Colin Larkin (writer)

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Colin Larkin
Colin Larkin.jpg
Colin Larkin.
Born 1949
Dagenham, Essex
United Kingdom
Nationality British
Occupation Writer
Encyclopedist
Designer/Typographer
Musician
Publisher
Entrepreneur
Website
Colin Larkin's website

Colin Larkin is a British entrepreneur and writer. He was the editor and founder of the Encyclopedia of Popular Music,[1] described by The Times as "the standard against which all others must be judged".[2] He is the CEO and editor-in-chief of 'Best Things On Earth' an online multi-media rating site.

Along with the ten-volume Encyclopedia, Larkin also wrote the All Time Top 1000 Albums,[3] and edited the Guinness Who’s Who Of Jazz,[4] the Guinness Who’s Who Of Blues,[5] and the Virgin Encyclopaedia Of Heavy Rock[6] The compiler of the most extensive database of popular music in Europe and the US, a writer and book designer by trade, Larkin has over 650,000 copies in print to date.[7] As an expert in the field of popular music, Larkin has often been interviewed on radio, and had a regular slot on BBC GLR for two years in the 1990s.

Background and education[edit]

Colin Larkin was born in Dagenham in 1949 in an area of Essex that was largely populated by workers in the car industry. Although the post-war years proved lucrative for the Ford motor company,[8] Larkin was raised in relative poverty in the largest area of council housing in the United Kingdom, in the suburbs that surrounded the Ford plant. The Becontree estate in Dagenham began as a conglomeration of 27,000 "homes for heroes", and had no recognisable town centre.

Larkin spent much of his early childhood attending the travelling fair where his father, who worked by day as a plumber for the council, moonlighted on the waltzers to make ends meet. It was in the fairground, against a background of Little Richard on the wind-up 78 rpm turntables, that Larkin acquired his passion for the world of popular music,[9] and a taste for exotic pattern and vivid colour, which would re-surface in later years in books on Islamic Art and Architecture, and Oriental rugs.

In the 1950s Larkin attended the South East Essex County Technical High School following which, under his own initiative he obtained an apprenticeship as a commercial artist, enabling him to take a sandwich course at the London College of Printing (now the London College of Communication). There he studied typography and book design.[10] and was influenced by the typeface designer Eric Gill, who is associated with the Arts and Crafts movement.

Art and publishing[edit]

Larkin began his working life in commercial art, advertising design groups and for the book publisher Pearson Longmans. In 1967 he began writing for music journals and magazines. At Longmans he became senior book designer, but he soon tired of working for the publishing house and by 1976 had co-founded his own book publishing company, Scorpion Publishing.

From the outset Larkin was intent upon reaching areas of the book reading public that other publishers felt it unnecessary or unprofitable to reach. Scorpion Publishing published art books on Oriental carpets and Islamic Art. They also designed and published John Gorman's trilogy of Labour history, Banner Bright,[11] To Build Jerusalem and Images of Labour.[12] Notable music titles at this time included Timeless Flight: The Definitive Story of The Byrds[13] and Bob Dylan’s Unreleased Recordings.[14]

In the 1980s Larkin, who read music magazines avidly and was acquiring a considerable personal library of singles and albums, began to consider the idea of "an encyclopedia of popular music". His passion for an encyclopaedia that would do for Bob Dylan and the Beatles what the Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians had done for more classical subjects, and moreover do it better, finally took over when in 1989 he sold his half of Scorpion Books to fund the project and founded Square One Books.

The Encyclopedia of Popular Music[edit]

In 1989 Larkin formed Square One Books to create a multi-volume Encyclopedia of Popular Music, and to publish music related books. He published additional music biographies including those on Graham Bond, R.E.M., Eric Clapton, The Byrds and Frank Zappa,[15] and a further book on Bob Dylan, Oh No, Not Another Bob Dylan Book.

In a pre-internet age, the work required to create an encyclopaedia of popular music was considerable. Aided by a team of contributors, a fast-growing library of music magazines, books and the music itself, an eventual 3000 vinyl singles, 3500 vinyl albums, 4500 music biographies and 38,000 CDs,[16] Larkin began compiling the Encyclopedia.

In 1992 the first edition of the Encyclopedia of Popular Music went into print.[17] It was quickly recognised as monumental: Rolling Stone described the work as "musical history in the making", in The Times they called it "a work of almost frightening completeness". Musician Jools Holland called it "without question the most useful reference work on popular music".

Square One developed their own in-house software using 4th Dimension.[18]

Over 50 separate titles followed the creation of the Encyclopedia's database, and in 1997 Larkin sold Square One Books to American data company Muze.[18] Larkin became full time editor-in-chief and ran the encyclopedia as a cottage industry, with a team of fewer than ten contributors, who in terms of wordcount were "producing an Agatha Christie novel a month".[19]

From September 2008 Larkin ceased all involvement with Muze Inc. or any of its related companies following the closure of the Encyclopedia of Popular Music as a stand alone product and his subsequent redundancy.[20] On 15 April 2009, it was announced that most of the assets of Muze Inc. were purchased by Macrovision.[21]

In May 2011 Omnibus Press released the Amazon Kindle edition of the Encyclopedia Of Popular Music, using the text of the 2007 edition.

Best Things on Earth[edit]

By 2007, Larkin had begun work on a new website whose original inspiration had come from the All Time Top 1000 Albums, called 1000Greatest.com. This would later become the multi-media rating site and app, Best Things On Earth.[20]

In 2012, on the 50th anniversary of The Beatles chart hit Love Me Do, Larkin was interviewed by BBC Entertainment Reporter Mark Savage about the Beatles' rivals in 1962.[22]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Larkin, Colin (ed.), Guinness Who’s Who Of Jazz, Guinness Publishing (UK), 1992.
  • Larkin, Colin (ed.), Guinness Who’s Who Of Sixties Music, Guinness Publishing (UK), 1992.
  • Larkin, Colin (ed.), Guinness Who’s Who Of Indie And New Wave Music, Guinness Publishing (UK), 1992.
  • Larkin, Colin (ed.), Guinness Who’s Who Of Heavy Metal, Guinness Publishing (UK), 1992.
  • Larkin, Colin (ed.), Guinness Encyclopedia Of Popular Music (1st Edition, 4 Vols), Guinness Publishing 1992.
  • Larkin, Colin (ed.), Guinness Encyclopedia Of Popular Music Concise Edition, Guinness Publishing 1993.
  • Larkin, Colin (ed.), Guinness Who’s Who Of Seventies Music, Guinness Publishing (UK), 1993.
  • Larkin, Colin (ed.), Guinness Who’s Who Of Folk Music, Guinness Publishing (UK), 1993.
  • Larkin, Colin (ed.), Guinness Who’s Who Of Soul Music, Guinness Publishing (UK), 1993.
  • Larkin, Colin (ed.), Guinness Who’s Who Of Blues, Guinness Publishing (UK), 1993.
  • Larkin, Colin (ed.), Guinness Who’s Who Of Fifties Music, Guinness Publishing (UK), 1993.
  • Larkin, Colin (ed.), Guinness Who’s Who Of Country Music, Guinness Publishing (UK), 1993.
  • Larkin, Colin (ed.), Guinness Who’s Who Of Stage Musicals, Guinness Publishing (UK), 1994.
  • Larkin, Colin, All Time Top 1000 Albums, Guinness Publishing (UK), 1994.
  • Larkin, Colin (ed.), Guinness Who’s Who Of Rap, Dance & Techno, Guinness Publishing (UK), 1994.
  • Larkin, Colin (ed.), Guinness Who’s Who Of Film Musicals & Musical Films, Guinness Publishing 1994
  • Larkin, Colin (ed.), Guinness Who’s Who Of Reggae, Guinness Publishing (UK), 1994.
  • Larkin, Colin (ed.), Guinness Who's Who Of Jazz (2nd Edition), Guinness Publishing (UK), 1995.
  • Larkin, Colin (ed.), Guinness Encyclopedia Of Popular Music (2nd Edition, 6 Vols), Guinness 1995 (UK),
  • Larkin, Colin (ed.), Guinness Who’s Who Of Indie And New Wave (2nd Edition), Guinness Publishing 1995.
  • Larkin, Colin (ed.), Guinness Who’s Who Of Blues (2nd Edition), Guinness Publishing (UK), 1995.
  • Larkin, Colin (ed.), Guinness Who’s Who Of Heavy Metal (2nd Edition), Guinness Publishing (UK), 1995.
  • Larkin, Colin (ed.), The Virgin Encyclopedia Of Popular Music, Concise Edition, Virgin Books (UK), 1997.
  • Larkin, Colin (ed.), The Virgin Encyclopedia Of Seventies Music, Virgin Books (UK), 1997.
  • Larkin, Colin (ed.), The Virgin Encyclopedia Of Sixties Music, Virgin Books (UK), 1997.
  • Larkin, Colin (ed.), The Virgin Encyclopedia Of Eighties Music, Virgin Books (UK), 1997.
  • Larkin, Colin, (ed) The Virgin Illustrated Encyclopedia Of Rock, Virgin Books (UK), 1998.
  • (also published in the US as The Billboard Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock. US 1998)
  • Larkin, Colin (ed.), The Virgin Encyclopedia Of Fifties Music, Virgin Books (UK), 1998.
  • Larkin, Colin (ed.), The Virgin Encyclopedia Of Indie & New Wave, Virgin Books (UK), 1998.
  • Larkin, Colin (ed.), The Virgin Encyclopedia Of R&B And Soul, Virgin Books (UK), 1998.
  • Larkin, Colin, The Virgin All-Time Top 1000 Albums (2nd Edition), Virgin Books (UK), 1998.
  • Larkin, Colin (ed.), The Virgin Encyclopedia Of Country Music, Virgin Books (UK), 1998.
  • Larkin, Colin (ed.), The Virgin Encyclopedia Of Reggae, Virgin Books (UK), 1998.
  • Larkin, Colin (ed.), The Virgin Encyclopedia Of Stage & Film Musicals, Virgin Books (UK), 1999.
  • Larkin, Colin (ed.), The Virgin Encyclopedia Of Heavy Rock, Virgin Books (UK), 1999.
  • Larkin, Colin (ed.), The Virgin Encyclopedia Of Jazz (3rd Edition), Virgin Books (UK), 1999.
  • Larkin, Colin, The Virgin All-Time Top 1000 Albums (Pocket Edition), Virgin Books (UK), 1999.
  • Larkin, Colin (ed.), The Virgin Encyclopedia Of Dance Music, Virgin Books (UK), 1999.
  • Larkin, Colin (ed.), The Virgin Encyclopedia Of Stage & Film Musicals, Virgin Books (UK), 1999.
  • Larkin, Colin (ed.), The Virgin Encyclopedia Of Popular Music, Concise (3rd Edition), Virgin Books (UK), 1999.
  • Larkin, Colin (ed.), The Encyclopedia Of Popular Music (3rd Edition, 8 vols). Macmillan (UK/US) 1999
  • Larkin, Colin, All-Time Top 1000 Albums (3rd Edition), Virgin Books (UK), 2000.
  • Larkin, Colin (ed.), The Virgin Encyclopedia Of Nineties Music, Virgin Books (UK), 2000.
  • Larkin, Colin, (ed) The Virgin Illustrated Encyclopedia Of Pop & Rock, Virgin Books (UK), 2002,(also published in the US as The Billboard Illustrated Encyclopedia of Pop & Rock (US 2002).
  • Larkin, Colin (ed.), The Virgin Encyclopedia Of 60s Music,(3rd Edition), Virgin Books (UK), 2002.
  • Larkin, Colin (ed.), The Virgin Encyclopedia Of 50s Music, (3rd Edition), Virgin Books (UK), 2002.
  • Larkin, Colin (ed.), The Virgin Encyclopedia Of 70s Music, (3rd Edition), Virgin Books (UK), 2002.
  • Larkin, Colin (ed.), The Virgin Encyclopedia Of Popular Music, Concise (4th Edition), Virgin Books (UK), 2002.
  • Larkin, Colin (ed.), The Virgin Encyclopedia Of 80s Music, (3rd Edition), Virgin Books (UK), 2003.
  • Larkin, Colin (ed.), Virgin Encyclopedia Of Jazz (4th Edition), Virgin Books (UK), 2004.
  • Larkin, Colin (ed.), The Encyclopedia Of Popular Music (4th Edition 10 vols) Oxford University Press (UK/US) 2006.
  • Larkin, Colin (ed.) The Encyclopedia Of Popular Music: Concise 5th Edition, Omnibus Press 2007.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Larkin, Colin (ed.), The Encyclopedia Of Popular Music (4th Edition 10 vols) Oxford University Press (UK/US) 2006
  2. ^ This information was obtained from Hi-Arts.co.uk
  3. ^ Larkin, Colin, All Time Top 1000 Albums (3rd Edition), Virgin Books (UK), 2000.
  4. ^ Larkin, Colin (ed.), the Guinness Who's Who Of Jazz (2nd Edition), Guinness Publishing (UK), 1995
  5. ^ Larkin, Colin (ed.), the Guinness Who’s Who Of Blues (2nd Edition), Guinness Publishing (UK), 1995
  6. ^ Larkin, Colin (ed.), Virgin Encyclopedia Of Heavy Rock, The, Virgin Books (UK), 1999.
  7. ^ OUP Online[dead link]
  8. ^ The number of workers on the Dagenham site increased from 12,000 to 35,000 as Ford met the demand of 360,000 military vehicles, vans and army trucks. History of Ford in Britain
  9. ^ "Who'd Put The Everly Brothers Above Elvis", Evening Standard 20 December 2006.
  10. ^ All about the guru of groove, Colin Larkin, editor of The Encyclopedia of Popular Music Oxford University Press online
  11. ^ Banner Bright, Gorman J., Scorpion Cavendish Ltd; Rev Edition(5 Nov 1986)
  12. ^ Images of Labour : selected memorabilia from the National Museum of Labour History Gorman, J. (1985) , London. London: Scorpion.
  13. ^ Timeless Flight: The Definitive Story of The Byrds, Rogan, J., Scorpion Publications / Dark Star, London, 1981 Abe Books
  14. ^ All about the guru of groove, Colin Larkin, editor of The Encyclopedia of Popular Music OUP.com
  15. ^ Electric Don Quixote: The Definitive Story of Frank Zappa by Neil Slaven.
  16. ^ The Collector No. 20: Colin Larkin, Record Collector, Issue 314, Sept 2005.
  17. ^ With a head full of hits, The Knowledge, The Times, 22 December – 4 January 2008.
  18. ^ a b "Colin Larkin: How I stay on top of pop", The Independent on Sunday
  19. ^ The Collector, No. 20 COLIN LARKIN, Record Collector, Issue 314, Sept 2005.
  20. ^ a b Colin Larkin's website
  21. ^ "Macrovision Agrees to Acquire Assets of Muze, Inc.". Reuters. Retrieved 2012-02-13. 
  22. ^ Chart attack: The Beatles' rivals in 1962, Mark Savage

External links[edit]