Hit Factories

My second book, Hit Factories: A Journey Through the Industrial Cities of British Pop, is out now in paperback and e-book format from Weidenfeld & Nicolson. (Order it from Amazon here)

Hardback cover

Roddy Doyle said:

The book’s a joy. I wanted to move to Hull while reading that chapter and – almost – wanted to listen to Black Sabbath for the first time since 1974 … I love the way Whitney makes such creative use of a good walk and I admire the way he makes the people who created the music we love seem like such nice, bright men and women

The Irish Independent made it their music book of 2019. (Registration required to read full article)

John Harris reviewed the book for the Guardian here. It was the Guardian’s Book of the Day on 19 June 2019, and Book of the Week in the Guardian Review of 22 June 2019.

Éamon Sweeney reviewed Hit Factories for The Irish Times on 29 June 2019, calling it ‘an extremely important addition to modern music writing’.

Murray Withers reviewed the book for the Financial Times, calling it ‘a fine document of a golden era for music in the UK’s regions’.

Q Magazine called the book ‘a trip’ and awarded it four stars.

Melissa Chemam, reviewing Hit Factories in the Times Literary Supplement, called the book ‘an interesting, sharp, swift overview of the UK’s pop music history’.

John Meagher, reviewing the paperback for the Irish Independent, called Hit Factories a ‘superbly readable and erudite book that is bound to appeal to both music lovers and anyone interested in city life’.

Killian Laher reviewed the book for the Irish blog No More Workhorse. And he interviewed me here (part 1) and here (part 2).

What Hi-Fi? magazine called Hit Factories ‘an insightful and provocative read […] for vinyl-lovers and anyone interested in the music industry’s fluctuating grip on the physical product’.

Rolling Stone listed Hit Factories as one of the best non-fiction books about British music culture.

Listen to Siobhán Kane’s review of the book on RTE Radio One’s Arena programme.

There were also reviews in The Sun, the Mail On Sunday, MOJO magazine and the Wire.

I did an interview with Marjorie Brennan of the Irish Examiner about the book.

RTÉ have published an exclusive extract from the book’s prologue online.

I wrote about my experience writing the book for the Irish Times.

I talked about my favourite things to NARC magazine.

My interview with the Newcastle Journal about the city’s music scene and rock journalist Nik Cohn’s time in Newcastle.

I wrote about the Liverpool chapter, specifically: pretending to be Paul McCartney, for Lit Hub.

I wrote about why Glasgow is Britain’s best city for music lovers and about ten cities in which musical history was made for Guardian Travel.

I talked to the Field Day podcast about Hit Factories and British pop.

Radio appearances: BBC 5Live, BBC Radio Scotland, BBC Radio Ulster, BBC Newcastle, BBC Merseyside, BBC Humberside, BBC Manchester, BBC Tees, Newstalk (Ireland), talkRADIO.

Here’s a brief summary of what the book’s about:

After discovering a derelict record plant on the edge of a northern English city, and hearing that it was once visited by David Bowie, Karl Whitney embarks upon a journey to explore the industrial cities of British pop music.

Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Leeds, Sheffield, Hull, Glasgow, Belfast, Birmingham, Coventry, Bristol: at various points in the past these cities have all had distinctive and highly identifiable sounds. But how did this happen? What circumstances enabled those sounds to emerge? How did each particular city – its history, its physical form, its accent – influence its music? How were these cities and their music different from each other? And what did they have in common?

Hit Factories tells the story of British pop through the cities that shaped it, tracking down the places where music was performed, recorded and sold, the boardrooms where deals were done, and the people – the performers, entrepreneurs, songwriters, producers and fans – who made it all happen. From the venues and recording studios that occupied buildings formerly used for other purposes – disused cinemas, churches and abandoned factories – to the terraced houses and back rooms of pubs where bands first rehearsed, the terrain of British pop can be retraced with a map in hand and a head filled with music and its many myths.

Announcement of the book being signed in The Bookseller here.

I’ve compiled a Hit Factories playlist on Spotify.

For updates, follow my page on Facebook or follow me on Twitter.

If you want to get in contact with me: email hit.factories@outlook.com or contact me through the contact form on this website.