Baxter Dury: Chaise Longue
Much is made of Baxter Dury’s famous father, but as he recounts his turbulent and, at times, frankly alarming childhood, it’s very much a tale of two parents, siblings, friends and the wildest collection of babysitters you might care to imagine.
As an author, his writing style is not unlike his songwriting, a dry and wry glance at the realities of the things that make or break you, no candy coating in sight. His early memories of Chiswick School sound like lyrics from an unreleased track, you can almost hear him vocalising about the teacher with ‘a frightening moustache and a fixed expression of contempt’, and his friend Patrick ‘the ultimate pathological kid’ though out of his depth when taken home to meet Baxter’s dad. To be fair to Patrick, you don’t generally find your mate’s parent sitting on a church pew on a balcony overlooking the Thames with a ‘six-foot-seven malodorous giant’ fondly known as the Sulphate Strangler.
Baxter’s mum, Betty, is as much a part of the story as the infamous Ian, both studied art and were taught by Peter Blake, their creativity later manifesting in different ways through painting, music and acting. It’s perhaps not surprising then that he would grow up to find himself in that same industry sector. What’s more surprising is that he made it through the endless scrapes and misadventures along the way in one piece to tell the tale.
While there’s no romanticism in his storytelling, it manages to recreate and reminisce about what feels like a long forgotten era where kids were largely left to their own devices and somehow developed a natural instinct for survival. Admittedly, most of us didn’t collect cowpats to throw at cars or end up in hospital having taken advantage of the copious amounts of drugs lying around the house, but then most of us weren’t left in the care of the Strangler and his fine culinary array of amphetamines and Special Brew.
The recollections flicker across time, their content at times both hilarious and poignant. I’ve always felt that his music has the power to make you laugh or cry, and often you don’t see the switch coming. With disarming openness, his memoir does the same. It’s a rollercoaster of a read, the sometime darkened lows pushed aside by the literal and figurative highs. We can only be grateful that he came to no harm after accidentally setting the Swatch shop alight with the volatile mix of a carelessly discarded joint and a bottle of white spirit, as in spite of (or perhaps because of) everything that’s gone before, the world of words and music is a better place for having Baxter Dury in its midst.
A no-holds-barred, confrontational and ultimately charming social documentary, this will doubtless be up there amongst the books of the year.
Chaise Longue is published by Little, Brown Book Group this Thursday 5th August 2021
Get the latest from Baxter Dury here
Review by Siobhan
3rd August 2021