Bodies: Life and Death in Music
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If you're someone who cares about more than just the music - the musicians, the tours, the journalists - this is a sobering read. Finished the book feeling very strongly that Lennon was right about the men in suits who take the bulk of the money generated from the sales of the music made by creative but naive people.
It has been billed as tackling and exposing the failures of the music industry in a way that nobody else has. The second isn't an issue of credibility but more a personal wish to never ever be reminded of the case of the singer (whom I refuse to name) from the Welsh band Lostprophets. The book also deviates to talk about the difficulties for women working in the industry, the sexism and the abuse. God bless anyone involved or thinking about working in such a arduous profession and have the temerity to actually want to be paid for their hard work and talent. And there are those who are no longer with us, including Chris Cornell, Chester Bennington and Mark Lanegan, whose frailties would have been the same if they’d worked in offices rather than the world’s biggest stages, but their fates might have been different.
The book has opened up a much-needed debate about the nature of the music industry as an insatiable meat grinder for creative souls with an instinct for self-destruction. I read this over the course of a plane journey and it was entertaining enough, just ultimately very insubstantial.
Working as a music journalist his life is adjacent and exposed to the same culture as these musicians, some of which he counts among his friends. It should be a harrowing read, and it frequently is: that it doesn’t make you despair entirely is down to Winwood’s skill as a prose stylist. It's an unusual life, that of a touring musician, long stretches of travel, un-sociable hours, endlessly surrounded by drugs and alcohol. The lead singer became an egotistical liability, developing a drug problem that made him unreliable, alienated him from his bandmates and caused his teeth to start falling out. It’s impossible, given recent events, not to be moved by the mention of Taylor Hawkins’ near-fatal overdose in London in 2001 and the observation that, ‘Aside from this… the band’s exoskeleton has survived everything that has rained down upon it.It was certainly the least to acknowledge that some idols (Bowie, Prince, Steven Tyler, Iggy Pop, Jimmy Page just off the top of my head) did some extremely shady (illegal? Ian Winwood is a music journalist whose work has appeared in the Daily Telegraph , the Guardian , Kerrang! And not conducive to good mental health, and yet with the large consignment of musicians whose lives end abruptly and prematurely there is no more emphasis put on wellbeing on ones mental health in the current climate that any previous decades. The conversation about mental health has become more public in recent years, although Winwood notes sharply that the music industry’s willingness to have that conversation seems “contingent on it not interfering with the workings of an unjust business model”. With Bodies, he gives the music industry mental health a degree of serious consideration that's clearly long overdue and does so in a way that's sometimes shocking and ultimately full of empathy and compassion.
A jealousy-inducing ease to the prose throughout, Winwood has crafted the definitive experience of the music circuit. The size of the venues they played began to shrink, America turned its attentions elsewhere, relations between the singer and the rest of the band soured into violent altercations backstage.Anyone familiar with Ian Winwood's writing knows that he's more than capable of bringing broadsheet-quality appraisal to genres of rock music beloved by millions but considered beneath serious consideration by much of the mainstream media. Home to William Golding, Sylvia Plath, Kazuo Ishiguro, Sally Rooney, Tsitsi Dangarembga, Max Porter, Ingrid Persaud, Anna Burns and Rachel Cusk, among many others, Faber is proud to publish some of the greatest novelists from the early twentieth century to today.
The writing style sometimes got to me — at times too formal/archaic in tone and every now and then unnecessarily paraphrasing a lyric at the end of a paragraph.
That much is explored with such creative and intimate detail from Winwood, who delves deep into his own career and the rich tapestry that forms it. In Bodies, author Ian Winwood explores the music industry’s many failures, from addiction and mental health issues to its ongoing exploitation of artists.