4ad

One of those books that once you’ve read it, you wonder how we survived without it…. Informative, entertaining, frequently moving, and often surprising.” (Public Address)

My new book BREAKING DOWN THE WALLS OF HEARTACHE: HOW MUSIC CAME OUT was published in the UK by Constable (an imprint of Little,Brown) in OCTOBER 2016, and in the US by Backbeat (an imprint of Hal Leonard) in June 2017.

It’s a comprehensive history of the queer pioneers of Popular Music. The story starts in the British music halls of the early 1900s and then the Weimar Cabaret and Harlem blues scenes of the 1920s, and unfurls across the decades, and musical genres, to the present day, with over 90 new interviews, to tell the story of how music came out.

There have been essay-based books on this subject, but never a chronological narrative, as a slice of social and music history – so, as with my book on 4AD, there’s only likely to be one such book, so it’s to be definitive: hence 540 pages. Don’t drop it on your foot.

THE BLURB:

Popular music’s gay DNA is inarguable: from Elvis in eye shadow to k.d. lang’s female Elvis; from Little Richard’s ‘Tutti Frutti’ to David Bowie’s bisexual alien; from Frankie Say ‘Relax’ to House music godfather Frankie Knuckles; from Kurt Cobain in a dress to punk icon/couture model Beth Ditto, but most of the pioneers are forgotten, their bravery and risk-taking going widely unreported at the time – such as Baltimore’s lesbian rockabilly trio The Roc-a-Jets, from the 1950s. Or Britain’s gay glam – and new wave – band Handbag.

The press release is here, and the Facebook page here

A Spotify playlist representing the book is here

An extensive interview about the book, on the Public Address blog, is here

4 star lead review in MOJO is here

Features inspired by the book are in the Guardian, The Daily Telegraph and The Big Issue

 

And on the subject of books:.

FACING THE OTHER WAY - THE STORY OF 4AD

A 2013 MUSIC BOOK OF THE YEAR: NME • ROUGH TRADE SHOPS • SPIN • TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT • DAILY TELEGRAPH

4AD gets the lavish label history they deserveMOJO

The book is an exquisite reflection of 4AD itself – extravagant, atmospheric, and rich in texture and timbre’”    PITCHFORK”

“One of the greatest stories to emerge from rock and roll’s modern history” DROWNED IN SOUND

Available in hardback and paperback. The limited edition of a thousand copies, that splits the boo into two separate volumes, adds two CDs (4AD 1980s and 1990s, chosen and sequenced by the author) is sold out, though I have one remaining copy in my archives to sell if anyone is interested.

 

 


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  • Latest News

    JANUARY 2018
    EZRA FURMAN
    In the current issue of MOJO, I have interviewed the brilliant Ezra Furman, We met in his home city of Chicago, to talk about his enthralling new quasi-concept album Transangelic Exodus, and the themes that led to this, "queer outlaw saga,"

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    NOVEMBER 2017
    In MOJO's Nov issue, I have written the 'How To Buy' guide to the late, irrepressible Kevin Ayers, You'll have to buy the mag to read it, but there is a great playlist at http://mixing.io/playlist/mojo-magazine-kevin-ayers-eccentric-genius.

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    OCTOBER 2017
    HOW MUSIC CAME OUT: in 15 records, on The Vinyl Factory

    BECK IN TEN RECORDS: a ten-record guide to Beck Hansen's topsy-turvy world, for The Vinyl Factory

    My feature on true originals SPARKS is in the current issue of MOJO.

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    SEPTEMBER 2017
    COCTEAU TWINS - 35 years after their first record, a ten-record introduction for The Vinyl Factory.

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    JULY 2017
    SCOTT WALKER: The Proms paid their tribute, now it's my turn, for The Vinyl Factory.

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    JUNE 2017
    US PUBLICATION OF "BREAKING DOWN THE WALLS OF HEARTACHE: HOW MUSIC CAME OUT"... on Backbeat, a subsidiary of Hal Leonard. All errors in the UK edition have been rectified, while various photos are new, since Backbeat didn't share the UK publishers' copyright concerns,

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    JUNE 2017
    BIG STAR
    Given the spate of reissues, it's time for an Introduction to the greatest of all guitar bands, which I've written for The Vinyl Factory.

    IGGY POP - a ten-record introduction to the most undefeated frontman of rock'n'roll

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    MARCH 2017
    THE VELVET UNDERGROUND
    On its 50th anniversary, a track-by-track dissection of the most influential rock album of all time, for The Vinyl Factory.

    MARTIN HANNETT: a ten-record guide to arguably the most visionary record producer Britain has ever produced
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    JANUARY 2017
    DAVID BOWIE IN TEN RECORDS - 'Stardust Memories'...
    To commemorate what would have been Bowie's 70th birthday, and the first anniversary of his death, I've written an Introduction to Bowie in ten records for The Vinyl Factory.

    In the current issue of MOJO, I have interviewed Alynda Segarra of Hurray For The Riff Raff, We met in New York, to talk about her new fantastic new album, The Navigator, which documents her Puerto Rican roots, her ongoing wanderlust, and the shocking, shameful actions of the current US government,

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    NOVEMB ER 2016
    LEONARD COHEN - an apprection of the Canadian poet, novelist and enigmatic songwriter, who just died, for The Vinyl Factory

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    OCTOBER 13th, 2016
    BREAKING DOWN THE WALLS OF HEARTACHE: HOW MUSIC CAME OUT has come out too, on Constable/Little Brown for the UK and other territories (except the US, which will be June 2017, via Backbeat/Hal Leonard. At 540 pages, it's a comprehensive, and hopefully definitive, history of the queer pioneers of popular music, from the closet to the charts, to borrow Jon Savage's line.

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    AUGUST 2016
    TANYA DONELLY: My 4AD 'Foreword' feature on Tanya Donnelly, titled Rhode Island Odyssey, clocks her Throwing Muses/Breeders/Belly/solo incarnations, to celebrate the reformation of her band Belly

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    MAY 2016
    RADIOHEAD: The new album A Moon Shaped Pool is to be released in a bells-and-whistles box set this September: here are nine other Radiohead vinyl collectables, for The Vinyl Factory site.

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    MAY 2016
    MIRACLE LEGION: My lachrymose memories of the New Haven., Connecticut band, inspired by the band's forthcoming tour - their first shows in 20 years- for The Guardian (Cult Heroes section)

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    MARCH 2016
    JEFF BUCKLEY - "How Grace sparked the legend of Jeff Buckley and a problematic release legacy." My opinion piece on yet another posthumous record by the great Jeff Buckley can be found at The Vinyl Factory website.

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    JANUARY 2016
    DAVID BOWIE: THE MAN WHO CHANGED MY WORLD
    Not a great way to file the first post of 2016.. On the morning the news of David Bowie’s death broke, I was asked to write a piece on the artist I consider to have had the most impact, for the longest time, on my life. I’ve never had to write something whilst blubbing, and shocked to the core, but this is what came out – my tribute to the Man Who Changed My World.

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    SEPTEMBER 2015
    PATTI SMITH - MOJO COVER FEATURE
    With the 40th anniversary tour of Horses in full swing, I have interviewed Patti Smith, John Cale about producing Horses, and written a guide to all Smtih's albums for for MOJO's October 2015 issue. Unrelated to Horses, a 'How to Buy' guide to Cocteau Twins and interviews with rising Northern Irish singer-songwriter SOAK and Alice Cooper about his Hollywood Vampires project also have my name on it this month

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    JUNE 2015
    FINALLY, LIFE AFTER 4AD...
    On June 1st, Little Brown imprint Constable emailed a press release to the UK book trade:

    Andreas Campomar, publishing director at Constable (Little, Brown), has signed up Martin Aston for his book on the queer pioneers of popular music and how they helped change the world. Campomar bought World Rights from Matthew Hamilton at Aitken Alexander Associates. "HOW MUSIC CAME OUT" will be published in autumn 2016. See the News page for full details.

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    JUNE 2015
    VINYL FACTORY FEATURES - MAY/JUNE
    I have written a label profile on, yes, 4AD, based on my book, but also an 'Essential Guide' to Kate Bush for the website - www.thevinylfactory.com. Next up is a Flying Nun label profile.

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    MAY 2015
    RED HOUSE PAINTERS FEATURE
    Timed with the release of Red House Painters' box set (beautiful design, Chris), I have written an extended feature about the band's 4AD eraand about how they ended up there (via a demo that I happened to give the label...). The piece is up on 4AD's website now, under 'Sleevenotes'

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    SEPT 2015
    KATE BUSH TOP 50 SONGS - MOJO MAGAZINE
    In the October (no. 251) issue of MOJO, I've covered four Kate Bush songs for the Greatest 50 Songs feature, and interviewed singer-songwriter Adam Cohen on the Greek island of Hydra where his dad Leonard bought a house in 1960.

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    SEPT 2014
    END OF THE ROAD 2014
    I reviewed the End Of The Road festival for MOJO, where improv-leaning Brit-folk genius David Thomas Broughton (ably backed by the Juice Vocal Ensemble) is the shock Saturday night highlight that few people see as they're mostly winding down from The Flaming Lips' main-stage spectacular...

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    JUNE 2014
    JIMMY SOMERVILLE - ATTITUDE MAGAZINE
    I interviewed Jimmy Somerville for Attitude's July 2014 issue, on the 30th anniversary of Bronski Beat's "Smalltown Boy," one of the most striking, important and moving singles in all of British pop.

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    JULY 2014 FACING THE OTHER WAY - IN PAPERBACK
    The paperback edition of Facing The Other Way: The Story Of 4AD is published by HarperCollins imprint The Friday Project on July 17th in the UK (£12.99) and August 19th in the US ($19.99). Vaughan Oliver (v23) has revamped the artwork from the hardcover edition for this version.

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    APRIL 2014
    JEFF BUCKLEY - Q MAGAZINE
    My 3000-word 'oral history' of Jeff Buckley is part of a 17-page special in Q Magazine's June issue on the late singer, 20 years after his landmark album debut Grace.

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