THROUGH A SERIES OF IN-DEPTH INTERVIEWS WITH TWENTY-SEVEN WELL-KNOWN BRITISH POP SONGWRITERS, MUSICIAN DANIEL RACHEL EXPOSES THE TRICKS OF THE TRADE IN HIS MAGICAL NEW BOOK ISLE OF NOISES.
Originally inspired by Paul Zollo’s SONGWRITERS ON SONGWRITING (the latest edition of which features conversations with 62 figures from Leonard Cohen to Lenny Kravitz, Mose Allison to Suzanne Vega, and Lamont Dozier to Los Lobos), Rachel searched for a British equivalent. When he discovered there wasn’t one, he set about creating the book he wanted to read.
The resulting ISLE OF NOISES is a weighty tome spanning several eras and musical genres with no prejudice, meaning that unlikely bedfellows Annie Lennox, John Lydon, Joan Armatrading, Jimmy Page, Pet Shop Boys, Robin Gibb, Noel Gallagher, Lily Allen, Johnny Marr, Laura Marling, Lee Mavers and Madness are able to coexist regardless of diverse merits in the music they make. At the very least each delivers interesting responses to Rachel’s impeccably researched, thoughtful and well-angled pitch.
Questions are most often answered from an intellectual or technical perspective. Jimmy Page discusses the effect of the use of different guitar tunings; Glenn Tilbrook discusses chord and key changes; Ray Davies discusses his use of language; Sting reveals that he’s used working through the image of a labyrinth to shift the brain away from conventional directions in thinking when writing, then discusses his adherence to a formula of rhyming couplets. Sometimes – and herein lies the warmth of the book – answers are anecdotal. Choice among them is Billy Bragg explaining a winter of austerity inspired 1985 single BETWEEN THE WARS, written as he huddled against the boiler in a cold South London bathroom – with the final verse completed in a huff out on Wimbledon Common as his housemate had needed the loo.
Either way, and at all points between, ISLE OF NOISES is an insightful read. Rachel gains the confidence of his subjects and, in doing so, hundreds of engaging thoughts on individual process emerge, amounting to the essential word on classic British songwriting.
Picador / Hardback
528 pages (234mm x 153mm)