Book Club – Beans on Toast: Foolhardy Folk Tales

Beans on Toast – Foolhardy Folk Tales

The Collins Dictionary defines a folk tale as “a story, usually of anonymous authorship and containing legendary elements, made and handed down orally among the common people”.

Well, the authorship here is noted but otherwise this feels like a fair description of the new book by Beans on Toast. The stories do indeed contain legendary elements; I read this at the weekend and snippets from it are still making me chuckle at random moments. And I’ve already passed bits on by way of recommendation, though whether the recipients would fall into the category of ‘the common people’ is not for me to say.

The opening chapter, The Great Tesco Robbery is a book all of its own, and later tales of The Blag and Messing With Texas are at times both uproarious and incredulous. No spoilers here though about which might be fact or fabrication, only to say that truth is sometimes weirder than fiction.

Throughout the book, we’re introduced to a series of larger than life characters. There’s Foz, a tour bus driver of sorts (the terms ‘tour bus’ and ‘driver’ being used loosely in both cases) with an aversion to eating and sleeping. Then we meet The Coin Man, selling cigarettes at an impossible profit before disappearing into the London night air. And not least Beans himself, making adventures and folklore of his own, sharing his stories and love of music, his diversion into the world of art, and finally the realities of surviving lockdown.

For a blast of nostalgia for the past, and a reflection of the last couple of years when the world shut down without warning, this is an excellent read that’s sure to leave you with a smile on your face. 

Foolhardy Folk Tales is out now via Play on Words Publishing; you can grab a copy and catch up with Beans on Toast here

Review by Siobhan
Photos via Sonic PR

26th August 2021

Book Club – Baxter Dury: Chaise Longue

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

Book Club – Will Sergeant: Bunnyman

Will Sergeant: Bunnyman 

Highly respected amongst his peers, much imitated amongst his successors, it’s easy to imagine that Will Sergeant was born with a natural gift for playing the guitar. His stories of early battles with broken strings and a super lack of confidence in his musical abilities should give hope to anyone starting out, his anecdotes of life before the Bunnymen, at times stark and far from glamorous, an insight into the realities of growing up without the privilege many artists have to hand today.

From the outset, it’s apparent that Sergeant is bringing two things to his memoir. One, an extraordinary memory for detail and two, a brutally honest representation of that detail. With no complaints or consideration that it was anything other than the norm, he talks of his father’s control of the household with candour, managing to breathe some humour into the tales of an ‘angry loveless family life’, a home that he nonetheless remained in with almost dismissive stoicism, and where he and Ian McCulloch later had their first session to ‘mess about with guitars, see what happens’.

Sergeant’s discovery of music and its impact on him is beautifully documented throughout, and begins from an early age… ‘Summer 1963. I am four years old. The Beatles are some way through their bid for world domination. On our radio, they belt out ‘Please Please Me’. My sister Carole is in the house, singing along to the transistor radio, or ‘tranny’. Other than nursery rhymes, this is my first memory of popular music.’

As the years creep by, he compiles a covetous list of gigs attended and bands seen. From early Status Quo to Joy Division, via Bowie, Devo and X-Ray Spex, the descriptions of the sweaty clubs and sense of belonging on finding like-minded friends will bring nostalgia for many.

His accounts of record shops, fashions and youth subcultures are equally on point and will paint a picture for anyone who remembers the eras he writes about. He describes the 70s’ skinhead and mod troupes impeccably, noting, ‘Skins would storm through the metal fence opening at the top of the road, looking for fish, chips and trouble’, while the scooter boys appeared in ‘a flotilla of chrome lamped and decked out scooters, whiplash aerials flexing and flicking tiger tails‘.

Bunnyman takes us through to the formation, debut gigs and early success of Echo and the Bunnymen, as Sergeant, McCulloch and Les Pattinson form a perhaps unlikely trio with a highly volatile drum machine making up the fourth member of the band, until a human drummer can be avoided no longer and Pete de Freitas joins to complete the group. Record releases, label signings and the honour of a Peel Session take things up a serious level as the band stake their place as an important piece of the burgeoning Liverpool scene. 

It’s a story with much more to tell. Whether Will Sergeant will return with a sequel or leave the rest to be told through the myth and memory of fans and the music press remains to be seen. Either way, this is a compelling walk through a hugely exciting and influential period in music, join him for a veritable trip down Villiers Terrace and back again in time for the dancing horses.

Bunnyman is published by Little, Brown Book Group this Thursday 15th July 2021

You can join Will on Twitter for musings about music, scooters and cocker spaniels 

Review by Siobhan

13th July 2021

Kraszna-Krausz Photography & Moving Image Book Award Winners 2021

Header photo: Dream is Wonderful, Yet Unclear by Maria Kapajeva 

The winners of this year’s Kraszna-Krausz Foundation annual Photography and Moving Image Book Awards have now been announced, with the winning titles chosen as stand out examples of books representing each category. As always, the long and short lists were full of contemporary issues, including cultural identity; collective experiences; social injustices; migration and memory from around the world. It’s heartening to see an award that doesn’t focus solely on commercial popularity and opens its doors to a diverse range of creatives.

Amidst tough competition, the Photography Book Award has been awarded jointly to Sunil Gupta for Sunil Gupta: From Here To Eternity and Maria Kapajeva for Dream is Wonderful, Yet Unclear.

Sunil Gupta: From Here To Eternity by Sunil Gupta, edited by Dr Mark Sealy MBE (Autograph in association with The Photographers’ Gallery and Ryerson Image Centre)

Dream is Wonderful, Yet Unclear by Maria Kapajeva (Milda Books)

Sunil Gupta is known for his photographic work depicting the injustice suffered by the LGBTQ+ community and highlighting race and migration against the constant of family life. His images form an important social commentary and have been exhibited globally. This book forms his first major retrospective.

Sunil Gupta: From Here To Eternity by Sunil Gupta

Maria Kapajeva’s work focuses on women’s position in contemporary society; the title of her book Dream is Wonderful, Yet Unclear comes from the lyrics of March of Enthusiasts, featured in the Soviet movie The Bright Way (1940) about a female weaver making her journey from peasant to Stakhanovite (a group of workers who regularly surpassed production targets and were specially honoured and rewarded). The book is centred on a textiles factory in Estonia.


Dream is Wonderful, Yet Unclear by Maria Kapajeva

The winners of this year’s Moving Image Book Award are Marie-Hélène Gutberlet and Brigitta Kuster for their books On the Run: Perspectives on the Cinema of Med Hondo and 1970—2018 Interviews with Med Hondo.

On the Run: Perspectives on the Cinema of Med Hondo and 1970—2018 Interviews with Med Hondo edited by Marie-Hélène Gutberlet and Brigitta Kuster (Co-published by Archive Books and Arsenal – Institut für Film und Videokunst. Funded by TURN Fund of the German Federal Cultural Foundation)

Marie-Hélène Gutberlet and Brigitta Kuster have used their combined skills and knowledge in art history, philosophy, film studies, cultural research and writing to document the talent of Med Hondo, a Mauritanian film director, producer, screenwriter, actor and voice actor who gained acclaim for his work until his death in 2019.

On the Run: Perspectives on the Cinema of Med Hondo and 1970—2018 Interviews with Med Hondo edited by Marie-Hélène Gutberlet and Brigitta Kuster 

Digital live-streamed events centred around the winning titles will take place on 1st June for the Photography Book Award and 3rd June for the Moving Image Book Award, hosted by and in partnership with The Photographers’ Gallery.

You can find more details about the awards on the Kraszna-Krausz website.

Words by Siobhan
Images reproduced with permission via Flint Culture and copyrighted as detailed, book spread shots by David Tett Photography 

24th May 2021

Kraszna-Krausz Photography & Moving Image Book Awards 2021

Header photo – Sunil Gupta: From Here To Eternity by Sunil Gupta 

Bringing together another excellent collection of photography and moving image books, The Kraszna-Krausz Foundation has announced the long and shortlists for its 2021 awards. It feels fitting that after a year where protests against unjust events have been prevalent in the public eye worldwide, the books up for consideration address issues including gender, identity, history, social injustice, community and memory. The awards offer an opportunity for creatives from all backgrounds and genres to gain recognition and have their work reach a wider audience.

The judging panel for the Photography Book Award commented:
“This year’s longlist demonstrates that photography books with substance are more powerful than simply beautiful photography. The submissions revealed a strong sense of innovative storytelling about contemporary society, made clear through the way images have been combined as well as the texts included and the design of the books. The longlist is an incredible mix of archive, artists, historians, photographers and theorists.”

Professor Gideon Koppel, Judge, Moving Image Book Award noted:
“Now seems to be a particularly relevant time to be thinking about moving pictures and sounds, and how this field interacts with other ideas about humanity. We are in the middle of a technological revolution, where there is an acceleration of new ways to make and experience moving images and sound. So it didn’t surprise me to see a noticeable collection of books musing on the future by looking to the past.”

You can find more information about the work of the Kraszna-Krausz Foundation and the selected books listed on their website.

2021 Photography Book Award Shortlist

Destiny edited by Myles Russell Cook with contributors 

– Centralia by Poulomi Basu (Dewi Lewis Publishing)

– Destiny edited by Myles Russell-Cook with contributors (National Gallery of Victoria)

– Dream is Wonderful, Yet Unclear by Maria Kapajeva (Milda Books)

– Sunil Gupta: From Here To Eternity by Sunil Gupta, edited by Dr Mark Sealy MBE (Autograph in association with The Photographers’ Gallery and Ryerson Image Centre)

2021 Moving Image Book Award Shortlist

Making Images Move: Handmade Cinema and the Other Arts by Gregory Zinman

– Dialectics without Synthesis: Japanese Film Theory and Realism in a Global Frame by Naoki Yamamoto (University of California Press)

– Making Images Move: Handmade Cinema and the Other Arts by Gregory Zinman (University of California Press)

– On the Run: Perspectives on the Cinema of Med Hondo and 1970—2018 Interviews with Med Hondo edited by Marie-Hélène Gutberlet and Brigitta Kuster (Co-published by Archive Books and Arsenal – Institut für Film und Videokunst. Funded by TURN Fund of the German Federal Cultural Foundation)

– The Process Genre: Cinema and the Aesthetic of Labor by Salomé Aguilera Skvirsky (Duke University Press)

2021 Photography Book Award Longlist

Santa Barbara by Diana Markosian

– Centralia by Poulomi Basu (Dewi Lewis)

– Constructed Landscapes by Dafna Talmor (Fw:Books)

– Destiny edited by Myles Russell-Cook with contributors (National Gallery of Victoria)

– Dream is Wonderful, Yet Unclear by Maria Kapajeva (Milda Books)

Encampment, Wyoming: Selections from the Lora Webb Nichols Archive 1899-1948 edited by Nicole Jean Hill (Fw:Books)

– Hayal & Hakikat: A Handbook of Forgiveness & A Handbook of Punishment by Cemre Yeşil Gönenli (Gost)

– I Can Make You Feel Good by Tyler Mitchell (Prestel Publishing)

– Road Through Midnight: A Civil Rights Memorial by Jessica Ingram (University of North Carolina Press)

– Santa Barbara by Diana Markosian (Aperture)

– Sunil Gupta: From Here To Eternity by Sunil Gupta, edited by Dr Mark Sealy MBE (Autograph in association with The Photographers’ Gallery and the Ryerson Image Centre)

– The New Woman Behind the Camera by Andrea Nelson (National Gallery of Art, Washington)

– Unfixed: Photography and Decolonial Imagination in West Africa by Jennifer Bajorek (Duke University Press)

2021 Moving Image Book Award

Dialetics without Synthesis: Japanese Film Theory and Realism in a Global Frame by Naoki Yamamoto 

– Against the Avant-Garde: Pier Paolo Pasolini, Contemporary Art, and Neocapitalism by Ara H Merjian (University of Chicago Press)

– Bombay Hustle by Debashree Mukherjee (Columbia University Press)

– Cinema Expanded: Avant-Garde Film in the Age of Intermedia by Jonathan Walley (Oxford University Press)

– Dialectics without Synthesis: Japanese Film Theory and Realism in a Global Frame by Naoki Yamamoto (University of California Press)

– Ends of Cinema edited by Richard Grusin and Jocelyn Szczepaniak-Gillece (University of Minnesota Press)

– Making Images Move: Handmade Cinema and the Other Arts by Gregory Zinman (University of California Press)

– Nightmares in the Dream Sanctuary: War and the Animated Film by Donna Kornhaber (University of Chicago Press)

– On the Run: Perspectives on the Cinema of Med Hondo and 1970—2018 Interviews with Med Hondo edited by Marie-Hélène Gutberlet and Brigitta Kuster (Archive Books)

– Paris in the Dark: Going to the Movies in the City of Light, 1930–1950 by Eric Smoodin (Duke University Press)

– The Process Genre: Cinema and the Aesthetic of Labor by Salomé Aguilera Skvirsky (Duke University Press)

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6th May 2021

Photography Book – The People Who Made OMM

The building of a new museum in Eskişehir, Turkey has not only provided a new contemporary landmark and exhibition space, but also a unique insight into the people involved in its construction. The beautifully crafted Odunpazarı Modern Museum (OMM) was designed by Kengo Kuma and Associates and opened in September 2019.

An overheard conversation between a passing couple and the site construction manager, Mehmet Akif, showed that he and his team saw the museum as more than just another job, as his knowledge and enthusiasm were both clearly evident. That was the start of The People Who Made OMM project, now completed in the form of a new photography book featuring black and white portraits alongside interviews with the workers who took part in the build.

Photographer Emilio Hope, better known for their work in the art and fashion field said, “The aim of our project was fairly simple – to give a face and a voice to the workers behind the museum. It wasn’t just important to create something beautiful aesthetically, we wanted to create something of social significance. OMM is a museum that was built by the community, for the community. Featuring workers who literally built the museum aligns with the ethos of OMM.”

Hearing the workers talk about the museum in the book gives a refreshing perspective on the creation of a building that will become a focal point in Eskişehir‘s culture and community.

Aydemir, Master Welder and Plasterer, speaking about his favourite exhibit:

“The artist used light and shadow beautifully. He paid a lot of attention to the minutiae. The pupils, the curls of the beard are all drawn with an attention to detail. I do charcoal drawings myself. I would like to meet the person who created this piece.”

Eşref, Finishing Foreman, on the museum build:

“It’s a wonderful project. I’ve been working in construction for 45 years and this is the first time that I’ve encountered such a lovely project. We began working on it with affection, and we’re completing it with devotion.”

The People Who Made OMM was published on 21st October 2020 and is available to purchase in English (limited edition run of 50) and Turkish (limited edition run of 1000) from the OMM Shop in Eskişehir and Minoa (Akaretler) in Istanbul.

More details about OMM, including news, exhibition and event details can be found on the museum’s website and Instagram

Portrait shots © Emilio Hope | Shots of OMM © Batuhan Keskiner

Words by Siobhan

4th November 2020

Book Club – John Cooper Clarke: I Wanna Be Yours

John Cooper Clarke: I Wanna Be Yours

The tale of a young lad from Salford whose colourful life took some dark turns, where diction beats addiction and the hero battles with the heroin… I Wanna Be Yours is, perhaps unsurprisingly, a compelling read with highs and lows aplenty, in every sense of the phrase.

From the outset, Clarke gifts us with indicators of where he learned and developed the dry satire with which he made his name. Advice from his dad (‘Never leave a bookie’s with a smile on your face’), the family dentist whose name was Frankenstein, and his leap from Rupert the Bear annuals to waxing lyrical about Dostoevsky all sound like they could slot straight into his repertoire.

His descriptions of his surroundings conjure up the mysticism of the world seen through a child’s eyes; the Italianante building that housed their apartment with the West Side Story style fire escape, the chemist on the ground floor (‘a wearer of cravats, a drencher of colognes’), being traumatised by Vivien Leigh on a trip to the cinema with his mum, all culminating in his contracting TB aged 8 and a resultant recuperation period in Rhyl. Allowed to wander free until it fell dark, he was drawn to the fairground, ‘It was a zone of full-on sensory overload: the food had too much flavour, the light was too bright, the music too loud, the smell of onions all-pervading; everything was drenched in sugar and colour’. Music became as important as books and a happy combination of the two would eventually catapult him into his always intended career of professional poet.

Live at the Charter Theatre, Preston Guildhall, 2019
© Gary M Hough at allthecoolbandsphotography

Taking his punk-poetry to the stage, Clarke’s initial break famously came from the unlikely corner of Bernard Manning and moved on to him playing gigs with The Pistols and The Fall amongst many others. He also name-checks lesser remembered bands with exemplary monikers like Ed Banger and the Nosebleeds, and his mention of Johnny Rotten having ‘the complexion of a compulsive blood donor’ is typically sharp. It’s easy to see how some of the larger than life characters he encountered along the way might later have morphed into Vince the ageing savage, Salome Maloney and Gaberdine Angus in verse.

But if anyone thought he would skip over the extraordinary range of narcotics that interloped his rise to fame, they would be sorely mistaken. There are no holds barred as he unfolds his progression through every kind of fix imaginable, gun-toting deals, failed attempts at rehab and several short-lived dalliances with death. It’s always honest, never glorified and frankly a wonder that he’s still with us.

Live at Ropetackle Centre, Shoreham, 2017
© Siobhan at 16 Beasley St Photography

Thankfully, his ongoing survival has allowed poetry to crossover to many who would otherwise have rejected its once exclusive status. He references the importance of his English teacher, Mr Malone, making the class read poems aloud and how it taught him that, ‘The main consideration is what a poem sounds like. If it doesn’t sound any good, it’s because it isn’t any good’, a premise that went on to create the most notable bard of our time.

They say that every picture tells a story. Clarke takes that concept and turns it on its head as, from start to finish throughout the book, the words paint pictures so vivid you can see the Salford streets and smell the hair pomade. Take a dip into the weird and wonderful world of Dr John Cooper Clarke, he’ll be there if you want him, ninety degrees in his shades.

I Wanna Be Yours is published by Picador on 15th October 2020 and a UK tour is planned for next year – details for both here

Words by Siobhan

12th October 2020

Kraszna-Krausz Photography & Moving Image Book Award Winners

Header photo © LaToya Ruby Frazier: Grandma Ruby and Me, 2005

Yesterday, the Kraszna-Krausz Foundation announced the two winners of its annual Photography and Moving Image Book Awards, selecting from short and long lists that were revealed in July. The prizes have been awarded to two very different, both very worthy winners.

The Photography Book Award was won by Chicago-based artist LaToya Ruby Frazier for her eponymous book LaToya Ruby Frazier (Mousse Publishing & Mudam Luxembourg), which collates a series of three photographic projects commenting on racial discrimination, poverty, post-industrial decline and its human costs. The images are both reflective and poignant and provide a compelling visual documentation of sections of society today.

Photos © LaToya Ruby Frazier: Left: Sandra Gould Ford in her office in Homewood PA, 2017
Right: Mr Yerby and Mom’s Foot, 2005, gelatin silver print, Pinault Collection

Talking about her work, LaToya Ruby Frazier says, “In my photographs, I make social commentary about urgent issues I see in the communities or places I’m in. I use them as a platform to advocate for social justice and as a means to create visibility for people who are on the margins, who are deemed “unworthy”: the poor, the elderly, the working class, and anyone who doesn’t have a voice. I create depictions of their humanity that call for equity. That is what is dear to my practice and my position as an artist.”

Photo © LaToya Ruby Frazier: Ali wearing his miner’s helmet,
coal mines of Louis Lambert, Hensies, Borinage, 13 December 2016

The Moving Image Book Award has been posthumously awarded to Hannah Frank for Frame by Frame: A Materialist Aesthetics of Animated Cartoons (University of California Press), in which Frank takes a look at the enormity of detail required to produce cartoons in the pre-digital age, offering an insight into the complexities of animation and its history.

Left: Cruella de Vil in 101 Dalmatians (Disney 1951)
Right: Cinderella’s stepmother in Cinderella (Disney 1950)

Dr Andrew Moore, one of the judges said, “This is an exceptional book: original, poignant, hugely significant and full of verve, with writing that is wry, neat and seductive. Hannah Frank’s obsessive focus on the single cell in animation calls on us to change our way of perceiving culture. Her intellectual range is astonishing: Herman Melville, Emily Dickinson, André Bazin, Walter Benjamin, Sergei Eisenstein – all are invoked to get us to think about what animation is, and to forcibly remind us of the invisible factory labour that manufactured the polished, animated commodity. Hannah Frank has given us a perfectly crystalised intellectual project.”

Popeye – Moving Image Figure 3.2 Frames from Olive Oyl’s dance in Blow Me Down!
(Dave Fleischer 1933)

As restrictions on social gatherings continue, there will not be a physical awards ceremony this year, however, the Photographers’ Gallery will be hosting a free digital event on 30th September which will include a showcase of the works and artist/editor talks and is open to the public – click through on the link for more information and booking details (donations are welcome to support the gallery’s public programme).

The judges for this year’s Photography Book Award were Professor Elizabeth Edwards, visual and historical anthropologist and independent scholar; Peter Fraser, contemporary British photographer; and Shoair Mavlian, Director of Photoworks.

The judges of this year’s Moving Image Book Award were Melanie Hoyes, Industry Inclusion Executive, BFI; Geoffrey Macnab, author, and contributor to Screen International and The Independent; and Dr Andrew Moor, Reader in Cinema History, Manchester Metropolitan University.

You can find more details about the awards on the Kraszna-Krausz website.

Words by Siobhan
Images reproduced with permission via Flint Culture and copyrighted as detailed

10th September 2020

Book Club – Tim Burgess: One, Two, Another

Tim Burgess: One, Two, Another

’Life’s a bag of Revels, I’m looking for the orange one’ (Polar Bear, 1995)

If you’ve seen Tim Burgess playing live, solo or with The Charlatans, you’ll know that it’s inevitably a happy experience. It looks like he loves what he does, like it’s still fresh, still surprising, and that’s infectious. It’s no secret that things haven’t always been plain sailing but his performing, and now writing, is approached with an honesty that is refreshing and endearing; if this was a tale of fiction you’d be rooting for the lead character to come out on top. As it is, it’s real life and the same applies.

With the release of his third book One, Two, Another this week, we get another opportunity to jump into his world and hear the stories behind the lyrics. Covering over 70 tracks spanning his career, each set of lyrics is followed by a personal annotation of their background, some funny, some sad, some a gift to the trivia collector, all painting pictures that together form a fascinating diary of the last 30 years. Having covered the autobiographical element in his first book Telling Stories, then delved into his love of vinyl and record shops in Vinyl Adventures, Tim takes us behind the scenes of the words that we’ve all come to know and love, citing influences from Bob Dylan to Wu-Tang Clan.

Tim recalls reading the printed song lyrics in Smash Hits (a ritual familiar to all those of us growing up before Google became a default) and the process of writing and hearing people’s reactions to the end product, saying, ‘My songs have recurring themes: love, loss and euphoria, and many are dreamt up as smiley, throwaway oysters. But I never know what the pearl is until the audience sing along with me.’

There are many pearls in the catalogue and it’s great to read about everything from the trips across the States to the northern nightclub bouncers that all played a part in creating some of his best loved songs across the years. As you read the book you’ll want to dig out your records and fall into the safety net they offer, pulling in your personal nostalgia and memories of times past and loved ones lost and found to match his stories. There’s a lot of truth in the lines:
‘Here comes a soul saver
On your record player
Floating about in the dust’
(Here Comes a Soul Saver, 1995)

A past Record Store Day Ambassador, collaborator with his peers (he speaks in the book of achieving his ambition of working with Paul Weller on Spinning Out) and a constant champion of new artists, Tim’s more recent tracks and albums on his own and with The Charlatans play just as important a role in the story – and who knows what the future memories from these will be?

2017’s Plastic Machinery contemplates the feeling of being pulled into the political quicksand of the current climate:
’So, let’s just run
Even if only in our heads
Leave all of this behind
Unless we could stand still’
With his immediately recognisable guitar riffs featuring on the track, Johnny Marr comments, ‘Tim Burgess is a crusader and vinyl’s epic voyager. He knows why pop’s art, a culture and a cure. Learn and listen. He knows good things.’

Johnny’s right – clear your Sunday afternoon, dust down your turntable, grab a copy of the book and enjoy.

One, Two, Another is published by Little, Brown UK on Thursday 14th November 2019

Words by Siobhan

12th November 2019

Book Club – Brett Anderson: Afternoons with the Blinds Drawn

Brett Anderson: Afternoons with the Blinds Drawn 

Taking a second plunge into the publishing world, Brett Anderson returns with his follow up memoir to its precursor Coal Black Mornings. Where his debut focused solely on the days before he was hurtled into the public eye as Suede became an improbable household name, Afternoons with the Blinds Drawn brings the next stage of the story, with a brutally honest look back at the band’s spiral to success and the pinnacles and pitfalls that inevitably came along for the ride.

Although he said this was the book he wouldn’t write, the opportunity for people to hear his own view rather the sensationalist click-bait of the headlines has brought about a change of heart. Brett describes reflecting on the period as akin to watching someone else living your life, noting that ‘it’s remarkable how hindsight can lend a clarity that at the time was beyond you’.

The book avoids the often touted glamorous tales of the music world as he talks of journeys supplemented with Silk Cut, Walkers crisps and Batiste dry shampoo. Something that is demonstrated often however is his love and respect for his bandmates past and present, whilst acknowledging the at times difficult relationships therein. The irony of recording Stay Together whilst the connection with Bernard Butler was starting to crumble is not lost; appearances on Top of the Pops and in puppet form on Spitting Image offer reminders of how Suede managed to break through to the mainstream despite, or perhaps because of, their insistence on doing things on their own terms.

© Phillip Williams 

For the music fan there are deep forays into the writing, production and performance of the songs. It is interesting to note the desire, even early on, for every musical footprint to be noteworthy, resulting in what he describes as ‘exiling classics to the wastelands of the flip side’ – the likes of My Insatiable One, He’s Dead and My Dark Star all allotted to what for most artists would be the lower echelon of the B-side. There is a clear understanding that whilst a flurry of hype will propel you into the public eye, it won’t hold your place if there is no substance to follow the fanfare.

The story can’t be told without addressing the demons of addiction that could so easily have dictated a much more desolate outcome. Again, there is no glamour or glitz attached to this period as Brett recalls ‘the substances becoming slowly harder, the evenings becoming slowly more humourless, the chances of escape from it all slowly less likely’. Thankfully there was an escape and there was enough strength in Suede as a collective to continue and move forward.

There are lighter notes throughout the book and times filled with humour and positivity. As a south coast dweller, it was lovely to hear mention of an early show at The Joiners Arms in Southampton, where Brett felt there was ‘a moment’ and recalls it as a pivotal point where the band and crowd were in the same headspace, feeling the same thing, the role of the audience so important in making everything worthwhile. (Happily, The Joiners hasn’t met the fate of many an independent venue and still exists to offer opportunities for smaller bands to play and build into something much bigger).

The book takes us to the break-up of the band in the highly anti-climactic setting backstage at The Graham Norton Show, a mark of success for some, the end of the road for Suede – in this innings at least.

© Pat Pope

With chapter names like Dogshit and Diamonds, Crouchenders and Anything can Happen in Life, Especially Nothing you know this will be no run of the mill music biography.

The leap from lyricist to author doesn’t always run smoothly but Brett has a natural skill for storytelling; he’s a compelling raconteur, a graphic scene-setter. The book offers a point of detailed reference for fans, and for any reader an insight into the disequilibrium of a band trying to make a dent on a music scene flooded with Britpop and imported rock ballads. If we didn’t know to some degree what happened next it might be a somewhat despondent ending. However, now that we’ve felt the aspirations fired by the Coal Black Mornings and spent disordered Afternoons with the Blinds Drawn, perhaps Brett will take us along on the next part of the journey and we can witness the evenings of Suede’s story in book number three…

Afternoons with the Blinds Drawn is published by Little, Brown UK tomorrow – 3rd October 2019

Photos with permission of the publisher and copyright of the photographer named

Words by Siobhan

2nd October 2019

 

Book Club – David Byrne: How Music Works

With so many great books about and by musicians on the shelves, it’s difficult to gauge which ones will make the read as compelling as the music. Here, Ryan Bell reviews one of his favourites…

David Byrne: How Music Works

David Byrne’s How Music Works is much like his music. Whether it’s his solo work, his collaborative recordings with Brian Eno or St Vincent, or as the frontman for influential art-rock group Talking Heads, he is a consistent creator of music that is ambitious and intelligent yet enjoyable, and his foray into the world of music literature is no different.

Similar to the genre fusions found in the music of Talking Heads, Byrne chooses not to craft a by the numbers autobiography, instead he flirts between the role of rock raconteur, music history professor and pop culture sociologist, amalgamating observations, anecdotes, ideas and concepts gathered from his thirty plus years in the music business. Whilst this could result in the book becoming arrogant or rambling, his writing style is informative yet conversational, with a great sense of “believe me, I’ve seen it and done it” authenticity and an enthusiasm that can rarely be doubted, leading How Music Works to be a surprising breath of fresh air to read.

This can also be attributed to the nonlinear structure of the book, with each chapter focusing on a different musical talking point such as technology, collaborations, live performances, etc. Byrne states in the preface that he feels there is still a certain rhythm to the book, though acknowledges the merit of allowing for reader permitted chapter hopping, appealing to those readers with a shorter attention span. David Byrne writes attractively throughout, however I am such a reader, and the option to jump to learning about the recording of Remain in Light over Byrne’s thoughts on music industry finances, without the result of a jumbled narrative, was refreshing. 

Naturally, you would pick up the book because of the name attached, Byrne has made a career out of being one of pop music’s most revered auteurs, and some of the most enjoyable parts of How Music Works come from his success in pairing his music history research with his own personal observations. Reading about the televangelists who inspired the Talking Heads hit Once in a Lifetime, or his time spent watching Japanese theatre for the infamous “big suit” from the legendary Stop Making Sense live shows is enthralling, particularly after witnessing his spectacular American Utopia show, which only wet the appetite to learn where he gathers his inspirations from.

As well as these, Byrne is fascinated by the wider context of how shapes sound, how geography and performance and listening spaces can affect and influence the sonic nature. He describes the uneven wall, scattered furniture pieces and low ceiling that gave legendary punk club CBGB a “remarkably good sound” and how the percussive character of African tribe music would have turned to “sonic mush” in the stone walled gothic cathedrals of the west in the middle ages.

The book is typical of Byrne, as whilst other rock/pop musicians might opt for the sexy warts ‘n’ all page turner, his eyes and ears are tuned, almost academically, towards the physics and working parts behind music’s past, present and future. Knowing that some might scoff at the idea that by doing so he is ridding the art of its enjoyment, he insightfully remarks in the preface that “knowing how the body works doesn’t take away from the pleasure of living”.

There is a wide range of ground covered in How Music Works, which at times can leave it feeling a little uneven and scattered, but it’s rarely pretentious, he never gives the impression he is writing about anything for any reason other than it fascinates him. Its structure is particularly suited for travel reads or coffee table pick-me-ups, with his knack for great pop song writing translating into cushioning the trickier moments with anecdotes and titbits, and the musical wanderlust shown throughout his career making his search for the mechanics of sound eclectic and colourful.

How Music Works is published by McSweeney’s 

Words and photo by Ryan Bell

16th May 2019