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2022 Preview: Music

  21 Jan '22   |  Posted by: Birlinn

Our music titles this year explore music heritage and social history from Edinburgh to the White House, and include brilliant anecdotes about familiar names from Tilda Swinton, David Bowie to Barack Obama. Whether you are interested in soul music in the civil-rights era, the explosion of punk rock in the UK, or learning more about the famous (or infamous) moments in Edinburgh’s music history, we have the perfect book for you.

  • Alternatives to Valium, Alastair McKay (April)
    “A few years ago, I asked Tom Petty how his songs had been influenced by his life. As a rule, songwriters aren’t keen on unpicking their work, and Petty was no exception. He didn’t want to get into specifics. ‘Life is so difficult,’ he said. ‘And easy. It’s just a chain of spontaneous events.’” Alastair McKay’s own life was inspired and informed by music, so his book takes the form of an album, with two distinct sides. The first side is about childhood, and the struggle to find a voice. The second side is about interviews, and learning how to listen. An exceptionally shy boy, Alastair gradually found his voice through the punk explosion: the ethos that ‘anyone could do it’ prompted him to start writing, largely because it was easier than talking. From these hesitant beginnings, and his own failed attempts at musicianship, he would go on to a successful career in journalism: sharing a limousine with Kate Moss, meeting Iggy Pop at the Chateau Marmont, being led astray by Tilda Swinton and many, many other encounters. Alternatives to Valium is a fascinating and uplifting memoir, about the power of music to influence lives from a journalist who witnessed the punk explosion and its aftermath.
  • Edinburgh’s Greatest Hits (April)
    Explore Edinburgh’s hidden music heritage, plus a few of its more tuneful tall tales, with this eye-opening guide of the city’s music milestones, famous gigs, infamous incidents and colourful characters. From folk to funk, pop to punk and past to present, this collection of bite-sized stories traces the people, venues and gigs that made the city’s music scene. From Bowie to the Bay City Rollers, Edinburgh’s Greatest Hits touches on the big names as well as lifting the lid on the city’s lesser known legends. And just who did leave their teeth in a yoghurt pot on the bar in Sandy Bell’s? Written by local music journalists uniquely well placed to tell this story: the people behind Edinburgh Music Lovers and Edinburgh Music Tours.
  • Hey America!, Stuart Cosgrove (August)
    Hey America! is the story of how black music came from the margins of American life in the early twentieth century through to the mainstream under Barack Obama’s presidency and then was mobilised as a force for radical opposition to Donald Trump’s administration. Embedded in the story is the cataclysmic shift of public attitudes through which African-American music triumphed over the many forces that had held it back – racism, undercapitalised record labels, media discrimination and the dominance of forms of music that had themselves drawn heavily on the African-American experience. It reveals a remarkable roller-coaster of social change and shifting attitudes to black music from within the White House: from the explosion of soul music in the civil-rights era through Vietnam protest songs and seventies disco to the acceptance of hip-hop and rap musicians. Hey America! displays powerful storytelling and dynamic social history from award-winning journalist and broadcaster Stuart Cosgrove.
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