ZANG TUMMM TUMB ARTICLES “the first draft of history”

Holly Johnson

Boxtree, £14.99

“With friends like mine, I thought, Id better write my own story and quick”, Holly Johnson notes in the foreword to his autobiography, a book begun shortly after Johnson was diagnosed with an AIDS-related illness. The result is entertaining in the extreme; Holly Johnson is a witty writer, unafraid to name names and lay blame and, if at times A Bone In My Flute portrays the Frankie Goes To Hollywood story in a light less favourable to the rest of the band than to its singer, then this is only to be expected.

We learn about Hollys childhood in Liverpool with his brutish brother and wildly unsympathetic father (‘What have I done to deserve a walking freakshow for a son? is one of Eric Johnsons kinder remarks about the child he named William), his musical and sexual escapades during punk (Johnson was in the Liverpool New Wave group Big In Japan with Jayne Casey, David Balfe, Ian Broudie and Bill Drummond), and, of course, the full and frank Frankie story, complete with detailed accounts of the ZTT contract dispute.

And no-one escapes Johnsons withering tongue. Jill Sinclair? “Fat”. Paul Rutherford? “Rudderpuff called me a cunt”. Paul Morley? “He did do the marketing for two albums by his wife, whose name I wont even bother to mention, because you wont have heard of her”. But it is the loutish, heterosexual members of FGTH — known as “The Lads” who come in for the most stick. It was they, we learn, who turned down Live Aid because it would cost them £20,000, considering instead a lucrative offer to play in South Africa.

Johnson is honest about his fears and emotions concerning his illness, his uneasy position with both the “straight” and the gay community (particularly gay pop stars), occasionally generous with his praise (even the band come in for some) and, throughout, is an engrossing writer. Both as a truthful autobiography and an account of the realities of pop stardom, this is a finebook. ☆☆☆☆