Former Blur bassist Alex James recounts his ascent to rock stardom in mid-1990s London and the subsequent rapid explosion of his ego with plenty of wit in hindsight.
London in the mid-1990s was an epicenter of the music and art worlds, verging on a major political shift. James, formerly the bassist in Britpop band Blur and contributor to several British magazines, recounts his ascent to rock stardom and the subsequent rapid explosion of his ego with plenty of wit in hindsight.
He affectionately recalls his boyhood in Bournemouth dreaming of appearing on Top of the Pops. "In all the time I have been making music, nothing quite so fantastic as what happened in the next five minutes has ever happened again," he writes of a teenage bedroom rehearsal with two friends. In 1988, enrolled at London's Goldsmiths College, James met best friend and Blur band mate Graham Coxon ("brilliantly artistic, but vulnerable"), artist Damien Hirst and first-love Justine, with whom he fell in and out for several years.
Blur, originally called Seymour, signed with EMI Records at the height of pop music's obsession with grunge. When the shambling Britpop sound caught on globally, James found himself rich and famous in his early 20s. "I'd tell myself it was the duty of rock stars to indulge themselves beyond reasonable limits," he writes. "If I couldn't be reckless and extreme, I wasn't doing my job properly."
James felt free to indulge his passions, which in addition to the usual drink and drugs included astronomy and fancy cheeses, extolled in refreshing, if long-winded vignettes. Readers may feel slightly overstuffed by the time the rock star sobers up and settles down in the country, but James's self-awareness on the page saves him from innumerable tabloid cliches. He'd rather name fine hotels and bars than the glitterati frequenting them, and he never forgets how he arrived at such a rarefied perch, looking back with a teenager's sense of awe.