Many of us of a certain age were informed by rock music. It permeated and dominated our free time; time away from school studies, our parents, our siblings, the man! And we were heavily rewarded. From the utopian music of the late '60s/early '70s to punk and new wave in the late '70s/early '80s, we were privileged to ingest some of finest music ever created in the vortex known as rock 'n' roll. Author Tony Fletcher's excellent new memoir draws from that well in this charming page-turner about his experience in London from 1972 through 1980. So charming is his narrative that I forgot I was reading about his life during his most formative teenage years. It reads like a work of fiction by Nick Hornby. And Mr. Fletcher's matter-of-fact style draws you in and never lets up until you reach the final chapter -- No. 1. (His chapters count backwards from 50 like a record chart!) Unbelievably Fletcher not only sees The Who in concert as a pre-pubescent teenager, he chats up Keith Moon at a Who retrospective while pitching him his gloriously intentioned fanzine Jamming and then, after Keith invites him to interview him, shows up at his flat in Mayfair where he is stood up by one of his earliest rock heroes.
(By the way, Fletcher's excellent Moon biography -- Moon: The Life and Death of a Rock Legend -- is a must-read.) But that's only the beginning of his pursuit of sex, drugs (not really) and rock 'n' roll. Often picked on at school, he drifts deeper and deeper into his profession as a true music fanatic, not only meeting and becoming friendly with his other rock idol, Paul Weller of The Jam, but starting his own band and -- what else -- navigating the slippery slope of teen dating. Or at the very least snogging and trying to cop a feel. Learning the chords to The Undertones' classic punk rock anthem "Teenage Kicks" from the band's guitarist backstage after their gig? Are you kidding me?
You will shake your head in disbelief, laugh, cry and applaud his moxie as he awkwardly navigates the treacherous waters of junior high and early high school years, dodging bullies, skipping school to score rock concert tickets, buying and playing vinyl (45s and albums), making deals with dodgy print houses for his handmade fanzine, meeting his rock 'n' roll heroes, loads of wanking and finally being deflowered by an "older" model. You will find yourself reaching for your own records from this time period and wiping the cobwebs from your own teenage memories while doing so. This was the modern world, indeed. - Dusty Wright