This is a delight of a book, written by Peter Frame, of "Rock Family Trees" fame. Peter used to work in Liverpool during the Cavern era and saw the Beatles frequently, so is a real fan of popular music.
Covering the British music scene from the 19502 until the rise of the Beatles, The Restless Generation relates how the latent urge to make and consume authentic music was stifled by an industry that wanted to keep feeding us pap.
The first part of the book is concerned with the burgeoning jazz movement, a topic in which I have little interest, but which is, nevertheless, important in the history of the scene. It was gratifying to see Chris Barber given due recognition, for his own work, as well as giving us Lonnie Donegan and Alexis Korner [who was the catalyst for the formation of The Rolling Stones.
Tommy, Steele, Marty Wilde, Vince Eager, Tony Sheridan, and, of course, Cliff Richard, are all introduced in depth. Cliff's "Move It" [written by Ian Sammy Samwell] is rightly hailed as the first great British Rock number. By the way, the book concludes with a nice piece about Samwell.
Many of these performers could really rock, but the powers that be in the business, the producers, A&R men and TV executives insisted on the status quo "Pinching American hits and giving them the Light Program treatment, continued to be the basis for the British record industry. The "light program refers to BBC radio, and another section the author quotes the then BBC Director-General "To set out to give the public what it wants is a dangerous and fallacious policy, involving almost always an underestimation of public intelligence and a continual lowering of standards. It is not an autocracy, but wisdom, that suggests a policy of broadcasting on the basis of giving people what they should like, and will come to like" And for this, we had to pay a licence fee!
The exception was TV producer Jack Good, whose shows were a rare showcase of Rock.
Skiffle, that short but significant fad, is covered in detail; and it's worth noting that many commentators opined that Rock 'n Roll would be a similar passing phase.
"The Restless Generation" is a long book, full of characters, and told with humour. Here's Pete on the BBC's flagship "Juke Box Jury "... the unlikleist experts, ranging from comedians to actresses pontificated on music they knew little about. There goes my Baby by the Drifters was "just a noise"; What'd I Say by Ray Charles was soundly mocked"
Pete Frame has detailed the history of British pop and Rock with his "Family Tree" books. With "The Restless Generation" he has fleshed out those times and given us a true feel for what it was like back then, before four lads from Liverpool changed things for ever.
I recently read Bring it on Home which is the story of Peter Grant, who went from working the door at the famed 2I's coffee bar in Soho, to managing the biggest Rock band of their era. The story has a cast of assorted crazy characters that rock touring attracts. Everything was done to excess as the band criscrossed America on "The Starship", their private Boeing. I must say that most of the band appear very self-absorbed, cocooned in their own insular sphere, protected by a mixture of American police and London gangsters, overseen by the menacing Grant. Jimmy Page, in particular, is portrayed as moody and egotistical. The book is well written, surging along and giving a fascinating insight, which any Rock fan will enjoy.
I've just finished reading , Never a dull moment by David Hepworth , the story of 1971 , where he makes a good case for 1971 being the best year for Rock , i expect you could make a case for many years in the sixties too. I must get his book Nothing Is Real as that makes the case that The Beatles were underrated. Now i've just bought Mark Ellen's book, Rock Stars stole my life. Both these have been recommended by some of you on this forum.l
I'm really enjoying The Mark Ellen book , Rock Stars Stole my life, Mr Kite would really enjoy this , i found myself laughing out loud when he talked about Soft Machine and their album Third . He said at their concert they played the whole 90 minute album of 4 tracks and didn't speak to the audience, heavy man ha ha.
Just picked up another bargain book from Fopp , I read the news today oh boy by Hunter Davies , £3
Mark Kermode is well known as a film critic, with several notable books on the subject. However, in How does it feel he reveals a life-long love of popular music, which has taken him into numerous bands. He has tried his hand at several instruments, including keyboards, guitar and harmonica, by his own admission, badly. However I think this is just modesty, as he has played at prestigious venues from Glastonbury to the Royal Albert Hall. His early ventures into punk/political/radical rock are hilarious; and anyone trying to find a name for a new group will find that Mark and his mates have already played under that name! Eventually Mark settled on playing Skiffle, and chose that most inconvenient of instruments the double bass. The Railtown Bottlers busked and gigged allover the country for several years
In later years he formed the Dodge Brothers, with a career highlight of cutting an album at Sun Studio in Memphis...
I found the book very funny by a chap who has a real love of music.
One of the stories that really struck a chord with me was how Mark made his own electric guitar at school. He talks about it....here.
At school I too wanted to build a guitar, however not only was the idea of an electric guitar anathema to the staff, but even an acoustic guitar was seen as an instrument of the devil. I was allowed to make a Dulcimer, a sort of ancient Zither. It took Mark Kerode two years, but he eventually built an instrument which he played in a group. Such was my woodworking prowess that after a full year the project still resembled a tree more than a musical instrument. I gave up and bought a Zenith guitar from a class-mate.