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Animal House

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Animal House is great at conveying the social changes of the 90s and the buzz at the time: Conservatism was on its last legs, while the public got to experience cheap flights, the ecstasy boom, the Premier League and the early days of the internet. I liked it his stuff because it was always enthusiastic, hardly ever snide or self-consciously clever. I had expected to not like James whilst reading this book as I had a preconceived idea that he was cocky and egotistical and whilst he does continually refer to himself as both these things throughout the book I rarely saw it reflected in his behaviour. It won every award going, year after year, and came to define not only its audience but also a generation.

No matter the obstacles in his way, whether that’s dinosaurs at the IPC, colleagues who said he’d never own a fancy sports car, or critics who looked down on his ‘laddish’ approach to magazine publishing, Brown did whatever it is he wanted to do. The partaking of indulgences that often goes hand in hand with rock and roll can lead to habits that are detrimental to health. He doesn’t stand outside looking on admiringly though, he kicks open the backstage door and gets wasted with the best/worst of them. Having had my own episodes of addictions and early 20’s partying, the book firmly spoke to me, which will do the same to others who might’ve trodden a similar journey or even those that are starting out to be a warn of what to do and maybe what not to do. Bright, loud, funny, provocative, ambitious and careless, loaded was read from the barracks of Afghanistan to the England dressing room at Euro ’96.Along the way they dream up genius headlines like ‘Fifty ways to lose your liver’, ‘Chocolate and the Charlie factory’ and ‘Sushi and the van keys’. He rediscovered his love of music, reconnected with smaller music venues, hung out with the Reeves guy that was in the Matrix and the one that was partnered with Bob Mortimer, and went clubbing. It’s the first one I’ve listened to where the author bursts out laughing, remembering the times he’s writing about. He embraces the concept of gonzo journalism, like his influences, Hunter S Thompson, Tom Woolfe and Nick Kent.

For some people, that’s the equivalent of playing centre forward for their favourite football team, playing lead guitar for their favourite band or being a test driver for your favourite sports car manufacturer. He genuinely means that last bit: a life in magazines might have left Brown feeling like a “beaten up old car”, but he seems to be doing pretty great at the moment. Whilst there was debauchery a plenty around Brown’s life being an editor and creator of 2 of the most popular publications of the period, it’s understandable now that Brown has taken the time to look back and describe some of the patterns of his personal life that many probably knew nothing about, no doubt influencing his outlandish behaviour of the time.

James travelled up and down the country with bands like The Redskins and The Three Johns, hopped up on cheap cider and raw enthusiasm, making connections and flexing his writing wings. There are people I wish I’d seen rather than interviewed, so the Small Faces and The Clash and The Faces in their prime, for instance. I can imagine popular authors get inundated with enquiries but the authors popularity on this social media platform is fledgling.

He points out that the dials on his guitar amp go up to eleven because “ … you turn it up to ten, and where do you go from there? Photograph: Harry Borden/The Guardian View image in fullscreen James Brown says he feels like a ‘beaten up old car’ these days.Life at Condé Nast was a culture shock for Brown – suddenly he was expected to schmooze at fashion events and shake hands with advertisers. and the way it made them feel like they were part of an exclusive gang (even if said gang ran to 300,000-odd readers each month). At first this book seemed like it was right up my street, especially given that I had actually completed some work experience as a late teenager at Loaded magazine. I was explaining you’d have to do something really bad like that, and there’s no point moving into controversial territory.

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