Pennyblackmusic Presents: Johny Brown (Band of Holy Joy) - With Hector Gannet and Andy Thompson @The Water Rats, London, Saturday 25, May, 2024

Headlining are Johny Brown (Band of Holy Joy) With support from Hector Gannet And Andy Thompson
Hosted at the Water Rats London , Saturday 25th May, 2024. Doors open 7:30pm. First band on at 8:00pm; Admission £15 on the door or £12 in advance from We got Tickets
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Harvey Lee - Backstage Pass

  by Eoghan Lyng

published: 8 / 3 / 2024

Harvey Lee - Backstage Pass


Eoghan Lyng enjoys entrepreneur Harvey Lee's book about his business experiences in rock.

Rock and pop has been obsessed with the executive side of the business since day one:by 1964, Beatle manager Brian Epstein issued ‘A Cellarful of Noise’, commenting on his experiences negotiating better deals for the band he dubbed the greatest he would ever hear. That said, few books have issued wisdoms as sententiously as Harvey Lee has with Backstage Pass’, a book that is predicated almost entirely on the pretext that a life spent working among rock stars can be as enterprising as any career spent behind a desk. Lee embodied music; nothing, it seems, came close to him. "Music college, own band, roadie," he writes. "I had very little money, but I was happy." A smart blend of whimsy and commentary, ‘Backstage Pass’ frequently deals in offering proverbs or issuing perspectives. These are usually delivered with dry wit, although the sincerity ("I couldn't fuck up,") never wavers for a millisecond. You can understand why this is new territory for rock journalism, because so much of it is fixed on the industry, as opposed to the debauchery that nominally comes with a rock and roll property. The book is driven methodically, but Lee's ubiquitous humour glues itself to the pages, lifting readers from the doldrums of boredom. Only the stoniest of readers can't help feeling some level of admiration for the writer, who never wavered from his self-determination, bolstered by a humility that's pleasantly British in its resolve. You don’t have to possess an abiding passion for business to enjoy the work: There's a multitude of anecdotes to be enjoyed, from Lee's work with 1960s British rockers Herman's Hermits, to the conversations he enjoyed with Jaz Coleman of Killing Joke fame. There's something similarly revealing about Lee's encounters with Australian act AC/DC, which rounds up decades of fan-service with a blinding series of anecdotes: AC/DC; guitarist Malcolm Young, impressed with Lee's knowledge, sent Lee a signed box-set he keeps to this day. The passion - sometimes redemptive, and often moving - fuels the narrative, witnessed by someone who watched these acts from the side of the stage. Back Stage represents mature rock musings in another way too: It dispels the notions that 1970s hard rock stemmed from a place of pure creativity, considering Jimmy Page's metiér as a session player, while retaining the desire to compete with the grandest and most superlative of rock artists ("Herman's Hermits were heavier than I thought," Lee writes.) Light and shade are expertly and cunningly in harmony, and the book's central treatise is spun out into so much engaging variety, through bullet points, photographs, acknowledgements -the book is impressively designed - that the stories are never less than noteworthy; even exhilarating. Then there's Lee's gleeful delight in his accomplishments. He delivers a hearty chuckle when he recalls The Troubleshooters, a local band he encountered at a competition in Sunderland (they were robbed of victory, it would seem.) Here, fully in command of his thoughts, Lee says The Troubleshooters were deserving of success, which might explain why he was so happy to see them share the bill with Squeeze keyboardist Jools Holland. Lee himself is endlessly fascinating, a businessman who treats his readers like colleagues he can work with again and again. Backstage Press’ occupies a special place in the canon of rock books, precisely because it's so unpretentious and down to earth - both as a testimonial, and an ontological study of musicianship. It's succinct, slick, sincere and driven by English wit. In the end, it offers a manual of sorts for students of the rock lexicon, and those who are looking for something to read in the upcoming summer months.

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