Tuesday, January 03, 2012
IN PRAISE OF BOOKS : TWISTING MY MELON by SHAUN RYDER
I asked for, and received, a lot of books from Santa and already I'm getting through them at a fair rate thanks in part, at long last, to me accepting at 48 and a half years of age, I need assistance when it comes to reading. So after going to an optician for the first time in my life the other day, I now wear glasses for smallprint - including books and newspapers.
Over the coming year I intend to highlight a few of the music books that I own - I think in terms of bios alone there's now around 100. Just something a wee bit different in an effort to keep the blog a wee bit fresh.
Twisting My Melon, the autobiography of Shaun Ryder is the latest music book I've devoured - and that's an accurate word given all 345 pages were finished in just over a day (it's one of the benefits of working in an office which closed down over the Festive period and forced all staff to take three precious days of annual leave to enable this). The description the book trade are using is:-
Rock'n'roll legend, reality TV star, drug-dealer, poet, film star, heroin addict, son, brother, father, husband, foul-mouthed anthropologist and straight-talking survivor, Shaun Ryder has been a cultural icon and a 24-hour party person for a quarter of a century. This title tells his story.
The raw, undiluted story of Shaun Ryder, lead singer of the Manchester band the Happy Mondays. Following the success of 2 huge albums, a Glastonbury headline slot and world tours in the 1990s, Ryder's drug troubles reached their height, Factory Records was brought to its knees and the Mondays split. This covers everything, from the Mondays to Black Grape to Ryder's success on "I'm A Celebrity".
It's understandable that "I'm A Celebrity" and "reality TV star" get such mentions given that the vast majority of the British public who are aware of Shaun only became so just a couple of years back when he did go into the Australian jungle with a list of Z-celebs for a few weeks. But fear not music fans, it is only from pages 336-342 that we get any great details about that adventure and its aftermath and the vast majority of this hugely entertaining read is all about sex, drugs and rock'n'roll.
As you'd expect given Shaun's chaotic lifestyle over the years, there's loads about drugs. But there's just as much about the sex and the music. (Don't worry, while sex is mentioned a fair few times it is only ever in passing - there's nothing graphic!!)
It is a genuine autobiography going back to childhood and his upbringing, his first jobs, his life of crime, his early and doomed marriage and the efforts to make it as a pop/rock star. The years of success and the subsequent downfall of both Happy Mondays and Black Grape are covered in detail with Shaun candidly admitting a lot was down to him but he's also used the book to set the record straight that other fellow musicians and latterly his management were often even more problematic.
What makes the book such a pleasure is its style. Early on Shaun acknowledges he's not the most literate person on the planet and it's clear that a ghost writer has worked alongside him - and full credit must go to Luke Bainbridge, who for years has been an excellent music writer on The Observer newspaper, for producing a work that never sounds anything less than Shaun Ryder talking to you down the pub or on a plane and giving you his lifestory. Every page bristles with that distinctive Salford accent.
The good times from the drugs - including just how much money he, the band and their entourage made from selling ecstasy back in the mid 80s are recounted in as much detail as Shaun can recall. But so too are the really desperate times - the true story of what happened in Barbados during the recording of the Yes Please album is superb reading - but the squalid life of a junkie when all seems lost is not glossed over either as evidenced by a short spell when Shaun lived in Burnley.
There's a few great anecdotes about life on the road with his bands - one of the best being how they dealt with someone they caught robbing the tour bus. The irony being how little mercy a thief showed another thief. There's also a fair bit of humility about Shaun - he doesn't fully accept the praise heaped on him as a lyricist by others, and he's quite happy to admit he took ideas from others in putting his songs together. Twisting My Melon itself was a phrase he nicked from a documentary about Steve McQueen....who was one of his great boyhood heroes along with David Essex!!
If you've got some spare cash or vouchers hanging around from Xmas, then do yourself a favour and grab a hold of this very readable, entertaining and often very funny autobiography. It's worth it alone for the family photos of Shaun as a kid.....who would have thought anyone that cute he would turn out quite the way he did??
mp3 : Happy Mondays - Bob's Yer Uncle
mp3 : Black Grape - Shake Well Before Opening
mp3 : Gorillaz - Dare (Soulwax mix)
(Apologies for the links not working previously.....bit of a cock-up on the admin side!!!
JC : 4 Jan 2012)