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Frank Sidebottom was a novelty act from the Manchester music scene of the late 80s/early 90s. Sporting a fibreglass cartoon head, Frank (played by Chris Sievey) would perform strange Beatles/Queen/Bruce Springsteen covers with his Oh Blimey Big Band, of which Jon Ronson was the keyboardist.

Ronson’s brief memoir comes out just as a movie version of Frank Sidebottom, starring Michael Fassbender and Maggie Gyllenhaal, is released and recounts the barmy days he was in the band. There isn’t much to this book – Frank was a character Sievey played who revelled in chaotic stage shows and whose success was relatively low (his biggest gig was opening for Bros at Wembley to an audience of 50,000 who booed him as he came out and played terrible renditions of Bros songs).

It’s kinda funny and tragic that there was this Jekyll/Hyde nature to Sievey and that he actually seemed to prefer being Frank to the person he was in real life, and that professionalism was the death of the band – Frank’s improv/freestyle showmanship was what made him stand out, and bringing in actual musicians and rehearsing made him less appealing to audiences. Ronson clearly liked Sievey a lot and his book casts him as crazy and George Bernard Shaw’s Unreasonable Man, but that these were admirable qualities in this unique individual and made him stand out.

Ironically, nearly everyone else in Frank’s periphery became hugely successful – but not Frank. Caroline Aherne, then a secretary at the BBC, played a character in a skit during Frank’s radio show: Mrs Merton. Aherne took the character and developed it into The Mrs Merton Show and the enormously successful follow-up, The Royle Family, making millions and winning numerous awards.

Their van driver was Chris Evans who went on to become one of the highest earning celebrities in the UK, earning tens of millions for his breakfast radio show; and of course Ronson himself who went on to become a successful journalist, documentarian, and bestselling writer.

Frank Sidebottom/Chris Sievey would die of throat cancer in 2010, penniless, whose funeral and commemorative statue would be paid for by his fans, who came out in droves to donate when he passed.

Ronson’s short memoir – nearly 70 pages made up of double spaced, large font sentences with full page photos – is padded out further with a brief look at another outsider artist music group, The Shaggs. They were a small group from the American South who grew up on a farm, isolated from the outside world, and banned from listening to music until one day their crazy dad gave them instruments and demanded they become a successful band.

The music they made is the music of people who didn’t know what music was and who created it without influences or having heard a single song – the results are extraordinary! Check out “Philosophy of the World” for some of the weirdest music you’ll ever listen to (though The Shaggs have their fans – Kurt Cobain and Frank Zappa both rated their record as among their top 5 greatest albums ever made!).

This is an entertaining short book about a moderately interesting person that doesn’t quite feel worth the full hardback price as you’ll read this in under an hour, and the piece will probably appear in a Jon Ronson collection like Lost At Sea sometime in the future. That said, the Kindle price is (currently) 59p which is definitely worth it. Despite its brevity though, Frank is a fun read that Ronson and Frank Sidebottom fans will enjoy.
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on 29 May 2014
Being a fan of Jon Ronson, I was looking forward to Frank despite only having a passing interest in Frank Sidebottom.

I think this is the only "book" that i've read from cover to cover in under 40 minutes.

The typeface can be read from the moon, there's scant information in the book, and it's basically a long article. There's next to no "on the road" anecdotes, and Ronson manages to make his time in the band sound like the worlds most boring experience.

The book could of benefited from some editing too. That said, doing so would of made this book the length of a menu.

It's worth a read for 50p on the kindle, sure. Don't buy the book though.
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on 7 January 2015
I'm a huge Frank Sidebottom fan. I was excited to find how we get from the real Frank to the Film Frank. Unfortunately I'm still none the wiser.

It's just so very very short (about 30 minutes reading time), and what it does say isn't all that illuminating or exciting.
It feels like a preamble from the longer book. But then you find you've got all the way to the end.
A very unsatisfying 30-minute read.

I'm baffled by the positive reviews others have given this.
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on 2 June 2014
A few interesting insights but overall this felt like a book written purely as something for Jon Ronson to sign at his talks about the film 'Frank' which is a film that's not really got much in common with the story of Frank Sidebottom. Short at under 70 pages many of which are photo pages, many of which are stills from the film. An brief introduction to Frank Sidebottom at best. Did I mention a film's been made...?
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on 23 May 2014
I'm a big fan of Jon Ronson. In fact I even read his books from before the time he decided to use the 'Men Who Stare at Goats' font on everything. Obviously the film has done him no harm. In the older books his bio states he 'Lives in London' now he 'Lives in London and New York'. Fancy. It's only a matter of time before he adds 'Paris and Milan'.

This latest book is about Frank Sidebottom. A wonderfully eccentric part of the British music scene of the late 80s. I own Frank's first ever EP although admittedly it's not something you'd play everyday. Frank however was more than his music and this book captures that time perfectly in Ronson's traditional honest and humorous style.

One thing I would say however is that the book is little more than an extended article. At 60 or so pages with nice big letters and wide spacing you can easily read the book within an hour. At a full retail of £7.99 this is a bit steep..unless you've got your eye on a place in Paris or Milan that is:)
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on 29 March 2015
Ridiculously short book. Not worth buying at all. Put me off the film now too. 71 pages! Laughable and not in a good way.
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on 1 February 2014
There's definitely a massively brilliant story to be told about Frank and no doubt lots of different small ones.

This is one of the small ones - overpriced for what I paid for it, but seemingly it has been lowered since then and a massive chunk of it was printed in the Guardian. A good and quick read, well priced in comparison to the multitude of disposable items we buy daily, poor value compared to many of the other books on Kindle- it just comes down to what sort of value is right for you.

There has to be better books to come about this legend - you know he was, he really was
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on 19 January 2014
Interesting short ebook about the writing of the forthcoming film Frank, which is based on Frank Sidebottom. The book is not that filled with funny tales about Frank or his creator Chris Seivey, of which there are many. Those will come in Mick Middes book, and the planned documentary.

What I found interesting was Ronson' s repositioning of Frank / Chris alongside outsider artists like Beefheart, Daniel Johnson and the Shaggs. I had never looked at him in that light before (Captain Beefheart never drank in the Rovers for a start). But it seems a fair comparisons.
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on 22 June 2015
A month or so after checking out the movie and being delighted that after a few years I had finally watched something modern that was a bit different, I started watching some of Frank Sidebottom’s old footage on You Tube.

I wasn’t overly impressed straight away, I must admit. This was until I found his ‘Proper telly show’, from channel M. Suddenly I got it - as strange of a phenomenon as he is – I got it. I was in stitches at some of the child-like whimsical humour, which strangely appeals to older audiences. He somehow borders the outrageous, without being dirty or offensive. It is a real talent.

This does not mean that comedians that push the boundaries of taboos do not have their place and people can get easily offended especially when irony is involved. But Frank is something refreshing, different, odd and off-beat – but in a good way.

My curiosity peaked and I decided to read more on him. As this book was more of a first-hand account of ‘the true story that inspired the movie’ I thought it may have given a few more insights into his life from someone who knew him well and also shed light on what parts of the screenplay were fictionalised and which were true to real life.

Although the book is well written in terms of being concise and even non-sensationalist, I think it attempts to be too objective / matter of fact and therefore some of the emotional and funny stories are not squeezed of all their potential juiciness.

A couple of the anecdotes brought a smile to my face and a couple of the sadder aspects tugged at the heart strings a little. There is also an apt analogy of frank attempting to adapt the world to himself rather than vice versa in there, which really hits the nail on the (paper-mached) head.

It is a decent, easy read, but it is just a little too short-lived and journalistic for my liking. I know Jon Ronson is a Journo but as he was in the band himself and was reasonably close to both contrasting personas (Frank and Chris Sivey), I guess I was expecting something with a little more in depth.

Perhaps Jon Ronson didn’t want to step on Mike Middles’ toes, the author (and fellow journalist) of Frank Sidebottom: Out of His Head.
I have not read the latter, so it is hard to contrast. But with such a strange, overwhelming surge of curiosity on the man behind the mask / under the head - I think I would have rather purchased this book instead.

It is considerably more expensive, so perhaps Jon Ronson’s offering is more for those who simply want to dip their toe in the water or just want a little insight into the film.
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on 23 January 2014
The story of Frank Sidebottom told by journalist Jon Ronson is an extended newspaper article and a puff for the new film about this strange alter ego, and none the worse for that. Ronson freely admits that the upcoming film is a fictionalised story of a fictitious character, the gossipy titbits are episodic, years separate the bits of the story, and key questions about Sidebottom's creator are left unasked and unanswered, but it's an entertaining read and leaves you hungry to see what sort of film this could possibly shape into.
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