"Young people have a biological right to be excited about the times in which they're living. If you're very lucky, that hormonal urgency is matched by the insurgency of the era - your innate adolescent need for amazement and belief coincides with a period of objective abundance."
Simon Reynolds, Rip it Up and Start Again
Friday, April 17th. Approximately 8:40 P.M. I sit hunched over a tiny container of cheap fast food chow mein that would serve no nutritional purpose whatsoever other than to line my stomach with something that might keep me from fainting. I listen to a teenage girl a few tables over singing along to some terrible sounding radio hit in a questionable American Idol styled voice. Herr friends seem to encourage this behavior. I choke down what is left of my "dinner," and I reach the conclusion of the Simon Reynolds penned book Rip it Up and Start Again. Approximately ten seconds after I reach the conclusion of this book, I begin to wonder if it will come to be referred to as my favorite book, not necessarily just my favorite music book. My favorite book. Period.
Since there are still so many books that I have yet to read (music related and otherwise) I'll simply say that Rip It Up... was a very satisfying read. Due to the manner in which the book is composed, I was not entirely aware of how satisfying of a read that this would turn out to be until I reached the end. Reaching the end of the book immediately called to mind the beginning of the book, and I immediately realized that if the moment I completed that book on Friday April 17th was not the moment that I determined it to be my favorite book, then it was certainly the moment that I will refer to from now on as "the first time I read Rip it Up and Start Again."
The full title of the book is Rip it Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978 - 1984. The title explains what you will find contained within the chapters of the book, but again it's the composition of the book that makes it even more compelling than it would have already been given the fact that it discusses bands like P.I.L, the Fall, Joy Division, Orange Juice, and Josef K in great length. If you're like me, you'll also learn more than you might not have been aware that you wanted to learn about Throbbing Gristle, the Human League, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and Malcolm McLarren's involvement with Bow Bow Wow.
I must admit that finding the book's website in 2007 was my introduction to the writing of Simon Reynolds. I cannot properly explain why it took me so long to get from discovering the website for Rip it Up and Start Again, to actually reading the book. In fact, I read the book that Simon Reynolds co - authored with his wife, Joy Press, entitled; The Sex Revolts: Gender, Rebellion, and Rock 'N' Roll before I got around to reading this one. I spent a decent part of my morning reading an old fanzine that was lent to me by a friend on the basis that it seemed like something I might enjoy. In this 'zine, was an interview with Simon Reynolds. Everything that was mentioned in the introduction to this interview said a lot about why Rip it Up... was such an enjoyable read for me. The blend of relevant academic references with music fan enthusiasm, feminist theories, and all manner of stylistic choices that add up to an intellectually stimulating, yet very accessible read.
You can buy the insanely affordable American issue of the book here. This is the one that I just completeted, and am currently raving about. However, I was also recently lent the U.K. edition by the same friend who was generous enough to supply me with the fanzine. Based on the few pages that I have read so far of the U.K. edition, I can say that it is absolutely worth your money to spring for that copy based upon the additional (essential) content that it contains. The blog that accompanies the book is essential reading as well even for the footnotes alone, which expound further upon the already quite thorough information found in the book.
In an extra twist of interesting coincidence, the week after I completed the American version of Rip it Up..., and also my first radio show for KCRW, Henry Rollins devoted his entire radio to a postpunk tribute using Rip it Up and Start Again as something of a guide. In the show that I had put together the weekend before that I played "I Feel Love" by Donna Summer based on the fact that it was cited in the book as a highly influential single on certain aspects of the sound of postpunk, and also based upon the fact that I love really good disco. I followed that song with Chic knowing even before I read this book that the lads from Orange Juice were big fans (and you know that thing about loving good disco), but reading the Postcard chapter in the book brought that to the forefront of my mind so I pretty much have to give the book credit for the fact that I made that Chic into Orange Juice segue that I had vowed to make (though promptly forgotten) a long time ago. To carry the odd coincidence further, I was already intending to play "Rip it Up," on what will be the second installment of my radio show this weekend. Interesting how these things work out, isn't it?
Anyway, needless to say, I highly recommend listening to Henry Rollins' postpunk tribute. Please do so here.