Thursday, 14 February 2008

The Big Wheel

The Attractions had disbanded (Elvis Costello had moved on musically) before Bruce Thomas, their bass player, wrote this memoir, mainly reflecting life on the road. He's an intelligent writer (no ghost writer needed here) with a wry sense of humour, and the book meanders back and forth with a string of anecdotes that will as often as not bring a smile to your face. Sadly it didn't bring a smile to EC's face though (maybe the revelation that Elvis had to go out to the toilet 6 times each night before going on stage had something to do with it), so when Warner Brother records forced an Attractions reunion on him the atmosphere was more than strained. But that lies beyond the timespan of this book which, although somewhat slight, makes for a very good read.

I wish I could say the same for 'Papa John', another rock memoir I read recently. Lots of anecdotes here too, but every one of them involves drugs and John Phillips comes over as the most dislikeable person. He does use a ghost writer which is a shame, because the lyrics to his songs with the Mamas and Papas showed that he was a very articulate man, and this book could not have been any worse than this depressing 'autobiography'. John Phillips is dead now, and 'Papa John' is thankfully out of print. 'The Big Wheel' is out of print too, but it's not too difficult to find a copy. Best tale in it? For me it would have to be the one where he accompanies an Irishman to collect a (very large) stock of secondhand Wellington boots in his (pre-fame) group's ageing van.

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