Author:D J Taylor
I bought this as I have read and enjoyed a couple of D J Taylor’s non-fiction books, and this novel got good reviews. It’s the story of a band called the Helium Kids from their rise in the mid-sixties to their decline in the seventies, and it’s told from the point of their PR man. Parts of it are very entertaining, and it’s fun trying to recognise the real life characters are based on. There is a thuggish manager who stops the band doing interviews, and builds their career on albums and stadium tours; one guitarist who is obsessed with the occult, and another who is a young virtuoso brought in to replace a drowned keyboard player and gets squeezed out of his writing credits. Some of the incidents are also based on real-life events, like an Altamont style festival. Interspersed with this are accurate pastiches of rock journalists, including David Hepworth and Charles Shaar Murray, and even a pretty good Larkin poem mourning the move from jazz to pop. Real life characters from Andy Warhol to Freddie Mercury pop up as well in the narrative. This is all enjoyable stuff.
But I thought the reviews I read were a bit misleading about the overall tone of the book, making it sound like a romp through recent cultural history. In fact, it can be a bit of a plod at times. The narrator doesn’t sound like the working class boy from Norwich making good in the sixties that he is. His narrative style seems to be based on Anthony Powell’s, disengaged, with ornate vocabulary (“the latest protemporaneous Mrs Dangerfield”) in sometimes long-winded sentences that all seem to move at the same pace. It’s an odd contrast to the story itself.
Length of Read:Medium
Might appeal to people who enjoyed…
Any of the heritage rock magazines and their well-trodden stories.
One thing you’ve learned
A surprising amount about the changing townscape of Norwich.