A good read: ‘Long Distance Call’ by Richard Williams

16 Jan


I like reading about music almost as much as I love listening to it, and I’ve got loads of music books that I’ve picked up over the years (a girlfriend said to me once: ‘How many books about Miles Davis do you need?’  As if she needed to ask…).  Great writing about music can lead you to discover new music, make connections you didn’t know were there, and hear new things in music you thought you knew everything about.  And a memorable phrase plucked seemingly randomly from something you’ve read ends up being used to describe many disparate things over the years…

The book that I return to most of all is the one above: ‘Long Distance Call’ by Richard Williams.  A collection of his writings on music from the Melody Maker, Times and Guardian etc., it’s not only the subject matter (Chet, Curtis, the best articles I’ve ever read on Miles, Charlie Mingus in Soho and Bob Marley’s funeral…) that makes me recommend this, but the way he puts the music he’s discussing in context with his life and the social events of the time that makes it resonate so much with me.   A gorgeous piece on unpacking some possessions in a new house and hearing a long-unheard Gladys Knight record as he does it sums it up: he goes from the particular to the abstract, remembering the people he associates with that record and the times they had, filtering it through the time that has passed since then.  Capturing exactly how a record can tell you everything about your life at that point in time, and how that will change over time.  All in about half a dozen pages.  Fuck Proust’s madeleines (or Gregg’s pasties if you wish), this is the real deal…

You might have to look for this (coming out in 2000, it sank without trace and is currently £29.91 on Amazon!) but that’s true of everything that’s good.  Trust me, you’ll never regret it.

Fairly recent interview with Richard Williams here:



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