“Going Deaf for a Living” starts in an old pub in Kennington, South London.
Actually, that isn’t true.
That pub, The Old Red Lion, isn’t an old pub anymore. It is a new pub sitting on the grounds, or the grave, of an old pub.
Also, the story of “Going Deaf for a Living” doesn’t start in The Old Red Lion either, that just happens to be the place where it was written.
But the idea of an old pub becoming a new pub acts as a metaphor for the real story of the book…our relationship with music. The old pub was 7″ singles, CD’s, Top of the Pops and two weekly music papers…the new pub is Spotify and Apple Music and YouTube and downloads. The way the pub looks has changed…but our relationship with it hasn’t really.
Steve Lamacq is, for people of my age, a legendary figure.
He was one of us.
A fan…a music obsessive…who managed to turn that fascination, that interest, that hobby into a life, a career and then helped to shape and inform the music the rest of us listened to. He became our DJ. He wasn’t Smashy or Nicey, he wasn’t John Peel, he wasn’t a hairy cornflake…he was our voice, our man on the inside.
At the very start of the book Lamacq tells a story about being a teenager, waiting outside of the venue where The Undertones are going to be playing. That leads to Lamacq guiding the band to a local radio station for an interview. From the outside to the inside in one chance encounter. When I saw Blur play the Plaza in Glasgow on the “Parklife” tour and had a similar chance encounter with Blow Up DJ Paul Tunkin which led to my meeting the band backstage it was the same thing…from the outside to the inside in one chance encounter.
Like I said, Lamacq is one of us.
In the days before the internet it was very difficult to share your thoughts and feelings about music any wider than your sixth form common room.
Difficult unless you were so passionate, so driven and so eager to share those opinions you decided to set up a fanzine. A fanzine was an independent magazine. An analogue blog…anablog…which required more effort than a blog; you had to type, cut ‘n’ paste, read books, attend gigs, buy records, photocopy it, print it and then sell it. It sounds exhausting. That Lamacq was prepared to do that highlights, again, how much he loves music.
I’d like to read a copy of “A Pack of Lies”…wouldn’t you?
Just like us.
Reading how Lamacq discovered The Smiths, how he first encountered John Peel, how he made his way into music journalism, how he found new bands who became THE bands and the adventures, disappointments, magic and miracles that have littered his career is like reading the diary of the life you wish you had lived.
There he is in the background of an early photo-shoot with Nirvana.
Now he has the honour of being one of the first people to hear PJ Harvey.
Blur before they became Blur…genuinely there at the start.
This may well be his life story but it could be mine.
There are stories of rock ‘n roll here, there are stories of excess, there are stories of fame and fortune…but what shines through is Lamacq’s ability to remain grounded, to change but stay the same. He writes with a warmth, an innocence, a charm and a kindness that makes you feel like an evening in The Old Red Lion talking about your favourite Carter USM b-sides might be the best night of your life.
An ordinary man who has achieved extraordinary things.
An ordinary man who has sat at the table with the most extraordinary people.
An ordinary man who may not actually be all that ordinary.
Records, gigs, characters, heroes, villains, legends, peripheral figures…they are all here and from the vantage point of Steve Lamacq they are all made real. You can hear the songs, the roar of the crowds, smell the fear and the tension when Richey does what he did, taste the electricity in the air.
“Going Deaf for a Living” is a book written for you by someone who is just like you.
You can order a copy of the book here and I strongly recommend that you do exactly that.