Teenage Revolution: Growing Up in the 80s by Alan Davies
|Teenage Revolution: Growing Up in the 80s by Alan Davies|
|Reviewer: John Van der Kiste|
|Summary: A memoir by the comedian and actor of his formative years, 1978-88, and the heroes and idols who featured strongly in his life.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 400||Date: September 2010|
Born in 1966, Alan Davies grew up in Essex, the son of a staunchly Conservative-voting father and a mother who died of cancer when he was only six. It was a childhood dominated at first by 'Citizen Smith' and the other TV sitcoms, 'Starsky and Hutch', 'Grease', Barry Sheene, the Barron Knights, and Debbie Harry. The book begins at 1978, the year I started venturing out more, and finishes at 1988, when he graduated from Kent University to find that stand-up comedy could be an alternative to finding a job where he would have to do what he was told.
When he was 13, Margaret Thatcher was elected Prime Minister, and also became the most important person in his world – for a few days, he adds quickly. As his horizons expanded, and as his politics took a leftward turn, old heroes were superseded by new ones such as Paul Weller, Billy Bragg and Arthur Scargill. He swung to the left, and in a new age of climbing unemployment figures, inner city riots, CND marches, Greenham Common and the miners' strike, found much to stand for and stand against, and decided to join anything with the word 'anti' in it. This was an age when it dawned on his peers that on a cultural level America was superior; we'd been swamped by their popular entertainment and body-rotting soft drinks. It was also the age when the new wave of comedians such as Rik Mayall and the launch of Channel 4 in November 1982 rapidly made the era of 'Terry and June' and Mike Yarwood look sadly out of date, and seemed to make anything else possible. Most importantly, after leaving school, he became a drama student at the University of Kent, Canterbury, which culminated in the career in stand-up comedy and straight acting for which he was soon to become a household name.
Divided into sections according to year, on the whole it's quite a lighthearted book with gentle, dry humour of a twinkle-in-the-eye variety. However, considering it's written by somebody known largely for his comedy, there is surprisingly little laugh-out-loud humour. One exception is when he talks about visiting leftie bookshops in London in order to enhance his political knowledge. While Robert Tressell's 'The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists' proves a must-read from cover to cover, he admits to being left cold by Karl Marx's 'Communist Manifesto', not many jokes in there, and decides to revert to Groucho instead. And I found his description of a search for his mother's grave many years after her death quite poignant.
As a 'rites of passage' book for the age, it's an interesting read on the whole. I enjoyed the chapters about his tastes in entertainment, music and politics, though personally having zero interest in sport, went through the sections on motor racing, Arsenal and the world cup at some speed – likewise his list of Top 10 fish from the early 70s. (His excuse for the inclusion of same is that his star sign is Pisces). He has researched the background of those he writes about quite thoroughly (apart from the hiccup of making James Callaghan a Yorkshireman). Any fan, or anybody keen on reliving their teenage years of the era, will find this book a pleasant enough read. I did however find that it dragged in places, as if he was keen to fill up space by writing about things that didn't particularly interest or engage him.
Our thanks to Penguin for sending a copy to Bookbag.
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