I’ve got out of the reading desert I was in last month (hooray!) with two books finished already and a third well on the go. Today we’ve got the newest book from my shelves, following my new pattern of oldest – newest – Kindle which is turning out not to be a very organised pattern after all and which was loosely inspired by discussions with various blogging and general reading friends but done in my own way (I can’t predict everything that I’m going to read in the month like the very organised Grab The Lapels does, and like Booker Talk I wonder if I’ll ever get to the books in the middle!)

Simon Parkes (with J.S. Rafaeli) – “Live at the Brixton Academy”

(28 January 2019, Acorns charity shop)

When I started reading this I will admit I kind of took against the protagonist, as he comes from a very well-off family and is public school educated and seems about to use all this to his great advantage. However, I will admit again that, while he understands that he got certain privileges from his accent and family, he does realise this, and he also plays the role of token posh bloke in good spirit and shows himself to be pretty decent, supporting small upcoming bands and promoters and laying on gigs to support the striking miners in the 1980s. So we’ll forget that bit and just enjoy this tale of owning the iconic music venue, the Brixton Academy – unfortunately, while the narrative seems to just above overlap with my early gigs there (I saw Green Day there with my best friend Emma before either of us moved to London, so in the mid-90s), he’d gone by the time I was going there regularly.

So Parkes’ outsider status in the gang- and gun-ridden environs of Brixton seems to stand him in good stead, leaving him with a reputation for being odd but not a threat. He has some good people around him and is generous in his praise of them, and it’s a lively narrative full of gangsters and shady deals and all the musicians and stories about them you could ask for. You can’t but enjoy a book by someone who clearly did fall in love with the venue at first sight, who doesn’t like the man in suits and has unorthodox ways of doing things, and there are some brilliant stories and explanations – like the gang truce that meant punters could walk back to the Tube safely.

There’s outrage and anger at the racism experienced in 80s and 90s Brixton (London, the UK …) and a good assessment of the various subcultures and genres that came to the venue, from the early reggae stars who were the only ones who’d touch the place to the refreshingly laid-back US alt-rock musicians and their gentler crowds. Lots of good photos, only slightly undermined by being printed amongst the text, so a bit fuzzy. The ghostwriter does a very competent job at telling the story while letting Parkes’ voice shine through. An interesting read.