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Allan Jones operated at the top of music journalism business from soon after he was hired by the New Musical Express in the mid-1970's. By pure coincidence he was also friendly with the Clash's Joe Strummer from the early part of the decade when Strummer was a grave digger in South Wales and Jones was at art school there. This was the period when jouralists could be friendly with rock stars and travel as part of a band's tour party and not only witness but also participate in the sex'n'drugs'n'rock'n'roll lifestyle.
Written as a sequence of shortish stories the book starts at the time when Lemmy Kilminster was famous as the bassist in Hawkwind up to the point when new wave artists like Squeeze and Elvis Costelloe were cracking America and Def Leppard began to popularise big hair, tight jeans and white trainers. Jones really had a front row seat for all of this so we get to hear for instance what it's like to meet Lemmy and get on with him well enough to go on a speed fuelled bender. Not everyone was as clubbable as Lemmy however so we suffer with the author as he's beaten to a pulp by Black Sabbath's Toni Iommi and deal with the extraordinarily charmless Elvis Costelloe. And while it's no suprise to hear another anecdote confirming that Van Morrison is a rude git Jones' capacity for getting along with people means we get to hear what it's like to get along with Lou Reed well enough to be invited to hang out with him.
As the book progresses some artists crop up repeatedly as Jones' work intersects with their rising or falling careers. His writing about the Clash is really interesting on that front as he was friendly with Strummer from the days when he was scratching around to find venues that would allow his early bands to play through the period when he reinvented himself as a punk and the singer of the Clash and on to the point where the band were huge and a view was growing that Strummer was a slightly ridiculous political poser. Glasgow's finest, Alex Harvey, also makes a welcome appearance as he takes Jones on a guided tour of Glasgow before it reinvented itself as a city of culture.
The stories alone would be worth four stars and honourable mention should be given to the narrator who manages a range of pretty convncing impersonations of everyone from Lemmy and Lou Reed to Jonny Rotten and Mike Oldfield. What elevated it to five stars for me was the range of tones; real sadness at the fate of Gene Clark for instance; whose huge talent was largely ignored after he left the Byrds end eventually succumbed to a lifetime of substance abuse. Also the slightly Zelig like quality that sees Jones on the spot for incidents like Ozzy Osbourne's infamous visit to the Alamo and the Sex Pistols' legendary silver jubliee boat cruise. And finally a surprisingly affecting final chapter which I won't spoil.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
This is an entertaining collection of interviews with rock stars from Allan Jones' impressive journalistic back catalogue. There is plenty of the usual narcissistic claptrap from self-obsessed, drunken, pretentious rockers with bloated egos but Jones is having none of it and he nails his subjects mercilessly to the page. To be fair, some of his subjects are surprisingly sane given their mad lives but the best fun is to be had with those Jones takes the piss out of. I found this to be a great listen in the car and would recommend it to anyone who loves music and grew up in the era. Now that I look back it was also a golden era of rock journalism.