“Gertrude,” by Herman Hesse

Novel, 1910 A book about a young man and his pursuit of music and love. The universal themes, multi-faceted and gloomy characters, and the determination of the first-person narrator counteract the old-fashioned feel of this book. It’s a compelling read, too, really taking the reader in and building attachment to the story’s twists and turns. A strong example of traditional, engaging writing with much to … Continue reading “Gertrude,” by Herman Hesse

“Whiplash,” directed by Damien Chazelle

Movie, 2014 A film whose plot could be summarised as one man struggles to teach another man who struggles to learn how to play drums. What this precis omits, however, is a psychological study which all too often, and all too readily feels farcical and overbaked. A film which tries to focus on the obsessions of a couple of people, which in succeeding in its … Continue reading “Whiplash,” directed by Damien Chazelle

“You Can Drum But You Can’t Hide,” by Simon Wolstencroft

Non-fiction, 2014 Memoir of ex-Fall drummer, and his life in Manchester, almost joining The Stone Roses and The Smiths along the way. A fast-paced book and pretty easy to read, in which Wolstencroft covers but doesn’t drill too much on the ups and downs and so isn’t too self-indulgent or miserable. A good balance and chipper overall. Potential readers who don’t have an interest in … Continue reading “You Can Drum But You Can’t Hide,” by Simon Wolstencroft

“England is Mine”, directed by Mark Gill

Movie, 2017 Biopic of Smiths singer Morrissey. While no whitewash, this feels like a fans’ film and homage to a hugely problematic figure, who’s come a long way and has alienated many who grew up and devoted themselves to The Smiths. Still, the atmosphere of footbridges, smoky pubs, bedrooms and 9-5 day jobs is all pretty effective and transport the viewer back to a mid-1980s, … Continue reading “England is Mine”, directed by Mark Gill

“Have a Bleedin’ Guess”, by Paul Hanley

Non-fiction, 2019 Memoirs, interviews and recollections of the recording of what many see as The Fall’s best album, Hex Enduction Hour. It’s hard to see non-fans of the group taking anything away from this, although for fans, it’s great reading, combining a Wyndham Lewis cover with the views of the key players in the album and an irreverent use of footnotes which is at once … Continue reading “Have a Bleedin’ Guess”, by Paul Hanley

“Love and Mercy”, directed by Bill Pohlad

Movie, 2014 Brian Wilson biopic, focusing on both the recording of The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds and a period later in Wilson’s life and his relationship with a used car salesperson, whilst being shackled by a personal minder. The decision to have two actors playing Wilson pays off, with the different times in his life related, but almost inconceivably connected to the same man. The … Continue reading “Love and Mercy”, directed by Bill Pohlad

“Good Night and Good Riddance,” by David Cavanagh

Non-fiction, 2015 Examination of John Peel’s radio broadcasting career, through a chronology of some the dj’s shows. A book by an admirer rather than a blinkered fan, and obviously a music enthusiast with a turn of words. If some of the contextual details feel a little particular, this is no disaster, as the book moves along nicely, painting a picture of Peel and some of … Continue reading “Good Night and Good Riddance,” by David Cavanagh

"Brothers of the Head", directed by Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe

Movie, 2005 Gritty film about the rise of a pub/punk rock band fronted by Siamese twins. The film pulls off the trick of being sympathetic, critical and non-exploitative, partly through using narratives – most prominently the mockumentary mix of interviews and Ken Russell’s fictional cinematic take. The story is, however, tried and tested. Sex, drugs and rock and roll are reeled out and held for … Continue reading "Brothers of the Head", directed by Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe

"The Forensic Records Society", by Magnus Mills

Novel, 2017 A book, like others by the author, in which a scene is set – quite an odd, quirky but essentially familiar, humdrum scene – and then nothing really seems to happen in quite brisk, glorious fashion. The establishment, growth and fall of different shades of seven inch vinyl appreciation and their nuances and power struggles within and between give this novel more of an allegorical … Continue reading "The Forensic Records Society", by Magnus Mills

"Head", directed Bob Rafelson

Movie, 1968 A patchy film; the acting is patchy (though far from disastrous), the set pieces patch -running from goofy-smart satire to psychedelic nonsense – and most notably the music, which is never outright bad, ranges from the slightly dull to the ridiculously good. To say this is a product of its time is an understatement. Head presents viewers with a disjointed watch which can feel … Continue reading "Head", directed Bob Rafelson