Playwright Stewart Parker was - arguably - Ireland's first critic of popular culture.
From 1970 until 1976, Parker wrote a fortnightly column for the Irish Times devoted to pop music under the title 'High Pop'. The tagline summed up perfectly the Belfast man's attitude to contemporary music. At once lightweight and throwaway, it could also aspire to - and achieve - the condition of 'High Art' worthy of serious and thoughtful consideration.
Never po-faced, and refreshing in its honesty, the reviews in 'High Pop' remain vibrant, engaging and vital as the day they were written.
Whether dealing with the era's 'heavyweights' like Bob Dylan, or 'flash in the pans' like Dr Strangely Strange or bring once again to public attention such figures as Tin Pan Alley songman Jimmy Kennedy, Parker's captivating enthusiasm for the work under review is unmistakeable.
Edited by Gerald Dawe and maria Johnston, High Pop is a fascinatingtrawl through the music of the early 1970s and the glory (and, on occasion, dog) days of the Band, Joni Mitchell, Carole King, John Lennon and the Grateful Dead. It also acts as a primer for the rediscovery of artists and bands fallen into neglect: Be Bop Deluxe, Dory Previn and the Incredible String Band, anybody?
It is often said that humour is commonsense moving at a different speed. In which case, prepare to be entertained and enlightened by a writer clearly besotted with the best of both worlds.
High Pop indeed.
Gerald Dawe is from Belfast. He has published seven collections of poetry, including; The Lundys Letter, Sunday School, Lake Geneva, and, more recently, Points West. Among his prose works he has published; My Mother-City, a study of Belfast cultural traditions which includes a profile of Stewart Parker. He is a fellow of Trinity College, Dublin.
Born in Dublin, Maria Johnston studied English Literature and Music at Trinity College, Dublin, where she recently received her Doctorate in English. She reviews poetry for various magazines and is currently preparing he study of Sylvia Plath's poetry as well as editing a collection of essays on European poetry and politics for publications.