Long Players: Writers on the Albums that Shaped Them by Tom Gatti (ed) - review by Michael Smith

Michael Smith

Kind of Grey

Long Players: Writers on the Albums that Shaped Them


Bloomsbury 224pp £12.99 order from our bookshop

Early on in this ragbag collection of essays, editor Tom Gatti quotes Phil Spector, who memorably described LPs as being ‘two hits and ten pieces of junk’. Sadly, this proves something of a hostage to fortune, because despite the engaging nature of Gatti’s own introduction, a whistle-stop history of the album from shellac to Spotify, the essays here struggle to match even that lowly ratio.

One problem is that the pieces, some of which are fewer than five hundred words long, suffer badly as a result of their brevity. There is plenty of insightful writing about rock ’n’ roll already in existence, but to find the best of it you need to take a deep dive into the longer features of specialist music magazines, or into such books as Stanley Booth’s The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones or Hellfire by Nick Tosches, which have the heft to do their subjects justice. The stories in Long Players feel like throwaway pop singles by comparison.

It’s not that the writers are bad or lazy or boring. The fifty contributors include four Booker Prize winners, a few famous musicians and some big-name journalists. But the passages they’ve been asked to write here are all eulogies. Instead of rich complexities, technical insights into how the albums were

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