Monday 10 November 2008

Book Review of:
(Sceptre / Hodder Headline
Audio ISBN 0-340-71566-9 £10)

It’s said that Nick Hornby’s ‘High Fidelity’ first legitimised male trivia-obsessiveness. And post-modernism says it’s cool to intellectualise subjects of no consequence. So defining your key life-moments via scratched B-sides and ‘NME’ back-issues is valid. Then there’s the cachet of slight DJ celebrity... Radcliffe’s highly entertaining semi-lit Radio Two ‘Evening Show’ used to programme mid-rated poets like Simon Armitage, Ian McMillan or Jools Denby, then invite Pop Stars to read excerpts from their favourite ‘Cult Books’ (Sarah Cracknell chose ‘Heart Of Darkness’). His current 8-10pm shot with Stuart Maconie continues the tradition, and is just about the most literate fun you can get for your license fee. So Radcliffe’s ‘My Life In Music’ in joined-up writing, should be worth your attention. Or perhaps not. Radcliffe, a self-confessed ‘pain-in-the-arse hyperactive gobshite’ is also a drummer with ‘delusions of adequacy’. He began with such ‘kick-botty’ bands as Berlin Airlift who were tail-end Glam-wannabes so in awe of Ziggy Bowie that they raided half their Mum’s make-up, and shoplifted the other half from Boots. Their meteoric rise ‘too long and fictitious to print here’ took him all the way from his bedroom to the bottom of Chorley New Road. The Punk revelation took him further ‘along the rocky road to anonymity’, by spewing Ridiculous & Jones, plus a group called She Cracked which also included a genuine ex-Buzzcock, and the Ska-tological Bob Sleigh & The Crestas who almost mastered the finer points of ‘starting and finishing together’. Such Rockist ambitions continued through student life where fellow academics strive to perfect the art of acute constipation ‘to save themselves the effort of wiping their arses’ and intellectual distractions include ‘who farted in the chicken & mushroom pie’. A trip with Skrewdriver to play a bill under Generation X at the Groningen Festival in Holland with ‘a Bill Sykes’ manager ‘as trustworthy as the childcatcher in ‘Chitty Chitty Bang-Bang’’ is about the high-point (‘we’d have been out of our depth in a birdbath’ he admits) - until the Shirehorses play Glastonbury! Finally, with receding hairline to match receding Rock Dreams, there’s radio. Along the way he divulges the secret of Andy (XTC) Partridge’s arrowed strides, and offers theories pertaining to the post-gig sweat saturation state of Thom Yorke’s insoles. For those unwilling to pit braincells against such profound print-matter the audio-book edition comes backed up with soundbites from the aforesaid Shirehorses plus emphasis from occasional on-air soul-mate Mark ‘Lard’ Riley - sometime Fall guitarist and cartoonist for the late lamented ‘Oink’. And throughout, Radcliffe opts to replicate his amiably loutish radio persona, each phrase punchlined with gags and smart-ass sniping (‘when your Dad likes your record collection it’s time to move on. Even it means Marilyn Manson’). It’s shallow, mindlessly entertaining and laugh-out-loud funny, in a single-dimensional way. Sure, it could be better, but perhaps he’s saving the best bits for book two?

Published in:-
‘GIG CENTRAL Vol.6 No.5: Feb’ (UK - Feb 1999)
‘ROCK ‘N’ REEL no.32: Spring 1999’ (UK - April 1999)

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