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Lee Brilleaux: Rock'n'roll Gentleman Paperback – 3 Nov 2015
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'Zoe Howe is one of our finest music biographers... In the case of Lee Brilleaux, she has undoubtedly done us a great service as this is a book that needed to be written about the iconic frontman of one of the most influential British bands of all time'--Dave Jennings, Louder Than War
About the Author
Zoe Howe is a music author whose other books include the acclaimed Typical Girls? The Story of the Slits; 'How's Your Dad?' Living in the Shadow of a Rock Star Parent, British Beat Explosion - Rock n' Roll Island and Dr Feelgood guitarist Wilko Johnson's memoir Looking Back At Me, published by Cadiz Music in 2012. Her writing has also appeared in The Quietus, Company, Notion, BBC Music, Holy Moly, Classic Rock and NME. Zoe has also made music radio series for stations including the award-winning Resonance FM, and she can be heard talking about rock n' roll from time to time on BBC 6 Music, Absolute Radio, Planet Rock, BBC London and elsewhere.
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Brilleaux is a hero of mine and I know exactly what a good guy he was, but he was human and had his faults. Zoe's book tends to paint him as a saint, excusing his displays of temper as the artistic temperament, or his drunkenness (of which a LOT is described herein, along with the usual sniggering references to "certain substances") as laddish good spirits. Domestic clashes are glossed over, and a succession of terrible albums benefit from a desire to say SOMETHING good about them. Behaviour that seems to me bullying and aggressive (pouring a pint on the carpet of a restaurant after being denied admittance, booting a Finnish fan in the face for spilling beer on him) is presented as almost admirable. All that having been said, despite the absence of critical perspective, Zoe's affection for her subject is contagious. There may be no warts on display here, but there is a fairly exhaustive trail through Lee's life and career. Some of it is heartbreaking (the end, obviously, and the savage irony of survivor Wilko's contributions - he makes no attempt to excuse himself for his obstinate behaviour, even though Lee was probably equally culpable, and obviously carries a burden of guilt for the wasted years). Oh, and as mentioned in another review, the reproduction of the pictures is terrible, but I imagine this couldn't be helped. A pity, because it's a wonderful collection of snaps.
A good read, an easy read, but, perhaps understandably, more of a tribute than a biography.
It's a good read and I was left wanting more - so was it too short or too well written?
The general story and overall impression of the man come across well. Maybe some of the anecdotes are familiar to we anoraks and long-term fans, but for a larger audience that's not a problem. However, I would have appreciated more detail. What A levels? Where was his first job? Why no Wilko songs on the final live album? We read a lot about his culinary activities, less about other parts of his life. Perhaps more input from Chris Fenwick - childhood friend and manager - and less from Wilko.
I agree with another reviewer that the photographs are poor quality. Those that I can see. But as most of them don't even appear in my kindle edition (just the captions!) perhaps I shouldn't comment. Note: don't buy the kindle edition! But for a good introduction to a great character and a damn good read, do read the book. There's not enough of it, but maybe that's a compliment!
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