More than ever in this age where success and celebrity seem to be the only viable currency and fame the only worthwhile goal we are snowed under with rags to riches autobiographies of people we only vaguely remember or who came to pubic attention by acting in the most attention seeking and ghastly ways on a so called reality TV show. But what about the people who tried something worthy and never quite made it, those who sought critical acclaim for their art rather than its sometime by-product fame, those who when examined by a colder, more cynical eye could be classed as the also-rans. This is a book about just such a group of people.
When I was 16… is the story of the authors drive to turn his admiration for the Blur guitarist into a functioning band and all the usual trials and tribulations that entails. On that level it is the usual tale of a provincial band navigating the musical backwaters of London’s alternative rock scene, of meeting your heroes, of impoverished nationwide touring, of breaks and setbacks, rave reviews and of dedicating “some genuine time to alcoholism.” The realities of being in a band shown in its true colours.
But its certainly a case of the singer not the song in as much as it isn’t the facts and dates that make this a worthy read but the brutal honesty and insiders view of pursuing that musical dream through the jaded backroom venues of the musical underworld. The gang mentality, the gradual decline that inevitably comes with over-exposure to fellow band mates and the not even a bang but a whimper final act. But for every Arctic Monkeys, Oasis and of course Blur, there are hundred of these stories being told in corners of music venues and early door pub crowds the length and breadth of the western world. If you get to the end of this book and still want to be a pop star, you are probably insane enough to make it.
The length of the piece should be described as a dissertation rather than a book, one that combines Adams distinctive art work, photographs and gig reviews threaded together with a writing style that weaves Mervyn Peake’s linguistic poetic license with Nick Kent’s “I was there” prose.
With every major album release you should get a copy of this book. This is how not to become famous. This is Le Neon.