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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 24 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 (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 37,602 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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: Kindle Edition
Pete Atkin and Clive James were once mentioned in the same breath as Lennon/McCartney, Elton John/Bernie Taupin and Jagger/Richards. Now only a small group of fans know them as songwriters, though James has gone on to great things as a broadcaster, poet and cultural critic and Atkin is a successful radio producer. However they produced six albums in the 1970s. Their story is an intriguing one, and this book tells it with intelligence and enthusiasm.

It is written by a man who spotted them early. Author Ian Shircore ran a folk club in West London in the late 1960s and Atkin did a ‘floor spot’ (of three songs co-written with James) at the club which wowed the audience. James was at the gig – Shircore at first thought the burly Aussie was the singer’s bodyguard. He has followed the duo ever since, during their attempted rise to stardom in the 1970s and their internet-driven revival as cult heroes in recent years.

Loose Canon is very well written – but then that’s what you’d expect from a fan of such a cerebral pair. Atkin and James met at Cambridge University, and James filled his lyrics with literary and wider cultural allusions. This probably damned their chances of massive sales, but it produced a fascinating and unique – if not always successful – attempt to marry two cultural streams. Yet the best Atkin / James songs aren’t just ‘clever’ but genuinely poetic, as the book shows.

There are plenty of examples quoted – whole songs, not just lines or verses. Even though one can often find lyrics on the net, it’s nice to have them here, at hand, for instant reference.

It is also an interesting book about how songs get written, about the craft of songwriting, and about how the ‘biz’ works (or doesn’t, really, in their case).
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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 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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This fascinating book seems to be dealing exclusively in 5 star reviews...well here comes another one! I loved this book, I read the hardcover version and enjoyed the feel of it right from Stephen Fry's gorgeous introduction... through to the end of the journey. I made a point of listening to every song on the "Midnight voices" website so it took a while to get through it! I've just bought the Kindle version and I see that there are hotlinks straight through to the audio...so "way to go as they say"! I remember these songs or at least the ones on the signature albums, "Mythical America" and "Beware of the beautiful stranger" fromback in the day....LP covers were just great for getting lyrics discovered, admired, remembered and quoted so a lot of these great poems and tunes came back too me in a wave of very sweet nostalgia! I hope that Mr Shircore applies his admirable touch to other worthy Songwriters who have slipped quietly under the Radar through the decades. I especially recommend this to folks don't know the songs... I envy anyone hearing them for the first time.
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