- Title: Boy About Town: A Memoir
- Author: Tony Fletcher
- Released: 2013-09-09
- Pages: 368
- ISBN: 0434021679
- ISBN13: 978-0434021673
- ASIN: 0434021679
"Even if you weren't there when all this happened, the fast paced narrative will make you feel as if you were." - Faith Magazine
"Charming coming of age tale. An innocent's story, engagingly told." Lois Wilson, Mojo .
"[An] excellent memoir of adolescent angst and musical obsession ... it is surprisingly candid, wryly funny, occasionally harrowing, yet always honest in its descriptions ... brilliantly written." - All Mod Icon
"In this memoir of his formative years, covering the years 1972 to 1980, [Fletcher] conveys the thrill of how it was to be a schoolkid who grew up loving and eventually becoming part of the scene...It's very funny, fascinating, and at times quite moving." - The Bookbag.
"Autobiography is rarely this can-do and candid." -- David Quantick "Charming coming of age tale . An innocent's story, engagingly told." Mojo "A five star book from the ace face biographer .This honest, pre-pubescent tale of Fletcher's formative years is frank, candid and, at times, more brutally gory and sexually explicit than a 'This is England' sequel. But as his innocent, bullied, under-developed, paternally undernourished, maternally pampered, determined, stubborn squeaky voiced, rubbish-at-sex music-obsessed skinny body is laid out in a top fifty countdown for all to poke at. he suddenly matures, and emerges as a keen, spirited, clever and resourceful fifth year ready to start a record label . right after he loses his virginity." -- Julie Hamill Blog "[A] gripping account of the post-punk period ... one of the most essential accounts of this tumultuous yet highly productive period of British music ... Tony Fletcher is an extraordinary character . This book will certainly bring back scores of vivid memories for those of us around Tony Fletcher's age, and is required reading for anyone who wishes to know more about the late 1970's music scene. More than that though, is the amazing human story and vivid characterisation that will have you hooked throughout as this period once again truly comes to life." louderthanwar.com "Brought back happy memories when bands and their fans were as one." -- Damian O'Neill, The Undertones
From the Author Interview with author Tony Fletcher by Dave Jennings from Louder Than War.
You've written some of the definitive rock biographies on the likes of Keith Moon, The Smiths and R.E.M. How different is it to approach this sort of 'autobiographical' book compared to your other work? Vastly different. For a start, that's me in the spotlight, although oddly enough, I feel more comfortable in that scenario. There are things I gave permission to say about myself that I would hesitate to even ask of anyone else. I started out on the process of what has become Boy About Town many years back, penning some of my experiences as short stories. When I showed these stories to friends, I got an extremely positive reaction, and so set about trying to tie the bigger story together as fiction... and failed miserably. I put the book aside, knowing I would eventually come back to it. While my Smiths proposal was out with publishers, I went back to the project, and after all these years, instantly found my voice. The fiction went out the window, the story came together remarkably quickly as Boy About Town, and I had a feeling when it was done that, this time, it was properly done. I showed it to my new editor at William Heinemann, he loved it and said that if it could wait until after the Smiths book, he'd like to publish it.
Was it difficult/painful for you to delve back into adolescence?
Difficult, yes. Awkward too. But painful, no. I found it quite cathartic. My feeling was that many of us went through similar experiences, and that at least one of us should try and get them down on paper.
There are some brilliant character sketches of school friends/acquaintances...
It was important to me that this story was about more than just the narrator, and I worked hard to ensure that my friends (and foes) were properly fleshed out, and that we had some sense of where their lives were heading as we reached the end of the book. I didn't want them to be mere walk-on characters. In the process, I reached out to most of them both for permission to write about them in depth, and to fact-check - or at least get a sense of their own memory of - certain events. These friends showed remarkable faith in me with regard to painting a portrait of our teenage lives, one that was neither rose-tainted, nor sordid.
The book examines one of the most productive periods in British music history from a unique perspective, but contains some pretty blunt analysis of some characters on the scene at the time. Are these your views looking back or was it how you felt then?
Earlier drafts of the book were written very much from the perspective of the character telling the story. So the initial chapter read as if written by an eight-year old, and so on. Reading the finished typesetting, I noticed that my adult self occasionally stepped in to offer his opinion. Still, most of my views are those that I held at the time - for example, my conflicting opinions on the mod revival and my less-than-glowing reviews of a couple of bands from that era, as stated in my magazine Jamming! at the time, haven't changed much.
The description of skinheads 'seig heiling' to ska music would probably strike a chord with many of our age who lived in cities or small towns. How big an issue was right wing influence on the music scene at the time?
It was enormous, and writing this book made that so much more apparent. 'That' being a period - most of the post-punk period in the book, to be frank - where you couldn't go out at night without worrying whether skinheads would show up and what kind of damage they would cause if they did. You always worried about how the clothes you were wearing might be perceived and you always checked to make sure you had trainers on in case you had to run fast. For those who didn't live through it: serious right-wing fascists were playing on working class insecurities and directing the (sadly prevalent) adolescent British male violent tendency against the new wave of immigrants and, to a large extent, anything that didn't represent a supposedly sacred 'British way of life.' It sickened me at the time and it continues to do so.
Your love for and access to The Jam and Paul Weller is a theme of the book. Did it affect you at all or go to your head?
There's a part of me would love to say it didn't affect me, and I do think, even now, that part of the reason I was welcomed into their inner circle was because I took it in my stride, did not act especially star-struck, and could hopefully be relied upon to behave appropriately. Later on, i.e., after this book ends, when Paul financed the Jamming! record label and I moved into the Jam's offices, the relationship changed, as it was bound to.
How would you evaluate The Jam in the context of that period looking back?
I bought into The Jam shortly after my 13th birthday; they broke up when I was 18. They were the soundtrack to my teens. They put that teenage existence into words and music. Their shows were some of the greatest experiences of my life - although I can understand why, if you never saw them in their element, and were reduced to watching concert footage, they might not appear so. I really think you had to be there - in the crowd, to deliberately use another of their song titles. Over the greater course of history, there were groups whose music may have had wider appeal, or more obvious artistic merit, or perhaps better stood the test of time. But all of that is irrelevant if you were part of their audience. They were everything to us. Everything. I thank them for that. From the bottom of my heart.
I know each generation probably thinks the same about 'their period', but I do feel that 1977-1982 was remarkable in the originality, variety and enduring nature of the music produced in Britain at the time. Would you agree or is it just rose-tinted glasses?
I love this question. Quite obviously, you and I were fortunate to come of age during the greatest period of British music, ever. For us. And that's exactly the way it should be. When I wrote my book on the history of the New York City music scene (All Hopped Up and Ready To Go), it was fascinating how every single generation, bar none, would claim theirs as the greatest music scene ever. How can I tell Ben E. King, who used to walk twenty blocks or more to challenge other vocal groups on the street corners of Harlem in the 1950s, that his culture wasn't the greatest in the world? How can you argue against someone who was part of the Greenwich Village folk scene, when the likes of Dylan and Ochs and Van Ronk and Farina would all hang out together drinking cheap wine long into the night at the Gaslight? How can I dispute Alan Vega when he talks about Suicide at Max's Kansas City and CBGBs and says that he was part of the most fertile music scene ever? We were absolutely, 100% blessed to have been part of the punk and, especially, the post-punk scene, and we're right to assume its importance. But not at the expense of other generations.
Are we moving away from music-led youth culture?
I think we are. I don't want to base that so much on my own kids - allowing that my eight-year old's love of The Who rivals that of his dad's - but when I look at my seventeen-year old and his friends, even those who are in bands and are musically talented, it's different. They don't follow acts the way we did. They don't live and breathe it. When I'm back in the UK, I look at young adults and they all seem so very similar; homogenous, even. However, there's a big part of me that refuses to pass judgment. Younger teens are, depending on background, enormously dedicated to real working class movements like grime in the UK and whatever the latest strand of hip-hop might be in the States. There may be stuff going on that we don't know about because we're not meant to know about it. But based on the small sample of you and me as parents of teenagers, your question demands a firm 'yes.'