This year I finally read Nick Hornby’s novel High Fidelity. I’d seen the film a million times (it’s one of my favourites) but had never gotten around to the book.
It’s brilliant. Read it.
It’s a story about a man in his thirties who can’t seem to settle down with any woman he’s ever dated. He owns a record store in a dead London end street and spends his hours discussing music and wondering why life and love have been so unfair to him. No prizes for guessing that the book is about him realizing that he’s the one who needs to do something about it!
The film moves the action to the United States and brings the whole story about a decade forward. So, compared to the movie, the book’s protagonist has much older musical tastes. Nevertheless, he’s old-school. His great love is the soul, rhythm & blues of the 1960s. Now, for most of us, myself included, our education in this style has been largely limited to Aretha Franklin (who I love), latter-day Stevie Wonder (who I love) and the Blues Brothers (who I love). Solomon Burke, Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett were names I knew, but I didn’t really know their music. Reading High Fidelity gave me the impetus to engage with these artists.
Solomon Burke’s ‘Got To Get You Off My Mind’ is the protagonist’s favourite track, and it’s easy to see why. It’s a break-up song with all the hallmarks of soul’s greatness. A wonderful singer, a smooth horn section, and sexy back-up vocalists. It’s a slow-mover compared to singers like Wilson Pickett but more soulful for it. This music never takes itself too seriously—there’s always a sense of liveliness and joy—and that’s what makes a break-up song bearable. If only all the emo kids were listening to R&B and soul, our airwaves might be less whiny!
I’m glad for the introduction. This is some of my favourite music.