Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Reading in Reading

For the phonetically confused that should be pronounced: "reeding (the activity) in redding (the place)".

I used to read a lot, mostly SF and Fantasy though not exclusively, but for whatever reason, a few years ago, I began to read much less. My fiction reading has been limited to the excellent books of my good friend Roger Ellory. (I have to keep reminding myself that I am a friend of a successful novelist - two words that seldom go together).

But my 49th birthday was celebrated with two books of a type I never read: autobiographies. Both by musicians: Eric Clapton and Jools Holland. I brought these books with me to Reading as I thought they might pass some time, and I slowly worked my way through them.

Another feature of my reading has always been the colossal speed I eat books, but I didn't have the time to devote to these so they got only a few pages a night each.

Since God has priority I read EC first. There is an old-fashioned word which describes this book: Worthy. I honestly can't say that I enjoyed it (even without the horror of the death of his son which I dreaded coming to, but knew that I would). It was somewhat interesting but had a dry intensity that lacked any true passion.

I'm quite an emotional person, and a book can reduce me to tears. The tale of his son's death did. But nothing else did either from joy or sadness. It has to be said that EC well and truly screwed up his life with booze - yes he's been off the wagon for over 20 years but if he'd never gone down that road perhaps he would be happier now rather than living in fear of alcohol. (Which is my personal assessment of his state based only on the book.)

But Jools ... short chapters and a lot of fun. His slow rise to the massively respected blues musician he is now, the TV, the tours, the fun he had and the people he met and played with. Jools realised that drugs and alcohol were a really bad idea early on (not to say he doesn't enjoy a tipple) so never went that route.

And Jools has a message for all artists: He worked hard for many years, being a success but with all the worries that a lack of money can bring. Yet there came a day when he truly realised that the music was the important thing not the money and decided that even if he and his family had to live in a caravan the music came first. And that was the turning point, he never had money worries from that point on, because he always had plenty but it was the music that counted.

As for tears? The last 10 pages of the book did it for me. Especially with BB King declaring that Jools had the best lefthand of any living pianist. Now that's praise. (I'm welling up just thinking about it.)

It makes me wonder whether EC's autobiography was actually ghost-written, or whether the booze has shut-off his passion because, though I adore EC's playing, in the written word it was Jools who truly communicated the joy of music.

What's on the turntable? "Parallels" by Yes from "Going for the One". Apart from my love affairs with female singer-songwriters, I'm a total prog-rock nut.


John Soanes said...

Most of the reviews I saw for the Clapton book said much the same thing - oddly dry, given the life he's led, seemed to be the general conclusion.
Holland's comments about not chasing money remind me of something very similar Jerry Seinfeld said, and when people at their level of success say such things, it's hard not to think there's something to it...
Came here via Jason Arnopp's site, by the way: Hello!

Adaddinsane said...

Thanks John and welcome.

Yes I think the money thing is very important -- but I also think you have to work hard, unfortunately.

Damn, have to get back to work.