One of the most respected Book Bloggers, Matt Keyes who blogs under the name It’s an Indie Book Blog, asked me to write as a guest on his sight about the influence of music on my Simon Jardine crime thriller series. It got me thinking …
Rock music: It’s more important than life and death
The late, great Bill Shankly said about football: ‘It’s not a matter of life and death; it’s more important than that.’ For me, music is the same with my writing and it’s rock – pub rock, folk rock, prog rock, just make it rock.
Bands of the late 60s and early 70s played a massive role in my life. I’d got a job as a reporter on a regional newspaper and, within a very few weeks, a jazz drummer and sub-editor spotted my talent for hailing great music from little-known groups. A year or so later, Derby’s Saturday Page was stated by Tony Stratton-Smith, founder of Charisma Records, to be the best regional music page in the country. (They had to widen the doors to fit my head after that.)
The amazing clubs, where approaching the dance floor was like treading across gluey treacle without the sweetness, were the centres of life for young people. They brought together the good, the very bad, the nervously unattractive, and some of the most impossibly beautiful people.
The era was cataclysmic. The Pill was swiftly moving into rustic market towns offering girls the chance to control their own bodies. Alcohol was no real detriment to any physical activity, including, I admit, driving. Drugs had made their way from the US and London out to the provinces, and I can state quite categorically that some of the best joints ever rolled were by accomplished musicians, who were also very generous.
Some forty years after I’d left the music scene – a wife and family required cash, not late nights, early starts, and loud lead guitar riffs – I met up with a former radio reporter who suggested I pen a memoir of what we used to get up to. Two thousand words later I stared at a wonderful piece of libel. I’m fortunate in many ways, particularly with a publisher who is supportive and honest. All publishers will say they like the authors’ choice of art, music etc.; Fahrenheit Press shares a near obsession with rock and punk. In abbreviated parlance: when it comes to crime fiction and music, Fahrenheit ‘gets it’, and in spades.
Musicians, writers, artists are all creative people and it is hardly surprising that so many autobiographies (a lot with historically tweaked facts) have been written. In the early 70s two guys I knew well – a bassman and songwriter, and the chief roadie were on one of those endless tours of America. To pass the time they had Scrabble competitions … very rock ‘n roll. In general, and unlike the stories bandied about, being in a successful band was a bit like being in the army, at war. Long, long periods of hard work practising, writing and travelling interrupted by brief bursts of frenetic energy.
My Simon Jardine series, starting with the self-published First Dead Body, then, with Fahrenheit Press, A Fatal Drug and Vinyl Junkie, has a thread of rock music and clubs running through, and Vinyl Junkie is a fairly excoriating and fictitious expose of record companies, but the central themes are based around an era, an extended epiphany, and rock music, bands and the clubs they played in serve the storyline.
For the future, rock music will be a foundation. There is no better location for seedy characters, gang bosses and their acolytes to meet innocence. My reporter, Simon Jardine will always be bounced between justice and naivety to the sound a pounding electric bass line.