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4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Gig: The Life and Times of a Rock-star Fantasist
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on 15 October 2009
This is an excellent book. Simon Armitage is a natural writer. He does wander about a bit but only in good way and always with a purpose, even if it's only a roundabout route to a cracking punch line. I found myself nodding in agreement with several parts of the book, especially when he's describing the yell/shriek at the beginning of The Damned's "New Rose". It's a very funny book. I read it on a long coach journey while listening to my ipod and my fiancé kept prodding me and saying "You're laughing very loudly". To which I replied "I know". It also has its disturbing and quite frankly harrowing moments. None more so than when Armitage describes the murky goings on in a Travel Lodge near you. If you've never really understood the attraction of bands such as Simply Red or UB40 read this book and you'll laugh like a drain. If you think the aforementioned bands are some kind of musical colossus read this book, you might learn something. Five stars and no mistake.
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on 3 August 2009
This really shouldn't work. A series of ramblings connected only by the love of music theme, mentioning a large number of bands I have never heard of and being, at times so personal that it could be hard to connect with. Also there are strange decisions about how to deal with or write about people in his life- his wife, only referred to as speedy Sue and a range of other "characters". So- does it work? Triumphantly yes. Armitage has a wonderful droll tone as he describes his early musical influences and his kneejerk progression through punk, mod and new romantic as he fell in love with all aspects of the ever changing scene. There are Alan Bennettesque riffs on booksignings; poetry readings (gigs); writing projects and inevitably his family. The list of possible names for his own band is worth the price of the book alone, as are the short dialogues of remembered exchanges between him and the grouchy reading public. This is laugh out loud funny and brilliant writing deserving the cliche "heartwarming" and hilarious at the same time. His habit of going off on a tangent is not irritating but wonderfully unpredictable- just as you think you are reading an article on the Artic Monkeys it becomes one on the Comsat Angels and you are beguiled by his ability to riff and stream of consciousness to his hearts desire. Buy and smile and laugh and read again. He's a poet and he does know it- but by god his prose is magical as well.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 16 October 2009
The fact I read this in a day says volumes for how enjoyable it is. Simon Armitage is one of the country's top poets. His poems are part of GCSE syllabus and he also appears on television documentary programmes. Gig is almost a scrapbook of reminiscences, poetry and above all the men's memories and love of rock music.

Towards the end of the book Armitage talks about the formation of a rock band The Scaremongers and hey they are on My Space and I'm listening to them as I write this review. Their album Born in a Barn is also available on Napster. And honestly they aren't bad at all - a kind of post punk tuneful outfit a kind of cross between Joy Division and the Beautiful South. As for the book. Well it skips about all over the place which doesn't detract from its enjoyment.

We run through Modland to Punksville as Armitage gives us stories about growing up in West Yorkshire, travelling the world as a poet and musical influences.
Armitage is at his best when describing concerts by the likes of Morrissey and weaving in music with his love of literature. He is at his weakest when he tries to write travelogues, which somehow just don't work.
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on 22 June 2009
How to describe this book? Part history, part autobiography, many songs and some poetry - but all good. Simon Armitage takes highlights of his life, as rooted by a series of gigs by a selection of 70s and later bands, and provides stories to illustrate his state of mind at the time. So his development, both as a person and as a poet (if the two are divisible), is linked by a series of musical events - some of which were cancelled.

The poetry is inevitably good: readable, accessible in the best sense and never less than deserving of several re-reads. The song lyrics from the films he has made for TV (and which I must now try and find on DVD) are similar, but with the addition of a feeling of desperation - perhaps not surprising as they are written as the words of prisoners.

Varying between moving, laugh out loud funny and a witty and dry observation of the world, this book is one of the best of the year; not least because, in the end, this man can really, really write.
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on 14 January 2011
As Simon Armitage's stock rises ever higher - surely he'll be the next Poet Laureate..? - it seems curmudgeonly to criticise him, however, as witty and droll as this 'autobiography' is - and it is - there is a whiff of smugness about it that grates, and for anyone who's read previous works such as the excellent All Points North there's a fair bit of crossover.
These grumbles aside, there is plenty of charm here, and descriptions of some of the gigs Armitage has attended are brilliant - the Morrissey one in particular.
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on 18 February 2009
Simon Armitage occupies a fairly unique cultural position. On one hand he is one of the nation's best-known poets; tipped for the Poet Laureate and known to students across the land from their GCSE anthologies (it speaks highly of his work that he is known and liked by said GCSE students, according to some very rough polling by your reviewer). Simultaneously he is something of a counter-cultural icon; many will have first come across his work in the halcyon days of Mark and Lard's Radio 1 show in the early 1990s and he has a passion for post-punk groups such as the Fall and Young Marble Giants.

Gig is Armitage's second collection of memoirs, alongside 1998's equally excellent All Points North, and as with the previous volume this is a varied collection of recollections, poems, anecdotes and gig reviews. These, in part at least, have a common theme in exploring Armitage's forty-something reflections on his career as a poet and frustrated rock-star, including the formation of the band The Scaremongers (I know, but it's better than Fantastic Gammon; Armitage's father wryly suggests Midlife Crisis), through which he lives out some of his adolescent dreams of rock stardom.

The book is infused with his usual self-deprecating humour, as well as Armitage's genuine passion for rock music, poetry and that corner of West Yorkshire that "begins where the goalpost of the M1 meets the crossbar of the M62". At times, it's also a moving account; Armitage reflects thoughtfully on the condition of the forty-something male, and on the events and individuals who have influenced him in a touching, sensitive way. As a (nearly) forty-something frustrated rock-star myself, I enjoyed every page of this; and if you are contemplating a mid-life crisis, buy this before you spend thousands of pounds on a powerful sports car you don't need!
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on 7 June 2013
I first saw Simon Armitage at a poetry reading in 1993/4 when I was an A Level student who thought poetry was Heaney and Hardy. He opened my eyes to the new wave, and I've followed his work ever since. It took me a while to get round to reading Gig, but it was well worth it. Armitage's prose (like his poetry) is witty and easy to read. In fact, better than that - it's a pleasure to read. The story contains some lovely autobiographical details, written sensitively where appropriate, and with the wit and lyrical dexterity you would expect of Armitage. Once you've started you really won't want to put it down, so don't expect it to last you very long, but it's definitely worth reading - if only for the brilliant section about the Campbell brothers of UB40 fame, which is as poetic as anything that has ever come from Armitage's pen.
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on 21 October 2014
Some people have commented, and I agree - the book IS "a collection of articles and funny incidents" - but what's wrong with that?
Yes, it helps if you're into northern Punk and what followed (I'm not - I really wanted a soundtrack-website!), and probably also if you have a bit of a feel for the industrial North (I misspent my youth on the canals thereabouts, so I have a feeling for the area even though I don't know many of the locations).
I envy Simon Armitage's firm anchoring in place and family.
I liked the book as a gentle, funny read - anyone with a wife called Speedy Sue can't be all bad !
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on 4 May 2008
I am not a rock-star fantasist myself, knowing very little about the bands that Simon Armitage writes about in Gig. I normally read PC magazines and technical books as a way of relaxing. I bought this book for my daughter and decided to read it before giving it to her. I was captivated by it from the first laugh to the last, throughout the book. I like the way Simon opens the door on his early life and his family life in the north of England. I cannot admit to being a dedicated reader of Simon Armitage's poetry but I have very much enjoyed and been moved by hearing him read his work live on the few occasions I have had the chance. Being treated to many laughs, sometimes at Simon's expense, throughout Gig is well worth the four stars in my opinion especially as I get the chance of passing that pleasure on to someone else. I feel I know Simon a little better and I am more able to appreciate his work.
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on 17 September 2015
I do love the work of Simon Armitage- were the same age and I grew up in Yorkshire. So I'm predisposed to be generous but I did enjoy this. It's a varied collection of stories and is personal in many ways- the 'gig' is a theme and music is his love but this tells you a lot more about the man than the music he loves. Amazing ability to mix the ordinary and the awesome with dry wit and powerful emotion. I can recommend it wholeheartedly.
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