Once upon a time, the mid-90’s to be precise, or as precise as one can be about a scene that revolved around drinks and girls and rock n roll, there were bands underneath the ‘kings of Britpop’ who took the scene elsewhere, back to the literary ideals of David Bowie, the poetic ideas of Leonard Cohen and added a little orchestral magic to make timeless p-o-p. The first names that spring to mind when I think of these thinkers are My Life Story and Jack, both of whom took from things we had not yet heard and then left a trail of breadcrumbs for us to discover all the influences and what treasures we discovered!
Jack were one of those bands who could have sold a million records (and deserved to, but that is a story that I expect Reynolds to cover in future tomes) and you would still think you were the only person who knew who they were. They were ‘my band’, even when I was seeing them in supporting slots in larger venues with crowds that, at the height of ‘knees up mother brown’ (and don’t get me wrong, I love Knees Up Mother Brown!), had little time for beautiful laments about lost girls set to a funereal backing. But I did. Holy shit, did I. Their debut album Pioneer Soundtracks had a beautiful ‘first out of the gate’ swagger and The Jazz Age built on that, added further layers and still sounds incredible to this day. I searched out all these records in tiny alt record stores, but right now in 2021, you can just click and search and Spotify will give you it all. THEN, you will understand why I am so excited about the release of The Promosexuals.
I’ll stop reminiscing in a second and talk about the book, but this is about the book, really, as I was living through their adventure, sure it was vicariously, I was a small town Devon boy dreaming of The Good Mixer, but I did meet Anthony at a Suede fan club gig and he invited me and my girlf back to drink red wine and listen to Scott Walker, but we were already going off to Blow Up because…of course we were.
So, The Promosexuals is the tale of Anthony and George from Jack (how George was chosen for the trip is hilarious in itself and I will not ruin it for you here) and their first ever European promotional tour to support their brilliant debut Pioneer Soundtracks. Now, an album with such obvious European decadence and influence would mean that these two behemoths of the bookish would be Zeppelining it up, right? I’m sure I am not spoiling anything when I tell you that there are no bizarre girl/fish sex scenes here and even the more drug infested stories are still a couple of years away, so this is essentially what would happen if Evelyn Waugh wrote National Lampoon’s European Vacation or if Camus adapted Withnail And I for the stage. But life is the stage and Anthony and George are grand and tragic players. There are times when you wonder if the pair even like each other and in fact, there is an early section where Anthony is deciding who to take on this trip with him and, well, you get the idea he would rather just clone himself rather than tolerate another, but it is this giant in a second hand purple leather get up who gets the golden ticket or the booby prize, depending on how you see the scene.
George seems to do what you would expect a ‘rockstar’ to do on their first Euro trip, giving his number (before cellphones, kids!) to air hostesses and taking full advantage of any PR guy who suggests a night out. Anthony, on the other hand, normally stays at the hotel, trying to relax, then trying to get drunk, then getting locked out of his room, then getting drunk, drunk, drunk, then interview after interview as he just wants to sleep. But still, he knows how lucky he is to be there and makes this obvious, even when he is carrying heavy bags of literature to cheap hotels and not even having time to add cream to his coffee (such a glorious Anthony detail that stuck with me) before the next journalist arrives to ask him about an album they will probably never buy. It’s a mixture of high art and heartbreak, like the band itself and whilst this might be a slight tome before the release of Anthony’s full memoir ‘I was drunk in the underworld’ and you’ll read it in one sitting, I still recommend it, in the same way that sometimes it is better to buy yourself a bottle of Grey Goose rather than the house stuff, this is no own brand memoir, it is glorious and worth every hard earned penny. And now I’m back listening to Pioneer Soundtracks so it has done its job.
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