04 May, 2013

On Song: Stories Behind New Zealand Pop Classics by Simon Sweetman [Stanley, Central City Library]

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Remember RTR Countdown and singles on cassettes? Or maybe the glory days of Flying Nun? On Song features music critic Simon Sweetman's exploration of the stories and personalities behind twenty classic tracks. Equally feel-good and well-researched, On Song takes an in-depth look through interviews and images at songs from the profound (like Emma Paki's System Virtue) to the ridiculous (Can't get Enough).

Sweetman gives his personal take on the last 40 or so years of NZ music (no Blue Smoke or Cheryl Moana Marie), with a broad selection from a range of genres. I liked that he didn’t just choose the most well-known songs of each performer, but focused on the most musically or personally significant tales. The stories are enthralling, and I was inspired to check out many of the featured artists in more depth.

The whole book is nicely illustrated, with many pictures of artists in action, and bits and pieces like ticket stubs, promo material and so on. There are a lot of interesting facts and trivia, as well as explorations of how our music has shaped and reflected our culture.

He puts their songs in the broader landscape of popular music and society, like French Letter capturing us as a nuclear-free nation in the Pacific, or A Thing Well Made taking a unique look at the tragedy of Aramoana. He also explores their influences, linking artists like Dave Dobbyn with Paul Simon, and Chris Knox with The Velvet Underground. The selections take us from awesome one-hit wonders like OMC and Darcy Clay, to legendary songwriters like the Finns who are a permanent part of Kiwi culture.

Fan of NZ music? Check it out.

Title: On Song: Stories Behind New Zealand Pop Classics
Author: Simon Sweetman
ISBN: 9780413568162
Published: 2012
Publisher: Penguin

 - Stanley, Central City Library

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