How do you lose music? Then having lost it, what do you do next? Nick Coleman found out the morning he woke up to a world changed forever by Sudden Neursosensory Hearing Loss.
The Train in the Night is an account of one man's struggle to recover from the loss of his greatest passion in life - and to go one step further than that: to restore his ability not only to hear but to think about and feel music.
Of all our relationships with art, the one we enjoy with music is the most complex, the most mysterious and, for reasons that cannot be explained by science alone, the most emotionally charged. Nothing about that relationship is simple. And yet it is perhaps through music that we make the most intimate contact with our sense of who we really are, at our most naked, unsophisticated, honest, and simplified. Through psalms, symphonies, love songs, ballads, boogie...
Where to start, though, for the newly deaf? Well, you can start, suggested a famous neurologist, by trying to remember every beautiful piece of music you've ever heard and then by thinking about that music over and over again until it begins to assume a new kind of form in your brain. You never know what might happen after that. And so that's what the author did. He went back to the origins of his passion - the series of big bangs which kicked off his musical universe - and then worked his way forwards through the back catalogue.
The Train in the Night is a memoir not quite like any other. It is about growing up, obviously. But it is also about becoming young again and trying to see the world for what it is, whether through the eyes of a teenage punk or those of a middle-aged music critic and father of two. It is about taste and love and suffering and delusion. It is about longing to be Keith Richards. It is funny, heartbreaking and, above all, true.
It is a hymn to music.
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A deft and heartfelt exploration of music, silence, adolescence, English pop and the emotional consequences of serious illness, and above all a discussion of something modern culture has very nearly lost touch with - the idea, and the desirability, of taste. -
If The Train in the Night went no further than the list of life-changing music that drops in at the end, like an index, it would be just another retread of High Fidelity, but Nick Hornby's book is a boy's train-set in comparison to this. Coleman does nothing less than stage a noble rescue of that gauzy 18th-century girl, Taste. He explains better than anyone I've read the difference between liking certain music and being 'into' it. - Independent
His memoir...intercuts vivid biographical snapshots with the narrative of what he calls his 'calamity' in a story told with warmth, wit, candour and dry, self-deprecating humour and without a whiff of self-pity... Coleman is insightful and convincing in his musings on music's emotional impact, funny on his recollections of the pains of growing up and sharp in his analysis of the thorny issue of musical 'taste'. - Time Out
It is often moving, and sad; because Coleman is a spirited person, who writes with an irrepressible Hornby-esque skip in his style, it is also often funny and admirable. - Guardian
Music journalism thrives on a rapid turnover - of talent, trends, writers even - so an opportunity to contemplate a lifetime in music's thrall is understandably irresistible. - Independent on Sunday
[A] beautiful, elegaic ballad. Coleman writes elegantly and movingly of his youth, of growing up and of his intimate relationship with an art form that has shaped his memories. - Financial Times
It's beautifully written, moving and, coming from a 1970s, Yes-loving prog-rocker, surprisingly moving. - Independent
This is a book for anyone who grew up with pop music, listens to it still and has spent too much time thinking about it and talking about it. But it's also a book about love and loss and middle age and looming mortality, written with grace and the driest imaginable humour. I'm not sure I can recommend it highly enough. - Spectator
Nick Coleman was born in Buckinghamshire in 1960, but grew up in the Fens. Following a brief spell as a stringer at NME in the mid-1980s, he was Music Editor of Time Out magazine for seven years. This was followed by a dozen years as Arts and Features Editors at the Independent and the Independent on Sunday. He has also written for The Times, the Guardian, the Daily Telegraph, New Statesman, US Vogue, Intelligent Life, GQ and The Wire - mostly about music, but also books, sport and travel. He lives in Hackney with his wife and two children.