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on 6 July 2014
It was brilliant. That venue means so much to me over the years from grunge to metal gigs to raves to the pogues at christmas time. Coupled with the last 6 years i have spent working in Brixton for Lambeth Council, it was fascinating to read things from the academy's point of view, and to hear how Brixton used to operate. The bit about the In Bloom festival nearly reduced me to tears. Really well written and gives a great insight on the music industry and on Brixton. Great stuff.
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on 22 February 2015
I received this book as a Xmas gift and read it in two sittings. It is a thoroughly enjoyable gallop through the history of the iconic (and my favourite) London venue.

Simon Parkes, a Gordonstoun-educated son of a Northern fishing magnate, fell in love with the venue’s “dilapidated elegance of that art deco”. He tells how he bought the old “Brixton Astoria’s” lease from a top brewer company for merely a quid (in return for a deal on Watneys beer concessions) and hired a bunch of South London roughnecks to clean up the place and provide the necessary “security”. The book is a trove of lively stories about how he then built up the “Academy” brand, first through Jamaican reggae gigs and post punk New Wave and, later on, rap, dance/rave and Britpop. Throughout the 80s he contended with drug pushers, Brixton gangsters, Jamaican “Yardies”, and the cut-throat world of live music promotion in London.

There is some interesting history about the old theatre at the start of the book. When it was built in 1929 the original theme of the Astoria was “the Mediterranean Night”. The proscenium arch was modelled after the Rialto bridge in Venice and the ceiling in the auditorium was decorated with twinkling stars to give the audience the impression of sitting under the Venetian night sky. As Parkes says “a bit of Venice in South London, who’d ever have thought it?

And, of course, Parkes’ friendships with legends across the whole spectrum of pop, rock and dance music propel the narrative and keep you riveted. The names will be familiar to those who have stood over the years on that sloping floor: The Clash, The Cult, The Pogues, The Pixies, Run DMC, Motorhead, The Smiths, Primal Scream, The Happy Mondays and so on.

Parkes closes the book with some comments about the relative decline of live music due to shifting priorities dictated by the corporate rock business “suits” and the rise of manufactured “identikit” pop groups who couldn’t play live (for example, the Spice Girls). Indeed, it could be argued that Parkes’ stewardship of the Academy from 1980 until the mid 90s saw out the last golden era of live rock’n’roll in London.
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on 5 April 2016
Came down to see Sigur Ros in 2013 and was blown away not only by the band, but also in the stunning venue they played in. Never been in a place like it before or since.

The history of Brixton Academy, as laid out in Simon Parkes' book, is absolutely fascinating. You will race through this in a matter of days.
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on 2 February 2014
not in the habit of reading non fiction but this book is an exception. workload growing as i find myself distracted (just another chapter then i'll put it down) by this brilliant account of the wierd and wonderful world backstage at the academy. got to be a film. too sound and visual for just a book. but a comedy? musical? love story? gangland thriller? the least it deserves is 'three weddings and a funeral goes urban' with balls on. anyway read this book its brilliant. unless of course you dont like music?!
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on 26 January 2014
A brilliant read. The Academy put Brixton on the map for all the right reasons at a time when it was a no go area for most people.

If it hadn't been for Simon, Pat and the team many of us simply would never had the chance to see so many great bands.

When are we going to see the film? I can't wait to see who is going to play a young Parksy stood on the door in top hat and tails?
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on 16 September 2015
Wow! What a read this is. Been going to the Academy since 1989 and i wish i'd known then what i know now. A story of gritty realism, constant threats of gang violence, actual violence, humungous amounts of drugs, sometimes healthy competition and in my view the best gig venue i've ever known. Well done Simon Parkes and your team. I thank you for what you did for me and millions of others.
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on 31 January 2014
This is a great page turner about a bygone era before concerts were sanitised, a time when Simon Parkes and a small handfull of others were pushing the envelope and creating great musical experiences. Simon should be very proud of the legacy he has left in Brixton and reading this book it is a miracle he lived to tell the story.. But what a story ...
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on 18 October 2014
An excellent read, I couldn't put it down! Such an interesting story about one mans dream to bring live music into London where the establishment had the monopoly!
The story was peppered with memories of great shows that Simon put on over the years and a truly inspirational read.
A must for any fan of live music!
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VINE VOICEon 2 May 2014
This was a great read. Well written for an easy read.
Amazing when you read all about the "business" that goes on behind the running of a venue. I remember going to The Cult gig at The academy and thinking....will it be safe as at the time the area did have a certain reputation. It was a great gig and no hassles.
Some scary stories, and you really don't think about all of this when you go to a just want to get there..enjoy it and get home without having to get the night bus!
It is amazing how the venue (SP and gang) built it up from a leaky wreck to hosting Rock Royalty.
Interesting to hear Simon P's comments about the many cccchhhh anges over the years.....indie shows then the authorised raves and club nights..then up to big rock shows (and pre band tour rehearsals and video shoots) Then the slump due to the manufactured bands and their c=**ppy videos taking the live market away.
But what goes around comes around...and the reformed bands doing "albums" performances has brought the live scene back(even if it is as extraordinary prices!!!)

If you like going to gigs ...and as another reviewer said it's well worth a read!!!
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on 21 April 2014
I have been to Brixton Academy (or whatever it's called now) too many times to count but I never gave a thought to the running or history of the building. Simon Parkes, a man in the right place at the right time, takes you through the ups and downs of owning a venue with such style you won't want to put this book down. Don't hesitate BUY THE BOOK!
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