REVIEW: Earthbound by Paul Morley

In brief: The story of music in the 1970s as seen through the eyes of the Bakerloo line.

The good: Some parts were fascinating.

The not-so-good: Yeah, I’m not a fan of Can.

Why I chose it: Working my way through the Penguin Lines series celebrating 150 years of the Underground.

Year: 2013

Pages: 137

Publisher: Penguin

Setting: The Bakerloo line

Rating: 6.5 out of 10

I’m continuing on my journey of reading the books celebrating 150 years of the London Underground. Earthbound is set on the Bakerloo line, which is an unfortunate shade of brown on the famous Tube map. It’s something that Paul Morley makes frequent reference to in this story about music, the 1970s and London in general in that time. He portrays the Bakerloo line as something that has been left behind and is unfashionable but still comfortable.

The novella starts in a promising way – how to find your way around the Tube when it seems you’re the only one who doesn’t have a clue what to do. It then moves on to the history of the line before discussing what the author was doing during that time, which was writing for NME. He talks about being the first person to own a Walkman in London (note: not verified) and being able to tune out the sounds of the Tube for the first time. In this day and age, where it’s unusual to be listening to the normal background noises of the Tube (or anything really) this hit a chord with me. Imagine not having portable music! Being forced to listen to life! Morley then goes on to discuss more about music and in particular the band Can. Can were an experimental rock band hailing from Germany, who Morley seems to be a big fan of. I tended to tune out during these passages as I’m not much of an electronic music fan and scan the words for something a bit more rock based.

I enjoyed this read more when it was directly connected with the Tube, although I did like reading about the early Walkman that had two headphone jacks for sharing (better than one ear each) and the John Peel sessions at the BBC. It’s adventurous without being overly whimsical. If you’re a fan of Can, you will adore this. If not, it’s an interesting read tying together music and the Tube.

One thought on “REVIEW: Earthbound by Paul Morley

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  1. I found the fact that the Bakerloo line is depicted in brown quite interesting. The fact that it was unfashionable but comfortable sounds like a few train lines in the area where I used to live!

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