John Harris at the Book Festival
Hail Hail Rock'N'Roll: expect full audio-visual support
This article is from 2010.
‘I will talk about rock moustaches, Elvis’ jumpsuits and James Blunt’s lyrics,’ proclaims John Harris, author of Hail Hail Rock’N’Roll, his vintage rock, pop and counter-cultural almanac. ‘The aim is to navigate through 50-odd years of rock history without succumbing to the usual dewy-eyed reverence or myths, while pointing out the ludicrousness that draws us all in.’ Will our pop and political commentator lavish the Book Fest with visual props? His musical encyclopaedia’s graphic depictions are cardinal, after all. ‘There’ll be full audio-visual support, including illustrations and diagrams,’ he nods. ‘To understand, say, the oscillating quality of Morrissey’s solo career, you can’t beat a simple graph.’
Harris’ rock miscellany is crammed with fanatical observations and trivia such as an oral history of Status Quo and the contents of Michael Stipe’s make-up purse. And while ‘The Thom Yorke Lyric Index’ is enlightening, the ‘Teach Yourself Guitar in an Hour’ section is revelatory. Despite promises of Black Sabbath riffage, however, what comes forth from these quarters upon following its instructions is something more akin to The Waterboys.
Is this some subversive master-plan to instigate a new wave of Celtic rock? ‘Only if it results in a revival of interest in Big Country,’ Harris offers. He also identifies Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds as one of the ‘20 Albums That Should Never, Ever Have Been Made’. Your correspondent has suffered a life-long phobia of said long-player, and is hence in accordance. ‘We should definitely stage public bonfires for it,’ he decrees.
18 Aug, 8.30pm, £10 (£8).