Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Four Book Rockaria Part 2 - Don and Tracey

The third rock book I read was the new book about Don Powell, drummer with SLADE. I first saw Don in 1973 at my first ever gig (when SLADE were supported by the Sensational Alex Harvey Band) - I had tried to get a ticket to their 1972 tour (with Thin Lizzy and Suzy Quatro) but they'd sold out by the time I'd heard they were playing. The last time I saw Don with original SLADE was on the 1980 or 1981 tour but, more recently, at the Koko gig that was filmed for the DVD ('SLADE: Live at Koko' in 2011). Don is, of course, a god. Anyway...

The book is called 'Look Wot I Dun: Don Powell, My Life in SLADE' and has a photo of him in Noddy's mirrored top hat on the front. It's credited to both Lise Lyng Falkenberg and Don, probably because a lot os it is narrated in the first person by Don in a series of quotes. I like that approach since it gives an immediacy to the book that could be lost so easily. So, it's not an autobiography or a biography, it's something in-between (so appropriate since the band used to be called the 'N-Betweens).

As a rabid fan from back in the day then I don't think I learned much about the early years but I lost touch with SLADE from the late '70s so that's what really attracted me in the book, the years I don't really know about. The womanising, the marriages, the drink and drugs, the endless touring and then the silence when Don seriously considered being in another band (I was shocked at that part!). Then the reinvention of Slade II and new tours and his falling in love and moving to Denmark. And, of course, he's still touring.

I loved the quotes from old friends from back in the day and from people like Gene Simmons of KISS acknowledging the power of SLADE and Don's drumming. My favourite quote is from Dave Hill near the end of the book (on page 305 to be precise) when Dave says, "Because that's what Don does - he plays the drums..." yeah? really Dave? That had me chortling!

Thanks Lise and Don for a great read!

The final Book of Four belongs to Tracey Thorn, called 'Bedsit Disco Queen: How I Grew Up And Tried To Be A Popstar'. I went to see Tracey do a reading and talk about the book last year and, astonishingly, I've just got around to reading it. And what a good read it is too!

Tracey is two years younger than me so I recognise a lot of what she writes about - I nearly typed 'talks about' just then since that's how the book comes across, Tracey having a chat to you through the narrative of the book. And I like that. I loved the references to people like Patrik Fitzgerald and ordering his records through the back pages of the NME since they weren't stocked by the local record shop. All of that chimed with me. As did maintaining the punk ethos into the '80s and increasingly becoming marginalised. I suspect that's why my memories of the '80s are quite sparse because the world moved on and I didn't. And that's something I really like about this book - yes, it's a narrative of 'I did this then I did that' but it also creates the situation that makes you think about it and question it.

Tracey has the rather odd distinction of being half of an idie band, having huge hits and fallow periods over two decades, being remixed into the charts on both sides of the Atlantic, and still being with her boyfriend and band-comrade from 30 years ago. How strange is that? And she's still releasing solo records. I loved the short paragraph of pushing her baby son around in the supermarket when one of her old records came on the PA and he points to the loud speaker and to his Mum - the same voice, but how could that be? It must be really strange to be one of their kids!

I loved reading this book and will do so again when I've listened to more Everything But The Girl records to get myself into the right space. I hope we hear more from Tracey.

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