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Words and Music: A History of Pop in the Shape of a City

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Has pop burnt itself out?Paul Morley takes the reader on an epic drive through the history of music to find out. A succession of celebrities, geniuses and other protagonists led by Madonna, Kraftwerk, Brian Eno, Erik Satie, John Cage and Wittgenstein appear to give their points of view. Detours and sights along the way include Missy Elliot, Jarvis Cocker, Eminem, Human Lea Has pop burnt itself out?Paul Morley takes the reader on an epic drive through the history of music to find out. A succession of celebrities, geniuses and other protagonists led by Madonna, Kraftwerk, Brian Eno, Erik Satie, John Cage and Wittgenstein appear to give their points of view. Detours and sights along the way include Missy Elliot, Jarvis Cocker, Eminem, Human League, Radiohead, Lou Reed, Now! That's What I Call Music, Ornette Coleman and the ghost of Elvis Presley.


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Has pop burnt itself out?Paul Morley takes the reader on an epic drive through the history of music to find out. A succession of celebrities, geniuses and other protagonists led by Madonna, Kraftwerk, Brian Eno, Erik Satie, John Cage and Wittgenstein appear to give their points of view. Detours and sights along the way include Missy Elliot, Jarvis Cocker, Eminem, Human Lea Has pop burnt itself out?Paul Morley takes the reader on an epic drive through the history of music to find out. A succession of celebrities, geniuses and other protagonists led by Madonna, Kraftwerk, Brian Eno, Erik Satie, John Cage and Wittgenstein appear to give their points of view. Detours and sights along the way include Missy Elliot, Jarvis Cocker, Eminem, Human League, Radiohead, Lou Reed, Now! That's What I Call Music, Ornette Coleman and the ghost of Elvis Presley.

30 review for Words and Music: A History of Pop in the Shape of a City

  1. 5 out of 5

    Tosh

    Paul Morley, is one of the U.K.'s top music writers and 'thinkers' as well. In fact he thinks about 'pop music a lot. Maybe too much? That is up to the reader. But I am a firm believer in writer's obsessions and without a doubt Morley's obsession with Kylie Minogue is almost a step into total madness.' The book I think is too long, but then again i could read less of it. It doesn't matter. What does mater is the author has a personal vision of pop and he makes that outlook an interesting read.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ron Mcfarlan

    Maybe a bit much Minogue and too little Lucier. Still, damn near every time he made a list, I was familiar with at least 80% of the musicians, many of them obscure. I found it comforting that someone else could be so obsessive and nerdish in his musical tastes. On that note, if you're not obsessive and nerdish about your experimental, post-punk, post-rock, electronic, ambient, minimalist, ETC. styles; probably not something you'd enjoy.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ilia

    Morley explains towards the end of the book that his style is designed to capture in words what great music feels like, rather than just dryly classify the new in comparison to the old. That makes for a highly idiosyncratic history of pop – with lots of wordplay, repetition, lists, digressions and absurdly long footnotes. Occasionally this can get tiresome, although Morley's tongue is always in his cheek when attempting his flights of fancy, and I found the book very funny rather than merely irr Morley explains towards the end of the book that his style is designed to capture in words what great music feels like, rather than just dryly classify the new in comparison to the old. That makes for a highly idiosyncratic history of pop – with lots of wordplay, repetition, lists, digressions and absurdly long footnotes. Occasionally this can get tiresome, although Morley's tongue is always in his cheek when attempting his flights of fancy, and I found the book very funny rather than merely irritating. The spine of the argument is the way contemporary pop music has been influenced by avant-garde experiments with electronic music during the 20th century – although Morley would never say it so bluntly. Ultimately I prefer my music books to be more robust and less flamboyant in their analysis, but this was still a great deal of fun to read.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ian

    A very esoteric history of pop. A ride in a very fast car. Insightful and entertaining. Lots and lots of lists some of which will interest you and some won't. It will alomost certainly make you curious about some artist or genre you have never heard of. Plenty of philosphy and ideas - for example a discussion of celebrity. Goes well beyond a history of pop and leaves out as much as it takes in. Eclectic and wacky. I still take it off the shelf to get inspiration as to what to listen to next- or A very esoteric history of pop. A ride in a very fast car. Insightful and entertaining. Lots and lots of lists some of which will interest you and some won't. It will alomost certainly make you curious about some artist or genre you have never heard of. Plenty of philosphy and ideas - for example a discussion of celebrity. Goes well beyond a history of pop and leaves out as much as it takes in. Eclectic and wacky. I still take it off the shelf to get inspiration as to what to listen to next- or what to challenge amazon music with.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Eamonn

    Baffling.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Marco

    Morley ha un ego sovradimensionato. E' uno che ha colto al balzo la palla del postmoderno e ha stabilito che decostruzione, rizoma e balle varie erano l'occasione giusta per mettere il proprio smisurato ego al centro di ogni singolo discorso sottodiscorso metadiscorso. Questo libro non dice assolutamente nulla di interessante. A dire il vero, questo libro non "dice" proprio: dovessi riassumerlo, sarei costretto a sostenere che parla essenzialmente di "I Can't Get You Out of My Head" - cosa falsa. Morley ha un ego sovradimensionato. E' uno che ha colto al balzo la palla del postmoderno e ha stabilito che decostruzione, rizoma e balle varie erano l'occasione giusta per mettere il proprio smisurato ego al centro di ogni singolo discorso sottodiscorso metadiscorso. Questo libro non dice assolutamente nulla di interessante. A dire il vero, questo libro non "dice" proprio: dovessi riassumerlo, sarei costretto a sostenere che parla essenzialmente di "I Can't Get You Out of My Head" - cosa falsa. La cita. La impiega come tassello e passepartout per costruire un labirinto di liste rimandi e sonore balle che ha, sempre, al centro Mr. Morley stesso.La tragedia �� che tutto questo �� divertente. Che il ragazzo (?) sa scrivere nonostante e forse proprio grazie al suo sconfinato narcisismo. "Metapop" non dice niente, s��, ma lo dice bene, e a ogni pagina ti chiedi "chiss�� adesso cosa si inventa?", "chiss�� ora come ritorna al filo principale?" (come se ci fosse un filo principale), "quanto sono veri gli pseudo-fatti che sta riportando?". E cos�� la lettura scorre veloce, pagina dopo pagina, lista dopo lista senza lasciare apparentemente nulla. Nulla di musicale, in ogni caso. Eppure, qualcosa rimane: l'immagine di quella giungla di citazioni, invenzioni, nodi e collegamenti. La "rete" di Mr. Morley, quella la si dimentica, ma ci si ritrova inevitabilmente catapultati nella propria.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    Morley, one of the architects of both New Pop (as a concept/movement) and, arguably, Poptimism 1.0, is always a writer worth engaging with. With a frankly inhumanly encyclopedic knowledge of music, popular and otherwise, the sheer scope of this book would make it a worthwhile read. Fair warning, despite his often lyrical (no pun intended) insight, Morley is an intensely -male- writer-- not a mysoginist as such, but his tastes, with a few notable exceptions (the book uses an imagined discourse wi Morley, one of the architects of both New Pop (as a concept/movement) and, arguably, Poptimism 1.0, is always a writer worth engaging with. With a frankly inhumanly encyclopedic knowledge of music, popular and otherwise, the sheer scope of this book would make it a worthwhile read. Fair warning, despite his often lyrical (no pun intended) insight, Morley is an intensely -male- writer-- not a mysoginist as such, but his tastes, with a few notable exceptions (the book uses an imagined discourse with Kylie Minougue, or the idea of Kylie Minogue--of whom Morley is a huge fan--as a framing device) are, in alrge part, a bit too phallocentric. Morley's brand of poptimism is of an older school, and today may well come across as stuffily rockist, and addresses only a smattering of non-white artists. In that sense, while the book is a deep dive into pop's history(/ies), it's breadth of representation and genre is, in the greater scheme, rather narrow. Still, worth tackling if only for the exhaustive lists, recommendations, and surprising ley lines of influences scribbled over the pop constellation.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Tom

    Basically impossible to review: parts of the book were 4/5 stars, tremendous stuff and parts of it were sub-zero. I'm all for pop culture lists, but many of the lists were too-clever attempts to echo (one of) the book's theme about drone music. Instead of playing repetitive beats with minute variations, he provided pages upon pages of lists that required a careful eye to catch any variation (or point). Additionally, I didn't really care for the Kylie Minogue biography conceit that tied the book's Basically impossible to review: parts of the book were 4/5 stars, tremendous stuff and parts of it were sub-zero. I'm all for pop culture lists, but many of the lists were too-clever attempts to echo (one of) the book's theme about drone music. Instead of playing repetitive beats with minute variations, he provided pages upon pages of lists that required a careful eye to catch any variation (or point). Additionally, I didn't really care for the Kylie Minogue biography conceit that tied the book's various pieces together (in a very loose way). It made sense in the second half, but required an unnecessary amount of slogging in the beginning. All of that said, I'm going to pick up one of his essay collections at some point because I think I liked this. I'm just not sure. I did enjoy the idea of an unreliable narrator in what purports to be non-fiction (e.g., describing the White Stripes as a legendary band from the '60s).

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jacken

    Really enjoyable/interesting charting of the relationship between pop and the avante garde, through a focus on Kyle's 'Can't Get You Out of My Head' and Alvin Lucier's 'I am Sitting in a Room' (i prefer the Lucier..) sent me on countless searches for bits of music that get discussed during the course of the journey, and pointed out loads of connections between/aspects of peices of music that i already knew.. after a while the writing style feels a bit like wading through golden syrup though - it's Really enjoyable/interesting charting of the relationship between pop and the avante garde, through a focus on Kyle's 'Can't Get You Out of My Head' and Alvin Lucier's 'I am Sitting in a Room' (i prefer the Lucier..) sent me on countless searches for bits of music that get discussed during the course of the journey, and pointed out loads of connections between/aspects of peices of music that i already knew.. after a while the writing style feels a bit like wading through golden syrup though - it's one of the things that i really liked at first, but towards the end i found myself skipping bits, and just dropping in and out of the footnotes that interested me...

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kim Bonfils

    Paul Morley is one of those rare music writers that do not take sides in the battle between "pop" and "serious" music. He likes what he likes - and writes dazzlingly about it. Not intended as a factual history in any way, the book is instead driven by Morley's relentless enthusiasm for the art of music. And it doesn't stop at pop - the book spans an impressive amount of genres, including avant-garde works such as Alvin Lucier's experimental tape piece "I Am Sitting in a Room". That on the first p Paul Morley is one of those rare music writers that do not take sides in the battle between "pop" and "serious" music. He likes what he likes - and writes dazzlingly about it. Not intended as a factual history in any way, the book is instead driven by Morley's relentless enthusiasm for the art of music. And it doesn't stop at pop - the book spans an impressive amount of genres, including avant-garde works such as Alvin Lucier's experimental tape piece "I Am Sitting in a Room". That on the first page this work is juxtaposed with Kylie Minogue's "I Can't Get You Out of My Head" should give you an idea of just how eclectic this book is.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    While he can be quite irritating (and the Kylie fixation just comes across as a bit pervy) he is so infectious because he is in love with POP - the imagination and the enthusiasm really grab you; this is a journey through modern music in the passenger seat of an imaginary car heading for the arhchetypal city...and it works. The stuff on the beauty and soulfulness of Kraftwerk are just spot on (rebuts all that lazy crap abouyt faceless Teutons), quite rightly venerates New Order...but does wander While he can be quite irritating (and the Kylie fixation just comes across as a bit pervy) he is so infectious because he is in love with POP - the imagination and the enthusiasm really grab you; this is a journey through modern music in the passenger seat of an imaginary car heading for the arhchetypal city...and it works. The stuff on the beauty and soulfulness of Kraftwerk are just spot on (rebuts all that lazy crap abouyt faceless Teutons), quite rightly venerates New Order...but does wander off into listiness to often...and it does run out of steam before the end - but definitely worth a read, so much better than most books about pop which are just so staid and unoriginal.

  12. 5 out of 5

    GloriaGloom

    L'Estetica come Categoria di riferimento del pop o il pop come Categoria Estetica? Succulento, sfizioso e bislacco libello rovinato da una traduzione a dir poco legnosa(ci si son messi anche in due). Ma l'editrice ISBN non è nuova a questi disastri(vedi Ajax, la squadra del ghetto o 64.748 mq.) In questi giorni si trova facilmente nei reimander a prezzo dimezzato: le barbarie editoriali non sempre pagano.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Peter

    Completely exhilarating and bloody-minded history of pop and ideas, ideas about pop, popular ideas, and just about anything else Morley can shoe-horn in on a wafer-thin but infinitely-wide pretext. A big celebration of the avant-garde and the mainstream and an encouragement to listen more and think more. That's good.

  14. 4 out of 5

    MJ Nicholls

    A fascinating culture-defining thesis on the postmodern influence of pop. Morley was around when the Sex Pistols were first tuning up in 1976 and, using his decades as an influential rock writer and thinker, lends academic weight to his poetic musings. Essential for musical obsessives and aspiring dilettantes of sound.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jamil

    too much noise & I couldn't focus. If I were the type of person to read books in small chunks (& if I weren't under the time restrictions of ILL) I might have liked it quite a bit. As it was, I just skimmed. If I ever come back to it, it'll be because of the great timeline of "life and death, sound and silence...thought and escapade..." from 1624-2003 included within. too much noise & I couldn't focus. If I were the type of person to read books in small chunks (& if I weren't under the time restrictions of ILL) I might have liked it quite a bit. As it was, I just skimmed. If I ever come back to it, it'll be because of the great timeline of "life and death, sound and silence...thought and escapade..." from 1624-2003 included within.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Justin Cormack

    Possibly the most pretentious book I have ever attempted to read. It had its moments, and yet, well, I couldnt finish it. Listen to Kylie or read about her? Or read about someone wondering whether there will be a picture of Kylie, the symbolism of pop impersonified drivingly on the cover or not. Of course there is. I am sure if you need to read this book it will find you.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Spong

    One of my favourites, albeit with the caveat that it's undeniably pretentious and frequently obtuse. It still provides a new way of looking at music and offers a lot of excellent and oftentimes obscure options for further exploration.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    That words and music can be the same thing. That lists can be interesting. That I was right to follow the career of Paul Morley from 1978 to now.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Chadwick

    This book made me realize how amazing Kylie Minogue is. Think about that statement.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Summer

    Loved it! Fun and weird and smart and great.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Patrick

    Five stars for the lists alone.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ben Sinclair

  23. 4 out of 5

    Martin Faulkner

  24. 5 out of 5

    Erik3003

  25. 4 out of 5

    JOHN AJIBOLA

  26. 5 out of 5

    Mark Wasiel

  27. 4 out of 5

    Hugh

  28. 4 out of 5

    nevvero

  29. 4 out of 5

    Joshua Disneyq

  30. 4 out of 5

    James Mitchell

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