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Rock Stars Stole my Life!,
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This review is from: Rock Stars Stole my Life!: A Big Bad Love Affair with Music (Kindle Edition)
This is an engaging and fascinating memoir by Mark Ellen – music journalist, critic, radio and television presenter – whose life has been completely wrapped up in his love of music. He begins with his sisters love of The Beatles, and his early musical interest in bands such as The Kinks and Bob Dylan in the Sixties. His childhood love of music was misunderstood by his parents, who disapproved of Top of the Pops and these new long haired bands taking over the airwaves. However, as so often happens, parental disapproval only made music even more attractive to Ellen. His first gig was Nick Lowe at the Roundhouse and he moved on to musical influences such as Pink Floyd, Leonard Cohen and Frank Zappa. Early bands at school and university made him realise that his career did not lie in actually being a musician (with band names such as, “Rectal Prolapse,” you suspect success was not going to be easy). However, watching the music press of the Seventies (many almost as famous as the bands they were writing about) swanning into the backstage areas at music festivals and concerts, gave him the idea of possibly trying to work for a music magazine.
What follows is really a career in music. Mark Ellen has worked for music magazines as diverse as NME to Smash Hits, through Q and Mojo. His section on working at the NME is especially interesting, with office politics and factions developing amongst the journalists, which gave him his first disenchantment of what working in the music business would be, considering his rather youthful and naive views at the time. He worked for Radio One, standing in for a delightfully insecure John Peel, before finally getting his own show (one of the highlights of the book for me was a rather nervous encounter with Iggy Pop, who turned up for an interview covered in woad and in no fit state to answer any questions – especially live on air); moving on to television with “The Old Grey Whistle Test” – later updated to the rather more modern, “Whistle Test” when “The Tube” threatened viewing figures. He was at Live Aid, many different award shows and has seen the best and worst of the music business.
Although meeting some of his heroes led to disappointment (another highlight was a hilarious, for all the wrong reasons, interview with Roy Harper and Jimmy Page), this is not, in any way, an unkind or vicious attack on those the author is writing about. Yes, he may muse on how certain superstars have terrible behaviour, but he also understands how difficult living with such huge fame can be. Mostly, his writing is very self deprecating, laughing at himself over anyone else and will not offend anyone mentioned within its pages. Often it is the music business itself, rather than the personalities, that comes under scrutiny. However, for anyone who grew up in the time Mark Ellen is writing about, or who loves music, this is an entertaining and enjoyable read. The author has managed to laugh both himself, and at the business he has spent his life working in, yet also convey his immense fondness and affection for the music which has provided the soundtrack of our lives – including his own. If you enjoy books by authors such as Stuart Maconie, then you will probably like this.