(from issue #88)
If you’ve read Shindig! over the last couple of years, you’ll be familiar with Fiona McQuarrie’s outstanding series of Song Book pieces. Written with an eye to the forensic and the surprising, with no small amount of ready wit, these potted histories provided both factual detail and critical analysis as a way of telling the stories of individual songs.
Now, in an expanded form and with new material, McQuarrie takes the concept to its natural and fulfilling conclusion, building on the original idea to produce a highly readable and well-rounded book. This is an engaging and playful product that avoids the obvious pitfalls of filler whilst digging down into the stories of a raft of releases – some familiar, some rare – put out between 1964 and ’74.
Whether she’s leading us through Jimmy Webb’s formative years, in her explication of the track ‘The Worst That Could Happen’, or unpacking the social attitudes that constrained Jackie DeShannon when she wrote ‘When You Walk In The Room’, McQuarrie’s light touch breathes vibrant life into every tale. Under her gaze every song becomes a captivating entity in its own right – a singular existence telescoping and morphing across the decades as each composition is taken up and interpreted by different artists.
And therein lies the alchemy: the moves, the moods, McQuarrie’s proposition that “the song is at the heart of what we love about music”, all combine with her lifelong fascination with trivia and obscurities to make this a remarkable study. – Greg Healey