the history of the rock and roll autobiography is littered, to borrow a music phrase, with more misses than hits. leaving aside the misses for the more negative writer, perhaps the greatest rock book of all time will indeed be declared as Life by Keith Richards - a hefty tome that was so superb it was considered for "proper" literature awards. Ian Hunter's Diary Of A Rock And Roll Star, capturing as it does the moment Mott The Hoople went from struggling giggers to (briefly) the biggest band in the world, is rightly celebrated. aside from that, only the book on The Stone Roses by John Robb and of course Hammer Of The Gods, the tale of Led Zeppelin, spring to mind as being books which read as good as the musicians sounded.
happy days are here, then, for Nasher Says Relax, the autobiography of Brian Nash, joins the list of great music autobiographies. for those of you wishing to skip any sort of lengthy review, it's of course essential for any Frankie fan and indeed eye opening reading for anyone who, like me, grew up in the 80s but never quite left the music of that decade behind.
if you read on, well, i won't be giving away too much of what is in the book, but hopefully shall be saying enough to have you click away and order this gem of a read for yourself!
for all the huge, successful artists of the 80s, few if any came in from as leftfield and as rapidly as Frankie. they were not really an overnight sensation as such, but it was something like less than a year between the line up as we know it forming and doing gigs and the band selling over one million copies of their first single, Relax.
The band was, fairly or not, split into two camps by the media - up front you had Holly and Paul, two outrageously good looking, (rightly) unashamed to be gay front men. behind them you had three "rough as you like", no-nonsense lads in the form of Mark, Ped and Nasher. If you wished you could look as good as Holly or Paul did (whether you had the same sexuality or not didn't matter), it was the three lads you wanted to be part of; either wishing you were in a gang as cool as them or, indeed, wishing you had one of them as an older brother.
of the three, Mark had the classical good looks that you imagine would see him seduce anyone that took his fancy, Ped was in appearance a wild card, the life and soul of any party, and Nasher was the one in-between those two. his image was, and indeed is, "stick together with us, we'll all be fine".
nothing much in the book takes away from that impression, save to indicate that perhaps Paul was closer to the Lads than he was to Holly behind the scenes. to this extent, Nasher's story is as anecdotal as it is informative.
to that extent, yes, the book does clarify some of the myths, legends and criticisms of Frankie Goes To Hollywood. this "the band couldn't play and didn't feature on the records" story gets dealt with in, if i may say so, a very interesting comparison to other records of the time. exactly how and why they ended up with one of the worst deals any band in the history of the music business ever signed is also exposed, touching on the prejudice against certain ways of life in the mainstream media and industry, shall we say. not playing Live Aid, the time away and a whole host of other incidents are presented here by Nasher, giving only the second account of the band after Holly Johnson's A Bone In My Flute, published some 20 years ago.
it also deals with the seemingly inevitable break up of the band. in no way is it a happy side to the story, but Nasher presents it as something that some of the band had come to terms with long before it actually happened. the efforts to keep the Frankie phenomenon going are nothing short of a revelation. for instance, and this was released to the press by Nasher so i give not too much away here, the world came this close to seeing a certain Simon le Bon take over as the vocalist for Frankie. as to the how, why and eventually why not of that, well, read the book!
despite the pictures here and the title of the book, there's somewhat more to the life story of Brian Nash than Frankie Goes To Hollywood. he was, after all, in the band for just 5 years of his life. to give that some context, a quote from Mani. when it was put to him, prior to the recent reunion, that he had (at the time) been in Primal Scream longer than he had been in The Stone Roses and pressed on his feelings, his answer was "I've been in both bands longer than I was ever in The Beatles, but that's life".
the account Nasher gives of growing up in Liverpool is a joy to read. a mostly happy, average and normal one if the truth be told, but every now and then subjected to certain kinds of prejudices. different, of course, from the ones that Holly spoke of in his book, but in essence two sides of the same coin. the account of the transition from watching Top Of The Pops to being a regular guest on it is in particular impressive reading. no "we always knew we were destined to be big", no sense of entitlement, just the sheer thrill and love of being able to make music for a living and appreciating all those who liked the records he made.
equally, life after Frankie is a captivating read.we grew up thinking rock stars = piles of money, mansions, drugs, women and easy days for life. the reality is somewhat different to that, both for Nasher and for many other stars of the 80s that we had assumed were "set up for life" on the basis of a string of hits. Nasher's astonishing bad luck streak with record labels leads one to wonder how any record label manages to keep going and get records out; all this "internet downloads" crying would be a lot more convincing if the rest of their business model was in order.
with three solo records that sell reasonably well year-on-year and the skills to pay the bills when he's away from the recording studio, the resounding message delivered by this book is a content, blessed and fortunate life. considering the dodgy deals pulled on him and lack of either financial reward or indeed artistic appreciation for just what he and the rest of the band did with Frankie, his rejection of most animosity to how they were treated and how it ended and his refusal to remember anything but what a wonderful time it was with the band is a credit to him and a lesson to us all.
a number of you, perhaps regular readers of this blog or people who have simply googled your way here, will be aware that there was something of a delay in the publication. this was down to "legal reasons", with an unknown party or parties seeking to block publication. i can confirm that the book out is unedited and as intended. everything in the book, good or bad, is fair comment. whoever sought to stop it either got bad legal advice or seriously misunderstood the intention of Nasher. there's no mud slinging or accusations here, just his side of the story.
as for who might have sought to stop publication, who knows and to an extent who cares. a lot of speculation (and i have no inside information at all) comes to the conclusion that it was someone who has the letter H in their name. all i know for sure is this - no more can i listen to the Liverpool album without hearing, if i have done the maths from Nasher's figures correctly, some £40,000 of entirely superfluous prodution material on each track.
it doesn't really matter who tried to stop Nasher's story, what matters is that it is freely available from booksellers and it's a book you should really, really buy.
for those looking for a super deluxe gift for the 80s child in your life, visiting Nasher's amazon store allows you to get a copy of the book not only signed but with whatever dedication you would like. this might be just a touch late for the Christmas gift idea, but Nasher will do his best and it's the perfect gift for any time of the year!
from me, just an average Frankie fan wandering around the world, a big thank you to Nasher for writing this. putting your own life story out in the world is a brave and bold move. it gives a superb account of the band many of us love that takes a different angle from Holly's book but yet does not take away (too much) from what was in A Bone In My Flute. beyond Frankie, Nasher's story is one of just your average fella that got to live the life he loved and love the life he lives. no one should ever ask for more than that; so few of us accept the beauty of it.
thanks for reading this, but most importantly i do hope you're now considering reading this amazing book.