Thursday 26 November 2009

Richard Hell - Go Now

Self-proclaimed as an 'originator of punk', Richard Hell, published the novel Go Now in 1996. I only recently picked it up and read it in two installments either side of Arthur Kane's I, Doll. Funnily enough the New York apartment that the book's lead character, Billy Mud, lives (or rather exists) in bears a certain resemblence to one of Kane's former hovels, described as it is with a bath tub in the middle of the kitchen. Whether Hell visited Kane there, or whether such a set up is commonplace in such a prime location, I couldn't say.

In Go Now Billy Mud is a fading punk rock star, stifled by record company wranglings and dealing with acute drug addiction. He's offered the opportunity to take a road trip across the US to bring a car back from Los Angeles and to document the experience, taking with him a female photographer friend with whom he has had an on-off (mainly off) relationship with for many years.

Part road-trip, part tale of a self-obsessed junkie musician, the novel has just enough about it to keep you interested to the end (and Mud's road-trip ending humiliation - or at least he should have been humiliated; the drugs prevent that natural reaction).

Friday 20 November 2009

I, Doll: Life & Death with the New York Dolls

It's fair to say that I, Doll: Life & Death with the New York Dolls would probably not have been published had the New York Dolls not returned so triumphantly in 2004. The subsequent, and sudden, passing of its author, one Arthur 'Killer' Kane and the release of the excellent New York Doll documentary have further increased the undeniable goodwill that has been extended to the luckless bassist.

Arthur Kane was working on what is believed to have been a series of memoirs, of which I, Doll is the first (and will now remain the only) installment. Covering the 18 months from forming the New York Dolls, Arthur charts the band's early rise to prominence on the New York scene centred around Max's Kansas City as the band take an 'all-for-one-and-one-for-all' approach to mere survival, through to their disastrous UK tour, where the camaderie starts to erode and inner factions develop, and ultimately culminating in the death of Billy Murcia. Arthur clearly carries some guilt over Billy's death, noting that if they'd been back in NYC he would never have been left alone like that. The second half of the book sees Barbara Kane take on Arthur's story to its conclusion in 2004.

The book is written in a truly Arthur-esque way (if you've seen New York Doll then you will have no trouble imagining Arthur speaking what's on the page), comparable in that respect to Julian Cope's Head On/Repossessed and Tommy Lee's contributions in The Dirt. Unlikely to win any literary awards, it's refreshing that, bar a number of corrections by the editor at the end of the book (itself not exhaustive), the publishers appear to have remained faithful to the manuscript.

Any casual fan reading this book would be left thinking that Johnny Thunders was the band's singer right up until the early Mercer Street Arts Center shows. Such is Arthur's disdain for David Johansen he doesn't even mention when he joined the band and it's only on page 60 when Arthur refers to their 'singer' (and a couple more pages before he's mentioned by name). Johansen though gets off lightly compared to the Leber/Krebs management team, but the three of them are very much held responsible for the failure of the Dolls and Arthur's subsequent descent into a life of a struggling musician, as detailed in wife Barbara's section of the book that picks up where Arthur's writing ended.

As in the New York Doll documentary, Barbara Kane's tale revolves on her 'unique' life as a 'rock star's wife without any money' and reveals that within the genteel man that most would have seen Arthur had a temper that would come to the fore when drunk. This was seemingly also driven at least in part by his refusal to accept that the Dolls were over completely, coupled with his frustration at seeing nemesis David Johansen carve out a career in both music and film. Indeed Arthur lays claim to the stage name Buster Poindexter, and quotes that Johansen's own ex-wife has observed that the 'singer' took various ideas and lyrics from Arthur and passed them off as his own.

On balance, a good book which although lacking somewhat in detail (his later devotion to the Church Of The Latter Day Saints may have contributed a reluctance to go into some of the more seedier details) the afore-mentioned goodwill and a dearth of other available texts makes this a must-read.

Older posts:
New York Dolls - Royal Festival Hall 18/06/04
Nina Antonia - The New York Dolls: Too Much Too Soon
Johnny Thunders - So Alone
The New York Dolls - Cause I Sez So
Motorcycle Boy - Popsicle

Wednesday 11 November 2009

The Hellfire Club and The Royal George

This is mainly for anyone who was in London in the late 1980s or early 1990s.

A common night out would involve The Royal George, and if a Saturday onto The Hellfire Club. I was surprised to stumble on Facebook groups for both, complete with numerous photos (I even clocked myself in one, but have resisted any urge to tag myself ....). Check 'em out - you might even find a few old friends on there!

Older posts: Metro Club To Shut

Tuesday 3 November 2009

I, Doll: Life & Death with the New York Dolls

Thanks to JadeB over on The Slums Off Hollywood for her post on Arthur Kane's book I, Doll: Life & Death with the New York Dolls. I saw this listed on Amazon a few months back but forgot all about it. My copy is in the post now (so who knows when I'll see that) and having recently re-watched the excellent New York Doll I'm already geting quite impatient!

Update: just had a call from home, apparently it's arrived ....!