on 17 January 2015
In the life and career of Tony Hawks, a couple of periods stand out as being highlights. In recent times, after a career as a comedian, he accepted a couple of stupid bets, firstly to hitchhike around Ireland with a fridge and later to play the entire Moldovan football team at tennis. It is not so much these events that were to be the highlights, but that he was able to write a book based on each of them. And very funny and well written books they were, too.
However, well before this, there was Morris Minor and the Majors, who had a Top 5 hit with a song called “Stutter Rap”. Drawing on Hawks’ first loves of music and comedy, he had for fifteen years been little but a “One Hit Wonder” – an artist who has one hit record and is never heard from again. Tony Hawks, however, isn’t happy with being a “One Hit Wonder”, as he feels he has the talent, if not as a singer, then as a songwriter, to hit the charts again. So he takes on another bet – to have a hit record, either as a writer or a performer, within 2 years.
As with his previous books, we follow Tony as he aims to win his bet. This takes him to the heart of country in Nashville, to the Sudan, and all over Europe. We also get to meet all the people Tony meets along the way, from Sir Tim Rice to Simon Cowell, who was just an A+R man at that point, and not the evil “Pop Idol” judge he became famous for being.
The story is told in Hawks’ usual style, with what feels like complete honesty and in a chatty style that’s easy to read. However, this is slightly less so than in his previous works, as he’s relying on a lot more people to assist him in winning his bet than before. This means that a lot more of the time is spent setting up meetings and discussing how to win the bet, rather than going out to win it and so a lot more of the telling is conversations with other people rather than Tony’s recounting of what happened.
This has the effect of making the story seem slower paced than his previous books. Whereas every step he took in his earlier adventures was a step towards the goal, this time around he seems to take a lot of steps that don’t take him forward and many times he ends up more or less back where he started. This gives the book less of a flow, as each section of the book where he’s dealing with a different song and trying to crack a different market feels like a separate story, rather than the whole book being just a single story, as in his previous books.
There’s also a slight difference in his writing style here. Whilst he still writes in a chatty and humorous style, it feels as if he’s actually trying to be funny this time. I feel that this is down to the bet he’s trying to win this time. In his two earlier books, he’s been set completely ridiculous challenges. This time, the challenge seems like less of a challenge and the whole idea isn’t as funny as his earlier ones. It feels as if Hawks is trying to over-compensate for this by using his own humour to lighten the situation, rather than being able to rely on the natural silliness of what he’s trying to do. Having made a living as a comedian for many years, Hawks is a funny man, so there are some very funny moments, possibly even more than in “Round Ireland With a Fridge”. Unfortunately, there are also some points where the humour seems a little too forced and there are some predictable jokes, which hasn’t been true before.
However, that doesn’t mean it’s not a good read. For me personally, this was the most interesting of all his books, purely because it’s the easiest to relate to, in that the things he does are a little more realistic than chasing around playing tennis with strangers or carrying a fridge around Ireland. As a sometime lyricist as well, I felt a little kinship with Tony trying to persuade someone to sing a song of his own writing, even though he’s had a Top 5 single and I just have a lyric file and an unfulfilled dream. This time, he’s writing about something I can envisage myself doing, which I didn’t feel from his first two books.
As before, this is marketed as a travel book, although all Hawks does is recount his own travels, without giving any advice to anyone who may wish to travel where he did. For those aspiring songwriters, he doesn’t give much more information as to how to make it in the industry, either as most of the people he ends up working with are friends of friends and often quite big names in the music industry from several years ago. Not generally the kind of people that you’d be able to start a musical or writing career working with.
Although I found this to be the most accessible of Hawks’ books so far and, in parts, the funniest, it is the weakest of his books. In many ways, the humour seems a little forced and it feels more episodic and piecemeal than his earlier tales. However, for anyone who is already a fan of Tony Hawks writing, it’s well worth a look and for anyone with much interest in music in general, it’s also worth a look as some of the names he drops are pretty impressive indeed. It’s well worth picking up if Hawks’ writing or music are subjects that will interest you, but if you’re new to the amusing travelogue style of writing or to Tony Hawks, I’d recommend “Round Ireland With a Fridge” over “one Hit Wonderland”, but advise you to come back to this one once you’ve decided if the genre is to your taste.
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