Fireworks Magazine (Review)

Fireworks-Magazine cover Issue 58

Words and Music: Excursions in the Art of Rock Fandom

Michael Anthony

Rarely have I been so engaged by a book that I have read it so intently. It did mean that it took this reviewer quite a while to complete the 350 pages of text, but it also meant that I very quickly returned to some of the more telling (for me) passages – the ones where there were significant parallels between my own and Michael’s early experiences of “rock fandom”.

It is a volume that has two very distinct strands: anecdote and analysis, the former demonstrating that the author has a quite phenomenal memory for detail. With the latter, Anthony has thoroughly filleted a number of bands/musicians and their key releases and other relevant supporting material and has done so in a very knowledgeable and perceptive style. Indeed, it has led me, for example, to re-evaluate The Doors, a band whose music I loved from the very first time I heard their debut album contemporaneously with its release and bought it (in mono) as only my fifth album. Anthony’s perspective (in the chapter ‘Morrison Hotel’) is not contemporaneous, and uses the band’s lead singer to dig into the psyche of someone who was “a complete monster” in his personal life and “how fame and the pressure of celebrity can help to destroy someone”. Morrison’s biographer and protégé Danny Sugerman is also discussed as an extreme case of rock fandom and here and in other places, Anthony allows his interest in psychology to almost – but not quite – hijack the narrative and fine focus of his book.

“This is a book about rock music. More specifically it is a book about the value of rock music and the meaning it can have in people’s lives” Anthony tells us on page 9. This he cements into his personal perspective (and surely also that of any of us of a certain age) by further commenting “Taken as a whole, the book describes the journey of someone who has listened to and been inspired by rock music over the last 30 years or so …” For me, it has been nearly 50 years, and yet there are so many parallels (and points of convergence) between he and I, and for those of you who purchase this volume – and I urge you to do so, for it puts one’s devotion to music into appropriate context – I am sure you will also discover your own rock fandom and the purpose for it and the outcomes of it.

“An uncompromising love of rock music … transcends fashion and commercial trends.” Fireworks Magazine attests to that, and if you are reading these words, then you need a copy of this volume.

Paul Jerome Smith

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Prog Magazine (Review)

Prog Magazine Issue 31 November 2012

“Engaging reflections on why music matters”

Review by Dom Lawson

It’s questionable whether anyone who has a profound, lifelong love of music should need to read a book that explores the reasons behind such an enduring relationship. That said, Michael Anthony’s study of what it means to be a rock fan is so consistently disarming that even during any of several streams of comtemplative consciousness that dig no deeper than the average boozy pub chat, it is hard not to nod sagely along.

The author’s overall point seems to be that the best rock music reflects the highs and lows of a life well lived and that mainstream perceptions of prog, metal and the rest seldom acknowledge the intense emotional connection they inspire. Although he has a tendency to make the same point in numerous similar ways before driving home any kind of conclusion, his conversational investigations into various rock-related topics – drugs, the occult, the dreamlike ritual of the live gig – are brought vividly to life via anecdotes and acutely personal musings. Anthony’s admiration for Marillion and the unique bond they share with their fan base is particularly poignant, not least when he relates the story of his daughter’s battle with Type 1 diabetes and how Steve Hogarth’s lyrics on Brave struck several deeply moving chords at the time.

“Conversational musings are brought vividly to life”

The author excels on more light-hearted territory too. One anecdote about a drug-fuelled student house party is genuinely hilarious, not least due to a brilliantly disdainful description of acid-damaged revellers gawping and pawing pathetically at a giant poster featuring the artwork from Pink Floyd’s The Wall, and one particular punter who was “trying to climb into the mouth of the biggest character”. While not entirely dismissive of drug culture, Anthony’s evident bemusement at the ludicrousness of his peers’ behaviour while under the chemical influence is thoroughly endearing.  And, in truth, his overall sense of detached curiosity ensures that even when making points that barely seem worth making – drugs can be dangerous, religion is a bit iffy, Jim Morrison squandered his talent, Bob Dylan has made some great records but isn’t for everyone – Anthony will deftly draw you in and make you want to buy him a pint.

It is also refreshing to read someone giving enthusiastic shout outs for the likes of Transatlantic, Bigelf and The Reasoning; all witnessed by the author on Prog‘s very own stage at 2010’s inaugural High Voltage Festival. (Clearly this man has great taste!) It’s that never-ending passion for absorbing new music and astounding sounds that makes Words and Music such an innocent and breezily engaging joy.

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The Doors Examiner (Review)

Review of ‘Words and Music’ by Jim Cherry, 27 August 2012

It’s rare that I recommend a book to readers, Doors and rock fans without finishing it, but this one is a rare book that comes along far too seldom. It’s a book that Doors fans and rock fans will find well written, cogently thoughtful about Rock ’n’ Roll, and insightful of the artists and subjects author Michael Anthony tackles in “Words and Music: Excursions in the Art of Rock Fandom” as well as exciting to the reader.

“Words and Music: Excursions in the Art of Rock Fandom” is a fan’s tour through fandom. Anthony is part Rock ‘n’ Roll philosopher, critic, fan, memoirist and raconteur. However, “Words and Music” is more than a fan’s diary or thoughts about his favorite bands, Anthony dares to go deeper and explore the meaning of the music, groups and albums that are part of his life and a part of our lives. Some of the questions he tackles in “Words and Music” are, what does happen if you play ‘Stairway to Heaven’ backwards? Do you have to sell your soul to Rock ‘n’ Roll? And the origins of Bob Dylan’s name?

Of course “Words and Music” has a chapter on The Doors. At first I was a little bit worried as the chapter was titled “Morrison Hotel”, which seemed a little too predictable. When I got into the chapter I found that Anthony is one of the few people that got Morrison right! Anthony’s analysis, on The Doors and their music, seems right on to me. Even for the highly subjective such as why “Strange Days” is The Doors best album, there’s even room for disagreement on “Riders on the Storm”, but Anthony hits on the darker elements of “Roadhouse Blues” because of its rollicking good time feel, which is usually missed or overlooked by writers.

The book isn’t written in any overly mannered analysis or didactic writing of the critic, but in an easily readable language of a fan. Anthony’s genuine excitement about Rock ‘n’ Roll comes through in the writing and is infectious to the reader. You will find yourself considering fandom and your favorite singer in a different way, or perhaps it will reinforce what you were already thinking about the group. Either way, it will get you thinking a little more deeply about Rock ‘n’ Roll.

I’m going to finish reading “Words and Music” and you should click on the link and buy your copy today. You can buy “Words and Music: Excursions in the Art of Rock Fandom” at Michael Anthony’s website and blog at

5 stars out of 5

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Warning: Jim Cherry writes under the influence of rock and roll!

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