31/01/2021

Reading - January 2021

Not Dead Yet by Phil Collins (2016)
Face Value is one of my favourite albums, and "You Can't Hurry Love" always gives me a big nostalgic reminder of my first, early teenage crush, but other than these and the usual smattering of 80s hits, I don't know much of Phil Collins' music - I don't own any of his other solo or Genesis albums. But I'd heard this was a good book, so I thought I'd give it a go. It's very well done - although obviously benefiting from the attentions of an assistant/ghost writer (Craig McLean, according to the acknowledgements), it retains Collins' voice, and (as the reviews all say), he's pretty honest about himself. Unlike a lot of these autobiographies, he doesn't minimise the sheer amount of hard work needed to achieve what he has, or the extent to which you have to be focussed on that success above anything else in order to get it. And he's pretty clear about the effect it's had on his personal life: three failed marriages and a near-death experience with alcoholism. Even if there's a touch of the "poor me" occasionally, he still manages to come across as a nice guy who doesn't quite believe he's managed to achieve so much (an amount which, it's easy to forget, is quite staggering). I enjoyed the book a lot, although subsequent listens to some of his music haven't convinced me that I've missed out particularly.
Playing The Bass With Three Left Hands by Will Carruthers (2016)
Coincidentally published the same year as Phil Collins' autobiog, this is a fantastic insight into the other end of the music industry. Will Carruthers was the bassist in Spacemen 3 and then Spiritualized. These are not insignificant bands (although possibly not as famous or important as he claims), but it didn't seem to stop him being permanently skint and homeless. Possibly being frequently out of his tree on a smorgasbord of drugs didn't help, in fairness, but his dedication to music is surely easily equal to Collins' and yet he seems to have ended up with little except a wry wit and a philosophical attitude - which luckily makes for a very good book. Highly recommended. I'll have to go and dig out Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space (which I have in limited edition pharmaceutical packaging!)
The Innocence of Father Brown by G.K. Chesterton (1911)
The Father Brown stories have a almost gothic quality that I like, but find rather too rich for frequent consumption. The style is superbly realised and the stories ingenious, but I find myself wishing they were slightly longer. The obvious comparison is with Sherlock Holmes, but in terms of prose, Chesterton is far superior. It reminds me more of the Don Camillo stories.
The Guitar Magazine (February 2021 / Issue 389)
Over fifty years since he died and still Jimi Hendrix is the headline on this month's issue. In fairness they have interviews with some current artists elsewhere but still ... fifty years ago guys!
Running Like A Girl by Alexandra Heminsley (2013)
When I last read this, I had been running for about three months and related to some of the advice aimed at new runners. Six years later and, unsurprisingly, it's the chapters about what it feels like to have achieved your goal and then stopped that resonate most. My original goal had been to run 5K in under 25 minutes, which (according to my detailed run diary) I achieved about seven months after I started. A few months after that my knee started hurting and I never really got back into the routine again. Now I am trying again (again).
Hogfather by Terry Pratchett (1996)
I started this in December, with a view to finishing it on or around Christmas - since that's what it's kind of about. The Hogfather is Discworld's Santa Claus analog and the story, inasmuch as it's about anything, seems to be about the power of belief. I don't feel like I understood all of it, or what bits of it were supposed to mean, but it's enjoyable, and I like Susan, Death's grand-daughter.
The Gospel According To Luke by Steve Lukather (with Paul Rees) (2018)
And here's yet another insight into life as a musician. If most people know Lukather at all, it's probably as a member of TOTO, but to guitarists he's one of the gods: one of the most prolific and respected session guitarists ever; his range and versatility is legendary. The book comes across as very genuine to his personality (not that I know what that is otherwise), and he talks a lot about the insanity of both working and partying hard in LA music circles. He's got a bit of a chip on his shoulder about the lack of critical respect that TOTO received - as he says, these guys were playing on everyone's records in the 80s, so they must have been doing something right - but the "partial" discography at the back of the book (twenty pages, one line per artist!) proves his point. The book reads well, even if it does feel like a bit of a list of "then I played with this guy, then that one", and everyone's his good friend - but his kind of success relies on people liking you as much as people liking your playing, so I think he must be just a very likeable guy! 

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