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Simon Heavisides - Destiny Stopped Screaming: The Life and Times of Adrian Borland

  by John Clarkson

published: 4 / 5 / 2024

Simon Heavisides - Destiny Stopped Screaming: The Life and Times of Adrian Borland


John Clarkson examines Simon Heavisides' sympathetic biography of Sound frontman and solo artist Adrian Borland

Simon Heavisides has excellent credentials for writing a book about Adrian Borland. A long-term fan of Borland and his band The Sound, he first interviewed Borland for the launch edition of his fanzine in 1991. In the surprisingly amusing introduction to ‘Destiny Stopped Screaming’, Heavisides – currently a writer for ‘Line of Best Fit – confesses to putting his entire future at risk by sneaking off to The Sound’s last ever UK show at The London Marquee in May 1987, the night before he took his finals. The story of Adrian Borland remains one of the most tragic and messy in rock music. The Sound won acclaim and briefly courted fame with their first two albums, ‘Jeopardy’ (1980) and ‘From the Lion’s Mouth’(1981). Their third album, the experimental and uncommercial ‘All Fall Down’ (1982) was , however, misunderstood, and they were dropped by their label, Warner Brothers imprint Korova. Borland started showing signs of mental illness shortly afterwards. He was diagnosed with a schizoid-afflictive disorder, which made him hallucinate and hear voices. He would be sectioned in the coming years, and tried to commit suicide on several occasions. He died at the age of 42, on the morning of the 26th April 1999, when he threw himself in front of a train at Wimbledon Station. Heavisides’ epic, 500-plus page book tells of Borland’s upbringing as the only child of a physicist and an English teacher, in the middle class South London suburb of Raynes Park. As a musically obsessed teenager, Borland formed his first proper band The Outsiders, in which he sang and played guitar with school friends, drummer Adrian Janes and bassist Bob Lawrence. Encouraged in their ambitions by Borland’s supportive parents, they released two albums, ‘Calling on Youth’ (1977) and ‘Close Up’ (1978) on Raw Edge Records, set up by Borland’s parents. The Outsiders’ career peaked when they were joined on stage one night by Borland’s hero Iggy Pop, at the infamous punk club The Roxy. By late 1979, The Outsiders had morphed into The Sound. Borland was joined by his neighbour Graham Bailey on bass, Mike Dudley on drums and Bi Marsh on keyboards (She was replaced by Colvin ‘Max’ Mayers after ‘Jeopardy’). After the failure of ‘All Fall Down’, The Sound released an EP ‘Shock of Daylight’ (1984) and an album ‘Heads and Hearts’ (1985) on indie label Statik, which eventually went bust. A final LP, ‘Thunder Up’ (1987) came out on Play it Again Sam. They were a popular live draw in Holland, but had little commercial success elsewhere. Plagued by Borland’s growing mental issues, they had to cancel dates. The group came to a final end on 5th December, at a gig at the Boerdrij in Zoetermeer in the Netherlands, when Borland walked off stage mid-set. Borland then started a faltering solo career. Over the rest of his short lifetime, he released five albums: ‘Alexandria’ (1989), ‘Brittle Heaven ‘(1992), ‘Beautiful Ammunition’ (1994), ‘Cinematic’ (1997) and ‘5,00 AM’ (1997). They were released on a succession of tiny indie labels; his last album ‘5.00 AM’ came out on Earth, another label his parents set up for him. Despite including what Borland felt was some of his best ever work, they were little heard. His death came during the recording of his sixth solo album, ‘Harmony and Destruction’ (Posthumously released in 2002). Borland stopped taking his medication in the hope that it would improve his musical performance, but it led to another, fatal, psychotic episode. Borland’s career has attracted growing interest since his death, especially after the release of a 2016 film documentary ‘Walking in the Opposite Direction’ and the reissue in recent times of much of his back catalogue, often with extensive sleeve notes. Simon Heavisides, however, greatly builds on what is already out there with ‘Destiny Stopped Screaming’, Borland’s first English language biography. An as-yet-untranslated Italian book, ‘Adrian Borland and The Sound: Meaning of a Distant Victory’, came out at the same time as the documentary in 2016. Heavisides proves adept at rooting out friends and colleagues, who have been given little voice in Borland’s story until now. His girlfriend of four years in the early 1980s, Julie Burroughs (born Aldred), is illuminating. After they broke up, rather than lose her entirely, he enlisted her as The Sound’s tour manager. When he was having an episode or was depressed, his mother would frequently phone her up, even after Julie had married someone else, to come around because she was good at calming him down. Julie eventually felt forced to break off all ties for her husband’s sake. Mark Burgess from The Chameleons describes the warm friendship that sprung up between them in the last years of Borland’s life, after he wrote a song, ‘Adrian Be’, about him. Pat Rowles, the bass player and co-producer on ‘Harmony and Destruction’, tells of how he personally put up a lot of the money for the recording of the album. Having laid down his bass parts, he then flew off on holiday. He recalls his horror on his return a fortnight later at learning that Borland had killed himself. Two of his childhood friends, John Troiano and Ronin Bell, remember Adrian as having a great imagination and being a natural leader, even as a small boy. A series of previously unpublished interviews, conducted by Adrian Janes in 1996 for a proposed biography, give a lot of insight into Borland’s thoughts, temperament and personality Heavisides goes deep on his subject, providing weighty appraisals of each of The Sound and Borland’s solo albums. He also provides a full and rounded assessment of Borland’s character. An alcoholic for much of his career, he was essentially a man-child who lived with his parents for most of his life. He needed to be taught by Mike Dudley how to cook an egg. At the same time, he was absolutely committed to music, never really considering doing anything else, even though it cost him as much as it gave him, and ultimately triggered his death. Heavisides deals with Borland’s condition sensitively. He admits that he finds it difficult writing about the events leading up to his suicide, but also asks important but rarely publicly aired questions, such as whether there had been illness in Borland’s family – there had on his father’s side – and whether coming off his medication was purely the reason for his death. Borland had just broken up with another girlfriend a few weeks beforehand and was clearly weary of relying on handouts from his parents and friends to get his albums made. He was unusually, almost deliriously happy on the night before his death, as if he had resolved something. There is, therefore, some evidence that his suicide might have been less spontaneous than it seems. While often making uncomfortable reading, ‘Destiny Sropped Screaming’ is an informative but sympathetic account of the life of a troubled but gifted front man and songwriter whose talents are just starting to be recognised at last now.

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