Stuart Maconie is perhaps one of the most well-known people working currently at the B.B.C., whether that be in the guise of being a radio presenter, music journalist or writer. When he comes to Liverpool as part of any book launch, it is bound to be so well attended that any available space in the building in which the informal evening takes place is likely to be just enough room for a discarded 45 rpm single to take up residence and wonder what it did not to be selected for Stuart’s latest book The People’s Songs: The Story of Modern Britain in 50 Records.
The huge crowd inside The East Village Arts Centre could easily name their 50 favourite songs after much deliberation, tracks in which are the best of any genre but the point of the book is perhaps how, unlike any other country or nation on Earth, Britain is more truly governed and remembered by the pop songs that surround important events that the set of islands and its people have enjoyed, endured and been driven to near hysterics and well placed anger and disillusionment.
As Stuart Maconie entertained the packed audience inside the East Village Arts Centre’s restaurant, the sense of history that he is trying to impart is noted and agreed with. This is a man who certainly knows and loves his music, with the exception of Queen it seems, and is keen to talk to the crowd, peppering, what in effect was a lecture so well attended that it would be considered a boon to any University student programme, with the well-placed anecdote and reminisces of his life and some of the people he has met along the way including a short story about he once interviewed a band as a very young lad not realising he was probing the support act and not the headliners.
It is these type of stories that bring music to life and whether it’s the thought of Millie Small’s 1964 hit My Boy Lollipop or the notion that if you wanted to understand the absolute horror and feel of desolation of people in Coventry in the early 80s then just listen to The Specials phenomenal track Ghost Town, the social upheaval, the songs that typify the times, including it seems the 1974 track that summed up British people’s desire and love affair with the first real packages, Eviva Espana ,can be found and in the end make the British pop charts perhaps the most engaging and encompassing anywhere in the world.
As the evening at The East Village Arts Centre came to a fascinating end, the question perhaps is how will the citizens of the country in a hundred years’ time will look back at us and the music that defines the 21st Century.
The People’s Songs: The Story of Modern Britain in 50 Records is available to purchase from all good book shops.
Ian D. Hall