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Reelin' in the Years: The Soundtrack of a Northern Life - Mark Radcliffe

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Genre: Music / Stage / Screen / Author: Mark Radcliffe / Paperback / 352 Pages / Book is published 2011-05-12 by Simon & Schuster Ltd

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      10.03.2012 10:13
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      The most important music track for each year of my life

      ==Synopsis of the book:==

      Mark Radcliffe selects a record from each year since his birth in 1958 that has been important in some way to him. He explains some background to the song he choose, the why, plus the other close runners in his opinion. He shares some and other important facts and trivia from that particular year in question, helping to create the mood of what that year was like for him and other UK households.


      Mark is a very keen music enthusiast having been in several bands and has worked at Radio 1 amongst other media related jobs. During this time he has met and interviewed many famous people and also people he either disliked or idolised because of their music. While seeing many of the biggest and most successful artists 'live' both as a fan and a journalist.


      ==My thoughts of this book:==

      My overall thoughts on this piece of non-fiction was that is was only a very average read. This is a massive disappointment to me as I expected so much when I first was introduced to the concept behind it of a favourite record for every year of your life. So perhaps my expectation was too high and it was never going to live up to it but I felt this book fell between various possibilities and never convinced me what the author was trying to do.


      What I mean by this I was either expecting a record to be selected from each year and we would get a really good insight into the author's thoughts, ideals and events be they good or bad that happened to him in that year. Or we got a real insight into why this was his favourite track and details behind how he got the music and the story behind the original recording of it. And while the author did do some of both it was neither consistent in the detail he shared or the depth was not that the back up his feelings. As a result I felt I was only getting half the picture and I felt robbed as there was so much more he could have said that could and probably would have won me over.


      That said it was still an interesting read. I am a little younger than the author so initially his selections from the late 1950's and early 1960's would have been songs I would not have listened to then only when they where played years later on the radio. Despite this I found his justifications always well thought out and I got a real snapshot of what Britain was like then. With facts some of which I already knew, some I did not that helped me understand what was happening in Britain during this year in question.


      I found I was really looking forward to him getting a bit older and sharing his favourites music of the late 70's, 1980's and 1990's, because this was the period when music was really important to me and knowing what was happening in the charts seemed one of the most important things in my life. Although this was when I started to get a little disillusioned with what I was reading as I did not feel I was really getting to grips and understanding the author through his work as I had hoped and expected. For example I could not understand how one year his favourite track was The Damned and the next it was Kraftwerk. That is because the music is so different and yet his justification for changing musical direction seemed weak, going from Punk to synthesizer music without a dramatic shift in interests.


      That is not to say there where not excellent pieces within the various years. As Mark Radcliffe has a very funny sense of humour and quite often he had me in stitches with his wit and a funny story he was sharing. It was this humour that kept me going as he would interject a clever remark or witticism that was quite often as subtle as anything. It was probably worth reading for the humour and that made up for a lot of my disappointment with some of the music selected.


      I knew from the outset that I would not like all the tracks he selected. But I had expected with a good argument for selecting that track I could understand and respect why he got to that conclusion. However I just found my taste and his taste was too different and as a result rather than understanding the author I increasingly found I did not understand him at all. I know music is very subjective and we all have different songs that mean things to us because of maybe a relationship, something that was happening to us at a given point in our lives or it reminds of an important time in our lives.


      Clearly Mark Radcliffe has a real passion for music and hence why he was a good choice to host a radio show for many years, where he would get to listen and select some of his favourite music. I was impressed how his dedication and interest has continued as he has matured into fatherhood, whereas I have found myself increasingly alienated from much of today's music preferring instead the music I basically grew up with. Mark doesn't seem to do this and it is to his credit that he embraces new bands and styles while still appreciating the classics from his youth.


      What I found through some intelligent and clever writing you could see how Britain was changing. How people's lives where changing because of developments such as the 3 day week, foreign holidays and computers. But he would also demonstrate how some things from his past remained the same and his love of music was one of these.


      What struck me as odd was for a few of the years he had very little to say why he selected the particular song, while in others there was a long, sometimes quite dull story that really lacked a punchline. Maybe it was because there was no story to really tell for these songs or nothing interesting anyway. It just seemed a strange a classic song would not be supported by a good justification for choosing it.


      I think I expected to know and understand Mark Radcliffe by him sharing his favourite songs and an insight into developments into his life but frankly I do not feel I know this author any more now than I did when I started the book. Yes this is a follow up to his successful 'Thank you for the days' book and maybe he shared many personal insights there and doesn't want to bore the reader with the same story twice, but I felt I had missed something as I never knew or understood the author despite reading over 300 pages about his life.


      Maybe sharing 53 records for every year is too much for one book. And that to give the sort of depth I would have liked would have either meant two books or one very long one. It was the falling between two ideas that bothered me. Either he should have concentrated on why he selected them and what he knew about their background or he should have demonstrated what was happening in this year and what he was doing, feeling and thinking. As in some respects to me it felt like the author was writing a book for the sake of writing a book, not using his intelligence and writing skills for a meaningful purpose, very hard I know but that was my feelings.


      ==Conclusion:==


      I thought the idea behind this book was excellent as it was much a different concept. But I do not think in all honesty I can recommend it, I found it quite hard going because there was not the detail about the authors life that I felt I needed to understand and relate to him. It was falling between two stalls that bothered me and no amount of wit or humour could change my views on this.


      ==Other Information:==

      Pages: 352
      Price: 6.36 new at Amazon
      Publisher: Simon and Schuster
      ISBN-10: 085720050X
      ISBN-13: 978-0857200501
      Year first Published: 2011


      Thanks for reading my review.


      This review is published under my user name on both Ciao and Dooyoo.


      © CPTDANIELS March 2012

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