Hepworth touches on something morally significant when discussing the reasons why he and his peer group exchanged hard cash for certain LPs: the role of cultural pressure in buying a record because you thought you ought to like it, or because your friends do...Hepworth’s knowledge and understanding of rock history is prodigious...[He] closes his hugely entertaining study of the LP’s golden age with a fond hope that, as people are drawn to the music of the past, they’ll be drawn to the form in which it first appeared. I hope he’s right. After all, nobody ever looked cool carrying a CD under their arm in public, no matter how thrilling the cover art.
Hepworth has more insider knowledge and knows more rock anecdotes than any man alive. There is a touch, nonetheless, of Wikipedia research as he stacks up all the things that happened in the world on the day such-and-such was released, and a tendency to end such litanies with a version of “I was that boy soldier” or “That would be me”. But there is no denying that he was there, as writer, broadcaster, record shop owner and above all fan, and no point in criticising him for sharing personal memories, since we all do it. He’s certainly not going to be criticised on grounds of taste. His selections are immaculate and meaningful.
Factual errors aside, the readers’ enjoyment of this book will probably stand or fall by how far their own musical taste coincides with that of the author. If you believe that any criticism of the Beatles in general and Sergeant Pepper in particular should be given roughly the same reception as that of a heretic at a British Communist Party meeting of the 1930s suggesting that Stalin had been just a trifle cavalier in his treatment of Zinoviev and Kamenev, or agree — which, as it happens, I don’t — that punk was mostly nonsense, and that the people who bought Patti Smith’s landmark 1975 debut album Horses were ‘suckers’, then fair enough. If not, then you might wish to look elsewhere. I rather suspect that David Hepworth wouldn’t have it any other way.
Hepworth is an explorer returning from a lost world. Only a fraction of young people went to university; student loans lay far in the future, and there were always jobs to be found. In 1970 flats in areas of London such as Ray Davies’s old patch Muswell Hill were still cheap, and you could see the latest hip movie from Hollywood’s young rebels for about 30p...Above all, he is wise enough not to wallow in nostalgia for the passing of the LP. His mother was quite content to use cassettes because they were much more durable, and if Hepworth still clings on to his vinyl, he understands why the next generation doesn’t see the mystique. If they read this book, though, they will start to see what they are missing.