Postscript

Well, I went ahead and purchased Swedien’s book and, quite frankly, it was a total waste of 11 quid, an unmitigated dog’s dinner of a book to the extent that I literally cast it aside with a pantomimic flourish about fifty pages in.

Firstly, the book’s tone is unfocussed and, at times, plain muddled; it doesn’t know if it wants to be a dryly technical blow-by-blow account of the recording process or a warm, fuzzy, anecdotal remembrance of MJ, and so falls somewhere between the two. (For what it’s worth, the technical stuff is often so advanced that it will totally alienate the layman, while the anecdotal material consists almost entirely of sappy references to what a swell guy Michael was and how he always said ‘please’ and ‘thank you’.)

Secondly, it’s poorly written, riddled with grammatical errors, excessive use of exclamation marks(!), incongruous/erroneous punctuation, and some downright bizarre misprints. It’s clear this book has not been submitted for proof-reading- indeed, I doubt it’s even been given a second glance prior to hitting the shelves. Case in point: one paragraph finishes with a full stop, after which is written ‘analoganaloganalog’, then a new paragraph starts. Baffling and inexcusable.

Thirdly, information is often repeated over and over, sometimes in consecutive paragraphs. In several instances, passages are repeated word for word.

What else? Oh yes, the purported ‘exclusive, never before seen’ photos amount to little more than some grainy reproductions of tracksheets and scrawled notes MJ left for Bruce on the mixing desk, other than that there’s very little to set the mouth agape.

Other sins include the vast swathes of the book given over to tributes from the likes of Swedien’s wife and daughter, and a host of recording engineers he’s apparently inspired down the years. No disrespect to any of these people, I’m sure they’re all fine, upstanding citizens but I honestly couldn’t care a hang for what any of them have to say in this context. There is further blatant padding in the form of pre-existing interviews and reprinted magazine articles. The ‘Foreword by Quincy Jones’, as prominently advertised on the cover, consists of a few half-assed paragraphs that ‘Q’ seems to have dashed off under extreme duress, and dates back almost a decade. Again, you hardly get the impression that the book was a labour of love.

To be honest, I’m loathe to blame Bruce Swedien for any of this; he’s indubitably a genius in his field (as much of the technical material in the book attests, not to mention the preponderance of sonic evidence that’s widely available) but patently not a skilled, engaging writer, which is why his publisher, the usually reliable Hal Leonard, should have taken the material at their disposable and perhaps recruited a ghostwriter to turn this textual sow’s ear into something vaguely resembling a silk purse, something professionally laid out and readable to both the technophile and Joe Schmo Music Fan. It seems to me that, though the book allegedly wasn’t written to cash in on MJ’s death, Hal Leonard have rushed it out early to try and sell a few extra copies, checking their quality control at the door. Either that or they really are lying through their teeth, and have simply cut and pasted together this sorry attempt at a book from other sources in an attempt to make a quick buck. Whatever their motivation, avoid this book like a belt-wielding Joe Jackson.

 

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2 comments

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