Memoirs of a Geezer: Music, Life, Mayhem
Serpent's Tail Books, September 2009
348 pages (paperback)
review by Scott M, October 2009
Jah Wobble my tabloid hell. No, not quite. Jah Wobble's eagerly anticipated autobiography is a warts-and-all tale of Mr Wobble's personal life and an insight into the real working's of the music business. He pulls no punches and is brutally honest about his own problems; and other peoples.
Far from being an all-out attack on the individuals he has encountered in his 30+ years in the 'game' the book is very balanced and littered with humorous anecdotes and asides from the corners of Wobble's mind. London, British culture, friendship, and the class system feature heavily. The tone of the book can be quite tongue-in-cheek and there is as much between the lines as in them. He always manages to pull back from being pompous or pretentious. Of course, unless he's doing it on purpose.
Obviously, his time in PiL is covered in detail but he doesn't dwell on it.The book covers his whole 'colourful' life not just his 2 years in PiL. Prior to PiL he tells some great stories about meeting John Lydon and Sid at Kingsway College and the lead up to punk. De-mything as he goes. An insider without an axe (or should that be chopper) to grind. It has to be said that Malcolm and his cohorts don't escape his judgement.
It's an often misquoted mistake (Fodderstompf was guilty also) that Sid gave Wobble his first bass, he was already playing by that point. He had bought a bass but had no interest in joining a punk band. John Lydon knew this and that's how he got the invite to co-form PiL. The chopper story and the Karl Burns story are also de-mythed; amongst many others. But you'll need to read the book for yourself.
With the exception of some brief passages in John Lydon's 'Rotten: No Irish…' Wobble is the first PiL founder member to write an autobiography. And this is arguably the first real insight into the internal working (and struggles) of PiL; and the breakdown of the original line-up. No one comes off lightly, but its far from being all doom and gloom. He is not bitter about his time in PiL, and as he regularly says, it was PiL and John Lydon that got him where he is today. He has respect for PiL's legacy and is still passionate about them. This mixture of honesty and passion are what makes the book so readable.
While reading the book I was digging out many of Wobble's records – some of which I hadn't listened to for years – 'Full Circle', 'Heaven and Earth' and (one of my personal faves) 'Without Judgement' were all dusted down. Because when all is said and done it is his music that really matters. However, Memoirs of a Geezer helps tie it all together and joins many dots. Here's to the next 30 years.
Wobble first mentioned he was thinking of writing a book when we interviewed him in the old F&F fanzine back in 1999, but its only been the last couple of years that he was solidly working on it. You can tell he's slaved over it. Every word is there for a reason. To end on a cliche,"Two sides to every story" is the underlying theme of the book. That, and don't consider drinking snake wine while in charge of a AK-47.
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