Understanding Myths: How Much Does Truth Cost in Musical Memoirs?

The following MBW column is by Eamonn Forde (pictured), a veteran music industry journalist and the author of The Last Days of EMI: Selling the Pig. his new book Leaving the Building: The Lucrative Afterlife of Music Real Estateis available now through Omnibus Press.

The music business is built on smoke and mirrors. This is both its inherent strength and its inherent weakness.

Recent reactions to an upcoming Sex Pistols biopic and an equally upcoming KLF documentary, each coming from the central characters, raise important points about who is best placed to make that smoke and position those mirrors.

John Lydon is a man so adamant that he gets his side of events across that he hasn’t made public a but two autobiographies and a “Scrapbook” coffee table.

Filming on the biopic began in the summer of 2021 Pistol, based on the memoir of his former Sex Pistols bandmate, lonely boy from Steve Jonesand guided by Danny Boyle. Lydon, wanting to derail the project, tried to block the series’ use of the Sex Pistols’ music, but ultimately lost case in the Supreme Court (and later claimed to have been almost broke with everything).

At the sight of first follower from pistolLydon now claims it was a “bourgeois fantasy‘ and it was all done behind his back. “Put words in John’s mouth and rewrite history,” reads a succinct statement on his official website. “Disney stole the past and created a fairy tale that bears little resemblance to the truth.” How he pulled all of this out of a 42-second trailer isn’t clear, but of course that’s his truth about “the truth.”

Compare that to the case of the new one KLF documentation. Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty, two men who truly understand the power of mythology and the situationist pranks that can come from bending facts, didn’t want to be a part of it, but they let it on anyway. They even told director Chris Atkins that they loved the last bit.

Two groups of “truths”; two contradictory answers as to how they are presented. One sees everyone else’s truth as false; the other accepts that truth can be contextual, conditional, and compromised.

The Greeks, of course, have a term for it: alethiology (the study of truth). It is associated with the academic pursuit of epistemology (the study of the extent and validity of knowledge).

This might seem a bit heavy to build a column on, but it’s central to a booming subsector of the music business — that of on-screen biopics and documentaries, and on-site memoirs.

These are the building blocks of mythology that can be created around musicians and used to attract new generations of fans. If your story/mythology is as strong and as resonant as your music, you will pass. They are two sides of the same coin.

Putting the musicians in charge of the production line in this storytelling factory is good, but only up to a point. After all, it is their story and their life that they will talk about. But they, assuming they can remember everything at all, are invariably very picky about their life narratives – embellishing parts, truncating other parts, perpetually justifying everything they have done and said, often lacking self-reflection or self-awareness. It often reads like Alan Partridge’s angry insistence: “Needless to say, I had the last laugh.”

We have seen this play out with yawning inevitability Morrissey’s somewhat selfish autobiography in 2013. In it, he devoted what felt like more pages to the trial that followed The Smiths’ dissolution (and why the verdict was just inhuman and wrong) than to The Smiths’ entire career and influence. Witness Morrissey’s desire to be cast as the wronged party forever. Too bad, he wailed. Former bandmates, the music industry, the music press and society in general are all out to get me, aided by the kind of evil judges who would dare call me out.sneaky, defiant and unreliable“.

For more than 450 pages, the only assertion was: only I can tell the truth. not my Truth. That Truth.


In the golden age of streaming-led music documentaries and biopics, all too often the pop star or industry executive is directly involved as a screenwriter, producer, or even director. There’s a difficult balance here between approachability (as well as clearing music rights) and forgoing 90 minutes of boring commentary and platitudes. These are less unreliable narrators and more stealthy narrators.

When promoting Upside downa 2010 documentary about Creation Records, Alan McGee took the opportunity to reiterate his scathing comment David Cavanaghs (forensic and judicial) My magpie eyes are hungry for the prize Book in 2001 was the “Accountant Story”. McGee’s own autobiography in 2013, creation storiesand the Biopic 2021 that grew out of it both redefined underwhelming in slightly different ways. If they were to be the bold and truthful broadsides to Cavanagh’s book, I’d be happily sitting with the accountants.

When left to tell their own story, musicians and industry leaders consistently provide ample evidence that they are the wrong people for the job. Their sense of mythology consists of simply saying in multiple ways how great they were, how misunderstood they were, how patronized or betrayed they were by people who would be nothing without them, and why, of course, they had that last laugh.

Instead of associating their names with any mistakes or miscalculations and implying that luck and the input of others may have played a part in their ascent, they solipsistically push the truth over the cliff.

Offers a twist on this line of The man who shot Liberty Valance (“When the Legend Becomes Fact, Print the Legend”), Martin Scorsese’s 2019 documentary, Rolling Thunder Revue: A Story by Bob Dylan, happily blending fact and fantasy to construct an even more contrasting and contradictory mythology around a singer who, from the start, has brazenly lied about himself as an act of high satire and mischievous misdirection. For example, he was in early interviews claims to be an orphan who traveled with a carnival. (Spoilers: He wasn’t and he didn’t.)

It should be far more yarns about Sharon Stone touring with you in the 1970s, more shaggy dog ​​stories inspired by Gene Simmons, and more memories from Talking Heads Who didn’t exist.

It’s certainly more entertaining to read/watch than the partial, pious, and pompous platitudes many pop stars put out a selective account of themselves.

In our post-truth world, perhaps more biopics, documentaries, and memoirs should focus their attention on having the last lie rather than having the last laugh.

music business worldwide

https://www.musicbusinessworldwide.com/myth-understandings-what-price-truth-in-musical-memoirs1/ Understanding Myths: How Much Does Truth Cost in Musical Memoirs?

Fry Electronics Team

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