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NEIL DANIELS (ed) All Pen's Blazing Vol II (2010)

All Pen's Blazing

With Volume II of 'All Pens Blazing' arriving within twelve months of the first, there is an impression that this series could run and run. For the most part, rock writers are as vain as their subjects, and shameless self-publicists, so in that context there will be no shortage of material in the future. Indeed, like Spitting Image in the eighties for politicians, if you are a rock writer of any substance you should be in here.

Erstwhile GRTR! scribe Neil Daniels has put together another selection of rock hack reminiscences and widened his net to include some glaring omissions in the first book. So we get - for example - Mick Wall, Harry Doherty and our own Jason Ritchie (representing I have to say the very best of online journalism that is GRTR!).

The best rock journalism has humour, insight, but most of all humility, and sadly some rock hacks give the impression they are more important than some of their subject matter. Mick Wall reflects this aspect in his introduction.

Neil has widened his scope a little from his essentially hard rock fixated volume 1, now including publishers (Chris Ingham) and writers who have mainly produced books rather than magazine articles (for example GRTR!'s Billy James). He's also allowed admirable plugs for Classic Rock Society and Fireworks, via Martin Hudson and Phil Ashcroft respectively.

There is still an undercurrent that online cannot match offline journalism in terms of quality and it seems that some journalists (and publishers) still need a wake up call. Many readers have noted - for example - a certain laziness amongst the Classic Rock journalists and an impression they are invincible when it comes to rock writing. In the internet age, they are not.

Admittedly the internet age is where every man and his dog can publish their thoughts instantly and where aspiring writers can cut their teeth on the Amazon website.  Some filtering is necessary - both by the reader and the publisher - the latter is invariably delivered by strong editorship and a pay cheque.

Daniels' question and answer approach is a well-worn technique and works well in the context of a 'vox pop' - talking of which, the format apes the book of that name by the distinguished music journalist Michael Wale in 1972. Where is he in this collection?

There is some discrepancy in the length of responses, so for example Phil Ashcroft fills nearly eight pages, Arnaud Durieux (who??) runs out at a paltry two.

Some significant omissions still, though, and in the online context there is no interview with Andrew McNiece who has done much to fly the melodic rock flag.

In terms of the more significant mags, 'Q' and 'Mojo' are still under-represented. Where is Fred Dellar? And going further back there are many more scribes that could be included (eg Colin Irwin who wrote the folk pages in Melody Maker). And in folkier vein, 'Rock & Reel' is conspicuous by its absence amongst contemporary journals.

Daniels has improved the typeface but the book still lacks an index which may become more critical as the series progresses, as over time it will no doubt become more of a historical document as rock journalism moves online.

This is an admirable self-publication job but size is everything: the first volume (smaller) won't now sit well with the second (larger) on the shelf. Hopefully Neil will correct that and the original typeface issue on the next reprint.

But once again, this rollercoaster ride through some of rock's back pages will bring a glow to the cheek, and perhaps even moistness to the mouth, of any self-respecting rock fan who has ever bought a music paper or mag since the 1970's.


Review by David Randall

Volume I review

For more about rock journalism, check out Rock's Backpages

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***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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