest modern art form should take a dip into these compulsive literary waters' Glasgow Herald

About the Author

Paul Morley wrote for the NME from 1977 to 1983 when it was at its most successful and notorious. He wrote for the first few issues of The Face and was a regular contributor to Blitz. He formed ZTT and was instrumental behind the success of Frankie Goes to Hollywood. He also formed The Art of Noise. He has written for many publications. He was one of the first presenters of The Late Show. He now writes for Arena and Esquire and contributes to numerous TV and radio programmes, including the successful Top Ten series on Channel 4. His last book, Nothing, was published to great acclaim by Faber in 2000


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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback
Paul Morley follows up his wonderful auto/biography/exploration 'Nothing' (2000) with 'Words and Music'- which uses Kylie's Can't Get You Out of My Head as its starting point: Kylie's pop classic pointing back to a past when there was an idea of the future: Kraftwerk, Moroder, Human League, New Order. Morley takes us on a journey from and around Can't Get You Out of My Head- the destination here the lists to end all lists, in a book that flows with cultural reference points- from Morley himself (& other notable music critics, eg Lester Bangs, Nick Kent, Simon Reynolds) to Messiaen to Philip Glass to Amazon to Philip K Dick to Eno to Tangerine Dream to T Rex to Now That's What I Call Music! to The Art of Noise (and on and on and on it flows forwards & backwards & sideways and around...)Anyone who LOVED Paul Morley's now mythic period at the NME (I was mildly too young...)should love this book- in the list sense, it's far more Rick Moody (Demonology-The Black Veil- Ring of Brightest Angels...) than Nick Hornby. Which is a good thing. As with 'Nothing', Morley shifts through many styles- and there are lists galore- there is also some wonderful humour. A wonderful history of pop culture occurs and recurs throughout the book and the presence of The White Stripes in the 1963 section is almost as amusing as The Manic Street Preachers section (as Welsh as...), or the section on Metal Machine Music that concludes with the hilarious list'How to Be Annoying' (TYPE ONLY IN UPPERCASE-Begin all your sentences with 'Ooh,la la'-Leave tips in Bolivian Currency etc) which is the most amusing thing here. Demented humour rules with this list & the handy tip "Rouse your partner from sleep every morning with Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music"!Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
After reading this book for a couple of days, I still wasn't sure whether to love it or to hate it. To love the rich allusive exploration of music that explores the connections between genres with wit and enthusiasm; to hate the repetitive pretentiousness of the style, the endless comparisons. What this book is not is a history of pop- the 50s and 60s hardly get mentioned- it's as if the Beatles, the Stones, Motown and the Kinks never happened. Instead Morley focuses on the work of experimental composers- Reich, Glass, Schoenberg and traces how their experimental recording methods have influenced modern music.
Morley's unwitting narrator is Kylie Minogue driving through her recent video, but the book is not so much about Kylie as the recordings that may have influenced the construction of her music. Why then the dull sections on the Human League and Fad Gadget? Why long lists of recordings and artists at the end that are never mentioned in the narrative of the book?
Yet, just as I got so frustrated by one section that I wanted to get rid of the book, Morley would produce a piece of prose so insightful and dynamic that I longed to hear the music.
Morley claims that he has been at one point in his lifetime the greatest writer about the music scene, and in truth this is a book about him and the music he loves, its infuriating inconsistency at times obscuring the wisdom of his ideas.
I'd skip rereading the 23 page interview with Jarvis Cocker or the 15 page discussion of Kraftwerk that hardly touches on their music but would return to many of the other element of this highly original and imaginative work time and again.
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Format: Paperback
There's a thoroughly insightful book lurking in here. It's about a fifth of the size of 'Words And Music' (I'm being generous) but unfortunately you will have to scan through the whole damn thing to find it.
As a work of art one might open at random to admire the torrent of wordplay and nothing more, it serves a purpose - he does have a beguiling way with language after all. As a way of learning the names of albums and artists you've never heard of before, it also serves a purpose - but then so does The Wire in its own earnestly anal cutting edge way. As an ego trip it will be hard to beat even in the crowded field of music journalism, so it could be said to be setting a standard of a kind there. Lucky us.
The basic premise of the book - taking two seemingly contrasting pieces of music as a starting point of a journey through pop/rock/dance/the avant-garde of any description and so on and so forth - is perfectly fine. The problem arises when it becomes clear that Mr Morley, for all his detailed knowledge of the musical firmament, doesn't know how to edit himself effectively. Nor will he let anyone else do it for him, clearly.
Maybe he considers it to be his trademark; it's not a particularly flattering mix.
A couple of examples to illustrate: why take sixteen pages to argue why Kraftwerk are what they are and how they inspired everything of any musical worth to be released in the last twenty-five years (dubious) when it could so easily be done, to more convincing effect I suspect, in a mere two pages? Or maybe even just one. Why make those inevitably selective (and contradictory) lists which come across like 'I'm strange and a little bit wacky, me - just look at this!' junk emails that get trashed after one cursory glance through. Fluff and nonsense.
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