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Rock God, Pop Star and the ideal gift for Christmas / 9 December 2013

I attended a book launch for the first time last night. Bob Stanley of St Etienne, and regular music columnist in the nationals, has just had ‘Yeah Yeah Yeah – The Modern Story of Pop’, published.

I went for a number of reasons. The launch was local, at Fab Records, Bob is a neighbour, I’m reading the book and its great, but mostly because one day we stopped in the drive way and had a chat about the communication difficulties we share. So, I wanted to support him and I was interested to see how he would do.

Our hosts at Fab treated us to a free drink, bottled lager, which was good of them. The customers were regulars and informed about their tastes and preferences. Bob had a friend with him who had read the book more than once and who would later introduce himself as a social historian. He would interview Bob and create a frisson of tension. What would Bob come back with? Does he have the ring craft? One thing is for certain. He knows his Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

The interview reminded me of something, I have started to take for granted 500 pages of 800 in. Pop is a journey. It travels from place to place, journeying back and forth in time, full of twists and turns, packed with learning from the past whilst yearning to touch the future. As such this history serves as a travelogue. Are you excited to travel? I am. When you travel do you listen to music? I do. On this exhilarating ride, Bob is wont to stop over and explore genres. He confesses to having his own issues with country and heavy metal but you wouldn’t know this as he treats everything with a sense of fairness, dipping studiously into the known and the obscure, whilst also revealing something of his own background on route.

At no stage does he blow himself up into rock god or pop star (St Etienne would be pop and they’ve been creating for 25 years). To him the history of pop and all its styles tells you as much about similarities as it does differences. The challenge is to love as much as you can whilst refraining from fake identities and hierarchies. Bob was something of a nerd at school, I’m sure he won’t mind me saying that. His shyness is attractive. Certainly he describes himself unflatteringly. But, he is full of passion and commitment. Knowledge from his studies is finite but it doesn’t stop here. Pop is not dead, Rock dreams dream on.

Later we took the time to catch  up, Bob’s touring the book. Faber and Faber launched it with a series of panel discussions. Bob has branched out to solo talks at universities. The interview represents a third style of promotion. Throughout it all the predominant requirement is to talk and to  interest the  listener. Bob satisfies the Fab crowd on these points, You can tell by the way they listen and by the questions that they ask. Bob told me about the importance of  learning the funny anecdote and using it to break the ice.

I told Bob once that he is who he is, he’s done what he’s done and people want him because of that. I’d want him to feel more confidence before he gets on the after dinner circuit. He’s added a book to his list of products and it’s a very fine achievement – an ultimate Christmas present for the music head you know and love. Highly recommended.