TBR Challenge – Powder – Kevin Sampson

Genre: Music, Masculinity

Narrative Style: Third person from various perspectives

Rating: 3/5

Published: 1999

Format: paperback

Synopsis: Keva McCluskey, lead singer with the unknown Liverpool band, The Grams, wants nothing more than the fame and success he feels are his due. When he meets Guy de Burnet, of newly formed Rehab records, he realises that his dreams may be about to come true. Will fellow band mates and manager, Wheezer, be a help or a hindrance on the way to the top. 

Reading Challenges: TBR Challenge 2019

Time on Shelf: My husband bought this at the time. He read it and really enjoyed it. I didn’t get round to it. So twenty years after he recommended it, I finally read it. No wonder he doesn’t often recommend a book for me to read.

I really wasn’t sure what to rate this book. There were some things I really enjoyed about it but also some things I really didn’t. However, it is generally quite well written and I did feel compelled to read on so I guess the good points won out.

What I really liked about this was the way it reminded me of the nineties and of the music scene then – a time when I was very enthusiastic about music and a time before The X factor and all those talent shows. There is a genuine love of music behind this novel. It also seems like I would imagine it is like when a band first takes off with all the madness of touring and recording. Sampson has long been involved in the music industry – as a journalist and a manager – so the novel has an air of authenticity.

However, this is also a very laddish book. And in that it is also very much of its time. At times it felt like an extended edition of Nuts. It is full of lewd sexual encounters. In fact, most of the women in this novel are little more than holes to be filled by the band. I’m not a prude and some of these encounters were amusing especially as guitarist, James Love gets more and more twisted in his needs. It just would have been nice for some of these women to be given a personality not just body parts.

There are some similarities between this novel and Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting. It is obviously aiming for a similar grittiness and honesty. And it is written in a similar style with little in the way of over-arching plot – more a series of vignettes about the band and the various hangers on. However, it lacks the emotional depth of Welsh’s novel. The characters are stereotypical and do not develop. I felt little for them and didn’t really care whether the band would survive or not. James Love is similar to Welsh’s Sick Boy but there is no hint of anything underneath his womanising so it all becomes dull and tawdry.

Still, it was amusing and it did make me nostalgic so I’m not sorry to have read it. It is quite a long read at 500 pages. Maybe if it had been shorter, I wouldn’t have got so impatient towards the end.

 

 

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Full House Reading Challenge – Americana by Ray Davies

Genre: Autobiography / Memoir

Narrative Style: First person, non-chronological

Rating: 4/5

Format: Hardback

Published: 2013

Synopsis: Ray Davies discusses his relationship with America at various points in The Kinks career. The narrative moves from the very start of The Kinks career and their banning from America to the botched robbery that saw Davies shot and re-evaluating his relationship with the states. 

Reading Challenges: Full House Reading Challenge.:  Autobiography / Memoir

I’d been meaning to read this for a while. Not only do I really enjoy The Kinks music but I knew from reading X-Ray, Davies’ earlier autobiography, that it would be well-written and interesting.  It’s no secret that Davies is a brilliant raconteur; you only have to listen to The Kinks songs to know that so all in all I was looking forward to it.

It did not disappoint. It isn’t really a conventional straight from A to B sort of autobiography. Ray moves from descriptions of his life in New Orleans at the time leading up to his shooting to various points in The Kinks career, touring and recording in America. It was an interesting perspective, showing all the good and the bad about touring in a rock band and trying to keep relationships together.

Ray was willing to examine his own behaviour and to describe mistakes as well as triumphs. The mood moves from great highs – triumphant shows, hit albums – to the low of lying in hospital after the botched robbery that saw him shot. He examines it all with the same critical eye.

The only thing I found a little disappointing was that he didn’t really examine the relationship with his brother, Dave. While the difficulties of this relationship are mentioned, I might have expected more insight into the problems, more detail about the nature of their problems. Of course, I understand fully why this may be difficult for Davies to talk about and it’s not for me to decide what he should talk about but I felt it was a gap in the narrative.

Overall, this was a very enjoyable read. Davies was willing to laugh at himself and also was candid about the difficulties he suffered and the relationships he lost. It was touching, amusing and informative in equal measure. Well worth a read, even for the casual fan.

The Non Fiction Challenge – Just Kids – Patti Smith

2016 Nonfiction Challenge

Genre: Autobiography / Memoir

Narrative Style: First personUnknown

Rating: 4/5

Published: 2010

Format: Paperback

Reading Challenges: The Non Fiction Challenge

Synopsis: Patti tells of her relationship with the artist Robert Mapplethorpe and their time in New York in the late sixties and early seventies, just before both of them became famous. 

It is apt that I discovered Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe together and to me they have always come as a pair. In 1992, my then boyfriend bought a copy of Horses (On vinyl, of course. That’s the sort of students we were.) and we rushed home to listen to it. The music blew me away. I had never heard anything like it. But I was also really taken with the photo of Patti on the front (taken by Mapplethorpe) which seemed to encapsulate something of the music. Patti was all PattiSmithHorsesmasculine elegance, a look I was trying – with less success – to pull of myself. (This was a time when I thought I was Jim Morrison and wandered around in outsize men’s shirts and leather trousers.) I quickly discovered it was by Robert and was soon as fascinated by his photography as I was by Patti’s music.

I knew a little of their relationship already, having read a biography of Patti Smith some years ago but it was interesting to hear it from the horse’s mouth, as it were. It isn’t just the relationship between Patti and Robert that is so interesting but also her description of the times which saw them mixing with Warhol and the members of The Factory and staying at the Chelsea Hotel to name but two things.

Of course, the whole thing is tinged with sadness. At the end, Patti says that Robert asked her to write the story of them and it had taken her until then to be strong enough to do it. (He died in 1989 and this was published in 2010) Her longing for Robert to still be alive is in every word of this and it seems apparent that she misses him still. When I was approaching the end, I found myself preparing for the horror of his death. My relationship with his work has always been tinged with sadness as by the time I discovered him, he was already dead and I was sad to think there would never be any new work from this amazing artist. It was an emotional end and not at all easy to read. You get a real sense of how difficult it must have been for Patti to carry on afterwards.

 

Books Read in 2015 0 8. Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys by Viv Albertine

Genre: Autobiography, Music

Narrative Style: First Person NarrationBlav494CIAA1lWx.jpg-large

Rating: 4/5

Published: 2014

Format: Paperback

Synopsis: Viv Albertine used to be in The Slits. This charts her life before, during and after, looking specifically at the three things mentioned in the title. It is an honest and at times emotional journey through one woman’s life. 

I love The Slits. They are one of my favourite punk bands. So last year, for my birthday, my husband bought tickets to go and hear Viv Albertine read from Clothes, Clothes, Clothes… and then he bought the book for me. Albertine was entertaining and her life has certainly been interesting but I didn’t completely take to her. I felt similarly when I was reading the book. I’m not entirely sure why but I could never completely relate to her.

The book is written with humour and is self-depricating as if all the way through writing, Albertine couldn’t quite believe that anyone would want to read it. She begins with school days, moves through her parents divorce and her entrance into the punk scene then through the domesticity and illness that followed after up to the present day. I found my interest peaked and fell at various points in the book and sometimes I didn’t really want to pick it up at all.

It is best – perhaps obviously – when Albertine is talking about the punk scene and her experience with The Slits. Personal descriptions of the stars  of the scene – Rotten, McLaren, Thunders, Jones, to name but a few – are all entertaining and added to my understanding of the scene and what it was like for a woman at those times. I was less interested in what came after. I guess that makes me pretty shallow but I would happily have read more about those times and less about her family life.

Not that those times didn’t warrant describing. Albertine had early experience of the difficulties of IVF and then discovered she had cancer and her marriage broke down. All of which are described with an emotional honesty it is rare to find. I’m just not very interested in the long fight to have a baby. I have no children and at forty two, it is unlikely I will now. I wouldn’t really choose to read about these experiences if it weren’t for Albertine’s status as punk legend.

For me, my interest picked up again towards the end when Albertine starts to perform and record again despite her crippling anxiety about how good she was. It was rewarding to see her confidence build again and she finally seemed happy with her life.   There is no doubt that Albertine is a strong woman to have come through all she has and also to be able to be so open about what she perceives as her faults but I still felt at the end as if I hadn’t quite got it, as if I still couldn’t really understand her.

 

Chrys Fey’s 30 day writing challenge – Pick one of your favourite songs and write a piece about it.

Okay, so I’ve skipped ahead a couple of days as I was feeling uninspired and this challenge caught my eye straightaway. I will go back and do the others later when I have some ideas for them. This day 8 of Chrys Fey’s writing challenge. I thought of quite a few possible songs – in fact, I may still write those stories as well. The song I picked is M-Bike by PJ Harvey.

“Why did you do it?” They had asked that straight away. The female cop asked it. No sympathy there. You’d think she would understand. It wasn’t like she was God’s gift. How would she manage to keep a man when Lise hadn’t been able? Lise had a nice figure, good boobs, long legs. The female cop was chunky, to put it politely.

“He looked at her shape, not at mine.” Lise’s voice had been cold. She didn’t care. She wasn’t sorry. She had got what she deserved.Lise had looked down the cliff side at the burning carcass at the bottom and her heart had sung. Served the bastard right. Not giving Lise the attention she deserved. That had to be punished. 

It had started about six months ago. That was when she had arrived. A Sunday night. Lise hadn’t known she was coming. No warning. Lise had arrived at his house and there she was on the drive. Foolishly, Lise hadn’t even realised that she might be a threat. But that was before the spell had been cast. He was mesmerised. Lise was second best. He’d even cancelled seeing her a couple of times. Imagine that if you will. It was unheard of.

Even when they were going out, Lise would arrive and she would be on the drive. Lise would see him look over his shoulder at her as they left. It was mere anger at first, the warm glow that rose to her face. It wasn’t long before it was hot, red rage. She burned with it.

But at first she tried. Perhaps it was a novelty that would wear off. That meant she could be accepting at first. So much so that she even came on a couple of dates with them. Lise allowed it. Foolish. That had showed her to be weak. That he didn’t need to care about her feelings.

It had been on one of those dates that Lise had realised exactly how smitten he was. She was recounting her day, playing it for laughs, pausing so he could supply the requisite chuckles. Only they didn’t come. Lise realised that he was staring out of the window. Staring at her, out there on the pavement. Longing for the moment when he could be on her back again. His eyes were filled with it: need. That had been how he looked at Lise at first.

Later that evening, when they made love in his bedroom, Lise imagined that he was still thinking about her, her streamlined shape, her chrome curves and about the way it felt when she was between his legs. She had dug her nails into his shoulders until he yelped.

Plans for murder started then. Lise watched them carefully, thinking about opportunity, about vulnerability. When did he leave her alone, when was he out, where did he keep the keys to the garage and so on until a plan began to form.

It was the middle of the night. It seemed apt. She’d pulled him in to kiss her, earlier that day, swiped the keys from his pocket while he was sticking his tongue down her throat. Now she crept up to the garage, let herself in. She had wondered if she would been able to do it, once she was there but the sight of her gleaming in the moonlight, it brought unbearable hatred. It had to be done.

Quietly, she began to roll her out of the garage. It’s okay, Lise whispered, I’m a friend, remember. She moved slowly and was far heavier than Lise had reckoned but she didn’t have far to go.

Lise wasn’t sure how long it took to get her there but she knew she was panicked by the thought of spying eyes. There was no hiding what she was doing. It would be clear that there was something wrong. Still, they would understand when Lise told them. The usurper had to go.

When she stood at the cliff edge, Lise revved her engines up. That’s the last time I’ll have to listen to that, she thought as she gave one final push. Away it went, over the edge. Lise smiled for what felt like the first time in ages.
“I fucking hate his motor bike,” she screamed as the machine bounced down the hill.

 

A sense of nostalgia

We’re in the process of a massive, house size, sort out at the minute. We have now lived at our current address for six years and suddenly the house seems as cluttered as the one we left behind despite being twice the size. There are two reasons for this – my inability to stop buying books and my husband’s inability to throw anything away. We cannot afford to move again and there is nowhere to put new shelves so something had to give.

So I’ve given myself of sorting out all the cassette tapes that we still have with aim of putting any that might still be listenable to onto CD via a USB cassette player and throwing away all the others. A stupidly large task but at least with the advantage of listening to some things that I hadn’t heard for ages or even before. (I’m already more than halfway through putting all the vinyl onto the I-Pod and am currently listening to Babble by That Petrol Emotion, well worth a listen if you like noisy indie tunes from the late eighties and last listened in about 1992.)

It was when I discovered a tape from my university days with The Would Be’s on it that I started to feel nostalgic. I used to love this tape. Of course, in time honoured fashion, this was completely warped and unlistenable. And the tape didn’t say whether it was an LP, a series of singles or anything useful. I felt a little depressed given how much listening time I had given this tape albeit twenty odd years ago and my first thought was I’ll never be able to replace this. I doubt you would happen to find it just looking through the shelves at HMV. It’s not as if they were even very famous at the time.

Of course, this just shows how old fashioned I am. Of course, I could just go to I-Tunes and search for them and there it would be. It’s probably on Amazon as well. So that’s good, isn’t it? Progress you know. I could be listening to it again, right this second if I so desired.

But I’m not. And I can’t really explain why but I find the whole ease of finding it a little bit depressing. I want it to be difficult. Everything is so easy, a mere click of the mouse away. Why wait for anything? It was only a few weeks ago that A Field in England was released on all formats simultaneously. A far cry from the months you used to have to wait for a film to come out on video if you missed it at the cinema.

I can’t help feeling that it takes away some of the meaning. Part of liking indie bands and alternative music was that sometimes it was difficult to find but part of your dedication as a fan was looking really hard. Instant gratification seems to build a really short attention span. After all, if you spend weeks looking for something chances are you are going to give it some attention once you have it. But if it appears in a second, how long before your off for your next fix of new and exciting.

Of course, I know that I could just download all the vinyl and cassettes I have from I-Tunes or some such and save myself the mammoth task of converting it all to the I-Pod. It would be quick and it would be easy. But this way I have to listen to it all and while it may take me longer, I am sure it will be infinitely more fun.

The joy of the I-Pod on Shuffle.

It’s funny but when I first got the I-Pod, I didn’t realise that it would change the way that I listen to music. I don’t just mean that I started to download more. While this is true, I think it would have happened anyway. Also, there is no reason not to listen to downloads in an old-fashioned, album by album, track by track sort of way. But I find, more and more, I listen to it on shuffle. it saves me having to decide and if I’m cooking which is when I usually listen to it, then I don’t have to stop to stick another CD on.

It is one thing to be in the mood for something and listen to it but another completely to have a great song appear unexpectedly. For example, last night I was listening and Come Back by The Mighty Wah came on. There are a number of reasons why it is always great to hear this song. For a start, it has a great thumping anthemic chorus which you can chant along to. This immediately removes any residual stress. There is nothing like chanting along to a good song to do that. Secondly there is a good degree of nostalgia attached to this song. I was 12 when this song was in the charts and so it reminds me of being young and carefree. So there is another level of happiness attached to it.

To me, this is the way that music works in my life. No matter how stressful my day has been, I know that for at least that time when I am cooking and I am listening to the I-Pod, I know that will be a guaranteed time of happiness. Even though, this being my record collection, there is a huge number of miserable bastards on there – Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Morrissey to name but a few, music always lifts the spirits.