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Editor reviews

The loud and tremendous journey of rock and roll is told straight from Mark Williams - a man who lived and breathed it. He's author and narrator of his autobiographical audiobook Rock Stars Stole My Life!: A Big Bad Love Affair with Music. Williams’ life has been entwined with music from his very beginnings. His career sparkling with musical endeavors. Here he tells the magical journey that has seen him conquer the world of rock and roll and come out a legend. This is an honest, awe-inspiring recount of the surging music industry through the decades. Available now from Audible.

Summary

In a sodden tent at a '70s festival, the teenage Mark Ellen had a dream. He dreamt that music was a rich meadow of possibility, a liberating leap to a sparkling future, an industry of human happiness - and he wanted to be part of it. Thus began his 50-year love affair with rock and roll.

From his time at the NME and Smash Hits to Radio One, Old Grey Whistle Test, Live Aid, Q, Select, Mojo, and The Word magazines, he's been at the molten core of its evolution, and watched its key figures from a unique perspective. This funny and touching personal memoir maps out his eventful journey. It tells stories and settles scores. It charts the peaks and disappointments. It flags up surprising heroes and barbecues the dull and self-deluded. It puts a chaotic world to rights and pours petrol on the embers of a glorious industry now in spiralling decline.

©2014 Mark Ellen (P)2014 Hodder & Stoughton

What members say

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Jim
  • London
  • 24-05-14

A Treat

I switched on the the radio and there was Mark Ellen promoting his autobiography; talking to Danny Baker about the N.M.E., LiveAid, the Old Grey Whistle Test and the misery of meeting Van Morrison. Ellen was as charming and funny as ever; I had a surge of nostalgia and immediately bought this download. For anyone who knows Ellen's work it's enough to say that he reads this with his customary charm, It's funny, wistful and informed on his specialist subjects of music and the music press.

For anyone less familiar with him Ellen started his career in music journalism just as punk was getting underway and he stayed with it, unlike many contemporaries up to the present day; interviewing Lady Gaga and enduring Rhiana's comically awful sounding 777 press junket. During that time he rose through the ranks from writer to editor; progressing from being roughed up by Elvis Costello's manager for looking like a hippy and writing for the Record Mirror, to sharing an office with Pet Shop Boys' Neil Tennant when they both worked for archetypal 80's publication Smash Hits, to being on friendly terms with the likes of Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin when he and David Hepworth set up Word. Throughout; he stayed in love with music and never lost a sense of fandom. Oh yes; and he was in a band with Tony Blair when they were both at University.

We get conversations with musicians like Noel Gallagher, Jimmy Page and Lady Gaga. We get first hand accounts of presenting LiveAid and we get genuinely interesting insights into the way in which the internet has fundamentally changed the music business and the magazine business. His writing is funny, affectionate, insightful and inventive and he has a lovely reading style. It's like being in a pub with your funniest mate. It's possible that all of the above has left you completely cold. I'm conscious that Ellen's writing about something I'm passionate about and he's covering a period from my early teens to the present day so this resonates with me. But if any of that resonates with you too this is a treat..

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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Highly entertaining autobiography in music

What did you like most about Rock Stars Stole My Life!?

Mark Ellen reads, a huge plus, a very entertaining and enjoyable ramble through his life and how music has played its part in it. If you have any interest in rock/ pop music I would highly recommend.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

At times very funny, lovely anecdotes throughout the book.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • sarah
  • london, United Kingdom
  • 19-05-14

Mark Ellen was there so you didn't have to be

What made the experience of listening to Rock Stars Stole My Life! the most enjoyable?

Mark Ellen has a joy for life and a rare sense of self awareness. He can tell a great story and fashion some funny phrases. The book is like a good mate telling you his stories.

What did you like best about this story?

He said what I would have said if I could have had his experience, skill charm, memory and talent.

What about Mark Ellen’s performance did you like?

He may talk a lot for his living but he is not an actor. He kep the pace high and the enthusiasm wsa full on.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Kaggy
  • United Kingdom
  • 08-11-15

Great fun musical trip

I always thought of Mark Ellen as being a sweet cuddly Paul McCartney type, perhaps a little too nice for the rough and cynical world of rock music journalism. However, like Paul McCartney his affable exterior hides a street wise professional, more than capable of holding his own with some difficult and scarey people. I well remember the heady days of the NME and its almost dictatorial stance about what a young teenager was supposed to enjoy in order to fit in with the crowd and retain some semblance of credibility. We lapped it up and Mark Ellen takes us into the world of the journalists who shaped our youth and had the power to make or break aspiring musical acts with a few sharply targetted words. This is a hugely entertaining listen with some great stories about Meatloaf, Lady GaGa, Rod Stewart, Rihanna and many others. He is an excellent reader, radiating enthusiasm and pain effectively and also revealing an unexpected talent for impersonations, some of which are hilarious. I recommend this book, whether or not you lived through this era. If you didn't experience it directly it will give you a great sense of what it was all about.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

the exciting musical trip you'd expect from Ellen

The great writing you'd expect from Mark Ellen. Only dropped a star because his delivery of the early chapters is as whimsical as the period he's describing. Such casualness is infuriating but soon he ups the commitment and it's hard to 'put down'/ pause.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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A very enjoyable listen

Always warmed to Mark Ellen . This reinforced my opinion. Entertaining, witty, and infectiously modest.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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good

Mark Ellen is the clog wearing hippy who transforms into city type publicist through his insight into the music biz....funny..factual and often frenetic...well done 9/10...top of the class ellen!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Appalling recording

If this book wasn’t for you, who do you think might enjoy it more?

This is a great book, very well written and full of fascinating anecdotes and takes on UK Music business. I have looked forward to it for some time. But the recording is truly awful. Every sixty seconds Mark Ellen takes huge gasps of breathe that shatter the eardrums when listening on headphones, and then seems to talk without breathe until another huge gasp of air rattles around your skull, 60 seconds later. Let's face it, headphones are how most will listen to it, so such a schoolboy error is a tremendous shame It is without doubt the worst audio book recording I have ever heard, and is so ironic given the subject matter and the author. What a shame. Audible you should be refunding readers for this recording.

Would you ever listen to anything by Mark Ellen again?

Yes but only if the recording issues were resolved

How could the performance have been better?

Either give Mark Ellen breathing exercises or find a way of minimising the huge noise loud gasps of air make through filters or better use of microphone positions.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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A soundtrack book to my life!

Would you listen to Rock Stars Stole My Life! again? Why?

Definitely, its an interesting read and even though I was only a child in the 70's I remember some of the bands. The parts dealing with Smash Hits, Q and the much missed and lamented Word, were especially poignant as I've read all these titles at points in my life. As well as an interesting biography of one man's love affair with music its also a social history of the rise and fall of Britain's music press. Ellen as an easy going humorous style similar in ways to Bill Bryson. I've reread and relistened to all of Bryson's catalogue.

Who was your favorite character and why?

I think you'd have to be particularly curmudgeonly not to like Mark Ellen. He seems to be an average Joe with more than a little bit of luck. Obviously he's a very talented guy but he knows he's living the dream of most music fans and he seems to be genuinely grateful for the opportunities that he's had. His enthusiasm is infectious. His ability to be in the right time at the right place seems to be uncanny.

















Have you listened to any of Mark Ellen’s other performances? How does this one compare?

No I haven't listened to any of Mark Ellen's other work but I definitely would. Mark could be an impersonator if he gives up writing. Some of the voices he puts on would put Alistair McGowan to shame!

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

You'd have to be made of stone not to get goosebumps reading the chapters on Live Aid. It bought my personal memories of the day flooding back.

Any additional comments?

A great listen, with some hilarious anecdotes that you'll regale your mates with in the pub.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Excellent

I loved The Word and I love Mark Ellen. A fantastic well read roller coaster ride through the rock world with tales aplenty.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful