There’s something intriguing about reading an artist’s well-documented life from their own point of view, especially one whose band ended in controversy. Joseph O’Connor has opted to create his own rock reality, backing the fictional underdog of The Ships, Robert Goulding.
Almost in an attempt to rectify the pitfalls of the typical fictional memoir, O’Connor picks the member who had the least to show for his work. Now broke, divorced and living without music, Goulding details his youth and subsequent friendship with Fran Mulvey, the superstar who was bigger than his band, through to the many lows on the quest for rock ‘n’ roll salvation.
Avoiding awful band names, the overdone rock ‘n ‘roll clichés of superstardom and the disjointed place they apparently slot into music history, his points of reference create a full picture of each era’s music scene, with his heroine Patti Smith never too far away. Beyond their backdrop, the actual details are staggering, enhanced through cleverly placed interview snippets, press clippings and diary entries.
It follows the highs and lows of a band who made it big, then fell apart and ended things in court, also showing the real musicians – Morrissey, being key – that it is possible to document court cases in an interesting way without an overriding bitterness.
The Thrill of It All deals with the dark times and the hard graft to actually get somewhere, not just the soaring highs once they hit the big time. From the motherly instincts of bassist Trez, to the unpredictability of the incomparable Fran, there’s a lot of character depth. Even Robert has his highs and lows, with a self-deprecating edge to his quest for rock ‘n’ roll, and subsequent life away from it.
This is an book so well crafted you end up wishing it was about a real band. It’s proof that the fictional rock ‘n’ roll can be done well, and as it fast forwards to the present day to show how time changes things, it’s easy for the reader to be drawn into tales of the teenage dream, friendship and a real love of music.