I Hated Nick Hornby Before You Hated Nick Hornby
Some thoughts on 31 Songs ...

I borrowed a copy of Nick Hornby's 31 Songs from the library yesterday. I always seem to end up borrowing Nick Hornby's books from the library. I read 31 Songs straight through in a couple of hours.

I hated Nick Hornby yesterday. I always seem to end up hating Nick Hornby. I actually thoroughly enjoyed 31 Songs, just as I have enjoyed Fever Pitch and High Fidelity. I still hate Nick Hornby though.

I guess I hate Nick Hornby because he is an opportunist. He has seized some great opportunities. He has had some great ideas and taken the opportunity to convert them into successful books. They are ideas many of us may have had at one time or another, and they are ideas we have failed to act upon.

31 Songs is a great idea. A great opportunity to use some of your favourite songs as a vehicle to tell some of your favourite stories, share some special memories, and air some of your views about life, love and art. It works, and it deserves to be successful. I still hate Nick Hornby though.

31 Songs has generated a fair amount of controversy. In particular, Rob Young the editor of The Wire really threw all his toys out of his pram. Well, a book of this nature is bound to get people worked up. It's all about choosing certain songs, which are bound to be not to everybody's taste. I seem to remember that it was the fact that old Nick said he never needed to hear Suicide's 'Frankie Teardrop' again that really got The Wire going. So what? I don't care if I ever hear 'Frankie Teardrop' again either. I don't care if I ever hear most of the stuff written about in The Wire either. Maybe more to the point old Nick savages music critics pretty accurately and humorously. He could have had more fun specifically savaging converted cuties like Rob Young and David Keenan, but then old Nick's not as nasty as me.

The other interesting thing that generated a bit of controversy in The Wire recently was in one of their Invisible Jukebox sessions where David Toop said something about not listening to music nowadays, and all sorts of people jumped to his defence. This was then gloriously contradicted a month or so later when the golden couple of Lux Interior and Poison Ivy had their go, and revealed themselves as passionate, knowledgeable, and thankfully obsessive about all sorts of music in just the way you would want them to be. I've never been a huge Cramps fan, but the way Ivy gets all worked up and goes off to copy the Rocket From The Tombs CD makes me swear undying love.

I can't say I ever have been much of a David Toop fan either in terms of music or writing. I know he's very erudite and all that, but he's never set my heart on fire. I guess there could come a day when I feel I too don't need music any more. I doubt it though. Music is a special thing and I can't imagine it not being a central part of my life. I feel really sad about West Ham but I have got a copy of ELO's Greatest Hits on and suddenly life doesn't seem quite so bad as I bop around to 'Sweet Talking Woman', and I hope we can bring a few new faces through from the youngsters in the reserves if some of the big time charlies who've let us down this year choose to move on. Hey, if I keep this up, do you think Nick Hornby would approve?

Actually, the interesting thing is the emphasis old Nick puts on listening to new music, and he sort of puts me to shame here. I really am remiss when it comes to supporting new music. I think the only new music I have bought this year is by the Hidden Cameras, which is glorious. I am struggling to think of anything else. I have high hopes for the new Broadcast EP though.

So, yes, what I am still buying is lots of reissues and compilations. Kent, naturally, are on a bit of a roll, with the Cellar of Soul, Pounds of Soul, and LA's Silver Soul sets. Soul Jazz deserve an honourable mention for the Miami Sound set. And, thanks to an ad in The Wire, I was prompted to go out and get Archie Shepp's Attica Blues which is out on CD in a lovely replica sleeve. Mind you, I do keep coming back to that ELO Greatest Hits set.

Reading back through this, I can't believe how kind I have been to old Nick. So, don't forget I hate him. I heard Billy Bonds on the radio today saying he would love to be playing against Robbie Savage and giving him a good time so to speak. Well, there are certainly times when old Nick deserves the sort of good times Saint Billy's talking about. I'm not just talking about old Nick getting horribly confused about Paul Newman and the Sid Presley Experience. I mean more like naughty Nick being dismissive about Eric B and Rakim's greatest moment, and championing Bruce Springsteen and lots of other deadly dull singer/songwriters. Deadly sins that can't be forgiven lightly!

Yet, I can't get worked up about 31 Songs in the way The Wire did. It really doesn't bother me if people want to make lists. After all one of the best ever editions of The Wire came when they did that 100 Records That Set The World On Fire And Nobody Noticed list. But then pop is full of ironies like that!

And the irony is I can't work out whether Nick Hornby is sitting somewhere in North London loving the controversy he has stirred up or is he happily oblivious and happy playing with his son? I may hate him but I hate Robbie Savage and David Keenan more. The difference is I respect Nick Hornby in a funny kind of way!

© 2003 John Carney