This is my view of these 4 books I just read about music - I love music- also I love london - I have lived in london (mostly) for 50+ years - I am from Camden Town - I went to Gospel Oak primary school - I went to the ROundhouse every sunday for over 10 years. I saw Dingwalls come and go and the Electric Ballroom at its ska best, and the Music Machine at its metal worst,, and all the pubs (hawley dublin castle, underworld etc etc) and dives and market nonsense and fun. Its still fun. Its still a live wire - don't believe any old farts who say "it aint like it used to be" - god, william gibbson namechecks it at the start of his fairly recent Pattern Recognition, even, because of the (serious - i.e. games, computing) new media design links -
Of these 4 books, Gillett is about why rock music comes out of cities and sounds the way it is and is scholarly, respectful and true.
Du Noyer's book is very good, but a tiny bit patchy (understandable - a complete work of this scope (entire history of london is more than 2000 years!) would be 10 times the size, but has some gems of much older links between east end music hall, via mime and the gay scene to glam and new romantic (think lindsay kemp, bowie, spandau) and on - this is a lovely cultural piece which is very london.
Barry Miles piece is fantastic - my mother used to go to the Gluepot woth BBC people in 1948, so it is awesome that this guy can mention that in the same breath as the Blitz and Heaven. I also LOVE that he has such a positive outlook on counter culture and its longevity. One thing about Gillett and Miles is that they both actually DID something (not just write) - Gillett of course was a great world music advocate and apparently relentlessly nice guy. Miles did Indica books (which ended up as Compendium in Camden, but now alas gone) and arranged many serious counter-cultural events too. Du Noyer and Kent are (mostly) journos, but both with v. good writing credentials.
I was very disappointed in the Apathy book - aside from it being an interesting personal piece, it is just that - it doesn't give a lot more insights into the stars that Kent hitched his rise (and fall) too (reminds me of Neil Gaiman:). He also admits without realising it to completely misunderstanding the different parts of london and the way they affect the different people (Stones, Bowie, Siouxie and the Banshees, Dr Feelgood) and why they are different from people from Manchester who he adopts at the tail end, and Bristol, who he seems ignorant of, or NY or the Laurel Canyon gang he fell in with for a while. Nevertheless its worth looking at if you were here or there then and can remember some of it.
But in reading preference order, I'd have them:
barry miles - london calling
paul du noyer - in the city
charlie gillett (rip) - the sound of the city
nick kent - apathy for the devil