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Loose Canon: The Extraordinary Songs of Clive James and Pete Atkin Hardcover – 13 Oct 2016

5.0 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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  • Loose Canon: The Extraordinary Songs of Clive James and Pete Atkin
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  • The Colours of the Night: Songs By Clive James and Pete Atkin
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  • Midnight Voices: The Clive James - Pete Atkin Songbook, Vol. 1
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Red Door Publishing Ltd (13 Oct. 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1910453234
  • ISBN-13: 978-1910453230
  • Product Dimensions: 22.4 x 2.5 x 14.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 256,342 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

Atkin and James have spent half a century turning the ironically melancholic and the ruefully funny (or is it melancholically ironic and funnily rueful? All permutations of the four, I think) into an art form --Stephen Fry

In these wonderful songs - timeless and yet so achingly redolent of a time - the tough, smart, tender elegance of Clive James' intellect and lyricism found its perfect home in the subtle, graceful arms of Pete Atkin's settings --Stuart Maconie

About the Author

Ian Shircore is a sought-after ghostwriter and author of a dozen books in his own right, including Conspiracy: 49 Reasons to Doubt, 50 Reasons to Believe and John F Kennedy: The Life, The Presidency, The Assassination. He was once unmasked by Fleet Street newspaper reporters as the supposed author of Belle de Jour's best-seller, The Intimate Adventures Of A London Call Girl a charge which he and the actual author, Brooke Magnanti, both deny.


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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read this book in one sitting, it's that readable and engaging. I count myself fortunate to have come across Pete Atkin at the time of the original release of "Beware of the Beautiful Stranger" and was captivated by that and the subsequent albums. I've also bought the CD re-releases and new releases and never tire of them. Ian Shircore's book is an excellent companion to the music and provides a great insight into the creative processes behind the songs. It would be wonderful if a new CD could be produced containing all songs featured in the book as most of the early Atkin/James canon is out of print (but available to listen on Pete's web site), but I suppose rights would be a problem - as they usually are. Any fan of Clive James (and indeed Pete Atkin!) should buy this book and invest in a CD or two of the wonderful music he and Pete created together.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you've enjoyed Pete's songs, you'll love this book!!
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Format: Hardcover
A must for anyone with even a passing interest in 60s-70' songwriters when Atkin and James were being mentioned in the same breath as Lennon McCartney and Jagger Richards. So what went wrong? Ian Shircore gives a well written account of the history of Pete and Clive, often overshadowed by Clive's more famous literary career, the pair found time to write over two hundred songs. Those who are established fans will skip over the listed lyrics as they know them off by heart already. But there is a wealth of information to be learnt about this talented partnership.
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Format: Hardcover
I'm a longstanding fan of the Atkin/James works...and have been gratified to see the slight revival that has been possible via the WWW, providing the opportunity to see Pete and Clive on stage again and even producing new works.

When I ordered this book I thought it would be a dry read, expanding on the extensive discussions that have already taken place about the true meanings of some of the lyrics via the Midnight Voices forum.

But I was stunned to find that I was riveted by the quality of Ian Shircore's writing. It took me back to the early 70s and the dank crypt of the Hanging Lamp folk club in Richmond and also works its way through the struggles they had in trying to get record contracts and how their record companies viewed them at the time. They initially stopped recording just at the time that punk had taken off, and it's easy to see that their albums really only ever fitted into the "difficult" listening category.

Cult DJ support from Kenny Everett and John Peel didn't help to get them a breakthrough, and Pete ruefully recalls that they earned more from Val Doonican covering one of their songs than they ever did from album sales.

But you don't have to have ever heard of any of the songs to enjoy this book; if you appreciate Clive's witty and well crafted words in any other format (TV reviews, poems, biographies, interviews) you will be captivated by many of the stories about how he came to write the songs that have been selected.....and how he actually wrote them.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book takes you on a journey that begins with Stephen Fry's foreword, that turns into a glowing essay of love for some of popular music's best kept secrets, to the present day - via Cambridge Universtiy in the 1960s where Clive James and Pete Atkin met. During this journey, you discover that Pete Atkin wrote music to lyrics that Clive James provided and why - perhaps - they didn't top both singles and album charts with the regularity of, say, their RCA stablemate David Bowie.

I've known this music since the mid 1970s and rediscovered it in the early 2000s when I had the pleasure of seeing Pete Atkin and Clive James on stage together in Redhill, Surrey. Ian Shircore tells the story as a fan but in doing so remains objective. The book quotes from both the lyricist and the writer of the music who sang - and still sings - the songs on stage. The book illustates its subject matter by quoting from the lyrics both in part and in full. You will learn how, while broadcasting through the night on Capital Radio, Clive James wrote the lyric to one of the pair's best loved songs. This book is a must for anyone who loves popular music and not just those who know and love the music of Pete Atkin and Clive James.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
First: disclosure time. The author is a friend, Pete Atkin and Clive James have been heroes since their first album came out at the beginning of the Seventies, long before James had been much heard of let alone become a National Treasure, and I watched the conception (yes, I was there!) and birth of this book with excitement. I am not impartial.

In principle, there is not a lot to add to what others have written. Atkin/James have written some of the saddest, loveliest, strangest, funniest, cleverest and most irritatingly hummable songs of my lifetime. Some of them still reduce me to tears forty years on, long after the subject matter – Vietnam, Kent State – has faded into newsreel. Unlike even Lennon/McCartney, when they give you an earworm it’s a words earworm as well as a music one. (This is not necessarily a good thing.) In the book Ian Shircore selects a number of the songs to concentrate on. It’s a testament to the strength of the songbook that my selection would have been largely different.

As is repeatedly said, the songs have never received the popularity that they deserve and that many, back in the Seventies, predicted. Shircore ventures a few possible reasons. Probably it comes down to 2016’s general refrain: it’s a mystery – people are stupid.

Clive James’ way with words is famously meticulous. The rhymes (again unlike Lennon/McCartney) are exact. The metre always works. Each word is selected precisely from the various alternatives. Ian Shircore does justice to this. His own style is spare, elegant and, thank God, utterly grammatical. You never feel that you are about to be slapped about the head with some bit of gush. This is rare with music books.
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