Monday, 15 March 2010
My one possible claim to being anything approaching a 'proper' journalist is that I once enjoyed a boozy lunch with former Melody Maker scribe, and fellow Hawkwind biographer, Carol Clerk. I imagine having worked the inky weekly music press for many years, Carol was a veteran of such lunches and departed the particular tavern in question in total clarity and went off and interviewed Shane McGowan or something. Me, I crawled back to my hotel room (this was a few years back, so very probably the old flea pit itself, the now defunct Regents Palace) in the vain hope of an afternoon sleeping it off. But, God did I feel like I'd joined the real journalists club.
This morning, making what is a now an irregular browse of the Hawkwind yahoo group, I discovered that Carol had passed away and that made me enormously sad. I didn't know her terribly well - that boozy lunch was the only time I met her and enjoyed her company - but we had exchanged the odd telephone call and the infrequent e-mail, having been in friendly competition on our respective Hawkwind stories. The first time I spoke to her, she'd just been talking with Nik Turner, who'd told her about my book and given her my telephone number and she'd very generously called to apologise for treading the same ground as I was covering. Actually, it transpired there was a third book in the offing, that didn't appear in the end due I guess to clashing with our respective tomes and I believe the author of that book also received an apologetic call from Carol.
As it happened, I was able to help Carol with a couple of key contacts for her biography and she, in turn, e-mailed me Lemmy's phone number in Los Angeles, and a copy of his business card. Where was Lemmy in my finished manuscript? Ah, you don't just ring up Lemmy... surely? But we swapped a few contacts, some I had that didn't fit with her vision of her book she didn't follow up but were people I felt were key to mine. But that was probably the beauty of the two books - we followed different paths to get to our different end results. It's been a said a few times that if you put the two books together, you probably get to the real story of Hawkwind - others have compared the News of the World and the 'anorak's guide' and I believe we both thought those were valid comparisons.
When Carol's book, The Saga of Hawkwind, came out I of course read it, and of course enjoyed it greatly. What she'd included was quite investigative - someone once asked why Ian Abrahams didn't have the same background details as Carol had gathered but the truth, by and large, was that I had but that some of those details weren't for the sort of book I was writing and I'd consigned them to the cutting room floor. Where my cutting room floor was knee-deep in trims to make the word count limit (or, strictly fair here, my old friend and the person most responsible for making my own Hawk book work, Keith Topping's Newcastle pad's floor) Carol had been given her head by Omnibus and had produced a work of doorstop size full of outrageous stories and wild living that is rightly loved by Hawkwind fandom. I've not read all of her other wide-ranging books, though I did read her official biography of The Damned, Light At The End Of The Tunnel, back in the mid-80s, but for my money her achievement with Saga of Hawkwind was surpassed by her excellent book on The Pogues, Pogue Mahone, a couple of years later and wrote a very enthusiastic review of it for Record Collector.
So I didn't know her very well, I'm afraid, but what I wanted to say was that what I did know of her was all good things. Carol was very kind to me before my book appeared, despite Sonic Assassins being on pole position for the first 'available in bookstores' Hawkwind biography, generously plugging it in Uncut during a little piece she'd written principally to promote her own work. When she read it, she was kind enough to telephone and say that she'd enjoyed it, and to note the same on-line. She spared me her time when I was in town, to have that liquid lunch and so that I could listen to some greatly appreciated sound advice from a 'name' rock journalist, which she absolutely was. When I was writing a piece on The Damned for Record Collector, she phoned around and organised interviews with Rat Scabies and Brian James for me - and again contacted me to say she'd enjoyed the piece when it appeared.
She didn't need to do any of those things - but she let me feel like a member of the rock journalist club when others might have just seen me playing at and she took some time to encourage and advise someone who was just starting to work at something she was already an expert in the field of. I think it's a BIG person who does that, and the world of rock journalism is poorer for her passing.