Barefaced Lies and Boogie-Woogie Boasts by Jools Holland

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Barefaced Lies and Boogie-Woogie Boasts by Jools Holland

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Category: Entertainment
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Van der Kiste
Reviewed by John Van der Kiste
Summary: A memoir by the Squeeze keyboard player turned radio and TV presenter and big band leader, full of lively anecdotes and namedropping - but in the best possible way.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: June 2008
Publisher: Penguin
ISBN: 978-0141026770

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Jools Holland has always come across, particularly on television, as a thoroughly likeable, down-to-earth chap next door, the kind of person you could chat to over the garden fence. This memoir of his life, from childhood in a flat in Pimlico to leader of a band invited to play in front of the leaders of the G8 nations at a summit meeting, comes across in very similar fashion.

From early days, Jools was clearly always fascinated by music. It was but a short step from being spellbound by the family's collection and buying records by the Beatles and Stevie Wonder, to learning the piano at school and joining a group at around the time of the mid-70s punk rock and new wave explosion. With the aid of co-author Harriet Vyner, he looks back at his early days with the group which became Squeeze, enjoyed the highs and lows of stardom and becoming yesterday's thing, and then forming his own band the Millionaires – on top of the world one day, almost broke the next.

A lucky break led to him being chosen as co-presenter of Channel 4's groundbreaking new music show The Tube, ironically, because he and his opposite number Paula Yates seemed so gauche if not inept and a refreshing change from the ultra-polished slick types who were usually fronting similar shows at the time; Jools is unfailingly generous towards others in this memoir, though it's hard to avoid the feeling that Paula was not always the most pleasant person to work with (or for). A few gaffes on live primetime TV, notably on a trailer, led to his suspension, but by then the programme had almost run its course. In addition to the music side of things, he paints a colourful portrait of the media at the time that the Comic Strip and 'new wave of comedy', as personified by The Young Ones, Dawn French et al, were emerging. He's also candid enough to admit that he might have had some responsibility for breaking down the old taboos of restraint which governed British broadcasting up to the 70s when it might have been blander but a little less cruel.

Then the wheel came full circle. Squeeze reformed and he was invited to rejoin, leaving to undertake further work as a presenter on documentaries and new TV series, notably Later…with Jools Holland, and work with some of the musicians and singers he had admired since boyhood. There are a few tips for would-be musicians (not least, stick with your dream - oh yes, and when going abroad, travel light if you can), some hilarious anecdotes, and amusing sidelights on encounters and friendships with famous names. I particularly liked the one about calling on George and Olivia Harrison at home, and being asked to make tea for someone who was about to drop by as George had been detained – no less than Bob Dylan. There were some difficult moments along the way, like a severe car crash which he and the other passengers were fortunate to survive, and sad episodes like the decline and death of Paula Yates.

Nevertheless Jools gives the picture of a happy man who counts himself incredibly lucky to have made a living doing what he always wanted to do, while at the same time has an endearing sense of self-deprecation and is not afraid to admit to a few gaffes along the way. At heart it seems he is still underneath the boy next door – albeit a very fortunate one. As he says on the last page, Enjoy the time you have, no big goodbyes, and leave 'em wanting more.

One minor criticism – with all the names mentioned, I felt the book could have done with an index. But it certainly didn't spoil my enjoyment of a very engrossing read.

For more titles on music from the same era, why not also try Black Vinyl, White Powder by Simon Napier-Bell, The Autobiography by Johnnie Walker, or Hang the DJ: An Alternative Book of Music Lists by Angus Cargill (Editor), or better still Delta Blues by Ted Gioia, which includes a chapter on B.B. King, one of Holland's lifelong heroes.

Booklists.jpg Barefaced Lies and Boogie-Woogie Boasts by Jools Holland is in the Top Ten Books For Your Boyfriend.

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