The People's Music by Ian MacDonald - review by Christopher Bray

Christopher Bray

Melody Makers

The People's Music


Pimlico 262pp £10 order from our bookshop

FIVE YEARS AGO I started learning the piano. I've dreamed about tickling the ivories for almost as long as I can remember, but the fantasy began to take on corporeal aspect whde I was readlng Ian MacDonald's Revolution in the Head (Pimlico). A song-by-song analysis of the Beatles' career, Revolution was the first book on pop couldn't breeze through at a sitting. What were these diminished sevenths and aeolian modes MacDonald would harp on about? What was a harp? Baffled, I looked the words up in a musical dictionary. Only befuddled further, I fled back to MacDonald's book with rather more than my sevenths dlminished. The panic increased. can't remember whether it was the 'sernitonal seesaw' in 'I Am The Walrus' or the 'ominously recurring blues B flat whlch belongs in neither the chorus's G major nor its related minor' in 'Cry Baby Cry' that finally prompted the call to the Blackheath Conservatoire. Thankfblly, they took me in and pointed me in the direction of Middle C.

Half a decade on, here is MacDonald's new book - a collection of rock-'n'-roll essays and reviews which, whde less demanding than Revolution, will still occasionally upbraid the musically illiterate. 'McCartney expresses hls breezy,

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