Sick On You: The Disastrous Story of The Hollywood Brats, the Greatest Band You've Never Heard Of

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9780399185335: Sick On You: The Disastrous Story of The Hollywood Brats, the Greatest Band You've Never Heard Of
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MOJO magazine’s 2015 Book of the Year, the outrageous true story of the Hollywood Brats—the greatest punk band you've never heard of—brilliantly told by founding member Andrew Matheson

With only a guitar, a tatty copy of the Melody Maker, and his template for the perfect band, Andrew Matheson set out, in 1971, to make music history. His band, the Hollywood Brats, were pre-punk prophets—uncompromising, ultrathin, wild, and untamable. Thrown into the crazy world of the 1970s London music scene, the Brats recorded one genius-but-ignored album and ultimately fell foul of the crooks who ran a music industry that just wasn't quite ready for the punk revolution. Directly inspiring Malcolm McLaren, the Sex Pistols, and the Clash, the Hollywood Brats imploded too soon to share in the glory. Sick On You is a startling, funny, and incredibly entertaining period memoir about never quite achieving success despite flying so close to greatness.

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About the Author:

Andrew Matheson was a founding member of the Hollywood Brats, the band that never really was, but that did what it could from 1971 to 1975. He has since been writing and recording music, producing, publishing magazine articles, and drinking pints.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected copy proof***
Copyright © 2016 Andrew Matheson

1971
I

London. What’s it like, this town in July 1971? This town just past the fag end of the sixties? This so-called “Swinging London?” Let me tell you, it’s bloody marvelous. It is tawdry and garish, filthy and littered and chokingly diesel per- fumed. It is filled with a thousand hucksters and shysters and gypsy girls in Piccadilly with sprigs of heather already pinned to your lapel before you can protest, palms held out and a “cross my palm with silver, for luck,” the veiled, unsubtle threat of misfortune should you not, with coin, comply. It is teeming with girls and the girls are stunning, teetering around in stack-heeled, knee- high boots, in suede micro-mini skirts with gossamer scarves, Cleopatra eye- liner underlining fluttering Twiggy lashes.

Union Jacks are everywhere, flapping amid the gargoyles on the stone
buildings, hanging in whipping-in-the-wind plastic rows on the shops and stalls, on T-shirts, knickers, tea towels, socks, ashtrays, salt and pepper shakers, bowler hats, bobbies’ hats.

Rule Britannia.

Britannia rules the airwaves.

Maybe.

“Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep” by Middle of the Road, a song that makes you want to drive spikes into your ears and crucify your brain, hits number one in the charts and stays there.

The Beatles are dead. Poor, pure, blond, bitchy Brian drowned. Jimi choked. Morrison, reduced from a pretentious West Coast pseudo-poet, albeit with great hair and a svelte physique, to a bloated, bearded metaphor, soon to float, barely, in a Paris bathtub.

Hippies run the show: beards and denim and crap music with mind- numbing guitar solos and daft, boring, nonsensical lyrics; drummers allowed to thump their stupid tubs alone on stage for fifteen minutes while everyone else takes a break. Gongs, for Christ’s sake. Gongs. Incense. Double bass drums.

Who looks good? Nobody looks good. Who sounds good? Nobody sounds good. My grand plan is to create a band to rectify that situation. Wipe the slate clean.

But first I must find some digs. I haven’t been in London since my parents kidnapped me as a child, dragging me, kicking and screaming in a sack, to Northern Ontario. Word is that an agency is the best bet so there I go. The Greek lady behind the desk says that what I am seeking in terms of accommodation (not much) will cost between six and ten quid a week. No sweat, I’ve got the grand in hand. She reaches over her shoulder and sells me a London A–Z, slips a few addresses in my hand and sends me all over town to see bedsits. But none do I see. As soon as the prospective landlords clap peepers on my guitar case it is case closed. Time after time I knock. Time after time it happens.

This becomes tiresome and demoralizing. I am hot and tired and jetlagged and hungry and dying of thirst.

Six o’clock. The busses and Tubes and streets are jammed with commuters on the move. This is tough and it’s getting late. There is just one more address in my pocket: Finborough Road, Earls Court, London SW10.

“Kangaroo Valley, mate,” says the guy wedged near me on the stifling Tube, reading over my shoulder.

“Kangaroo Valley?”

“Fuckin” Aussie ghetto, innit?”

So, it’s a fucking Aussie ghetto. What does that mean to me? Nothing. Off I get at Earls Court station, turn right and, with the A–Z as my guide, I set off for Finborough Road. I pass two pubs adjacent to one another, busy with the after-work crowd. At least I assume that’s what they are. Actually, the customers all seem to be men. They are all men, but I’d lay a quid or two that these spec- imens don’t actually come from Australia. They’ve spilled out on to the street, standing in studied poses wearing leather chaps, Brando Wild One hats, silver wallet chains and white singlets, mustaches apparently mandatory. They mew and whistle as I walk by.

The building I’m looking for is triangular, at the point where Finborough Road and Ifield Road converge. P’raps I should stash the guitar in a hedge or something. Make a better impression. Perish the thought. Stash my black Vox Mark VI teardrop? Not a chance. This guitar is not leaving my white-knuckled grip.
It’s the same guitar I saw Brian Jones play on The Ed Sullivan Show when I
was thirteen. It’s the only guitar I have ever wanted and I worked down that stinking nickel mine to get the $263 it took to buy it. I had it custom-painted black. Brian’s was white, mine’s black and I’m never going to part with it, and I’m certainly not going to stash it in a hedge.

Number 119. I press the buzzer and wait.

The old chap who answers the door is garbed in slippers and smoking jacket, with a polka-dot scarf knotted nattily around his neck. He is tall, slightly stooped and leaning on a silver-tipped cane, snow-white hair combed straight back, military “tache. Quite a look, actually. He gives me the twice-over and politely asks me to follow him up the stairs.

Over strong tea he tells me the bedsit is mine if I want it, £6.50 a week, two
weeks’ in advance. The small room is on the top floor. It is shopworn but clean, with threadbare carpet, single bed, rattan armchair, sink, wee cooker thing with a tiny electric element, and window facing West over Ifield Road. Down the hall is the bathroom, shared with the two other top-floor tenants. Want a bath? Shilling in the meter.

I pay the man. I take the room. I unpack my suitcase. It contains clothes
and five LPs.

Beggars Banquet—Rolling Stones
Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out!—Rolling Stones
Let It Be—Beatles Something Else—Kinks
Back Door Men—Shadows of Knight

Next day I hit the town and I keep hitting it. I buy clothes up and down the King’s Road. I have a smooth drink in the Chelsea Drugstore and a cold one in the Markham Arms, and another here and another there. Chelsea Potter? Why not? I buy a black sweater with Rock ’n’ Roll stitched in yellow across the front. I buy a wine-red velvet jacket and tight, black velvet strides.

I head to Savile Row where I stand across the street from the blessed number 3, home of Apple Corps, center of the Holy Fief of Beatledom. Rooted to the spot, I’m gawking up like a rube at the roof where, not so long ago, his hands were getting a bit too cold to play the chords. It is a hot, humid afternoon in London in July, but I’ve got chills.

Shaking it off and putting it back in my trousers, I head anywhere, which happens to be South. Where Savile Row meets Clifford Street, I pop in to Mr. Fish, purveyor of the most dazzling shirts known to man. I order and am measured for two custom-made, hand-stitched stunners with all the attendant and requisite “Yes, sirs’ and “Quite right, sirs’ a chap could possibly want. A lilac dress shirt with “le cuff Français’ at an extravagant £15 and a white chemise featuring an explosion of lace at the front and on the cuffs for a ludicrous £35 strike my fancy. Each will bear a label stating “Peculiar to Mr. Fish.”

When the sun goes down I make my way to Wardour Street and the Marquee. The stage at the Marquee is hallowed ground. The Stones, the Who and on and on played here, trod these very boards. And tonight, who is on? Some Irish guitarist named Rory Gallagher. Nothing but twelve-bar blues and denim, everything I detest: the tortured grimacing during the guitar solos, the nods of approval and shoe-staring during the drum solo, the shamrock Delta accent. But I don’t care. I’m not really watching. I’m leaning on the bar and it’s the Marquee.

I’m back nights later too, girlishly giddy with excitement that is all too damply extinguished because who is on? Arthur Brown’s Kingdom Come, that’s who, with his beard (the matted focal point of a general revolting hairi- ness) and his chronic, faux-demonic makeup and his “I am the God of Hellfire” routine.

You’ve been telling us that since “68, mate. We were enthralled then and
we are utterly rapt now. Press on.

It’s a daft show. He moves like a drunk hippy uncle and he looks mildly demented, especially during his show-stopper when he sets his hat on fire. But I don’t care. I’m here at the world-famous Marquee.

The manager of the Marquee, Jack, an over-friendly, unctuous type sport- ing a shiny suit, black horn-rims and a clunking, gold pinkie ring takes a shine to me, asking increasingly personal questions. I tell him I’m going to start a rock ’n’ roll band and I intend to wipe the floor with the competition. This throws him, and it’s the moment when I get the first indication that the term rock ’n’ roll has an entirely different connotation here in the mother country.

You mention rock ’n’ roll and immediately English brains think of Jerry Lee Lewis, Eddie Cochran, Chuck Berry, Gene Vincent, Little Richard, Bill Haley and all the rest. Brylcreem, duck’s arse hairdos, Teddy Boys, Drape coats, win- kle pickers, brothel creepers and leather jackets—in short, the fifties. Rock ’n’ roll in Britain is for those who never got over Elvis joining the army. Well, that’s not the way it is for me, chaps. Those guys did their bit but they’re from the Middle Ages as far as I’m concerned.

First I heard of Chuck Berry, I was on my bike crunching the gravel at
Larchwood Public School, holding a Hitachi transistor up to my ear when “No Particular Place to Go” came on. I liked it. I really wanted to “park way out on the kokomo,” but not enough to go out and buy the vinyl. I was a kid on a bike. It took the Fabs with George singing “Roll Over Beethoven” and the Stones doing “Carol” for an entity called Chuck Berry to get into my skull.

As for Eddie Cochran, well, as far as I’m concerned, “Summertime Blues’ is by the Who from Live at Leeds. And Little Richard? It took Paul singing “Long Tall Sally” and the Swinging Blue Jeans doing “Good Golly Miss Molly” for me to get that tutti-frutti picture. So that’s what I find myself up against here, elbow on the bar, at the Marquee. You say you’re going to create a new, wild rock ’n’ roll band in July 1971 and everybody thinks quiffs and pomade.

Midway through one night, while I’m leaning on the bar drinking light and bitter, surveying the possibilities, Jack sidles up and invites me back to his pad after closing. I came in on a Pan Am flight, not a turnip truck, so I’ve seen it coming and I deflect the overture with what I hope is grace and humor. After all, I want to play here someday.

A pretty blonde girl, mini-skirt and white stockings, butter-wouldn’t-melt mouth, corners me at the bar, says she’s got tickets to the Tyrannosaurus Rex gig at the Roundhouse in Chalk Farm, and next thing I know we’re riding the Northern Line en route. I’ve heard these pixies on the radio doing some fairy drivel titled, if you can believe it, “Ride a White Swan.” What the hell does that mean? Apparently they are comprised of some curly haired, chubby-faced elf on acoustic and a tall, skinny drink of milk on congas. With that line-up my expectations are subterranean. But it’s just the mini-skirt that’s got me in its sway.

We arrive late and, Hello, hello? The joint is positively rocking. This is no knee-staring acoustic hippy duo; they’ve plugged in, cranked up the decibels and shanghai’d a bass player and drummer. Not sure what the conga player in the white suit is contributing to proceedings, but he’s got good hair and seems harm- less enough. Anyway, it’s all about the little guy up front with the Jheri curls and elevator shoes. He plays a Les Paul, all crunching chords and lots of posing. He’s clomping around, sticking his lips out like an inflatable Jagger sex doll.

Our seats are great but there is no sitting down—the atmosphere is sticky- hot and throbbing. The sound is fantastic, crunching out of Orange amps and stacks of WEM speakers. They end with something called “Hot Love” and it’s not bad, considering.

Next morning the sweet little thing catches the train back to Sheffield and, touchingly, she has left me a little parting gift, something to remember her by. Something of which I am entirely and blissfully unaware.
I need an amp. Shaftesbury Avenue and Charing Cross Road, winding up from Leicester Square to Denmark Street, is Candy Cane Lane for a musician. Music shops are everywhere, brimming with instruments and gear I’ve only seen in films and magazines. Vox with its AC-30s, Super Beatles, Phantoms and Marauders; Gibson Firebirds, Flying Vs, Explorers, Les Pauls, J-200s; Fender Strats and Precisions, Jazzmasters and Telecasters, and dozens more. Gretsch, Ludwig, Hofner, Premier, Zildjian, Martin, Shure, Marshall, Rickenbacker: names I can recite like a confessing Catholic while my eyes pop out of my skull like a snot- nosed Dickensian Christmas orphan as I stare in the windows and walk the aisles.

Macari’s is my favorite shop, with its redolent-of-Beatles Vox sign beckoning. Come on in, it says, we’ve got that AC-30 you know you can’t live without. In I go, carrying my Mark VI into Aladdin’s cave. Musicians are everywhere, trying and buying, tuning and strumming, tightening snares, smacking tambourines and twiddling with amps—a jumble of noise and music.

Then a middle-aged guy in a blue checked shirt, with coiffed, white rockabilly hair comes over and introduces himself as the real Macari. His jaw must be in peak physical condition because the thing doesn’t cease clopping up and down for at least an hour. This guy can talk, and sell. He doesn’t stop talking.

Next thing I know, my beautiful Vox Mark VI teardrop, with the custom jet-black paint job, the one I vowed to keep and cherish for the rest of my life, the one I worked 3,000 feet below the earth’s surface in a stinking, wet, dark, dank mine to be able to afford, is hanging on Macari’s wall and I am walking out the door with a beat up, chipped, metallic-blue Fender Stratocaster and a Vox AC-30.

How did that happen?


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Book Description Blue Rider Press, 2016. Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. MOJO magazine s 2015 Book of the Year, the outrageous true story of the Hollywood Brats the greatest punk band you ve never heard of brilliantly told by founding member Andrew Matheson With only a guitar, a tatty copy of the Melody Maker, and his template for the perfect band, Andrew Matheson set out, in 1971, to make music history. His band, the Hollywood Brats, were pre-punk prophets uncompromising, ultrathin, wild, and untamable. Thrown into the crazy world of the 1970s London music scene, the Brats recorded one genius-but-ignored album and ultimately fell foul of the crooks who ran a music industry that just wasn t quite ready for the punk revolution. Directly inspiring Malcolm McLaren, the Sex Pistols, and the Clash, the Hollywood Brats imploded too soon to share in the glory. Sick On You is a startling, funny, and incredibly entertaining period memoir about never quite achieving success despite flying so close to greatness. Seller Inventory # AAS9780399185335

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Book Description Blue Rider Press, 2016. Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. MOJO magazine s 2015 Book of the Year, the outrageous true story of the Hollywood Brats the greatest punk band you ve never heard of brilliantly told by founding member Andrew Matheson With only a guitar, a tatty copy of the Melody Maker, and his template for the perfect band, Andrew Matheson set out, in 1971, to make music history. His band, the Hollywood Brats, were pre-punk prophets uncompromising, ultrathin, wild, and untamable. Thrown into the crazy world of the 1970s London music scene, the Brats recorded one genius-but-ignored album and ultimately fell foul of the crooks who ran a music industry that just wasn t quite ready for the punk revolution. Directly inspiring Malcolm McLaren, the Sex Pistols, and the Clash, the Hollywood Brats imploded too soon to share in the glory. Sick On You is a startling, funny, and incredibly entertaining period memoir about never quite achieving success despite flying so close to greatness. Seller Inventory # AAS9780399185335

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