Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Tim Burgess, Telling Stories - Book Review

When I recently tried to buy this book from Waterstones, firstly the shop assistants had no idea where the one copy was in the store and when one of them enquired “Is he the one who died from New Order” (as if that would somehow help in the search for the elusive book) I decided to leave and complete my purchase online. Being the information age I stayed online and tweeted this anecdote to Mr Burgess who duly LOL’ed and re-tweeted it to his thousands of followers. Who would have thought that when I first heard and adored Tellin' Stories I’d be able to have a casual ‘chat‘ with Tim Burgees years later about his book? Big wow, you may think, but it seems somewhat appropriate to mention Twitter as not only is Tim big on the social networks in promoting his music and his imaginary online Tim Peaks cafĂ© (he talks about Twin Peaks a LOT) he also comes across as someone who likes a natter. Especially anything to do with music. And David Lynch. And New Order.

Anyhow back to the book (remember them?) and from the off I must deposit a big bag of piss over the review before I begin and confess that rock biographies don’t usually interest me that much.  Sorry. Too many predictable tales of rock’n’roll excess that either leave me insanely jealous or bored, coupled with feeling uncomfortably distant from the writer is usually enough to make me steer clear. Early on Burgess' admits that it won’t follow the usual chronological order of a biography but more a  stream of semi-conscious thoughts, which at first seems a bit odd, but is in fact a huge strength of the writing style.  Sure there is a lot of rock ‘n’ roll excess but there is a lot of love in these pages too.

As the title suggests its full of stories: some are dark (cocaine up the arse?), some are inspiring (Tim’s early Hacienda jaunts), some are enviable (hanging out with Mark E Smith/being mates with practically every decent band since the late 70s/Liam Gallagher playing him an early C90 of ‘Some Might Say’?) some are moving (lots of these), others a bit creepy (wetdreams up a tree Tim?) but ultimately very funny. The narrative jumps around across the Charlatans lengthy career and provides a genuinely absorbing read.  Although undoubtedly mad as a box of Bez’s toenails, Tim comes across as an alright guy and the type of frontman the world of music often misses these days.

As I myself got into the Charlatans at their second stage of success, the Britpop stage, I hadn’t truly realised the size and success of ‘first wave’ Charlatans; the baggy one, the number-one-debut-album-headline-everywhere one. Tim isn’t bitter about their dips in fortune over the years and seems as overwhelmed and excited about being the frontman of the Charlatans as he was twenty years ago. When I first saw them live on the Us & us Only tour they had already peaked for the second and (probably) final time, but over the years I have remained a fan of every phase of the band (the last two albums were great) and have an almost complete Charlatans collection. On many occassions Tim proudly expresses the bands achievements and rightly so- having gone back to much of it whilst reading the book its an impressive portfolio.

But what makes this book worth a read is Tim’s excitable and infectious enthusiasm for ‘getting into’ new music.  He references so many interesting bands and albums and films that I am sure I will return to the book as a reference point for new stuff. It has left me wanting to go and rifle through some stacks of sweet smelling second hand vinyl and to always remain as youthful and optimistic about music as Mr Tim Burgess.  
From a great band with such an intriguing yet seemingly luckless history (imprisonment, death, losing all their cash to their accountant. etc) this book is an honest, captivating and satisfying ‘frontmans tale’. Not bad hair either.


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