Here in England, as I cycle into work from the Hawaiian splendiferousness of Walthamstow in East London to the glamour-fest of wee-wee in doorways that is Berwick Street in Central London, I’m constantly reminiscing – and I mean almost all of the time. In September 2008 I turned 50 – so it’s probably the age.
Moments just keep coming back to me – and bits of music too. Like ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ by John Barry, a film I mitched school 5 times to see. Walking proudly across the schoolyard with a copy of Rory Gallagher’s Live In Europe under my arms knowing it to be an object of unbridled lust for other kids in my class. Meeting August Darnell of Kid Creole & The Coconuts at Dublin Airport the day after their National Stadium gig where the crowd went absolutely bananas and invaded the stage in a salsa train (‘You guys can party!’). The Celtic folk-rock of Horslips on the back of a truck at a Sunday Fair in 1971, Phil Lynott busking at the bottom of Grafton Street again in 1971 with his fantastically wild hair and other-worldly exoticness, The Specials supporting the John ‘Gypie’ Mayo line-up of Dr. Feelgood in 1978 (one of the best gigs I’ve ever seen), the Bon Scott line-up of AC/DC on a cold Monday night in the Camden Ballroom in Dublin on the Highway To Hell tour – all of it mind-blowing…
Why mention all of these precious memories – because this book is full of that – moments in time – and most of them related to music. Ian Clayton is from Yorkshire in England – and while many of the stories and anecdotes are British-based, their reach is very American – even Universal. Bringing It All Back Home isn’t a story proper as such – it’s chapter after chapter of great musical remembrances that will tickle pink anyone of my generation (it’s been a huge success in the UK in both Hardback and Paperback). It follows the floor cushions and lava lamps of the Sixties into the cheesecloth shirts and Oxford bags of the Seventies. It quickly moves on up to the blue Mohican haircuts of Punk, into hissing purists in the audiences of Eighties and Nineties Left-Wing operas and on to today with the new Portishead offering lodged in a CD player for weeks on end. And it’s bloody funny too. There’s flashbacks to Sergeant Tommy Chapman of the West Riding Constabulary who arrested Jimi Hendrix in the small town of Ilkley for being ‘too loud’ – onwards to in-depth discussions about ‘harnessing aggression’ with the drummer in The Gang of Four in the multi award-winning toilets of the Pontefract Town Hall. It lovingly recalls Hamish Imlach’s room-clearing farts and a best friend’s mother passing judgement on the Beatles who were decamped in her hotel, ‘Their shoes were perfect – every mother looks at shoes…’ As you can already magine – it’s wonderful stuff – and there’s lots of it.
And I also love Clayton’s use of nouns as a powerful evoker. Paul Simon won a Grammy for a song called ‘Rene & Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After The War’ on his hugely underrated Hearts & Bones LP in 1983. The beautifully crafted chorus talks of an immigrant couple that find a keepsake in a drawer that reminds them of ‘…The Moonglows, The Orioles and The Five Satins’. Simon doesn’t say `Vocal Groups’ or `Doo Wop Music` like a lazy writer would – he uses their names – he uses the power of nouns. Clayton does this in almost every line. Names of bars, streets, relations, friends, places he’s been too, nick names given to candy and food – album titles, label colours on 45s, gigs, characters at those gigs – the effect is to make you remember stuff and places and people you’d long forgotten – and love every second of it. His tastes are varied and eclectic too – waxing lyrical about the ethereal beauty of singers like Kate Rusby and Dwight Yoakham, Iris deMent and John Lydon, Buddy Holly and Bessie Smith, Chris Farlowe and Mary Coughlan, John Martyn and Elmore James, Louis Jordon and Buffy Sainte-Marie. This is a book about a man who holds up the different picture sleeves of ‘Anarchy In The UK’ and literally trembles at the sight of them. This is my kind of guy. I sat down to read a chapter a night and came to it like a conversation with a good friend about a subject you both love.
But then towards the end comes an unexpected hammering – he and his long-time partner suffer a crushing personal blow – and you then realise why the remembrances that preceded this are so full of warmth and humanity – they’ve been written by a man who has suffered horrible personal loss and it has imbibed his writing with a quiet thankfulness for moments that seemed almost inconsequential then but are huge now. Details matter – and music that moved and shaped you – does too.
Which brings us to music in general… what is it about men and their music? Be it Soul, Reggae, Rock, Jazz, Folk, Blues, Punk, Rock `n’ Roll, Dance, Hip-Hop – or all of it combined? I think it’s that it keeps us young – a buzz you never get over – its forever discovering something new and brill. You see I’m the kind of soppy git who works in a record shop all day and goes out at lunchtime and goes into another record shop. My better half says it’s a disease – she pats me on the head like a child and hands me Sticky Fingers to placate the poor eejet.
‘There you go dear… I’ll be back in forty-five minutes with Who’s Next…”
‘Yum! Yum!’ comes the response.
If you’re the kind of person who gets moist in the trouser area about the bits revealed under the die-cut holes as you turn the cardboard wheel on the sleeve of Led Zeppelin III, if you’re the kind of moo who tingles as you open out the rare poster in the Dead Kennedys Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables or smiles wildly at any photograph of the wonderful and sorely missed British DJ John Peel (beloved champion of Indie and Punk) – then this homage to music and its wondrous effect on the very soul of a person is the bedside buddy for you.
I loved this book – a life well remembered and a lovely read. Rave On John Dunne… you seeker of truth and inner peace…