Exorcising Ghosts Hardcover – 1 Sep 2014
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About the Author
Dave Cousins has recorded over 250 deeply personal and spiritual songs and published the lyrics as Secrets, Stories & Songs . In 2002 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in recognition of his work in music and radio."
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Now from what I know of Dave Cousins I like him and I think the Strawbs - acoustic or electric - are a really good band. But I can't for the life of me work out why these days they play draughty church halls at around £15 a ticket when wholly unoriginal tribute bands and lesser one-hit wonders sell out civic theatres at £20-£25 a head. I had hoped the economics and philosophy of today's Strawbs might be explained here. Unfortunately instead we get a chronology whistling more over the years than through them - Dave doesn't even admit to the year in which he was born - and there is a distinct lack of meat on the bones. For instance Dave Lambert leaves the band without telling a soul but 20 years late Cousins calls him up and, hey, we're all singing from the same hymn sheet again. Some explanations please - I'm astounded his phone number was still good. Furthermore Cousins is clearly not great at personal relationship but never confronts or tells us what he thinks he does wrong - by the same token, without compromising them, it would be interesting to know what his children have gone on to do. There are many other questions of a similar vein and I was pretty fed up to read he thinks "Deadlines" is a rubbish album (It is) yet it is still sold at gigs today! I know because I wasted £10 on it fairly recently. The lack of a discography is negligent in the extreme. The ghosts are let out for a run around the room but they are far from confronted and exorcised.
One disappointment, as noted by others, is that he does skim over the detail somewhat, but I respect his need to retain some privacy for himself and others. The other disappointment for me is that while he is clearly a great lyricist, his prose is flat and the whole book has a, 'then we did this, then we did that' format which is rather dull to read (compare with Bill Bruford's autobiography, which is vital and fascinating). But it is well worth a read for an overall picture, an understanding of his notable place in the UK music scene, and a good number of anecdotes that make you smile.
I'm also delighted Dave Cousins signed my copy for me when I purchased it.
Dave is highly intelligent and articulate (I know because I've met him briefly) so I suspect it's because this reflects the way he really is - fairly bluff about life in general, taking the rough with the smooth and none of it (nor himself) terribly seriously. But I would have liked more on the writing and recording of such seminal albums as Bursting At The Seams and songs like So Shall Our Love Die? (a song with no chorus and the middle eight at the end - most bizarre but absolutely brilliant). And how did he end up almost on his uppers after twenty years as the most successful winner of radio licences in the UK?
Still, I'm being churlish since for Strawbs fans it's essential reading.
If you are not familiar with the author’s music this book will still provide an absorbing read, giving a great insight into the offstage realities of being in a band that changed its personnel almost as frequently as its guitar strings, and the innovation and castigation associated with trying to balance the books in commercial radio. Well-known figures appear in an almost dream-like succession. From Bowie, Bolan, and James Taylor to Richard Attenborough and Dame Vera Lynn. Beneath it all, Cousins’ wit rings through, but he does not pull his punches, even when he lands them on himself.
Dave Cousins is a lyricist par excellence and a composer of infinite variation. No two songs are alike and they resound with the veracity of a genius who has no choice but to write, to sing, and to share. I’ve often wondered about the life behind the lyrics. “The best of questions have no answers” he writes, “the best of answers need no questions”. You don’t need the questions to thoroughly enjoy the answers he provides in this book.
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