Liverpool player autobiographies reviewed & ranked

As you’re about to discover, I have a bit of a soft spot for footballer autobiographies.  It’s a much maligned genre, and often rightly so, but I usually find the bad ones every bit as revealing as the good.  So strap yourself in, get the Anfield Rap blaring on repeat, and let me guide you through a bunch of books I’ve read so you don’t have to.

 

#6 Steven Gerrard – My Autobiography (2006)

I hate to say it but I found this a rather charmless, self-serving, and uneventful memoir, largely lacking in revelation or insight.  At its worst, Gerrard comes across as spoiled and incredibly self-obsessed but not at all self-aware, even if nothing is quite on the level of Ashley Cole’s infamous outburst about nearly crashing his car when his agent told him he would ‘only’ be earning £55,000 per week.

A lot of time is devoted to him growing up, but this could have been covered in a single, unrevealing sentence: I really, really loved playing football. The period when he was passed over to play for England kids is given a prolonged, bitter examination which is about as tedious as the equally protracted account Morrissey gives in his autobiography of his court case with his former bandmates.

On top of that there is also a lengthy justification for his near-transfers to Chelsea which led to death threats and grown men burning their Liverpool shirts.  This clearly rattled Gerrard, and the book appears to have been written mainly to tell his side of the story, which perhaps explains his ‘I want to set the record straight’ po-facedness.

For the large part it’s a by-numbers retelling of events with precious few anecdotes to liven things up or add any colour.

 

#5 Peter Crouch – Walking Tall: My Story (2007)

Everyone loves Crouchie.  The easy-going, self-effacing wit, the equally self-deprecating robot dance.  Unfortunately, precious little of his natural charm comes through in this rather drab volume.

To save you some time, the main jist is: yes, I was a lot taller than everyone else from a young age but I never let this bother me one little bit.  So little, in fact, that he reiterates this point again and again.  He is also a tad bitter about the coaches who didn’t believe in him, which occasionally gives a slightly smug, Partridge-esque ‘needless to say, I had the last laugh’ vibe.

He defends his ‘good touch for a big man’ angle, pointing out that his scissor-kicked goals for Liverpool came not from chance but from endless practice.  But sadly there is not much to recommend this lighthearted but lightweight memoir.  A slightly rushed, not to mention premature, job that fails to do justice to this fondly remembered footballer.

As one Goodreads review pithily summarises:  “I don’t really like biographies, footballers or tall people and this book didn’t change my mind about any of them.


#4 John Barnes – The Autobiography (1999)

Bizarrely, this gets a real kicking on Goodreads, being the lowest rated book here by a wide margin (with just 2.93 out of 5).  I haven’t read this in 15 years – and, no, I am not going to re-read it just for the sake of this article – but from what I remember this is a rather tedious slog.  Which is an enormous shame, given that the subject is the greatest kicker of the round thing of all goddamn time.

Not only that, Barnes has a more interesting story to tell than most, with his upbringing in Jamaica as the son of a military officer, having to deal with vile racism, being the star of arguably the greatest Liverpool team ever assembled, then struggling with injury through the Souness years before his reinvention as a central midfielder, and his never quite transferring his sublime talent to the national team, despite scoring one of England’s very greatest goals, against Brazil, aged just 21.

I recall being quite shocked by his coverage of the racism he suffered, and this part obviously deserved serious, sombre discussion, but the book never quite slips out of that subdued tone, making this a somewhat dour affair, suffering the same fate as Crouchie’s in that very little of the great man’s charm and charisma make it on to the page.  But what a baller he was.


#3 Steven Gerrard – My Story (2015)

Given my reservations about his first volume, it was with some trepidation that I sat down with this.  I don’t know whether he managed to get things off his chest with his first book or if he just had a more sympathetic ghost-writer this time around but he comes across as less uptight and ill-at-ease, making for a far more enjoyable book that paints him in a much better light.  He even talks about cutting his penis open which adds some welcome levity.

The narrative breaks from chronology, which saves it falling into the trap of bare fact-recounting which afflicted his first memoir:  I scored this goal, and in the next game I scored another goal yadda yadda.

The story is intertwined with the 2013/14 season, the infamous year when Liverpool came close to winning the coveted but elusive Premier League title and Gerrard, buoyed by Suarez, enjoyed something of a late-career renaissance.

Inevitably, ‘the slip’ gets a lot of coverage.  He tries to pass this off as just an exceptionally cruel freak accident, one of those things that could happen to anyone but befell him at the most inopportune moment possible.  Yet I’d argue even this is a bit disingenuous – the slip was unfortunate, but if he had not let the ball roll under his foot in the first place… And his questioning of Rodgers’s tactics in that fateful game against Chelsea smacks of deflecting the blame and being smart after-the-fact.

Anyway, this is still an okay read, even if the whole “I’m just an honest player trying to say it how I see it” schtick gets a bit tiresome.

 

#2 Robbie Fowler – Fowler: My Autobiography (2006)

Undoubtedly the trashiest volume here, yet possibly the most enjoyable. You get the impression there was no prank Fowler ever thought below him, however stupid or puerile.

He says he finds the narrative that he was some street urchin dragged from the Toxteth ghetto a bit patronising, even though that’s exactly the angle his publishers chose to go with.  He makes a lot of the fact that he was the first superstar of the Premier League era, and as an 18-year old thrown into an unprecedented bear-pit of exposure without any guidance or media training he was bound to make a bunch of mistakes.

Loads of autobiographies will boast about being candid, but Fowler’s really goes the extra mile.  He is openly critical of former, and even current, teammates.  He gleefully refers to ‘Gary fucking Neville’ and ‘busy bollocks Gary Neville’ – you can’t imagine Gerrard the diplomat doing that.

I can’t say I warmed to Fowler at all, though. His bitter attacks on Houllier are over the top and lack credibility, and his defence of his homophobic taunting of Graeme Le Saux is weak and without contrition.  Nevertheless, it’s fun to remember what a phenomenon he was – not for nothing was he nicknamed God – and he drags us through the eye of that storm with a kind of blasé bemusement.  He’s only just into his thirties when this came out, yet he seems to barely understand how he scored so many goals. Published in 2005, just before his unexpected return to Liverpool, it busts the myth that biographies written when the players are still playing tend to be bland, guarded affairs.


#1 Jamie Carragher – Carra: My Autobiography (2008)

Carra’s straight-talking but likeable character translates well onto the page. He is an undoubted student of the game, as his successful transition to one of the most insightful pundits demonstrates.

Whilst he accepts that his self-drive and fiercely competitive mentality meant he made the grade where others foundered, he challenges the assumption that he got by on passion alone, arguing that he could never have played at the top level for so long if this was the case.

The most thoughtful and insightful volume here, with Carra carefully arguing his points about how the game should be played, how the club and academy should be run, and offering his views on the managers he’s worked with, and other teammates he has played alongside. But lest this be mistaken for an overly academic tome, this is still Carra, and there are plenty of japes to amuse along the way. A satisfying blend of reflection and entertainment.

If you only read one (and why would you stop at one?), make it Carra.


LonSheffeeds

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Bad Album Club – P4k Editions – Liz Phair

bad album club
Spiel: In it’s early(ish) days Pitchfork gave some 0.0 reviews out. Speaking about them P4k founder, Ryan Schreiber,  commented that he found these records to be “devoid of worth” to him personally and stood by the rating.

Pitchfork now brands itself as “The Most Trusted Voice in Music” so WE MUST ACCEPT THEIR JUDGEMENT.

My Previous: I finally gave Liz Phair a proper listen this year and fell in love with the lofi honesty of “Exile in Guyville”. Spotify randomly played me a song from this album  (HWC, which I loved and automatically made this album not a zero)  so I was curious to hear more.

Pitchfork Says: http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/6255-liz-phair/

Matt Le May, who wrote a boring book on Elliott Smith, actually makes a variety of fair points about Liz Phair. He mainly seems personally affronted that Liz Phair could become bland, become crude without being clever and, oh god, become a sell out.

However, Pitchy’s review of Liz’s next album states clearly: “0.0 was wasted on that album, because it’s much better than Somebody’s Miracle”. But, but, but Pitchy, you’re the most trusted voice in music, can I trust this 0.0 or not?


My Take:

OK, in general this is pretty crappy early 00s radio fodder. You can definitely hear production team The Matrix’s influence throughout even if they did only work on 4 songs – musically most of this sounds like it could be sung by Avril Lavigne and there’s definitely a cynicism in the boring production and arrangement.

But honestly, would Avril Lavigne have sung “we haven’t fucked yet” in her biggest hit (As Phair does here on “Why Can’t I”)?  Sk8r Boi might have been more interesting if she had. Honestly, it’s tempting to try and recast this album as an interesting subversion of early 00’s AOR pop but… nope, musically there’s not enough going on for that, it’s Liz Phair wanting a payday and that’s fine.

You could be forgiven, if half listening, of thinking it’s all just bland vaguely risque stuff, until you realise it’s not subtle. There’s a song explicitly about fucking a younger guy. There’s a song about a son imagining in great detail his mum fucking a man who’s not his dad (“Your thinking little thoughts about her taking every inch of him in”). Then there’s HWC…

Hot White Cum sort of encapsulates this album – it’s kind of awesome, it’s filthy, it’s hilarious and catchy but… there’s a terrible harmonica solo and there’s some unbelievably lazy lyrics, the first verse even has “nananana” as a line.

In the end, it’s nice to imagine a world where I could turn on Radio 2 and hear incredibly filthy lyrics hiding behind bland production. Or to imagine when every alt artist embraced their mainstream equivalent –  Radio 1 playing Neutral Milk Hotel sounding like Mumford and Sons but slipping in the occasional line about malformed children in semen, perhaps?

Will I Be Listening To It Again: Oh God, no. Except for Hot White Cum which I will listen to all the time.

 


Dry Humps

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Dry humps

 camel

Wooooooo – The Wednesday Club’s 7th (?) album has arrived. Released on 14th October to minimal fanfare, the unfortunately titled “Dry Humps”  was recorded mostly at same time as “Passing Strange” and is almost, almost, as good as it.

It can be downloaded for whatever price you choose over at our Cath’n’Dad Records and all proceeds (every penny) are going to Mencap.

It comes with it’s own newspaper – The also unfortunately titled, Dry Humps.

The following blogs/podcasts  http://unpopular.typepad.com/ and http://www.adiffuser.net/en-avant/podcast-n29/ have featured songs from Dry Humps.

“All in all, it’s listenable” says http://www.withguitars.com/wednesday-club-dry-humps/

Download It!!!!1!

DRY HUMPS paper

Listen On Spotify


Iterations of Knowing (or Spy vs Spy)

Imagine you are a spy. A sexy spy if you want. You can be a sexy spy.

You’ve just double-crossed someone, lets call them, let’s just call them… Joey Jo Jo Shabadoo Jr. All is well and good.

But this is the spy game, where knowledge is power, and today we’re going to find out how many levels of knowing are useful before it all falls to bits.

At the moment we are at Level 1 of knowing in the game of knowing ping pong. You know you’ve crossed them but they don’t. This is useful knowledge to you. You can use it to be smug.

Now imagine that they find out you’ve wronged them. This is useful knowledge to them as they can now plan revenge.

Now imagine that through some channel, a third party maybe, you find out that they know you betrayed them. This is useful knowledge to you as you can prepare yourself for reprisals and take action.

Now imagine that they find out that you-know-they-know that you betrayed them. This new information is still useful to them as they are now aware that you are expecting reprisals from them and so won’t come in pretending friendship and then attack.

Now imagine that you discover that they-know-you-know-they-know that you betrayed them. Is this useful knowledge? Yes, because you know that whilst they will be seeking revenge it won’t be hidden under an easy guise of friendship as this would be pointless as you are prepared for it. So you know that they know they can’t pull the old hug-n-stab and have to do something more openly hostile.

Now imagine that they ascertain  that you-know-they-know-you-know-they-know you betrayed them. Is this useful knowledge to them? Yes, because they know you are prepared for them to be openly hostile and can adapt their plans accordingly.

Now imagine that you glean that they-know-you-know-they-know-you-know-they-know you betrayed them. Is this knowledge useful to you? Yes, just about, you now know you are in full on conflict.

Now imagine that they figure out you-know-they-know-you-know-they-know-you-know-they-know you betrayed them. This is  just about useful information to them as conflict is now open they can expect attacks as well as to be the attacker.

Now imagine you know they-know-you-know-they-know-you-know-they-know-you-know-they-know you betrayed them. This is kind of useful because you know they expect to be attacked and change your attacks accordingly.

Now imagine they intuit you-know-they-know-you-know-they-know-you-know-they-know-you-know-they-know you betrayed them. This is uhhh of some use because they know you can’t sneak attack them so prepare in different ways.

Now imagine you get that they-know-you-know-they-know-you-know-they-know-you-know-they-know-you-know-they-know you betrayed them This isn’t useful knowledge.

By my count that makes 10 levels of knowing worth knowing. The more you know.

 


Kozelek and Borges (together at last)

Sun Kil Moon have a new album out! The indie-rock world shakes it’s head in collective bafflement.

In 2012, before it all went wrong and I still had all my hair, I wrote about Among The Leaves and noted that Mark Kozelek had started to write about his life as actually lived as opposed to a romanticised version. I think (hope?) this tendency of his has reached it’s apex/nadir here on Common As Light And Love Are The Red Valleys Of Blood, a 129 minute double album.

In 2014, Kozelek told Pitchfork “I suppose I’ve run out of metaphors and he has recorded several albums to varying degrees of acclaim (Benji being particularly beloved by fans) since his writing has stopped being figurative and started being more and more literal.

This new album ̶a̶l̶m̶o̶s̶t̶ feels exactly like an unedited diary sung/spoken over music. (I will briefly say that we must always always always separate the Artist and the Art and maybe Kozelek isn’t obsessed with death and getting fat and celebrities and blah blah blah). Whereas in the past it felt like he would take a moment, crystallise it and place it in the best metaphoric language he could, now we’re getting the lot, warts and all. Which is long and messy and very repetitious. and strangely compelling.

It brought to my mind Borges’s story, “Funes the Memorious” ,  which is the tale of a man who remembers everything in complete detail, no longer being able to abstract or make sense of the world around him as he is too busy recalling things precisely. Now obviously Kozelek can abstract and still has opinions but the (seeming) lack of filter leads to some repetitious and mundane work…

However, can you think of anyone else doing this or who’s done this? Can you imagine if Dylan, when he ran out of the old way of writing songs, had sung in minute detail over a synth bass and drums writing  about the time he accidentally went to some guy called Dave’s house instead of Dave Stewart from the Eurythmics and how he’s getting old and his voice is crackly and maybe he should go to the gym and what’s going on with kids these days and….

A final thought: my friend has suggested Kozelek is becoming an outsider artist*. This makes sense –  he’s doing things oddly, in a way others would avoid. He’s sing talking  over drums and synth… he’s the indierock Wesley Willis!

Anyway, in the spirit of the album here is my track by track unedited take on each song. You may note it took me 4 days to listen to all of this.

koz1

koz2

koz3

koz4koz5koz6koz7

*obviously he can’t be a true outsider as he has some self awareness and a career and all that.


TWENTY SIXTEEN: IN REVIEW

TEETH, FEET & FINGERS

Author’s Note: The provenance of the phrase history is written by the victorious is disputed.  But what can attribution achieve in this instance?  The sentence (or sentiment) must surely have been uttered or thought by many prior to the origin we seek, and also ex post facto by many unaware of their plagiarism.  The point remains that the marginalised have, historically, been denied a voice.  When you are dead or imprisoned, uneducated or denied access, putting forward your version of events becomes problematic.  Once something has been destroyed, only those left standing can rebuild, and do so with the only tools available to them: theirvision.

It could be said that, to some extent, in the real-time networked world we have awoken in this side of the millennium, more people than ever have the ability to make themselves heard.  But what do we find now that the curtain has…

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