up above the city down beneath the starsUp Above the City, Down Beneath the Stars
By Barry Adamson (Omnibus Press)

This autobiography is so sumptuous and clean that I don't want it to end, so I'm taking it in glorious nibbles. I haven't finished it yet, but sod that. You need to know how damned good it is, so I'm filing the review now. Just order it, buy it, demand it from your music emporium. 

Barry Adamson is perhaps best known to the Australian rock 'n' roll world as a founder  member of Magazine, covering for Tracy Pew while the latter was in jail, and the first four Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds LPs (and re-joining in 2013). He is also an accomplished producer of film scores.

His own band came to Australia in September 2012 on the back of his LP “I Will Set You Free”. I have very fond memories of that magnificent night in Adelaide, not least because I only recall three other friends there: one of whom we all miss terribly.

“Up Above the City, Down Beneath the Stars” is simply told, evocative, playful, revelatory and ... look, I've read innumerable stories of growing up with rock at its finest, but never one so vivid, so pulsing, so writhingly alive.

Adamson's descriptions will make you want to hunt out half-a thousand old 45s, particularly from the 1960s and 1970s. Man, he was exposed to some magnificent music really early on before he managed to find himself in Magazine. 

And his power of recall reminds me of Laurie Lee - and his prose does too, and that's no idle praise. There are a few ... well, they're either clues or nods to his state, or simply offhand comments thrown out there to beguile and pique your curiosity.

This being UK, and Barry being “half-caste” (lovely phrase), and undeniably different in more ways than five, violence and pain are an ordinary backdrop. When Adamson's sex-life roars into life we go from confusion and humping the family sofa with unfulfilled yearning to erotic ... no, I've said too much already. Oh, and drugs. Hey, it was the 1970s by then, see.

Now, I don't want to spoil the delight you will experience as Barry's life and emotional life unravels before you, his confusions, pains, frustrations; his joys, his extraordinarily epic internal world. You feel like you've always known this man by the third page. After that it's just a rich feast, someone's life, damn well-told; that you happen to know a little about some of the music he made is a thin veneer of icing. “Up Above the City, Down Beneath the Stars” is the real deal.

I can only hope there's a second volume on the way, because he's got another 30-odd years to fill in for us, and I simply don't want to wait.

three mcgarrett