John Harris

Journalist & Author

Original Rockers by Richard King review – Massive Attack and the Bristol music scene

The stories of the city’s musicians are tangled up with the rise and fall of Revolver, the record shop in the Clifton neighbourhood to which this book pays tribute

In 1933, JB Priestley arrived in Bristol, chiefly aware that it was “somewhere in size between Leeds and Bradford”, and expecting “the usual vast dingy dormitory”. In English Journey, he rhapsodises about the very different urban expanse he found: “a genuine city, an ancient metropolis. And as you walk about in it, you can wonder and admire. The place has an air.” He was impressed by a modern prosperity built on tobacco, chocolate, “and soap and clothes and a hundred other things”; and assets that were less tangible: “the place has dignity … It has kept its civic pride. It rejoices in its independence.”

Thanks to the Luftwaffe, much of the built environment he beheld was soon altered beyond recognition. A dozen or so years later, immigration from the Commonwealth began to radically change the city’s population and newly enrich its culture. But even now, you can spend time in southern England’s second largest city and sample the same essential qualities Priestley divined all those years ago: amid the weight of history there’s a sense of confidence, and a maverick sensibility at least partly rooted in nonconformist Christianity (the world’s oldest Methodist chapel is still there, hiding behind the brutalist facades of the Broadmead shopping centre).

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