TERRY SOUTHERN Virgin: A History Of Virgin Records (A Publishing Company)

This was one of those rare books that I spent so long leafing through in the shop that it seemed rude not to buy it, but this history of the pioneering once-upon-an-indie label, ostensibly loosely scripted by the screenwriter of “Dr. Strangelove” and “Easy Rider”, is heavier on style than substance. It covers the early, bearded years pretty well in an admittedly scattershot stylee, alighting on important stuff like the genesis (pun unintended, honestly) of the company’s label art and not entirely ignoring less world-shaking, ground-breaking acts like Supercharge, Yellow Dog and Boxer. The punk and reggae years are reasonably well covered too, but by the time the book reaches the mostly lamentable 1980s (I mean, Gary Glitter and Donny Osmond?) the copywriters appear to have lost almost all interest in prose and captions. There’s a previously unseen (by me, at least) Blue Nile photograph and previously unheard (by me) P.J. quote that immediately justifies the asking price (for me), but as the page they’re on doesn’t even signpost who the band are it’s doubtful that casual readers will get quite as much out of it. A more concerted effort to chart how Virgin went from lovable eccentricity to complacent megacorp would make for interesting reading, especially if it didn’t play like 260 pages of cobbled together press releases.