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Frank: The True Story that Inspired the Movie Audiobook – Unabridged

3.8 out of 5 stars 109 customer reviews

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Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
£5.03 for such a small 'book'. Terrible value.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Jon Ronson and I crossed paths in 1987 or 88, and it was because of Frank Sidebottom. Frank was playing at his Polytechnic, and I was trying to get tickets. I rang the Poly and spoke to Ronson, who told me the bad news was that the show was sold out, but the good news was that Frank would be playing at The Cricketers at Kennington Oval. That was my first Frank gig.

With the imminent release of 'Frank', Ronson's Sidey-inspired fantasy of a young man's adventure with an enigmatic musician, to be followed later in the year by Steve Sullivan's factual documentary 'Being Frank: The Chris Sievey Story', this fascinating essay gives us a primer on the world created by Chris Sievey into which he projected his alter ego, Frank Sidebottom.

Some of this material has seen print before. As well as a recent Guardian piece, Ronson also had a piece published in 2007 when Frank did his 'Chelsea Space Is Ace' residency at the Chelsea Art Space in London. For Frank fans, the story will be familiar, but Ronson is able to draw some interesting comparisons with other unconventional performers. While I think Sievey was a lot more than just a comic and musician, I tend to agree with Ronson's conclusion about why he created Frank. It's my view that all of the records, videos, art, animation that Chris/Frank created, were the vapour trail of an unresolved conversation Sievey was having with his alter-ego, a conversation that, sadly, was terminated with Sievey's untimely death in 2010.

Criticism? Some of the chronology here is a bit spotty.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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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Format: Kindle Edition
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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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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