Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Jerry Shirley: Best Seat In The House. Book review

Jerry Shirley: Best Seat In the House
Rebeats/Hal Leonard Corporation
Jerry Shirley is famously the drummer for British band Humble Pie right the way through the life of the band. Not only does it document the life of Humble Pie in great detail from the bands formation in late 1968 through to its dissolution in early 1975 it also documents Jerry’s ;life covering the early days of his life  and includes stories about all the people he encountered during that time.
To be honest you may think that by the time of Humble Pie’s split in early 1975 that Jerry would have been a has been and possibly washed up amid a huge drink and drug problem. Thankfully that was not the case and Jerry would eventually go on to work with Steve Marriott again by way of bands like Natural Gas and Fastway, not to mention another stint with a re formed Humble Pie in the late seventies; all in all pretty impressive for a guy who was only in his early twenties when Humble Pie split the first time round.
Well in fairness to Jerry he had lived a life and a half by this point and possibly saw much and experienced even more but when Humble Pie split he was in fact only 23 years of age. Yeah, that young He actually joined Humble Pie when he was only 16 years old so you can imagine that not only was he in esteemed company  with Steve Marriott, Peter Frampton and Greg Ridley he was also thrown in at the deep end as Humble Pie very quickly gained a big foothold particularly in America
Everything is here in this book from the highs (Literally) through to the lows which unsurprisingly were also coming at him at various periods of his life remember it isn’t always bright and sunny being a rock star. Jerry goes into detail for example of having on the one hand success in America and then coming home to find his mother terminally ill and when she died he had to miss the funeral in order to embark on another American tour with Humble Pie. It is literally heartbreaking and something that stayed with Jerry for many years
Whilst the book is not all sex and drugs and rock n roll there is a fair bit of honesty here concerning what a musician’s life was like during the heady days of the late sixties and early seventies and particularly for a young successful musician as Jerry was.
The thing I like about this book is that it really is Jerry’s own words not some hack who just wrote down what he thought the story should be. I am sure that Jerry would want me to mention however that the book was very well edited by fellow musician John Cohan who has written for many music journals over the years. The writing style however is very natural and the words are all Jerry Shirley’s and I have to say the book is quite a page turner and whilst there are a few moments of sadness there are plenty of laugh out loud moments.
As I have said the book covers the period between Jerry being born and the first split of Humble Pie in 1975. There is an epilogue which brings you up to speed although what this book is really crying out for is volume two which I hope Jerry and the publishers get round to agreeing a deal soon. The book will definitely be high on the want list of Americans where Jerry Shirley and Humble Pie is particularly well known but anyone with a passing interest in rock music will enjoy this book. In fact many well known musicians have written very nice testimonials at the front of the book and the names in the list certainly show the esteem that Jerry Shirley is held in by his contemporaries.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough so what I suggest is that you dig out a copy of Humble Pie’s live album Performance Rockin’ The Fillmore and open the book; believe me you won’t regret it.
Best Seat In the House in one of the best rock biographies I have read and certainly evokes the period in which Jerry lived and earned his spurs.  You will be sad to reach the end of the book, it really is that good!

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