Friday, January 21, 2011

From The Library: Bit of a Blur by Alex James

As I've no doubt mentioned here plenty of times, one of my fondest rock&roll memories involves Mister Alex James, bassist for that beloved bastion of Britpop, Blur. It was a crowded, sweaty night at the old Black Cat, and Blur was putting on one heck of a show. It was the height of the glory days of Britpop, and all the scenester kids were there. But what I will always remember above all else was Alex, glorious indifference coursing through his lanky body, head cocked to the side and trademark ciggie dangling from his slightly sneering lips. It was beautiful. Years later I would hear a rumor that James had spent over a million pounds on champagne over the years, a nod of sorts to the excesses brought on by worldwide success (and the desire to become an "alcoholic genius"). And naturally, who better to write an autobiography than a man who has a millionaire liver?

Bit of a Blur was even better than I could have hoped. Over the course of two days I only put it down to go to work and go to sleep (and fell asleep while reading). James proves a charming, captivating host, clever as you like and engaging as can be. His words are light, but earnest. I immediately was struck at how perfect it was to have such an enthusiastic musician write such an enthusiastic tribute to life as a rock star. In a sense, James is like a kid on Christmas morning while writing about his life with Blur, and it's endearing beyond belief.

Events happen chronologically, and most of the book is, as you would expect, devoted to the Blur years. Along the way you'll pick up many an unexpected nugget of James trivia (unless of course you're a total superfan, in which case you'll already know everything) such as where he met ace Blur axeman Graham Coxon, his most debaucherous, excessively scandalous evening (hint: it involves five ladies and some champers), and the fact that James has been known to fly a plane every now and again. That whole messy feud with Oasis? James barely acknowledges it, glossing over it with a scant mention hither and thither, which for some reason makes me like him even more. Prone to moments of insightful reflection, don't be surprised to come across a thought-provoking sentiment or two, though of course one is always sure that James has his tongue planted firmly in his cheek.

James is a terribly good spinner of yarns, and gives his recollections with a carefree panache. Even while describing the darker side of success, he remains always likeable, always the hero. Bit of a Blur is, without question, one of the best things I've read in quite a long time. There is so much good to be had within the pages of this book, I can't recommend it enough.

mp3: Country House (Blur from The Great Escape)

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