Debbie Harry lifts the lid, Brett Anderson revisits Brit Pop
New music books from Prince, Allison Moorer, Ian Anderson, Andrew Ridgely and more
Blondie: Debbie Harry goes deep in her memoir Face It. Photograph: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
One of last year’s most surprising music books was Coal Black Mornings, the debut memoir of Suede lead singer, Brett Anderson. We knew that Anderson could write an evocative lyric, but didn’t realise how good a prose writer he could be. That book ended with the shutters being pulled down just before Suede’s sizeable commercial success, with Anderson reluctant to be drawn further on his rock star years of excess and despair. Afternoons with the Blinds Drawn (Little, Brown, £18.99) is a suitably disarming yet admirably eloquent follow-up, prefaced by the title of the first chapter: The Book I Said I Wouldn’t Write. Drawing on a more confident approach, the Brit Pop years are explored through a very personal lens; no one gets away lightly from the self-revealing laceration, not least Anderson. “Lost to a vinous blend of chemical experimentation and lurid, ego-driven derangement, I would pad around the flat dressed in nothing but a kind of long, black, gold-braided Moroccan robe… a damaged, paranoid figure, wired and isolated, edgy and obsessed…” He cleans up his act and gets himself together, of course, but not always to the benefit of Suede, which in 2003 he inevitably walks away from. Brittle solo years lay ahead, but there’s nothing of that here. The next book, perhaps?
There will be no next book for UK prog-rock act, Jethro Tull, whose lengthy life story unfolds definitively throughout The Ballad of Jethro Tull, by Ian Anderson (Rocket88 Books, £40). It is an official telling of the band’s history, skewed somewhat by the (always) commandeering hands of founder/leader Anderson. Abundantly illustrated – hence the hefty price tag – it veers from the confessional to the whimsical; the former includes honest intra-group stories of Anderson’s sometimes heavy-handedness towards musicians (his “revolving door” policy meant that 36 musicians have been, at various times, members of the band), the latter via yellowing press cuttings gathered by Anderson’s mother, and a collection known to Anderson only after she died. Woven throughout, however, is a finely wrought oral history, from early days in the late 1960s as unseasoned jazz/blues hopefuls to prog-rock glory days throughout most of the following decade. A lavish book strictly for the fans, perhaps, but it is also something of a UK rock music history lesson for those less invested.