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40 years of Rocky Horror by Rob Bagnall and Phil Barden
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Updated in 2023 with a Fifty Year version, click here for details of that edition.
At last a book that Rob isn't allowed to review!
We were sworn to secrecy on this for a a while, but now we can reveal that there is a brand new book, written by fan club rep Rob Bagnall and long time Rocky Horror fan Phil Barden.
The book's 400 odd pages are absolutely packed with information from the early days of the show in the Theatre Upstairs through to the 2012/13 anniversary UK tour.
The book is written by Rob Bagnall, a man Stephanie and I have known for many years and a true fan of Rocky Horror. Anyone that has met Rob will confirm he is more than a little passionate when it comes to his favourite show. The book has obviously been a labour of love for Rob and it shows in the detail he has put into the work. Phil Barden, another long term fan, has conducted many interviews with those involved in the show and his research forms the basis for many of the book's more insightful moments from cast and crew from stage and screen.
There have been many Rocky Horror books over the years, some concentrating on the movie, others on the show itself, but none are a detailed as Rob and Phil's creation. Many of the previous books also tend to be stuck in a certain decade or two of the history of the show and movie, whereas this book lives up to it's sub-title and encompasses the past forty years of our favourite obsession.
Rob has been very clear in mentioning that throughout the book some of the recollections of the casts may differ from others, and points this out within the text on the rare occasions this is needed. As well as the interviews much of the text is taken from Rob and Phil's experiences at the shows, screenings and other events over the years. I have to admit every now and then as I read the book (on the train in to work) I would realise I was grinning inanely as the text rekindled my memories of some fabulous Rocky nights, much to the bemusement of my fellow travellers.
It was also nice to read a book which featured the show more prominently than the movie, not to say the screen version doesn't get many mentions as well. In the UK the stage show is now far bigger than the movie version, a fact not lost on Rob or Phil. As often quoted one of the most annoying frequently asked questions is 'why have they done a play of the film?'.
Although the book is divided into nine chapters Rob's writing style exhibits a time warp of itself, jumping forwards and backwards throughout the history of Rocky. This non-linear passage through the past forty years does take a little getting used to, but after the first chapter or so you don't notice as you are caught up in the whole experience. There are also sections of the book where Rob happily goes off on what looks like a tangent, but actually is just setting up the context for the main content of that section. This in not in itself a criticism, merely an observation of how many previous works have stuck rigidly to a time-line, something which in itself sets this book out from the crowd.
When I first started reading the book I made the mistake of just reading a page or two when I had a spare moment. This is a book that is best read with some investment from the reader. Get through at least a chapter in each sitting, if not more, and you will find you get caught up in the ride. I found myself hearing the voices of the featured artists as I read, always a good sign that the authors have chosen the best parts of their interviews and are conveying their thoughts as well as their words with some skill.
Many references are made to the original 'B' movies that inspired the young Richard O'Brien as well as the many movies, plays, musicals and television shows inspired and influenced in turn by Rocky Horror itself. I can see several thesis on Rocky Horror being written in the future referencing the work of Bagnall and Barden, whether these future authors give credit for it or not.
Whilst mostly text, there are eight pages of colour photographs in the middle section, including some rare images from Belinda Sinclair of the 1975 Japanese production cast.
They say everyone has a book in them (and for most people that is where it should remain), I am glad to say that this book will be taking it's rightful place alongside my other Rocky books. Rob and Phil have created something for Rocky fans the world over to treasure and I admire them for it.
Don't Dream It, read it!
David Freeman Tuesday, July 9th, 2013
The book is out now from Telos Publishing.
Below is the information published on the Telos web site about the book.
Born in a tiny attic theatre on a dark and stormy night in the Summer of 1973, The Rocky Horror Show was an immediate hit with audiences and critics alike, and a much-needed shot in the arm for London's jaded theatre-scene.
Four decades on, Richard O’Brien’s hilarious cross-dressing tribute to trashy B-movies, ’50s sci-fi, sexual liberation, gothic horror and rock ’n’ roll has been seen in over 30 countries and translated into more than 20 languages, and it continues to pull in the crowds and attract legions of new fans, while the 1975 film version - now the longest continually playing theatrical release in cinema history - generated an unparalleled cult following which took the concept of audience participation to unheard of levels of immersive enthusiasm.
Exhaustively researched, this book chronicles the extraordinary history, continued evolution and enduring legacy of this immortal tale of a sex-crazed transvestite scientist, extra-terrestrial subterfuge, corruption of the innocent and the creation of life. Incorporating a wealth of archival material, personal memories and new interviews with contributors and participants from every era of Rocky Horror history, the authors explore the show’s origins and influences; the creation of the original London stage production; the numerous national and international revivals; the making of the movie; and the fanatical fishnet following which continues to define the Rocky Horror experience.
So, 'throw open the switches on the Sonic Oscillator', and celebrate a monstrous musical milestone as The Rocky Horror Show turns forty.
We also had a copy TO WIN in our June competition here on the TimeWarp site. Maria Bukley from Newcastle upon Tyne was our lucky winner.
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