Amusing, but really not that alarming

24 02 2018

Going Off Alarming: The Autobiography: Vol 2 by Danny Baker

The dazzlingly funny second volume of Danny Baker’s memoirs: the television years.

Since my first book was published I have had countless friends and family members get in touch to say how come I hadn’t included this story or that tale. Was I ashamed of being shot twice, once up the arse, in Jamaica Road? How long should a man live with such a secret? If by retrospectively dropping my trousers every few pages I can reveal a fuller picture of myself during these years, then so be it.

Besides. Being shot up the arse. In front of your mates.

What else did he forget? Loads, and there’s undoubtedly plenty more to come. A couple of years after eventually getting to the first volume, I finally got round to volume 2. There are some laugh out load moments, a great set of stories involving the dog, Twizzle, and just lots of entertaining anecdotes from the world of Baker (plus the yarn about being shot up the arse). I have to say I found the final chunk of the book, focused on Paul Gascoigne, really not that interesting though.

 

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Goodbye, farewell

11 03 2017

Goodbye to all that by Robert Graves

 

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In 1929 Robert Graves went to live abroad permanently, vowing ‘never to make England my home again’. This is his superb account of his life up until that ‘bitter leave-taking’: from his childhood and desperately unhappy school days at Charterhouse, to his time serving as a young officer in the First World War that was to haunt him throughout his life.

It also contains memorable encounters with fellow writers and poets, including Siegfried Sassoon and Thomas Hardy, and covers his increasingly unhappy marriage to Nancy Nicholson. Goodbye to All That, with its vivid, harrowing descriptions of the Western Front, is a classic war document, and also has immense value as one of the most candid self-portraits of an artist ever written.

Just brilliant this and one of the best autobiographies I can recall. Graves somehow manages to encounter just about every notable artist around during his time in the trenches but also beyond. There is some comedy as well as tragedy in here, most notably when Graves’ unit is sent, in error, to Cork instead of York thanks to a Morse code mistake. Highly recommended

4.5 stars





Baker boy

5 09 2015

Going to Sea in a Sieve by Danny Baker

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Danny Baker is one of the most recognisable voices on British radio. Working as writer, presenter and broadcaster he has seen, as an insider, much of what has come to pass in British popular culture both in music and TV for over 30 years. Now, Danny tells his own story. Born in 1957 to a boisterous working-class family in Deptford and leaving comprehensive school at fourteen he traded a rich, if hard-edged, upbringing for an almost immediate, if accidental, life in London’s (very) fast lane.

In Going to Sea in a Sieve, the first volume of his memoirs, Danny explosively and honestly recalls the extraordinary roots of his long career. From the lie of being David Essex’s brother and the myth that he killed Bob Marley, to real-life dealings with Marc Bolan, The Clash, John Lennon, Elton John, Tommy Cooper, Spike Milligan and, most famously, Michael Jackson. Danny Baker’s autobiography is a wild and wildly funnytake on the collision between an incident-packed British childhood and a wild rock-and-roll youth. By the time his life in TV comes along, the Deptford boy had well and truly been around the block.

“I think these years,” he says, “are why I never bought a big red car in my 40s or have never envied a single soul.”

Some people knuckle down and plan their life’s voyage. Just a few will recklessly go to sea in a sieve…

Fun autobiography in which comedy writer, journalist, radio DJ and screenwriter Danny Baker charts his 30 years in showbiz. It feels honest and true and Baker is a great narrator of what is undoubtedly a far from ordinary life.

stars-3-5





Heaven knows I’m autobiographical now

25 01 2014

Autobiography by Morrissey 

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The most ridiculous blurb for this one:

Steven Patrick Morrissey was born in Manchester on May 22nd 1959. Singer-songwriter and co-founder of the Smiths (1982-1987), Morrissey has been a solo artist for twenty-six years, during which time he has had three number 1 albums in England in three different decades.

Achieving eleven Top 10 albums (plus nine with the Smiths), his songs have been recorded by David Bowie, Nancy Sinatra, Marianne Faithfull, Chrissie Hynde, Thelma Houston, My Chemical Romance and Christy Moore, amongst others.

An animal protectionist, in 2006 Morrissey was voted the second greatest living British icon by viewers of the BBC, losing out to Sir David Attenborough. In 2007 Morrissey was voted the greatest northern male, past or present, in a nationwide newspaper poll. In 2012, Morrissey was awarded the Keys to the City of Tel-Aviv.

It has been said ‘Most pop stars have to be dead before they reach the iconic status that Morrissey has reached in his lifetime.’

Oh dear.

Autobiography covers Morrissey’s life from his birth until the present day.

I must admit I approached this with real trepidation, almost as fearful as if I actually had to meet the great man. Most of my anxieties were indeed well-founded.

So, four chunks to this book really. An extended reminiscence of an absurdly Dickensian-sounding childhood – well-crafted but surely over-egged. Sadly dull descriptions of the early days of the Smiths followed by ranting at Rough Trade ineptitude. Then there is the barrack-room lawyering and the railing against the system. And finally we have the just rewards – the recent years of solo adoration which turns into just a bit of a tour list.

But basically everything is everyone else’s fault. It’s all a bit reminiscent of what could be regarded as a companion piece – Mark E Smith’s contribution to the autobiography genre.

In the acknowledgements for the book (unsurprisingly there are only a few) he adds: “whatever is sung is the case”. On balance I suspect it would have been better if he had let the songs speak for themselves. Whilst not exactly miserable, I’m not much happier now.

2 star





Up with the Partridge

21 07 2012

!, Partridge: We need to talk about Alan by Alan Partridge

Journalist, presenter, broadcaster, husband, father, vigorous all-rounder – Alan Partridge – a man with a fascinating past and an amazing future. Gregarious and popular, yet Alan’s never happier than when relaxing in his own five-bedroom, south-built house with three acres of land and access to a private stream. But who is this mysterious enigma?

Alan Gordon Partridge is the best – and best-loved – radio presenter in the region. Born into a changing world of rationing, Teddy Boys, apes in space and the launch of ITV, Alan’s broadcasting career began as chief DJ of Radio Smile at St. Luke’s Hospital in Norwich. After replacing Peter Flint as the presenter of Scout About, he entered the top 8 of BBC sports presenters.

But Alan’s big break came with his primetime BBC chat show Knowing Me, Knowing You. Sadly, the show battled against poor scheduling, having been put up against News at Ten, then in its heyday. Due to declining ratings, a single catastrophic hitch (the killing of a guest on air) and the dumbing down of network TV, Alan’s show was cancelled. Not to be dissuaded, he embraced this opportunity to wind up his production company, leave London and fulfil a lifelong ambition to return to his roots in local radio.

Now single, Alan is an intensely private man but he opens up, for the second time, in this candid, entertaining, often deeply emotional – and of course compelling – memoir, written entirely in his own words. (Alan quickly dispelled the idea of using a ghost writer. With a grade B English Language O-Level, he knew he was up to the task.)

He speaks touchingly about his tragic Toblerone addiction, and the painful moment when unsold copies of his first autobiography, Bouncing Back, were pulped like ‘word porridge’. He reveals all about his relationship with his ex-Ukrainian girlfriend, Sonja, with whom he had sex at least twice a day, and the truth about the thick people who make key decisions at the BBC.

A literary tour de force, I, Partridge: We Need to Talk About Alan charts the incredible journey of one of our greatest broadcasters.

I can’t believe I actually spent time reading a fictional autobiography. It was rather entertaining though in an utterly lightweight throwaway kind of way. And it did feel a little like renewing an old friendship where all the stories told are well known. Still, you could do worse.





Rebel Rebel

14 06 2009

Renegade: The lives and Tales of Mark E Smith

Renegade

Not that he would care about what anyone thought about this, but large parts of this book read like a transcript of a monologue of some old pissed bloke in the corner of a dodgy pub. Really don’t care too much about his childhood, early working life or what his Grandad was like but the details about the Fall are what this is meant to be about. His views on the unreasonable demands for credit from former band members are quite entertaining as are his comments on other bands:

When you’re mired in the shit of the times with bland bastards like Elvis Costello and Spandau Ballet, you start to question not only people’s tastes but their existences.

It’s all a bit of a mess though – despite his protestations about the importance of a strong work ethic, it does seem to have escaped Smith and his ghost writer during large chunks of this book.

2 star








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