Reading - July 2019

The Guitar Magazine (August 2019 / Issue 371)
An interesting "oral history" of the Strat, although the cover is a bit misleading: it shouts "Jeff Beck on the magic of the Strat" but in fact it's just a couple of paras from him in the middle of it all. Strymon's extraordinary Volante is reviewed and there's plenty else of interest.
Electric Guitars: Design and Invention by Tony Bacon (2017)
Most electric guitars are based on the original designs of the fifties, so it's no surprise that this book has a lot more detail about the early years, but too much of the subsequent history is taken up by detail the minor revisions made by Fender and Gibson over the following decade. Meanwhile, Ned Steinberger and Ken Parker - two of the most original guitar designers to emerge since - are given about a page each, while the Floyd Rose tremelo gets a couple of paragraphs. Lots of nice pictures of course, but much heavier on the kind of detail also available in other Tony Bacon books (like those about Fender and Gibson) and not enough on newer innovations.
Be My Enemy by Christopher Brookmyre (2004)
A bit gruesome in places but well-plotted as ever, and fun to read.
The Colour Of Magic by Terry Pratchett (1983)
Amazing to think this was written in 1983 and yet I didn't discover Pratchett until I was an adult. I'm doing all of them in order, I've decided, and so it starts here. All the traits are already in place, as indeed they are in his juvenalia, but lacking some of the pointedness of some of his later books and just rejoicing in the breadth of imagination. Next is The Light Fantastic, but I read that earlier this year, so I am moving straight onto Equal Rites.
My Bass And Other Animals by Guy Pratt (2007)
A tremendously entertaining romp through the rock 'n' roll highlights of a session man's life. Despite being as full of drugs and bad behaviour as Allan Jones's Can't Stand Up For Falling Down, it comes across as much less needy and desperate to be cool and instead as, well, boys having fun. Guy is obviously well-rated as a player (although he doesn't make a big thing about this), but just as importantly is clearly simply very charming, something that radiates from this book.


Reading - June 2019

The Guitar Magazine (July 2019 / Issue 370)
"Is Gibson's 60th Anniversay 1959 Les Paul The Best R9 Ever?" - Guitar Magazine continues its quest to turn into Guitarist. Although I suppose it's inevitable, since everything I've ever read (including posts from GM editor Chris Vinnicombe on TheFretboard) indicate that sales go up when they put a Les Paul on the cover. Otherwise an interesting enough issue.
The Gibson 335 Guitar Book by Tony Bacon (2016)
Comprehensive and nicely illustrated history of the pioneering semi-acoustic. I've never played a 335 but my Yamaha SA2200 is basically the same thing and I'm really enjoying it at the moment.
Can't Stand Up For Falling Down by Allan Jones (2017)
I read Melody Maker every week for a couple of years, probably in the late 80s/early 90s. I preferred it to NME (I think I originally picked it because it had staples, when NME didn't - very practical, right?) but even then I got somewhat irritated with the rock myth-making and uncritical attitude to some of the more ridiculous excesses of rock stars. The whole idea that any behaviour can be excused "because it's rock 'n' roll" struck me as juvenile at the time and seems even more so now. Reading these collected articles from Allan Jones - editor of MM from 1984 to 1997 - it's clear this attitude came from the top. Most of his recollection of the "golden age" of rock involve drink, drugs and stupidity, and aren't really enlightening - they just serve to bolster what reputation he thinks he has. Mildly entertaining but not a patch on the writing, wit and insight of David Hepworth or Mark Ellen - the real kings of rock journalism in this period.
Lost In Music by Giles Smith (1995)
A discussion on the forum about the best rock bios reminded me of this - a rock bio of a failed musician. Giles Smith is a journalist but he played in bands and even had a record deal - of sorts. An amusing and easy read, and a nicely balanced account of life at the other end of the rock spectrum from the private jets and lavish lifestyles.
Fooling Houdini by Alex Stone (2012)
Having been fascinated by magic all his life, the author decides to find out more and ends up learning about himself along the way. There's plenty of fascinating detail about magic and its history, without getting needlessly technical or giving away too many secrets. In a funny way, this feels a bit like Neil Strauss's The Game, in which an unsuspecting innocent immerses himself in a hidden, mysterious world and finally becomes an initiate - only without the moral dubiousness and the feeling that you need to have a good wash afterwards.
Still Pumped From Using The Mouse by Scott Adams (1996)
Perfectly likeable collection of Dilbert cartoons from the mid-nineties. A couple of classics, a few more gentle laughs and the rest, y'know, fine.