Norman Jopling - Shake It Up Baby!: Notes From A Pop Music Reporter 1961-1972

Published Saturday 13th January 2018
Norman Jopling - Shake It Up Baby!: Notes From A Pop Music Reporter 1961-1972
Norman Jopling - Shake It Up Baby!: Notes From A Pop Music Reporter 1961-1972

STYLE: Music Related
RATING 7 7 7 7 7 7 7
FORMAT: Book General book

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Reviewed by Tony Cummings

In the history of UK pop and rock, one music journalist above all others deserves special accolades. The London-based journo Norman Jopling was, in many ways, a portal through which thousands of Brits, both fans and musicians, entered to discover the rich creative heritage of African-American music. Through Jopling's weekly articles The Great Unknowns in Record Mirror, Jopling introduced countless teenagers to the delights of Motown, John Lee Hooker, James Brown, Dionne Warwick, Howlin' Wolf, Ike and Tina Turner and dozens more black artists whose music seemed infinitely preferable to the anaemic vapidity of most white pop music of the time. Norman's groundbreaking columns not only began to alter the record buying habits of many teenagers, soon to be dubbed mods, but influenced a whole wave of British beat groups wanting to expand their repertoires beyond the '50s hits of Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard. Norman's fascinating autobiography chronicles a journey of constant musical discovery and his tome (almost 500 pages) doesn't stop at '60s R&B and soul but moves on to take in The Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, Jimi Hendrix and onto Marc Bolan and Captain Beefheart. As Jopling admits himself he is no great shakes as a writer and as the dozens of extracts from his Record Mirror days (and later Cream and Let It Rock magazines) show he was first and foremost a passionate fan of music who could occasionally glean interesting or colourful opinions or factual titbits from the dozens of artists he interviewed. Parallel to all this, Jopling's book presents an intriguing behind-the-scenes record of the British music media from 1961 to 1972 (the period covered). Shake It Up Baby is not without its flaws - Jopling admits to being very stoned when interviewing Captain Beefheart in a lengthy extract which manages to be both incoherent and, in one place, pornographic. And it's odd that Norman's descriptions of a key figure in Britain's developing R&B and soul scene, Dave Godin, don't mention how flamboyantly camp the Tamla/northern soul/deep soul guru was. But these are minor quibbles about a book which gives a surprisingly comprehensive look at the way pop developed from Helen Shapiro and Marty Wilde through to The Beatles and David Bowie (the last artist chronicled with Norman describing the briefest of encounters in a Hollywood nightclub with the rock icon). So, if you can ignore some of the very-much-of-its-time journalese this book is a fascinating overview of UK pop music history.

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.

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