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on 29 June 2003
"If you can remember the 80's, you were probably there" opens this book, and for those of us who grew up arguing over whether Duran Duran or Wham were best, and hearing our dads exclaim 'is that a man or a woman?' when Boy George appeared on Top of the Pops, this encyclopaedia provides a nostalgic look into the music of our childhoods.
Blythe states from the start that this is not meant to be a serious tome, and his sense of humour generally makes the book a very enjoyable read. He also admits to leaving out musical giants such as Queen whose music spans the 80's but was not confined to it; but I don't think this is such a bad thing, as it leaves more room for obscure acts such as Nu Shooz - now I thought my memory was good, but this book has certainly revived a few dusty corners of my mind. It's well researched too; Blythe has included interesting facts, quotes and relevant websites in some of the sections.
After all this, why only 3 stars? Well, for me anyway there is one big problem with the book - it's clearly aimed at men, as it is peppered with laddish comments and observations about the physical appearance of some of the female stars of the 80's. From my recollection, about 50% of us growing up in the 80's was female, and although the popular stereotype that encyclopaedic-type books appeal more to men may sometimes be true, I do think that this book alienates some of its potential audience. It certainly did me; I got tired with all the 'phwooar' type references, as I do feel that way too much emphasis is placed on looks in Western society; after all, we get our looks from a random combination of genes; having fashionable ones does not make us any better than those who do not.
But OK then, maybe having crushes on pop stars was part of growing up in the 80's and maybe the author was trying to recreate this. But where are the references to the male pin-ups? My own teenage crush, the smouldering Morten Harket of A-ha, barely gets a mention. And as for Duran Duran, Blythe disparagingly describes them as 'slightly porky with bleach blond hair and a foppish name'... but then he still manages to get in a positive reference to female appearance even though the band were all blokes!
Maybe, though, this does say something. In my opinion the talents of bands like Duran Duran and A-ha went far beyond their appearance, and I think much of the music they produced was excellent and is still listenable to today. However in the section on Vanessa Paradis, the author can only manage a few words about her music and spends the rest of the time twittering on about her appearance and how nubile she is. Says it all really...
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on 20 March 2003
It's not often that I read an 'Encyclopaedia' from cover to cover, let alone in one sitting; but, of course, this is no ordinary book of names and dates. This is a book of memories. Wonderful memories, at that! Daniel Blythe has, with warmth and affection, taken that most maligned of decades and given it the loving homage it deserves. Within these pages, you'll be taken back (assuming,that is,you're between 30 and 45) to a time when being a rebellious teenager meant admitting to enjoying Culture Club; having a silly fringe; and wearing a jacket with its sleeves rolled up.He writes informatively and with great humour about pop acts you remember vividly and about those you'd hoped you'd forgotten (but, in retrospect,are so glad they existed). From the undisputed greats (Eurythmics, Ultravox, Spandau Ballet), to the one-hit wonders (Karel Fialka anyone?) each one is treated with affection and (on the whole) respect. His knowledge of even the most obscure act to ever grace the charts (and some that didn't even make it that far) is astounding; and his opinions are constantly entertaining (and required reading, particularly those relating to the final, musically sterile, years of the decade).In short, this is an essential read for anyone to whom the phrases "I bought a ticket to the world", "I was working as a waitress in a Cocktail Bar" or "Bless my cotton socks, I'm in the news" bring a nostalgic shiver down the spine.
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on 8 December 2002
I picked up a copy of this book on my recent vacation to the UK and it was well worth the money. Daniel Blythe is a hilarious writer and his takes on some of the '80s most notable acts are interesting, funny, and original. He clearly has great affection for most music from the 80s and so the jibes he takes are more from affection than dislike. I heartily recommend this to any music fan - you won't be disappointed.
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on 9 December 2003
Daniel Blythe has already demonstrated his skill with his pacy, witty and dark novels; here, in his first work of non-fiction, he lets his wicked sense of humour come to the fore.
This is combined with an amazing knowledge of the great, the good, the awful and the astonishing from the Eighties music scene. It's packed full of references you'll be delighted to get, memories of songs you'd half-forgotten and some passionate defences of the author's favourite acts (The Adventures, the Pogues, Tears For Fears, Voice of the Beehive and more).
Scathing, witty, informative, delightful and constantly entertaining, this may not be an "Encyclopaedia" in the conventional sense - but it's a fantastic book.
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on 2 December 2003
ive never been a big fan of books but when i saw this on the shelves i thought id make an exception.this writer is an absolute genius.his thoughts on the 80s are the same as mine.the artists used range from the mainstream to the minority.it has details of nearly every incident,however great or embarrasssing, a lot of information on the bands such as early names,bands who have used their songs and also it is the funniest book i have read so far.even though im from ireland i practically take more notice of what goes on in the uk charts.his dance and hip hop bashing is another great thing about this book and it is a must read for anyone who grew up in this decade.
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on 14 September 2016
Lightweight but entertaining canter through the rolled up jacket sleeves decade. A few surprising omissions (Prince) but also some surprising inclusions (Kissing The Pink) - it took me less than a day in total to read so not "in-depth", but hey anyone who hates SAW and loves Half Man Half Biscuit is eminently qualified to review the gay-tees IMHO.
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on 14 March 2013
I bought this as a reference book for research into the music of the 80s, as I am writing a book set in that decade.
Daniel has a great wit, so it's a fun read, rather than just dry old information.
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on 3 December 2015
Super fast posting, great book, tongue in cheek reviewing, excellent read!
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