‘Adventures in Modern Recording’ by Trevor Horn (Book Review)
Adventures in Modern Recording is an entertaining and illuminating exploration of modern pop by one of its pioneers – music producer Trevor Horn. The book features 23 songs from his life and career, whether as a bandmate (Yes, The Buggles) or as a producer (ABC, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Malcolm McLaren). Some were hits, others less so, but each piece plays an important role within the rich tapestry of modern pop discography. From being in MTV’s first music video and producing a hip-hop record in the genre’s early years to being taken to court by Holly Johnson and co-producing Band Aid – Horn has seen it all.
Music behind the scenes
In a world where singers and bands often take centre stage, we don’t usually hear from those who work behind the scenes. Therefore, memoirs in this space can be particularly illuminating. In Adventures in Modern Recording, there are so many great anecdotes about some of our favourite pop stars – ranging from heartwarming to hilarious. With these stories, the book provides a tantalising glimpse into various artists’ personalities, especially with regards to what they were like to work with in the studio – the place where stars are more likely to be themselves, often for hours at a time, occasionally hearing arrangements they don’t like or having to deal with things when they go wrong. We all love hearing about the drama, and this book doesn’t disappoint.
The mechanics of success
Additionally, for each stressful deadline and point of disagreement, Adventures in Modern Recording is immensely joyful and emotional. Featuring early glimpses into Horn’s marriage with the late Jill Sinclair, it has many heartfelt and humorous yet heartbreaking moments.
The many points of musical success are also fascinating. With any pop song becoming a massive hit, you do wonder why they work so well. What is the recipe for making an infectious pop song? I remember watching a documentary on ABBA which revealed how the bulk of ‘The Winner Takes It All’ is inherently simple, musically, using just the same four chords on repeat which, along with impeccable vocals and slick production, is often all a song needs to get under your skin. Adventures in Modern Recording has bundles of these insights. For most of the songs featured, Trevor Horn takes us through the hours, days, and weeks that carved some of our favourite pop songs in a really satisfying way– as well as detailing how he cured his creative roadblocks. And, with it being Trevor Horn – a producer who has never hesitated to try out new tech and different genres – the wide variety of artists mentioned is brilliant. Therefore, the book includes tremendous detail for all of the music geeks out there.
Adventures in Modern Recording is a wonderful journey through the mechanics of modern pop music, told by one man at its very centre. Across decades and genres, the book is illustrious in its variety of subjects and has so much heart at its centre. Thus, this is the ideal book for memoir and music fans alike.
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