Book reviews - Jeff Zycinski, Brian Hogg, Nicky Blue, Mike Edison
Cosmopolitan Scum by Brian Hogg
There’s some truth in the old myth that while Glasgow is the music capital of Scotland / the world, Edinburgh is king of the art scene. In his 1980s book All That Ever Mattered, author Brian Hogg covered our countrywide musical history, but here he turns his attention to the capital’s counterculture since the first Festival in 1947. The title comes from an exchange between Hugh McDiarmid and Alexander Troccchi, and this in-depth volume covers the arts scene from the start of the Fringe through to the modern music movement spearheaded by Neu! Reekie, referencing Pete Seeger and Ewan McColl on the way, and it’s often unclear where the establishment ends and the underground starts. Folkies and druggies make for curious bedfellows, as do the Teddy Boys and beatniks with Monty Python, and while Edinburgh is the focus, it’s clear that its influence stretches far and wide - yes, even beyond the west coast.
Numan Versus Numan by Nicky Blue
For some, the punchline is already written - Gary Numan, despite his talent for creating chart-topping 80s hits like ‘Are Friends Electric?’ and ‘Cars’, is the object of ridicule for some music fans.For others, the Tubeway Army frontman was and is an iconic figure, and these megafans will (in the real world) go to great lengths to emulate their hero. And this (we assume) fictional work speculates what would happen when two Numan tribute acts came up against each other in the ultimate Battle of the Bands. As you might imagine, chaos ensues as aliens and conspiracies infiltrate the plot which leads to a gripping finale. Laugh-out-loud funny in many places, the not-so-ridiculous premise offers us a glimpse into the world of tribute acts - and no, you don’t need to be a fan of synthpop to enjoy an at-times poignant but mostly hysterically madcap romp which might just create a few new Numanoids.
Sympathy For The Drummer - Why Charlie Watts Matters by Mike Edison
Ostensibly a biog of Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones this tome is actually an appreciation of the art of pounding the toms, while placing Watts as the greatest of these often under-appreciated sidemen of rock. From the fairly faceless sticksmen who backed up Elvis and Buddy Holly, Edison analyses the skills of more meaty legends like Zep’s Bonham and Keith Moon of The Who and looks back at Watts’ own first love, the jazz of the 40s. But it’s not all about the rhythm, the 250 pages also looking at how the clean-living family man has survived to this day, a curious contrast between the Stones beatkeeper and bandmate Keith Richards. And although Mick Jagger’s infamous “Where’s my drummer?” (and the bloodied nose that ensued) has become legend, it’s a quote from bandmate Keith Richards which sums up Watts’ place in his band: “No Charlie, No Stones.”
The Red Light Zone by Jeff Zycinski
Most people in Scotland will have tuned into the national broadcaster at some time, and as head of BBC Radio Scotland for a quarter of a century, Jeff Zycinski has shaped the nation’s listening habits. His behind-the-scenes memoir covers his time at Radio Scotland and other stations, while his detailing of a US roadtrip allows us to see how others view our nation. As well as the laugh-out-loud moments he also writes of the impact a high pressure job can have on family life.Although there are anecdotes concerning encounters with the likes of Gregory Peck and Jay Leno, readers expecting salacious celebrity gossip may be disappointed - although there is the tale of a visit to the Highlands by Chris Evans which goes somewhat awry. But now that Zycinski has one book under his belt, you get the feeling he has plenty more to tell.