If you’ve already read our piece on his record collection (p30 in this ‘ere issue) you’ll know that the much-storied journalist and broadcaster Mark Ellen knows his prog onions.
His dad, a WWII veteran, saw iconoclast louts like Zappa as a harbinger of the end of days, and would not let his son play Hot Rats on the family turntable. Ellen’s affectionate look back at his life and career is rich in such comic incident. He starts out as a kid falling in love with music, attending Soft Machine gigs and festivals, reverently listening to Floyd and Beefheart. Then he’s playing in bands (such as Ugly Rumours, his Oxford Uni band with one Tony Blair) and finally finds his vocation writing for mags. He earns his bones with the NME, and goes on to found enduring titles including Q and Word. Also in here are tales from Live Aid (he was part of the Beeb’s presenting team) and Whistle Test. If you’ve read his journalism you’ll know Ellen’s authorial voice: fun, chummy and eloquent, knowledgeable and warmly enthusiastic. With a cast featuring Rihanna, Genesis, Van der Graaf and Lady GaGa, his hugely entertaining memoir is a joy to read.** **