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Nothing is Real - David Hepworth (Penguin)

Star rating: 

When David Hepworth ventured into the world of books after years of writing insightful articles and essays on all aspects of popular music, I wonder if he realised just what he was getting into? Barely a couple of years into this relatively new enterprise and we see Hepworth's instantly identifiable bright orange dust jackets standing proud on the shelves in every good book shop; three already published and one more on its way in 2019.

There's a very good reason for this and it has nothing to do with the fact that orange is the new anything in particular, but it's because Hepworth knows his stuff and therefore we trust him. Let's face it, he's had plenty of practice writing about music, establishing and then editing magazines, broadcasting on both TV and radio and more recently through podcasts, whilst backing up his musical knowledge with at least 20,000 records at his disposal. He's keen to listen and more importantly he's keen to observe first hand some of the great moments in pop's wild history, whilst you and I watch from the comfort of our armchairs. Possibly the most memorable of Hepworth's countless encounters was with Bob Geldof at Wembley Stadium on a hot midsummer's day in the middle of the Eighties, just as he dropped the f word mid-afternoon on live national TV, during which Live Aid was making history.

If 1971 Never a Dull Moment talks about Hepworth's own personal annus mirabilis, a notion enjoyed all the more if you happen to be at least half way on his side - just one glimpse at my own long player archive soon reveals that we very much share this notion - and Uncommon People discusses the finite era of the Rock Star from Little Richard to Kurt Cobain, then Nothing is Real, the third orange-covered Hepworth offering, addresses our misconceptions and misunderstanding of such things as the function of pop managers, the importance of good drummers, the ridiculously over populated world of pop genres and subgenres (and dare I say, sub subgenres) to what we should play at funerals, the woeful demise of the record as an object and the record shop as an institution, each subject leaving this reader nodding in approval at the end of each chapter.

Not quite as exhaustive as either 1971 or Uncommon People, yet equally enjoyable, which you could possibly get through in one sitting if you have the time to spare. Collected in this slim volume, Hepworth's short essays are largely informative, to the point and with no apparent sniff of sycophantic hero worship, yet none of his views come across as highly critical either. Rather, he's an observer who likes to simply point out some of the things pop and rock fans may have overlooked along the way and as would be expected, there's no shortage of lists, the music buff’s essential ingredient. 

Although The Beatles figure large at the beginning of this book, the title in fact borrowed from one of the band's many masterpieces, the content has a much broader canvas. However, Hepworth's insights reflected in earlier essays do point towards little patience for those who undervalue the band’s importance in the popular music arena. The bold and sweeping statement printed on the cover, that the Fabs were indeed underrated, is a good place to start - what follows are notions delivered with equal authority.

Allan Wilkinson
Northern Sky