A lot of rubbish has been written about music over the years, which is not surprising – it is a very difficult thing to write well about. Conveying the emotions that music can produce is a task probably beyond the reach of even the English language. This can make listening to music one loves a lonely business. Often, having been enraptured by some new CD, I’ve manically called friends and urged them, with varying levels of inarticulacy, to share the experience: ‘You’ve got to hear this song! It’s like, so, um, amazing . . . it’s got this singer . . . there’s this astonishing drum solo . . .’ The attempt always ends in failure, the phone receiver pressed against the speaker, my friend’s non-committal response usually a reluctant ‘Um, sounds great.’ This is why it is so rare – and so heart-warming – to read a book like Giles Smith’s Lost in Music, which conveys what it means to live and love pop music with such warmth and accuracy.
Giles Smith is probably best known for his always-amusing sporting column in The Times. Lost in Music is not about sport but it is similarly suffused with his trademark self-deprecation and humour. There are many music books, most for the specialist or the enthusiast: Lost in Music succeeds because it is for everyone. It taps that familiar male obsessiveness that makes Nick Hornby’s books so successful. It has the same humanity as that of a good novel.
Lost in Music will ring bells with anyone who has fallen for a catchy melody. While some of Smith’s tics seem inexplicable even to me – searching music shops for records that don’t exist, for example – most of what he says is so recognizable that it’s like watching my own reflection in a slanted mirror. He lies to his friends about his first record purchase (the long-forgotten A Windmill in Amsterdam and not, as he will tell you, the Beatles), buys an album because he liked the single, t
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