Music to read by: A Book of Scars
William Shaw explores the music behind Breen and Tozer's London.
author of A Book of Scars, discusses the music behind his Breen and Tozer series. Explore Sixties London through the music and listen to the tracks on the playlist below.
London, at the time my Breen and Tozer
novels were set, was an amazing place to be. The Beatles had declared the party open; now, freed from the strictures of early 60s pop, the music of those months of late 1968 and early 1969 was exuberant, colourful and almost absurdly self-confident. As the young Constable Helen Tozer knew, to be English and young was the coolest thing you could be. The Kinks epitomised this new sense of English cool.
And, of course, there were drugs. The second book in the Breen and Tozer series, A House of Knives, deals with the darker side of the emerging drugs culture, but for most people at the time drugs represented the giddy new-found freedoms which you can hear in the Stones’ She’s A Rainbow or The Who’s Magic Bus. This sense of pure freedom was feeding new underground artists, championed by John Peel’s Radio London show
This sense of pure freedom was feeding new underground artists, championed by John Peel’s Radio London show Perfumed Garden, who would go on to dominate the mainstream the 70s. In the third book, A Book of Scars, the reluctant older Detective Sergeant Cathal Breen finds himself at The Roundhouse, then just a semi-derelict engine shed in Camden. That, and other hippy venues on the London scene, gave a platform for emerging stars like T. Rex and David Bowie; at the time the books were set only a select few would have heard of them.
If anything confirmed the city’s status as the place to be it was the arrival of rock’s greatest guitarist Jimi Hendrix. It was there he made his reputation. The guitar, wielded by the likes of Clapton and Winwood, was becoming the absolute symbol of the era’s rampant male sexuality that would emerge in the 70s as heavy metal.But there was a dark side too. In
1968 revolution was in the air. The Americans were carpet bombing Vietnam; as I wrote about in
But there was a dark side too. In
1968 revolution was in the air. The Americans were carpet bombing Vietnam; as I wrote about in A Song From Dead Lips, the Biafran war would leave millions dead. A new generation of radical students were willing to take to the streets, as the violent Grosvenor Square demonstration of that March showed. The new aristocrats of pop, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, were suddenly nervous, unsure of themselves. Were they part of the revolution anymore, they wondered? Lennon expressed his angst in the nervy “Revolution”, while Jagger - who had been part of that Grosvenor Square crowd - threw up his arms petulantly, trying to find excuses for not going further: “Well what can a poor boy do. Except to sing for a rock 'n' roll band?”
Listen to the tracks mentioned below: