ESSAY Chris Moss

NWR Issue 111

Words Without Music

Rock music has long attracted gifted writers, from Mort Shuman (Brel translator and songsmith for Elvis) to Morrissey (pop’s finest poet, prose’s oddest proposal) to Gruff Rhys, whose American Interior project segued ambitiously from printed travelogue to app to PowerPoint-and-puppet show.

The Penderyn Music Book prize was inaugurated last year to tap this rich creative seam and highlight the very best writing to come out of the burgeoning music book industry. Multinational and eclectic, the award is yet another cool cultural export to come out of Laugharne. Ammanford-born Richard Thomas, co-founder (with author John Williams) of the Laugharne Weekend, launched the prize as an extension of the festival’s successful mix of music and words. In the Eighties, Thomas was one of London’s best-known gig promoters, and many Weekend regulars – John Cooper Clarke, Stuart Maconie (one of this year’s prize judges), Pete Wylie, to name but three – are veteran ambassadors of the musically enhanced bon mot.

The quality across this year’s Penderyn longlist suggests it’s boom time for the music book genre. New memoirs by Patti Smith and Elvis Costello won’t surprise anyone – both are known for their literary leanings – but there are also books by Grace Jones, Chrissie Hynde and Carrie Brownstein of Sleater-Kinney. The second book of Tracey (Everything But the Girl) Thorn, Naked at the Albert Hall: The Inside Story of Singing, is also in the running.

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The winner, announced on 3 April, was Jon Savage.

Chris Moss is a travel writer who until recently lived in Laugharne.


previous essay: Violence and Transformation in Pascale Petit's Poetry
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