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Posts Tagged ‘hippies’

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love and treasure books. I still have the first book I ever possessed: a pocket King James Bible, given to me on the day of my baptism by my maternal grandparents. I still have the first book I remember ‘reading’ (meaning ‘looking at’ or ‘being read to me’): an illustrated life of St Francis of Assisi for children. And, by the way, the most recent book I bought was Volume 3 of the Collected Works of St Teresa of Avila – ordered on Amazon on Monday evening. I suppose there is a religious thread here…

When I was old enough to get the train to London on my own I spent hours in the second-hand bookshops around Camden Town and Charing Cross Road, snapping up all the hippie books that were de riguere for any self-respecting teenager at the time – Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Rules for Radicals, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, The Tao of Physics, The Faber Book of Modern Verse, etc. This is what formed me! But even while I was hunting out paperback bargains to sit under my Athena posters, I had one covetous eye on the small collection of Folio Society books that sat in the corner of every bookshop.

They were and still are the most beautiful books in the world. The covers, the binding, the print, the paper, the illustrations. And the box cases, with that distinctive curve at the front edges so you can pull the book out without having to shake it. Every one a work of art.

I dreamt of having a whole library of Folio Books. I own one now, Augustine’s Confessionswhich I blogged about last year. The second-hand bookshop round the corner here in Chelsea has its own Folio Society shelf – I might pop round tomorrow and see what I can find.

I write all this simply because there is a feature on the Guardian website about Folio books – more an advertisement really. But it does give a glimpse of what delights exist behind the covers – a taster for anyone who hasn’t come across them before. Here is the main feature. Here are ten classics, with examples of their illustrations. Here is the Folio Society site itself.

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What are the classic albums of the seventies? I just stumbled across a box of CDs I’d packed away years ago and forgotten about, so I’ve begun listening to them in the car for the last few days. It’s a pure nostalgia trip, and it’s hard for me to tell the difference between what means a lot to me because of all the memories and associations, and what is true musical greatness. I don’t have the objectivity I need to assess these treasured albums. But surely, even without the element of nostalgia, Carole King’s Tapestry deserves classic status.

There are some lines that should have been left on the cutting floor (‘Snow is cold and rain is wet…’), and some tracks that reflect the inane optimism of hippie culture (‘You’ve got to get up every morning with a smile on your face, and show the world all the love in your heart’). But it has the perfect mix of longing and love, of everyday poetry and easy melody.

Here is James Taylor’s live version of ‘You’ve Got a Friend’:

I’m not sure that this is my top album of that decade (I’ll have to think about that…) What’s your own ‘greatest album of the seventies’? You can leave any thoughts in the comment box below.

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