nina antonia - The I-94 Bar
Johnny Thunders and his biographer Nina Antonia.
Recently, I was obliged to dig through about 30 of my 100 boxes from storage and came across Greil Marcus' philosophical punk book “Lipstick Traces”. Highly regarded around the world, I recall reading it with irritation at the time, feeling that... there was a distance to his writing. He just didn't seem excited.
I suppose it was that the man was a music journo, and obliged to listen to so much pap that after a while... everything is part of the same thing. I liked how he got the world-wide impact of what punk did, but I really don't think he came close to nailing his topic.
When I had the opportunity to conduct an e-mail interview with UK author Nina Antonia, I grabbed it with both hands. Nina Antonia is the author of biographies on Johnny Thunders, the New York Dolls and Peter Perrett (The Only Ones) and has a knack of always nailing her topic. She's a delight to read. A quick scamper through bookdepository.com - armed with her name - is always exci
Nina Antonia crops up at the I-94 Bar yet again. Perhaps best known for:
- Her compelling, astonishing book (the first if you discount Morrissey's) on The New York Dolls (a band renowned for decadence at a time when decadence was almost a rite of passage),
- Her bio of Johnny Thunders (the film currently out doesn't use her research, so you can guess what it'll be like),
- Hr bio of Peter Perrett,
- And a book with Pete Doherty.
One begins to rather wonder about Antonia's fascination with doomed, beautiful men...
As she reveals in "The Prettiest Star" (nominally the story of Brett Smiley) she's clearly drawn like a moth to a flame; and she's been writing in solitude and sacrifice for well over 30 years... suffice to say she should be better known.
This book completely beggars belief. Top marks and way, way beyond. It’s also utterly brilliant as well as being compelling reading. It’ll have you ranging your emotions from laughter to sorrow and is so well researched (Nina doesn’t bother much with academic references as her books come mostly from her own interviews and experience) and put together … words completely fail me.
If you’ve read any of Antonia’s other books (on the New York Dolls, Johnny Thunders and The Only Ones) and enjoyed her style and intelligence … The Prettiest Star is so far ahead that it may as well be the best fiction you’ve ever read, except it’s all true.
I can’t believe that you’ll recall Brett Smiley. He had one hit, “Va Va Va Voom”, in the UK in 1974, at the height of that bizarre post-6ts glam and pop period where decent songs were generally in short supply in the charts. Oh dear, much like now? Really? I’m shocked.
Lou’s semi-lost period of the mid-‘70s - post-“Coney Island Baby” and before “Street Hassle” - gets a lot of bad wraps. Not without reason. A big part of why is “Rock and Roll Heart”, an album in the Reed canon that receives little love.
Why? Maybe it wasn’t seamy enough, maybe the production was so-so. The songs seemed weak. Lyrically, it was wishy-washy. The list could go on. Maybe Lou talked everybody out of listening to it when he thoroughly dissed “Coney Island Baby” for being commercially successful. My own take is a little of all of the above. Second-guessing Lou is pointless - and not just because he’s dead.
So you might approach this double CD live release from the esteemed UK label Easy Action with a degree of trepidation. Rest easy. It’s not the born-in-Detroit, Wagner and Hunter-fuelled thunder-and-lightning of “Rock ’n’ Roll Animal”, or the boozy, coked diatribe fest of “Take No Prisoners”, but it’s not without its own considerable merits.
It’s that time of year again, when that fat prick comes scrambling down the chimney armed with a sawn-off and robs you off all your money so’s he can spend it on whores and drugs.
How fair is the world? That’s what I was going to spend it on.
This being the I-94 Barr site, where rock is from Detroit, synths are for Germans and the volume is at 11, you will all have friends who love rock’n’roll. So the bookstores around the world are ready for you this Krimbo, usually armed with tomes the size of one of Mose’s tablets on That Notorious Stone or That Bland Beatle or worse, Someone Who Was Someone Maybe Once (and Just Can’t Get Over It) Volume 3.