Book Reviews - Review 422
Nothing is Real
Category: Music | Published: 2018 | Review Added: 05-02-2023
A short collection of Hepworth's rock journalism. It is, inevitably, less cohesive than his full-length books. The material is grouped into six sections. A list of these gives a good idea of the tone and content:
- "The Long Shadow of the Fabs": Articles about the Beatles and their influence
- "Pop's Greatest Decade?": Articles about the Sixties
- "Credibility Gaps: The Radio Three Essays": Pieces broadcast on Radio Three, the BBC's classical music station, in one of its attempts to draw in more intellectual listeners of other types of music
- "Tap-Dancing About Architecture": Miscellaneous articles of varying length
- "For the Love of Records": Personal memoirs of Hepworth's relationship with LPs and record shops
- "Hepworth's Rock Lists": Nerdy lists of songs, albums and gigs
The quality and interest of the articles are variable. There are opinion pieces, which advance arguments for things like that the Beatles were underrated, that "drummers are the music", and that rock managers' reputation for greedy manipulativeness is ill-founded. These writings interlace keen insight and contrary overstatement, in prose that feels generated expeditiously to meet magazine deadlines.
The best pieces are the longer ones whose aim is to inform rather than to persuade. There is a fascinating potted history of blues music, and a perceptive account of the changing status of the disc jockey over the decades. Hepworth's memoirs of presenting the earnest TV show Whistle Test in the 1980s are written with the wry humour that is one of his most engaging traits:
There is no list of the sources of the articles. The Radio Three essays speak for themselves. Some of the pieces evidently appeared in the magazine The Word, which Hepworth edited, but there is no indication which ones. It would have been interesting to know how the varieties of style of the articles were dictated by the intended readership or audience.
This volume is worth reading, but I would not recommend it as an introduction to Hepworth's writing. It contains half a dozen nuggets of fine quality, but a fair amount of merely competent hack work. Hepworth paints best on a large canvas. If you want to know why he is so highly regarded as a writer, start with Uncommon People (a succinct history of the rock star) or A Fabulous Creation (a paean to the long-playing record).