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Loose Canon: The Extraordinary Songs of Clive James and Pete Atkin Hardcover – 13 Oct 2016
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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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Top Customer Reviews
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).Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
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... Read morePublished 28 days ago by Otto
As a music fan of generally anything I was bought this for Christmas. What an enjoyable, interesting read filled with some beautiful and touching moments.Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
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... Read morePublished 1 month ago by I. A. Ashleigh
It is rare you find a book where the written narrative is as lyrical as the songs themselves, but 'Loose Canon' is one of those books. Read morePublished 2 months ago by E.J.
Clive James is well known for his TV work, yet is also a prodigious literary talent, and enjoys growing reputation as a poet. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Philip Whiteley
Brilliant book, and the perfect Christmas present for anyone who's a Clive James fan. I had no idea he'd written some 200 songs over the last 50 years, but of course he can do... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Maggie
I loved this book. It's well written, illuminating, full of humour and a real joy to read. Ian Shircore is an excellent
writer and this is his best book yet.
Cracking read. I knew next to nothing about James/Atkin and their work but was drawn into the story from the first chapter. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Amazon Customer