Volume 1: From Savoy Stompers to Clock Rockers – Andrew Hickey

One of my favorite podcasts is “A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs”. I’ve written about it before, it’s an absolutely terrific podcast.

But this post is not about the podcast but about the book!

After the first 50 episodes creator Andrew Hickey bundled the adapted episode transcripts into the first volume of a book series. And, of course, I had to get it, as an unmissable reference and to support the podcast.

Volume 1: From Savoy Stompers to Clock Rockers – Andrew Hickey (2019) – 551 pages

Here are some thoughts on the book’s look and feel as it arrived in the mail this morning. So this is not a book review!

  • I’ll start with what I don’t like (and what can’t be the author’s fault at all). This book is printed-on-demand , and your mileage may vary, but on my particular copy the cover has been cut off prematurely. So the letter “c” from the word “Music” is right on the edge of the cover. It bothers me a bit and it’s a shame that such a wonderful book has to suffer this fate.
  • It’s quite a meaty book (I like that!). But I ordered the paperback and the postal service wasn’t too careful with it, so there are already some dents on the book. So you might want to get the hardcover.
This is a shame.
  • I was FULLY expecting the spine to have “Volume 1” or a at least a number on it, but that is not the case. I say this because I intend to buy every copy and imagined the series, identifiable by their consecutive numbers, would look majestically encyclopedic on my bookshelf.
The spine (and flappy cover)
  • I love the black and white cover. It’s classy and timeless.
  • As stated, it is a meaty book. I love holding it, it has a very nice feel to it. And the paper is pleasant, not too bright or hard.
  • For a reference book the font is well chosen. I believe it’s Chord Symbol, which is fitting when you think about it. But more so, this font makes it easy to quickly skim and scan parts, which makes sense for a reference book (my intended use).
  • The “Contents” (chapters) section only has the song titles, not the artists. I can think of a few reasons: especially in the early days, some songs were often done by multiple people (even at the same time). And after all it is a podcast about SONGS. But still, the podcast does have artist names. So I don’t quite understand this distinction.
  • The chapters also have no numbers. Which is not a problem. But it seems the reference / link to the podcast has (deliberately?) been cut. The chapters seem to have no link to the podcast episodes.
  • The absolute best parts of this book are the song index and the regular index. These are indispensable. I absolutely love them and they will often be my starting point when I want to look up something. They are very well done and look exhaustive.
  • The page numbers are on the top of the page on the outside. Which is how I like it, this makes thumbing back and forth to the index easy.
  • I thought I couldn’t love Andrew Hickey’s work more than I already did, but then I read his acknowledgement to Donald Knuth! I cannot state how much I adore this. (Knuth holds a special place in my heart, and I even host a podcast RSS feed for a couple of his lectures).

Conclusion

My wish for this podcast is that it will become so famous that Andrew Hickey will get a regular book deal, and the nuisances that come with print-on-demand will become a thing of the past. Nonetheless, this book is already a spectacular body of work by someone truly passionate and gifted, and a book that will look good on any bookshelf.

I love that this fantastic podcast, is now available in a format that can be picked up a 100 years from now and still be instantly accessible. Go buy it!


Also published on Medium.

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