Tuesday, 21 October 2008

“Bringing It All Back Home” by IAN CLAYTON. A Review Of His 2007 Debut Book by Mark Barry...

"...People Try To Put Us Down…Talking About My Generation…"

As I cycle into work from the Hawaiian splendiferousness of sunny Walthamstow in East London to the sheer glamour fest of wee-wee-in-doorways that is Berwick Street in Central London, I’m constantly reminiscing - and I mean almost all of the time. In September 2008 I turned 50 - so it’s probably the age.

Moments just keep coming back to me – and bits of music too. Like “Diamonds Are Forever” by John Barry, a film I mitched school 5 times to see. Walking proudly across the schoolyard with a copy of Rory Gallagher’s “Live In Europe” under my arms knowing it to be an object of unbridled lust for other kids in my class. Meeting August Darnell of Kid Creole & The Coconuts at Dublin Airport the day after their National Stadium gig where the crowd went absolutely bananas and invaded the stage in a salsa train (“You guys can party!”). The Celtic folk-rock of Horslips on the back of a truck at a Sunday Fair in 1971, Phil Lynott busking at the bottom of Grafton Street again in 1971 with his fantastically wild hair and other-worldly exoticness, The Specials supporting the John 'Gypie’ Mayo line-up of Dr. Feelgood in 1978 (best gig ever), the awesome Bon Scott line-up of AC/DC on a cold Monday night in the Camden Ballroom in Dublin on the “Highway To Hell” tour – all of it mind-blowing…

Why mention all of these precious memories – because this book is full of that – moments in time – and most of them related to music. Ian Clayton is from Yorkshire in England - and although many of his vignettes and anecdotes are British-based - the appeal is Universal. “Bringing It All Back Home” (pictured above is the hardback below and paperback edition above it) isn't a story as such - it's chapter after chapter of great musical remembrances that will tickle pink anyone of my generation. It chronicles the years - the floor cushions and lava lamps of the Sixties segue into the cheesecloth shirts and Oxford bags of the Seventies. It quickly moves on up to the blue Mohican haircuts of Punk, onwards to hissing purists in the audiences of Left-Wing operas in the Eighties and Nineties and finally arrives at the new Portishead offering lodged in a CD player for weeks on end. And it's bloody funny too. There’s flashbacks to Sergeant Tommy Chapman of the West Riding Constabulary who arrested Hendrix in the tiny town of Ilkley for being too loud – onwards to an in-depth discussion about harnessing aggression with the drummer in The Gang of Four in the frankly award-winning toilets of the Pontefract Town Hall. It lovingly recalls Hamish Imlach’s room-clearing farts and a best friend’s mother passing judgement on the Beatles who were decamped in her hotel, “Their shoes were perfect – every mother looks at shoes…”
As you've already guessed - it's wonderful stuff - and there's lots of it to savour.

And I also love Clayton’s use of nouns as a powerful evoker. Paul Simon won a Grammy for a song called “Rene & Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After The War” on his hugely underrated “Hearts & Bones” LP in 1983. The beautifully crafted chorus talks of an immigrant couple that find a keepsake in a drawer that reminds them of “…The Moonglows, The Orioles and The Five Satins”. Simon doesn’t say ‘Vocal Groups’ or ‘Doo Wop Music‘ like a lazy writer would – he uses their names – he uses the power of nouns. Clayton does this in almost every line. Names of bars, streets, relations, friends, places he’s been too, nick names given to candy and food – album titles, label colours on 45’s, gigs, characters at those gigs - the effect is to make you remember stuff and places and people you’d long forgotten – and love every second of it. His tastes are varied and eclectic too - waxing lyrical about the ethereal beauty of singers like Kate Rusby and Dwight Yoakham, Iris deMent and John Lydon, Buddy Holly and Bessie Smith, Chris Farlowe and Mary Coughlan, John Martyn and Elmore James, Louis Jordon and Buffy Sainte-Marie. This is a book about a man who holds up the different picture sleeves of “Anarchy In The UK” and literally trembles at the sight of them. This is my kind of guy. I sat down to read a chapter a night and came to it like a conversation with a good friend about a subject you both love.

But then towards the end comes an unexpected hammering – he and his long-time partner suffer a crushing personal blow – and you then realize why the remembrances that preceded this are so full of warmth and humanity – they’ve been written by a man who has suffered horrible personal loss and it has imbibed his writing with a quiet thankfulness for moments that seemed almost inconsequential then but are huge now. Details matter - and music that moved and shaped you – does too.

Which brings us to music in general…what is it about men and their music? Be it Soul, Reggae, Rock, Jazz, Folk, Blues, Punk, Rock ‘n’ Roll, Dance, Hip-Hop – or all of it combined? I think it’s that it keeps us young – a buzz you never get over – its forever discovering something new and brill. You see I’m the kind of soppy git who works in a record shop all day and goes out at lunchtime and goes into another record shop. 
My better half says it’s a disease – she pats me on the head like a child and hands me “Sticky Fingers” to placate the poor eejet.
”There you go dear…I’ll be back in forty-five minutes with “Who’s Next”…”
“Yum! Yum!” comes the response.

If you’re the kind of person who gets moist in the trouser area about the bits revealed under the die-cut holes as you turn the cardboard wheel on the sleeve Led Zeppelin III, if you’re the kind of moo who tingles as you open out the rare poster in the Dead Kennedys “Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables” or smiles wildly at any photograph of the wonderful and sorely missed John Peel – then this homage to music and its wondrous effect on the very soul of a person is the bedside buddy for you.

I loved this book – a life well remembered and a lovely read.
Rave On John Dunne…you seeker of truth and inner peace…

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