I have just come back from a lovely week’s holiday in Malta and whilst I was sat beside the pool I managed to read three books. So I haven’t had much chance to post any ukulele video’s but I thought with the books being music related, I’d write a quick review of one the books I read - Richard Jobson’s autobiography ‘Into the valley’.
Interestingly one of the other books I read was Mike Love’s ‘My life as a beach boy and in many ways there is a clear comparison to be made with Jobsons book. Mike Love (of The Beach Boys), perhaps like Jobson, was slightly overshadowed by someone else in the band, whilst being the front man. Mike Love seemed in the media to be portrayed as less important in the Beach Boys than Brian Wilson, and I think due to Stuart Adamson’s latter success in Big Country this happened to Jobson too, although perhaps only after the band had split up.
For those who don’t know, Jobson was lead singer and lyricist with 70’s punk band ‘Skids’. Hailing from Dunfermline they offered much more than many of their contemporaries, due in no small part to Jobsons lyrics and Stuart Adamsons amazing guitar work.
The book itself is an easy read. I got through it all in about 4 hours. It details Jobsons early life, all the way to the day the Skids came to an end. Throughout, Jobson is brutally honest. As a child he suffered heavily from epilepsy, which made him quite introverted. Like many great artists he used this set back to his advantage and indulged himself in art music and literature. Very early on Jobson makes it clear that without Stuart Adamson, he would never have had a career in music. I think Jobson does a disservice to himself here and whilst Adamson was an incredible driving force behind the band, I like to think had they not formed the Skids, a talent like Jobsons would have shone through at some stage.
With ‘Into the Valley’ Jobson tackles head on his relationship with Adamson. Jobson goes into a fair amount of detail about his relationship with Adamson, and it is interesting to see they were good friends from an early stage. Stuart tragically took his own life in 2001 and it would have been easy for Jobson just to exclude any criticisms he had of Adamson. He doesn’t though, and he handles and criticisms of Adamson them with tact and understanding, which clearly come from a deep respect for Adamson. They shared a love of music and books early on, but it soon becomes apparent that Adamson could be uncommunicative and at times estranged. This caused problems, such as when Adamson disappeared before the Skids biggest ever gig at Hammersmith Odeon, only to appear 5 minutes prior to the gig with no reasons. This not only frustrated Jobson but you get the impression it also hurt him. Subtly though, in the book, Jobson manages to portray his anguish without ever directly blaming Adamson. Jobson alludes to Adamson having issues of his own but doesn’t really delve too deeply into them. I was left with the feeling he knew more about Adamsons issues than he lets on, but he leaves them at a respectful distance. This again I feel shows his deep respect for Adamson and as a reader leaves you feeling this was the correct decision.
The book gives a unique insight into Adamson and Jobsons song writing partnership. On the days they did Peel Sessions, they (despite record company pressure) wrote the songs actually on the day in preference to re hashing old hits. The travelled down with no songs in their bags, but always delivered. This, I feel, gave the songs their urgency and ferocity of attack. How many bands, given the prestige of a Peel session, would have the balls to turn up with no songs written and write them on the day ?
For me the book is too short. I have a feeling this is because Jobson wanted to clearly cut it off at the end of the Skids – and that the second part of his life will be covered in a second autobiography. I truly hope this is the case as after the Skids Jobson released two underrated music albums (one with The Armoury Show featuring the masterful guitar skills of John Mcgeoch of PIL and The Banshees) and also a fine solo effort. If two of the greatest rock guitarists of the last 30 years Mcgeoch and Adamson) were happy to work with Jobson, he can’t have been that bad can he ? He then went on to have a successful career in areas as diverse as TV presenting, poetry albums, modelling and now Film Directing.
Jobsons music career was, like this book, delivered at one heck of a pace. I highly recommend it.