I WAS ELVIS PRESLEY'S BASTARD LOVE-CHILD
And Other Stories Of Rock 'n' Roll Excess
review by Jake 'Spindoc' Spencer
This superbly designed book of music journalism comes from British publishers of the always-interesting Headpress magazine. It collects an eclectic range of interviews with rock legends, both notorious and celebrated, from 20 years of the author's critical work. Andrew Darlington has revised all the texts for reprinting here, adding intros and footnotes to ensure this book is a polished and intelligent read for those with an interest in Britpop or American rock.
Starting with a thumbprint autobiography that explains the significance of the book's title (it means transatlantic cultural influence and psychological development during a writer's adolescence, not actual biological parentage, of course!) Darlington's selected interviews offer signature snapshots from the decades-long history of rock music. The starry line-up includes Peter Green from the original Fleetwood Mac, the final interview with Gene Clark of The Byrds, Joe McDonald the front-man of Woodstock survivors Country Joe & The Fish, Ian Hunter of Mott The Hoople fame, and a bunch of others - Holger Czukay of Can, and The Fall's Mark E. Smith, etc - that may be your favourites, but not mine.
Dave Davies of influential British rockers The Kinks is interviewed during the publicity spree for his autobiography, Kink (Boxtree, 1996). He tells revealing anecdotes about his more famous brother Ray - tales of sibling rivalry on both personal and professional levels. Robert Plant from the mighty Led Zeppelin refuses to be drawn or baited when it comes to 'salacious tour stories' and wants to leave all that 'men behaving badly' stuff in the best-forgotten past, so he's free to concentrate on 1990s' solo work and, even over a telephone line, Darlington manages to get a fascinating interview.
Elsewhere, and face-to-face with Ralf Hütter of German electronic 'anti-rock' band Kraftwerk, our knowledgeable and heroically accomplished interviewer finds many of his scholarly assumptions about 'kraut-rock' challenged, and it's very much to his credit that Darlington is not afraid to admit how easily his belief in the American origins of postmodern European music can be shaken. Laidback family man Neil Barnes of electro-dance duo Leftfield is a less testing subject, certainly easier to handle than more voluble pop personalities like the riotous but short-lived band, Skunk Anansie. One article here isn't exactly a proper interview. Death Of The Telstar Man is a highly appreciative profile of (now long-dead) songwriter and record producer Joe Meek, with brief yet astute insider commentary from the aged pop star Noddy Holder of Slade.
Rock music is undoubtedly a male dominated field, but that only makes the women who succeed in this hormone-fuelled division of showbiz more intriguing than ever. Amazing Grace Slick discusses the somewhat whimsical formation of Jefferson Airplane and the band's difficult transition into Jefferson Starship (and later still, just Starship), on the auspicious occasion of her published rock 'n' roll memoir (co-written with Andrea Cagan) Somebody To Love. Meanwhile, punk priestess Siouxsie Sioux (from The Banshees) proves an intriguing subject ("I feel like I gate-crashed my way into the music world," she laughs. "I certainly wasn't invited."), amiable after 20 years in rock but still far from mellow as she gleefully attacks American social hypocrisy, and yet Darlington's questions reveal only a glimpse of the woman behind the persona.
Finally, as her autobiographical retrospective book Wicked Speed is published (by Sidgwick & Jackson, 1997), Darlington chats with Radio One's first (and best) female DJ, Annie Nightingale, and this interview makes a fitting coda to the book.