It’s not that I’ve stopped reading in recent months but of late I’ve been engrossed in a couple of tremendous sports books and haven’t had time to delve into my extensive collection of those volumes related to music and musicians.
But over in Ireland for my annual long-weekend in mid-July saw me grab my copy of It’s Lovely To Be Here by James Yorkston and give it a re-read in the hours spent on planes, trains and inside terminals.
As the subtitle on the cover indicates the book is , a series of extracts from diaries written while the musician was on various tours. On the surface this might sound a bit dull and monotonous – you know the sort of thing….woke up with hangover, travelled to venue, did sound check, gig was great/mundane/OK/awful* (* delete as appropriate), got drunk afterwards and went to bed after crazy party/realising again how much I miss my family back home* (“delete as appropriate).
But this book is nothing at all like that.
It begins, somewhat very helpfully to anyone who might not know too much about the author,with a 20-page introduction explaining how he became part of the roster of the critically acclaimed and increasingly popular indie-label of Domino Records. There then follows five separate chapters for tours covering 2004-2009 in different parts of the world promoting different records to different audiences.
Much of the content of the diaries seems to centre around James trying to convince himself that he is as good and talented a performer as everyone else is telling him. This is not a man who is brimming with the utmost confidence and who seems to be bewildered that he is ‘making it’ as a musician. It’s also very clear from the outset that the author is indeed a true gent from his behaviour towards fellow artistes, including support acts or those above him on the bills and that he is one of life’s genuinely decent blokes in an industry where egos run rampant and you can never really be sure of who your friends really are.
The book is great at reminding anyone who is the slightest bit envious of the rock’n’roll lifestyle that much of it is mundane and repetitive with the added worry of never knowing in advance how well your performance will be received. It’s worth remembering that to musicians this is a job first and foremost…..and I don’t care what anyone says, there are days when nobody wants to go to their work no matter how different or exciting it might seem to most folk.
Other recurring themes are the need to get a decent meal – James is a committed vegan and many a promoter has failed to grasp just what that means – and his feeling that only drink and Valium can get him through the fear of flying. I know all this sounds a bit downbeat and depressing, but at no point does the author seek your sympathy. There’s a great deal of self-deprecating humour in the writing (a trait that he shares with that other T(n)NN hero Malcolm Middleton) and all told you cannot help but feel a lot of warmth and affection for the author….he’s the sort of bloke you’d be proud and honoured to call a mate.
You really don’t need to know anything about the records James Yorkston has released over the years to get something out of this book, and I recommend it highly to all and sundry.
Here’s some songs….
mp3 : James Yorkston & The Athletes – I Spy Dogs
mp3 : James Yorkston & The Athletes – Surf Song
mp3 : James Yorkston & The Athletes – Cheating The Game