Sunday 6 September 2020

I Miss The Lockdown.

There, I said it, and I know ‘but the economy’ and ‘people can’t stay in the house forever’ but Roy Roy Wood wished it could be Christmas every day and people are alright with that.

Sorry I haven’t posted since May when I moaned about how awful the endless online lockdown challenges were. Turns out they were just a harmless bit of fun and I did the album one again (do comment below if you want me to post it, it was unflinchingly honest on the third go round), but it’s been a weird few months and the only things worth writing about were all covid/lockdown-related and covered elsewhere. So I concentrated on writing the two books I had always planned to write this year. They were going really well up until the world re-opened and the existential dread kicked back in.

In fact I was being more and more productive right up until Taylor Swift released Folklore; since then I’ve spent all my free time listening to it in the garden drinking cider.

It’s been weird though, hasn’t it? It seems a thousand years since I published The Ballad Of Fat Labrador, and yet it was only February.

This year.

Just before everything changed and I forgot how to promote my books.

Back in April I did a lot of modelling for my wife’s art recreation challenges

Here’s me as the Angel Of The North

At the end of last year I wrote about how difficult it is for adult men to maintain genuine, healthy friendships so a couple of weeks later I started going to the open mic night in my local pub. It was fun, I was meeting new people, people I actually have something in common with - which is a pretty rare thing when you live in the arse-end of nowhere. I only started going to use it as a testing ground for my new solo act - singing the cheesiest of cheesy pop songs with a completely straight face - but quickly found it to be the community I’d been looking for. There’s none of the bitchy snark I remember from the open mic nights I went to in the 90s, and I’ve found myself in at least one teary sing-along when the brilliant Anthony Lane unexpectedly sang my favourite Gerry Rafferty song ever - ‘The Ark’.

It was good for me, making myself go out and talk to people. But on the night of the last one in March, I was self-isolating at home from work with a slight case of the sniffles, so the Heart song I’d been rehearsing ended up on Youtube instead.

The special effects are not that special

This is not the only time I’ve played with myself on film

I had a go at the virtual gig thing and while I managed to pull in the biggest audience of my solo career on a Facebook live performance, I didn’t like it. I missed the community, I missed standing outside a pub waving a cigarette at a stranger while attempting to explain why Miley Cyrus is the greatest rock vocalist of the 21st Century. So I didn’t do it again. I carried on putting edited videos on Youtube, but attempting to engage with an audience I can’t see from my kitchen is not for me.

I am missing the live experience terribly so if you are thinking of getting me to play guitar in your band, right now is the time to ask, I am pretty much certain to say yes.

Messing about with synths and banjos in my studio again (since I wasn’t having to learn any new material for bands or dep gigs) meant I ended up being a small part of the Manroom Sessions Isolation project with a bunch of guys I’ve known and played with for years. There were a lot of leftover bits once we were done and as a result I’ve put together the first new Plastic Squirrel material in five years (and filled it up with some stuff I found on a 23 year old tape).

All that aside, April was possibly the happiest I’ve ever been. There were no expectations to go out, no obligations to live up to. I was (very lucky to be) working reduced hours at my day job, with no deadlines or expectations. The weather was lovely, and the actual business end of the pandemic was (and still is) a long way away from where I live - on the edge of a moor with a decent-sized garden. I feel guilty that I enjoyed it so much, but I managed to hit my self-imposed writing targets every single day, with time to sit back and relax.

At least that’s the way I remember it now - months after the fact. I do recall one afternoon where I came back, and let the full enormity of what was happening sink in. I opened a beer, rolled a cigarette and sat on my own in the garden, no music on (there was no point before Taylor Swift released Folklore), no book, no tv, no internet. No company to distract me. It was maybe a week and a half into the lockdown and I’d been too busy dealing with the practicalities of going to work to think about the implications of a global pandemic. I remember I really freaked out. After that I made sure I took time to think, breath and relax every day. I’d had no idea it made me so anxious until then.

Now things are getting back to normal, all the old, familiar, anxieties are back to replace that creeping sense of covid dread. I miss the spring, when it felt like all humanity was taking a deep breath and we were all going to come back stronger, better, more together and united (and able to knit, run 10k, play new instruments, paint masterpieces etc. etc.) It was like all the little right-left divisions stopped being important for a moment and we really were all one people who could get through this together.

Then an awful self-entitled dickhead refused to say sorry for driving to Durham and everything went crashing back to the same level of bickering and dreadful that it was before.

And there was so much hope.

I thought my friend and former Cosmic Jug bandmate Ian summed up the feeling of that weird time perfectly with this song - Grow Bag. It’s very lovely and you should take the time to listen.

Sunday 17 May 2020

'Challenge Accepted...' - Unbearable Facebook Friends In Lockdown

“Challenge accepted, thanks to Thumby McForgottenFace, who I haven’t seen since 1987 and can barely remember, for nominating me when they ran out of friends…”

Words to chill you to your very bone in these testing times. Not when you’ve been “challenged”, no, most of these Facebook "challenges" merely involve posting the same fucking boring pictures of you gurning at your phone with your baby/pet/car/guitar/Wuzzle that you always do, just with ‘no explanations and no comments’. If they’re intended to boost your self-esteem and make you feel better then keep them off my timeline as I’ll immediately destroy what little of it you had left.

It’s those ‘share the 10 albums/books/famous artworks/Wuzzles/bogies that have had the biggest effect on your life’ “challenges” that I have a problem with*. While I am all in favour of this sharing of culture, getting to know each other and finding out who likes what, I do have a problem with the no explanations part.**
It’s just fucking lazy. I mean, yeah, it lets those who don't have the time to carefully explain exactly what it is they love so much about Eleroo compared to that massive dickhead Bumblelion join in, but it’s a bit shit.

Eleroo here is, hands down, the best Wuzzle, I will hear no arguments on the subject

I mean it’s so easy to just lie and post books you’ve never read, albums you’ve never really ‘got’ and Wuzzles you never understood (what is it with you and Wuzzles Dave?) in an attempt to appear more sophisticated. The thing about art is that it is subjective, and nothing without context. For example, you could post the cover of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and people would nod approvingly, it’s a classic. Unarguable, go you.
If your favourite tracks are A Little Help With My Friends, When I’m 64 and She’s Leaving Home and you always skip Within You Without You then you don’t enjoy music, you’re an idiot and you’re dead to me.
It’s subjective.
Both Charles Manson and I love the White Album, but we got very different takeaways from it.
Some people think Wuthering Heights (it was, apparently, a book before Kate Bush wrote a song about a terrible movie adaptation) is a beautiful - if tragic - love story, others just like the bit where Heathcliff murders a dog. (I liked the dog murdering, but I think Manson, had he been a fan, would have been more into the bleak imagery of the Yorkshire moors; see, we get different takeaways).

A lot of art is nothing without context. You’re allowed to give a wistful smile and have a little singalong at the most godawful of songs if they remind you of that amazing one night stand you never saw again. The girl/boy that got away - if only it hadn't been in the summer of ‘96 at the accidentally-smoking-the-filter end of Britpop eh? But I digress.

Actual great art is absolutely nothing without context. Sure, you listen to Sgt Pepper and it’s a bunch of nice songs (faux-vaudeville fuckery of When I’m 64 excepted) and you quite like them. However, you were born in the late '90s, and think it sounds like Oasis. Fair dos to you, it does. Once you learn about all the groundbreaking work that was done in the studio to make it (by Brian Wilson, making Pet Sounds a year before) it makes it all the better. Place it where it belongs in history and it’s much better. I mean it’s still no Pet Sounds, but it’s alright.

Not giving a shit about context is how ‘I-speak-as-I-find-and-if-you-dont-like-it…’ types go about not understanding art that isn't a drawing of a horse. Without context, Marcel Duchamp’s ‘Fountain’ is very much just an old urinal. With context it’s actually brilliant. If you take the time to dive into the context you get things, you like them more. And if you tell me about why you love the album/book you post, there’s a chance you might turn me on to it, and then you’ve done some good. Not just posted a picture of a record you like so that other people who also like it can rub their chins and scoff at those who have never heard of it.

It means you can be honest, rather than trying to look cool. For example, you can post that Kenny G album you borrowed off your mum that got you into Jazz, rather than Bitches Brew. You’d never have gone near Bitches Brew if it wasn’t for Kenny, so you owe him a tip of your hat. (Not me, I got into Jazz via my old economics teacher, Mr Furness, lending me a Wes Montgomery record, then a bit of Mahavishnu and some John Etheridge. It should come as no surprise that I only just scraped a C for economics as I was too busy talking about jazz with Mr F to remember anything about Friedman's trickle-down lies). By the way, Duotones kicks Bitches Brew’s arse in every way, don't @ me.

So don’t cop out and only post your crowd-pleasing covers, take the time (while you’ve still got it) to tell me why you love it, and I just might love it too. It’s not a competition in obscurity, not a ‘look how cool I am’-a-thon. If you were a kid in the 80s/90s and you haven’t posted a Now Album then you were either raised in a bunker or a fucking liar. Show me your books, your records, your movies, your poems, your Wuzzles (enough with the fucking Wuzzles Dave), whatever brings you joy and for God’s sake tell me why.

Convert me.

* Just to confirm, I’ve done this, I wrote this about it the first time. And apologies for the "quotes", rest assured I am not doing air quotes as I read this aloud. Just using the very sarky voice they are supposed to denote.

** I’ve done it this way as well. The second time round, I stuck to the rules and posted these albums. I bet you’d rather I’d written a little bit about context, or even which album some of them are.***

*** every time I’ve been challenged since I’ve ignored it, but do keep trying, I might get bored again.

Tuesday 14 April 2020

How Are We All Doing?

First things first, some good news inspired by some bad. I’m giving away The Ballad Of Fat Labrador for free until Thursday. It features Legends - one of Brighton’s best LGBTQ+ venues that was forced into liquidation last week, spurring me into making this free offer. I spent many happy hours dancing there and mourned its passing over the Easter weekend.

But enough of that, it’s been less than a month (rather than the year and a half it feels) since I wrote this. How have we all been? Are you stuck at home? Are you still going to work? Do you feel safe?

I’m still working, both at the day job, and the writing and the music. In fact, I’m busier than ever. My day job in the jigsaw manufacturing industry actually feels worthwhile for once, people are glad of the tat we peddle in these locked down times. We are able to work with a reduced staff and odd shift patterns to facilitate social distancing and I am ignoring the fucking idiots who keep passing round boxes of cakes and holding doors open for me. You know who you are, I love you, but stop it.

Musically I have revived my old Dave Not The Cat persona and facebook page to post videos of my favourite poptastic cover versions both there and on my Youtube channel. I’ve even done my first ever Dave Not The Cat gig for the Taunton Gay Group’s second anniversary party. I did it from my kitchen and it sounded like a man shouting into a phone with a guitar, because that’s exactly what it was. It has, however, inspired me to maybe take the show out of the shed once this is all over, and if you’re a promoter looking for an idiot in a stupid hat to sing Miley Cyrus covers then do get in touch.

While I’ve been filling time I should be spending writing on that, some friends of mine really got their shit together and recorded this album in a week. It’s a collaborative project which I enthusiastically agreed to be part of and then procrastinated over for so long I didn’t get anything recorded in time. Luckily they’re doing a second volume for which I have recorded an inordinate amount of banjo parts and a small amount of guitar.

So what with all of that, alongside modelling for my wife’s Facebook art challenge addiction; the deluge of phone calls, video calls and people I never normally speak to suddenly desperate to keep in touch and the usual looking after my small army of pets, it’s amazing that I’ve found any time to write at all. (I have though, even if it has mostly been editing things I thought were already finished).

I have - like many people worried for their mental health - been trying my best to avoid watching news as it leads to me writing rants like the following:

(Please scroll to the end for something funny and calming if you don’t wish to be enraged by my political point-scoring, incoherence, self-contradiction, overlong sentences and lack of punctuation/grammar.)

Prince William said that Britain was at its best under this kind of pressure, pulling together and supporting each other. I saw that as a damning indictment of Britain as usual rather than the compliment he intended. But then when you live in a country whose democratically elected leader tells people to stay where they are and not travel to their second homes, before travelling to his second home to recover from the disease he contracted by not following his own advice what do you expect.
Clapping is the new poppies and doesn’t fund vital services. Proper taxation does, in an interview with the Guardian last week, the folk musician Donovan bemoaned the massive taxes he exiled himself to avoid in the 1960s that led George Harrison to write ‘it’s one for me nineteen for you’ while saying it was the principle of the thing and he still had plenty of money thus arguing against his own point entirely. There are a lot of people with hope in their hearts expecting us to come out of this a kinder, more generous and better society. They are going to be disappointed when the magic money tree calls in its debts to stick a big fat capitalist union jack on the grave of their utopia.
Me, I expect the worst, we are cheering pensioners raising money for the NHS rather than seeing it as proof that it has been chronically underfunded in order to allow trickle-down-bastards to keep more of their profits on their private islands before laying off their workers at the worst possible time and still not paying anything like the tax they should be which would mean your war hero grandad doesn’t have to run five thousand heart-warming laps of his garden to the flag waving cheers of Dan Fucking Walker’s stock-photo-generic face.
Don’t even get me started on the pricks posting memes suggesting Greta Thunberg should be doing something about this. I don’t expect Tony the Tiger to come up with a viable plan for anything other than selling insane amounts of sugar to children, why should you expect an environmental campaigner to suddenly be a virologist? Your whataboutery will not stop legitimate questioning of your questionable government’s questionable response to this unquestionable crisis.
Still at least I don’t live in the USA.

Anyway, rant over, sorry.

I spent the Easter weekend editing this video of my wife, kids and me recreating our favourite singalong of 10 years or so ago. It should have been filmed in the kitchen of our old house with the kids appearing at windows and doorways on cue. But we don’t live there anymore, and we can’t all be together until all this is over.

Stay safe, and good luck.

Monday 23 March 2020

Go The Fuck Home And Stay There

Welcome to 2020, the end times. The death of all we have taken as a gibbon* these last hundred years or so. First came the floods, then came the plague. Those of us who have spent our lives being called socially distant, step forward: our time has come.

I am not here to condemn the fucking idiots who visited their families for mothers’ day on Sunday, those who had one last hurrah at the pub on Friday night, and those who are still congregating in large groups without a care in the world. I get it, I mean you’re wrong and you’ll probably kill your own mothers, but I get it. (Update, while writing this you’ve made sure none of us can go anywhere at all, thanks pricks). Nor the conspiracy theorists who are not convinced all this is to stop people dying. If the extreme measures (brought in as a result of the aforementioned fucking idiots) fail to stop after the pandemic dies down and become a tool of oppression I shall join you on the barricades brothers. Until then, I will relish the opportunity to stay home, watch Netflix and not have to feel guilty for not wanting to go and visit my nearest and dearest.

Once this is all over – if we’re not all on the barricades fighting to be let out again – we’ll have to cope with yet another economic crisis. But, if you follow the money up, who actually suffers if we just turn off the monetary system until all this blows over. Cancel rent and mortgage payments, and yes, the immediate beneficiaries will feel the burn, but cancel their payments, and the next tier and the next and everything freezes in situ as it were and nothing gets worse? Right? Cancel the debt, Fight Club style. Where does the literal buck stop and what happens if it doesn’t get there? Money is an abstract concept, no matter what anybody tells you. I’ve only got an A level in economics, and it was over twenty years ago so my argument is almost certainly flawed. But my (admittedly wildly socialist) mind thinks that if you just press pause on the financial system for a bit then this all ends far less painfully than it does otherwise. The laws of economics are not like the laws of physics, you can bend them.

I’ve always advocated Universal Basic Income and opening up empty town centre buildings for the homeless. Were such a system already in place, then the lockdown would be much easier to implement. Everybody has a warm home with clean running water and everybody has enough to eat. Everything after that counts as a luxury and you need to work to afford it. That’s it, that’s the system, not mind-blowing is it? Nobody dies unnecessarily.

Entertainers could pursue their careers without the constant fear of eviction. Musicians and comedians etc. live day to day, self-employed on gig fees that haven’t increased since I started out in this business nearly thirty years ago. Working class kids could pursue whatever career they want without fear of ending up broke and dead. And right now we wouldn’t have to politely watch the endless live-streamed gigs of our former favourite artists before tipping them via the virtual paypal hat.

Obviously I will be accepting tips for this magnificent performance

The virtual pub is the best thing to come out of this, and I shall be implementing it as soon as possible (friends, message me, we will make groups). Multiscreen calling on your messenger system of choice via laptop or phone. It has many advantages:

1) Your evening can’t be ruined by some weirdo nobody else actually knows barging in and banging on about something none of you care about.

2) You can all listen to whatever music you like, separately. Use headphones and avoid spillover.

3) The bar is much cheaper and nobody has to wait to get served. Also you won’t get saddled with the expensive round.

4) If somebody gets too boring you can pretend your connection has dropped out, rather than having to go for a pretend piss to get away from them.

5) You no longer have to go outside to smoke/vape (unless you don’t like the stink in your house) and even if you do, you can take the rest of the “table” with you.

6) You no longer have to put up with the smell of your smoking/vaping friends when they come back to the table.

7) You can turn up in your jim-jams, no shirt, no shoes, no problem.

8) It is much easier to leave and go to a different “pub” with another group of friends.

If you’ve made it all the way to the end then thanks for reading this disjointed mess. Please stay safe, don’t spread it about and if you need reading material then please consider one of my books and don’t be like the Facebook woman who has boycotted Amazon for principled reasons and thus will not buy my books from there.**

* Still my absolute favourite eggcorn of all time.

*It’s the only self-publishing platform I can afford, most of the profits go to me, and their self-publishing program is one of the few actually good things that Amazon do. It also works out much better for me (and other Amazon authors) if you go exclusive – for the Kindle Unlimited benefits. Amazon may be destroying a lot of businesses but principles will only get you so far, and all big companies are dicks (see Waterstones). If you can’t buy it anywhere else it should be a no-brainer. Don’t be a dick.

Thursday 13 February 2020

The Mysterious Allure Of The Cover Band

I’ve taken another fictional dive into the murky world of cover bands with my new book, Weekend Rockstars 2: The Ballad Of Fat Labrador, which comes out today. Why do I continue to write about this strange niche group? The slightly less embarrassing alternative to Civil War re-enactment societies? (It’s a fair comparison, they’re both pretending to be something they’re not, and go all wistful if you mention New Model Army). Honestly, it’s because – however uncool they may seem, however tragic and mid-life crisis related – I love them, and not just because they have paid for a substantial chunk of my mortgage over the years.

Even in covers bands you get to have embarrassing
photos of you spread over the internet

I have spent most of my musical career playing in covers bands – much to the horror of many of my much cooler friends. But while they kept their integrity (by endlessly travelling from one end of the country to the other for no money and apathetic audiences) I had a good time and got paid with minimal effort.

There’s no footage of my very early cover bands that isn’t on a VHS tape somebody else owns
But the rhythm section from my first band are in this clip of Jealousy and the Cat
doing Ozzy Osborne songs in Westward Ho! last year
If you listen very carefully you’ll notice I don’t remember the riff
that leads in to the chorus until the very last verse

I won’t deny that anybody who plays pop music has wanted to be a star at some point. Maybe only fleetingly, but they have. Who wouldn’t want to be up on a stage with thousands of adoring fans hanging on your every word? That’s certainly why Alice and Becky, from The Ballad Of Fat Labrador, got into it – however much they deny it.


If you actually intend to make a career of it, be Beyonce, have the moves like Jagger, shake it like a Stevens, it turns out you have to make sacrifices. To start with you have to work really hard, practice all the time until you can sing/play/dance better than anybody else you know – at the very least.

Then you’ve got to get out there, play every gig you can hustle up – even if it clashes with your mum’s birthday/the birth of your first child/your step-daughter’s 18th (sorry Rudi) – without false modesty. You are good, and if you don’t know it, you won’t make it (you have to believe it even if you’re terrible).

But even then, unless you already live in a city with a thriving music scene, you now have to either move to somewhere you can’t afford to live – because you’re a musician and you don’t have the commitment for the kind of career that pays enough for actual rent – or spend all your meagre earnings on travel. Sorry, AND spend all your meagre earnings on travel, because you can’t make a name for yourself only playing in walking distance of whichever mate’s sofa you’re kipping on this week.

Here’s me playing bass with the wonderful Carnivala!
We were an original band and often got to play large, well-equipped stages like this one
(sometimes they had actual audiences in front, but you can’t have everything)
Please note this is a cover version we’re doing and that’s not our fiddle player or drummer
All those gags about rotating line-ups had to come from somewhere

So that’s: working hard, working unsociable hours, driving long distance in the middle of the night/sleeping in a van, living somewhere awful, and having no money.

And then you still need luck, timing, and the stars to align in your favour when the blood gods smile upon you for that one big break.

The one big break that still doesn’t guarantee you a career.

You are very, very unlikely to make it, and the attempt to do so will probably break you.

And what if you can’t write catchy songs/don’t have a mate who writes catchy songs/aren’t really interested in songwriting?

You could try and be a sideman, or a session guy, or Bez, but all of the above still applies – especially the moving to almost-certainly-London part. If anything the competition is even harder, and the guys who have been doing it for the last fifty years are still doing it best and getting all the good gigs.

Carnivala! again, in a sweaty Torquay pub on a Sunday afternoon
Playing to the other bands on the bill and the staff
And fuck me if we aren’t doing another cover here
I was sure we wrote our own songs

But you like singing, you like playing, you don’t see the point in doing it at home on your own (you didn’t spend all that money on fuzz pedals just to upset your cat) and you have no interest in fame, fortune and an early death from sexual misadventure.

And crucially, you don’t want to do the thing you love for a living and turn it into a job.

A job you might hate every bit as much as any other.

But you may, like Alice from The Ballad Of Fat Labrador, be utterly entranced by the sound you can only get from an overdriven electric guitar in a room full of people:

“There is nothing she loves so much as the electric guitar, so magical; not its lesser sibling, the cutesy twinkling acoustic. Alice is no manic pixie dream girl picking out delicate versions of disco classics. Accept no substitute for the unstoppable electro-magnetic force of an unleashed electric guitar.
Driving home tonight angry, a little faster than she meant to, she felt the same thing: that power under your right foot as you squeeze the accelerator. The speed-freakery of it all, it’s the same feeling she gets wringing an endless distorted singing note from the neck of her guitar. Loud music, fast cars, they’re the same thing. It’s about control. It might be the same feeling that drives people to be serial killers.”

It is addictive, and more eco-friendly than all the driving and murdering that the alternatives present.

But you don’t have to be Charles Manson, you don’t even have to be a Beatle. There is no need to do all that work, there is another way.

You can play other people’s songs, get paid and get to sleep in your own bed (in the rural paradise you love) every night.

And you don’t have to do it every night if you don’t want to.

Join a cover band, there is no shame in it, no matter what the hipster pricks tell you. You get to make big exciting noises and have the mad rush of a room full of people singing along without having to fight your way through the ‘being-a-rock-star’ gauntlet first. The entry bar is amazingly low. All you have to do is be able to play an instrument to a basic (very basic in some real life cases I have witnessed) and be able to carry a tune (again, I’ve seen, walked out of, and in some cases actually been paid surprisingly good money to play with those who genuinely can’t).

I keep saying cover bands get happy crowds
but you’re just as likely to end up on the back of a truck in the pouring rain
singing to nobody but your step-daughter and your dog as in any other band
As illustrated by this clip from 2003 at a charity gig for ‘exposure’

The lure of getting paid AND getting an engaged audience very quickly swayed me in my teens and while I did play a lot of very worthy original music to a lot of very empty rooms, I also played a lot of cheese to a lot of very happy crowds.

Don’t get me wrong, I have played original music on stages in front of hordes of adoring fans. It’s just that they were fans of the headline act and impatient for us to fuck off out of the way.

For those like George, the hero of my first novel, Weekend Rockstars, who don’t even pick up an instrument until they are in their forties, the idea of ‘making it’ in a rock band is out of the question. But they should not be denied their endorphin rush, any more than those who don’t feel like paying a hundred quid a ticket and driving hundreds of miles to see a band should be denied the joy of a night out singing along to live music they love. Cover bands fill a need on both sides and are a very good thing and this is the hill I shall die on.

Me playing bass with the Spaced Invaders back in 2010
to a room full of drunken, dancing idiots
That massive grin on my face isn’t faked
I was having a very good time

Monday 27 January 2020

The Best Books About Rock And Roll That I Didn't Write - A List

Having written two books about being in bands, I have now read an awful lot of books about bands (research, research, research). Most of them are biographies but there are a handful of fictional ones, almost exclusively about people who dream of being rock and roll stars before going on to do so in exciting, original, world-bestriding bands that crash out spectacularly.

My Weekend Rockstars series is not about that. The first book is about a middle-aged bloke who joins one of those dreadful bands that turn up on a Saturday night down the Dog and Duck at the same time as your main course and start playing Mustang Sally.
(And you can download it for FREE for a limited time only when you sign up to my mailing list)

In the second he drags his teenage daughter into it after her rock and roll dreams crash out spectacularly.

(Available to preorder now for February 14th when it comes out)

Only they’re not really about the band, they’re about love, sex, friendship, family, death, grief and how there’s nothing like a midlife crisis and a band to amplify the tensions between them.

If that sounds a bit bleak (and it’s not, it’s actually 'a really fun romp, with a gallery of great comic characters' according to Fiona Leitch (writer of the extremely funny Dead In Venice)) then maybe you’d like to try some of these other fictional books about bands that aren’t really about bands.

Daisy Jones and the Six - Taylor Jenkins Reid 

It’s really difficult to explain what’s so good about this book without spoiling the end. I can tell you it’s a great twist on the fake documentary genre. I can tell you that if you know anything about Fleetwood Mac and the making of Rumours then you’ll love it. And I can tell you that if you love all the madness and debauchery of big ‘70s rock music you’ll love it.

Told as an interview transcript with members of the band, their families and various hangers on, the narrative’s delivery method sounds like it could be a bit dry, but you very quickly get drawn in, start to wonder if anybody is actually telling the truth and realise it is absolutely the only way the story could be told.

Soul music - Terry Pratchett

This is the best book about being in a band ever written - because it’s by Terry Pratchett. (See this post for why he was so important to me.)

Any Discworld book with Death in is great, add Susan Sto-Helit, Albert and the Death of Rats and it is even better, throw in CMOT Dibbler as Colonel Tom Parker and it’s gold (or glod).

The puns are par excellence (Cliff, on a mission from Glod, he looks a bit elvish, etc. etc.) and The Band With Rocks In are almost certainly the greatest band to never exist. It was the first Pratchett book I ever read and as such is probably the most important book in my life and I will not hear a word said against it.

Here’s some of the Band With Rocks In’s songs in case you’re not yet all in.

1) "There's a Great Deal of Shaking Happening"

2) "Give Me That Music With Rocks In"

3) "Pathway to Paradise"

4) "Born to Rune"

I mean, come on. I feel no need to give an actual review as if you haven’t read it we probably can’t be friends.

Call me maybe - Stephie Chapman

There is a very small genre of books (which I am proud to belong to), the bass-player centred rom-com, of which this tiny gem is a part.

In a wonderfully believable bit of coincidence, Cassie ends up messaging her teenage crush - Bass player Jessie Franklin of short-lived (fictional) 90s boy band Franko (who aren’t Hanson, definitely not Hanson, not even similar). He’s now just a regular session musician in California and almost nobody remembers who he used to be.

They meet up and embark on a fantasy transatlantic love affair which gets all the twists and turns and ups and downs you want in a rom-com thanks to his family/former bandmates.

It’s a story with so much heart, and such likeable, relatable characters that I instantly fell in love with it and recommend it to anybody who has ever had a teenage celebrity crush. It has given me hope that Tiffany (off of the 80s) will one day know that I exist.

Reprobation - Catherine Fearns

On the surface this is a gritty crime thriller about a gay scouse detective who teams up with a nun to solve a series of grisly murders. That should be enough to get anybody hooked in to this excellent trilogy (at present, I’m hoping for more). But…

Mikko Kristensen, singer and lead guitarist of Death Metal Band Total Depravity (and font of all Satanic knowledge, obvs) steals the show, (and is eclipsed by his drummer, Knut, in the third part of the series, Sound, though that might just be because Knut reminds me of all the drummers I have ever known). Music - and particularly metal music - is a central theme to the story, and Fearns describes the unbridled joy of a fuck-off-loud concert in the most perfect way I have ever read.

I realise this is not really a book about bands, but it does feature a band and has one of the most beautifully grotesque openings of any book I’ve ever read.

Also, GEVA have recorded an EP based on it that I only just discovered and I really, really like.

Espedair Street - Iain Banks

This bit of Banks (expect maudlin, expect self-deprecation, expect funny, be pleased there’s no incest for once) follows the old familiar rags-to-riches-to-crazy-recluse formula. But it’s by Iain Banks, so it’s beautiful and complicated and leaves you with a vague sense of unease.

In all honesty, I read it in my early 20s and it stayed with me, so my recollection of the details is sketchy at best. In doing my minimal research for this blog post I am disturbed to find that Daniel Weir, the old, washed-up rock star protagonist is only 31. 11 years younger than I am now. It’s kind of funny, so I include it in the Bass Player based Romcom genre currently only occupied by Stephie Chapman and myself.

The Thrill Of It All - Joseph O’Connor

It’s the usual weird outsider kids meet, form a band, get unexpectedly big, take too many drugs and all fall out with each other story. Pretty much all of which happen because the narrator fancies a girl upon which the whole plot hinges. Most of the books on this list fit that mould - even the Pratchett one - and that’s okay, because it’s what you want when you buy a book about a band.

Joseph O’Connor, however, manages to tinge it with more poignancy than most, ignoring the glamour and painting the realities of sleeping in vans, squatting in old industrial units and having to sell that one perfect guitar to carry on living over the usual depravity, debauchery and reckless spending.

Robbie Goulding owes more than a passing nod to Danny Weir from Espedair Street - but that’s no bad thing, neither are the multiple perspectives and album reviews/press cuttings that may in turn have inspired some of Daisy Jones and the Six’s style.

Ultimately, like being in a real band, it’s about friendships and the terrible things that can happen when you drop them into the high pressure world of rock and roll.

The Rock and Roll diaries - Jamie Scallion

Everything I said about The Thrill Of It All applies to these tiny bursts of teenage joy. Scallion, however, takes it in the other direction. Rather than the grubby realities of a band on the road these joyous celebrations of being a kid with a guitar give you the sudden rise, the unexpected record contract, getting the girl, writing the songs and being the fucking king of the world.

They’re not big books, they’re not complicated books, and they’re not realistic books (actually I don’t know, I’ve never been in a band that made it, this could be exactly what happens). But they are utterly joyful and I read all four in a row at great speed with a massive grin on my face because they made me feel like the 13 year old kid desperately writing awful love songs to the pretty girl in the year above me at school on my dad’s guitar I once was.

Written as blog entries, twitter feeds and the diaries of the title, it’s a format that suits itself to stories of bands - especially sulky, uncommunicative teenage bands.

Scallion also wrote and recorded the songs (with a bit of help from real band, The Script) as well, enjoy.

High Fidelity - Nick Hornby

Oh come on, you’ve read this, or you’ve seen the movie at least. It’s not about a band, I know that. But it does have some of the best being-in-a-band jokes you’ll ever hear. Not least the constant name changes of Barry’s band (to rival The Whom/&U/Surreptitious Fabric from Soul Music) from Barrytown, to Sonic Deathmonkey right up to Barry Jive and the Uptown Five - or were those gags just in the movie? I forget...

Anyway, I couldn’t leave it out.

The Dirt - Mötley Crüe

But Dave, I hear you cry, Mötley Crüe aren’t a fictional band, they’re real, you love them, you have all their albums and will play Dr Feelgood or Livewire at any point without any encouragement.

And yes, that’s true, but given everything they detail having done in this book, I don’t believe they recall any of it, and thus I’m calling it fiction about a real band - like KISS save Santa.

(I haven’t read it, I just watched the movie, sue me.)

Honourable mention needs to be made to John Niven’s Kill Your Friends, and Caitlin Moran’s How To Build A Girl, although I think those two gave fictional names to real bands (in order to avoid legal action).

And you can find Caitlin’s How To Be Famous, and The Rock ‘N’ The Roll, ‘N’ That... by Steven J. Gill on my to read pile - I can’t recommend them yet, but they’ve got bands in and purport to be funny. Will report back - keep your eye on my Goodreads account for more.

Weekend Rockstars 2: The Ballad Of Fat Labrador is available to preorder now from amazon and you can catch up on the story so far by downloading the first Weekend Rockstars for free (for a limited time only) when you sign up to my mailing list (feel free to unsubscribe later if you don’t like it).