I very rarely get sent Non Fiction books to review and this latest book by Dylan Jones is an absolute joy. It’s a bittersweet journey through the bands and the music that I loved growing up in the Eighties. This book brings back vividly the thrill of getting my hands on the latest copies of Smash Hits and Look In and reading all about the bands and the artists that I idolised at the time. And if I could sneak it past my Dad’s eagle-eyed scrutiny there was the occasional issue of Hot Press and Melody Maker. (Even then, for me, the NME took itself too seriously!)
Unknowingly a lot of the venues that feature in the book became a part of my work life in the music industry in London, although twenty years on these clubs and pubs were quite tame by comparison with the hedonism and social awakening of the post-punk New Romantics.
I’m very fond of a band biography and have been slowly reading Andrew Ridgeley’s book over the course of this year as well as the fabulously decadent book by Duff McKagan of Guns N Roses fame. For me Sweet Dreams is in a league of its own. It is part memoir, part socio-economic history and a good chunk of nostalgia for a time unlike no other. Changing technology had such a huge influence on this time with the development of the synthesiser and music videos and the birth of MTV. Who can forget Adam & The Ants’ dandy highwayman or the Duran boys lounging on luxury yachts?
Jones has a very easy writing style and each chapter is dedicated to a year in the decade. He begins with the punk revolution of 76/77 and documents how that developed into the New Romantic explosion just a few years later. A movement that had such a big influence on the UK, Europe and later the USA has surprisingly few protagonists moving incestuously from band to band as their styles and music developed and naturally as disputes and arguments split up their original bands.
Using interviews with the performers, stylists, journalists, artists etc who were part of the largely London based scene, Jones has been able to craft a vibrant record of what it was like to be part of this period. It is not the catchiest of titles and it is a very hefty 688 pages but if you grew up in the Eighties and loved bands like the Ants, Spandau, Duran Duran, Depeche Mode etc you won’t be able to put this book down. It’s a sparkly little gem to curl up with on a dark winter’s evening!
Supplied by Net Galley and Faber and Faber Ltd in exchange for an honest review.
UK Publication Date: Oct 1 2020. 688 pages.
Prolific reader, enthusiastic theatre and movie-goer and ex-Olivier Awards judge who spent twenty years working in the music industry in London. I love sharing my favourite books with friends - nearly always spoiler-free as I hate reading a synopsis of the whole book in other reviews.