Hi-fi or low expectations?

I listened to music as a teenager on a tiny record player which crunched the sound and where a drum roll sounded like damaged vinyl. Yet it gave me hours of listening pleasure. And in the evenings I went down to the local and put my 10p in the jukebox. That gave the music a completely different dynamic. My ambition was to treat myself to a proper hifi system – record deck, amplifier, speakers. I achieved it during a summer holiday where I worked days and nights. Forty-five years on and I’ve continued to upgrade, lucky enough to have the space to accommodate a reasonably sophisticated set up and thick enough walls not to disturb the neighbours.  But there are no set rules and I’m no snob when it comes to how people choose to listen to music. Yet all is not well.

Some songs are just meant to be heard on a jukebox…

‘Alexa, play music.’ The words that strike fear into me. Convenient, very clever and with an almost infinite supply of songs, the music invariably squawks out of a speaker that would have made my tiny record player sound like the organ at the Royal Albert Hall at full tilt. Tinny hardly covers it. And often twittering away in the background. Or the ear buds playing over the sound of a rattling tube train.  And everywhere you go, playing away almost inaudibly in the background in shops, hotels and restaurants. Yet the musicians will have spent maybe hundreds of hours perfecting the sound, mixing and completing it with the best loudspeakers money can buy. For what?

Sound has been downgraded in almost every walk of life. Televisions have been flattened at the expense of any kind or respectable audio system. Streamed and downloaded music is compressed to reduce the amount of bandwidth needed. And the trend towards miniaturisation deprives good quality sound of the one thing it needs most – space to breath.

What’s most worrying is that this is now the norm. Fewer people aspire to decent audio systems as I did, and when they do it’s invariably to rattle the walls with home cinema systems.

What’s the solution? There isn’t one. I just hope producers and artists continue to believe in quality and keep production standards up. Or my listening pleasure’s done for!


Richard’s new novel ‘Homeward Bound’ – about dreams, choices and rock’n’roll – is available from local bookshops, Waterstones and Amazon online.

Three questions about music

“I’m now going to play some songs from my new album.”

It’s the expression that strikes fear into every concert-goer.  We want the hits, the songs we know. Why do they do it? Why do we go?

Why do people go to gigs and then spend half the time talking or at the bar?

Why do musicians spend months recording, using the best facilities, mixing on giant studio speakers, only for people to listen on a squawking Alexa speaker or on ear buds as background noise to the sound of a train?

These and other issues will be my blog for the days leading up to publication of my novel, Homeward Bound, about two people divided by time and music.

Why ‘Homeward Bound’?

With just a couple of weeks until it’s officially published, people are asking me what’s with the title, Homeward Bound? The answer is in the book, but for a few clues, the first chapter opens with seventy-nine-year-old George reluctantly being given a tour of prospective nursing homes by his daughter and son-in-law. And he’s not happy about it. At all!

And, of course, there’s a song, Homeward Bound, sung by Simon and Garfunkel. It’s one of the records George’s nineteen-year-old granddaughter, Tara, discovers in his music room, and its discovery leads to a mystery.

Music plays a big part in both George’s and Tara’s lives – as it does in the novel. If you’re not familiar with the song, you can hear a recent-ish live performance by Paul Simon on youtube. There will also be a Spotify playlist of all the songs mentioned in the book nearer to publication.

The cover is unveiled

This is how the cover will look. I just stared into my local bookshop’s window and looked at the fancy artwork and brightly coloured sleeves of other people’s hardbacks and special editions… and crossed my fingers that this simple design will stand a chance of getting noticed. Odd how months and months (then add a few!) of work suddenly boil down to worrying about graphics.

Anyway, please feel free to spread the image. And I hope you like the blurb. Every time I’m asked to summarise what the book’s about, I come up with a new approach – the one on the book cover is quite different from the publisher’s original ‘Advance Information’. I’ve refined it somewhat by necessity. If I’m asked to describe it face-to-face by anyone, I find I’m mentally sub editing as I speak while watching their expression change from interest to indifference! It’s a bit like answering ‘How are you?’ with a full description of your sinus infection, tendonitis, cough that won’t go and bunion (or whatever!). I’m still searching for a perfect, “I’m fine, how are you?” response.

By the way, I’m fine – how are you?

Counting down the days to publication

Scary as it is, the time for changes to my novel has passed. Each night I think of something new to add or how my characters might react differently in conversations and situations they are confronted by. Too late! The manuscript has been proofread and it’s off to the printers. Bookshops have been sent advance information for them to get excited about (or most likely, to ignore under the heavy weight of other stuff to read and deal with). So it’s all now down to marketing, good luck and hopefully, favourable responses.

There are still decisions to be made on whether international versions or e-books are a good idea. At the moment, it’s print only.

I’ll post up the cover in a few days. In the meantime, the marketing puff is on this site (‘Information for booksellers’). I hope it sounds promising to you!

Homeward Bound

What’s it all about?’

Tara is eighteen. She’s a musician, about to start uni and hoping for her lucky break. George is seventy-nine. As Tara’s grandfather, he’s expected to be in retirement but in truth, he’s not quite ready to close the lid on his dreams.

When he finds himself on a tour of retirement homes instead of the cream tea at the seaside his family had promised, it seems his story might prematurely be over.

He finds an answer by inviting Tara to share his house, along with his memories and vast collection of vinyl records. He thinks he can teach her about music. She just wants to get on with her own life.

What unfolds are clashes and unlikely parallels between generations – neither knows how to work a dishwasher – as they both chase their ambitions. But when the past catches up with George, Tara has to make the same life-changing decisions her grand-father faced six decades before.

Where you can buy Homeward Bound

It’s published by Matador in paperback, RRP £10.99, and on Kindle ISBN: 9781838591595 online as well as all good bookshops.

What people are saying about it

Blogger What Rebecca’s ReadHomeward Bound is a funny, feel-good read that I’d highly recommend.’

Helen Tovey (Family Tree): ‘Blurbed as a story telling of the ‘clashes and unlikely parallels between the generations’ this novel caught my eye, and what unfolded was a poignant, very believable story, laced with reminiscences (particularly if you’re a music lover you’ll enjoy the references), twists in the plot, and loveable and interesting key characters in Gramps and granddaughter Tara. An enjoyable read that reminds us of the passing of time and the value of family.’

Selection of initial comments from Amazon, Waterstones and Goodreads

Peter W

 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Very enjoyable read

I really enjoyed this book. Although it will clearly appeal to music fans of my generation (over 65) who will appreciate the way Richard skillfully weaved the many music references into the story, the book will appeal to younger readers too. The central premise that young people should take every opportunity to follow their dreams is very poignant. It wouldn’t take much to turn this book into a film script.

R Mackinney

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ It was amazing Fun interesting warmly written book really enjoyed it and love the fact that there is also a Spotify playlist of all the music references available on the author’s website

Mr G.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ A pleasure to read whether as a reflection on life or a distraction from it!

A pleasure to read whether as a reflection on life or a distraction from it! Well done Mr Smith on your debut. (Format: Kindle Edition)

Chris O

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ A Great Read

Once you have started reading this book it’s hard to put down. It’s an excellent first novel with some great music references and some important messages- not least , the close relationship between two people from very different generations who have a lot more in common than they might think and the importance of having a purpose in life and taking a few risks to follow your dreams. Looking forward to the next one !


★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Lovely poignant novel

I really enjoyed this novel, amusing and sad all rolled into one.

Mr. S. J. Thorpe

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Great Page Turner!

When I started to read this book I didn’t really know what to expect but I very quickly became immersed in the narrative of two people united in their love for music. You get no spoilers from me but needless to say the characters are likeable and their journey is both fascinating and poignant. Highly recommend you invest some time with this novel, you won’t regret it!

Eco bunny

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Real page-turner

This book is a lot of fun – I read it in two days, finding it hard to put down. Richard Smith’s dialogue is fantastic! It’s a family drama, but will be especially good for anyone who loves music as they are sure to enjoy the parallel experiences a grandfather and his granddaughter adjust to the next stage of their lives. If you enjoyed “Elizabeth is Missing” or “The 100 year old man who climbed out the window and disappeared” then you’ll like this. Humane, witty, super-readable, enjoy.


★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Wonderful first novel

What a wonderful first novel. The main character George is a loveable chap and his relationship with his granddaughter is heartwarming. Great read, looking forward to reading more from Richard Smith.

Peter Thombs

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Music lovers, enjoy! Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 25 February 2020Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase A wonderful book which took the reader on a special journey. A simple but well written story line with a musical treasure trove of memories. Couldn’t put it down.


★ ★ ★ ★ ★ It was amazing

I got this book as a gift and found it really enjoyable and hard to put down. It’s a story of music, relationships, dreams and realities.
The author managed to bring the characters to life in a way that had me totally invested – I was really annoyed by one character’s actions, which to me is a sign of a well-written book.
I really enjoyed the musical references too; some I recognised from my parent’s era, some were current that I knew and some I looked up on the book’s Spotify (available from author’s blog page) which brought the story to life further! I’d definitely recommend it and think it could also be a good one for book groups too – lots to discuss

Pat Cooper

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Couldn’t put it down

This is such an enjoyable read . The main characters are warm and believable. You feel for George and Tara and want them to be happy . The book is full of musical memories which was an added enjoyment . Overall a book about love and family and well worth reading . I am sure to read it again , I enjoyed it so much .

Claire Smith

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Engaging work from a new author

Heart-warming but not sentimental story dealing with the issues of older age and inter-family relationships particularly that of a teenage girl and her grandfather. It is told with a wry sense of humour.
Also great for people who love music as lots of references to familiar songs but all within the context of a well developed storyline. Made me dig out my old record collection and reflect on the power of music in life; and how complex and interesting family relationship are.