Record and Play


Record and Play
By Damon Fairclough

As anyone who’s read Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity will tell you, there are a lot of rules to making a good mixtape, not least because, in the words of protagonist Rob, “You’re using someone else’s poetry to express how you feel.”

I imagine Rob would have gotten on very well with Damon Fairclough, whose book Record and Play constructs six imaginary playlists, each based around a specific theme.

It’s a curious idea for a book. After all, the author himself admits that cassettes are an outdated form, replaced by CDs which have themselves been rendered obsolete by the age of MP3. But it can’t be denied that there’s a greater sense of meaning in them. You can almost imagine Fairclough patiently sitting by a recorder, painstakingly spooling his youth onto the thin, magnetic tape and labelling the case in felt tip pen.

There’s something universal about the scenarios that he dreams up: the internal angst of a teenager at a house party; the treacly flow of time on a hot summer’s afternoon; an anaesthetic-fuelled trip into the subconscious. In the most interesting of the chapters he transports us to a far-flung future with a distinctly Orwellian bent, showing how music might be the most effective time capsule we possess.

Fairclough’s vivid prose paints deep, textured pictures of the songs he chooses and the feelings and memories they evoke – Marcel Proust with Henderson’s Relish instead of Madeleines. I’ve never heard of half the artists mentioned, let alone listened to their work, but even I can almost hear the hiss of the cassette.

Word: Phil Bayles.


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