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Crossroads: In Search of the Moments that Changed Music

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Standing at the crossroads - the Mississippi crossroads of Robert Johnson and the devil's infamous meeting - Mark Radcliffe found himself facing his own personal crunch point. Aged sixty, he had just mourned the death of his father, only to be handed a diagnosis of mouth and throat cancer. This momentous time in his life, and being at the most famous junction in music histo Standing at the crossroads - the Mississippi crossroads of Robert Johnson and the devil's infamous meeting - Mark Radcliffe found himself facing his own personal crunch point. Aged sixty, he had just mourned the death of his father, only to be handed a diagnosis of mouth and throat cancer. This momentous time in his life, and being at the most famous junction in music history, led Radcliffe to think about the pivotal tracks in music and how the musicians who wrote and performed them - from Woodie Guthrie to Gloria Gaynor, Kurt Cobain to Bob Marley - had reached the crossroads that led to such epoch-changing music. In this warm, intimate account of music and its power to transform our lives, Radcliffe takes a personal journey through these touchstone tracks, looking at the story behind the records and his own experiences as he goes in search of these moments.


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Standing at the crossroads - the Mississippi crossroads of Robert Johnson and the devil's infamous meeting - Mark Radcliffe found himself facing his own personal crunch point. Aged sixty, he had just mourned the death of his father, only to be handed a diagnosis of mouth and throat cancer. This momentous time in his life, and being at the most famous junction in music histo Standing at the crossroads - the Mississippi crossroads of Robert Johnson and the devil's infamous meeting - Mark Radcliffe found himself facing his own personal crunch point. Aged sixty, he had just mourned the death of his father, only to be handed a diagnosis of mouth and throat cancer. This momentous time in his life, and being at the most famous junction in music history, led Radcliffe to think about the pivotal tracks in music and how the musicians who wrote and performed them - from Woodie Guthrie to Gloria Gaynor, Kurt Cobain to Bob Marley - had reached the crossroads that led to such epoch-changing music. In this warm, intimate account of music and its power to transform our lives, Radcliffe takes a personal journey through these touchstone tracks, looking at the story behind the records and his own experiences as he goes in search of these moments.

30 review for Crossroads: In Search of the Moments that Changed Music

  1. 5 out of 5

    Nigeyb

    I like Mark Radcliffe. He's an engaging radio presenter and that translates into his books This is the third of his books I've read and, like the others, this is an easy, entertaining and interesting read. Having hit age 60 and (successfully) undergone treatment for tongue and throat cancer, Mark Radcliffe felt he had reached a crossroads in his life. This realisation informs Crossroads: In Search of the Moments that Changed Music. Essentially an exploration into musicians at pivotal moments who I like Mark Radcliffe. He's an engaging radio presenter and that translates into his books This is the third of his books I've read and, like the others, this is an easy, entertaining and interesting read. Having hit age 60 and (successfully) undergone treatment for tongue and throat cancer, Mark Radcliffe felt he had reached a crossroads in his life. This realisation informs Crossroads: In Search of the Moments that Changed Music. Essentially an exploration into musicians at pivotal moments who changed their own trajectory but also changed the course of music history. A reasonably informed music fan will already be very familiar with Robert Johnson making a pact with Old Nick, or the other "seismic" moments detailed here and which include Elvis Presley at Sun Records, Jimi Hendrix, Kraftwerk, Bob Marley, Kurt Cobain and Nirvana, the birth of house music, the death of disco, and plenty more. And there's the rub, unlike yer Paul Morleys, Jon Savages or David Hepworths - and despite being well written - Mark Radcliffe just offers up the stories, most of which you will probably know already. I enjoyed it but didn't learn much from reading it. That said, one thing I was suprised to discover is that Matt Bellamy of Muse’s father played guitar in Joe Meek's studio band. So, fine for an undemanding read but don't expect to discover much you didn't already know. Buy it anyway though as Mark Radcliffe is one of the good guys. 3/5

  2. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    In 2018, not only did broadcaster and writer Mark Radcliffe turn sixty, but his dad died and he was diagnosed with tongue and throat cancer. After taking a trip to America with two pals and visiting a famous crossroads in Mississippi, and whilst standing at this junction, Mark thought about his own journey. He recalled an earlier conversation with a music journalist about the band Dr Feelgood reaching a musical crossroads… and so the idea of this book was born. In it, Radcliffe explores key musi In 2018, not only did broadcaster and writer Mark Radcliffe turn sixty, but his dad died and he was diagnosed with tongue and throat cancer. After taking a trip to America with two pals and visiting a famous crossroads in Mississippi, and whilst standing at this junction, Mark thought about his own journey. He recalled an earlier conversation with a music journalist about the band Dr Feelgood reaching a musical crossroads… and so the idea of this book was born. In it, Radcliffe explores key musical points in the careers of musicians too numerous to mention, from the Delta Blues in the 1920 through the swinging sixties, disco and rap to punk and pop. This book is crammed full of facts and figures – some of which I knew, but the majority I didn’t. Mark Radcliffe has had a long career in music, and has a weekend show on Radio 6 Music with Stuart Maconie, who is one of my favourite non-fiction writers, so I had high hopes for this, my first encounter with Radcliffe’s writing. It didn’t disappoint and I will definitely read more. He’s written one fiction book too, so that should be interesting to try.

  3. 5 out of 5

    David Ellcock

    An entertaining if not exactly Earth-shattering read. Radcliffe is good company.

  4. 5 out of 5

    peppersocks

    Reflections and lessons learned: Jim Morrison is a bit of a pranny... A nice little meander through different genres of music that started in the 60s and 70s from icons, some of which are still performing today. Told in the usual expected engaging manner from Radcliffe, with a completely insightful comment about Birmingham and a nod to Wythenshawe hospital at the end. Also any excuse to HAVE to listen to Tapestry again...

  5. 5 out of 5

    Arlene

    This is a hugely enjoyable read. Unpretentious music lovers enthusing about their specialist subject and intertwining it with social history is one of my favourite genres and this is a great example of it. Mark Radcliffe is as witty and engaging as you'd expect and I highly recommend the audiobook version. It's testament to how infectious his enthusiasm is that I wanted to listen to the music described after every chapter. This is a hugely enjoyable read. Unpretentious music lovers enthusing about their specialist subject and intertwining it with social history is one of my favourite genres and this is a great example of it. Mark Radcliffe is as witty and engaging as you'd expect and I highly recommend the audiobook version. It's testament to how infectious his enthusiasm is that I wanted to listen to the music described after every chapter.

  6. 4 out of 5

    David

    There are twenty five chapters in this book, each one telling us about a crossroads in popular music. Some are some are not. Here are snippets from each. It all starts with a road trip to Clarksville, Memphis and finding a crossroads, the inspiration for a piece on Robert Johnson, the pioneer and his recordings of 1936/7. Then something on Black Sabbath (not interested in heavy metal) but a familiar piece on Tony Iommi. A chapter entitled "Disco Sucks". I agree. Some more boring stuff on the first u There are twenty five chapters in this book, each one telling us about a crossroads in popular music. Some are some are not. Here are snippets from each. It all starts with a road trip to Clarksville, Memphis and finding a crossroads, the inspiration for a piece on Robert Johnson, the pioneer and his recordings of 1936/7. Then something on Black Sabbath (not interested in heavy metal) but a familiar piece on Tony Iommi. A chapter entitled "Disco Sucks". I agree. Some more boring stuff on the first use of synthesisers. Interesting to hear about Joe Meek and his iconic number one "Telstar". There are things I'm learning about, like three piece rock bands include Kurt Cobain and Nivarna. Multitracking is described with 10cc's album "The Original Soundtrack". I wasn't sure you could compare folk music with rap. Was Blondie's "Rapture" an early rap recording? I didn't really get the part about "sonic exploration", but it does start with the words "A single note goes "clung". A four second whining sound follows". And I knew immediately what it was. The author tells us: "So were The Beatles ....... the instigators of experimental rock? Well, yes". A chapter about house music that I skipped. A piece about indie labels exemplified by Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells". Does everybody remember the first single they bought? I enjoyed this bit about those 45rpm bits of vinyl, and through gritted teeth Radcliffe mentions that Bing Crosby's "White Christmas"is still the biggest seller in this format. Another nice chapter, this time about Fairport Convention and the wonderful Alexandra Elene MacLean Denny, Sandy to us all. Foreign influences on British popular music through regee and ska are followed by Bob Marley described here as "the greatest world music star the world has ever known". ??? I was really pleased when I read the chapter on skiffle where the amalgamation of American and British influences was called "a truly significant crossroads". A number of songs were named, all of which I could remember the words. Of course The Quarrymen get a mention. Electronic disco was not for me. But a chapter on protest songs was interesting, from Woody Guthrie to FGTH and Two Tribes. Why are we then told about the perfect line up for a band, and why pick The Ramones? Must be the author's favourite. Obviously there had to be a section on the concept album, Pink Floyd etc. And I was glad Carole King had a whole chapter. Definitely a crossroads fro women in popular music. Then a visit to Sun Studios and all those hits. Guess who is labelled "the electronic Beatles had been created". Kraftwerk???? And finally Radciffe would have saved Jimmy Hendrix for the final chapter. Except that goes to Thomas Edison who started it all. To summarise, I felt this trawl through the different genres of popular music was a very mixed bag. I guess it all depends on your taste. But my main criticism was there was so much deviation. Radciffe would often go off on a very different tangent which spoilt his undoubted talent for all the interesting stuff.

  7. 5 out of 5

    N.S. Ford

    This review first appeared on my blog - https://nsfordwriter.com - on 24th August 2020. Do you love music trivia? Are you interested in a wide range of genres? Do you have a sense of humour? Then this book by radio presenter and musician Mark Radcliffe is right up your street. When Mark found himself at a crossroads in his own life, he started thinking about the crossroads in music too. In a fun and friendly style, this book dips into music history (mostly 20th century) and is also a memoir. You This review first appeared on my blog - https://nsfordwriter.com - on 24th August 2020. Do you love music trivia? Are you interested in a wide range of genres? Do you have a sense of humour? Then this book by radio presenter and musician Mark Radcliffe is right up your street. When Mark found himself at a crossroads in his own life, he started thinking about the crossroads in music too. In a fun and friendly style, this book dips into music history (mostly 20th century) and is also a memoir. You don’t have to be a fan of Mark to enjoy this book. I’d heard of him but couldn’t recall listening to his shows, although I must’ve done, back when I listened to the radio more. The ‘crossroads’ in the book are the turning points in the history of popular music. Mark argues for these where there might be doubt, for example who the first punk band was or where rock ‘n’ roll began. He focuses on particular bands and singers, such as Elvis, Woody Guthrie, Nirvana, Sandy Denny, Kraftwerk, Donna Summer, Carole King, Bob Marley, Black Sabbath, Jimi Hendrix and Lonnie Donegan. It’s not a book you would turn to for a comprehensive history of music, as it’s necessarily selective and has a meandering style in and out of the decades, with amusing asides. The developments in music technology are very interesting and Mark describes them in an easy-to-read way. Highly recommended if you’re a music nerd who likes to laugh.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sally

    Loved this. I am not a massive music geek so a lot of this was new to me. All of the book was enjoyable, either because I was engaged in pleasurable nostalgia over something I remembered well (Nirvana), or because it told me stuff I didn't know about things I thought I was familiar with (the absolute insanity involved in recording 10cc's 'I'm Not In Love'), or because I knew nothing about it at all (quite a lot of the rest). I now have a list of new music to listen to. I listened to the audio ve Loved this. I am not a massive music geek so a lot of this was new to me. All of the book was enjoyable, either because I was engaged in pleasurable nostalgia over something I remembered well (Nirvana), or because it told me stuff I didn't know about things I thought I was familiar with (the absolute insanity involved in recording 10cc's 'I'm Not In Love'), or because I knew nothing about it at all (quite a lot of the rest). I now have a list of new music to listen to. I listened to the audio version, which was a delight, as Mark and Lard on Radio 1 were a fixture of my teens and early twenties. All the digressions and personal reminiscences added to the fun for me. Lovely.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Dave McKee

    Mark Radcliffe looks at the moments that changed music. While I enjoy music, it hasnt had the massive effect on life that film or literature has had, having said that I found this very entertainintg. I am a massive fan of Radcliffe's radio programmes and he takes us through the major turning points in music with the same humour and charm that makes those shows so great. From Synth to Rock and Roll, ambient to skiffle, rap to protest songs and much, much more this is an entertaining and educational Mark Radcliffe looks at the moments that changed music. While I enjoy music, it hasnt had the massive effect on life that film or literature has had, having said that I found this very entertainintg. I am a massive fan of Radcliffe's radio programmes and he takes us through the major turning points in music with the same humour and charm that makes those shows so great. From Synth to Rock and Roll, ambient to skiffle, rap to protest songs and much, much more this is an entertaining and educational journey. Recommended for music aficionados and casual listeners alike.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Diarmuid Fahy

    I enjoyed this very much. It's a personal account, so our musical tastes and opinions didn't always mesh but it has introduced me to a few more characters in music history so that's got to be good. The writing is light and entertaining, touching here and there on darker issues, as is to be expected with any book talking about The Blues. Interesting, entertaining and amusing in equal measure. Time to check out Mr Radcliffe's back-catalogue. I enjoyed this very much. It's a personal account, so our musical tastes and opinions didn't always mesh but it has introduced me to a few more characters in music history so that's got to be good. The writing is light and entertaining, touching here and there on darker issues, as is to be expected with any book talking about The Blues. Interesting, entertaining and amusing in equal measure. Time to check out Mr Radcliffe's back-catalogue.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Neil

    A collection of amusing informative anecdotes about seminal moments in popular music history. Those familiar with Mark Radcliffe from his radio shows will be familiar with the style but this is a god read for all fans of popular music. One to read through or just select a chapter as the mood takes you.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Joanne

    Could be a contender for most entertaining read of ‘21. Who knew Christopher Lee released a symphonic metal concept album about the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne called By the Sword and the Cross in 2010? Sounds like dangerous territory to me, but not as dangerous as Serge Gainsbourg’s Nazi-themed concept album Rock Around the Bunker, with its opening track, Nazi Rock.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Liz

    A very enjoyable hotchpotch of musical tales. I never knew the word derivation of Nirvana’s ‘Smells like Team Spirit’ before, and I’ll definitely be passing that story on, though it has reduced its impactfulness knowing that Teen Spirit is similar to Impulse or Lynx sprays. The book could have been bettered organised e.g. chronological, to stop it seeming so hotchpotch.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Bob Mcdermott

    A nice easy canter through some of the key moments in popular music read by the chilled Mark Radcliffe who has a nice easy manner and knows his stuff. Enjoyed it, but as always when I listen to an audiobook about music, i wish they were allowed to play the music so i didn't have to switch to Spotify! A nice easy canter through some of the key moments in popular music read by the chilled Mark Radcliffe who has a nice easy manner and knows his stuff. Enjoyed it, but as always when I listen to an audiobook about music, i wish they were allowed to play the music so i didn't have to switch to Spotify!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jonny Brick

    A quick tour of popular music with a personal touch (Mark wrote this having recovered from cancer). Meandering is a good way to describe his narrative voice, going hither and indeed thither and breaking off from tangents with other tangents. Lovely, all the same.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    I went for the audiobook for this one, read by Mark Radcliffe, which added to the experience. Alway liked his radio shows and his performance didn't disappoint. Informative and witty throughout, really enjoyed it. I went for the audiobook for this one, read by Mark Radcliffe, which added to the experience. Alway liked his radio shows and his performance didn't disappoint. Informative and witty throughout, really enjoyed it.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Roger Manifold

    As a compulsive reader of all things musically biographical this is a breath of fresh air. Nostalgic, factual, witty and a plethora of random infused facts, a comical gag thrown in here and there and I'm a happy punter, easy reading to boot. I'll be looking of for more from Mr Radcliffe. As a compulsive reader of all things musically biographical this is a breath of fresh air. Nostalgic, factual, witty and a plethora of random infused facts, a comical gag thrown in here and there and I'm a happy punter, easy reading to boot. I'll be looking of for more from Mr Radcliffe.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    Took me much longer reading this book than I expected as I was constantly looking up tracks on YouTube as I was reading about them. This is a fun read, it's informative and entertaining. It also has a poignancy and gentleness that surprised me. Yes, it is ostensibly about the crossroads moments in popular music development but it is more than that; it is a potted social history. If you share Mark Radcliffe's sense of humour you will love this, if you don't, what's wrong with you?! Took me much longer reading this book than I expected as I was constantly looking up tracks on YouTube as I was reading about them. This is a fun read, it's informative and entertaining. It also has a poignancy and gentleness that surprised me. Yes, it is ostensibly about the crossroads moments in popular music development but it is more than that; it is a potted social history. If you share Mark Radcliffe's sense of humour you will love this, if you don't, what's wrong with you?!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Steve Nixon

    A lovely walk through pivotal moments in pop rock, metal, ambient and more. Heavily recommended, and the audiobook is read by the author, well worth tracking down.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Nicola Southall

    A great book for music lovers. Interesting, witty and just really enjoyable

  21. 5 out of 5

    Martyn

    A very enjoyable wander through the most pivotal moments in the history of popular music.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    I usually enjoy Mark, in print and on radio. But not here. This is rambling, unfocused, and repeats a lot of material from Reeling in the Years (which is really good). Moving on.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    Very enjoyable tour of key moments in popular music with fascinating facts and endless interesting digressions. Covering a wide range of genres. Excellent narration by the author.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Gill Quinn

    Entertaining and interesting listen.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Holly Seddon

    Lovely

  26. 4 out of 5

    Stan

    I couldn't put it down. Hugely entertaining but also informative if you are looking for a broad sweep of the major turning points of modern music, not an academic analysis. I couldn't put it down. Hugely entertaining but also informative if you are looking for a broad sweep of the major turning points of modern music, not an academic analysis.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Joe

    Witty and engaging look into musical events that changed the landscape.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Dave Ross

    Hurrah for Mark & his return to good health I enjoyed this book, not as much as his others ergo the four star review. Don't be surprised that there are tangents , meanderings aplenty , but it's a unique wander through the music and icons of my youth, and remaining heroes. I have no desire to visit Graceland the view provided by Mark was sufficient, however, what we definitely agree on is Ziggy Stardust. Hurrah for Mark & his return to good health I enjoyed this book, not as much as his others ergo the four star review. Don't be surprised that there are tangents , meanderings aplenty , but it's a unique wander through the music and icons of my youth, and remaining heroes. I have no desire to visit Graceland the view provided by Mark was sufficient, however, what we definitely agree on is Ziggy Stardust.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Matt Whittingham

    One of my favourite radio broadcasters, this is a whistle stop tour though some of the key musical events of the 2oth Century, that signified a cultural or musicial inflexion point. It's written in Mark's upbeat affable style. It's a quick read / listen, I would have welcomed a bit more depth on some of the topcis, but it's an enjoyable read One of my favourite radio broadcasters, this is a whistle stop tour though some of the key musical events of the 2oth Century, that signified a cultural or musicial inflexion point. It's written in Mark's upbeat affable style. It's a quick read / listen, I would have welcomed a bit more depth on some of the topcis, but it's an enjoyable read

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kez Hedges

    Absolutely loved it and will be reading again and again!

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