- 22 Mar 19
The LP Record As A Perfect Thing
Like a beloved avuncular college lecturer - the kind you half ignored while you were eyeing up a member of the opposite sex or dreaming about a pint, only for an explosive “oh, yeah!” to go off in your brainpan as you later supped and swigged - esteemed music journalist Hepworth is back on his favourite topic - the golden age, as he sees it, of popular music. The framing device this time is the period he claims, quite legitimately, as the zenith of the LP record: from Sgt. Pepper’s in ‘67 to Thriller in ‘82.
As with his previous book, which crowned 1971 as rock’s annus mirabilis - when he casually lists just some of that year’s releases it’s hard to find fault with his thesis - Hepworth’s arguments are convincing. Witness the art of the record cover reaching its apotheosis with the first Roxy Music album, and nod in agreement at the link between the imperial measurement system and the perfectly human-sized 12” cover. Remember how OPEC then SONY changed the record business long before the internet, and too much distraction, ruined it, and gasp at the enviable and, at this remove, unbelievable power the NME once had to break an album. His recollection of the pain of buying the wrong record because he thought he should like it – for him it was Pink Floyd, I had a similar experience with Robert Fripp – should engender wincing sympathy from anyone who ever stepped inside a record shop in that time before streaming and “disposable income”.
Another good question raised, and addressed, is why some of us keep buying records from the same acts, regardless of just how crappy the “late period” might be. There are plenty of Rolling Stones albums in my house that were released after 1980. Do I need any of them? Probably not. The book finishes - or should that be fades out? - with an enjoyable appendix where our man picks ten records from each of the years covered and examines their merits, or lack thereof. Fans of Patti Smith’s Horses should look away now.
If you’re an admirer of Hepworth’s writing, whether it be in the late and much-lamented Word magazine, or his other books, which are all good sport, then you won’t need much convincing from me. From The Beatles to Blondie, from Donna Summer to Derek and Clive, from the Walkman to the CD, we’ll never see this lost world that he so perfectly describes again.
For those of us who used to point our furniture at the stereo, and especially for those of us who still do, this book is a joy from the opening track to the closing cut.