A Fabulous Creation by David Hepworth
In this fascinating book, David Hepworth, the rock journalist, chronicles the “golden age” of the album, or long-playing record, said John Walsh in The Sunday Times. Although LPs date back to 1948, Hepworth begins his survey in 1967, with the release of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. It was then, he contends, that the “zeitgeist changed”, and LPs went from being “two hits and a lot of filler” to something more like works of art. Hepworth records how this new-found cachet was reflected in increasingly sophisticated cover design. Sgt. Pepper’s, he recalls, had a “gatefold sleeve”, with the lyrics printed on the back; and Roxy Music’s first LP, released in 1972, marked “a kind of apotheosis” for sleeve design. A Fabulous Creation ends in the early 1980s, which is when LPs began to be edged out – first by cassettes and the rise of MTV, then by the “all-conquering” CD (“nobody ever looked cool carrying a CD under their arm in public”). Underpinned by a “prodigious” knowledge of rock history, this is a “hugely entertaining” work.
Its strength lies in Hepworth’s ability to capture the distinct atmosphere of those far-off days, said Clive Davis in The Times. This was a time when people still listened to music collectively – before the “retreat” into the solitude of headphones. Hepworth is good at evoking the pleasures of connoisseurship: the heady sense that by owning the “right” LPs, you gained membership of an elite tribe of sophisticates. Yet he doesn’t simply “wallow” in nostalgia; “he understands why the next generation doesn’t see the mystique”. The result is a book to linger over: “It’s years since I came across a chronicle of the pop life containing so many arresting anecdotes that I found myself going back over pages to savour every line, every insight.”