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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
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.
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.
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
Definately a worthwhile read. Interesting and informative about a couple of writers who probably didn't get the respect they deserved, except from iconic rock critic Charles Shaar... Read morePublished 19 days ago by Marcus Osborne
Reposted and edited with permission from the Around The Edges blog:
One of the curiosities of the songwriting career of Pete Atkin and Clive James is how close they came... Read more
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 5 months ago by Amazon Customer
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 6 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 6 months ago by Philip Whiteley
This fascinating book seems to be dealing exclusively in 5 star reviews...well here comes another one! Read morePublished 6 months ago by The Syrys one
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 6 months ago by Maggie