Ever wondered what life is like on the road, or in the studio? Let me rephrase that. Ever wondered what it is REALLY like? Wonder no more... Guy Pratt's new book (or as Bryan Ferry noted, his "latest" book) 'My Bass And Other Animals' is a no-holds barred, warts'n'all look at his career working with such luminaries as Madonna, Bryan Ferry, Michael Jackson, David Bowie, David Gilmour, and Pink Floyd, to name but a few.
With an almost alarming disregard for sparing his own blushes, Guy takes us through a potted history of his life in music. From his childhood days, and his quest for a guitar from his parents, through his early bands and concerts, moving from band to band taking fairly hefty steps up the showbiz ladder, right up to the present day, the level of detail (various substances permitting - alcohol and otherwise) is impressive, and contributes to a rich atmosphere.
Eschewing a desire to be a front man, Guy sets out at an early stage to be just a member of the band, and indeed, not just any band but the band of his musical heroes - which he has, through hard work and old fashioned good fortune in places, achieved, seemingly playing with the majority of his favourites. He comes across as an eager fan at times and this is what infuses the book with its sense of fun and a sense of disbelief at being in certain situations with legends.
He has a clear love and respect for many of those he has worked with - some of which are sadly no longer with us (such as Robert Palmer and Joe Strummer). Pretty much everyone though has fun poked at them: Michael Jackson hiding behind a mixing desk, Jimmy Page and his long-haul flight tactics, what to wear in Lake Tahoe, and what to say to David Gilmour when he springs a surprise song on you in front of a large audience!
For those who have seen his live, stand-up show, the material you saw him present was a mere hint of a nibbly taster, compared to the banquet of stories and anecdotes he relates within the pages of his book. The live material does appear, but it forms a tiny part of the full content, and indeed he has the luxury of space allowing the stories to breathe and more detail to be revealed.
Sure, many Floyd fans will head straight for the extensive sections on his work over the past twenty years with David Gilmour, the Floyd themselves, and his Live8 experiences, but that would be missing out on the incredibly rich seam of stories from throughout his life and musical career.
Having said that, the Floyd-related chapters are a particular joy. He takes us from his somewhat unexpected hiring (despite his best efforts to make the auditions as tough as possible), through to his experiences in the studio and on the road. With tours as extensive as the Floyd played over the period, Guy has a very rich seam of stories to tell. Find out, for example, why David got a soaking as he went through baggage in a hotel reception, what happened when the tour bus crossed the border from the US to Canada, what an “ambience coordinator” did, and even Steve O’Rourke’s reaction to Guy’s request for travel expenses.
As sad as it may sound, this really was a book I was dreading getting to the end of. I found myself rationing myself to reading individual chapters, savouring the stories, especially as I approached the end. Despite the more rarefied atmosphere of the bands that Guy became involved with in more recent years, there seemed to be no let-up in the scrapes and situations that he found himself in. The better the hotel, the more important the occasion or the people he found himself with, the more opportunities presented themselves for japes or calamities, some of which self-inflicted.
You'll be hard-pressed to find a more entertaining book - at turns laugh-out-loud hilarious, jaw dropping, or illuminating - and one that any music fan will love. What makes it even more compelling is the feeling that none of the material is exaggerated. Indeed, at times it feels like he has even toned down a number of incidents, perhaps to protect the innocent (and the not-so innocent). His writing style is lively, with a conversational edge, and eminently readable. Guy also shares with us a healthy assortment of black and white pictures throughout the book, many of which being private pictures taken over the years.
Let's hope this book marks the first stage in his literary career. A Bill Bryson for the world of music? Perhaps. An essential addition to your bookshelves? Definitely!
To order a copy of the hardback version of "My Bass & Other Animals" book, you can use the following special links: Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, Amazon Germany, or Amazon France.
The paperback version of this excellent book was published on March 6th, 2008, and it can be ordered from: Amazon UK, Amazon.com (US/international), Amazon Canada, Amazon Germany, or Amazon France, or from the Brain Damage bookstore.
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