**** Designer Magazine's Book Selections For The Month ****
Gangs Of New York by Herbert Asbury
As you read this very review you’re probably in the midst of planning when exactly you’re going to see the Martin Scorsese directed “Gangs Of New York”. If you hadn’t already twigged, this book by Herbert Asbury was actually what the film was based on and is essential reading for those of you have seen the full motion picture or would like to gain a the full story without the Hollywood romance story between Leonardo DiCaprio and
Written in 1928 with extensive research of the period in the middle of the 1800’s, it focuses on the Five Points area of New York City which to put it in the context of the UK is a desperate area of poverty similar to the East End of London. Taking us from the early days of the Forty Thieves and Kerryonians (made up predominantly of Irish men who did little fighting, but devoted their time to hating the English – so no change there then) through to the more prominent gangs featured in the film such as the Plug Uglies and the Dead Rabbits.
Every single detail is uncovered yet at the same time Asbury’s background as a reporter enabled him to do it such a way that it leaps of the page rather than being a rather dull series of facts. In those days you could get Big Jack Zelig to slash someone on the cheek for anywhere between $1 and $10 or murder for between $10 and $100. Of course being ever the opportunist if he felt the victim wasn’t high profile enough to warrant a full police investigation he would bump them off for whatever possessions they had with them. To the appendix which features “Slang Of The Early Gangsters” where we learn that a bat is a prostitute than only works the streets at night and a billy noodle is a guy that believes all girls are in love with him.
They were desperate times, but there’s a romanticism of the gangster lifestyle which will never fade. The death and the glory, the Us verses Them mentality - it’s easy to see just from reading it why Scorcese had the vision to make it into a movie!!!
“Gangs Of New York” is out now. For more info – www.randomhouse.co.uk
Revolution – The Making Of The Beatles White Album
By David Quantick
It doesn’t need to be said that the Beatles redefined the meaning of music and still today their influence on the contemporary music scene is still as strong as ever. While bands don’t offer obvious pastiche’s as Oasis have throughout their career just listen to artists as varied as the Chemical Brothers and The Vines and you will see this one band have probably made more impact that every band since combined.
Rather than look at the career of the Beatles as a whole, “Revolution” by David Quantick chooses to focus on “The White Album” specifically. At the time of it’s release in 1968 the band had been together for 10 years and tension within the camp were at an all time high. The band were operating as individuals rather than as a complete unit yet it brought what many Beatles fans consider to be a peak in their career as songwriters. Quantick takes the time to look at the individuals concerned (including George Martin, who for the first time in the bands history did not take the sole production credit), track by track analysis of the album including songs left of the album and a look at what surrounded the albums birth in 1968.
“Revolution” is a book which all music fans should read regardless of their stance on the Beatles. Quantick is one of the few writers, along with John Robb and Simon Price, that truly capture the essential spirit of their subjects and when that subject is the most important band of all time it makes for a compelling read.
Out now and published by Unanimous Ltd (An imprint of MQ Publications Ltd)
Adult Entertainment by Chloe Poems
Chloe Poems reaches out to parts where other poets have failed. Dressed head to toe in gingham and spending far too long on his make up Poems mixes the political radical of comedian Mark Thomas with the down to earth language of the streets, which comes from growing up in the working class environment of Liverpool. Now decamped to Manchester, Poems has already been called an arch-terrorist by the Heat Magazine reading celebrity loving queens on Canal Street after performing “The Queen Sucks Nazi Cock” at the Mardi Gras – it’s safe to say she took this as a compliment!!!
“Adult Entertainment” mixes the monarchy collection (“Margaret – A Royal Love Gory”, “Whore”, “Harry, King Of Smack” and the aforementioned “The Queen Sucks Nazi Cock”), which he performed at The Anti-Royal Variety Show over the Jubilee weekend last year, alongside other Poems standards such as “The Effeminate”, “Canal Street’s Biggest Celebrity” and “Are We Myra Hindley?”. The latter looking at the relationship between the US and the UK and whether we are the Myra Hindley to the US’s Ian Brady.
In truth the best introduction to Chloe Poems is at a live performance, but “Adult Entertainment” goes to prove that beyond the gingham dress and make-up there is a genius at work. Complete with a 14 track CD which features poems not featured in the book itself this is an essential introduction, but we’ll leave the last word to Chloe herself “I believe deliberately provocative titles can encourage people who not ordinarily read poetry, to read”. We couldn’t have said it better ourselves!!!
“Adult Entertainment” is out now. For more info – www.route-online.com
Where Did It All Go Right? by Andrew Collins
“There’s no outward mythology to the place. Nothing to remember it by or plan a return visit for. Unless you live somewhere that hasn’t got a Comet and a bowling alley in the same car park” is how Andrew Collins describes his hometown of Northhampton. The truth is it could literally be anywhere in the country and here lies the appeal of “Where Did It All Go Right?”.
Providing an alternative view of childhood to the recent flood of hard luck stories ala Dave Peltzer’s “A Boy Called It” memoirs, it goes on to look at an extremely ordinary childhood where the hardest blow was Anita Barker sarcastically asking if Collins still used stabilizers. Just reading through these memoirs even a hardened cynical Morrissey fan like myself can reminisce about days spent in the fields or the Saturday shopping trips which would be worth the boredom for the treat at the end of the day.
An hilarious and heart-warming tale which takes us from his days at primary school with Welfare orange through to forming a punk band for 2 minutes and then leaving home to go to art school. All the while cultural references a plenty are scattered over his diary extracts such as Jasper Carrot records, Rubik’s Cubes, Grange Hill, Marbles and Swap Shop. Rarely has ordinary life been so captivating and as hilarious as Andrew Collins “Where Did It All Go Right?
Where Did It All Go Right? is out February 6th. For more info - www.randomhouse.co.uk
As I write, the debate about hip-hop and violence is raging on in the tabloid newspapers following the tragedies in Birmingham over the New Year period. Of cause it’s simply a chance for a small number of prejudiced members of Parliament to push their racist right wing propaganda on an unsuspecting public, but it does go to show the strong image that hip-hop has carried over the years and in the mainstream sense that has been one of what is commonly known as gangsta rap.
Hip Hop Immortals – Vol 1
Hip Hop Immortals attempts valiantly to provide a visual documentary of the hundred most influential artists in hip-hop. It’s a process, which has taken the compilers Mark Suroff, Matthew Dean and Derek Axelrod 2 years to put together and involved whittling down submissions from over 500 photographers and several thousand photographs.
Where it succeeds is in the choice of artist and the sheer variety of styles. From the almost cartoon like images of Eminem and Missy Elliot to the overtly sexual Lil Kim and the “all for one, one for all” peace loving of Run DMC. Covering 3 decades from the 70s onwards with every conceivable hip-hop legend featured including Biggie, Tupac, Public Enemy, The Beastie Boys and Master P.
As a visual documentary of hip-hop you’re not going to find a better book than “Hip-Hop Immortals – Vol. 1” and those who can’t afford the £100 price tag can visit the exhibition at London’s Proud Gallery in Camden. And for those who are the ultimate hip-hop collectors you can buy a special edition of the book for £2500, which is signed by all the living artists featured.
For more info on the exhibition www.proud.co.uk
Keane: The Autobiography by Roy Keane – www.penguin.co.uk
Manchester United and Ireland International stars explosive biography
The Benn Diaries – New Single Volume Edition – www.randomhouse.co.uk
From 1940-1990, the diaries of one of the few politicians you can truly believe in
Talk Of The Devil by Ricacardo Orizio – www.randomhouse.co.uk
Reviewed fully next month, Orizio tracks down 7 fallen tyrants
David Boring by Daniel Clowes – www.randomhouse.co.uk
The author of Ghost World returns with another classic outsider comic
The Smiths: Songs That Saved Your Life by Simon Goddard - www.rhbooks.com
Simon Goddard alongside ex-Smith Mike Joyce looks at the Smiths career in depth
All books featured in Designer Magazine's Book Club are available at Waterstones
You can also make purchases online from the web sites listed above