Mark Ellen Rock Stars Stole My Life (2014)
A very funny account of Ellen's life as a music journalist, music magazine initiator and presenter of The Old Grey Whistle Test. I defy any pop or rock music fan to read it all the way through without laughing out loud at least once. For example a description of NME journalist Nick Kent from Ellen's stint on the paper during its peak years:
'... the magnificent Nick Kent, whose arrival was preceded by great waves of expectation, especially among the girls. Would he be wearing his ripped leather trousers, and, if so, any pants beneath them? He'd finally levered himself off heroin but was so enfeebled by his methadone habit that the fine details of his physical appearance weren't a high priority. His legendary lack of undergarments wasn't a fashion statement: he'd either forgotten to attach any or didn't own a pair in the first place. Kent would wobble through reception in a stained hat, an off-white scarf that could have done with a wash, a Johnny Thunders T-shirt, jangling biker boots and severely torn trousers, a brace of swinging testicles visible from round the back. He had the crepuscular pallor of a nine-pint blood donor and legs like a wading bird's, so stick-thin and rickety you thought his knees might bend the wrong way. One hand brandished a glowing butt, the other several sheets of cardboard from cereal packets with his latest meisterwerk on them in spidery scrawl. His overstretched pockets carried two tins of cling peaches, the only solids apart from cornflakes the drug-addicted scribe could stomach.' [pp87-88]
'There appeared to be two types of people in the world, those who liked Van Morrison and those who'd met him.' [p276]
'One of those old-school hippies who found clothes restricting, [Iggy Pop] had rampaged round the [Chrysalis] press office stark naked, startling the girls with the stupendous size of his manhood. 'It was like a penis,' one of them shivered, 'only bigger.' [pp145-6]
Ellen is pretty candid about the drug use of his interviewees - he stopped indulging after a bad experience with The Teardrop Explodes - especially in a very funny description of a debauched night in the company of Roy Harper and Jimmy Page in the backroom of a Lake District pub [chapter 22 - an anecdote which also appeared in Barney Hoskyns' Trampled Underfoot, see earlier post]. The interview for Whistle Test the next morning with the hungover pair can be found here.
Alan McGee Creation Stories: Riots, Raves and Running a Label (2013)
A (remaindered) birthday present. Although billed as funny I found this much less entertaining than Ellen's autobiography, mainly because, understandably, it isn't nearly as well written. It's of more personal interest, however, as I was a regular at the Living Room, McGee's club above the Roebuck on Tottenham Court Road and often met, through my friend, Creation characters like Joe Foster and Jeff Barrett who feature in the book. One evening I bumped into all four Smiths watching a performance by James. I remember standing on a table at the back to see the Jesus and Mary Chain's first London appearance at the club. Like McGee I can recall the moment they walked in to the pub looking every inch the rock stars they were soon to become. I was also a fan of many of his acts such as House of Love, My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive and Ride, but I've never been keen on Primal Scream (McGee's favourites) who I've always thought are musically a bit of a joke with a singer who can't sing. There are a few interesting anecdotes but heavy drug use has rendered some periods vague, worth dipping into though and brought back a lot of memories.
John Fordham The Knowledge: Jazz (2015)
Bought for a couple of quid at the local Works and probably destined for a charity shop, this is an adequate condensed history of jazz, frustratingly short on the areas I was interested in (60s and 70s), but made me listen to people like Charlie Christian who I'd never heard before.
Author of Subterranean City, Beneath the Streets of London, London's Coffee Houses, Decadent London, The Folklore of London, Subterranean City (Revised and Expanded Edition), Netherwood, Last Resort of Aleister Crowley, Lord of Strange Deaths, the Fiendish World of Sax Rohmer; Secret Tunnels in England, Folklore and Fact