Eamonn Forde has been writing about the music industry for nearly 20 years. Though slightly sullied by an opening section that spurns laying out the reasons why EMI was a household name in favour of business arcana, his account of what happened next is an addictive blend of tragedy, comedy and insight. One of Hands’s first pronouncements about EMI points to the farce that was about to happen: “We look for the worst businesses we can find in the most challenged sector – and we get happy if it’s really, really bad … We’re just hoping EMI is as bad as we think it is.”
Over the past 15 years, Eamonn Forde has built a reputation as one of the music industry’s most authoritative commentators. The Final Days of EMI, his first book, is an unsparing, follow-the-money inquest into the label’s ill-starred encounter with Hands. It’s primarily a business tale, but it says so much about 21st-century Britain and how we arrived where we are now... What makes The Final Days of EMI more than a tale of suits squabbling is the awkward, capricious figure of Hands. If this story were a Greek tragedy he would, as Forde vividly illustrates, be both protagonist and antagonist. And his company’s failure tells us much about our times. From downsizing to digital’s displacement of analogue to the disposability of everything – all are now a fixture of our public life. But Forde’s impressive book suggests they have rarely been quite so destructive as during EMI’s decline.