Stephen Cummings Will It Be Funny Tomorrow, Billy?

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

A glance along the music section of Hughesy's bookshelves reveals they’re pretty light on for autobiographies. Plenty of biographies, discussions of genres, environments, labels and the odd volume of reminiscence, but not too much in the way of yer actual autobiography.

And looking at the autobiographies that are there as the exceptions we can formulate a rule around them,

Bob Dylan's Chronicles Volume 1 was widely applauded when it appeared a couple of years ago, and quite rightly so. The Bobster's work has spawned a significant chunk of publishing action over the years and it's hardly surprising that the man himself would be motivated to go to print and set a few things straight.

The particular approach he took, grabbing a couple of periods off his career's time line, discussing his recollections of them in some detail and consigning everything else to the maybe next time department meant that there'll be a queue lining up for Volume 2 and also allows the writer to skip over periods in his career that, for one reason or other he'd prefer to forget.

Or, indeed, could well have forgotten.

Searching For The Sound is the autobiography of Phil Lesh, bass-player with the Grateful Dead and notorious in some circles as the man who wanted the sound of solid air on Anthem of the Sun

Given Lesh's background in serious contemporary music before he joined the Dead, their thirty-odd year career, associated lifestyle issues, a liver transplant and an on-going career where he works through the Dead's and a few other repertoires with a constantly changing lineup of musos, you'd expect the guy to have plenty to write about.

Joe Boyd's White Bicycles isn't really an autobiography as such, more a series of descriptions of Boyd's interactions with various performers and genres over the period between his adolescence and the time he headed off to head Warner Brothers film music department in the early seventies. as such it's as much about them as it is about him.

So, if they're the exceptions, what's the rule?

How about: The majority of musos are pretty ordinary people making their living more or less on a production line, so once you take out the sex and drugs (which for various reasons are probably a 'no go' zone) there probably isn't a whole lot that they can write about?

I was left pondering such considerations when I finished reading Stephen Cummings Will It Be Funny Tomorrow, Billy?, Cummings' more or less autobiographical account of his own misadventures in music.

Since The Sports were one of Hughesy's all-time favourite Australian bands, Cummings' previous excursions into the realm of fiction suggested that the guy can actually write reasonably well and I'd found his MySpace blogs reasonably interesting, I was looking forward to getting my hands on a copy to the extent that I bought over the internet rather than waiting till a trip to a major centre where there are actual bookshops where I might find a copy.

A career that only lasted a couple of years, four albums and a brace of EPs without reaching the heights of international stardom, means that Cummings was always going to be relatively light on for material when it comes to The Sports years, an issue he avoids at the beginning by going into his childhood and adolescence and the band's predecessors, the legendary Pelaco Brothers.


© Ian Hughes 2012