The listener

Nick Coleman’s book on the singers and musicians who mean the most to him has its pretentious moments, but you’ll be rewarded if you make it through to the end.  From my review in The Times:

All of us who have made a living from the posher end of the music press have a cleverer-than-thou sixth-former hidden inside us; Coleman isn’t shy about letting his run free. He is quite at home with the “psycho-architecture” of a 45rpm. And while the 1970s Top of the Pops audience saw Suzi Quatro’s Can the Can as something to dance to, he interprets it as “a Grand Guignol of violently stereotyped female sexual jealousy, ending not in reconciliation but with the gleeful restraint and incarceration of male prey”[…] After 80 pages of this sort of thing, you might be tempted to give up and go back to wandering around Spotify. But it’s worth persevering…

He gives us a lovely digression too on jazz. Intrigued by the countercultural imagery of bebop, he went through a beret-wearing phase in his younger days and manned the counter at that Portobello Road landmark, Honest Jon’s record shop. Jazz singers weren’t actually his cup of gin: it was people such as Miles Davis and John Coltrane who really did the business. Was it the music or the nonconformist values it represented that mattered most to him? It’s rare for anyone to look at that question with quite such clarity. He is similarly honest about his inability to fall in love with Frank Sinatra. Above all, there is another important theme, although it does not emerge until the final section. Coleman has already written about his experience of sudden hearing loss and tinnitus in his earlier book, The Train in the Night. It is only at the end of Voices that he makes it clear how profoundly his affliction has shaped his approach to music.

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Chief theatre critic for The Times. Twitter: CliveDavisUK Facebook: Instagram: clivephotos
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