My consumption of music autobiographies has increased during the pandemic. Reading about musicians has been a reach backwards toward normality, to times when standing in a room listening to people making sound didn’t feel so unusual and distant.
My book habit hasn’t been helped by heading over to E17 for the Walthamstow Rock and Roll Book Club in recent weeks. Mark Hart has been running this for a few years but it is only since bumping into him at a record market that I’ve had the necessary kick up the backside to complete the half hour journey from Muswell Hill to Walthamstow.
I’ve been to two events so far featuring the Bunnyman, Will Sergeant, and Barry Adamson. Barry’s late of Magazine, the Bad Seeds and everybody other band under the sun, as it transpires. He was interviewed insightfully and sensitively by Andrew Male with support from his dog, Nico. Mark and his team are cracking hosts, with the Walthamstow Trades Hall bringing back some lovely working class memories for this Black Country boy.
“Up Above The City, Down Beneath The Stars” covers Barry’s life literally from birth to the start of his solo career. It is imaginatively and skilfully written in the present tense, with Barry both a participant and observer simultaneously. It could be clunky but isn’t, primarily due to the humour, love and drama of the stories being told. It feels to me to be a companion to Mark Lanegan’s Sing Backwards and Weep, another book with parallel upward and downward trajectories. There’s a sense of the born outsider finding different paths in both, with Barry’s mixed race and disabilities setting him apart from his Mancunian working class surroundings. His cinematic skills are evident throughout, life constantly viewed and framed through his own lens.
I’ll say no more about the book. It is a gripping and emotional read that doesn’t require either an intimate knowledge of Barry’s work or even music in general to enjoy. I’d written about Barry a few years ago and he is as good a writer as he is a story teller.
Barry’s been busy during the pandemic. AHe has just released a new single which he treated us to on the evening. Stolen Moments is sweetly catchy, channeling his inner Demis Roussos. It features a sleeve by the talented Stuff_By_Mark so what’s not to love?
And just remember, face your truths. As Barry says, denial is the shock absorber of the soul.