Thursday, 24 November 2011

A Year in Books 2011 - The Alternative Hero


Tim Thornton used to be the drummer with indie/folk artist Fink but has branched out to write what is described by the Guardian as "The indiest book of all time" and they are about right.

We follow under achiever Clive as one Saturday he bumps into the person he spent most of his teenage years idolising. Lance Webster was the lead singer of the Thieving Magpies who were on an upward trajectory until the singer had a meltdown at a festival , Brooke up the band , self destructed a solo career and then disappeared into anonymity.

Clive decides to take this chance to follow Lance, try and befriend him and find out what really happened. So starts an elaborate deception that makes Clive question whether at the age of 30 he should

1) grow up
2) quit idolising rock stars
3) move on a bit form the music he was obsessed with at the age of 17.


The story zips between the present day and Clive's schooldays as he discovers music and all that comes with it. So far so Nick Hornby. However what makes this work is that this is set in a time before Brit pop made indie music mainstream. It focuses on why some bands from that time with big sales, large fan bases and hit singles have disappeared from the cultural radar - The Wonder Stuff , Carter , Jesus Jones, EMF, Pop Will Eat Itself. Then there are others who didn't sell anymore records or play bigger gigs but have somehow earned a place in our cultural history the Charlatans , The Las , The Happy Mondays, Primal Scream.

This is the crux of Clive's frustration , the Thieving Magpies sit in the former and not the latter camp and he wants to understand why and somehow give them the legacy they deserve.

It picks a chord that we all can feel, we all have had bands that we feel passionate about and just cant understand how an earth they aren't massive and worshipped as the geniuses that they quite clearly are (that at the heart is what Bigger than the Beatles is all about) the difference is Clive gets the opportunity to do something about it..... or so he thinks


The detail of the tours and the gigs are spot on and could only be written by someone who was "there" as is the completely made up Thieving Magpies band complete with convincing discography at the back. You end up desperate to hear Look Who's Laughing , War on the Floor and Everyone Behaves Like a Cunt so Why Can't I even though you know they don't exist.

Nothing deep or difficult just a great way of connecting back to a time when you really got excited about new bands .. I mean really excited and a time "before Britpop came along and fucked it all up"

You can by the Alternative Hero by Tim Thornton here

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