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Broken Greek (2020)
by Pete Paphides
No current Talk conversations about this book.
Probably a Guardian reader's idea of an interesting music biography, I found it as dull as thier end of year album recommenations. ( )
Broken Greek (Quercus) is Pete Paphides's funny and evocative account of his Brummie childhood as the offspring of Greek-Cypriot parents, and his love affair with music. It starts in 1973 when the author, then aged four, stops speaking to anyone apart from close family. He never stops listening, however. Along with the sound of his parents' bickering, he finds a new soundtrack: pop music. Paphides, a journalist and radio DJ, is brilliant on the formative impact of his favourite bands and the ways music can help us make sense of the world.
But the book’s greatest asset is its abundance of material about musicians and songs, and the way that they guided its author through experiences that would have been impossible to navigate alone. Paphides has made a career out of music writing, and his skills in that field have long been clear. But here, he does something much more singular, describing the deep impact music can have on a particular sort of child, long before they are aware of the codes of cool that dictate what one should and shouldn’t like. By way of setting out his stall, he asks: “Do you sometimes feel like the music you’re hearing is explaining your life to you?” I am almost the exact same age as the author, and I instantly recognised just about all his examples of how three-minute hits seemed to speak dizzying existential truths, as well as his sketches of the people responsible for such magic.
If you’re going to give your memoir the sublime subtitle “A story of chip shops and pop songs”, you had better serve up a tasty hit. Gloriously, the music journalist Pete Paphides’s tale of his formative tussle between his Greek and Brummie identities, shot through with his life-determining discovery of music – his “third parent” – is lip-lickingly, dance-around-the-living-room good.
'Do you sometimes feel like the music you're hearing is explaining your life to you?'When Pete's parents moved from Cyprus to Birmingham in the 1960s in the hope of a better life, they had no money and only a little bit of English. The opened a fish-and-chip shop in Acocks Green. The Great Western Fish Bar is where Pete learned about coin-operated machines, male banter and Britishness.Shy and introverted, Pete stopped speaking from age 4 to 7, and found refuge instead in the bittersweet embrace of pop songs, thanks to Top of the Pops and Dial-A-Disc, From Brotherhood of Man to UB40, from ABBA to The Police, music provided the safety net he needed to protect him from the tensions of his home life. It also helped him navigate his way around the challenges surrounding school, friendships and phobias such as visits to the barber, standing near tall buildings and Rob Hull and Emu.With every passing year, his guilty secret became more horrifying to him: his parents were Greek, but all the things that excited him were British. And the engine of that realisation? 'Sugar Baby Love', 'Don't Go Breaking My Heart', 'Tragedy', 'Silly Games', 'Going Underground', 'Come On Eileen', and every other irresistibly chilling chart hit blaring out of the chip shop radio.Never have the trials and tribulations of growing up and the human need for a sense of belonging been so heart-breakingly and humorously depicted.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)780.92 — The arts Music Music Biography And History Biography
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