I’ve been quite a voracious reader of late. Partly, it’s an easy way of avoiding the writing I need to do while still feeling somewhat intelligent and literary. Especially when the internet is not yet sorted in our new house.
Being in Spain last month also helped me get stuck into my reading pile. Not being a siesta person, even in forty degree heat (that’s about a hundred and twenty for those reading in black and white), I found the best way to spend that couple of hours in the afternoon while more sensible people were snoozing was sitting in the shade reading. There are still some titles I have still to get through, but I’ve been making progress and the next few posts will review what I’ve been reading.
Among those I’ve read of late are three Stuart Maconie books that were given to me some time ago, and while in Spain I finished the third, “Cider With Roadies”. Clearly one to regard a pun as a central tenet of a book title (always a good thing), The first two Maconies I read were travelogues that attempted to explore the idea of what makes England tick.
“Pies and Prejudice” was an exploration of that often obscure and vague term “the North of England”, while “Adventures on the High Teas” an investigation of the equally hard to define land of “Middle England”. Both were great books, well-written, deeply-researched and informative yet also highly entertaining and accessible. By exploring the places, histories and people of various nooks and crannies of England – some well-known, some less so – Maconie leads us, I think, very close to the essence of our large neighbour to the south. From the industrial heritage of England’s later-abandoned cities, to the travesty that was Beeching, to the food, music, sport, ethnic groups and values that shape English life, his books are broad in scope and all the richer for it.
“Cider With Roadies”, however, sees Maconie on what is probably his more natural territory – writing about music. Essentially an autobiography through the medium of music, the writer takes us through his life from a toddler at the height of Beatlemania through to his spell as Assistant Editor of music magazine NME.
I have to say I like themed memoirs. I remember a few years ago reading “Toast” by Nigel Slater, for example, the writer describes his life through the food he ate – you don’t have to have much interest or knowledge of the individual telling the story, because themes like food or music are what can easily draw you in. And “Cider With Roadies” is an excellent case in point, as Maconie sets the age of discovery as a teenager in the context of the music of the time, and his forays as a young man into fronting a small, struggling band fitted well against the backdrop of Thatcherism and the debate it brought to Britain about who we are as individuals and a country.
To be honest, though – and I think this may be the case with most readers of “Cider With Roadies” – the book really sprang to life during the spells that matched my own peak of musical interest. His discourse on the rise of Madchester is fascinating, coming just as his own career in the music industry appears to be taking off, while his documenting of a horrific experience on tour with metal band Napalm Death is hilarious as Maconie describes his hatred of both the music and the cretinous band members he has to put up with.
I’ve rarely listened to Stuart Maconie on Radio 2, and because he comes over as such an entertaining, intelligent and perceptive person, I really feel I ought to tune in some time.