In 1973, aged six, I heard the song ‘Rock On’ by David Essex. I was obsessed by its sound. While I couldn’t have put it into words, I half understood that the song was made sonically exciting not just through its inventive arrangement (a song about rock and roll with no guitars!) but also its production techniques, especially the use of reverb and delay to ‘stage’ the vocal and instrumental performances.
‘Rock On’ isn’t mentioned in The Song Remains the Same (though ‘Rock That Thing’ and ‘Rock Your Baby’ are), but the excitement that song gave me is found throughout this superb collection of essays on ‘800 years of love songs, laments and lullabies’. Ranging from a hymn by Hildegard of Bingen to Sia’s ‘Rainbow’, the seventy-five songs discussed in The Song Remains the Same cover bossa nova, ‘art songs’, gospel, jazz, national anthems, and more. There is almost nothing, it seems, that Andrew Ford and Anni Heino can’t write about. This isn’t surprising: Ford is a prize-winning composer, writer, and broadcaster; Heino a musicologist, writer, and editor.