Saturday, August 4, 2012

Why I Love Scratchy Records by Marion Grace Woolley

It may seem funny to start a post about books by talking about music, but I think that most writers have a fond appreciation of it. More than that, music can have a real influence on what we’re writing.

I was born at the start of the 80s, the death of vinyl. By my mid-teens I’d compiled my last mix tape, their magnetic ribbon left to decorate road-side trees up and down the M6, replaced by the electric-blue allure of CDs.

For a few short years, I caught the tail end of an era. I remember bouncing around my bedroom pretending to be Captain Beaky with his band. There was some god-awful 7” B side, Japanese Boy, that played on repeat before Smash Hits stepped in to educate me in adolescent ‘cool’ (I’m not sure I ever fully learned that lesson!).

Then, when I grew older, I discovered ‘the stash’. The really good stuff, piled behind the TV and forgotten about. Dad’s old Glen Miller 10”s, always In The Mood for an American Patrol, and Mum’s jazz collection: Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and the best rendition of Ella Fitzgerald’s Well Alright, Well Okay, that I have ever heard.

My debut novel, Angorichina, was set in a tuberculosis sanatorium in 1930s South Australia. It followed the lives of four patients, right on the cusp of medical history. At the time, TB killed around two-thirds of its victims. Ten years later, antibiotics would ensure near full recovery rates.

Although I had been to Angorichina, which is now a backpacker’s hostel, I realised that seeing a place through modern eyes is a lot different to truly imbibing a sense of history.
Music allows us to do that. Fads in music have changed with each generation, but music itself has never died. It remains a constant. Because we understand music, we can understand styles of music and, through them, lifestyles.

The High Hatters, Fats Waller, Coleman Hawkins – they each provided an emotional depth which I was then able to pass onto the page. When my characters were dancing, they weren’t just dancing to silence, they were dancing to the songs of their time. They talked about the artists they loved. There were special songs that marked moments in their lives; what DBC Pierre would today term ‘fate tunes’.

When you write of the past, it’s easy to look back and draw distinctions, differences, between now and then. What we wore, what we ate, how we spoke... music cuts through all of that, because songs today are largely about the same things songs were about back then: love, loss, romance, jealousy, humour. It reminds us of the shared experience of what it is to be human.
I think we owe a lot to vinyl, because it was one of the earliest, and certainly the most enduring, method of storing sound. From the swinging 20s right through to the hedonism of the 1980s, it documented our evolution. Then tapes came along, CDs, and now songs are stored out there in the digital ether without any tangible evidence of them ever having existed at all.

I’m not averse to technology by any means. It would be rather bizarre to talk about the number of people who died for want of modern medicine, and then shun the incredible advances we’ve made.

Having said that, I think we can embrace the future whilst retaining a certain level of sentimentality for the past. In remembering things, we honour them. And vinyl is certainly worth honouring.

Let’s face it, there’s nothing as instantaneously evocative as the crackle of a stylus.
Marion Grace Woolley studied at the British Record Industry Trust (BRIT) School of Performing Arts, Croydon. After obtaining an MA in Language & Communication Research from the University of Cardiff, she declared that she'd had enough of academia and decided to run away to Africa.

Balancing her creative impulses with a career in International Development, she worked and travelled across Africa, Australia, Armenia, and a few other places beginning with 'A'. In 2009, Marion helped to oversee the publication of the first Dictionary of Amarenga y'Ikinyarwanda (Rwandan Sign Language). A project of which she was immensely proud to have been a part.

The same year, Marion was shortlisted for the Luke Bitmead Bursary for New Writers. She is the author of three novels and an associate member of the Society of Authors.

Twitter: (@AuthorMGW)

The author is willing to offer up two Smashwords e-copies of her novel AND a signed paperback. So, three prizes up for grabs. The give-aways are open INTERNATIONAL. The give-away will end on September 1, 2012. To enter just leave a comment below including your email address.


  1. I would love to have that signed paperback. Is this where I leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway? If so, here I am!

  2. Sounds interesting, I would love to read this one :)

  3. I would love to get this book and put it in our library

  4. I would love to get this book and put it in our library