Monday, 14 July 2014

The Book Club #1

A new series in which TheRobster picks a title from his bookshelf and shares some thoughts...

I made a list of things I wanted to cover in this blog, and while checking things off the other day, realised I had made one glaring omission. I never told you I got a mention in a rock star's autobiography! Well, when I say rock star, I mean the bass player in an unsuccessful folk-rock band, and when I say autobiography I mean the story of his time in said unsuccessful folk-rock band. But I still got a mention!

The man in question is Ed Jones who was a member of the Tansads, a band Wayne introduced me to in the early 90s during our 'crusty' phase. I became a fan. Turns out - if Ed's story is to be believed - there weren't many of us.

The book, 'This Is Pop: The Life and Times of a Failed Rock Star'[1], is a fabulously entertaining read. Candid and brutally honest, Ed recounts how a troupe of touring musicians are repeatedly let down by record labels, the press and, more importantly, each other. You don't have to know a thing about the Tansads to enjoy it. It's probably fair to say that if you've never heard a Tansads song in your life, you won't be in a particular hurry to make much of an effort to do so after reading Ed's book. He doesn't exactly rave about the experience, even though he stuck it out for a good few years.

Anyway, my claim to fame occurs towards the end (page 194 in my copy[2]). Having described how the press either loathed or completely ignored the band's third album 'Flock', Ed notes there was one dissenting voice:

A shame he got the publication I worked for wrong (although I did occasionally have reviews published in the Express & Echo, my Wavelength column actually appeared in the North Devon Journal.) But let's not split hairs. Ed was probably most chuffed that I heaped praise on that particular song - it was his sole songwriting contribution to that album.

The truth is it was probably just a phase I was going through. Listening to Ship Of Fools now I experience mere indifference, though in fairness, it's still better than most of the rest of the album which by and large is rather cringe-inducing. In 1994 though, 'Flock' was one of the most played CDs on the West Of England's jukebox, and a group of us (which included Ian and Tracey from the West of E and Jo Rundle, my trusted confidante and source of much fun and laughter) went down to Exeter to see them play at the Cavern. It was a good night and I also wrote a dazzling review in my column. 

Sadly, I don't think their stuff has aged terribly well. The internet isn't exactly rife with info or pics of the band, so they've been largely forgotten. You could argue of course that in order to be forgotten you had to be known in the first place, and the Tansads never exactly set the world alight. They seemed to be the preserve of a select few during the early 90s, and looking back there was probably good reason for that.

So while I am reluctant to recommend the Tansads music nowadays, I heartily suggest you give Ed's book a read. Alan McGee (yes, that one) wrote the Foreword, so it has a certain pedigree. "This is how not to be famous," McGee writes. And he should know.

  • Ship Of Fools – Tansads (from ‘Flock’) Link expired, will consider re-upping by request.

[1] Published by Canongate, 1999; ISBN: 978-0862418809
[2] I say 'my copy', I think it's actually Steve Beardsley's. He loaned it to me a very long time ago and I've neglected to return it...

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