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Book review: Have Guitars…Will Travel Vol 4.

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HAVE GUITARS…WILL TRAVEL VOL. 4 [A journey through the music scene in Northampton 1988-96]
Derrick A. Thompson [Whyte Tiger Publications]

First of all it’s worth crediting author/editor Derrick Thompson for not only writing and publishing a ShoeTown musical history just once, but actually doing it FOUR times over a ten year period, covering 40 years of provincial heritage. That’s precisely the sort of dedication that makes Northampton and it’s music scene such a special place.

This fourth edition in the well-received series takes the reader chronologically through the activities of many of the local acts plying their trade during the late ’80s and first half of the ’90s. You get the easily recognisable names [The Jazz Butcher, Venus Fly Trap, Peter Murphy/David J/Love & Rockets, Mystic Crew, The Enid] alongside the totally obscure [how many knew Alan Moore had two musical projects in this timeframe, for example]. They all have a story to recall, which they have done with Thompson, who has been sage enough to leave their stories pretty much untouched.

Not only is this book about the comings and goings of local bands, but also of the extended universe of promoters and venues [The Roadmender and Racehorse feature prominently], fanzines [Splinter, Bizarre], and touring acts [Pulp, The Fall, The Stone Roses, Paul Weller, Kirsty McCall, the mythical Spacemen 3].

This edition, New Boots must admit, does begin a little slowly recounting 1988 and ’89, but fully kicks into gear around 1990. From then through to the last page [252, numerology fans]  it becomes very hard to put down, such is the regularly great yarns told of those halcyon days. The book is fairly simply laid out [black and white photos, minimal editing], but the content keeps you wanting to know more about how the scene was then. For those of us who weren’t active in the music scene then it’s an education on top of entertainment. Also it’s pretty amazing to think how many of these musicians are still conjuring up new original music in one form or another in 2018.

Thompson states in the preface that this volume concludes the series, and if so then it’s a fine way to finish. New Boots would argue that he could, nay should, squeeze one more book out, covering 1997-2004. People are nostalgic for things 20 years ago, so why not. Plus it was not until 2004 that social media took off for bands (hello MySpace), and before that the internet was in its infancy and most bands did not have websites. If you mention any band from the late ’90s [e.g. Circa, The Pedestrians, The Fade, etc] the internet simply does not provide you with any info on them. An oral history book would still be very informative for that period.

But in the meantime hunt down this great volume!

Phil Moore

Have Guitars…is available now, via the Spiral Archive [St. Michael’s Rd] and Waterstones [Abington St] shops in Northampton, plus Amazon


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