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Soul Citizen by Clive Richardson (a guest book review by Rob Zanders)

Soul Citizen, by Clive Richardson.  ISBN: 978-1-291-24673-5

Available from Amazon or directly out of the author’s tennis bag.

Autobiographies, ghosted autobiographies, biographies and memoirs: they come is all sizes and qualities.  I recently read one by an international sports person, now celebrity.  It was dire.  There was very little beyond the facile and superficial.  It traded on the person’s name.  It is now available at about £4.99 having previously been on sale at around £20, and in the after Christmas lull will soon be taking up shelf space in the bargain book shops.  Yet, when checking the reviews on Amazon there are plenty of people claiming the book is a barrel of laughs.  Each to their own. 

Then there are the big name movers and shakers, the professional politicians.  Those who are one hundred percent assured in everything they do and everything they have done.  I stay clear of those.  Imagine my insurance claim: I smashed up the house having been pushed beyond the limit reading ‘Tony Blair, A Journey’.  Although I might try the writing a sort of sequel: ‘Tony Blair, A Journey but Not Bloody Far Enough’.  As for ‘Margaret Thatcher, the Autobiography’, I can see myself shackled in court trying to claim diminished responsibility having torched Grantham and raised it to the ground. “Sorry Your ‘onour.  It was the book what done it!’

It is far better to come across the life history of the person you have never heard of; an unsung hero.  A person who has been there, done it, made a contribution, and keeps on doing it for love without fame or fortune.  Therefore, I recommend to you, ‘Soul Citizen’ by Clive Richardson.

I came across Clive a few months ago when I was painting a store room at a sports club.  His phone rang and played the most interesting bluesy ring tone.  I inquired and it was soon apparent there was an overlap in our musical tastes.  And once he realised, he was pretty quick to try and sell me a copy of ‘Soul Citizen’. I relented and it was, the best £5 I’ve spent in a long time, and I am therefore recommending it to you.  Amazon make it available for £10 which I would still regard as top value.

But before you write your cheque or whatever technique you use to pay for things, let’s provide some information and to whittle down who may be interested in this life history. 

  •  If you were brought up on the fashions associated with Brit Pop, New Romantics and Punk, you may well be a little too young.  Being sixty plus will be a tad advantageous. But don’t give up on me yet.
  • If you live or have lived in London, especially the south-east suburbs of the Metropolis, then it should bring a smile to your face.  That said, Clive does take us on a journey from Bromley to Brooklyn, Bexleyheath to the Bayou  - I hope I’ve spelled that correctly because I mean Louisiana not Normandy – and lots of other places not all of them starting with the letter ‘B’.
  • The killer point here is, whatever your age and wherever you are from, if you are a youth-cultural pluralist who appreciates any form of music, the people who work tirelessly to promote it, and the vast array of jobs done behind the scenes, then Soul Citizen is well worth a read.

Clive Richardson had devoted around fifty five of his seventy years to Afro-American music in its various styles and genres, with a big portion of that dedicated to ‘Soul Music’, with that too having its various sub-styles.  From Clive picking up his first piece of vinyl which led to him to join the Tamla Motown Appreciation Society, to helping out with the admin, leading to founding and writing for fanzines, before turning fanzines into more available journals, where he could be found reviewing, interviewing, photographing, typing, collating and distributing. Beyond all that, he has DeeJayed in clubs and in the murky world of on-land pirate radio before going legit.  He still works promoting artistes, compiling CDs, writing the sleeve notes.  And as a septuagenarian he has to always remain upbeat and up to date with changes in technology.  He can still be found on Solar Radio on Sunday mornings and if that wasn’t enough, he has done his bit commentating on his beloved Charlton Athletic at away matches, which despite them playing in red is enough to give anybody the blues.

Clive has an easy-on-the-eye writing style which is laced with a pragmatic, dry sense of humour.  There are times where his encyclopaedic knowledge of tracks, labels and artistes who I have not heard of had me in a spin but I was always able to endure those passages and he integrates this into his text without the story losing its flow.  If anything, it does go to show what a varied world there was in the world of Afro-American music back in the fifties and sixties that ran deep and strong beyond Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding and James Brown.  The packaging of the book is simple, as one might expect from a self-published book, but it befits a life spent working behind the scenes with performers, many who had their 3 minutes of fame often over fifty years ago.

Soul Citizen is a story worth telling as it pays homage to other people, a few whose names you will recognise and most that you will not; people who have also been out doing the hard yards. It represents the work done by similar groups of enthusiasts who did, and maybe are still doing their bit for blues, prog rock, punk and every other fashion that eventually gets abused and exploited by accountants and marketing execs.  The book will not be picked up and pushed by a well-known publisher for Clive is not a named celebrity, and they are hardly likely to be able to exploit a gullible public who are desperately looking for a present for an uncle, with the story of a bloke who caught two buses to cross London, watched a show, interviewed the ‘stars’, got back on the bus, typed up the experience, before grabbing a few hours prior to doing a real job next morning.

We all have a story to tell.  We could all turn it into a book.  In most cases the story should remain firmly in the memory of the would-be writer.  In the case of Clive Richardson, it is worth sharing.

Rob Zanders

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