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BOOK REVIEW – The 50 Greatest Musical Places of the World by Sarah Woods

| 23 April 2018 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW – The 50 Greatest Musical Places of the World by Sarah Woods
Icon Books
September 2017
Paperback, $25
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar

Music history


Sarah Woods is “the author of over a dozen travel books, a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and a member of the British Guild of Travel Writers.”

What she is not, however, is an authority on music, and this shows in this hastily thrown together, poorly researched book.

I have no idea if Ms Woods enjoys a few pints of beer, but she has also written The 50 Greatest Beers of the World – and this book reads like that title would if the writer learnt all they knew about their subject from a couple of Google searches, never having tasted a drop in their lives.

It’s a shame as 50 Greatest Musical Places showed such promise, at first glance.

From Elvis’s home Graceland to Salzburg, where The Sound Of Music was shot, Adelaide’s live scene to Korea’s K-pop clubs, Dollywood to Zanzibar, the scene of Freddie Mercury’s childhood, this could have been a fascinating journey to the heart of what inspired the music which emanated from these places to change the world.

Instead, it’s painfully obvious that Ms Woods has spent a few evening Googling her subjects rather than making any real effort to feel their soul, let alone visit them personally.

Kurt Cobain is rendered Kobain; a treatise on the Royal Albert Hall makes no mention of the myriad important rock acts to have played or recorded there; likewise Manchester’s chapter has no mention of Bob Dylan’s Free Trade Hall appearance in 1966, where he was labelled “Judas” for going electric; ABBA’s Ring Ring is credited with, bizarrely, debuting “a new production technique, called the ‘wall of sound’ – the ABBA sound.” Phil Spector might have something to say about that. I could go on, but I gave up reading at this point, it was simply too painful to continue.

In her defence, I will suggest that this is probably quite an interesting read for someone with only a fleeting interest in music, but anyone who knows their Black Sabbath from their Bach and Boney M will know far more about the subject that Ms Woods has to share.

Category: Book Reviews

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