Wednesday, January 31, 2007

(Flooded) Room With A View

The View were in the news last week for being banned from every Travelodge in the UK. A few things cross the mind when reading this. One is the timing of the news (the incident happened in November; their album was released in the same week the news broke...hmmm...), and the thought that this is all a PR stunt anyway. Another is the limited horizons of today's pop stars; leaving a bath running doesn't really compare with throwing a TV out of the the window, does it? Clearly, they've never read Hammer Of The Gods.

However, the bit that really gave cause for concern came up in at least one report on the incident. One group member professed ignorance of who was going to pick up the bill for the damage caused to the hotel. He then guessed that the record company would pick up the tab. Well, this shouldn't really be news in this day and age, sunshine, but I'm afraid you're wrong. The record company won't be picking up the tab. True, they may actually pay the bill, but they will then recoup the money from someone else. Just in case The View are reading this (hey, it might happen!), I'll provide a clue as to who is going to be paying the bill ultimately. Just rearrange the following words into the name of a four-piece Dundee beat combo: View. The.

The band would have known this had they read Ed Jones' terrific This Is Pop. Most books about pop music are told from the point of view of, or about, the winners. Your U2s, your Rolling Stones, your Beatles. It stands to reason really; if a group is successful, there's a ready-made market for a book about them, no matter how crappy the book (usually) is. This Is Pop is different. Suntitled "The Life and Times of a Failed Rock Star", it's defiantly the story of "the others", as the back cover says. "The ones that don't make it, where there are no stars and no pat Hollywood endings...this is reality. THIS IS POP."

Ed Jones was the bassist for Wigan early 90s hopefuls, The Tansads. I'd never heard a note of their music before buying the book, and that situation remains unchanged today. In fact, I'll go further and admit that I'd never even heard of The Tansads, despite the company they kept in their brief career. Pulp, Dodgy, Kula Shaker, Cast and The Verve all supported The Tansads before accelerating past them towards chart success. The Tansads themselves released a couple of CDs through medium-sized labels, appeared at Glastonbury, appeared on magazine covers (well, cover to be precise- the June 1993 issue of Folk Roots) and regularly plyed their brand of anarcho-Celt folk rock at sold-out venues up and down the UK. I'm guessing at the sound, of course, because as stated earlier I still haven't actually heard The Tansads, but from Jones' own description, I don't think "anarcho-Celt folk rock" is wide of the mark.

Many rock books contain tales about bedsits, transit vans and service station food, but these are usually confined to the opening chapters, to be quickly replaced by limos and coke once the band hits the big time. This Is Pop, on the other hand, is all bedsits, transit vans and service station food. The Tansads, seemingly, lurched from one piece of bad luck to another, the interminable misery of living on £30 a week tempered only by occasional triumphs, until Jones finally bailed out in 1995. Throughout the book, the prose is lucid, clear-eyed, and tinged with palapable bitterness towards some of his ex-bandmates. Much of the arse-end of the music biz is described in chilling, unblinking detail: the fact that support bands often have to buy their way onto a tour, as The Tansads did with Stiff Little Fingers: that an advance is not free money: that record companies are not in the habit of paying for things without billing you later: the rule about not signing your publishing to the same company that's putting out the recording: the eye-watering rapaciousness of the recording contract: and the fact that bands get screwed royally at all turns. All lessons that The View (and countless others before them--hello, Bros) have failed to heed. That Jones is also able to inject humour, pathos and emotion into the narrative is little short of remarkable. It's the best book about pop ever written, edging out such titles as Nik Cohn's Awopbopaloobopalopbamboom, John Savage's England's Dreaming, David Cavanagh's My Magpie Eyes Are Hungry For The Prize, and Greil Marcus' Lipstick Traces. Yes, it really is that good. Not as sociologically important, I'll grant you, but Ed Jones really knows how to write (his stint at The Wigan Reporter can't have hurt).

Now out of print, sadly, the book should be required reading for all new and aspiring pop stars, just as Alan McGee claims in his foreword. McGee would probably applaud The View's decision to leave the taps running in their hotel. And reading this book might not have stopped them doing it. But at least if they'd read This Is Pop, they'd have been in no doubt that they, and not the likes of McGee, would be footing Travelodge's repair bill.

Buy a second hand copy of This Is Pop


jude calvert-toulmin said...

> leaving a bath running doesn't really compare with throwing a TV out of the the window, does it?

ha ha ha ha ha! :)

> Hammer Of The Gods.

this is on my "to read list" already, only i didn't know what the title was! thanks for that, a friend was telling us about this book. i do like biographies.

> I'll provide a clue as to who is going to be paying the bill ultimately. Just rearrange the following words into the name of a four-piece Dundee beat combo: View. The.

when bands used to make it big overnight and were being ferried around in limos and stuff, i used to think "haven't they asked who's ultimately paying for all this? don't they realise that the record company are spending the band's money in order to make the band look successful by putting them in limos?" i guess seeing the world through fame goggles makes people stupid :( i've thought i was famous since i was about eighteen months old, so it doesn't phase me now ;)

> This Is Pop, on the other hand, is all bedsits, transit vans and service station food.

ah, the underbelly of life, my favourite subject. i will put this on my reading list. oooh its available at amazon! cheers irk :)

qigbxkxt oops sorry wrong box...

irkthepurists said...

And ghgzotys to you!

If you can track it down, please do. It really is a page-turner. Your local library service may well have a copy they can order (god, I sound like a public information advert). Otherwise the remainder shops may well have copies still. Failing all this, I could loan you my copy, 'cos this book really does deserve wider recognition. Just say the word.

I see from Amazon that the author has recently had a second book published, chronicling his time as Wigan Athletic's press guy, and their recent promotion to the Premiership. Even though my interest in football is close to zero, and my interest in Wigan Athletic is less than zero, I'm tempted to buy it, because the guy knows how to tell a good story.

I didn't mention it, but in This Is Pop one of the neat tricks he pulls is having his long-suffering girlfriend chime in occasionally in a side-bar. It works really well.

BrianT said...

Better than "England's Dreaming" (the only quoted title I've read)? Must be good then. I'll look out for it on the second hand shelves(I can't afford new books).
I really do think it's time bands dropped the hotel room wrecking acts. It's so crass and self-conscious a thing to do that any claim to a knowing post ironic homage towards past RocknRoll vandals are shaky to say the least.
We all laugh at the likes of Keith Moon's TV chucking, in the rosy light of nostalgia candles, but realistically he was being a knobhead. That Liam Gallagher saw fit to act in a similar manner, without the cloak of spontaneity to excuse his act(ions), indicates what a fool he truly is.
True RocknRoll anarchy would be not following such tired routines (because that's what they are, like pantomime villains), and perhaps thinking of the poor bastards on minimum wages who have to clean up the trashed furniture, puke, shit and spunk after the punch and judy show is over.
Donny didn't climb oyt of the CBB house because of Jade and her entourage. he did it because, in the absence of like minded pseuds, he knew he would inevitably slide into being a normal and slightly ignorant young man, bottom of the pecking order or thereabouts. His act would wear out without a medium for reflection, fading until he was no more remarkable than Jack, Jade Goody's hapless assistant. He had to die early. In the absence of pills, rope, shotgun or courage, climbing out over the wall preserved his role of RocknRoll Outlaw, in the eyes of the very young or very gullible.
Yeah go on Donny! Go on Liam! The Establishment can't control you! Stick it to 'em!
Maybe what Kate Moss sees in pete is that he is genuinely out of control. He's a real fuck up, not just a boy pretending to be one. Even that though, is an obvious move. Doherty lives the myth but he entered that arena knowingly. He knew that the first fix was taking him somewhere where he would not be able to control himself, but he'd have the money as insurance, for the smack, and for the detox and rehab if need be. he could dance on the edge without falling over. Perhaps amidst that, there's the thought that if he does fall over, he will become a minor legend. A plastic Kurt. maybe he doesn't care, in which case he's closer to the myth that anyone else I can think of. Shame he'll never make truly memorable music, never be the iconic figure he hoped his dissolution would make him into. I guess one day he'll realise it, if he hasn't already, and clean up, give up the plan, and get a Proper Job. He knows his death would barely stir the surface, never mind make waves. Poor lad, but at least he jumped into the river, rather than merely dipping a black leather-clad toe into a stream, whilst shouting "Look at ME everybody! I'm mad, me!" like Rik from The Young Ones. Or Liam. Or Donny. Or...(fill in name of next cracked actor to take on the role of Ugly Sister)

Carlotta G said...

hey darling -
just about back on track, thanks for birthday hello, just noticed it -
Michael did have a squillion relatives (irish catholics) so you never know...
Thinking about going to see Dolly Parton, legend, surely she'll die soon and I'll be sorry

xx C

irkthepurists said...


Good points all, and like you, on the one hand I'm wanting pop stars to pull their fingers out and go properly nuts if they're going to do it all, while on the other hand thinking they shouldn't even bother because it's all so played out anyway, and, er, on my third hand thinking they're just being disrespectful to those that have to clean up their mess.

Re: Pete Doherty though, I'm not sure he has quite as much money as the red-tops make out. His fame is out of all proportion to his sales, and the Babyshambles album was a succes d'estime, but hardly set the charts alight. So maybe he is truly rock and roll, and wasn't expecting a rehab bail-out at the end of his ride. Also didn't he get dropped by Rough Trade? Is he currently label-less?

Re: England's Dreaming. Well, as historical and sociological surveys go, Savage's book is right up there. But, IMHO, Ed Jones' book is just more human, more tragic, has more pathos, more humour and will tug at your heart-strings. I'd better be careful. I may be overselling it.

irkthepurists said...

Carlotta, love, you're almost psychic, though I think it was Anna Nicole Smith that you were channeling, rather than that other big-busted American blonde icon. Is Dolly in the death pool for this year? I hadn't heard...

I have, however, already started hearing the Anna Nicole Smith jokes; e.g. Anna Nicole Smith dead at 39. Her tits were 21. Boom! Boom!

BrianT said...

I don't think Pete Doherty is wadded out either, but I suspect he takes somewhat from his gold-plated girlfriend (if they are still an item at time of writing), or at least has the safety net of knowing she'd probably help out financially if worst came to worse.
I don't hold any bad feeling towards Doherty. I don't know him at all, so I'm in no position to judge his humanity, but I do wish he'd just sort himself out. Kurt Cobain set the new bar height, and you'd have to jump a long long way to outdo him, poor bastard.

PS. Jon Savage spelt Soo Catwoman's name wrong in 'England's Dreaming'. Should be Soo not Sue. Spelling it 'Sue' betrays "sloppy research" according to Soo ( ). She should know, I suppose.

irkthepurists said...

OMG, Sue (sorry, Soo) Catwoman has a frickin' MySpace page? That sound is presumably Sid Vicious spinning in his grave.

And why on earth is she named after Sooty and Sweep's kinky puppet friend?

Still, I suppose it's better to have your punk heroes growing into respectable pillars of the community (isn't Jordan now a highly respectable cat-breeder? Or did I dream this?) rather than cartoon versions of themselves at 50 years old (cf John Lydon).

BrianT said...

Jordan breeds cats? LOL!!! Well good for her. I like cats, and usually like people who like cats. Wonder if she still has the big hair and the eyeliner disaster makeup? Soo's blog (yes, she has one of those too) hints that she may still have the catwoman haircut, though I'm not sure.

Come to think of it, I wonder what Sid would be like if he was still around? Bald, probably. He always had a 'high forehead'. And let's face it, he couldn't play bass to save his life, so I doubt he'd be a musician still. A Bez before his time.

BrianT said...

PS. 'Jordan' (Pamela Rooke) does indeed breed Burmese cats, and works as a veterinary nurse.
Some interesting info on her and other luminaries of the time here...
She even gets a Wiki entry!