Shaun Ryder – ‘Twisting My Melon : The Autobiography’ (Transworld)
Written by Jamie Richards
Sunday, 23 October 2011 05:00
There’s nothing quite like a good autobiography, I think, and this is a belter. I’ve never been one to let ‘labels’ on music come between me and a good band, though being really honest I was far too busy squeezing into my Cosmic jeans and Nuclear Assault t-shirts when the Happy Mondays were at the peak of their powers.
Way back when the ’80s became the ’90s, these bell bottomed, anorak clad, floppy haired indie trippy hippies actually headlined the Glastonbury festival, though that was before the BBC bought and served it up for us in bite size chunks, to be enjoyed (or not) as canapés over a weekend in our front rooms. In fact the first time I remember warming to Shaun Ryder’s bloke-ish, self deprecating charm was when he appeared on the TV show The Word, just following the collapse of the band in the early Nineties.
Back to the book; it’s about as straight and as honest an account of a life, that has been incredibly colourful to say the least, as you could hope for, and it reads straight from Ryder’s unique Salford drawl. You can pretty much hear him recounting the tales in your head. Right from his account as a seven year old walking miles to a field full of horses, and bringing buckets of manure back to sell to the old ladies on his estate for their roses, you get the impression of a survivor, a man who always comes up with a solution. Whatever he was up against it never fazed him; he simply found the solution, from finding hiding places for all the stuff he nicked as a youngster, to bringing Bez into the band to take the attention away from himself on stage. He dodged getting fired from his job as a postman for five years, even though he was basically pilfering everything he could get his hands on. Although they did get him bang to rights eventually when he lost his temper with a perpetually aggressive dog (he bit the dog back and threw it over a fence!).
Later in his career he picked himself up, and against all the odds and predictions he formed another successful group, Black Grape, after the Happy Mondays’ very ugly demise. Right up to surviving an incredibly harsh judgement after a management fallout left him unable to keep any of his income for the better part of twelve years. He brings back to life the heady days of the legendary Hacienda club, telling the tale of how the band pretty much ‘ran’ the place from their little alcove, how they were instrumental in introducing Ecstasy to the youth of Manchester, and therefore Britain. They were actually making more ‘dough’, as he puts it, from selling drugs than they were from music, right up until the third album.
The scrapes with the law and the lawless are plentiful, sometimes hilarious, and occasionally terrifying. Like getting a gun pushed in his face in New York whilst trying to ‘score’ in one of NYC’s most dangerous neighbourhoods, or the countless times he sat ‘on the glass toilet’, as he got repeatedly pulled in at airports by customs and excise.
He’s unflinching and to the point with his opinions of some of the rock stars he encountered along his journey, Prince “ridiculous”, Julian Cope “cheeky bastard, fucking prick”, Perry Farrel “absolute wanker”. Although he loved Michael Hutchence, and admits he was completely awestruck when he was summoned as a personal guest to Keith and Ronnie from the Stones.
He opens by saying he doesn’t feel lucky to be alive after all his drug and alcohol abuse, but he feels lucky to be still in the game, that he was ever ‘in the game’, but after reading about the six week ‘recording’ session in Barbados, where he went on a month and a half long crack and alcohol session, you see that he really is quite lucky. Lucky to have survived the car crashes if nothing else. He wrote off eight cars during that trip, and didn’t manage to lay down even one line of vocals for the album! There’s no doubt that Shaun Ryder has been a waster in his time, a scoundrel, a scally, a thief: to be blunt; but there’s warmth in his honesty that I find impossible to resist.
‘Twisting My Melon’ is a witty, informative and engrossing account of a very underrated man, and if you thought Motley Crue and Guns N’ Roses had the monopoly on drug taking, groupie shagging and in-band feuding, then this book will make you think again. In Shaun’s own words “we (the Happy Mondays) were more rock ‘n roll than most bands when we were still posties, we didn’t give a fuck”. Put it on your Christmas list cool kids, and oh…..call the cops!!