Simon Reynolds’ acclaimed first volume of post-punk memory sifting — Rip it Up and Start Again — went a long way toward exploring and explaining the various flowerings that bloomed from the bruised and bloodied blossom that was ’70s punk rock. If you thought one volume of exhaustive, evocative reconstructing of the period would suffice, you would be wrong, and Reynolds proves this point with Totally Wired: Postpunk Interviews and Overviews. The project is a bookend to the first volume and it completes an impressive cartography of that time and that music.
Totally Wired is largely an oral biography; the story of a place, a time and a music told by the people who listened to it, created it and lived through it. Serving up 32 interviews with everyone from David Byrne to Jah Wobble to James Chance, Totally’ (Along with Rip’) must certainly qualify Reynolds as the definitive chronicler of the period. The later chapters of the book practically constitute a project unto themselves, allowing Totally’ to deliver an even clearer, deeper explanation of just what came after punk.
The interviews begin with Ari Up, the lead singer of The Slits. The delightful miss Up is a fantastic storyteller and her remembrances of being the only dread-headed white girl step-dancing at Reggae parties are spellbinding — as are her recollections of a time when Punks, Rastas, Sticksmen, John-Travolta-disco-sadists and neo-Teddy Boys all collided on the street and on the stage as a new music attempted to rise from the ashes of punk.
Factory Records co-founder Tony Wilson is just as enthusiastic on the page as he was during the heyday of the Manchester music scene or as his on-screen persona (played by Steve Coogan) in 24 Hour Party People (Wilson died shortly after his interview). Wilson’s chat with Reynolds is hilarious, but sweet and filled with been-there-done-that witticisms. Asked about what made Manchester music special, Wilson replies:
…Manchester is a great immigrant city … Dave Ambrose, a great A&R man, said that Manchester kids have the best record collections. That’s true. When he said that, I flashed onto a Hulme squat in the mid-eighties. Ranged against the wall would be 300 records: an entire collection of samba records, a load of German noise bands, the entire Parliament Funkadelic…
Read more at Joe Nolan’s Insomnia