Richard King’s Original Rockers is more than a behind-the-scenes music memoir. It is a book of passion, capturing a time when music was everything.
Before reading this book, I didn’t really know much about Revolver Records, or the Bristol music scene. Though I have read a fair bit about music, this has only really included biographies of some of my favourite artists. My knowledge of music as an industry, particularly in the overseas market, is fairly limited. Original Rockers, for me, provided an interesting and thought-provoking read, unlike anything I’d ever really come across before.
Throughout its short life, Revolver Records became something of a cultural phenomenon. It refused to pander to the whim of record labels and did not stock music simply because it was popular. It indulged in stocking off-the-wall vinyls, rarities and bootleg recordings from some of the industry’s more obscure acts, and makes no apologies for doing so.
King puts it most poetically at the end of the first chapter, ‘Revolver never bought, sold, or played music in any accepted sense. Rather, the shop and its customers experienced music as if they were practicing rituals. I had renewed my familiarity with these rituals to a point where I was able to participate in a form of time travel, to a journey’s end where the emotional effect of music was as overwhelming and illuminating as the moon at its nearest and fullest as if revealing an eternal, solitary truth.’
In the beginning, this book seems to be all that it appears, an insight into the inner workings of a record store at a time when the Bristol music scene was still in its fledgling years. Sure, it has those anecdotes one comes to expect when reading books of its kind, such as the time when owner Roger was kidnapped by concert promoters after accidentally giving their money to a con artist the previous day, or when he refused to serve customers based on the fact that they were carrying shopping bags from other, more mainstream rivals; but that isn’t what makes it special.
Many music historians have taken on the death of vinyl over the years, particularly we move into a world that is becoming more digitally focused by the second. King’s account, as an employee rather than an outsider, of the inner sanctum that was Revolver, is what makes this book unique. His personal experiences of certain music, be it CAN, Rod Stewart or Townes Van Zandt, when meshed with historical facts about the industry at the time, allow for a book that is, on the whole, quite readable and entertaining.
Original Rockers encapsulates the music industry of days gone by and the reason why music continues to resonate so strongly in many a culture. For any music fan, it’s a must have.
[Editor/Author Note: This review was first published by cargoART Magazine.]