The Sensational Alex Harvey Band in the 1970s. The novel has strands that reflect the heady days of Scottish rock

Espedair Street by Iain Banks

Feel sorry for me. I’m Daniel Weir, known as Weird. A super rich rock star, who writes the lyrics to Frozen Gold’s songs from a working class background in Glasgow who hit the big time without passing through the usual stages of further education or apprenticeships. A penniless 20-something lifestyle in my coming of age fictional autobiography that begins plausibly and ends with an unlikely happy ending with the girl I love.

Espedair Street is Iain Banks’ entertaining and but at times tediously self-indulgent account of a lifestyle that blends the world of rock stars such as Fish, Sting, and Alex Harvey with that of a struggling lyricist who ends up a millionaire in the hedonistic era of the 1970s and 1980s. An era of vinyl, King Sized cigarettes and king sized egos.

It captures the shallowness and sexism of an time of joint smoking playboy pop stars and the mindless materialism of their successful lifestyles. And it charts their downfall through drugs and unfortunate encounters with failed stage props.

The song writing and craft of creating new songs is well documented, but their addiction to drugs was sketchy at times while the sex was frankly pathetic in its description. More Mills and Boon than Men Only Magazine. For a sex, drugs and rock and roll read it was surprisingly coy.

Some of the strongest aspects of the novel were its descriptions of life back in the day of Giro cheques, cassette players and the Bay City Rollers. It begins with the line: ‘Two days ago I decided to kill myself,’ and ends in a village hall after Daniel has finally worked out what he really wants in life. Not the endless booze ups, the East European merchandise or his lust for lead singer Christine Brice but a simpler and more balanced life unlike his own upbringing. That of his violent father and devout Catholic mother and the poverty of a childhood in Glasgow. These chapters are well penned as is much of his life in Paisley and the titular attractions of Espedair Street. It’s an uneven read. In places compulsive and it others repetitive, but as a sort of period piece about a period which has faded along with the denims and LPs it depicts, an excellent fictional document about a pre-internet age of indulgence.

Harry Mottram

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