Author: David Hepworth
Magazine publisher and editor (i.e. Smash Hits, Mojo, etc.) and The Old Grey Whistle Test presenter, Hepworth is a music enthusiast, knows his stuff and likes a good story.
And that’s this book in a nutshell.
That is, this book is full of music-based history. Yet, it is not a music history book.
What I mean by that is, the book – subtitled How a few Skinny Brits with Bad Teeth Rocked America – is in no way a work that even approaches academia. Hepworth won’t have it. That would harm the pace of the prose. And pace is what this publication is all about.
So what you get is the story of how British music artists took, in the majority of cases, American-sourced music, “and sent it back with a twist,” in Hepworth’s words.
The result was the British Invasion of 1964, spear-headed by The Beatles and then how that invasion evolved and mutated to finally fizzle out, somewhere around 1983, according to the author.
Stars of the show, apart from the ever-present Fabs, include The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, The Who, Elton John and all the way up to The Sex Pistols, Elvis Costello and Culture Club.
Hepworth talks about how the artists changed the nature of American music and the music business but also how American music and its inherent business culture changed the Brits. Sometimes for the better (The Beatles?) but not always (Rod Stewart?)
As I say though, Hepworth loves a good yarn and there’s plenty of music stories here that will entertain and make you smile. He’s in such a rush, though that he does trip up over the history sometimes. For example, Hepworth states that Bowie wrote the song Andy Warhol from the LP, Hunky Dory, after his 1971 jaunt to the USA. Hepworth also states that Bowie failed to meet Warhol while there.
Yet there is an easily sourced piece of original footage on YouTube (posted 2007) showing Hunky Dory-era Bowie standing next to Warhol himself in 1971. While, in another video on YouTube (posted 2013), Bowie himself is on record saying that he wrote the song before he met Warhol. Then played it to the man himself (“a lethal Svengali figure”) who responded with, “Oh, oh, oh, yea. That’s great.” While placing a worried hand under his chin, “I don’t know if he ever liked it or not,” said Bowie.
I get the feeling that Hepworth has breezed through the principle biographies of the figures in his book, to gain basic ammunition and a rough outline of each life story and left it at that.
But this can result in issues such as the Bowie situation noted above. He also states the Britt Ekland met Rod Stewart at a party hosted by Joan Collins and husband. And maybe that’s the case but the Internet also hosts information stating that Stewart met, “…the Swedish actress Britt Ekland when she comes backstage after his concert at the Los Angeles Forum.” In a 2010 interview with Wales Online, the interviewer stated as background, “When Britt and Lou [Adler] split in 1975, Elizabeth Taylor introduced her to Rod Stewart to cheer her up.”
There’s no discussion of the alternatives on the meeting and no dissection of which one could be correct or not.
But look, why should there be, eh? Why should he even bother? Because, if he did the pace of this book would grind to a compete halt and the reader would suddenly start looking at his watch and wondering about the next bus.
This is a book of entertainment, generally connected to facts. The sort of stories you’d swop with friends while down the pub. It passes the time and does a great job in doing so.