Music books: a round-up

John Entwistle, Birmingham memoir, Courtney Love, Dave Brubeck and Van Morrison

The Who’s John Entwistle: subject of The Ox – the Last of the Great Rock Stars. Photograph: Dave Hogan

The Who’s John Entwistle: subject of The Ox – the Last of the Great Rock Stars. Photograph: Dave Hogan

The day of the “Rock Star” – outlined loosely as any musician or singer that came of age and narcissistically self-served in the era-defining timespan of 1962-1976 – is quickly dying out. The cliche of living fast, dying young snagged several, of course, but virtually every rock star still alive from the earlier part of that time period is now ailing either physically, mentally or creatively. One such rock star was John Entwistle, the bass player with British band The Who, and a man for whom the term “self-indulgent” might have been invented. Entwistle’s life is fully explored in The Ox – the Last of the Great Rock Stars: the Authorised Biography of The Who’s John Entwistle, by Paul Rees (Constable, £20). From being a post-second World War only child living in a west London suburb to dying (in 2002) of a cocaine-induced heart attack in room 658 of the Hard Rock Hotel in Nevada, USA, Entwistle packed a lot into his 57 years. As Rees efficiently details, however, not much of it was wise or health-conscious (towards the end of his life, sequestered in Quarwood, his decaying 55-room Victorian mansion in Gloucestershire, Entwistle passed the time by drinking “copious quantities of fine brandies and vintage red wines and he was systematically blowing his way through thousands of pounds a month on cocaine”). With Rees laying down the foundations in the way Entwistle played bass – deft, impressive, occasionally grandstanding – the book is enhanced by Entwistle’s own highly articulate notes culled from a discarded memoir. These additions lend authenticity to a thorough overview of a much-celebrated if deeply flawed, extravagantly spendthrift musician.

Peter Paphides

There is a different kind of self-indulgence in Broken Greek: a Story of Chip Shops and Pop Songs by Peter Paphides (Quercus, €21), but that’s only because it’s a memoir of no small insight and length. Paphides is a UK-based music writer (married, not that it makes a blind bit of difference, to Caitlin Moran) with a decades-long career of contributing to magazines (Mojo, Time Out, Q, Observer Music Monthly) and broadsheet newspapers (the Times, Guardian). The memoir, however, is less about what rock stars he has interviewed and much more about his sense of belonging in a Britain that now seems virtually antiquated: coin-operated machines, eight-track cartridges, The Rubettes, British Telecom’s Dial-a-Disc service, Human League haircuts, and Pebble Mill at One. Interweaving the domestic background of a Cypriot family moving to Birmingham in the 1960s and personal experiences of growing pains through numerous music trends, Paphides turns what could have been just another immigrant story into a detailed profusion of fact, genuine fun and a yearning, yarn-spinning search for cultural identity.

The Irish Times
Please subscribe or sign in to continue reading.
The Irish Times

How can I keep reading?

You’ve reached an article that is only available to Irish Times subscribers.

Subscribe today and get the full picture for just €1 for the first month.

Subscribe No obligation, cancel any time.