Top positive review
9 January 2016
This reminded me of Andrew Collins' "Where Did It All Go Right?" - a cheery memoir from the world of popular culture where the default attitude is generally cultivatedly-cool cynicism. Mark Ellen (like Collins) is hugely self-deprecating, never quite believing he is actually part of the circus that he ends up being a ring-master of. In his 1980s incarnation, Ellen was a chubby-cheeked, cheeky-grinning ringer for Paul McCartney, and he carries Macca's glass-more-than-half-full attitude to his life story as opposed to the empty glasses of Lennon and Ellen's early NME colleagues (Birchill, Parsons, Morley et al). So in the field of pop/rock auto-biogs this is a refreshing change to the mainstream, although being thought too mainstream is exactly what our author had to battle against as he rose through the publishing ranks via the success he made of Smash Hits and the Emap titles that followed. He admits to taking drugs once, and suffering numerous impossible-to-avoid-rock-journalist-hang-overs, but in terms of his own rock-and-roll lifestyle, that's it - he seems to have a happy and long-standing marriage (despite his wife's weakness for Dylan's dourer outpourings) and instead, is able to stand back and shine a light on the clay feet of the false idols of the music world (including those he's idolised himself since being a boy). This is a wonderful whistle-stop tour through the changing face of music, broadcasting and publishing from the mid 60s to almost now, with tour highlights including reviewing Jefferson Airplane without having been at the gig, presenting Live Aid (or part of it), emerging as Michael Jackson's spokesperson-in-death, getting to see the real Roy Harper, and being one-on-one with Lady Gaga. Mixed in with the anecdotes though, there are some lovely musings on the music world and the rock star's impossible lot, and why we create idealised versions of them that they can never actually live up to. This book, however, more than lived up to my own expectations, but I will take the author's advice and try my hardest to avoid meeting him in person, in case he turns out not to be the wonderful person I now imagine that he is.