33 1/3: Can – Tago Mago by Alan Warner (Bloomsbury)


Alan Warner’s book provides some information about Can and the circumstances behind the recording of their brilliantly experimental 1971 double-LP Tago Mago, but mostly it’s about a teenaged Alan Warner and his path to acquiring and understanding the album. Growing up in rural Scotland in the late-1970s, his exposure to new music was limited to whatever was available at the local record store or the record collections of friends and family. There weren’t many ways to find anything outside the mainstream, but after discovering punk Warner stumbled on an NME interview with Johnny Rotten where Can was mentioned as an influence. This sparked something in him and he set off on a quest to acquire their music, without any prior knowledge of what they sounded like or which albums were the “ones to get”. While this innocent small-scale exploration hardly puts him in league with Vasco de Gama, it and the rest of the book, are reminders of what it was like to be a young person with a curiosity for music before the internet allowed unlimited access to just about everything. I’m just old enough to remember what that was like and found myself relating closely to the story, even smiling at the book’s notion that, if your local record store didn’t carry a certain record, you might not even know it existed. Good stuff.