Friday, February 3, 2006

Rory MacLean and Magic Bus

Burning Man

British travel writer Rory MacLean has just finished his latest travelogue and it sounds like a winner wrapped inside an enigma: Magic Bus: On the Hippie Trail from Istanbul to India. Did Rory actually do this trip and, if so, what could he possibly remember of places like Kabul? He probably had to ask expert advice from surviving hippie travelers who made the journey back in the 1960s such as Dalton and Wheeler to spark his brain cells back into action.

In any event, it sounds like my kind of book, plus he discusses some interesting challenges with rights and old photographs in his latest newsletter. You might as well sign up, as Rory is pretty tight with his newsletters and they come far too infrequently in my opinion. He's at Rory MacLean Dot Com

Magic Bus is finished. Yesterday the proof-read manuscript was sent to the typesetter. The jacket has been designed and the subtitle ('On the Hippie Trail from Istanbul to India') agreed. I've met Rosie the-forever-young-and-sparkling-publicist and drafted ideas for newspaper features. The book's publication is set for June 29th. But finished? Not quite yet.

For one thing there are the rights clearances. Pop music was among the most important creations of the 1960s. Lyrics inspired, guided ­ or in some cases misguided ­ that generation and their search for a new way of living. I heard this sentiment expressed again and again during my research. In an early issue of the Village Voice I read of a Dylan debut performance, 'His voice is crude, his appearance scruffy and as a performer he lacks all traces of a professional. But one brief listening to the emotional understatement in his voice emphasizes the power of his lyrics and his genuine concern for the state of the world.' As far as I'm concerned, no book can be written about the Sixties without quoting ­ or paraphrasing -- lyrics.

In Magic Bus I quote short extracts from ten different songs ­ Dylan, The Beatles and Pink Floyd among others -- and the usage of each quotation has to be licensed to me by the song's writer or his/her representative. Easy? Well, I've spent at least an hour a day for the past month searching for rights holders, begging for permission and sending off cheques (the cost is borne by a book's author, not its publisher). Dylan, Sony (for Lennon and McCartney), Music Sales, EMI, Warner Chappell and Faber Music have been helpful, enthusiastic ­ and understanding over fees. I'm sorry to report that the people representing Bob Seger ­ whose music I love and I so wanted to quote ­ asked for £750 in advance on a percentage of book sales (I only wanted to use 19 words!). It was with a very heavy heart that I had to cut his lines from the book.

My other preoccupation at the moment is with Sixties and Seventies photographs. I went back to many 'veterans' of the Asia Overland trail to gather together a small collection of their original images. Most of them are incredibly evocative, even those shot on battered Instamatics. I hope there will be an opportunity to publish them later in the year. Stay tuned for details.

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