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Mea Pulpa

Stuart Bailie | 00:24 UK time, Tuesday, 11 December 2012

I've had good times with musical literature this year. Mostly it was with Pat Long and The History Of The NME - a 60 year story that was funny and peculiar and of its time. The idea of Tony Parsons and Mick Farren throwing punches in the office over the honour of Julie Burchill is one that I will never forget. Likewise the accordions, the jazz and the enormous circulation figures.

Andy Kershaw was angry, unsparing and witty on 'No Off Switch'. His
reading at the Black Box was proof that he's not been softened by
serious times. Nile Rodgers was also in Belfast, and you attended to
hear again that this guy has been royally lost in music, forever. Not
always in a healthy way, but the race has been pursued with tireless
cool. At his Stiff Kitten book launch for Le Freak, he namedropped
with gusto and pictured a night at a Madonna's house, spending the
entire party in the men's room with Mickey Rourke. Blimey. Later, Nile
took to the Mandela Hall stage with Chic and it was such a privilege
to see him, post-cancer, lashing out the hits.

Mike Scott revealed many things in Adventures Of A Waterboy. Of
special interest was the post 1986 steer towards Ireland, when he
abandoned the Big Music in exchange for fiddles, Spiddal and Yeats -
the definitive, raggle taggle excursion. The record companies indulged
a lot of his errant ways, mostly because he had charisma and tunes,
but you feel certain that the budgets would not be so accommodating
today.

Jim McGuinn published a signature collection of photographs -
traditional musicians in their homes, backstage and in transit. Many
of those players have passed on to that session in the sky, and the
sight of those characterful prints on the walls of the Red Barn
Gallery made The Light Of Other days an additional wow.

The book I would recommend above all others is Pulphead by John
Jeremiah Sullivan. It's not a music book as such - more a wide-ranging
collection of essays in the great American magazine style. He's got a
vivid, novelistic way about him that recalls Stanley Booth and Tom
Wolfe. He lights on figures such as Axl Rose and Michael Jackson and
he thinks hard, researches plenty and then comes out with a fresh
illumination. He does the same with Christian rock festivals,
fanatical blues archivists and an electrocuted indie performer who
returns from the dead. Indeed.

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