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Written by Gary Valentine
Published by Sidgwick & Jackson

Reviewed by Cardinal Cox


Write Dope on Pnuk part 78

In the early ’seventies New York was a city on the edge, practically bankrupt, decadence flourished in disco and glam clubs. Somewhere beneath this the first thorny flowers of punk were starting to bloom. Patti Smith started reading poetry (inspired equally by Bob Dylan, William Blake and Rimbaud) with guitar accompaniment. Elsewhere Richard Hell and Tom Verlaine (taking his name from Rimbaud’s sometime lover who later, for a year, taught in Lincolnshire) formed the band Television.

Taking a cue from the new scene but drawing on a ’sixties sound and style, Debbie Harry and Chris Stein founded the group Blondie. Their bass player (and sometime lodger) was the awkward youth Gary Lachman, changing his surname to Valentine for a stab at fame. Gary saw the first grasping attempts at success. He wrote songs, including (I’m Always Touched By Your) Presence Dear, but by the time it was a hit, he and the band had parted company. Moved to California and started his own band Know, and when that folded, joined Iggy Pop’s backing band for a while. Then years later Blondie look to re-form and Gary only found disappointment again.

Previously I had read a couple of other books by Lachman that have been released by Sawtry based publisher Dedalus and these tend to relate to more esoteric subjects, and in this autobiography I found the origins of his interest in the occult. I also noted that while he aspired to the company of Smith and Verlaine with his own interest in the symbolists, his inability to ‘crack their circle’ left him bitter and so remaining with the skinny tie crowd. Perhaps the story would have been different if Gary had joined the opposition gang (as he sometimes presents the art crowd). He also exhibits disdain for the later British punks who took what they saw of the scene and did their own thing with it.

An interesting viewpoint of an important period of time but served with a bitter wine made from the sour grapes.


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