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Read & Burn: A book about Wire Paperback – June 1, 2013

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Editorial Reviews


"A meaty treatise by the guy who already wrote a 150 page monograph on Pink Flag for the 33⅓ series....Wilson Neate's book is incisive, insightful and full of fascinating information." --Simon Reynolds, Blissblog (author of Rip It Up and Start Again and Retromania).

"[Wire] have long deserved a decent book and Read & Burn is a thorough and readable biography....An excellent book." --David Quantick, Q magazine (UK).

"Concise, informed prose, writing with incisiveness, authority and engaging enthusiasm." --Keith Moliné, The Wire magazine (UK).

"This is [an] exceedingly well-written and very passionate take on the band's story and output....Neate's personal take on any one Wire album, era, or idea only encourages discerning readers to go back into the stacks, listen anew, and judge or reconsider for themselves; I can't remember the last music book that sent me scurrying to play so many sounds again with fresh and eager ears." --Jim DeRogatis, host of WBEZ's Sound Opinions; author of Let it Blurt: The Life and Times of Lester Bangs, America's Greatest Rock Critic.

"[An] impressive balance of reverence for its subject with an unvarnished warts-and-all portrayal....Fans of the art-punk trailblazers in any of their incarnations will find more than enough of interest in this thorough yet readable document....Seeded with a healthy dose of photos, Read & Burn is a remarkable value for its incongruously low price and leaves few stones unturned. It's hardly designed to win new fans, but for the faithful it's the Ideal Copy." --Glen Sarvady, Stomp and Stammer magazine (USA).

"You could suggest that what Wilson Neate doesn't know about Wire isn't worth knowing - but, on reflection, there isn't anything he doesn't know about them....Neate presents an absorbing, unsparing insight into the working practices of a band saddled from birth with an inappropriate 'punk' epithet, yet whose actions, utterances and structure nevertheless resound with intimations of conflict, negation and defiance....It will have you scurrying back to the albums." --Oregano Rathbone, Record Collector magazine (UK).

"Those assuming a Wire biography might be a little dry are in for a surprise, for this is a fascinating investigation into the singular, influential group....Emotionally engaging....[A] compelling study of group psychology." --Mike Barnes, Mojo magazine (UK).
"One of the best music biographies I've read. I loved it. It's both thorough and funny, and really, really well written. I could feel those individuals in the room - it does a fantastic job of capturing their forthrightness." --Ivo Watts-Russell, This Mortal Coilfounder of 4AD Records.

About the Author

Wilson Neate is the author of Pink Flag (Continuum 2008), a book on Wire's first album.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Jawbone Press (June 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1908279338
  • ISBN-13: 978-1908279330
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #275,840 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Charles Miller on April 12, 2013
Format: Paperback
This book features a whopping 427 pages (with little in the way of illustrations), making it perhaps the most in-depth study on Wire ever written. In the introduction, the author states what it is not. There are two items which are to the detriment of such an exhaustive title:
[1] it does not cover the solo projects when Wire was on hiatus, and
[2] there is only a "selected discography" versus a complete one.

In the case of the former issue, it simply does not make sense to keep the subject matter strictly on Wire. The book kicks off with the members' backgrounds to illuminate what they brought to the table, and that makes sense. But wouldn't the solo material created by its members during periods of Wire inactivity also shed light on this topic? Certainly Graham Lewis and Bruce Gilbert's work in Dome influenced what was yet to come (i.e.: The Ideal Copy) as did Colin Newman's solo releases. Additionally, a few more pages could have made this large book more encyclical with a complete discography. In other words, I question the wisdom of eliminating these subjects.

Okay, so I just covered the minuses with regards to this book and hence, the 4-star review. Had these items been included, it certainly would be a 5-stars because again, this book is not only well-written, but what it does cover is everything you ever wanted to know about Wire and more. Indeed, it is exhaustive... 5 years in the making and hundreds of hours of interviews to make it so. The thought processes from start (1976) to finish (Change Becomes Us) is covered in a way that certainly yields a better understanding of what makes Wire, Wire. Additionally, it does belabor Pink Flag, as if that were the only reason to care about Wire.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By John L Murphy TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 21, 2013
Format: Paperback
A long study of a band best known for frenetic bursts, like its subject, this surprises. Rather than rehashed discographies, press-kit rewrites, or gushing song-by-song trivia, Wilson Neate keeps a cool distance while he intimately probes, by interviews and interpretations, the three stages of this enduring, thoughtful, and fractious group. Hung with the albatross of its 1977 debut LP Pink Flag, still its best-known recording, Wire refused for decades to play its minimal, stuttering, edgy songs live. When it does include its title track, it may twist and thwart its original under-two minutes into nearly ten. Wire moves forward after--or away from--the promise announced by punk's birth. It doesn't prop up punk's posing corpse.

Mojo magazine in 2006 summed Wire up: "no guitar solos, no clichés, no mates"; this spins off of guitarist Bruce Gilbert's credo: "No solos; no decoration; when the words run out, it stops; we don't chorus out; no rocking out; keep it to the point; no Americanisms." All but perhaps the last the band violated sometime in the three-dozen years Neate documents, yet this too attests to Wire's restlessness with any conventions of rock music.

Gilbert approaches Wire as not a band but as "living sculpture"; he asserts not to have bought a record since 1980 when he stopped "consuming music". Their mutual, sly curiosity about mundane marginalia--honed by the art-school training of most of Wire's members--conveys an enduring engagement with London-based avant-garde as well as Central European aesthetics. Bassist Graham Lewis shares his partner's (they collaborate as the duo Dome) immersion in cacophony and dread; his lower-pitched, rounded vocals play off of guitarist Colin Newman's contrary love of melody and pop.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Lypo Suck on August 19, 2013
Format: Paperback
Read & Burn is an extremely well-researched, well-written, and engaging biography of Wire's entire career so far, and it's a must-have for any serious fans of the band. In-depth interviews conducted by the author with all four members (as well as the managers, record producers, and other parties close to the band at various points throughout their lengthy career) are hugely enlightening and informative. For example, we get detailed firsthand accounts of the tension between the two camps in the band - the more song-oriented faction of singer/guitarist Colin Newman and drummer Robert Gotobed, and the more experimental axis of guitarist Bruce Gilbert and bassist/singer Graham Lewis - and how that impacted the creative process, sometimes benefiting it, while other times creating huge personal rifts within the group. In fact, it was this very tension that led to Gilbert's permanent departure from Wire in 2006.

Neate, thanks to his extensive interviews and his subjects' apparently crystal clear (albeit occasionally contradictory) memories and valuable insight, goes into extensive detail about the recording of each album and the creative processes employed, charting the origins and creative developmental trajectory of some songs, and the sometimes radical changes or deconstructions that certain tracks went through in the studio. Much is also written about the tours and other activities that typically followed each release.

My main gripe is Neate's refusal to cover any of the solo work or outside projects that the members were involved in, especially during the band's 1980-1985 hiatus. While no sane person could expect Neate to tackle *everything*, given that covering the discography for Gilbert and Lewis' numerous projects (Dome, etc.
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